"Reality TV" has infiltrated even some of our best newspapers. Hillary said what? Oh no, Ahmadinejad didn't. Putin and Medvedev are Batman and Robin? For all the breathless attention they have received, the much-touted WikiLeaks have revealed very little of any significance that we didn't already know. Many of the State Department cables are akin to teenage diary entries that one might see scrawled on a high school bathroom wall, particularly the one that steamed with sordid (but unsurprising) details of Chechens Gone Wild. It was replete with tawdry, Harlequin novel imagery of "dancing with scantily clad Russian women." This is not news. This is not important. This is an episode of Desperate Housewives, but with less attractive characters.
Surely though, WikiGossip must have provided us with valuable new information that: Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons is alarming. North Korea is growing increasingly unpredictable. Pakistan is an unreliable ally, unwilling and unable to follow through on the eradication of the Taliban. Afghanistan is plagued by corruption. Sarkozy is our high maintenance ally and a spoiled brat. The U.S. military kept body counts in Iraq. Really? These pearls of wisdom are about as shocking as the news that Willie Nelson had been caught with marijuana, or that ethics take a back seat to greed on Wall Street. Oh, wait, that apparently is Julian Assange's next earthshaking revelation. I am shocked -- shocked! -- that there is gambling going on here.
Instead of this continued preposterous prattle, the public should have been hearing last week about the Christmas gifts our new Republican congressmen and women are bestowing upon their constituents, which include plans to cut unemployment benefits to two million Americans while extending tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans. Also in the name of deficit reduction, Republicans made covert moves to cut insurance coverage for one of the most vulnerable demographics: autistic children. 'Tis the season to deny health care to mentally impaired children. Also newsworthy: The EU's impending trade talks with pharmaceutical giants, which would result in a massive increase in the price of anti-HIV medicines, rendering cheap, life-saving medicines inaccessible to millions of HIV-infected children in Africa. More real news: The FBI hired an ex-convict to infiltrate a California mosque to spy on Muslims who worship there. There go the last fragile remnants of trust the American Muslim community had in its government. This is bona fide news that was eclipsed by the ludicrous minutiae of Clinton's desperate damage control maneuvers.
WikiLeaks is no longer riveting, but the absurd circus that ensues on its periphery is. Whatever small shreds of faith the public had in the government, it quickly thwarted. The Office of Career Services at Columbia University recently received an email from a State Department employee who warned that students who desired a career in politics should steer clear of the documents because it "would call into question [their] ability to deal with confidential information." We have sunk to a new low. The federal government is telling university students not to read. Another email sent to thousands of USAID employees warns of the dangers of accessing WikiLeaks material. It is hard to find much difference between this and China's attitude toward Google.
One would hope that WikiChatter might have earthquaked us out of apathy and intellectual lethargy, out of our naïveté, and into delicious self-awareness and sober accountability. If there is one thing we can learn from this it is that no one can be trusted, and most certainly not those in the upper stratosphere of political power and wealth. Coffee shop intellectuals and college students around the country can now sigh and completely mute that little hopeful whisper in side their ear that maybe, just maybe, their bitter view of the world is flawed. But did any of us really need WikiLeaks to arrive at this worldview? Aside from spicy water cooler chitchat and an endless mockery of his ever-changing tresses, what has Assange given the public? Are we safer now? Smarter? More awake?
In an era of pseudo-crisis after pseudo-crisis, this will not be a wake-up call for us to hold our politicians more accountable, but just another frenzy until TSA dreams up a further invasion of Americans' genitalia. In truth, it has hurled us further into the mind-numbing abyss of information overload; this country had already lost all confidence in its government and its political parties, without the help of Assange.
WikiLeaks' most important role is not the information that it birthed, but the sheer fear it has stirred in our politicians and diplomats, which will likely be temporary anyway. It is now up to us to awaken from our intellectual slumber, to demand real substance from our politicians and solid solutions to the immense complexities this country is drowning in, none of which have to do with Gaddafi's Ukranian nurse.