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In crisis, a classic tactic by those under attack is to fight back, not with controlled and structured message and dialogue with the active publics, but by physical or technical attack of the attacker.
So it would appear in the case of Wikileaks as a concerted global cyber attack has forced the organisation's domain name service provider - the company that provides the named Wikileaks internet address - to shut down the named domain.
However, as any student in crisis management would know, attacking the messenger, particularly if they are journalists or media outlets is:
And so it is proving with Wikileaks. Within seconds of the domain being closed down, Wikileaks themselves sent a Tweet alerting the world to their plight. Now, another major organisation, EveryDNS.Net finds itself not just under technical assault, but in danger of having its brand reputation destroyed.
Within a matter of minutes, the social networks were already alerting anyone interested (and it is evident there are gazillions) to the alternative route to accessing Wikileaks. One-nil to the messenger and not only are a number of governments in crisis, but Amazon and a range of other trusted brands are now under threat as well.
And for what?
As with every crisis, after communication, the next thing to suffer is any sense of perspective. What is the whole Wikileaks crisis about? If we take a moment to look beyond the hysteria, it is clear that the majority of the 'news' is, in fact, diplomatic tittle-tattle that surprises few and leaves many thinking 'so what'?
Apart from the immediate embarrassment caused to the US and other major administrations around the world, for which they have had plenty of advance warning and will quickly move on, the reality is that there is nothing especially revealing about the Wikileaks information.
The crisis, as often happens, underestimates the attitudes, knowledge or interest levels of the active publics. Many of us are reading the Guardian's wallpaper-length coverage are, at worst, thinking "oh, that's interesting' and, more frequently, "yes, and.........." As with any crisis there are also allies, with many people unprompted defending those in crisis. While I'm not suggesting that the relevant administrations could just sit back and ignore the issue, taking a deep breath, assessing the actual risk and responding rationally at an appropriate level is a far more effective way of dealing with the crisis than [ouring fuel on the fire.
Where the real damage is done is by attacking the messenger. The conspiracy theories, the speculation about who has initiated the cyber attacks and pressurised Amazon, and the backlash against the basic attack on freedom of speech by the US, the so-called Leader of the Free World, is far more damaging than anything Wikileaks is likely to reveal.
In the meantime, the sheer volume of Twitter communication relating to #wikileaks is almost impossible to keep up with and Julian Assange, a former computer hacker, is already a global hero. Equally his actions have created a totally disproportionate response to relatively low risk information, even prompting calls for his execution for treason from some, including Michael Reagan, son of President Ronald Reagan. Way to go guys - how not to handle a crisis. You deserve everything you get.
Published 3rd December, 2010