In Good Company

I did a Google image search for my name last night and found that my submission to "I Am Bradley Manningis now my sole online image representation.

statement released by Nobel Prize Laureates this week in support of Manning gives even more weight behind the shift in public opinion of his actions. It is true that you should never measure the value of your beliefs by how many other people happen to share them. That doesn't make it any less comforting when you discover other people who already have significant backgrounds in humanitarian work  are willing to speak out on this issue.

Having worked as a policy analyst in the past, I used to subscribe to Saul Alinsky's view:

I know from experience, while Alinsky's advice is extremely valid, there is also a tendency for a slow erosion of resolve when regularly facing tiny dilemmas of principle. Can you stay clean while you make your way through the system and come up for air at the top? In the past I had I wondered how soon I may find myself in a conflict of interest with little authority to do anything except resign.  If I had left, I wouldn't have considered it any kind of protest. If you don't tell anyone you left your job on account of conscience, your passive reputation is preserved.

Manning was already planning to leave the military. If he had not acted on his objections and the ethical conflicts raised by the information he had access to  and left quietly to take up protest after his discharge, he would have saved himself a world of pain. Yet he took an incomprehensibly dangerous risk to leak information he knew would never survive suppression by his superiors.  Considering a video like Collateral Murder, it's hard to imagine such footage would ever be authorized for media release willingly by the US government.

For those who continue to believe Manning is in some way treasonous and deserves any of the most extreme punishment because he broke his military oaths - consider this:

". . .  recommending a much more severe punishment for Bradley Manning than is given to US soldiers guilty of murdering civilians, military leadership is sending a chilling warning to other soldiers who would feel compelled by conscience to reveal misdeeds. "

(from the previously mentioned statement

It brings to mind a group of soldiers who were able to avoid significant jail time after being involved in the massacre of 24 innocent Iraqis. Manning's case is obviously different and exceptional, and he has been willing to take responsibility for his actions. The non-violent nature of his crimes demands the most hard-line pundits, politicians, military and members of the public who deplore his actions to agree that he has already served extremely hard time even by military standards. The worst conditions were only improved through protest from the outside. There have been questions raised about why he has been subject to pre-trial detainment at all (he's been imprisoned over 900 days). You and I can't imagine what Manning has endured, surrounded by captors that view him as a traitor, possibly hoping to break him down to extract further information on what he has leaked. Filmmaker Kyle Broom attempts to give us an idea:

Prevention of Injury (POI)

Today we live in great fear of a misstep being dissected when our unremarkable life suddenly bubbles to the surface of the internet. Social media has created the politicized and public persona that follows us everywhere. So when we're warned we might be google'd by a potential employer, it could change how we participate in the rest of our public lives.  

In the workplace as in many areas of everyday life, keeping your politics to yourself is usually quite easy, but when the personal with the political  begin overlapping, I think it's now more detrimental to remain passive than ever before. The more we reveal ourselves, the more solidarity we gain. Have you noticed that it's already beginning to seem that the former "radical" is nearly on par with the perceived mainstream?   

As countries like Canada seek greater penalties for dissenters who hide their identity, why should public actors continue to hide their faces in fear of protecting their jobs? Of course it is plain to anyone that people who speak out or show up, are ridiculed when unmasked; most commonly tarred as professional protestors, and unemployed hippies. While at the same time we see riot police that subdue with rubber bullets, pepper spray and tasers while keeping their faces adequately covered during any significant protest melees. We may film their actions, but determining which officers are abusing their power and bringing them to trial is nearly impossible. If officials argue that full facial coverage is  necessary for self-defense, why can't a peaceful protestor wear similar gear? Considering what they're up against, it could surely be considered necessary as protection from inhaling pepper spray? Or helmets worn to avoid skull fractures when struck with flash-canisters? 

If no one is willing to publicly denounce the treatment of Bradley Manning, then who can we expect to show up for you or I if we discover some terrible wrongdoing? Before we even take action we are  often intellectually intimidated, and I think it's time that for those that can't participate in the streets to unmask themselves in solidarity, putting one of today's most valuable commodities against their resolve for change - their reputation. For most middle-class white collar professionals, this is still more terrifying than tying a scarf over their face and marching with OWS.   

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