Colleges and universities are about social and political certification -- rather like joining the Communist Party in China. If you can afford to graduate, you get an "in". But you have to be careful what you learn and what you say. Best to avoid anything "lefty" and stick to stuff that sells.
Chris Spannos |
While WikiLeaks continues to make strong interventions into the global news cycle, important debates have been simmering between editor Julian Assange and international relations scholars about whether or not the more than 2 million US diplomatic cables and State Department records WikiLeaks began publishing in 2010 (2,325,961 to be exact) are relevant to understanding how the world’s super-power operates and if Anglo-American academic institutions in the international relations discipline are biased toward the interests of US empire.
|Academe is Indoctrination|
Professor of international politics Daniel W. Drezner hit back on July 30 in The Washington Post, arguing that there were other explanations for why the journal was not publishing WikiLeaks’ material. However, he did concede that it is possible that the “structural forces” opposing WikiLeaks were so powerful that a scholar would eschew WikiLeaks’ publications for “fear of being blackballed”.
For the thousands of undergraduate to PhD students, fellows and academic researchers facing a precarious employment market, self-censorship for fear of freezing one’s career is not unlikely. One publicised incident from November 2010 concerning the office of career services at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), which according to The New York Times “grooms future diplomats”, provides the perfect illustration. That year the office sent an email to students warning them against commenting on or posting WikiLeaks’ documents on social media because “engaging in these activities would call into question your ability to deal with confidential information, which is part of most positions with the federal government”. The warning came to the office through a SIPA alumnus working at the State Department.
|College Education is Mis-education|
Others participating in a peer-review process have cited additional factors curtailing their use of comprehensive and illuminating WikiLeaks publications. Former US presidential candidate for the Green Party Cynthia McKinney, for example, says that she was forced to scrub her PhD dissertation from any reference of WikiLeaks material.
|A PhD will not get you laid...but|
However Drezner, who is an ISA member and on the ISQ’s web advisory board, claims that WikiLeaks’ published diplomatic cables “are not nearly as significant as Assange believes” and that the “academic universe is indifferent to WikiLeaks”. A surprising claim, given that international human rights courts have not been indifferent to evidence derived from WikiLeaks’ published cables, including cables that show the insidious ways in which European officials attempt to conceal CIA torture in secret prisons.
To help address the gap in scholarly analysis of the more than 2 million US diplomatic cables and State Department records published by WikiLeaks since 2010, WikiLeaks has produced a new book, The WikiLeaks Files: The World According to US Empire, published September 7, 2015.
Analysts review the efforts US diplomats take to maintain ties with dictators. They examine the meaning of human rights in the context of a global “War on Terror”. Like the cables they seek to illuminate, the 18 chapters of the book touch upon most major regions of the world.
According to Gabriel J. Michael, author of the Yale Law School paper Who’s Afraid of WikiLeaks? Missed Opportunities in Political Science Research, the ISQ has adopted a “provisional policy” against handling manuscripts that make use of leaked documents if such use could be interpreted as mishandling “classified” material. According to an ISQ editor quoted in Michael’s paper, this policy prohibits direct quotations as well as data mining, and was developed in consultation with legal counsel. Stating that editors are currently “in an untenable position”. According to the editor, ISQ’s policy will remain in place pending broader action from the ISA, which publishes several other disciplinary journals.
The ISA and ISQ concerns about handling material that the US government forbids — which include WikiLeaks’ cables — amount to throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The cables go into the heart of an empire, and reflect on matters that affect everyone.
Without WikiLeaks, the public would still be in the dark about the Trans-Pacific Partnership “agreement” currently being negotiated. The treaty aims to rewrite the global rules on intellectual property rights and would create spheres of trade which would be protected from judicial oversight. Such agreements have the potential to change the fabric of how states operate, and the leaked cables shed light on how states negotiate significant treaties, aiming to keep citizenship participation in politics out. Where academia bans the use of important leaked documents the public loses out.