Ironies of American democracy – The Greatest Democracy and the Most Freedom

Meta note:

This post has almost no research at all. I did read the wikipedia pages about separation of church in state in the US and in New Zealand
It’s more an intuitive impresion. Is that an acceptable thing in this post-truth society?
It would be good to do some research and put a bit more detail into my claims.

A lot of Americans have the idea that America has the greatest democracy in the world, the most freedom, and that other countries are jealous of this freedom.

Let’s be fair to Americans and acknowledge that at some point, this might have been true. The American democracy is one of the worlds oldest democracies after all.

Democracy

There are glaring issues in American democracy:

  • Rampant gerrymandering.
  • It’s a first past the post system. Proportional representation is common throughout the rest of the world.
  • There appears to political dynasties: eg. The Kennedys, The Bushes, The Clintons.

Freedom

The US has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world.

Religious freedom

The separation of church and state is often touted tenant of American democracy, and makes up a part of its constitution – in the first amendment.

New Zealand by contrast, doesn’t have a so explicitly defined separation of church and state; and parliament starts with a Christian prayer.

However, religion isn’t a particularly big factor in New Zealand politics. By contrast, in the US almost all representatives profess to be Christian or Jewish, presumably because there is a considerable political cost if they don’t.

Religion also appears to play a large part in public policy – for example you see the debate about whether creationism should be taught in schools, and abstinence only education.

Law

In New Zealand, abortions aren’t technically legal. They’re not legal except in the case where the mother’s health will suffer. This loophole allows any woman to get an abortion, almost all doctors happy to say that a woman having a baby that she doesn’t want, regardless of reason, would be a detriment to her health.

In the US on the otherhand Roe v Wade establishes the legal right for women to have abortions, but then you see states putting up all sorts of barriers that make it far harder to get an abortion in the certain parts of the US, than it is in New Zealand.

Is Wikileaks in cahoots with Russia?

I consider myself a fairly objective and level headed person, and I’m cautious about subscribing to conspiratorial ‘seek out evidence that confirms your existing world view’ type thinking.

With that said – this post does do exactly that.

There is an already existing narrative that Wikileaks is working with either or both Russia and/or Trump’s campaign to get Trump elected.

We can see this with a list of Google’s search suggestions:

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Wikileaks deny that they’re partisan in their leaks.

This CBS news article summarises the recent Wikileaks Reddit AMA, where the Wikileaks staff were asked about colluding with the Trump campaign and Russia.

Q. Many people have suggested that WikiLeaks was brazenly partisan in this election and colluded with Team Trump (and by extension, Russia). Just today a top Russian ally to Putin is quoted as saying Russia did not interfere in the election but “maybe helped a bit with WikiLeaks”.1

A. The allegations that we have colluded with Trump, or any other candidate for that matter, or with Russia, are just groundless and false. We receive information anonymously, through an anonymous submission platform. We do not need to know the identity of the source, neither do we want to know it.

Q. Why do you only seem to have information on Democrats?

If you were as Noble as you say you would believe in government accountability at all levels, not just for one party.

A.  To date, we have not received information on Donald Trump’s campaign, or other campaigns. If it were to be submitted now we would happily publish it.

Wikileaks are making the argument that they’re simply publishing what leaked information they have, and that they only have information leaked from the Democratic party. Nothing partisan here.

But I think their Facebook page demonstrates posts that go beyond non-partisan leaking of the information that they purport to be doing.

The first thing you’ll notice that almost all of their posts in the months of November and December are to do with the Clintons or the Democrats.

A lot of their of their posts are neutral email dumps:

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Or they’re linking to articles that discuss the leaked emails:

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But here already, there’s a narrative being pushed. Is it really within the scope of Wikileaks to tell us what we should think of the emails?

Wikileaks also posts links to content that is plain opinon – for example:

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This has nothing to do with leaked data at all – but Wikileaks do appear to be publishing one particular narrative.

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This posts has nothing to do with leaking  data – it’s reporting on how Americans feel. Given that you can find polls that suggest ~50% of Americans don’t believe climate change is caused by humans, or that ~40% of Americans believe the Earth is only 10,000 years old, this isn’t a particularly noteworthy report. It looks like a disingenuous ploy to push a narrative.

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This is commenting on politics. Why did Wikileaks feel the need to publish this?

It seems like an out and out partisan statement, that you’d expect from a Fox News pundit or a republican. It’s also not factually true- PRISM started in 2007 for example, before Obama was elected.

Now perhaps – there genuinely is some conspiracy by the Democratic political establishment, and Wikileaks is doing the honorable thing by exposing it. But that’s a different story.

I think it’s fair to say that Wikileaks has a axe to grind for the Democratic party – it’s not just a matter of neutrally exposing leaked data.

The comments on Wikileaks have also been interesting:

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There are a lot of ‘Thank you Wikileaks’ type comments. Given that there’s evidence that a lot of the support for Trump on social media is apparently bots, it’s plausible that the same thing is happening here too. But I don’t know enough about how we analyse whether an account is a bot or not, but it’s something to consider.

Wikileaks’ role in the 2016 Election does flip the script a little. From Wikileaks being the hero of the radical left or anarchists, it’s all of a sudden being cheered for by the radical right.

As a final note, here’s an John Pilger asking Julian Assange just about this – here it is: