Customer Review

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too much gossip, 2 Dec 2012
This review is from: The Revolution will be Digitised: Dispatches from the Information War (Paperback)
Investigative journalist Heather Brooke is best known for her dogged campaign to obtain information on British MPs expenses. Her efforts were crowned with success in May 2009 after one of the staff tasked with redacting the original invoices for publication supplied the entire database to the Daily Telegraph on a disc. The result, as you will undoubtedly know if you live in Britain, was the early retirement of a significant portion of our elected representatives from public life. In a rational world, Brooke would have a damehood for this alone.

Since then, she has written an excellent book on freedom of information, The Silent State (2010), detailing how data which has been collected using public money is regularly withheld from the public. For anyone who has tried to use the Freedom of Information act, that book rang horribly true.

Her latest, The Revolution Will be Digitised, is an account of the Wikileaks saga, interspersed with reflections on the consequences of electronic communication networks for law, journalism, surveillance, national security, privacy and anonymity.

For me, it was less convincing than The Silent State. Part of the problem is one of technique. Some of the chapters are written in 'creative nonfiction' style, 'reconstructing' scenes using the procedures of fiction. This is always a rather dubious approach.

Another part of the problem is her weakness for windy philosophising about free speech. The questions she raises about the political and social consequences of an online world are hugely important, but the benefits and costs of the rise of the internet are examined in a very cursory way.

As to Wikileaks, she mentions that one of the tactics the US government deployed was to attempt to shift the focus from the content of the leaked material to the personality of Julian Assange. In this context, it seems odd that Brooke should also focus so strongly on his personality. We hear about his clothes and appearance, and all manner of personal material about his relationship with Brooke and Guardian journalists (gossip you could say) and relatively little about the political consequences of the leak. It is strange that she should tell us so much about the messenger and so little about the message.
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Location: London

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