The Long, Lonely Road of Chelsea Manning
June 12, 2017 2:20 PM   Subscribe

The New York Times has published a longform interview of Chelsea Manning "In January 2017, after being locked up at five different facilities, in conditions a United Nations expert called “cruel” and “inhumane,” Manning had received a surprise commutation by President Barack Obama. Four months later, she was free, trying to adjust to life in a world she helped shape."
posted by indubitable (22 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
I worry about her so hard. Going from incarceration to weird quasi-celeb. I hope she gets some space.
posted by nixon's meatloaf at 2:42 PM on June 12, 2017 [17 favorites]

When the most compassionate and concerned person in the military is a convicted child-rapist, everyone else needs to be pretty damned ashamed of themselves.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:55 PM on June 12, 2017 [4 favorites]

The survival of our society depends on the unique individuality of Americans. Our nation, as I was taught to believe, nurtures the freedom to be individual. This quality has served us outrageously well over time, with inventiveness, forward thinking, compassionate actions, and in the arts. It is a mark of our well being that she is free.
posted by Oyéah at 4:10 PM on June 12, 2017 [4 favorites]

I can't wait 'til her hair grows out. I mean, I hope she's not photographed every five minutes and dissected for her appearance, but I do hope I get to see her once as she wants to be represented. Then I hope she gets to go off and lead a life of her own devising with as much privacy and dignity as she might desire.
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 4:36 PM on June 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

I am just glad she is finally free. I was so, so worried that Trump would find a way to undo the commutation, in order to please his trans-bashing, authoritarian, pro-military base and send a message to other potential leakers and whistleblowers that nothing would protect them from his wrath.

I don't need to read this interview, but if she found giving it worthwhile then I hope she gets to keep doing stuff like that. Mostly, I just I hope she is able to adjust to her new life, and to make something of it that she finds satisfying and fulfilling. I hope she finds peace.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:58 PM on June 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

If nothing else, I'm impressed with how thoroughly the press has stuck to using her proper name. It's been so long since I heard her pre-transition name that I often have to really stop and think for a few minutes before I can even think of what it is. That feels like *some* kind of progress to me.
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:02 PM on June 12, 2017 [31 favorites]

The media's handling of Manning has been uneven, honestly, and I've had a less favorable impression on the whole. It took a very long time to move beyond deadnaming or misgendering her, and quite a lot of articles still do both. It shouldn't matter what her deadname is, either.

Anyway, that was worth reading, if frequently painful to. I am also just glad she's free; I really doubt Obama would have last-minute commuted her sentence if the overall political trajectory hadn't gone so sideways. I don't think we've come very far at all.
posted by byanyothername at 7:45 PM on June 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

Well, possibly I have low standards. And I also probably bubble myself some. It just occurred to me that it had been a really long time since I'd heard such a mistake. I'm only 40 but I'm old enough to remember times when I don't think most news outlets would even have given the matter lip service.
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:53 PM on June 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

RustyBrooks, for what it's worth, I had actually forgotten her deadname and was thinking the same thing. And the only place this excellent profile used it was in a quote from her.
posted by potrzebie at 8:49 PM on June 12, 2017

Wow. Long exhale after that one.
posted by alex_skazat at 8:53 PM on June 12, 2017

I had to look up her deadname. Chelsea is a much better name.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 8:53 PM on June 12, 2017

Don't look up deadnames, they're deadnames for a reason.
posted by yueliang at 10:58 PM on June 12, 2017 [5 favorites]

Hugs for Chelsea is a charity album donating all proceeds to helping Chelsea Manning adjust to regular life. Against Me, Amanda Palmer, Screaming Females, Mirah, a killer remix of Pete Seeger's Which Side Are You On by B. Dolan, and many others.
posted by fomhar at 10:59 PM on June 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

"If nothing else, I'm impressed with how thoroughly the press has stuck to using her proper name."

I'm even more impressed that this was true in all the comments I skimmed through (a dozen perhaps) at the NYT. Specifically folks that strongly disagreed with her, thought she was a traitor, should have been kept in prison, etc... Still referred to her by her chosen name.

I thought the article did a good job at being sympathetic, but neutral in language about her and her actions.

I imagine she's pretty happy with the pics the NYTimes took; their photographs are consistently great. I'm also happy that the day of her release a good photograph of her was released, instead of the only one that has been seen so far (the awful black and white photo of her in a car).

I was amused how she dodged discussing interactions with Assange with the excuse they were classified (perhaps some classified material was discussed, but it's hard to believe the general contents of conversations themselves are ).

Overall I think she's a better spokesperson for leaks than Assange (oh, hell, anyone is), but she didn't spend much time explaining her perspective on the ethics of large-scale leaking.
posted by el io at 12:06 AM on June 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Also, can we please keep in mind that not everyone is thrilled with the term "deadname"? It's the sort of thing that's best to use only once someone has used it themselves, not just willy-nilly. You didn't die when you transitioned.
posted by hoyland at 3:21 AM on June 13, 2017 [10 favorites]

I'm even more impressed that this was true in all the comments I skimmed through (a dozen perhaps) at the NYT. Specifically folks that strongly disagreed with her, thought she was a traitor, should have been kept in prison, etc... Still referred to her by her chosen name.

That's pretty extraordinary in the environment we're in. Acknowledge the victories.
posted by Sebmojo at 4:06 AM on June 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm sort of torn on my feelings about the intelligence community and secrecy these days. I think the ongoing cyberwar with Russia shows that we really need an intelligence service, but at the same time, the intelligence community and it's auxiliaries in business and media have been engaged in a lot of self dealing and corruption, and just generally engaged in dirty business that needs to be exposed.

The obama-era crackdown on whistleblowers seems to have driven a certain type of idealistic young person with secrets that they want to expose towards cooperation with journalists and organizations that seem to be either anti-American or actively pro-Putin.

I don't really know what the answer is. We could create some kind of institutional support and reward system for whistleblowers and genuinely follow through on it, but I think that really would only work in the case of sort of small ball corruption-- cover ups of civilian casualties, embezzlement, that kind of thing. I can't really imagine any sort of internal system that could be created that could handle the kind of thing that Snowden and Manning revealed-- where the entire apparatus of the state is involved in widespread malfeasance, with the approval of all branches of government, and with a national media owned by massive corporations who are deeply complicit in it and even profiting from it.

That would require some kind of international organization of journalists with no particular allegiance to any state, but anything like that would be extremely vulnerable to capture by a hostile state as in the situation with wikileaks and Russia.
posted by empath at 4:17 AM on June 13, 2017

I picked up a friend an hour ago who is really struggling at the age of 42 with coming out as gender queer, they're in the scared/exciting part and for some reason reached out yesterday to Chelsea Manning. Chelsea responded directly and my friend is part in shock, but overjoyed. It has given them a huge boost.

I am so conflicted about whistleblowing, but this was such a compassionate thing to do.
posted by Wilder at 4:38 AM on June 13, 2017 [13 favorites]

sorry, just to add my conflict around whistleblowing relates to 2 things.

working in healthcare most whistleblowers lives and careers are destroyed.
many whistleblowers I know have a very complicated set of reasons, not all of them relating to the public good
currently someone I love is being bullied and harrassed at work by a senior figure who is using the anonymous whistleblowers process to target him and even though it's pretty evidently in response to a serious complaint the juniors put in last year which was upheld meaning that said senior could no longer operate with impunity, there is literally no protections against it being used/abused in this way.

In a way the very public and high=profile discussions have enable us to think through all of the different permutations around the use of whistleblowing for the public good and while I'm grateful for that it totally sucks to be on this side of the equation while those nuances are being worked through
posted by Wilder at 5:02 AM on June 13, 2017

I hate mass leaks for two main reasons:

1. They are directionless and unfocused. Interested parties will search for what they want to find and write stories or blog posts or tweets, but such narratives are often distorted by confirmation bias.

2. Lazy publishers (see: Assange, The Intercept) put leakers/whistleblowers and completely innocent people at risk and expose information that has no business being public. The medical records of teenage rape victims, for example? Not of public interest.

To me it seems that Manning made some very poor decisions as a result of some emotional instability she was experiencing due to her gender dysphoria, the pressures of military service, and pre-existing trauma. I do not think of her as a hero. But 35 years in a men's military prison where she was physically and emotionally tortured with extensive stays in the SHU, denial of medical treatment, and abusive guards? No. Obama absolutely did the right thing by commuting her sentence but not pardoning her crimes. She's suffered more than enough.
posted by xyzzy at 5:21 AM on June 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Was it previously known that Manning attempted to give her documents to the New York Times and Washington Post first? I don't recall hearing that before.

Fuck Adrian Lamo.
posted by enn at 5:53 AM on June 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

It's a fantastic article. I appreciate how sympathetic it is, not just to her transgender identity but also her incarceration, attempted suicides, etc.

I'm shocked how casual her decision to hand the documents over to Wikileaks was. The article does a great job explaining her motivations for wanting to hand the documents over to someone, that part makes sense to me. But WikiLeaks instead of NYT or WaPo or a brand-new Politico? The article chalks that up as an accident of the weather, and if so what a shame. I guess at that time Wikileaks still seemed like a reputable organization and Assange wasn't obviously the amoral monster he seems to be now.
posted by Nelson at 7:29 AM on June 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

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