Media Throw Pvt. Manning to the Wolves

By Wasserman, Edward | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), March 21, 2013 | Go to article overview

Media Throw Pvt. Manning to the Wolves


Wasserman, Edward, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


In media mythology, the years from the mid-1960s to the mid-'70s were the classical age, a heroic time of moral clarity.

Mainstream journalism marinated in adversarialism. Little Southern newspapers infuriated their own readers by staring down segregation. Foreign correspondents forced upon an unwilling public the realities of a brutal war. Network news ignored official disdain and showed the bottomless suffering the war inflicted on the innocents it was supposed to save. With the Pentagon Papers, newspapers defied secrecy rules to expose government lies. With Watergate, reporters forced out a corrupt president.

And over the past decade or so, it's as if that classical formula of defiance and struggle has been turned upside down. Instead of halting war, the news media helped lead the charge into battle, stoking jingoism and spreading half-truths. Instead of unmasking civilian suffering, the media have kept the thousands of innocent Iraqi and Afghan war dead off-screen, pandering to the idea that the only victims worth compassion wear U.S. uniforms.

Even Watergate is upended, with Bob Woodward, one of the two Washington Post reporters who exposed the scandal, now the target of scathing revisionism because of a trivial dustup with a thin- skinned White House.

And looming above those breathtaking role reversals is the media's disgraceful abandonment of the boldest news source of his generation, Pvt. Bradley Manning, a soldier who in 2010 defied secrecy restrictions to feed the most influential media in the world with leaks they gratefully published, which exposed corruption and duplicity, identified torturers, energized the Arab spring, and embarrassed officialdom worldwide.

The ferocity of the Obama administration's attack on Pvt. Manning and on WikiLeaks, the online anti-secrecy organization that brokered his leaks to the media, has been withering. Pvt. Manning spent the better part of a year in solitary confinement, undergoing maltreatment plainly intended to get him to finger WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as not just a conduit, but a co-conspirator.

Pvt. Manning, now 25, is before a court-martial in Maryland. After 1,000 days behind bars, he recently pleaded guilty to charges that could leave him there for an additional 20 years. …

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