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The gift of information

December 6, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Concerning the Wikileaks work of Julian Assange, Misha Glenny writes about the traditional imbalance between a government’s access to information and the access of the rest of us:

[K]nowledge translates into power and influence. For most of history, government has enjoyed an easy superiority in adjusting the ebb and flow of information. Now the rules of the contest have changed.

Against this traditional control, Glenny sets an equally long-standing human desire to know and to tell the story of what we know. The powerful, however, consider it bad form for others to have a chance to tell the story.

And it is a sign of a properly worldly world leader, it seems, to want this control to be tightly held. “Is this not the curse of power, forever compelled to conceal and dissemble?” Glenny asks. In a lovely detail, she notices a seemingly older and wiser former British prime minister returning (as the powerful should) to the savvy fold:

In his recent memoir, Tony Blair berates himself for introducing a Freedom of Information Act. ‘‘You idiot. You naïve, foolish, irresponsible nincompoop,’’ he writes.

The powerful are foolish to want information to circulate in the world, according to Blair. He once thought otherwise.

(“The Gift of Information,” NY Times, 12/4/10)

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