WikiLeaks has not lived up to the utopian and dystopian claims made for it, and against it, in 2010 – such is the persuasive conclusion drawn by Alasdair Roberts, a Canadian scholar at Suffolk University in Boston, in an article in the International Review of Administrative Sciences, published on Friday.
Julian Assange and his colleagues and their supporters had expected that the people of the United States and other countries would rise up in indignation at the WikiLeaks disclosures, to demand new ways of carrying on government.
Professor Roberts points out that the vast number of WikiLeaks documents is only the numerator of a fraction, in which the denominator is the far vaster total number of government documents –a known unknown that is undoubtedly enormous. Moreover, governments have shown themselves capable of adapting to new technological conditions, to protect themselves.
The disclosure of a few specific abuses did have consequences, but on the whole the general public appeared not to be surprised by the ways that governments behave, and largely to accept these practices – or at least tolerate them, as Prof. Roberts puts it. WikiLeaks did not transform the political world.