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As Bradley Manning Trial Begins, Press Predictably Misses the Point

As Bradley Manning Trial Begins, Press Predictably Misses the Point

ell, the Bradley Manning trial has begun, and for the most part, the government couldn't have scripted the headlines any better.

In the now-defunct Starz series Boss, there's a reporter character named "Sam Miller" played by actor Troy Garity who complains about lazy reporters who just blindly eat whatever storylines are fed to them by people in power. He called those sorts of stories Chumpbait. If the story is too easy, if you're doing a piece on a sensitive topic and factoids are not only reaching you freely, but publishing them is somehow not meeting much opposition from people up on high, then you're probably eating Chumpbait.

There's an obvious Chumpbait angle in the Bradley Manning story, and most of the mainstream press reports went with it. You can usually tell if you're running a Chumpbait piece if you find yourself writing the same article as 10,000 other hacks.

The Trials of Bradley Manning

The Trials of Bradley Manning

The CNN headline read as follows: "Hero or Traitor? Bradley Manning's Trial to Start Monday." NBC went with "Contrasting Portraits of Bradley Manning as Court-Martial Opens." Time magazine's Denver Nicks took this original approach in their "think" piece on Manning, "Bradley Manning and our Real Secrecy Problem":

Is he a traitor or a hero? This is the question surrounding Bradley Manning, the army private currently being court-martialed at Fort Meade for aiding the enemy by wrongfully causing defense information to published on the Internet. The Nicks thesis turned out to be one chosen by a lot of editorialists at the Manning trial, who have decided that the "real story" in the Manning case is what this incident showed about our lax security procedures, our lack of good due diligence in vetting the folks we put in charge of our vital information.


"With so many poorly protected secrets accessible to so many people, it was only a matter of time," Nicks wrote. "We can be grateful that Bradley Manning rather than someone less charitably inclined perpetrated this leak."

Dr. Tim Johnson of the Telegraph took a similar approach, only he was even less generous than Nicks, calling Manning the "weirdo [who] tried to bring down the government," a man who was "guilty as hell" and "deserves to do time."

"Private Manning was a self-absorbed geek who should never have enjoyed the level of access that he did," Johnson wrote. He went on to argue that Manning's obvious personality defects should have disqualified him for sensitive duty, and the fact that he was even hired in the first place is the real scandal of this trial:

  His personality breakdown was there for all to see– criticising US policy on Facebook, telling friends, "Bradley Manning is not a piece of equipment", and even entertaining "a very internal private struggle with his gender". He told hacker Adrian Lamo that he "listened and lip-synced to Lady Gaga's Telephone while exfiltrating possibly the largest data spillage in American history." You go, girl.

All of this shit is disgraceful. It's Chumpbait.

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I'll bet the OJ Simpson trial will get more press coverage in the U.S. than the Manning Trial.

I will state this about Bradley Manning. He was trusted with the secrets of the nation. If he only leaked proof of war crimes it be one thing but he leaked everything he could get his hands on. 

According to everything I read that's not true. Manning was selective in his release of information.

More on releases. What We Learn From WikiLeaksMedia paint flattering picture of U.S. ...

In U.S. elite media, the main revelation of the WikiLeaks diplomatic cables is that the U.S. government conducts its foreign policy in a largely admirable fashion.
Fareed Zakaria, Time (12/2/10):
The WikiLeaks documents, by contrast [to the Pentagon Papers], show Washington pursuing privately pretty much the policies it has articulated publicly. Whether on Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan or North Korea, the cables confirm what we know to be U.S. foreign policy. And often this foreign policy is concerned with broader regional security, not narrow American interests. Ambassadors are not caught pushing other countries in order to make deals secretly to strengthen the U.S., but rather to solve festering problems.
David Sanger, New York Times (12/5/10):
While WikiLeaks made the trove available with the intention of exposing United States duplicity, what struck many readers was that American diplomacy looked rather impressive. The day-by-day record showed diplomats trying their hardest behind closed doors to defuse some of the world's thorniest conflicts, but also assembling a Plan B.
David Brooks, New York Times (11/30/10):
Despite the imaginings of people like Assange, the conversation revealed in the cables is not devious and nefarious. The private conversation is similar to the public conversation, except maybe more admirable.

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