The most famous sex scandal today, is that of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. His sexual habits seem to have become far more important than his habits for releasing secret information that should not be kept secret. The only news bigger than the Wikileaks releases of war crimes, banking fraud, and gossipy diplomatic cables, is Julian Assange himself. Those he has exposed are successfully waging a disinformation war against Wikileaks, not to refute the information, but to replace it, with a sex scandal.
Everyone knows that sex sells. Take a boring product, get someone from the world of the ‘beautiful’ people to stand next to it, or hold it, make sure they are not wearing very much, and you are onto a winner. As long as the sexy model is showing just a little bit too much skin, and their lumps and bumps are in all the right places, Joe Public and his wife will be much more interested in this otherwise mundane product than they would have been otherwise.
Sex also distorts, misinforms, and misleads. Nothing grabs the headlines like a sex scandal, whether it is true or not, and, whether it is genuine or not, its capacity for implied or actual blackmail is profound. Sex scandals have brought down countless government ministers around the world, and sometimes even entire governments. In 1963 John Profumo, the then Secretary of State for War in the British Cabinet, was caught sleeping with the same woman as an alleged Russian spy. The publicity cost him, and soon after the then Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, their jobs. More recently a sex scandal nearly brought down the 73 year old Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, who has a taste for younger women, although the Italian Public seems to have forgiven him.
So, are we now seeing an attempt to roll back the very ethos at the heart of what the internet was supposed to be: a free and uncensored dissemination of information to everyone who is connected in any place around the world with an IP address? Let us examine the shifting focus of the Wikileaks story. At first, the story centred around a huge amount of information being widely released that was not intended for the public to see, including – but not limited to – war crimes, highly questionable covert military tactics in live theatres of operation, and bank frauds. Then the story was moved onto the worldwide web, which provided a base for the dissemination of such highly sensitive/embarrassing information. And now, of course, having found that nobody outside the murky smoke-filled rooms of Downing Street or the White House think that Wikileaks did anything wrong at all, the focus has shifted to trying to bring down the website itself – and, in so doing, warn others with the same idea of what may happen to them – by destroying the man at the heart of Wikileaks itself, Julian Assange.
I do not believe that the public is buying this for a second, as, unfortunately for politicians, generals and shysters at banks, the public is not as stupid as they always take them for. In fact, when it comes to conspiracy theories, the public is remarkably well-educated, and extremely suspicious. Normal men and women love nothing more than a good conspiracy theory to chat about over breakfast, and the Wikileaks debacle is one of the best going right now. They have asked themselves a range of questions. Is it coincidence that the allegations of sexual offences against Julian Assange were dropped in one Swedish court, only to be re-started at another one that is overseen by legal representatives with much closer ties to the Americans? Is it coincidence that these cases against Assange were resurrected only after the full extent of documentation showing the United States in a terrible light was known? Is it coincidence that Wikileaks is facing these renewed charges, is constantly having to shift its centre of operations in order to avoid a massive co-ordinated hacking campaign designed to bring its network down? And is it coincidence that this Swedish case will last just long enough for the Americans to bring much more serious charges of espionage and treason against Assange? Blind the people with sex scandals about Assange instead. Lest we forget, smearing targets with true or untrue sex allegations is a very old trick in the intelligence services (known as ‘the honey trap’).
While the Wikileaks sex scandal is gathering pace, so is the level of noise about imposing greater control on the Internet. The Americans want to regulate the Internet, the British want to censor it, the Chinese already limit information, and here in the Middle East there are many websites which are not accessible unless you circumvent government blocks. Who is all this regulation aimed at protecting? Governments from embarrassing information? or the public from knowing about it? Given that the only people who are coming out of this whole Wikileaks affair badly are the governments, not the public, it is palpably obvious that the answer is the governments. Will they win? That depends on the actions of the people, and what happens to Julian Assange.
Global Markets are anything but integrated. What if we had a paradigm shift in the way we think, the way we actually do business with each other, between nations. Balanced global trade can only occur if we have transparent, accessible, efficient markets, with standardized contracts and on a standardized platform of global exchange. We are on the cusp of achieving this, although most people cannot see it. Sam’s Exchange aims to give its readers a clearer view and a platform for discussion. Markets, trade and economics are in fact nothing more than the result of our thoughts and actions expressed in numbers, not the reverse.
Sam Barden is CEO of SBI Markets General Trading LLC, a Dubai-registered trading and advisory company. Barden, 39, has worked in the global financial markets for more than 17 years in Europe, Russia and the Middle East. He has advised and executed strategic transactions for both the government and private sector, in particular in energy and commodity markets, advising various energy producing nations on their strategic market developments and interaction. He holds a degree in economics and finance from Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia.