t byfield on Thu, 7 Apr 2016 20:16:35 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Ten Theses on the Panama Papers

On 7 Apr 2016, at 4:15, Florian Cramer wrote:

Berger is by far not the only one with this opinion. After I posted
his article here, WikiLeaks retweeted the link to Nettime's archive
and Berger's piece. Before, Wikileaks tweeted the following (so we can
consider it WikiLeaks' official position on the matter:

Berger makes those points, but they're drowned out by all his cranky noise -- like the opening words:

   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...

I'm deeply skeptical about 'data journalism,' but Berger's dismissal -- in his second paragraph -- is just silly:

   the ICIJ...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.

And so on. Yes, many other people have made the same points -- and done a much better job of it.

Funding sources do indeed exert subtle and not-so-subtle pressure on journalists -- I've experienced this firsthand and returned half of a substantial 'journalism' grant when the funder tried to tell me what I couldn't say. So, yes, the US-centrism of the funders is a serious consideration in evaluating how the Panama Papers are handled. But that can have many different valences. For example, where are all Russian and Chinese funders who might balance out a US agenda? Ah, yes, right... But my point isn't to stage a naive reenactment of Cold War oneupmanship. The questions can and should be mobilized positively: we should *also* ask about support from entities based in (to go down a list of nominal GDPs) the EU, Japan, Germany, the UK, France, Brazil, Italy, India... And we should think in terms of regions, not just nations, because transnational civil society networks that cross potentially hostile borders would bring additional kinds of legitimacy. The implication, of course, is that it's not just a matter of funding: it involves everything from legal nuts and bolts to much more diffuse questions about perceived legitimacy in different contexts and the insight and confidence to ask challenging questions. (Are there Indian nationals in the Panama Papers? No doubt. Pakistanis? No doubt. Are there citizens in both countries who have a shared interest in reasserting authority over cynical and corrupt officials and structure? YES.) There are many critical points to be made along these line, but fetishizing funding above everything else doesn't tend to do that. On the contrary, it explicitly affirms the unimaginative idea that money equals power. Leaks like the Panama Papers should provide an opportunity to show, on every level and in every way, that there are forms of power that don't depend on money.


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