A day after nomination submissions closed for the Nobel Peace Prize, Snorre Valen, a Norwegian parliamentarian announced his nomination of WikiLeaks for the prize.
When U.S. President Barack Obama won the prize after just a few months in office, there was fierce debate about whether or not it was deserved. While Obama’s intentions of creating peaceful dialogue seemed clear, there was very little evidence that he had made great progress on this front yet.
With WikiLeaks’ nomination, the same questions come again to the surface.
In its ideology, WikiLeaks is not aimed at peace or justice, nor at war or corruption.
“Our goal is to bring important news and information to the public,” the organization’s website states.
As Julian Assange’s brainchild, though, WikiLeaks has a strong anti-establishment bias. This isn’t to say that the site supports or encourages anarchy. Assange hates secrets (unless they’re his own), and even more, he hates conspiracies.
When you and I read “conspiracy” we instantly think MK Ultra, the CIA assassinating JFK, or some other unlikely but hard to disprove scenario. In Assange’s mind, the word takes a different meaning: its literal one. In his essay, “State and Terrorist Conspiracies,” Assange defines the word.
Conspiracy, Conspire: make secret plans jointly to commit a harmful act; working together to bring about a particular result, typically to someone’s detriment. ORIGIN late Middle English : from OldFrench conspirer, from Latin conspirare agree, plot, from con- together with spirare breathe.
The best party is but a kind of conspiracy against the rest of the nation. (Lord Halifax)
The “harmful act” doesn’t have to be a presidential assassination or mind control on a massive scale. It could be anything from taking a kickback on a government contract to genocide.
Assange’s (and as a result, WikiLeaks’) goal is to bring down conspiracies. (For a great explanation of how they do it, check out Aaron Bady’s post on the subject.)
While it’s hard to dispute the societal value of eliminating conspiracies, Alfred Nobel didn’t necessarily have this in mind when he wrote his will to include what would become the Nobel prizes.
The whole of my remaining realizable estate shall be dealt with in the following way: the capital, invested in safe securities by my executors, shall constitute a fund, the interest on which shall be annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind… The said interest shall be divided into five equal parts, which shall be apportioned as follows: /- – -/ one part to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.
After outlining physics, chemistry, physiology, and literature prizes, Nobel gave a very specific description of the peace prize.
WikiLeaks hasn’t reduced standing armies or promoted a peace congress, so the criterion in mind for WikiLeaks, one might deduce, is doing work for “fraternity between nations.”
Ripping the pants off of the U.S. diplomatic machine hardly helped fraternity between nations. Putin surely wasn’t pleased to discover American diplomats were comparing him to Batman (Personally, I’d be thrilled.). The Yemeni people weren’t too pleased to hear that, no, those bombs weren’t actually launched by their own government’s military, but by Obama’s.
WikiLeaks hasn’t done exactly what Alfred Nobel outlined in order to affect peace, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t pushed the world in the direction of peace. As of now, the wounds are fresh and the diplomatic world still has the cable leaks near the front of its mind. Moving forward, though, it is possible that WikiLeaks has led diplomacy towards more open and transparent operations. More likely, however, the government will improve its classification protocol, keeping out people like Bradley Manning and improving the government’s ability to work behind closed doors.