From Advocates to Terrorists: Ideology, the State of Exception and the State of Emergency, and Political Ethics

By Day, Ronald E. | Journal of Information Ethics, Fall 2011 | Go to article overview

From Advocates to Terrorists: Ideology, the State of Exception and the State of Emergency, and Political Ethics


Day, Ronald E., Journal of Information Ethics


Introduction

Political information, like much of what is comprehended as information, today, is often understood in a rather passive sense of being expressions that are consulted for understanding. This is a liberalist view that sees persons as choosers and consumers of information. In this article, we would like to go beyond this epistemology and discuss information from an expressive viewpoint, namely, that of an agent's expressive actions in relation to the State. Our discussion will pass through the topics of ideology, States of exception and States of emergency, and the distinctions between morals and ethics, law and justice. Far from being passive or synonymous with "facts," information will be understood as expressions by agents, both institutional and personal. Our final discussion in this article will be in regard to the writings of the political theorist and activist Antonio Negri in the context of his imprisonment and trial on terror charges from 1979 to 1983 (the writings issue from 1983-the year in which his case actually began to be tried). Here, we will suggest the dissonance between States and social movements as expressive agents and forces. Here we will see the denial of the ethical by the moral, justice by legal right, and the denial of a more open future for a nation by classes that control a State.

Today, these topics could not be more timely. "Intellectual Freedom" and "Freedom of information" form core value for the Western library tradition, but as I write this the Library of Congress, as well as all other United States government agencies, have been forbidden by the federal government to allow access to U.S. diplomatic dispatches or "cables" made public by an internet organization named Wikileaks. As I write this, the founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, has been under legal threat by the U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, and several leading politicians in the U.S. have urged his arrest and trial for treason (despite his being an Australian citizen), with several other leading political and media figures also calling for his assassination as a "terrorist." The Vice President of the United States, Joseph Biden, on December 19, 2010, referred to Assange on a popular Sunday news program as a "hi- tech terrorist"1 and the commercial media has largely continued this view of Assange, echoing the dominant government line. The accused leaker of this material, a U.S. Army private, Bradley Manning, has been held for over seven months at the time of this writing in harsh solitary confinement without trial or conviction. Further, Senator Joseph Lieberman, Chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, on December 7, 2010, said that the U.S. Justice Department should extend the investigation of these leaks to the New York Times, which published reports based on the Wikileaks releases.2 While the press coverage of the contents of the leaks has been relatively sparse in the U.S. press, European and other world wide presses have been reporting on the contents since the time of the first release. For the most part, it would not be unfair to suggest that the U.S. media-including the New York Times-in contrast to main European newspapers, have largely focused on the personal and alleged sexual life of the founder of Wikileaks and Swedish criminal investigations related to the latter, rather than upon the contents of the "cables." And as I am editing this article, the revelations of the "cables" have contributed to the overthrow of dictatorial governments in Tunisia and Egypt. The Hosni Mubarak government in Egypt unsuccessfully relied in large part upon the silencing of the Internet and mobile telecommunication media as a means of stopping popular revolt. Meanwhile a bill earlier introduced in the U.S. Senate will be reintroduced by Senators Joseph Lieberman and Susan Collins in 2011, giving the executive branch authority, without judicial review, to control "crucial" parts of the national Internet cyber- infrastructure in the case of a "national cyberemergency. …

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