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Wikileaks and Character December 3, 2010

Posted by KG in State.

In A-100 (AKA FSO Indoctrination) we got a small taste of what it’s like to be in front of a difficult audience through a workshop called “Composure Under Fire.”   It’s a difficult training exercise to describe.  You learn how to deal with thinly veiled ad-hominem attacks, questions built on false premises, and the dreaded question you really don’t want to answer. 

The workshop, of course, is no real preparation for the real thing.  I’ve only had a couple of experiences being in front of a difficult audience myself, so I can claim no subject mastery.  But I have had the pleasure of watching some masters of the trade, and there appear to be some character traits that distinguish individuals with a genuine openness to discussion from those who refuse to acknowledge other opinions.  For one, no matter how seemingly illogical, small-minded, or off the mark the question is, you should treat your interlocutor(s) with basic respect and make a fair attempt at engaging the question.   Likewise, no question should be dismissed with a wave off, or sarcasm.   Disagree with the basic premise of the question?  Search for common ground.  Be Socratic.  When you say things that boil down to “that’s a stupid question,” you come across as arrogant.  

Which brings me to this excerpt from today’s webchat on the Guardian’s website with Julian Assange: 

I am a former British diplomat. In the course of my former duties I helped to coordinate multilateral action against a brutal regime in the Balkans, impose sanctions on a renegade state threatening ethnic cleansing, and negotiate a debt relief programme for an impoverished nation. None of this would have been possible without the security and secrecy of diplomatic correspondence, and the protection of that correspondence from publication under the laws of the UK and many other liberal and democratic states. An embassy which cannot securely offer advice or pass messages back to London is an embassy which cannot operate. Diplomacy cannot operate without discretion and the
protection of sources. This applies to the UK and the UN as much as the US.
In publishing this massive volume of correspondence, Wikileaks is not highlighting specific cases of wrongdoing but undermining the entire process of diplomacy. If you can publish US cables then you can publish UK telegrams and UN emails.
My question to you is: why should we not hold you personally responsible when next an international crisis goes unresolved because diplomats cannot function.

Julian Assange:
If you trim the vast editorial letter to the singular question actually asked, I would be happy to give it my attention.

Translation:  “The basic tenets of how your trade functions undermine the premise of my actions, and make them seem very irresponsible.  I choose to ignore the multiple credible individuals who have pointed my willful ignorance out to me, such as you, and will instead bask in the praise of armchair sycophants.  Correspondingly, I have no response.”  

This man is no hero.



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