the Complete 17-page Authoritarianism Study (1.28
WikiLeaks: Authoritarianism Update
WikiLeaks Takes Center Stage; Government Reactions
Originally published in the August 2010 Socionomist
In his two-part April and May study published in The Socionomist,
Alan Hall predicted that:
·A continuing long-term trend toward negative social
mood will cause society to become increasing fearful. This movement
will lead to polarized views toward authoritarianism.
·Increases in surveillance and
other authoritarian activities will lead to escalating anti-authoritarian
will in turn generate legislation and other actions to curb freedoms.
·Whistleblower websites like
WikiLeaks will increasingly illustrate that an unfettered Internet
undermines governments’ ability to control information. The days of
such unrestricted sites on the Web are numbered.
·Paranoid governments will seek
the authority to shut down large blocks of the Internet, citing security
Hall’s forecasts are playing out
in rapid fashion.
WikiLeaks Becomes the Hotspot
In early July, WikiLeaks released 91,000 secret documents
related to the war in Afghanistan. It was the largest intelligence leak
in U.S. history. The White House at first downplayed the revelations
as well-known problems. The media did as well:
Unlike the explosive Pentagon Papers published in
The New York Times during the Vietnam War in 1971, the files don’t
show top U.S. officials misleading the public about the war’s course.2
But the dismissive attitude changed
rapidly. On July 25, WikiLeaks’ founder, Julian Assange, claimed he
had evidence of possible war crimes. On July 27, he started a war of
He scoffed when the Frontline’s moderator
spoke of British soldiers “giving their lives” in Afghanistan. “To
what?” he asked.3
Just two days later on July 29, the U.S. government suddenly
went from soft on WikiLeaks to very pointed:
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates
and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen strongly condemned
WikiLeaks … . Gates said the [early July] leak was “potentially severe
and dangerous for our troops, our allies and our Afghan partners …
.” Mullen was even more direct and said that WikiLeaks “might already
have on their hands the blood of some young soldier.”4
A former CIA director followed
up by describing the leaked documents as “priceless” to America’s enemies.
On August 3 the Washington Post joined the chorus, calling in an editorial
for the U.S. government to break international law if necessary to stop
WikiLeaks. The government should “contravene customary international
law” and use “intelligence and military assets to bring Assange to justice
and put his criminal syndicate out of business,” it said.
On August 3, just nine days after
the White House dismissed the revelations as old news, a U.S. Congressman
said that U.S. Army intelligence analyst Private Bradley Manning, the
alleged source of the leaks, should be executed for treason.
WikiLeaks’ quick rise to firebrand status is but one fulfillment of our forecast for increasing conflict over authoritarianism. In the three short
months since Hall’s study, the Washington Post published its “Top Secret America” investigation, a two-year project that describes the immense
post-9/11 national security buildup in the United States as “a hidden world, growing beyond control.” Even more significant is the “Protecting
Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010,” introduced by U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman on June 10. The law would empower the president to “shut down
the Internet, disconnect its networks, and force web sites, blogs, providers, search engines and software companies to ‘immediately comply with any
emergency measure or action.’” The Baltimore Chronicle describes the proposed law as a “kill switch for the Internet.”5
Meanwhile, a number of other nations continue to negotiate the sweeping Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which the European Commission says
would establish international agreement on enforcement of intellectual property rights but which anti-authoritarians claim will curb freedoms. An
international panel convened in June by the American University Washington College of Law said the ACTA has:
… grave consequences for the global economy … . [It would] curtail enjoyment of fundamental rights and liberties, … encourage internet service
providers to police the activities of internet users, ... [and] encourage this surveillance, and the potential for punitive disconnections by private
actors, without adequate court oversight or due process.6
Negative social mood is eroding fundamental rights in the European Union (EU). Member states have varying standards of civil liberty. The Union allows
each country to use a “no-evidence-needed” European Arrest Warrant to require any other member state to arrest, detain and extradite criminal
suspects—even if those suspects have committed nothing deemed a crime by the extraditing state.
The number of European Arrest Warrant detentions in Britain has risen 43-fold since 2004 … . They can spend long periods in jail – here and abroad –
for … offences which are not crimes in Britain. Foreign prosecutors do not have to present evidence to the British courts, just demand the person be
Why This is Happening
In April, Hall explained how such major ideological conflicts can develop rapidly in formerly concordant societies:
A society’s authoritarian impulse is rooted in social mood ... A bearish mood can push a society with very low interest in authoritarianism into a
significant authoritarian/anti-authoritarian conflict.8
Hall’s study included a five-step graphic illustrating the process. Figure 12 shows step 3, which depicts where Hall believes the U.S. is situated
currently. To see the full graphic from the April issue, click on the figure below.
Mood decline accelerates: Polarization increases, as do
calls for separation, opposition and destruction of the status quo. Society's
sense for what is "normal" loses definition.
WikiLeaks continues to push its agenda. On July 16, Assange said that the video it posted of a U.S. helicopter killing a dozen civilians in Iraq had
inspired “an enormous quantity of whistle-blower disclosures of high caliber … . There are many things which are very explosive.” The founder also
threatens to release a video purportedly showing a U.S. massacre of civilians in Afghanistan. CNN reported, “[Assange] said the site’s hope is that
such video ‘will change the perception of the people who are paying’ for the war.”9
Time Running Out?: Wikileaks' hourglass logo may be more
appropriate that its advocates realize.
The site also posted for download a huge, encrypted file labeled “Insurance.”4 The file appears to be graymail—a thinly veiled threat to
reveal state secrets. Should something happen to Assange or the web site, those who have downloaded the file would need only the password, not yet
disseminated, to open it. On August 5, the Pentagon demanded that WikiLeaks recall all the leaked Department of Defense documents from the web and
return them. Recalling the documents is impossible, as Hall noted in his study. On August 10, the Obama administration asked allies Britain, Germany,
Australia and others to crack down on WikiLeaks with criminal charges and severe limitations on Assange’s international travel. On August 12, the
Pentagon warned that WikiLeaks’ next posting will be more damaging than the initial release. As the conflict festers, the U.S. is no doubt rethinking
its relations with Iceland, whose parliament voted unanimously in June to offer legal protection to whistle-blower sites like WikiLeaks and their
employees. One sponsor of the legislation said, “They are trying to make everything opaque. We are trying to make it transparent.”10
Serious authoritarian/anti-authoritarian conflict is just beginning, Hall
reiterates. “As Primary wave 3 accelerates, so will the conflict,” Hall says.
“The WikiLeaks saga could end abruptly if the authoritarian impulse to extinguish
the site prevails. Regardless, the struggle between secrecy and transparency—and
authoritarianism and anti-authoritarianism—will continue to intensify.”
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1, 7 Hall, A. Authoritarianism: the wave principle
governs fear and the social desire to submit. (2010, April, May).
The Socionomist . 1April, May, entire
issues; 7May, 1.
2 Page, Susan. (2010, July 27). Army begins
probe of leaked secret afghan war files. USA Today, 1.
3 Associated Press. (2010, July 7). Editor
says source of afghan info is unknown. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/
4 Zetter, Kim. (2010, July 30). Wikileaks
posts mysterious ‘insurance’ file. Retrieved from
5 Lendman, S. (2010, July 15). Under threat:
a free and open internet. Retrieved from
6 Text of urgent acta communique. (2010, July
23). Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property. Retrieved
7 Gilligan, A. (2010, August 21). Surge
in britons exported for trial. Retrieved from
8 The wave principle governs fear and the social
desire to submit. (2010, May). The Socionomist, 1.
9 Galant, R. (2010, July 16). Wikileaks
founder: site getting tons of ‘high caliber’ disclosures. Retrieved
10 Mackey, R. (2010, June 17). Victory for
wikileaks in iceland’s parliament. Retrieved from http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/17/victory-for-wikileaks-in-icelands-parliament/
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