Florian Cramer on Tue, 5 Apr 2016 21:18:31 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Ten Theses on the Panama Papers

   Jens Berger from the German political blog Nachdenkseiten has an
   opinion on the "Panama Papers" that indeed gives food for thought
   ("Nachdenkseiten" means "Food for Thought Pages). Here's a quick

   Panama Papers â not the Scoop but the Flop of the CenturyÂ

   This morning, I rhetorically asked what would happen with the data sets
   from Panama that the global media are currently hyping. Replies from
   some competent readers of this blog confirm what I had feared: Soon our
   dear media will have their next story, and Mossack Fonseca's clients
   don't need to worry. According to the information we have at this
   point, not even tax and police authorities will gain insight into the
   data. As The Guardian wrote, the media and institutions involved
   respect the privacy of the offshore companies. So what the Panama
   Papers really are is a warning to whisteblowers not
   to exclusively give sensitive data to media companies, but to use
   whisteblower platforms like Wikileaks instead.

   by Jens Berger

   What did you learn from the Panama Papers? That African, Russian,
   Ukrainian and Asian 'elites' are corrupt? Well, this should have been
   known a for long time, with or without Panama Papers. Sure, it's never
   bad when stories about the international financial system's obfuscation
   machinery get out, provoking a political debate for at least a couple
   of days. That these debate have no political consequences, is part of
   the choreography. Next week, there's some other "news of the day", only
   a month later, nobody will know remember the exact spelling of Mossack
   Fonseca. These are firm rituals of our attention economy that we can't
   change. It would be unfair, of course, to take the Panama Papers for
   questioning these meaningless rituals.

   So let's have a different look at the matter: What could a
   well-functioning journalism have done with these data? One should
   remind oneself what "investigative journalism" really is. As a matter
   of fact, the ICIJ, the "International Consortium of investigative
   journalists" responsible for analyzing the Panama Papers, seems to mix
   up investigative journalism with data journalism. The latter, a new
   form of journalism, takes some database and looks, with filters and
   search terms, for info snippets that lend themselves to headlines. This
   is inexpensive, and it yields ratings and clicks. Checking and
   disclosing backgrounds, contexts and interconnections however is an
   expensive business. Media companies need to cut their budgets.
   The 11.5 million documents of the Panama Papers concern 214,488
   offshore companies run by about 14,000 people. As things look like,
   none of these 14,000 people will ever end up in court for what they
   did. And this has its good reasons. In many cases, Mossack Fonseca's
   services aren't even illegal. Let's take one of the most prominent
   clients. Salman Al Saud is absolutist king of Saudi Arabia. As such he
   is, true to the old saying "l'etat c'est moi", the state himself. He
   stands above of the law of Saudi Arabia, a law that doesn't apply to
   Mr. Al Saud. So he can't evade tax. What then is the information value
   of newspapers like Sueddeutsche Zeitung reporting that Salman Al Saud
   controls an offshore company on the Virgin Islands? Also in other
   cases, the information value seem to be the information as such. The
   reason for this is that we're dealing with newspaper reports that no
   court in the world will accept as evidence. As long as the data from
   the Panama Papers won't end up with national and international criminal
   investigators, the "scoop" will have no practical consequences.

   In the end, it looks as if the involved media companies used their data
   treasure trove only to increase their ratings and print runs. Some
   crucial questions remain unanswered: Why is there no notable US
   American citizen among the "accused"? Why did Süddeutsche Zeitung and
   The Guardian use the publication in a shady manner for running
   propaganda against Vladimir Putin? Why are the raw data not being

   Every whisteblower can only be advised to strictly avoid the
   investigative consortia of the media companies involved in the ICIJ.
   With the Offshore Leaks, the Luxemburg Leaks and the Swiss Leaks, ICIJ
   & Company did not exactly do a great job. The "villains" got away. If
   you really want to make an impact, publish your documents with
   Wikileaks. Only then, a transparent and democratic analysis of the
   documents will be possible.

   Original German article here:


   On Tue, Apr 5, 2016 at 3:17 PM, Patrice Riemens <patrice@xs4all.nl> wrote:

     The theses factory is churning on ...

     10 Theses on the Panama Papers

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