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WikiLeaks: Friend Or Foe?

Michelle Spera |
October 5, 2013 | 7:33 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Bruhl in "The Fifth Estate" (Walt Disney Studios).
Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Bruhl in "The Fifth Estate" (Walt Disney Studios).
Most kids are raised to never tell lies, but the line between malicious lies and white lies have always been blurred. Is honesty really the best policy? Bill Condon's "The Fifth Estate" records Julian Assange (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) and his partner Daniel Domsheit-Berg's (Daniel Brühl) journey to jumpstarting WikiLeaks, a website designed to expose the absolute truth about institution's concealed wrongdoings against the public.

Though it is no surprise that certain details are kept private, there are people like Assange, editor-in-chief and founder of WikiLeaks, who ultimately insist that the public deserves full awareness. But what if the truth became harmful? Should the truth always be told, or is there a line where it is better hidden? It was questions like these that kept me pondering about WikiLeaks' moral effect on the public.

READ MORE: Film Review: 'The Fifth Estate'

In the movie, Assange states that WikiLeaks was created for "whistleblowers" to bring attention to corruption, providing the oppressed with information needed to inspire revolution. Assange champions Oscar Wilde's quote,"Give [a man] a mask and he will tell you the truth," implying his promise to grant whistleblowers anonymity. This security allows for the manifestation of his concept of "contagious" courage, because it is much easier to speak up when one cannot be traced for "retribution."

In short, WikiLeaks' purpose is to provide a safe and secure forum for those who wish to expose the unedited truth of misconduct, alleged dishonesty, or illegal activity occuring in an organization to the public. This is essientally for the good - to protect the safety of the source.

Enforcing this motto, WikiLeaks' first tackles the Swiss Bank: Julius Baer. An insider from the bank leaks of its usage of "offshore secrecy laws to hide [money] for fat cats" and "tax evasion." Corruption dectected. Solution? Internationally expose the bank's illegal acts, protect the whistleblowers from exposure, and stop the bank from proceeding further. Justice served and no innocent lives harmed.

But what about when Wikileaks' actions begin to contradict their motto?

Towards the end, as Assange becomes a mudsligging extremist, he willingly risks the safety of government informants by revealing their personal information to give the people the unedited truth. Conflict arises when Domscheit-Berg argues that the sources are just like theirs, people "fighting for the very things [they] were supposed to stand for." As revealed indentities give the opposing powers the ability to bring harm to supposedly secret sources, any personal information should be kept hidden. Unfortunately, Assange doesn't budge and stands by his plan to release the leaked U.S. Government documents, unedited, and potentially putting others in harms way.

READ MORE: Benedict Cumberbatch Is A Convincing Julian Assange

Ultimately, "The Fifth Estate" presents both sides of the coin, making it hard to pass direct judgment on the movie's portrayal of WikiLeaks. Is it good or bad? I submit that since the original intent of WikiLeaks was for the ultimate good and benefit of the people, its functions served the greater good - but to an extent. When handling news with personal information, it is crucial to always protect those who may be subject to danger, or else the publication can be detrimental. Tell the truth without causing casualities. As Stan Lee wrote, "With great power, comes great responsibility." Wikileaks must know its boundaries to remain the hero and avoid crossing over to the nemesis.

So... Is WikiLeaks our savior or enemy? Decide on October 18th when "The Fifth Estates" hits theaters near you. 

Watch the film's trailer below.

Reach Staff Reporter Michelle Spera here.



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