Photo credit: Mickey Z.
"There is an odor to any press headquarters that is unmistakable: the unavoidable smell of flesh burning quietly and slowly in the service of a machine."
- Norman Mailer
If you've ever wondered why someone like Bradley Manning gets far less media coverage than, say, a "royal" birth or a mayoral candidate's penis, well" you can always count on the "newspaper of record" to reveal the method behind the madness.
A July 30, 2013 New York Times article by John M. Broder and Ginger Thompson was deftly entitled, "Loner Sought a Refuge, and Ended Up in War." The stage was set in a single word--the first word, in fact--as we all know what America thinks about "loners." Those are the ones who turn out to like Oswald or Dahmer or Klebold and Harris.
Any lingering hope for a nuanced discussion on privacy or war crimes was dashed by the opening paragraph:
Feeling outcast and alone in Iraq, Bradley Manning, then a 22-year-old Army private, turned to the Internet for solace in early 2010, wanting to share with the world what he saw as the unconscionable horrors of war, an act that resulted in what military prosecutors called one of the greatest betrayals in the nation's history.
Not only a loner but an "outcast," Manning merely exposed "what he saw as the unconscionable horrors of war." Well played by the Times as loyal readers--long conditioned by daily propaganda--are given the comfortable choice of accepting that some weirdo geek with a grudge against god's country misinterpreted U.S. military behavior. For good measure, Broder and Thompson only tell us how military prosecutors perceive his actions.
For the handful of mainstream folks who might actually continue reading the article beyond this point, the Times offers passing mention of Manning being "confined to a tiny cell 23 hours a day at the Marine base at Quantico, Va.," before quickly returning to their more familiar role of stenographer to power.
Those same military prosecutors, we're told, "accused Private Manning of being a self-promoting "anarchist' who was nothing like the tortured man of principle portrayed by his lawyers, supporters around the world celebrated him as a martyr for free speech."
Let's stop for a second to note that the NY Times not only dragged out the all-purpose smear of "anarchist" but has yet to find it "fit to print" to include any details of the specific "unconscionable horrors of war" Manning exposed. This omission allows Broder and Thompson to claim his supporters are solely focusing on the issue of "free speech." As for the Times' mocking phrase "tortured man of principle," it wouldn't take the reporters (sic) much effort to find Manning's own thoughts and words on the topic. But, of course, the article's atuhors don't want to complicate matters with such context. Instead, they educate their readers with news that the "heated language on both sides" tends to "overshadow the human story at the center of the case."
With all due respect to both Manning's courage and the criminal treatment he's endured, the story at "the center of the case" is not his personality, upbringing, or political leanings. The story cleverly but predictably obscured by the Times is all about the Home of the Brave - sanctioning war crimes as policy and throwing the full weight of its legal (sic) might at anyone crazy enough to expose such global criminality.
As Amnesty International recently concluded: "It's hard not to draw the conclusion that Manning's trial was about sending a message: the U.S. government will come after you, no holds barred, if you're thinking of revealing evidence of its unlawful behavior."
Rather than discuss any of that, of course, journalists (sic) Broder and Thompson treat us to details like Manning being "the child of a severed home" and "a teenager bullied for his conflicted sexuality" who "never fit in." Even in the Army, he was a "misfit" and just in case you're not sure why, the Times gleefully clarifies: "In early 2010, he covertly downloaded gun-camera videos, battle logs and tens of thousands of State Department cables onto flash drives while lip-syncing the words to Lady Gaga songs."
Who ya gonna trust, big strong white men with lots of stripes on their uniforms or a Gaga-loving misfit outcast?