The Revolution Will Be Digitised: how Cablegate, Facebook, Google and the regulation will shape the future

By Cory Doctorow

Heather Brooke is the American-trained "data journalist" who upended British politics when she moved to the UK and began to use the UK's Freedom of Information law to prise apart the dirty secrets of power and privilege, most notably by exposing the expense cheating by Members of Parliament. Brooke's latest book is The Revolution will be Digitised: Dispatches from the Information War, a history of her involvement in the Wikileaks cable-dumps and a meditation on the meaning and role of data-driven journalism in the coming years, as governments ramp up their attempts to lock down the Internet, and journalists, hackers, and activists attempt to open things further.

Brooke is uniquely situated to produce this analysis as someone who was both part of the Cablegate dump and someone who reported on it. She documents her odd and sometimes unpleasant dealings with Assange as well, but the Assange story isn't the most important aspect of Cablegate or this book, and Brooke's focus is thankfully on the broader narrative. This isn't another book that treats the Wikileaks phenomenon as a cult-of-personality story revolving around one person.

Brooke journeys to the hacker scenes in Berlin, San Francisco and Boston, and the radicalized halls of power in Iceland, and spins a story that does a good job of explaining what, exactly, happened with Cablegate: how the cables got out, the intrigues and infighting amongst the players (media, hackers, activists) and the governmental spin in response.

Here is one place where Brooke really opened my eyes: there are many people who make blanket assertions about the US government's manipulation of the press. But Brooke has concrete details, and the surprising intelligence that while the US does not have a "public broadcaster" like the BBC or public newspaper subsidies like Norway, it outspends both of them in its formidable press-offices at every level of government and military. In other words, the US doesn't have public news media, but it spends an equivalent sum on spin-doctors whose job it is to control the narrative in the "free-enterprise" press.

Brooke finishes the book with a manifesto of sorts, a call to arms to press, politicos and public to confront the coming deluge of data and channel it for transparency and accountability, but away from surveillance and invasion of privacy (a delicate operation, to be sure!) and to resist using the net as an excuse for more intrusive information policy. The book's website has more on this.

Published 11:54 pm Tue, Oct 18, 2011

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About the Author

I write books. My latest are: a YA graphic novel called In Real Life (with Jen Wang); a nonfiction book about the arts and the Internet called Information Doesn't Want to Be Free: Laws for the Internet Age (with introductions by Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer) and a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.

8 Responses to “The Revolution Will Be Digitised: how Cablegate, Facebook, Google and the regulation will shape the future”

  1. Thaiis Thei says:

    Typo: “but this the Assange story”

  2. fergus1948 says:

    What? The American news media are biased, controlled and lacking in government-free objectivity????
    I am shocked! 
    Shocked I tell you.

  3. taras says:

    I find it hard to warm to Heather Brooke since her gloating over the LulzSec census hack that never was.

    All it took was one anonymously-posted text file – claiming the hacker group had compromised the UK’s census data – and she was immediately all over the place saying “I told you so!”.  Those of us who posted more considered opinions (and asked why she trusted one, completely anonymous, source) were ignored.

    In my eyes this revealed her to be more of a self-publicist than a journalist.

    Just sayin’.

  4. Lobster says:

    I’m sure Assange is lawyering up, claiming libel.  After all, she seems to suggest he isn’t the physical manifestation of the virtue of honesty, and that is clearly untrue.

  5. Sore Winner says:

    Sounds a lot like Manufacturing Consent by Noam Chomski… @ChomskyDotInfo:twitter @chomskidotinfo:disqus 

  6. millie fink says:

    while the US does not have a “public broadcaster” like the BBC or public newspaper subsidies like Norway, it outspends both of them in its formidable press-offices at every level of government and military. In other words, the US doesn’t have public news media, but it spends an equivalent sum on spin-doctors whose job it is to control the narrative in the “free-enterprise” press.

    Thanks Cory, for not reiterating the canard that the U.S.’s “National Public Radio” is public, and objective (as some claim), and liberal (as some others claim). You’re absolutely right–despite the existence of NPR, the U.S. does not have a public broadcaster.

    • bmcraec says:

      Check out this article about NPR from this morning: http://slatest.slate.com/posts/2011/10/20/lisa_simeone_soundprint_freelancer_fired_after_npr_began_investi.html?from=rss/&wpisrc=newsletter_slatest

      I suppose they might have a problem with a journalist taking sides, but I wonder if the side had been more status quo, would this have happened?

  7. curiouslikeakat says:

    how interesting that Amazon doesn’t even sell this book themselves. It’s all from independent sellers.