Sunday, August 01, 2010

Why Doug Lacombe may be a demagogue

In response to Doug Laccombe:
"Wikileaks lacks checks and balances"

Original post below this response

Did you know that Wikileaks HAS a proper process in place to vet the incoming materials and an error free trackrecord of vetting out bogus submissions?

Just because you're not aware of the checks and balances Wikileaks uses to vet their sources doesn't mean they don't have policies to deal with vetting.

But whistleblowers need to be protected, and wikileaks does so in two ways:
1) By not revealing their sources (secretive by nature)
2) By assisting with legal funds to those that are accused of being the source

What's troublesome in your post is that you accuse Wikileaks of being too secretive about their own sources, a moral judgement, while not making the same kind of judgement about the use of informants (talk about secretive, and possible abuse) by the coalition forces.

Your hypocritic stand is further amplified by:
1) Calling Assange a despot; to what purpose may I ask?
2) The amount of articles you've written on the secretive nature of coalition forces warfare intelligence vetting as presented by the media, in particular now abuses have become apparent after the wikileaks;

In short, your article is nothing short of a "shoot the messenger" bias, and why, just because the vetting process isn't public?

Lest we forget, we all know who is responsible for the killings of tens of thousands of innocent civilians in Afghanistan, and it wasn't wikileaks.

Wikileaks' record on harm done to innocent people is zero. If the US Army acts responsibly with their own sources (just like wikileaks does with theirs) then they would now do everything possible to protect their informants. But if we can learn anything from the Afghan War Leaks, then it is that US forces have no trouble killing innocent Afghans and then cover up the evidence.

But you knew all that right? That's why your post is so repulsive. Isn't such writing the work of a demagogue?


Social media is increasingly becoming implicated in moments of crisis and significant world events. The 2009 Iranian election is a great example.

Thanks to a variety of technical manoeuvres, the Iranian government could not throttle the protesters' use of Twitter to report on those events. Where traditional media could not tread, the citizenry and Twitter stepped in.

This year's catastrophic earthquake in Haiti was another example where Twitter reporting reigned supreme.

Depth of reporting was improved at this year's G20 protests in Toronto by tweets from many, including TV Ontario's Steve Paikin (@spaikin on Twitter).

The common thread is people voluntarily reporting what they see. In other words, they choose to share the information or events unfolding in front of them, even as others attempt to deny them a voice. This is good.

A whole new genre of social reporting, if it can be called that, came to the fore this week. Website dumped classified documents about the war in Afghanistan onto the web and into the hands of three newspapers.

From Wikipedia: "WikiLeaks released to The Guardian, The New York Times, and Der Spiegel over 92,000 documents related to the war in Afghanistan between 2004 and the end of 2009. The logs detail individual incidents including friendly fire and civilian casualties. The scale of leak was described by (WikiLeaks spokesperson) Julian Assange as comparable to that of the Pentagon Papers in the 1970s. On July 25, 2010, the logs were released to the public."

The Pentagon Papers, you may recall, were brought to the attention of the American public in 1971 via the New York Times, essentially demonstrating that the Johnson administration had lied to the public about Vietnam.

Trained, professional journalists and their editors reviewed the leaked materials and, with utmost care and due diligence, weighed issues of national security and the public's right to know.

WikiLeaks has no such filter, no checks and balances, or none we can see. It's just a raw data dump with spotty redaction for everyone to pore over and draw our own conclusions. Oh yes, and for the Taliban/al-Qaida gang to pore over and target informants for retribution. This is not good.

Roy Greenslade, professor of journalism at City University in London, writes on "The posting of 92,000 documents on WikiLeaks about the war in Afghanistan represents a triumph for what I like to call 'data journalism.' . . . However, the posting of the material on the Internet is not in itself an act of journalism. It is merely the beginning of a journalistic process, requiring analysis, context and, in this particular instance, a form of necessary censorship in order to protect individuals identified in the documents."

Necessary censorship. WikiLeaks didn't quite get the hang of redacting names or identifying circumstances in their haste to let the public know.

A recent editorial in the Calgary Herald put it succinctly: " . . . those who are tempted to publish classified information in the name of press freedoms should be aware that their naivete and their blind devotion to 'the public's right to know' could be rightly termed aiding and abetting the enemy by endangering the safety of Canadian soldiers abroad. A little forethought and a large dose of loyalty to our side of the war can literally mean the difference between life and death for our soldiers, and also Afghan civilians."

If WikiLeaks truly believed in the public's right to know, they would become transparent themselves. Doing so earns our trust in their intentions. Sadly Assange, a convicted Australian computer hacker according to the Los Angeles Times, and his horde of info-dumpers seem to feel they are exempt from such inconveniences.

The self-righteous "we know what's best" attitude that seems to characterize Assange's various public responses concerns me. Isn't that the very definition of a despot?

As usual, send me your feedback on Twitter at:

@dblacombe or via e-mail

Doug Lacombe is president of Calgary

social media agency communicatto.
© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix


pip said...

I feel you are being unduly harsh when criticizing Doug "the demagogue" Lacombe article on wikileaks. Sourcing is one of the key elements of responsible journalism. I suggest you read the chapter on sourcing in Bill Kovach and Tim Rosenstiel's "Elements of Journalism: what newspeople should know and the public should expect" Wikileaks is not out of hot water yet as some evidence is surfacing they may have in fact colluded with the source or sources of the leaks. Wikileaks most certainly colluded with certain media in the timing of the release of the story. Laura Logan of CBS News also makes some very important comments today at Doug was simply making fair comment and asking some very responsible questions.

Eric said...

I feel you are being unduly harsh when criticizing Doug "the demagogue"

I was no more "unduly harsh" than Doug, or was I? Doug Lacombe's article is full of incorrect data (if not flatout lies) about Wikileaks, and then, to top it all off, he called Assange a despot. Is that sound journalism to you? Not to me.

Wikileaks is not out of hot water yet as some evidence is surfacing they may have in fact colluded with the source or sources of the leaks.
Where's the evidence for that Pip? Any raw data to back that up, or is it just part of the "We like to say Wikileaks sucks" smear campaign?

Wikileaks most certainly colluded with certain media in the timing of the release of the story.
Yes, indeed they did, are you going to tell me now that that's bad journalism too? Where's the logic?

Doug was simply making fair comment and asking some very responsible questions.
No he wasn't; he was demonizing Wikileaks (and Assange in particular), and I effectively debunked it; harsh but fair.

Perhaps you are not aware of the incorrect data so I'll sum some of it up for you:

- Doug Lacombe: Wikileaks has no filter.
Yes, it does, it has a team of 800 that have filtered about 15.000 messages
- Doug Lacombe: Wikileaks has no checks and balances.
Yes it does. It has a highly effective vetting system to check the source materials for legitamacy. They have (as far as I understand it) an error free trackrecord on this vetting, quite amazing isn't it?

Now, if Doug had done any serious effort to understand wikileaks and how it opperates, then it would have checked out the Wikileaks website, in particular the about page:

Read the
and you will learn all about it. Smart eh, those guys of Wikileaks?

Anyone who would have read would have learned about the vetting process in place, and could have shared it with his readers (why not?). It's obvious from his article that either 1) didn't do his homework or 2) he did check their site but instead of telling the truth about the vetting process he rather deceived his readers with his biased "Wikileaks lacks checks and balances". And then what, hope nobody would fact-check his falsehoods and innuendos?

Laura Logan of CBS News also makes some very important comments today at

Interesting: you lecture me on good journalism and you use CBS junk as a defence? Common, PIP, I hope you can do better than that! If any of the major networks is biased then it is CBS, a clear pro-US bias. Don't know much about journalism, do you? Why not get back here next time and deliver some Fox Fair and Balanced here too, and use it as a defence as well?

Come to think of it, I think you and Doug need that journalism book you suggested far more than I do. And if that doesn't help, get a better one.

Eric said...

the links:

Eric said...

Pip, Did you read the comment section of Lara Logan's post? Perhaps you can learn from them what's wrong with here pathetic patriotic reasoning. Snap shot I took at 11:45pm Pacific:

"Whenever an incident in which the U.S. has caused innocent deaths is brought to light, the media does not hesitate to highlight that.

Yet the Taliban routinely and deliberately target civilians as part of their strategy. And they are rarely, if ever, called to account in the same way.

Why is that? "

I surprised to find the sophisticated US media gurus cannot find answer to above. The Taliban is a terrorist organization and USA is a modern democratic state that preaches media freedom and human rights , daily to other nations. For an example US tries to villify Sri Lanka a country that battled seperatist terrorism and tries to hang HR violation charges against it. Western NGO s like HRW Amnesty has field day accusing Sri Lanka of Genocide etc. SO where are these double dealing pundits when USA violates human rights. Shame on your duplicity.


Headline : USA govt computers not secure ! ! !


So why was it so important to put their names in computer files that could be sent around the world in seconds ?

Our computers can be hacked !

Heck, any computer can be hacked !

Message to anyone trying to help the USA: Your name is on a computer and could become public info at any time ! ! !

That is the real story ! ! !


Eric said...


The difference between Al Qaeda killing innocent civilians and the US killing innocent civilians? Simple! The US uses my tax dollars to kill civilians. Al Qaeda doesnt. I prefer not fund the killing of innocents that only serves the purpose of Israel and traitors who put Israels interest ahead of the US.


I believe the ultimate purpose of these leaks was to change the discourse on the war, to re-emphasize the horrors of war and to hopefully bring a quicker end to it.

I do not understand Wikileaks' alleged failure to redact names of and information about people who are now said to be at risk of retribution. If true, it seems like a terrible mistake, both from a PR standpoint and from a moral standpoint. I don't believe the innocent should ever be put at risk.

However, I believe that the war in Afghanistan,just like the war in Iraq, has resulted and continues to result in the deaths of many hundreds of times more people than can conceivably be hurt by this leak. If these leaks are "morally wrong" because of the risk they bring to the innocent, doesn't that make the war itself even MORE morally wrong?

Likewise, the U.S. defends and downplays the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians because they occur while carrying out the "greater good" of "winning the war on terror." Those deaths, while obviously not good, are said to be tolerable collateral damage. If Wikileaks efforts are meant to eliminate the collateral damage altogether, doesn't that make any smaller number of deaths caused by the leaks LESS morally wrong?

Does Lara really believe that innocent lives taken in the
course of waging war are of less value than the lives of innocents taken in the efforts to stop the war? She certainly acts that way. And does Lara really believe that the relatively few (if any) lives that may be lost in efforts to stop the war are too high a price to pay for the much much higher cost in innocent lives of continuing to wage this war? It certainly seems that Lara has cast her lot as a full-on war supporter. And accordingly, she can be counted on to continue to bash those who would rather see the number of killed innocent people decline.


Eric said...


Wiki doesn't have to release the Taliban, or Al Qaeda's Evil doings, the mainstream media never passes up an opportunity to report Middle East terrorism. But they sure do forget to report the Evil our Govt. does. And that's really what this is about.


M's logan personifies everything that's wrong with the mainstream media. Her one dimensional "reporting" is merely the act of sycophant for the neocon, elitist agenda.

Both she and her employer are an embarrassment to the fourth estate. I had the misfortune of seeing the repeat of her Afghan story on 60 minutes last night - absolute pure propaganda of the type that would do Goebbels proud.


I disagree, Ms. Logan. Those 3 cameramen/reporters that were shot in that strip could have been you, Lara, if you were actually there to find and report on real news instead of what the military allowed you to report. Those who the military killed accidentally; were they "acceptable" casualties or do they simply not exist as far as you are concerned? Are their lives less valuable than those who the Taliban kill because it was our guys who killed them?


Lets see.. where to begin.. in response to a previous post:, I don't believe Germany and Saudi Arabia resisted in capturing al Qaeda operatives. As far as funding from Saudi Arabia, it certainly took a while but the latest news has been that Al Qaeda has been strapped for cash lately after having its lifeline turned off in Saudi Arabia. Afghanistan was a different situation as it reportedly did not attempt to cooperate, and in particular they were harboring Bin Ladin. The United States may have given $43 million in aid to the Taliban in 2000 (and likely more during the Soviet control of Afghanistan), but what has ANY of this got to do with how the military is conducting itself in combat in Afghanistan? None of it....

Indeed, Pip, very important comments

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