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Cablegate gift keeps on giving

By Graham Young - posted Monday, 20 December 2010


Beyond the fact it is the gift that keeps giving, there is something about WikiLeaks that is very much in keeping with the seasonal spirit.

As a small vulnerable organisation exposing the secrets of the US government it taps into one of the great narratives of Western myth-making, where the world is turned upside down, the mighty "cast down from their thrones", "the lowly [opponents of the US] lifted up" and "the hungry [us] filled with good things".

You can even discern proxies for the wise men among some of Julian Assange's bail guarantors (one is in fact a Nobel prize-winning scientist), and to top it off various US politicians and Swedish prosecutors seem to be channelling king Herod.

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Australians are reacting positively to the facts and narrative.

According to our research, out of a politically representative group of 950 opinion leaders, 65 per cent approve of the WikiLeaks organisation, while only 18 per cent disapprove.

When we asked specifically about whether they approve of the release of the US cables, support dropped five percentage points to 60 per cent while disapproval increased seven points to 25 per cent.

WikiLeaks may stand in a sweet spot for its story, but our love is not unconditional.

On an issue like this you would expect differences based on political allegiance, and this is indeed the case. Greens voters (as well as our small samples of Australian Democrat and One Nation voters) are the most enthusiastic supporters of WikiLeaks, followed by Labor voters.

Even so, Liberal and Nationals voters are not so much opposed as evenly split; 48 per cent approve of the WikiLeaks operation and 46 per cent approve of the leaking of the cables.

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So there is broad goodwill for WikiLeaks.

To a certain extent this goodwill arises from the fact that most respondents don't see much harm in what has been released in Cablegate. In fact, most of them have trouble remembering anything specifically that has been released, unless it concerns gossip about Kevin Rudd or Mark Arbib.

While the media has portrayed the bulk of the diplomatic cables as embarrassing for the US, that's not the way many of our respondents see it. In part their relaxed attitude towards the documents is because they see them as being little more than gossip, or confirming what they already knew.

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This aritlce was first published in The Australian on December 18, 2010.



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About the Author

Graham Young is chief editor and the publisher of On Line Opinion. He is executive director of the Australian Institute for Progress, an Australian think tank based in Brisbane, and the publisher of On Line Opinion.

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