This week was, well, all about about National Security thanks to Wikileaks, the FBI, and the upcoming Presidential election. With a new Wikileaks “info dump,” and after trudging through many of the documents, it seems as if the emails and personal correspondence that was leaked was of little importance. It indeed, would seem as if the tides of public opinion have begun to turn against Julian Assange, the head and founder of Wikileaks, as his actions seem to indicate not the “important service” of government transparency, but a politically motivated and un-thoughtful dump of personal emails—which seems to be more motivated out of personal vendetta than towards transparency and sharing of important information for an informed public.
It was in the most recent Wikileaks dump of emails that had been taken from Hillary’s Campaign Advisor, John Podesta, revealed little vital information about Hillary, other than that perhaps she is more aggressively progressive than she has let on in her campaign trail. In light of this it seemed that many journalists (and memebers of the GOP) were disappointed—they’d been ready for a good scandalous email to reveal campaign-changing info, but their was none. So many had to make “viral” content by misconstruing meaning of vague correspondence, not checking with sources in total before they reported on it and a whole other host of problems for Journalistic mal-practice. In the end, what we got was a cluster of information that didn’t mean much, but showed just how scandal hungry we are. Zeynep Tufekci, a writer for NYT, and assistant professor of Sociology at UNC tweeted a thread of tweets post Wikileaks dump, emphasizing this point:
It was (is) seeming as if the leak of these emails had, if anything, has shown a different side of Clinton: a more personal look at the policy and progressiveness she has worked for in private. Many were disappointed to find no “incriminating” email evidence like Assange had promised…
Thomas Friedman, the NYT foreign affairs Op-Ed columnist, even wrote a piece saying that the emails showed a Hillary that he was more enthusiastic about, calling her WikiHillary. Even with the release of SOME important information (for example they contained the transcripts of the speeches Hillary was paid to give for Top Executives at banks [in my opinion not NEARLY as damning as many were trying to make them out to be]), much of the information was useless and after its conversion to “viral” material, more damaging than necessary for an informed public. And indeed it was seen by many as a political move. The Ecuadorean Embassy, which is housing Julian Assange currently on assylum, has restricted his access to internet. The NYT reports:
The Ecuadorean government confirmed it had restricted internet access at the embassy, saying it “respects the principle of nonintervention in the internal affairs of other states.”
It has been seen, as Trump himself has said, that the Trump campaign seems to be embracing Wikileaks, which is a turnaround from the bi-partisan condemning of it within a governmental framework.
So if the Wikileaks info dump wasn’t quite what the Trump campaign was hoping for, it sure was happy when James Comey, director of the FBI, published a vague letter to the Senate stating that the FBI was looking into new emails found amidst their investigation of Anthony Weiner. This is clearly unorthodox practice among the FBI, as they were re-opening the investigation—it was and is seen as a clear political move to bring Hillary’s email scandal back to the forefront. It was, however, seen by many as this: even one of Hillary’s harshest critics called it out for what it was:
It was quickly learned that these emails that they were “investigating” were not from her private email server.
Even after all of this, it is still not clear how these emails are getting leaked, but it is believed that there is heavy cyber-interference of the Russian government to try and sway the election. John Podesta himself believes the hack of his email to be the work of Russia, to interfere with the election. Whether this is true or not, will be revealed as time goes on. Former FBI and DOJ liaison wrote a thread of tweets condemning the political actions, and mentioning that it was proof this was politically motivated based on the fact that they aren’t disclosing other things being investigated by FBI that have to do with the election.
As it pertains to Remix culture, I think that the email dump is a sad, insidious, and political example of a remix culture in a digital age. The leak of emails which had been misconstrued, mis-attributed, and generally altered (highlighting as smoking gun evidence where there is none) is an example of remix culture in a small and sad way.
It was even reported by The Daily Beast, that documents were being forged to look like part of the email dump, to create political propaganda.
Most importantly, the FBI is investigating some documents that appear to have been forged (it is suspected, by the Russian government) from members of the Department of Homeland security. This kind of “remix” of original, while not tradition in the way Girl Talk remixes and samples, is a kind of disheartening remixing and spread of altered material that the internet allows (and sometimes propogates).