Umberto Eco: Not such wicked leaks

From nettime-l, the international net.criticsim discussion list.

Re: Umberto Eco: Not such wicked leaks.

I think this article [about the mundane nature of the wikileaks cables] is un-Ecoistically weak, in that he seems to miss much of the substance of the leaks.

In the case of Canada, a long blow-by-blow review of a Canadian made-for-TV movie  series was sent by secret cable to Washington and revealed the deeply wounded psyche of the American diplomats doing the review. Eco is right that the cable consists mainly of mass-media summaries, but they are more useful than he acknowledges.

Getting posted in what Mordecai Richler called “small-town Ontario” must have been bad enough for the yanks in the embassy. Even worse was to find that these small-time hicks had their own national television network, and that on this network were unflattering portrayals of the war on terror.

“While this situation hardly constitutes a public diplomacy crisis per se, the degree of comfort with which Canadian broadcast entities, including those financed by Canadian tax dollars, twist current events to feed long-standing negative images of the U.S. — and the extent to which the Canadian public seems willing to indulge in the feast – is noteworthy as an indication of the kind of insidious negative popular stereotyping we are increasingly up against in Canada.”

You can feel the pique in the cable-writer’s words. He’s annoyed by the audacity of left-wing ideas expressed dramatically, of course, and he’s insulted that America is not more respected and admired. He confuses “negative stereotyping” of Americans with negative views of US foreign policy. And of course, he eventually brings it around to the vital topic of how these free-thinking heresies might affect vital US trade interests.

The embassy cable goes on to review, in stunning detail, several Canadian television shows. What struck me was the tone of the reviews. The editorial slant matched precisely the most conservative voices in Canada: the ones who want to eliminate public broadcasting, the funding of culture, multiculturalism etc; the ones who wish we had gone to Iraq; the ones who think liberal is a dirty word.

More importantly, before the cables were leaked, the US showed how vital the tone of these leaks was, rather than their content. They made sure to pre-spin the leaks as “embarrassing” for Canada, not the US, and they said they would reveal elements of Canada’s “inferiority complex.” This is the traditional right-wing spin in Canada; being against free-trade shows an “inferiority complex.” Refusing to go to Iraq is an “inferiority complex.” Etc etc.

-Flick Harrison