Mar­mura to launch book on Wik­ileaks Jan. 25

Sec­ond book for St. F.X. so­ci­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor

The Casket - - Local - RICHARD MACKENZIE richard­[email protected]­cas­ket.ca

It’s a topic of wide-rang­ing in­ter­est and one that con­tin­ues to play a ma­jor im­pact in how pol­i­tics are played and gov­ern­ments are viewed through­out the world.

St. F.X. So­ci­ol­ogy Depart­ment as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor Stephen Mar­mura has taken on Wik­ileaks as the topic for his new book; The Wik­ileaks Par­a­digm: Para­doxes and Reve­la­tions. An of­fi­cial launch event will take place on cam­pus Jan. 25, in the Phys­i­cal Science Cen­tre build­ing fac­ulty lounge, at 2 p.m.

“Rather than as­sum­ing that Wik­ileaks has changed the rules of the game vis-à-vis ac­tivism and/or of jour­nal­ism in a fun­da­men­tal way, this book takes the premise that As­sange’s or­ga­ni­za­tion has en­coun­tered se­ri­ous prob­lems in terms of suc­cess­fully en­gag­ing the pub­lic from the out­set, and that this sit­u­a­tion was in­evitable,” a brief de­scrip­tion of the book on the pub­lisher’s (Pal­grave Macmil­lan) web­site reads.

“It came at the cross-sec­tion of a lot of things I was al­ready in­ter­ested in,” Mar­mura said of his sub­ject choice.

“I’ve been in­ter­ested in mass me­dia for a long time, in sur­veil­lance, pro­pa­ganda, web-based ac­tivism; this seemed like the per­fect thing for me to look at.

“Also, I had been watch­ing it for a while, what it was do­ing and wondering about the re­cep­tion; why it was or wasn’t gal­va­niz­ing a pub­lic re­sponse, how it was be­ing de­picted in the main­stream me­dia, that kind of thing. That in­trigued me so I thought I would take a closer look.”

Mar­mura was asked about cap­tur­ing a sub­ject which is still very fluid.

“It’s such a novel and con­tro­ver­sial or­ga­ni­za­tion,” he said. “I was in­ter­ested in the tra­jec­tory of its over­all ca­reer, be­cause it seemed like the or­ga­ni­za­tion be­gan with con­sid­er­able op­ti­mism that if it just acted as a kind of clear­ing house for leaked in­for­ma­tion that it would have this stim­u­lus ef­fect on the pub­lic, cre­at­ing ac­tivism and de­mands for so­cial change which didn’t re­ally seem to be hap­pen­ing, at least at first, es­pe­cially the U.S. case, which most of the leaks had a lot to do with.

“I thought that is in­ter­est­ing; ini­tially the or­ga­ni­za­tion and its leader Ju­lian As­sange seemed to be dis­ap­pointed by the re­sponses or lack of them com­ing from the pub­lic to the in­for­ma­tion they leaked. Other times, they did seem to get more of a marked re­sponse; in dif­fer­ent times and places. So I was in­ter­ested in why and how they were like or un­like other ac­tivist or­ga­ni­za­tions in that re­gard; and what were the forces at work help­ing ex­plain their suc­cess and fail­ures at dif­fer­ent times … this kind of un­even ca­reer they had.”

As for con­clu­sions, Mar­mura talked about what he “ar­gues” in the book.

“Over time, Wik­ileaks be­came bet­ter po­si­tioned to ef­fect me­dia dis­course and po­lit­i­cal dis­course, es­pe­cially in the U.S.,” he said.

“And that, partly, had to do with the group’s at­tempts to es­tab­lish ties with a broad range of main­stream and al­ter­na­tive me­dia, but at least as im­por­tantly with a chang­ing po­lit­i­cal at­mos­phere. Peo­ple are get­ting more and more up­set with the po­lit­i­cal sta­tus quo in the U.S., as we saw with the 2016 elec­tion, the elec­torate was re­ally get­ting fed up with both par­ties.

“Out­siders — sup­posed out­siders any­way — like Bernie San­ders on the one hand, Don­ald Trump on the other, had a cer­tain ap­peal with large sec­tions of the pop­u­la­tion be­cause they were not typ­i­cal of their own par­ties, if for no other rea­son. And I think when Wik­ileaks came along and dis­closed the DNC (Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee) emails, that re­ally fed in to that sense of dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem as a whole, and I think that back­drop helped them be more ef­fec­tive over time.”

He talked fur­ther about Wik­ileaks’ broad ap­peal stretch­ing across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum.

“Oddly enough,” he said. “Ev­ery­one from left wing antiglob­al­iza­tion ac­tivists who one might ex­pect to sym­pa­thize with Wik­ileaks — be­cause that is who they kind of see them­selves as part of, I think — but also to groups on the right; me­dia out­lets like In­fowars with Alex Jones who is a big con­spir­acy the­o­rist in the U.S., and even Bre­it­bart News which is more of a far-right or ‘alt-right’ thing.

“The one thing that the pop­ulists and ac­tivists who have an in­ter­est in Wik­ileaks’ dis­clo­sures hold in com­mon is a shared dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the po­lit­i­cal sta­tus quo — and with re­lated is­sues like the na­ture of global trade deals and a highly in­ter­ven­tion­ist (U.S.) for­eign pol­icy.

“A lot of peo­ple were pick­ing up on what Wik­ileaks was dis­clos­ing and it had this sort of cu­mu­la­tive ef­fect through dif­fer­ent chan­nels of stir­ring trou­ble — which is kind of what they want to do.

In that sense, over time, they ful­filled their ca­pac­ity to do that. But still, are a mi­nor player in all of this, of course.”

Mar­mura will read ex­cerpts from the book dur­ing the launch. The book is avail­able now on­line for pur­chase.

Richard Mackenzie

St. F.X. So­ci­ol­ogy Depart­ment as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor Stephen Mar­mura holds a copy of his book The Wik­ileaks Par­a­digm: Para­doxes and Reve­la­tions, which will re­ceive an of­fi­cial launchJan. 25, dur­ing an af­ter­noon event.

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