Some Thoughts On The Latest Chelsea Manning Drama

Caitlin Johnstone
5 min readJan 22, 2018

God damn the centrists are gunning for Chelsea Manning hard. Ever since she announced her Democratic primary challenge to the seat of worthless AIPAC crony Senator Ben Cardin, nonstop idiotic conspiracy theories have been spewing from corporatist Democrat pundits insisting that the only possible explanation for Manning’s candidacy is a sinister Kremlin plot.

Imagine their glee, then, when news surfaced that Manning attended an event hosted by the notorious MAGA pundit Mike Cernovich.

Centrist Twitter exploded, and three hours after the news broke, Manning posted this:

The Trump supporters at the event were less than thrilled about being called a “fascist/white supremacist hate brigade” and said everyone was courteous to Manning.

Manning later confirmed to The Observer that she had indeed been at the event not because it sounded like a fun night out with friends, but to “crash” it. Which sounds odd enough since it’s a pretty meaningless distinction unless she was there causing a ruckus that nobody reported, but then a few hours later this photograph from last month was leaked to freelance journalist Yashar Ali, featuring Manning posing with some high-profile Trump supporters:

“Aha! We’ve got her now,” screamed Centrist Twitter. Surely this proves that Manning really is a secret Russian/alt-right/double agent/whatever thingy!

Do they have a point?

Of course not.

I apologize for packing so many tweets into the beginning of an article, but this highlights a really pernicious aspect of online political discourse that I’d like to say a few things about.

A casual perusal of Manning’s Twitter page reveals a very leftist, very anti-fascist ideology that has made her the darling of leftists of all persuasions and has (along with her being a convicted military whistleblower and a trans woman) made her reviled by many individuals on the right. Conspiracy theories that she is a secret agent of Putin and/or Steve Bannon putting on a years-long performance both in prison and outside in order to accomplish the virtually impossible task of primarying Ben Cardin, all to claim a single seat in the US Senate, are plainly bat shit crazy.

So what’s going on here? I see a couple of possibilities.

The first is that Chelsea Manning is telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth. She was indeed at the party because she “learned in prison that the best way to confront your enemies is face-to-face in their space,” then decided to out herself as “crashing” it later, which if you squint at it just right could make a maybe semi-plausible explanation for her appearance at the December gathering as well. It is possible.

Another possibility is that after years of imprisonment and literal torture, Manning isn’t reflexively swatting away friendly hands that are offered to her in the name of petty first-world political disagreements. People befriended her and she got invited to parties full of WikiLeaks fans who don’t agree with her ideologically but respect what she did, and after surviving years in an environment where turning away friends over mere political differences was an unthinkable luxury, she went along. Then she encountered the cartoonish, ridiculous vitriol of America’s political landscape in the outside world, and had to make up a story on the fly.

Personally, I find the latter explanation makes a lot more sense.

Half a year ago I wrote an article suggesting that American leftists should get more comfortable collaborating with Trump’s base on specific issues where mutual interests converge, and to this day Left Twitter hasn’t stopped shrieking about it. Just yesterday I interacted with a self-admitted sock puppet account who repeated the fact-free rumor that I plagiarize leftist essays, claiming that I do so in order to endear myself to alt-right fascists so that I can sell those fascists my books of poetry. That’s how far these hateful political rivalries can contort one’s sense of reality.

So I can’t speak for Manning, but I for one think it’s very possible that this all boils down to simple, stupid social pressures. I could totally see her doing something that feels relatively normal only to panic as realization dawned that the leftists who’ve been supporting her might reject her with that same seething vitriol I’ve been receiving for her appearance at the Cernovich event.

Either way, it’s extremely stupid that this is a big deal at all. Only on the internet does it make sense to anyone that you should freak out and start flinging poo at someone because they spent time with people of an opposing ideology. In real life we interact with folks of all persuasions every single day and it’s perfectly normal, but once you funnel it through the funhouse mirror perceptual filters of the bitchy, cliquey high school dynamics of the political Twitterverse it suddenly becomes an outrageous and unforgivable heresy.

And this works out so perfectly for the oligarchs who own and operate America. They’ve not only succeeded in dividing and conquering us by propagandizing us all into hating each other, they’ve convinced us to become the wardens of the very prison they built for us as well. As soon as you go anywhere near the fences the plutocratic propaganda machine erected between the various political factions, all the other prisoners begin screaming at you and dragging you in the other direction. It’s a truly brilliant design.

The human brain is the most complex matter in the known universe, and yet people are screaming at Chelsea Manning for not adhering to one side of the strict one-dimensional left vs. right line that’s been drawn for us. I don’t know why Manning’s been doing what she’s doing, but I can guarantee you it’s got something to do with the fact that our minds are far more complex and agile than the establishment-promoted political paradigm insists that we are.

In any case, we can’t keep doing this. We need to be able to interact with one another. That obviously doesn’t mean abandoning our own personal values and ideologies, it just means being a normal adult human being and interacting with people, agreeing where you agree and disagreeing where you disagree. These artificial electric fences which are slicing and separating our population are making it impossible to solve the real problems we face as a species, problems which are far more important than petty ideological differences.


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