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Truth is Important

Entry 1210, on 2010-08-04 at 20:12:23 (Rating 3, News)

How important is the truth? Should it be suppressed for reasons of convenience? What about to reduce the embarrassment of key public figures? Or national security... or how about to save lives? I mean is it OK to withhold information which directly interests many people because that information might lead to deaths?

The questions above arise from the Afghanistan war log leaks recently published by WikiLeaks. It seems apparent from those documents that a lot of what we have been told about the war in Afghanistan simply isn't true or at the very least vast amounts of information have been withheld by the military.

Recently, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the WikiLeaks web site is morally guilty for putting lives at risk. Of course he would say that because he was one of the people in authority who have tried to stop bad news leaking from the Afghanistan war zone. So his opinion needs to be treated with great skepticism.

They do say that the first casualty of war is the truth and there's no doubt that secrecy and distribution of propaganda are very important factors in any victory. I recently watched a really interesting TV series about World War II (yes, a TV program worth watching - what a shock) and one factor which arose many times was how information can often lead to success in battles. For example, the German's codes were broken by the British code cracking team which allowed the Allies to avoid surprise attacks, and the Americans also intercepted Japanese transmissions which gave them an advantage in the Pacific war.

So its obvious that information is important and there is a case for keeping certain facts secret. It would be unwise, for example, for the US to create a public web site posting the location of every patrol in Afghanistan! So I don't think anyone will deny that there is a case for keeping some information secret but how far should that go?

Ultimately its the government of the major powers, especially the US, who make decisions on how wars should be fought (and whether they should be fought at all). But those governments are ultimately controlled by the people of the countries concerned. If the people don't want a war to continue they can vote out a pro-war government or use pressure to have the fighting stopped. There are plenty of examples where this sort of thing has happened: the most obvious would be Vietnam.

So ultimately the people have the power but how can they exercise that power if they don't know the facts? It seems to me that the military has a duty to provide as much information about their activities as they can, and that should include failures as well as successes. Its a bit like the management of a company's obligation to its shareholders. No one expects every tiny sensitive detail but they do rightly expect a lot.

The information published by WikiLeaks seems to be in the category of the sort of stuff that the public have the right to know so I think WikiLeaks has done the world a real service by leaking the stuff they have.

Its actually an interesting example of freedom of information in the internet age. Its increasingly difficult to get away with the type of propaganda and subterfuge that large organisations have in the past. BP found this out when they grossly mismanaged the publicity around the oil spill and now even the most powerful organisation on Earth (the US military) has been defeated by free information on the internet as well.

Surely this is a warning to anyone who hopes to disguise the truth for their own benefit. Its just not worth the risk any more because there's a good chance the deception will be exposed and that will probably lead to a worse outcome than if they had just been truthful to start with.

So the truth is important and everyone should fight to keep the internet as open and uncensored as possible so that we at least have a chance to discover what the truth really is.

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Comment 11 (2806) by OJB on 2010-08-11 at 13:44:28: (view earlier comments)

Thank you very much. I will! :)

So why did you say the university types are sucking off the public tit then if you admit they add value. Do you want to retract that statement? Well you think they should be fired. I don't. I prefer to look at the big picture.

You "corrected" my statement by adding "thousand". If you're going to do that make sure you're right first.

People like you seem to like to get all excited about small amounts of public money being used unwisely but you're happy to pay private companies a fortune for crappy services so their executives and shareholders can get rich at your expense. Which is worse?

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Comment 12 (2807) by SBFL on 2010-08-11 at 14:00:18:

"IF" being the operative word.

1's , 10', 100's, 1000's , 10,000's ...etc... it's still _your_ money. You may be happy to hand over _your_ money to pay for porn but the rest of us aren't.

At least with wasteful, excessive private companies I have a choice. With selfish politicians - left or right - I don't. You seem to lack that distinction.

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Comment 13 (2809) by OJB on 2010-08-11 at 15:11:59:

So since you claim they are indeed doing this sucking you must have some evidence they aren't making a contribution to society. So... what have you got?

OK, how many times do we need to go there. It doesn't worry me too much. I'm more worried about the big picture. Maybe I'm the exception. We'll just have to leave it there.

You don't have a choice with private companies because they are all the same... just like politicians. Do you begin to see my point now?

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Comment 14 (2814) by SBFL on 2010-08-16 at 05:19:01:

I don't just claim. It is proven and the guilty parties have admitted to their actions. If you are still in denial after all this then really your judgement must come into question.

Doing a good thing doesn't mean you can get away with doing a bad thing. It seems you have misunderstood some basic laws/concepts of our society.

As many times as it takes for you to realise that deliberate wasteful spending of our money is completely unacceptable.

No, you are just being silly by highlighting your flawed ideology with the "all companies are evil" nonsense. Give me a beak.

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Comment 15 (2816) by OJB on 2010-08-16 at 11:56:56:

So are we getting mixed up here? Remember your "sucking" claim originally applied to academics, not politicians. Do you withdraw that comment about academics or not?

Well to me it does. I'm prepared to excuse some minor indiscretions if the overall outcome is good. The end justifies the means, after all!

I was making a rhetorical point that any argument applied to politicians and the public sector can just as easily me made about the private sector. Of course you can't stereotype any of these groups: there are good and bad politicians, public organisations, and private companies. None of them can be simply characterised as more parasitic, more efficient, or better or worse than any other.

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