Chelsea Manning is not a PsyOp

Lately in certain twitter circles (certain obnoxious Marxist-Leninists who shall not be named), there has been a slanderous rumor and myth that Chelsea Manning is “active duty” and therefore “prohibited from political activities”. Because of this, Marxist-Leninists have begun to speculate that Chelsea Manning must be tweeting as the federal government orders her to; after all, she’s not supposed to talk about politics!

Today, I will clear up misconceptions relating to the Department of Defense regulations, as well as explain Chelsea Manning’s so-called “active duty status”. I will elaborate on the absurdity of claims that Manning is a government spy, and show how Marxist-Leninist paranoia continues to drain and exhaust the left.

First, let us discuss what exactly aroused these suspicions. Chelsea Manning has been accused of “anti-Communism” and “pro-imperialism” due to her service in the US military, as well as certain “questionable” tweets made by her since her release.

In regards to her military service, I will address this very briefly. With the military, I have always taken the stance of “hate the generals, sympathize with the troops”. People enlist for a wide variety of reasons; buying into propaganda, access to medical care, access to an education, etc. Manning’s reasons for enlisting are known only to her, but regardless of those reasons, the fact she leaked classified US information detailing war crimes is all the evidence I need to confidently say that Manning is no “imperialist”. It’s clear that, regardless of her original thoughts, she stands in opposition to the US military-industrial complex now, and that’s all I care about — the present.

Now, as for anti-Communism. I believe it’s impossible to say whether or not Manning is a Communist, but she is most certainly on the left-leaning side of the spectrum; likely more inclined to libertarian and anarchist leanings. However, even if she isn’t a communist, that doesn’t necessarily make her anti-Communist either; plenty of social democrats and democratic socialists have been radicalized in the past (myself among them). So, let’s look at the objectionable tweet in question:

Marxist-Leninists are saying that equivocating the NKVD and Stasi to the Gestapo is anti-communist and proof that she is a FBI/CIA plant to subvert the left. First, the obvious. If she were an American government plant, why would she be comparing the ICE (an American enforcement agency) to the Gestapo as well? Wouldn’t that be counter-intuitive to the whole “subvert the left and build support for US imperialism” scheme?

Secondly, Chelsea Manning was in prison for nearly seven years. Imprisoned in solitary confinement for much of it, locked away by the military in a hole with hardly any contact to her lawyers and the outside world. This was, in every sense of the word, a black site; a hole for Manning to be dropped in and forgotten.

It’s reasonable to say that Manning has a valid reason to be distrustful of secret police — regardless of whether or not they are “communist”. Regardless of your opinions on the Soviet Union and the German Democratic Republic, the NKVD and Stasi were both secret police organizations — there’s absolutely no way around this. It doesn’t matter if they fought to “defend the revolution” or not; secret police are secret police and they did, in fact, fulfill a similar role to the Gestapo. As does the ICE and FBI in the United States. Comparing them on those grounds really isn’t all that unreasonable — and it’s clear that’s precisely what Manning was doing.

Now, to address concerns regarding her status as active duty. According to the military, Chelsea Manning is technically still considered “active duty”. Due to the fact she was court martialed, she is ineligible to receive veteran benefits and healthcare. Naturally, Manning decided to appeal this, as is her right. However, in order to appeal a court martial and continue to receive medical benefits in the meantime, she has to be listed as “active duty”, on excess leave. Although this means she has access to medical care and commissary goods, she is not getting paid. Members of the armed forces on excess leave do not receive pay or, at the very least, Manning is not.

At first glance, her being “active duty” might raise some red flags, but anyone who gives more than a surface reading will realize it doesn’t really mean much of anything. She is not getting paid, so she has no reason to do the government’s dirty work, she is considered on leave and therefore not receiving any orders, and this status will end once her court martial appeal is over and done with (regardless of outcome).

But wait, you might say, if she’s active duty then she shouldn’t be allowed to politically agitate unless the government let her! Why would the government allow someone to spread anti-capitalist propaganda unless she was a plant?

Once again, this is a misunderstanding on the part of the Marxist-Leninists, who style themselves as experts on espionage without having any understanding of it.

Active members of the armed service and government employees are banned from partisan politics. This means that they cannot advocate for any one political candidate, nor can they support any political party explicitly. However, it’s important to note that partisan is the operative word. If one reads through Manning’s tweets, one would notice fairly quickly that never once does she campaign for any one political party, instead providing broad concepts and ideas.

Specifically, the DOD defines partisan politics as: “activity supporting or relating to candidates representing, or issues specifically identified with, national or State political parties and associated or ancillary organizations.”

Manning is obviously not guilty of this, and is therefore allowed to tweet about politics as much as she desires, your limited understanding of the military notwithstanding.

Finally, I’d like to touch upon security culture and why paranoia is actively detrimental to it. For reference, here’s a really good guide on security culture from CrimethInc.:

Manning was in prison for a long time, and was released by Obama for unclear reasons — ostensibly, out of mercy, or perhaps because he finally caved to public pressure. Either way, there is some reason to be suspicious, just not to the same degree and in the same way Marxist-Leninists would have us go about it.

Manning is, most certainly, under surveillance. Because of this, it is healthy to exclude her from confidential information and to keep her away from organizing (at least for the time being). However, this is not the same thing as being paranoid and blindly throwing about harmful and slanderous accusations.

Essentially, whether Manning is a plant or not doesn’t really matter if we practice good security culture. Her message is ultimately a positive one, and one I feel has pulled Social Democrats leftward. To dismiss that is slanderous and wrong, but that doesn’t mean we can’t exercise healthy caution. So long as we keep Manning a public figure and away from vital, confidential information, we should be safe and there should be absolutely no reason to doubt her message.

Within politics, both left and right, women are scrutinized to a degree that men are not; trans woman are doubly scrutinized. We make mistakes, just like men do, but when we make them, we are not given an opportunity to apologize or make up for it. We are automatically labeled as problematic, as fascists or as anti-Communists for minute errors. Even if you disagree with Manning’s NKVD take (I don’t), it’s an extremely minor error; something so minuscule in the grand scheme of things that it might as well be meaningless.

So please, stop doubting the stories of transwomen. Stop holding us to unreasonable standards you’d never imagine of holding yourself to. By all means, practice caution with Manning, but do not slander and destroy one of the few left-wing trans icons we have in a scene flooded by cis men.

And remember, #WeGotThis.