It’s Almost as if Mill Thought of WikiLeaks Himself…
In a recent survey conducted by The Miami Herald, an overwhelming 70% of Americans believed the controversial website, WikiLeaks, is more detrimental than beneficial. However, when broken down by age group, the youngest sub-group, ages 18-29, was the sole demographic that the majority voted (52%) that the publishers were acting within their First Amendment rights in leaking the classified information. As the age of the sub-groups increased, so did the belief that the publishers of WikiLeaks were not acting within their First Amendment rights, and should be prosecuted. I believe if Mill were around these days, he would be proud of us young citizens! Part of WikiLeaks mission, as shown below, advocates for the improvement of government, corporations, etc. by means of “scrutiny”. This improvement they claim, will create a “better society for all people”.
Publishing improves transparency, and this transparency creates a better society for all people. Better scrutiny leads to reduced corruption and stronger democracies in all society’s institutions, including government, corporations and other organizations. A healthy, vibrant and inquisitive journalistic media plays a vital role in achieving these goals. We are part of that media.
In John Mill’s freedom of thought and discussion he identifies two types of tyranny: the first being tyranny of political unfreedom and the second being tyranny of the majority, better described as tyranny of thought and feeling. Expression has value, and just as described in WikiLeaks’ mission, benefits the society as a whole. Mill argues that any supposed “truth”, or even harmful ideas should not be suppressed, because at its core, harmfulness is an open question that no one person should have the jurisdiction to answer. Furthermore, Mill argues that the truth in general tends to be useful, but that it only can be discovered through looking at all opinions.
While WikiLeaks remains controversial, I would be willing to assert that Mill would support the website on the very foundation that society will know more and will know better. It seems that this young age group, by a slight majority, believes in the value of epistemology, just like Mill—the idea that there is some collective good in terms of knowledge.
Thomma, Steven. “Poll: People behind WikiLeaks Should Be Prosecuted – Nation AP – MiamiHerald.com.” MiamiHerald.com – Miami & Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Miami Dolphins & More. 10 Dec. 2010. Web. 10 Dec. 2010. <http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/12/10/1967897/poll-people-behind-wikileaks-should.html>.