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While You Were Sleeping


Last night, holed up in the London Ecuadorian Embassy, Julian Assange attempted once more to set the world alight with the release over 1.7 million U.S. diplomatic cables. This time however, the cables date from 1976, the conflicts and figures involved in the documents are no longer active, and the media, frankly, does not care.

The general indifference with which yesterday’s Wikileaks press conference has been met is best observed in its total failure to capture any front-page space across global media outlets. The formal unveiling of Project K took place Monday afternoon in Washington D.C., with a slightly rounder looking Assange speaking via Skype. In a sad overstatement that attempted to capture our imagination once more, Assange hailed the new release as “the single most significant geopolitical publication that has ever existed.”

Truth is indeed sadder than fiction. Far from being earth-shattering documents, the Henry Kissinger Cables (as they are otherwise known) have already been released by the U.S. and are in fact searchable on the National Archives and Records Administration website. Apart from drawing attention to the extent of U.S. involvement in international affairs in the 1970s, the only clear gain from Wikileaks’ release is the U.S. inability ever to reclassify the cables. In reality, in attempt to remain relevant, Wikileaks has scraped the bottom of the barrel and presented it to us as caviar.

The tragedy of Monday’s event is not the relative insignificance of Assange’s latest efforts, but his own growing irrelevance. As the Wikileaks founder nears the anniversary of his internment at the Ecuadorian Embassy –the year will be complete on June 19th– it seems that we, along with the media, have grown bored of our former hero and have become fickle with our loyalties.

The fact is that it is not only Assange who has fallen into disregard, as Bradley Manning and Pussy Riot too can testify—all of whom are facing serious persecution for their attempts to bring truth and transparency to their people when few others would. James Ball’s reflections on the launch of the Kissinger Cables rightly highlight the informational drought that Wikileaks is suffering from, pointing to the fact that whistleblowers such as Manning are rare. If the repayment for such personal sacrifices is a special space in the communal memory bin, we can only expect them to become rarer.

Despite the anticlimactic launch of Project K, the conference did serve to impart some valuable knowledge to the press. Quoting George Orwell, Assange reminded us all that “he who controls the past controls the future, and he who controls the present controls the past.” We should not, and cannot, lose sight of those who stepped forward to save the present while the rest of us were softly sleeping.

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