Chelsea ManningCommunityThe Dissenter

To Those Who Think Bradley Manning Supporters Should Get Their Own Damn Parade

Fellow blogger and colleague Tbogg here at Firedoglake doesn’t much like that Bradley Manning supporters are still making headlines with their outrage over the San Francisco Pride Committee choosing to rescind giving Manning the honor of being a Grand Marshal during this year’s parade and celebration.

He writes, “Let’s be entirely honest here. The attempt to force the organizers to honor Bradley Manning as the grand marshal, even if it is only symbolic, is nothing short of a cynical attempt to hijack what is arguably one of the biggest pride parades in world, particularly in a year in which such great strides have been made in LGBQT equality.”

As someone who has, unlike Tbogg, actually been covering this as a reporter and not merely as a snarky commentator, that is a total smear. A former Grand Marshal, Joey Cain, was part of the electoral college, which in all past years has had the ability to nominate and vote for a Grand Marshal. He nominated Manning. Pride sent out ballots with Manning listed as a nominee, who former Grand Marshals could vote for in the election. Therefore, if this was a “cynical attempt to hijack what is arguably one of the biggest pride parades in the world,” then Pride has itself to blame for being in on it.

“Although the treatment of Manning by the US government is nothing short of criminal, his prosecution has nothing to do with his gayness…” Except, as someone who has, unlike Tbogg, actually been covering Manning as a reporter and not merely as a snarky commentator, it should be stated that his gayness was used against him while he was confined at Quantico. “Rave dancing” in his cell was cited as part of the rationale for keeping him on “prevention of injury” status, which gave the brig the ability to keep him in conditions that essentially amounted to solitary confinement.

While he was in the military, soldiers would make fun of his size and how they thought he was gay. He was listening to Lady GaGa while he was transmitting the information to WikiLeaks.

And, how about this for how Bradley Manning’s story is a queer story?

On January 23, 2010, he was on “mid-tour leave” and visited his boyfriend Tyler Watkins in the Boston area. He said Watkins “did not seem very excited” about his “return from Iraq.” He tried to talk to him about their relationship, but he “refused to make any plans.”

Manning asked what he would do if he saw Iraq and Afghanistan military incident reports of which he had access and thought the public deserved to read. Watkins had no “specific answer.” He tried to follow what Manning was saying but was confused. Manning tried to be more specific yet he was asking “too many questions.”

The conversation was dropped because he could not explain his dilemma. And, after a few days, he felt he’d overstayed his welcome and left to spend the rest of his time on leave in the Washington, DC, area with his aunt.

Tbogg continues, “Whether Manning is a hero or a traitor or something in-between is open to debate, but trying to pass him off as a hero to, or as representative of, the gay community is the height of blatant opportunism by Manning supporters. Obviously I don’t speak for the gay community, but I’d find it highly disrespectful that some people would try and use my movement as a delivery device for their message.”

He concludes, “In other words; don’t piss on my leg and call it a rainbow. If you want to support Bradley Manning, get your own damn parade.”

Neither Tbogg nor anyone who is liberal or progressive should have the authority to apply a litmus test to individuals who sections of a community want to elevate and celebrate. As “tcandew” said in a comment:

Are we to not celebrate the achievements of African Americans when those achievements don’t directly involve civil rights?

Would it only have been ok to honor manning if the cables he leaked exposed nefarious shit about the US governments treatment of gays and not innocent civilians (of who knows what sexuality) halfway around the world?

Or, as Cain told me in an interview:

I got news: the gay community is part of the larger human community. So, when someone does something that exposes the US military’s crimes, that may embarrass the US, but this is stuff Americans should know and the world should know. To me that benefits gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, and I don’t buy this argument that he’s done nothing for the gay community because we have this narrow definition of what that means. It’s ridiculous.

He added, “The idea that a gay person who does a heroic act that benefits humanity should not be a Grand Marshal for Pride is reprehensible.”

People who say Manning just “happens to be gay” to argue Manning should not be honored are also attempting to strip away his gay identity.

Tbogg went after a commenter:

…You want to use the Pride parade to make YOUR political point. You want to co-opt it and it is no different than if you wanted to use the parade to promote wind farms or protest fracking. They’re both good ideas but they’re not what the parade is about…

News flash: Pride parades have historically been political. Only with the increased corporatization of Pride parades and celebrations have they become more muted in their politics. However, individuals have always used Pride to call for marriage equality and they have even considered using Pride to oppose war.

So, is Tbogg commenting only because he is upset with Manning supporters? Or is this really about his view of Manning’s case?

Indiscriminately dumping a half million documents (which he could have no way of knowing what they contained) into the public domain just to see what happens is not heroic, it’s felony reckless. Had he limited himself to just releasing the video and attendant documents, you might have a point but he put a lot of people, including Afghan citizens, at risk.

Or maybe that’s just collateral damage to you.

The answer is this is about his view of Manning’s case.

One more time, as someone who has actually covered this story as a reporter and not simply as a snarky commentator who needed a break from skewering Tea Party politics, Manning did not dump any documents. He, in fact, did limit himself and did not release all of the documents of which he had access.

If Tbogg read Manning’s statement, he might realize that Manning actually made a careful calculated decision through research about which sets of documents he was going to disclose to WikiLeaks. But like an over-zealous military prosecutor, he parrots this idea that Manning’s leaks put people’s lives at risk.

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."