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Aug 08 2010

Bradley Manning

Bradley was a different sort—
He did not play a contact sport;
He did not bow his head and pray,
As schoolmates did, to start the day;
He did not, though they found him odd
Recite the pledge with “under god”;
Or do his homework, if he thought
It asked him stuff it hadn’t ought
(As when his teachers vainly took
Their lessons from their Holy Book—
Let’s all forget that they were wrong;
Why couldn’t Bradley get along?)
His Army tags said “Humanist”,
And so I think you get the gist:
He’s godless, headstrong, smart and gay…
All reasons he’s locked up today.

I am not going to pretend to know enough about the case to take a strong stand on the big picture. Bradley Manning has been called a hero and a traitor, a man who should be set free, a man who should be hanged “from the same platform as Saddam was”. His actions have been laudable, or deplorable, depending on whom you ask.

But his recent actions are not the focus of today’s New York Times article. In the latest addition to a long tradition of armchair psychoanalysis (and yes, I am well aware that professional psychoanalysis is hell and gone from a worthwhile picture of someone’s motives), the NYT’s Ginger Thompson focuses on the details of his private life, implying that in hindsight we can see what a different sort of man Manning was…

At school, Bradley Manning was clearly different from most of his peers. He preferred hacking computer games rather than playing them, former neighbors said. And they said he seemed opinionated beyond his years about politics, religion, and even about keeping religion out of politics.

In his Bible Belt hometown that he once mockingly wrote in an e-mail had “more pews than people,” Private Manning refused to recite the parts of the Pledge of Allegiance that referred to God or do homework assignments that involved the Scriptures. And if a teacher challenged his views, former classmates said, he was quick to push back.

No one in my family recites the “under god” bit. The courts have said it’s just hunky-dory by them. Why is this an issue? And school assignments that involved the scriptures? I suspect that the courts would side with Manning on this one as well. The article could have focused on the oppressive environment Manning found himself in, but (there’s a reason they call it the Fundamental Attribution Error) instead they choose to point the finger at the odd (I almost wrote “queer”) kid who stands up for his First Amendment rights.

Friends said Private Manning found the atmosphere here to be everything the Army was not: openly accepting of his geeky side, his liberal political opinions, his relationship with Mr. Watkins and his ambition to do something that would get attention.

Although hacking has come to mean a lot of different things, at its core, those who do it say, is the philosophy that information should be free and accessible to all. And Private Manning had access to some of the most secret information on the planet.

Meanwhile, his military career was anything but stellar. He had been reprimanded twice, including once for assaulting an officer. He wrote in e-mails that he felt “regularly ignored” by his superiors “except when I had something essential, then it was back to ‘Bring me coffee, then sweep the floor.’ ”

And it seems the more isolated he felt in the military — he wore custom dog tags that said “Humanist,” and friends said he kept a toy fairy wand on his desk in Iraq — the more he clung to his hacker friends.

Ah… a Humanist? That bastard! (Perhaps the author should have looked into how unusual “custom dog tags” actually are.)

Oddly enough, I am tempted to look into Ginger Thompson’s formative years, to see what sort of personal inadequacies must have inevitably led to writing an article like this.

1 comment

  1. 1
    Jac

    Thank you. It's such a cut and paste article, isn't it? Are you sure you wish to plumb the depths of dullness that may well form Ginger Thompson's past?

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