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You Don't Tug On Superman's Cape

Like a lot of people, I find it tempting to think in aphorisms. They come to mind quite readily, and this whole WikiLeaks disaster is just rife with ignored wisdom and truisms.

For example, it was over 200 years ago that Lord Acton had his brilliant insight: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

That particular observation of human nature took over a century and a half to be countered by another turn of phrase, this one by Stan Lee: "With great power comes great responsibility." That was the counterbalance, a way to fight off the corruption: to recognize that power comes with responsibilities, chief among them to not abuse it or exploit it for personal gain.

With the WikiLeaks situation, we see a whole bunch of people who didn't read enough comic books growing up. They have discovered that through the internet, they can wield tremendous power. They can entice others to break laws and oaths, and use the proceeds of that to influence and shape the actions of nations and governments. They can threaten and coerce the high and mighty to pay attention to them, and to dance to their tunes.

They can even possess the power of life and death. The secrets they have taken could end up costing people their lives.

But with that power, they recognize no real responsibility. Oh, they make token gestures of acting "responsibly" -- they tried to get the government to cooperate in editing and redacting the documents before releasing them to the general public, but the government would have no truck with that -- seeing it as a tacit endorsement of the whole scheme to dump classified material out in the open. They tried on their own to remove the most sensitive stuff, by they lack the knowledge and expertise to do so effectively.

But it's all for show, and ineffective. They are more concerned with influencing the course of events, of making history, of demonstrating that they have greater power than the old-fashioned governments of this world.

Further, they have decided to expand their war. Other parties have chosen not to attack WikiLeaks, but to simply remove themselves from the conflict. Amazon, MasterCard, Visa, Paypal -- all have decided that continuing their relationship with WikiLeaks is simply not worth the ill will it garners from those WikiLeaks has chosen to fight, and those who side with WikiLeaks' chosen enemies.

So they are lashing out at those non-combatants. They are launching cyber-warfare attacks against those who have decided to not stand with WikiLeaks. They temporarily took down the web sites of MasterCard and Visa, and caused problems for PayPal and Sarah Palin's web sites.

And this is when they could stand to hear just one more truism, one more bit of tried and true old wisdom -- this one from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

"When you strike at a king, you must kill him."

If you're going to attack someone of great power, be damned certain that you hit them hard enough that they will not be in a position to retaliate. There is little more self-destructive than a failed attack on a king, because a king who is only wounded (or uninjured at all) will marshal all his powers and resources towards your destruction. You are a declared mortal enemy who has shown your willingness to fight; the king has no choice but to destroy you first.

Or, if you prefer Sun Tzu, "To a surrounded enemy, you must leave a way of escape." A cornered foe with no way out will fight to the death, as they have no other choice. A foe with a chance to retreat will be less likely to fight as hard, and take the opportunity to flee.

WikiLeaks has backed the United States government into a corner, and is hitting with far less force needed to kill. They are a jackal who has cornered a lion -- and think that the lion will submit simply because the jackal has the superior position.

The lion doesn't need a superior position. They will leave the jackal alone, in most cases, as the jackal simply isn't worth the energy to kill. But should the jackal push the issue and leave the lion with no choice to fight, then the lion will fight.

And it will be no fight at all. The jackal will get the confrontation it seeks, and very quickly -- and very briefly -- regret it.

That's what is likely to happen, unless the WikiLeaks people come to their senses. But it might already be too late for that. And besides, let's toss one last quote out there -- this one from Longfellow:

"Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad."


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Comments (17)

The lion not only can destr... (Below threshold)

The lion not only can destroy the jackal; it MUST. Mercy should temper justice, not substitute for it.

I predict Julian Assange wi... (Below threshold)

I predict Julian Assange will come out of this with a Nobel Peace Prize.

I think and hope the govern... (Below threshold)

I think and hope the government is putting all assets and resources all over the world to not only eliminate Assuange, but all the hackers that have disrupted innocent lives. This is war and should be acted upon as such. War is messy and dirty. He is an enemy of the USA as are the hackers and should be treated as such. They already know they are the enemy. ww

Thoughtful analysis Mr. Tea... (Below threshold)

Thoughtful analysis Mr. Tea,

The power of secretes is inversely proportional to the number of those privy to it. Would of been better if happening upon it... to have acknowledged the power which resides within... and left well enough alone by keeping it to themselves.

But no, as with fire, some are just too tempted to show the world what they can wield... that they too have firepower.

I wouldn't have chosen the word "regret" as an outcome. But that's just a quibble. Perhaps, regret will come at the beginning of the end...at least momentarily.

Ultimately, when dealing with the lives of others, those that are foolish enough to risk them...end up being consumed by the power of the flames themselves...and thus, in that strange Darwinian way, remove themselves from the gene pool.

Semper Fidelis-

You don't know a lot about ... (Below threshold)

You don't know a lot about lions and jackals do you Jay? A lion will go out of it's way to kill a lone jackal, especially if it's wounded. Oddly enough, jackals do not exhibit the same behavior. Not that the metaphor was wrong, just your choice of animal imagery.

Seems Julian has gone throu... (Below threshold)

Seems Julian has gone through a lot of trouble just to pick up girls.

Damn, raven. I originally s... (Below threshold)

Damn, raven. I originally said fox, but changed it to jackal because I thought it more appropriate, geographically speaking. (The first publication actually had one "fox" in it unchanged, but I went back and fixed it.) Would a hyena work better? I was trying to find two predators where one was hopelessly outclassed, and didn't do my zoology homework.

Thanks for backing me on the thought, while correcting me on the particulars. Dagnabit...


You know GarandFan, you mig... (Below threshold)

You know GarandFan, you might be on to something there. I knew a Sergeant once...who had Hodgkin's Lymphoma...impregnated three women (one with twins) in short order. The punch line with him was, he didn't die... and his entire medical retired pay had to go to child support for his four kids.

Semper Fidelis-

GarandFan,So... th... (Below threshold)


So... them ladies better hope Julian was firing "blanks."

Semper Fidelis-

The attack on Palin's site ... (Below threshold)

The attack on Palin's site is being portrayed in news as "for her criticism of wikileaks". That made me laugh out loud. It's much like terrorists who commit yet another act of terrorism and say they did it because someone drew a picture of Mohammed. As if they would never have done it otherwise.

These Wikileaks idiots d... (Below threshold)
John S:

These Wikileaks idiots do realize that a Republican will be back in the White House in 2013? You may want to start comparing Assange to a caribou.

Regardless of your feelings... (Below threshold)

Regardless of your feelings about either group: don't conflate Wikileaks with Anonymous, the group of quasi-hackers that are coordinating and executing all of these disruptions. Unless it can be proven that Wikileaks was complicit in the Anonymous attacks, then Wikileaks has nothing to be held responsible for.

I'm quite pleased with what Wikileaks has managed to put on the table so far. I'm practically giddy with anticipation at the "large US bank" material they're going to release...

I'm not sure you understand... (Below threshold)

I'm not sure you understand cyber crime jaytea. Botnet's are remote controlled hacked machines.

The computer you typed your message post on, could be part of a botnet (some cyber experts have estimated that 1 in 4 computers have been compromised and added to a botnet.)

For the most part world governments (with a few exceptions) have been ineffective in fighting this. Although the FBI did catch a guy who created a botnot of about 12 million computers (meaning they got him pretty damn late in the game.)

These hijacked computers are why, we continue to have spam and on the internet among other things and if the people perpetrating the cybercrime so chose, they feel confident enough to attack a senator as in the case of Lieberman and both visa and MasterCard without any fear of reprisals.

Also, just so you know, I'm not writing this post defending anything, or saying that any of this is a good thing. this is not a post about wiki leaks. My point is that fighting cybercrime isn't an easy thing. in fact the U.S. is at a significant disadvantage.

At some point if leaked inf... (Below threshold)

At some point if leaked information risks more and more lives, EVEN President Prompterbinky will have to take care of business.

Whether it's Assange, quasi-hackers, or wikileaks. It WILL NOT be about courts of law or building a case.

VERY SPECIAL GUYS will use lot's of lead Q-tips and assorted accessories to fix things.

At some point if ... (Below threshold)
At some point if leaked information risks more and more lives, EVEN President Prompterbinky will have to take care of business.

Whether it's Assange, quasi-hackers, or wikileaks. It WILL NOT be about courts of law or building a case.

VERY SPECIAL GUYS will use lot's of lead Q-tips and assorted accessories to fix things.

They'd have to know who to hit first. the thing about botnet, is that you computer could be on one without your knowledge. in fact your computer could be one of many driving traffic up on the visa site and knocking it off. Think they are going to assassinate you? it came from your computer.

tracking these guys is very, very hard.

The problem faced by the wi... (Below threshold)

The problem faced by the wiki-leaks people is the same problem that is eventually faced by all extortionists.

What do you do after you live up to your threat?

The only power they have is in what ever documents they 'don't' release. The more documents they release, the less leverage and control over the situation they have.

Every one of those document... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

Every one of those documents that were stolen will eventually be made public. That genie is out of the bottle and there is no way to stop it.

The U.S. (and everyone else, for that matter) should just go ahead and demand, DEMAND, that he release the rest of the documents.
There will be a brief media frenzy, a few months of headlines off and on as reporters dig through the mountain of info and find the occasional 'shocking' story...and then it will be over in less than a year.

That will remove all the power and blackmail potential from these Wikileaks idiots.

It's all coming out eventually anyway, may as well pull the bandaid off quick and be done with it.






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