Following the money & rhetoric

Wikileaks lost a major portal for donations to its cause just after being forced to move its web address. Paypal suspended Wikileaks account, and would-be donors are now directed to Swiss, German and Icelandic bank accounts and an Australian snail mail address. In the first year, Wikileaks gathered more than $800,000 U.S. mostly from Paypal.

Reporters without Borders has condemned “hounding” Wikileaks. Wikileaks itself calls Paypal’s decision a bow to pressure from the U.S. State Department. Paypal says it simply is following its own policy to block donations to illegal activity. Wired senior editor Kevin Poulson says Paypal’s reasoning then should be applied to The New York Times and the Washington Post.

So here’s the rub on consistency: The U.S. government is trying to shut down Wikileaks in the name of freedom; Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange is in hiding in order to expose secrets; each is essentially accusing the other of terrorism.

Conflicts are exasperated when the players use the same words to mean different things, Jean-François Lyotard argued in The Differend. The public trying to make sense of the debate, in his case Holocaust denial, becomes overwhelmed and possibly dismissive of the entire dilemma while the stories of the most vulnerable, in his case Holocaust survivors, becomes lost in disputed phrases. In the Wikileaks case, even the concept of vulnerability has differend: Is Julian Assange most vulnerable or those shadowy unnamed who might be harmed by exposure?

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