In the first of two parts, Swiss art critic and curator Hans Ulrich Obrist interviews Julian Assange in e-flux journal #25. Tracing the philosophical origins of what eventually became Wikileaks, Assange tells of an epiphany he had realizing the opportunity that censorship signals.
Consider the totality of information in the world: archives, libraries, personal letters, secret documents, the internet, all of it. If it is granted that information can produce actions that affect the world, then what of this information can be used to make the world more just? Assange asserts that, “some of the information in this tremendous field, if you look at it carefully, is faintly glowing. And what it’s glowing with is the amount of work that’s being put into suppressing it. So, when someone wants to take information and literally stick it in a vault and surrond it with guards, I say that they are doing economic work to suppress information from the world. And why is so much economic work being done to suppress that information? Probably–not definitely, but probably–because the organization predicts that it’s going to reduce the power of the institution that contains it. It’s going to produce a change in the world” (09).
Assange believes that if an organization expresses fear of reform, which is evidenced through attempts to censor the distribution of information, then that organization is simultaneously admitting that it can be reformed.
If censorship describes the suppression of information, then this is different from lying, which is the negation of claim. Contained within any statement which is meant to be read as factual is its opposite. Censorship is an attempt to bracket what kinds of thoughts/actions/reactions are possible, whereas facts/lies are related to naming what is seen, felt or experienced.
What I am trying to work through here is how Stephen Harper’s Conservative government were awarded an majority government earlier this month in Canada’s most recent federal election (there have been four in the last seven years). There is something wrong with our electoral system, yes, but their majority stills comes with the support of 40% of voters. What I can’t understand is how a political party found in contempt of parliament, and which has repeatedly been caught lying can retain and secure additional support from an electorate. What information could have been presented to produce another outcome? Harper’s Conservative government seems to be operating to both affect what is possible to be thought, but also patently lying. What hope is there for a different kind of Canada when its leaders so blatantly betray trust without negative effect at the polls? Whom are they serving? And why do so few Canadians seem to care?