"Dr. Tilman Baumgärtel " on Thu, 23 Dec 2010 20:20:53 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> the banality of cyberpunk, short notes on wikileaks

Pit is making an important point about Wikileaks being part (or maybe 
the climax?) of a digital culture, that manifested itself in the late 
80s and early 90s in barcamps, hacker conventions and conferences like 
"Next Five Minutes" and "Defcon". When I read the internal 
communications of the Wikileaks group (rhizome? multitude?) that have 
been leaked at cryptome.org and when I look at how they operate, I, just 
like Pit apparently, have flashbacks of my own involvement in the kind 
of loose forms of organization, that have been enabled by the internet. 
(nettime came out of this kind of context, too....)

More specifically, those flashbacks involved memories of attending the 
yearly meeting of the Chaos Computer Club in Berlin (presumably the 
habitat of many of the early supporters of Wikileaks like Daniel 
Domscheit-Berg/Schmitt who fell from grace since), where, as Pit pointed 
correctly out, revolutionary schemes along the lines of Wikileaks were 
hatched year after year by over-excited and unshaven young men in hoodies.

To get a sense of the idealism, but also of the agitated 
know-it-all-triumphalism that is a frequent staple of this type of 
politicized hacker culture, look at this presentation on a "Switzerland 
of Bits" (what a slogan!) in Iceland by Assange (still with long hair) 
and Daniel Schmitt from January 2010:


I do not want to slam this subculture of friendly nerds, as they are 
among the most competent commentators on and critics of technological 
developments that often seem to be beyond social control. My point is 
that Wikileaks demonstrates both the best and the worst of this culture.

Wikileaks is an excellent example of the virtues that the organizations 
that came out of this culture had over more traditional ways of 
collectively getting your act together: the flexibility, openness, 
speediness, lack of dogmatism, informality of the "We believe in rough 
consensus and running code"-ilk.

But at the same time, Wikileaks also demonstrates all the shortcomings 
of this kind of digital, networked "Selbstorganisation", that led me to 
leave this organizational model behind: its very looseness, the lack of 
responsibility and accountability, its openness to charismatic or 
manipulative individuals that more often than not easily took over this 
kind of "virtual organisation".

Assange is but the most prominent example of a self-proclaimed 
spokesperson of a ill-defined "movement" that is most of the time unable 
to express itself without the help of his kind of brash motor mouth. 
(That he is wanted for sexual escapades that are only punishable in 
Sweden, not for treason, spying or anything like that, is quite relevant 
here ...)

Wikileaks has accomplished a lot, they are no "old hat". They 
embarrassed the American administration, published astonishing inside 
information on North Korea, China and Nigeria, and these cables will be 
ample material for historians and conspiracy theorists for decades.

But at the same time, they have screwed up in so many ways, that are 
super-familiar to me from similar digital global salvation movements. An 
detailed account of their shortcomings can be found at


To summarize: They lost their domain www.wikileaks.org. Their current 
site is not encrypted. You cannot submit new material anymore as they 
are not prepared to deal with the current onslaught of technical 
challenges and judicial repercussions. No SSL/TLS Digital certificate.

All this seems very familiar as the very syndromes of this kind of 
ad-hoc-ism that Wikileaks promotes and practises. Most probably, many of 
these problems occurred because there is no clear-cut decision making 
process, the webmaster is on vacation in a place, where there is no 
internet, or he had to finish his or her thesis, because the parents are 
visiting or because the hard disk crashed and there was no backup. Or 
because he was drunk.

How an organization that operates along those lines could become the 
biggest item in investigative journalism/whistle blowing/scandal 
mongering, will be reason to marvel for a very long time.

It is also an excellent opportunity to reconsider this model of 
organization (or lack thereof).

I do not think, based on present evidence, that Wikileaks would have the 
capabilities to continue with their operations if they would ever come 
under the serious attack (not the attempted thrashing of their servers 
by skript kiddies, or the withdrawal of the likes of Amazon or Paypal, 
who bent their terms of service to just get rid of them).

If the Bush Junta would still be around, the Wikileaks people would have 
found themselves in black sites a long time ago. At this point they are 
lucky to have the Obama administration "considering the options". If 
anything more serious came after them, I have my doubts if their 
infrastructure and their support would last a long time...

Am 16.12.2010 23:13, schrieb Pit Schultz:

> the banality of cyberpunk, short notes on wikileaks

Dr. Tilman Baumgärtel

Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (German Academic Exchange Service, DAAD)

Royal University of Phnom Penh, Department of Media and Communication

Institute of Southeast Asian Cinema Studies

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