Transcript: Thom Hartmann: The Big Picture: Are Hacktivists becoming the new journalists? 24 June '11
Yesterday - the hacker collective known as "Lulz Security" released a cache of private data - including intelligence bulletins and training manuals - it had hacked from Arizona law enforcement.
The hack was part of a mission to fight Arizona's illegal "papers, please" law that encourages police to use racial profiling to identify illegal immigrants into the state.
Lulz Security referred to Arizona as a, "racial-profiling anti-immigration police state".
Lulz says that like any police state - transparency is hard to come by - and that's why they say they're breaking down barriers standing between the people - and a corporate-corrupted government that's in the business of hiding information from the population.
Lulz Security is now teaming up with another group of hackers known as "Anonymous" - famous for a string of cyber attack earlier this year against enemies of Wikileaks. The hackers spoke about their mission saying:
Every week we plan on releasing more classified documents and embarrassing personal details of military and law enforcement in an effort not just to reveal their racist and corrupt nature but to purposefully sabotage their efforts to terrorize communities fighting an unjust war on drugs.
Love them or hate them - the rise of Lulz Security and Anonymous - and in particular the biggest Internet muckraker of all of them - Wikileaks - was inevitable in today's world.
They are forces of nature basically responding to imbalances in our democracy.
You know, nature hates vacuums - and will always move to fill open spaces. This is a basic law of science.
Similarly - citizens hate vacuums in their news media - as in democracy can't function without a free and open press driven by relentless investigative journalism.
Our founding fathers knew this - that's why the only industry mentioned specifically in the United States Constitution is the press. They knew that our democracy couldn't function without a "fourth estate of journalism".
But thanks to the rise of corporate media monopolies - and PATRIOT Act policies that squash journalism and whistleblowers as we see in the cases of New York Times Reporter James Risen who's been spied on by the CIA - and former NSA official Thomas Drake who blew the whistle on government waste - and Judith Miller at the New York Times shilling for Bush's war in Iraq - investigative journalism in America is pretty close to flat-lining. It's a shell of what it used to be.
So, as the Newtonian laws of politics would have it - something has to fill that void - just like something has to fill the void in nature. And that something is Lulz Security - and Anonymous - and Wikileaks.
But this isn't a phenomenon exclusive to the United States - it's occurring all over the world.
From Tahrir Square in Egypt - where a democratic revolution was ignited thanks in part to government abuses exposed by Wikileaks - to China - where the ranks of dissenters are swelling - to Syria where the people were in the streets again today brought out by activists using twitter and facebook and cellphones.
In much of the world the press is not doing it's job - either because it's been taken over by corporate interests - or because it's been snuffed out by totalitarian regimes.
But no matter how hard some may try to cloak transparency and silence journalism - information has a way of finding the cracks - and leaking out to the people.
That's what we're seeing today with internet activism - a new breed of investigative journalism to take on the entrenched forces of secrecy and corporate rule.
And we'll see more of these sorts of things, if real journalism and real news don't return to the American landscape.
This means bringing back the Sherman Anti-trust Act and breaking up the corporate oligarchy that has strangled our news media.
It means constructing strong financial disclosure requirements in our politics so that we all know where the money in politics is coming from, where it's going, and what strings are attached to it.
And that means praising - and not punishing - the forces that work to bring transparency to corporations and governments so that the people's interest is best served.
This is the new paradigm - the hacker investigative journalists versus the forces of secrecy and corporate rule. How did this come about? How did we get into this point where we've got this vacuum, where news is not news, where we have infotainment?
Mostly it began in the early 1980s when Ronald Reagan stopped enforcing the Sherman Anti-Trust Ac. Virtually all our media now is part of a giant interconnected transnational corporate hydra.
Ben H. Bagdikian wrote a book called The Media Monopoly back 10, 15 years ago, 20 years ago the first edition, and every year or so he's been updating it. We've gone from hundreds of companies owning our media, thousands of companies, really, newspapers all over the country, to hundreds, to dozens, to now fewer than ten control most of the media that more than 80 or 90% of Americans read, watch or listen to.
So if our politicians and our military and security institutions are concerned about hacktivists - there's a really pretty straightforward and easy solution.
Break up the big monopolies - particularly the media monopolies - by enforcing the Sherman Act, and a thousand competitive small media groups will blossom.
And America will again be the well-informed, citizen-involved society that Alexis de Tocqueville marveled at almost two hundred years ago when he visited the United States and wrote "Democracy in America".
That's The Big Picture.