A phrase often tossed around in classrooms and living rooms is “you are entitled to your opinion.” This is a lie. As author Harlan Ellison once said, “You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.” Clearly, this makes more sense. We demand that teachers, scientists and politicians all know what they are talking about, so why is it that we give so much leeway when it comes to people’s opinions on science and politics?
This question is important because of the recent backlash to the glut of political emails released through WikiLeaks, an organization advocating for radical transparency, or a system where the public is fully informed about its government. Political commentators have slammed the site for being biased against the Clinton campaign, since the email leaks have almost exclusively hurt Clinton and the Democratic Party, as well as for colluding with the Russian government to acquire information. Opponents of the site claim that its whistleblowing does more harm than good, and that we should not allow their leaks to affect the election. While it is absolutely fair to look down on WikiLeaks for its questionable methods and bias, the fact is that this information deserves to be exposed. A fair election is only legitimate if the electorate is informed, and with every released email, WikiLeaks brings us closer to that ideal of radical transparency.
Their recent work revealed that DNC officials were critical of Bernie Sanders’ campaign during the primaries, that Clinton pandered to her audiences in paid speeches to Wall Street banks and that Clinton’s stance on climate change hinged more on poll numbers than principle. Whether or not these revelations affect the average voter on a personal level, they still help to create a more informed public, which leads, ultimately, to a more democratic election.
WikiLeaks may have used dodgy methods to get this information, but when political campaigns are so secretive, there is no other option. WikiLeaks is designed to host documents that were never supposed to be made public, and so by the very nature of its mission it must operate — to some extent — outside the law. Like the hacker collective Anonymous, WikiLeaks’ best work can often only be done when it is explicitly illegal, which is why WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and famous WikiLeaks contributor Edward Snowden have both been forced to flee the the countries in which they had been living and seek refuge. Rather than criticize WikiLeaks for a lack of journalistic integrity that it never claimed to have, we should be thankful that there exists at least one independent organization dedicated to telling the public things we deserve to know.
Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, October 24th print edition. Email Henry Cohen at [email protected]