||Transparency vs secrecy||Its Relation to a Culture of Peace for the 21st Century|
During the 1980's, the socialist and Third-World nations attempted to establish standards through the United Nations for free access to information. It was called the New World Information Order (see 1982 article in Christian Century). But it was opposed and defeated by the United States and Europe, under the urging of the commercial media like the New York Times, BBC and Reuters who wanted to keep their monopoly over information (and misinformation).
Misinformation and propaganda has also been a problem in socialist countries after their revolutions. The are particularly destructive aspects of socialist culture of war. Misinformation played a major role in the collapse of the Soviet Union, both because planners could not make correct decisions in the face of misinformation and secrecy and because citizens lost faith in the media and in the socialist system.
Secrecy has always been a key aspect of the culture of war. It continues to increase today, as pointed out in the draft UN document on the culture of peace: "secrecy is on the increase, justified in terms of 'national security' and 'economic competitiveness', whereas in fact more transparency is needed in governance and economic decision-making." Illustrating this is the following quote from the International Herald Tribune of May 14, 1997:
"Representative David Skaggs, Democrat of Colorado, was quizzing the had of administrative services at the CIA about classified material a while ago. How much, he asked, did the agency spend each year on classification. Well, the official said, that information is classified ... What we do know, courtesy of the Information Security Oversight Office of the National Archives is that the government - except the CIA - spent $5.23 billion on classification last year."
Lenin argued that the revolutionary leadership must be secretive. But with the hindsight of history, perhaps Lenin was wrong, and secrecy has the opposite of its intended effects. Against the warnings of many colleagues, including Nikolai Bukharin, Lenin continued for many years to entrust his secrets with the government spy, Roman Malinovsky. As a result, the effect of Lenin's secrecy was more to keep information from his own followers than from the Czarist government they were trying to overthrow.
Misinformation, propaganda and secrecy destroy democratic participation because citizens cannot make informed choices if they do not know the truth about what their government and economic enterprises are doing. This is a major problem for both the capitalist and socialist cultures of war.
There are also very damaging psychological effects of misinformation, propaganda and secrecy. Among individuals, they contribute to alienation and feelings of powerlessness. Within organizations they lead to suspicions of fellow members and even paranoia.
Of special concern is the fact that as much as half of all the scientific research in the world is being carried out under terms of secrecy, either for military research or for product development in private enterprises. Under conditions of secrecy, scientists are not free to publicly question the morality or the potential dangers of the research. This greatly increases that danger that science will be used for destructive ends, either intentionally or accidentally.
In recent years, some of the most important heros of the peace and justice movements have been "whistle-blowers", people who go to great personal risk to reveal secrets of states and commercial enterprise. For example, there is Daniel Ellsberg who helped to raise opposition to the Vietnam War by making public the Pentagon Papers. There is Mordecai Vanunu, who has spent most of his adult life in solitary prison confinement for making public that Israeli produces nuclear weapons. There is Karen Silkwood who was apparently assassinated for testifying against industrial nuclear pollution. And most recently, Katherine Gun made public that the British were tapping the telephones of UN and Security Council members in order to keep them from blocking the War in Iraq. Finally, much of what we know of the contemporary culture of war has come from a number of ex-CIA agents who had the courage to leave the agency and write books about what it was doing.
One may assume, true to the nature of dialectics that the more governments and private enterprises try to hide behind secrecy, the more this will produce whistle-blowers and the more people will see the need for revolutionary change.
Also keeping in mind the dialectical principle that "the interdependence and the closest and indissoluble connection between all aspects of any phenomenon," any action for transparency and the free flow of information contributes to the overall struggle of the culture of peace versus the culture of war.