Manning the media: how the fourth estate let truth decay

Bradley Manning Courtesy of Google Images
Bradley Manning Courtesy of Google Images

Two years, two months and five days after Bradley Manning’s arrest, the ongoing saga of his Wikileaks legacy continues deep below the murky waters of a media landscape that doesn’t want to acknowledge his judicial floundering.

Though hardly highly publicized, his trial is reaching a decisive moment of inevitability. On Feb. 28, 2013, he pled guilty to misusing classified data and not guilty to aiding the enemy. The story passed under the radar of many mainstream media institutions, getting lost in the volleying between the Vatican vacation and sequester storm.

Why the prevailing media machine has left the 25 year-old to fend for himself is in itself a puzzle. Some, like Miami Herald columnist Edward Wasserman, speculate that the issue lies with a watered-down journalistic morality. Others allege that it might be indicative of the media masses hoping to keep an arms length from a situation that may ultimately end with massive implications to freedom of speech and the fourth estate.

The journalists who have been vocal in reporting the Manning story have been, by and large, independent and so-called “citizen” journalists by nature. The only journalist reporting much of Manning’s trial was writing for an independent online newswire. Alexa O’Brien self-funded and self-published her efforts to transcribe the court proceedings in detail. Individuals on sites such as Twitter and YouTube regularly document revealing new information regarding the trial, including the release of a secretly-taped statement read by Manning during his court proceedings (seen below).

An interview with Daniel Ellsberg, former U.S. analyst and whistleblower responsible for the release of the Pentagon Papers, compared the media’s role as watchdog in the 1970s versus their present day absence from the political discourse surrounding Bradley Manning’s case. Ellsberg found representation and support from the New York Times: Manning was rejected by the same paper.

According to a The Dissenter interview, Ellsberg said that had Manning persisted with The Times – one of the largest, most powerful papers in the US – his documents may have never seen the light of day. What this speaks to about the bulwarks of journalism, versus the unstable yet mobile world of independent reporters, has yet to be seen.


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