“In fact, we believe it is the most closed societies that have the most reform potential. The Chinese case is quite interesting. Aspects of the Chinese government, Chinese Public Security Service, appear to be terrified of free speech, and while one might say that means something awful is happening in the country, I actually think that is a very optimistic sign, because it means that speech can still cause reform and that the power structure is still inherently political, as opposed to fiscal. So journalism and writing are capable of achieving change, and that is why Chinese authorities are so scared of it. Whereas in the United States to a large degree, and in other Western countries, the basic elements of society have been so heavily fiscalized through contractual obligations that political change doesn’t seem to result in economic change, which in other words means that political change doesn’t result in change.”

— Julian Assange

The picks of the week from around the web.

  • Wikileaks. Obviously the big story of the week, I don’t think the leaking of US diplomatic cables and the overarching issues it raises have been served all that well in the analysis I’ve read so far. And I’m really unimpressed with the critical reactions I’ve read (this, by the otherwise solid Anne Knudsen at the Danish weekly, Weekendavisen, is disingenous and reductive). Wikileaks’ smart frontman Julian Assange’s own statements have also been somewhat dubious, especially in this self-important and -serving Q&A session with largely fawning Guardian readers, though his interview with Time Magazine is much better. This New Yorker piece from the time of the Iraq leaks is somewhat helpful, but like most of the media focuses too much on the man and too little on his work. The best general political analysis I’ve seen so far is Ascherson’s for The Guardian.
  • In other news, I found this impassioned critique of the Obama administration by Frank Rich both compelling and, naturally, depressing.