Heeding the Times from Harry Antonides' Desk

When the Centre Does not Hold

February, 2011


One might have supposed …that a principal preoccupation of intellectuals…would be the maintenance of the boundaries that separate civilization from barbarism, since those boundaries have so often proved so flimsy in the past hundred years.  One would be wrong to suppose any such thing, however.
(Theodore Dalrymple, Our Culture, What’s Left of it:  The Mandarins and the Masses, 2005. p.x) 

The fallout from the publication of hundreds of thousands of U.S. classified cables and other documents, masterminded by the Australian Julian Assange, has again exposed the radical split within American society. 

 The outlines of this story are now well known. A former lowly private, 22-year old Bradley Manning, who had security clearance to two high-security networks, downloaded a massive number of Microsoft email files and sent them on to Julian Assange.  To hide this theft, he then erased the server logs that would have tracked his move. 

When a 29-year old Californian hacker who befriended Manning, realized what was happening, he reported his findings to the authorities. Without the decisive action of Lamo, Manning’s secrets might have taken a lot longer to be discovered. 

Meanwhile, the Obama administration has dawdled and let months go by without taking any firm action. Attorney General Eric Holder was reduced to pleading with the New York Times to refrain from publishing the stolen documents. The Times’ editors ignored his pleas and published the documents anyway, claiming that they were doing so out of respect for the public’s right to know. 

Fear and Paranoia

Julian Assange founded Wikileaks in 2006 and has since published large bundles of information about a number of events to the embarrassment of the targeted authorities in various countries, but his main target is America because he thinks that it is a force for evil in the world and must be stopped. 

In a 2006 essay Assange wrote “To radically shift regime behavior we must think clearly and boldly for if we have learned anything, it is that regimes do not want to be changed.  We must think beyond those who have gone before us and discover technological changes that embolden us with ways to act in which our forebears could not.” 

In the same year he wrote in his blog, “the more secretive or unjust an organisation is, the more leaks induce fear and paranoia in its leadership and planning coterie….  Since unjust systems, by their nature induce opponents, and in many places  barely have the upper hand, mass leaking  leaves them exquisitely  vulnerable  to those who seek to replace them with more open forms of government.” 

 The leaked documents  inflicted huge damage on the American war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan because it gave away secret information that the enemy can use to its advantage. In  addition, it identified people who have  supported the American-led  military effort, who now have reasons to fear for their lives. 

John F. Burns reported ( NYT, Oct. 23, 2010 ) that the Taliban  has formed  a nine-member commission  following  Wikileaks’ posting of the  Afghan documents “to find about people who are spying.”  A Taliban spokesman  said that they  had a “wanted” list of  1,800 Afghans which they are comparing with  the names on the Wikileaks. He explained: “After the process is completed, our Taliban  court will decide about such people.”  Those are chilling words that  will strike fear into the hearts of  those targeted. 

Saboteurs  at Work

The  exposure of  key information about  the war  effort  and  identifying  pro-American  local citizens  have seriously  handicapped the U.S military  action . In late November 2010, Wikileaks   released thousands more  secret documents  about the Iraq war and  250,000 diplomatic cables.  The  damage inflicted on America and its allies is fourfold. 

One. The publication of diplomatic cables has  shown that Americans cannot be trusted, and it will be much harder for them to collect and share information with other countries. 

Two.  They  have  exposed  friendly locals to the wrath of  the  Taliban and  Iraqi killers, which in many cases will cost them their lives. The fear of such retribution will in turn make it  nearly impossible to gain the support of  the local population – without  which no war can be won. 

Three. These documents have given away information  about many aspects of the  military operations in  Afghanistan and Iraq that benefits the enemy. The tactical benefits of such information will cost our troops dearly;  more of our soldiers will die. 

Four. The  incompetence and  confusion shown by the Obama administration in the handling of this crisis cannot but eat away at the morale of  the soldiers fighting and dying on the front lines. 

It cannot  escape notice that the Obama administration  has not treated this attack on America --that is what  Manning and Assange have  in mind – with the determination and  insight it deserves. 

Here is Secretary of State  Hillary Clinton attempting a joke: “I am writing a cable about it, which I am sure you’ll soon find on your  closest website.” White House Press  Secretary  Robert Gibbs downplayed this issue: “We should  never be afraid of one guy who popped  down thirty-five dollars and bought a web address.” 

The Obama administration’ lack of vigorous  reaction to this attack on the U.S. leaves some troubling questions. Presumably, its lackluster response intended to downplay the meaning of this attack, but  does such not send a signal of weakness and indecision  to the enemies of America? And  is it not the first duty of  Commander- in-Chief to make it very clear that treason will not be tolerated, and that the cyber war now underway calls for much more creative measures to protect classified information. 

 Charles Krauthammer, a keen observer of  American  politics, is appalled  that America, a world power,  appears to be powerless  to protect  its own secrets.  He thinks that Wikileaks’ sabotage  amounts to treason, which  should be prosecuted with all the means available to the American judiciary.  He wonders, “Where is the Justice Department?”  (JWR, Dec. 3, 2010) 

The Wikileaks perpetrators have found a famous ally in the now 79-year-old Daniel Ellsberg, who in 1971 leaked the secret Pentagon Papers, a move that severely sabotaged the efforts of the American side in the Vietnam War. Ellsberg said that he considers Julian Assange and  Bradley Manning  “kindred spirits” and praises them for being willing to risk  imprisonment and even death  for leaking  these  papers. He stated: “ I’ve been waiting 40 years for someone  to disclose information on a scale  that might really make a difference.”

What sort of difference is Ellsberg talking about? What does Julian Assange  mean by a “radial shift in regime behavior”  by creating “fear and paranoia” within the leadership of nations that leaves them  “exquisitely vulnerable to those who want to replace them with more open  forms of  government ?” 

The Call to Revolution

Let me interpret bluntly. This is nothing but a call to revolution; “Off with their heads.”  Western democracies, especially the U. S. are so corrupt  and dangerous that they are beyond  improvement. They must be destroyed by extra-legal means of  force and intimidation.  In other words,  bring on the revolution first by creating chaos  that induces fear and helplessness among the population.  Then in the confusion there will  be the opportunity to create an entirely different society led by those in the know about  building a new society of justice, equality and peace.”(See Saul D. Alinsky, Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic  Radicals, 1971.  See also The Coming Insurrection, by The Invisible Committee, 2009.)   

Impossible, you say. Such things would never happen here. I would not be so sure.  The signs are everywhere in the trampling of  tradition, waning respect for standards of  loyalty, integrity, honesty, and simple gestures of  everyday civility; in the rise of the nanny state; and especially in the decline of educational  institutions, which  in league with the mainstream media, have turned  themselves  into molders of political correctness. 

To be sure, there are still many people who lead exemplary lives. Their numbers may be declining, but there are still faithful husbands and wives, loyal citizens, honest businessmen,  responsible children, loyal friends, and so on. 

This is the good news, and we should never underrate the positive impact  of daily of kindness and  civic virtue. The bad news is that such virtuous acts are mostly limited to the private sphere, while Western society in general is being battered by  ideologies of  destruction and revolution. 

Wherever  you now look, especially in the culture-shaping institutions such as the academy and the media, we see the predominance  of a mindset that ridicules the idea that humans are responsible to a higher authority. In fact,  the spirit of our age (Zeitgeist)  rejects all boundaries and limits, except those we design  ourselves. That leaves the door wide open for all manner of anarchistic and barbarian  ideologies. 

We can see the bitter fruit of these ideas  when we watch angry crowds rioting  in the cities not only  in Egypt and other Arab countries, but also in  Canada and the U.S. There are people who are determined to cause maximum social and political chaos because they think  the West is corrupt and evil and needs to undergo a total revolution. Such movements get a fresh dose of oxygen in times of change and uncertainty – such a time as this. Wikileaks  fits into that category.   

Signs of the Time

Remember that revolutions are mostly  accomplished by minorities led by  cunning and ruthless demagogues.  The ironic predicament  now facing the Western democracies is that the attributes of democracy can easily be  perverted to destroy  democracy from within.  (See  James Burnham,  Suicide of the West, 1964.) 

Further note that all world-transforming revolutions have two things in common. First, they are marked by a virulent hatred of  the  Judeo-Christian faith. Second,  they are accompanied by the destruction of a free press, which  is then  replaced  by  a state-run propaganda machine.  

Reading the signs of our time, I believe that we are on the threshold of massive changes in every aspect of our lives, not unlike the 1930s. It’s often the poets and the “dreamers” who sense what is coming.  One such person was William  Butler  Yeats ( 1865-1939 )  who wrote  a haunting poem, The Second Coming, from which I quote a few lines: 

…Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence  is drowned;

 The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity. 

It is tempting to feel hopeless about what seem to be unstoppable forces of chaos and destruction.

But then we should remember that in a real sense  the centre is holding because Jesus  has come into this world not to condemn  it but to save it. (John 3:17) This is also why he tells us to pay attention to the signs of our times, so we are not clueless in a world of turmoil and confusion.(Matthew  16:3) 

This world does confront us with evil and its heartbreaking consequences, which are overwhelming and totally beyond  our abilities. But they are not beyond the Christ who came to take away the sin of the world. Therefore we may live in hope and believe this extravagant  promise: “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20) 

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