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BBC WikiLeaks

Contests over the control of information are central to the production, promotion, and critique of militaristic ideologies.  For those seeking to expose the machinations of militarism, information is often regarded as a vital basis for critique; whereas for those working to defend them from scrutiny, information is often regarded as a resource that needs to be sequestered away from widespread view. As a result, much potential is typically invested in breaches of military and diplomatic secrecy.

Because of this investment, when reckoning with militarism, I think it is important not only to attend to the assumptions guiding its practices but the assumptions guiding scholarly and popular analyses of it. 

Why?  One problem is how what is revealed - often by virtue of having been revealed – can appear solid and beyond question.  For instance, a leaked document can become taken as the basis for cutting fiction from fact in a manner that attributes events and individuals with an unwarranted logic.  The treatment of certain information as unassailable goes hand in hand with the refutation of other possibilities, the closing down of inquiry, and the carpeting over of inconsistencies. 

In my presentation for the ‘Cultures of Militarism’ symposium, I will address one of the most prominent instances of the disclosure of statecraft in recent political history: the online posting of American war logs and diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks.  The machinations of statecraft have long been a matter of dread, fascination, and enigma.  In a series of releases in 2010, WikiLeaks and collaborating newspapers sought to bring to the public what was before only available to a limited coterie. 

My interest is in the kinds of assumptions, commitments, and affective states associated these leaks, and how they shape how the logs and cables were understood.  As a way of promoting attention to these matters consider the first minute the BBC documentary WikiLeaks: The Secret Life of a Superpower in relation to these questions:

- What is aroused in you in watching this clip? Reverence, frustration, bewilderment, intrigue and enjoyment? Why is this so? 

- If this clip were a hand gesture, what kind of a hand gesture would it be?  My suggestion would be that it represent a kind of grasping that is a secure taking hold of the world.  In my presentation, I aim to foster sensitivities about the investments and troubles associated with this kind of longing.



Participant: Brian RAPPERT
Dept. of Sociology, Philosophy, and Anthropology | University of Exeter
Presentation: Leaks and Lures: The Commitments of Exposing Militarism