Meredith L. Patterson has issued a call for submissions to a remarkable collection entitled All the Citizen’s Men: It promises ‘critical responses’ to individual cables from the wikileaks collection. Among the many trials and errors reacting to a new phenomenon, this is easily the most promising I have seen.
It’s difficult to know what to think about wikileaks right now. I tend to gravitate towards the nothing-new-under-the-sun camp on most alleged changes to the media landscape, but I don’t know where to put this yet. I’m pretty sure all those comments that were immediately sure what to make of wikileaks can be dismissed out of hand. Among the more thoughtful responses, I liked Bruce Sterling’s reflection on hacker culture best. I also thought that the pdf discussion panel on wikileaks was worthwhile, and Jay Rosen’s point that the press got on the ‘wrong side of security’ after 9/11 is certainly well taken. And last but not least, Alison Powell has suggested some interesting first leads to theorizing wikileaks from a perspective informed by network theory and cultural media studies.
But none of these or any of the myriad others have convinced me that any one of their concepts really gets a grip on the issue. This is why Patterson’s open approach seems promising: If the plan to fill three volumes with the broad array of imaginable material works out, this might be just the kind of cultural brainstorming we need. It’s definitely a more productive reaction than most of the apocalyptic scenarios or the naysayers’ tired denials that anything interesting has happened.
(Note: If the mainstream media that have never tried to unearth real news, once faced with wikileaks, publish a collection of quotes from leaked cables that do not present any real news, this does not prove that there is no real news out there. The Spiegel’s wikileaks cover showing well-known German politicans’ faces alongside descriptions of German politicians’ well-known characteristics is not wikileaks. It is the Spiegel’s well-known stance on German politics painted in wikileaks’ colours.)
I’m still looking for more creative and productive reactions. The #lolleaks captured my attention: They do not say anything very specific, but they do a good job at ascertaining a vocal position of not uninterested, but unpanicked productivity, reminding us of the power of some old and some very recent traditions in the face of the new. And apparently, many of them are funny.
If you know of other creative responses to wikileaks and cablegate, please point them out in the comments. They must be out there. Or so I hope.
The responses that Patterson wants to collect in All the Citizen’s Men are more varied, inviting political contributions alongside any others, and including “memoirs, satire, creative nonfiction, fiction (of any genre), close reading or other forms of literary criticism, poetry, illustration, sequential art”. The intention, of course, is not only to assemble creative responses, but also to continue the challenge to textual control by experimenting with the publication of these ‘fair use’ treatments.
Some limits are posed on form via length, but also via the very short deadline of January 15th. This makes sure that responses will be more web-like than traditional, I suppose. Unfortunately, having only a few days to prepare will rule out my original plan of a sonnet cycle to Guido Westerwelle assembled only from his depictions in diplomatic memos; as well as the great big epistolary novel of the early 21st century, created only from re-arranged cablegate messages. Someone really has to do that, one day.
Meanwhile, I hope I will come up with something else in time. How about you?