It is worrying to see the rush to quote WikiLeaks documents and rely on them, as an argument that does not stand up.
It is rare to see an article published in an Arab newspaper that does not refer to WikiLeaks and treat the content as definitive judgments. Some writers take this as far as the ridiculous and the surreal.
In a recent interview on Al Jazeera, Mohammed Hassanein Heikal said he believed that the importance of the documents lies in their drawing a panoramic picture of American policy around the world. If we take into consideration the simple fact that the WikiLeaks website has only published 1,818 out of more than 251,000, or less than ten percent of the total in its possession, we should ask about the “panorama” to which Heikal is referring.
We know that the shock that resulted from the first batches of American diplomatic cables has astonished the world. But it is hard today, before more of these documents are published, to say anything definitive about the nature of America’s “domestic” vision of the world.
The documents’ power to penetrate Arab political and media circles, arriving at culture circles, has been astonishing. Abdel-Wahhab Azzawi cites WikiLeaks to rebut the poet Salim Barakat (and an article of his in the An-Nahar cutural supplement on 19 December 2010, entitled “Re-producing the Culture of Exclusion and Smearing). The topic of the discussion, Arab-Kurdish relations, is a political one. However, the leaked US State Department documents to boost the Arab position on the Kurds and other minorities, is something that should be reconsidered.
In the search for pretexts and excuses in the fragments of US diplomatic correspondence, the methods signal several things. Irrespective of the selectivity and arbitrariness in relying on the documents (neglecting those connected with corruption in one of the “defiant” Arab states and the focus on the stance of some “moderate” Arabs, as only example), the heavy reliance by Arab writers and politicians on the information contained in WikiLeaks is selective and lacking, and indicates profoundly the rejection of the panoramic vision that Heikal spoke of. The question here arises about the supporting proof on which Arab writers would rely to support what they say, if WikiLeaks does not publish what it did.
Meanwhile, this quickness to rely on American documents indicates that the space for circulating credible and sensitive political information is very narrow in the Arab world. If the internet has slightly improved things in terms of spread of access, Arab users of the net have drowned themselves in a sea of conspiracy theories or similar silliness. Instead of seeing the internet as a tool of knowledge and scientific thought, in addition to its entertainment aspects, the web has become a mirror of the Arab situation, in all of its disadvantages.
It was not strange, in such a situation, for the WikiLeaks documents to enter the bazaar of ready-made accusations, and for the State Department leaks to cause confusion and vagueness in the minds of Arabs who are already confused to begin with, as they are unable to come to admit the truths of the real world and live with them, and create their own truths and reality. The disaster was that these documents came to the Arabs as a safe haven for their digital superstitions.