Those who believe in Milton Friedman’s thesis that capitalism and freedom go hand in hand because a free market acts as a counter balance to the coercive state need to look at what is currently happening to WikiLeaks.
The sites founder Julian Assange is being harassed and vilified across the western world with democratically elected governments cooperating to have him discredited and arrested. This globalised legal system in which democratic European governments facilitate the will of the US government against their own citizens, first emerged in the wake of 9/11 and has profound implications for our ability to freely criticise foreign governments.
But just as disturbing is the reaction of capitalist businesses who are lining up to withdraw services from WikiLeaks; Amazon, Google, Internet Service Providers – the same service providers who claim they cannot bring down pornography sites for technical reasons! All are cooperating to bring down WikiLeaks. A Swiss bank has even frozen Assange’s bank account because there is some doubt about whether the address in Geneva he gave to open the account is his real residences! Dictators and gangsters throughout the world must be kacking themselves because if the Swiss banks were to freeze all the bank accounts of people with dodgy residence addresses in Geneva there would barely be an account still operating. All this is a classic smear campaign, especially the rape accusations, designed to divert attention from the revelations in the leaks by undermining the moral credibility of the leaker. The message is clear – if you publicly go up against the US government like WikiLeaks has there is nowhere to hide, you will pay by having your reputation and financial security destroyed – not just by the government but also by the commercial world.
What this illustrates is what socialists have always known, that capital and government are not counter-balancing power-bases, they are the same power base. In a globalised capitalist world the interests of Western governments and emerging capitalist economies are the interests of capital. And in a world now entirely run via the internet we are all subject to the coercive power of commercial organisations operating in consort with government. Naomi Klein’s, No Logo, warned us of the threat to free speech posed by the privatisation of almost all public spaces (shopping mall’s, privately owned squares in town centres etc), but the dominance of the internet in political, and especially radical, political discourse puts our free speech almost entirely at the mercy of big business. The relentless attack on WikiLeaks illustrates just how far the ruling elite are prepared to go to in neutralising those who pose a threat to them.
I Am Not A Number
Political and Philosophical Dispatches From An Individual Living In A Society