Jullian Assange’s first Adversial Debate in London:This House Believes Whistleblowers Make the World a Safer Place

Posted: April 10, 2011 in Uncategorized
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WikiLeaks editor Jullian Assange brought thousands of Londoners, majority of who believed whistleblowers make the world a safer place, to theKensington Hall yesterday at his first adversarial debate organised by Frontline Club and New Statesman.

Assange, the head of Al-Jazeera’s Transparency Unit ClaytonSwisher,NewStateman’s senior political editor Mehdi Hasan were in the proposition of the controversial debate which was chaired by NewStateman’s editor Jason Cowley. In the opposition British diplomat Sir David Richmond, former director of the US Department of Defence Information System Security Programme Bob Ayers needed a miracle to make the crowd believe that world can be a safer place without whistleblowers.

Jullian Assange speaks at the debate on "This House Believes Whistleblowers Make the World a Safer Place"at Kensington Hall in London.

Swisher, who started the debate, talked about ethics of what to disclose and criticised mainstream media’s jealous attitude towards Assange said:”They’re hatingAssange because he got a scoop they didn’t.”and he added “There is no point in giving a deluge of data without contextualising it and saying why it matters. However when it serves their interests, governments have no problem with leaks, thinkof “senior officials” on WMDs before Iraq.”

Speaking about the Palestine Papers, Swisher said thatal-Jazeera’s Transparency Unit has to “Take documents, stand them up, and turn them into TV.People know what not to put out there.”

“Freedom of information isn’t the same as an information free-for-all.” opposed Sir David Richmond and added that: “If the
right balance is not being struck, the democratic way to address this is notwhistleblowing”. However he also said: “Parliament, courts and mediashould be more democratic so there is less need for leaks.”

When Jullian Assange took the stage no one dared to break the silence apart from the cameras that never stopped taking his picture. “The question is if the absence of whistleblowers makes the world a more harmful place?”,asked Assange  after the  loudest applauses in the hall.“How are we going to know if the secrecy process is working or not? The only way we can knowis to know what information is.”When information is secret we don’t know about it. If we’re not talking about what actually happens in the world, whatare we talking about? Myths and hypotheses?

Assange referred to the “original sin” of censorship and claimed that Vietnam and Iraq War could have been prevented if the information had been leaked earlier. 39 years old WikiLeaks editor also stressed that whistleblowers prevented an attack on Iran in 2007 and added that”When whistleblowers speak anonymously they can feel proud that theyhave changed history… and move on.”

Second opposition speaker Bob Ayer called whistleblowers “rat,snitches and sneaks” and talked about legality and technicality of whistleblowing and unfortunately his speech didn’t bring any credit to the opposition.

When Cowley invited Ex MI5 agent Annie Machon to the stage she said: “If we lived in an ideal world where we had transparency, freedom of information and real democracy we wouldn’t need whistleblowers. We need some sort of protection for whistleblowers but until then we have WikiLeaks.” and received personal attack from Douglas Murray who was sarcastic and disrespectful to every speaker throughout the debate.

“Transparency is the key to the truth and it is the truth that gives us freedom. Whistleblowers prevent disasters but they get treated like toxic waste or lepers.”,said HBO’s whistleblower Paul Moore who was invited tothe stage to deliver a short speech about his experience as a whitleblower.

Cowley asked  Assange to explain collateral damage and risk to innocent people as he received the question from NS reader.“We have never got it wrong .” replied Assange and added: “We have the perfect record, no one has ever come to any physical harm because anything that we have published. The Pentagon has more blood on its hands than WikiLeaks.”

The final proposition speaker Mehdi Hasan  who based his strong defence  on Abu Ghraib said:” says that anyone who says whistleblowers don’t make the world a safer place should go and talk to the inmates of Abu Ghraib. Hasan exclaimed passionately at the governments who lie to public repeatedly, “Stop lying to us and we won’t need to have anywhistleblowers!”

The final speaker award winning author and journalist Douglas Murray, who was suffering from clear  symptoms of WikiLeaks Syndrom like  those journalists that  couldn’t  get the scoop also did  as Swisher mentioned at the beginning of the debate, couldn’t  manage to be rational and attacked Jullian Assange’s personal bussiness.Assange’s rational and consistent answers only made Douglas look more fool. However when Assange’s PA reminded him the time ,it was time for him to go to Norfolk where he is currently under house arrest.

Cowley wanted to do the final poll  just when Assange was leaving and the result was not different from the initial one. Opposition speakers’ weak defence was not good enough to make difference in people’s minds which is why none of them  wanted to spend one more second in the Hall after Assange had left.

  1. Christopher Rushlau says:

    Was this debate also implicitly a debate and poll about the Israel movement? What is the big secret that everybody walks around like it’s a big bomb? I would have asked the three opposition speakers what they thought of Israel. Does the Jewish state mean that democracy and the rule of law aren’t sufficient security? Is that what’s at heart of Ayer’s condemnation of “rats and snitches”? Why doesn’t the disinfecting light of public discussion ever reach into that toxic cloud called “Israel”?
    The burden here shifts to the supporting speakers, the NS, etc.: what do you think of Israel? If you’re convinced it’s a failure, a suicide cult, or something comparable, a victim of its own power, what are you doing to liberate the people there and outside who support it from their error? Isn’t a leak about an Apache strike in Baghdad or about Abu Ghreib just a metaphor, sacrament, symbol, for the much larger, more brutal, and more notorious scandal of Israel from at least 1917–racist European invasion beachhead on Asia camouflaged as a liberal state? If that’s what Israel is, why don’t you liberals say so?

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