Thursday, December 2, 2010

WikiLeaks: global businesses as actors

It’s good to see journalists taking pause to consider the implications and effects of the WikiLeaks-way of peering under the covers of international relations. But nations are slowly becoming an anachronism and an impediment to business in the minds of people engaged in global economics. We see that at the local level with the Kansa/Missouri economic border war.

On one hand businesses enjoy the benefits of inter-government tensions. On the other hand they cunningly navigate along economic DMZs to their advantage and leverage the buffet of places to place their revenues; most instances with the intention of paying as few taxes as possible. The choices make their choices an interesting game of risk-managed roulette.

WikiLeaks exists based upon donations to their non-profit; domestic as well as international sources. Do we know their funding streams and sources? Following the money is as applicable today as in the Watergate story.

Global businesses, who without national loyalty conduct their business, have customers…you and me. We need their oil, drink their beverages, eat the food, borrow the money, and plug in the devices. They produce, we consume. Global businesses are getting weary of the national interests that conflict with theirs. Our media cannot peel the business onion easily. Not only are businesses well veiled, but their methods and dealings are extremely complex. Interviews are hard to come by. Media sells advertising to them and it’s therefore awkward to grill your business associate.

It hasn’t taken long for people to become bored with the leaked vignettes without a narrative. We’ve jumped quickly to the conclusion that WikiLeaks is wrong. Journalism schools must be buzzing with interesting discussions, making comparisons perhaps to the Pentagon Papers in 1971; almost forty years on and we’re still debating the limits of transparency, the patriotic aspects of secrecy.

Maybe business was an actor in this drama back in ’71. Pure speculation on my part. But today global businesses, and we can include WikiLeaks in that category, play a leading role in international relations. Behind a Sarkozy is a vibrant atomic energy industry. Behind Putin, a wealth of energy resources. Closely aligned with Obama, a family of recently bailed-out companies and those hopeful for more of that given the precedent.

We need more business news, business journalism that is not a block and copied press release. We need to begin to understand that nations are in a struggle with businesses without boundaries. We need to be aware that we’re stuck in the middle…conflicted consumer-citizens.

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