While the trial of Bradley Manning has divided America, splitting it vertically down the middle, it has also fired up the imaginative politics of dissent, that is metamorphosing from earlier avatars of civil disobedience, street protests and political sloganeering to turn into a battle that is fought on the virtual turfs of the World Wide Web.
And at the forefront is the 25-year-old Manning, who faces at least a hundred years in prison because he had the temerity to ‘leak’ millions of classified US government documents to the transparency website WikiLeaks, the founder of which, Julian Assange, is himself a victim of American state wrath. While the trial court has ruled that Manning leak did not result in death by enemy forces, in effect saying that the young officer was not aiding the adversaries by releasing the data to WikiLeaks, including the ‘Collateral Damage’ video that showed two American Apache fighter jets targeting innocent bystanders in Iraq, killing even a Reuters photojournalist in the heinous act of completely unwarranted violence, but merely making public the transgressions of the US state and the army on so-called ‘enemy turf.’
The trial of Bradley Manning is bound to set a precedent for the future of whistleblowers, and other such fighters for liberty, fraternity, equality and justice, not just in the US but also the world over. It’s also going to delineate how warriors of truth and transparency, as well as human and civil rights are going to be appreciated and appraised in times to come.
Moreover, the fate of investigative journalism, across the board scrutiny and global activism hangs in balance as the US court takes into consideration the supposed crimes of Bradley Manning. While Assange has already warned that the Manning verdict, in all likelihood, will be setting a ‘dangerous precedent’, coming down hard on whistleblowers especially, with bolstered laws on cybersecurity, data protection and online piracy, we must not stop galvanising opinion in favour of Manning, Snowden, Assange and their ilk.