Chelsea Manning and Harvard

by Henry on September 18, 2017

It occurs to me that it may be worth spelling out more explicitly the logic of why I think the Harvard Kennedy School has gotten itself into trouble. So here goes. The Harvard Kennedy School Dean, Doug Elmendorf’s statement is here. The key sentences, as I read them:

Some visitors to the Kennedy School are invited for just a few hours to give a talk in the School’s Forum or in one of our lecture halls or seminar rooms; other visitors stay for a full day, a few days, a semester, or longer. Among the visitors who stay more than a few hours, some are designated as “Visiting Fellows,” “Resident Fellows,” “Nonresident Fellows,” and the like. At any point in time, the Kennedy School has hundreds of Fellows playing many different roles at the School. In general across the School, we do not view the title of “Fellow” as conveying a special honor; rather, it is a way to describe some people who spend more than a few hours at the School.

… I see more clearly now that many people view a Visiting Fellow title as an honorific, so we should weigh that consideration when offering invitations. In particular, I think we should weigh, for each potential visitor, what members of the Kennedy School community could learn from that person’s visit against the extent to which that person’s conduct fulfills the values of public service to which we aspire. This balance is not always easy to determine, and reasonable people can disagree about where to strike the balance for specific people. Any determination should start with the presumption that more speech is better than less. In retrospect, though, I think my assessment of that balance for Chelsea Manning was wrong. Therefore, we are withdrawing the invitation to her to serve as a Visiting Fellow—and the perceived honor that it implies to some people—while maintaining the invitation for her to spend a day at the Kennedy School and speak in the Forum.

I can see the administrative logic which got Elmendorf to this position, but it seems to me to lead to a place that is unsustainable.

The way that the Kennedy School used to think about fellowships, as Elmendorf describes it – which I think is the only sustainable way for it to think about them – is as no more and no less than a way to facilitate debate and conversation. This is one of the things that universities are supposed to do – bring a diverse group of people into debate, reflecting a broad set of constituencies. That Chelsea Manning is anathema to other fellows like Morell should be neither here or there – the job of the university is to provide opportunities for both people like Manning and people like Morell to participate in public debate, without necessarily feeling the need to pronounce on the merits of either. When someone like Morell grandly announces that he is not going to be a fellow (at a different part of the Kennedy School, reflecting a very different constituency, with a different understanding of public service), then he has flatly misunderstood what a fellowship is supposed to be, and his views ought be disregarded, as should Pompeo’s. Under this logic, the granting of fellowships should be a pretty decentralized process, in order to allow a very broad set of constituencies to each appoint fellows according to their specific notion of the public good. This approach too implies edge cases – but the bias towards allowing faculty to invite whoever in their judgment contributes to debate is built into the system.

Now to Elmendorf’s proposal that the contribution to debate be balanced against some sense of “the extent to which that person’s conduct fulfills the values of public service to which we aspire,” since other people consider fellowships to be an honor. The problem is that this means that the Kennedy School weighing in on a set of heated debates over the role of the US government in a quite pointed way. The Kennedy School is now apparently saying that it is OK if former intelligence people like Morell, who have advocated for torture are fellows. Their “values of public service” pass whatever invisible bar it is that they are supposed to pass. However, it is apparently not OK for a leaker like Chelsea Manning to be considered for this honor.

One could sustain an argument for both Morell and Manning being fellows under the previous broad standard of facilitating public and academic debate. Perhaps one could sustain an argument for giving a fellowship to neither Morell nor Manning, if one wanted to see a Kennedy School fellowship as providing an honor for those who have lived up to a very exacting and specific standard. But to have a standard of public service that discriminates in the way that the new approach does, so that it apparently includes Morell, Corey Lewandowski and others, while retroactively and specifically being defined to exclude Manning? That seems to me to be indefensible except under an entirely cynical reading – the “values of public service” that the Kennedy School aspires to are a euphemism for “you’re good to go if you don’t do anything that you can’t get away with and still remain part of America’s governing class.” I don’t imagine that this is what Elmendorf wants – but it’s hard to see how a standard of values of public service that includes thugs like Lewandowski and leakers like Petraeus can be interpreted differently. I also imagine (without having any direct information whatsoever) that the implications of a “the Dean knows it when he sees it” standard for faculty governance are being hotly debated within the Kennedy School right now.

None of this was a problem under the previous approach – which saw fellows as contributors to debate rather than people being honored. It is a problem now. And that’s why I’m taking the position that I am taking.

{ 69 comments }

1

Sumana Harihareswara 09.18.17 at 1:42 pm

YES. THIS. Thank you for articulating this!

Accidentally or suddenly changing the criteria regarding who is allowed to have a certain platform is always going to be messy at best and often discriminatory.

2

Eoin 09.18.17 at 1:54 pm

I think the main argument is about encouraging whistleblowers, or specifically the way in which Manning leaked information. Advocating for the usage of drone strikes (as Morell has done) is an issue on which intelligent people can disagree, leaking classified information, and not bothering to exercise the necessary discretion to avoid killing American soldiers does not seem to me an area for reasonable disagreement.

I am not saying this argument is ironclad or irrefutable, and I certainly recognise your argument, but this incentive argument needs to be addressed.

3

Faustusnotes 09.18.17 at 2:05 pm

I’m highly entertained by the pretense that they didn’t know bestowing fellowship status is a mark of honour. If it has no meaning, why bestow it? Other universities don’t bless visitors with this honour, so why do Harvard except to imply some honour? Saying you didn’t realize people took your fellowship so seriously when you obviously intended it to be taken seriously is obvious bullshit. Is there a term in the English language for a rhetorical manoeuvre that is simultaneously a dirty, sleazy, mealy-mouthed attempt to avoid public opprobrium while simultaneously humble-bragging? Because that’s what they’re doing.

I’ve never thought highly of Harvard, or any of the other over priced Ivy League schools. Good to see then confirming my suspicions. As rhetoric, this excuse isn’t even mediocre.

4

Socratic Me 09.18.17 at 2:37 pm

I am stunned that someone would argue that drone usage and (as the author notes) torture are places where reasonable people could disagree agree, but leaking (in the way Manning did) isn’t. If the standard is ‘reasonable people can disagree’, it seems Manning is firmly in that camp, likely more firmly than Pompeo and Morell are.

5

Eoin 09.18.17 at 3:32 pm

@Socratic Me

I think you are maybe misunderstanding what I mean by ‘area for reasonable disagreement’, my idea being ‘a person that I consider to be well informed, intelligent and sincere could/does hold this view’. Whether you personally consider the view outlandish is neither here nor there.

With torture and drone strikes, this is trivially true, you could very easily take the utilitarian position, and then argue they pass a cost/benefit test.

Whereas the Manning scenario is that you choose between two options, one that kills US soldiers, and one that does not, with the latter involving some (I doubt much) thoughtfulness and care. Unless you view killing US soliders as a good thing**, which I don’t think a reasonable person does, or are simply too lazy to exercise the necessary discretion to avoid doing so, which a reasonable person wouldn’t be, then the the former option cannot be justified.

**I don’t doubt some small number of “intelligent” people hold this view, it would be typical of the ‘more radical than thou’ attitude found in some circles, I just don’t think those people could be well informed or sincere in their view, as opposed to just appeasing an ingroup.

6

JRLRC 09.18.17 at 3:36 pm

It´s even clearer why you´re taking the position that you´re taking, and you are right.

7

zoli 09.18.17 at 5:02 pm

Aren’t fellows there to interact with students? So you invite the people who have some important inside knowledge on some issue related to governance. Chelsea Manning does have such knowledge.

Another problem with the shift in focus is that the K school already gave a fellowship to Hector Gramjo, This might have been a different kind of fellowship but I don’t see how that is relevant. I doubt this is the only war criminal who has been given a fellowship at the Kennedy School.

http://harvardwarcriminals.blogspot.com/2007/05/hector-gramajo.html

If the K school rescinds the invitation to Manning, I think they should (a) apologize for all past invitations to people that do not deserve honors and (b) set a policy such that all who study or teach at the K school in the future be held to the highest moral standard.

There’s an argument to be made that Chelsea Manning’s actions were intended to protect the innocent. They’ve already given fellowships, and actual honors, to people for whom no such argument can be made. Also, Manning suffered punishment for her actions. Criticisms of her are already on the table, so students can decide whether they accept or reject her choices. Other who received fellowships were not there under such transparent circumstances.

8

Bill Benzon 09.18.17 at 5:22 pm

I agree, Henry.

9

Cervantes 09.18.17 at 5:31 pm

Well, the actual, unstated criterion at work here is not Elmendorf’s judgment about what constitutes creditable public service, it’s his judgment about what the effect might be on potential donors. Let’s call it like it is here.

10

Sebastian H 09.18.17 at 6:11 pm

“This is one of the things that universities are supposed to do – bring a diverse group of people into debate, reflecting a broad set of constituencies. That Chelsea Manning is anathema to other fellows like Morell should be neither here or there – the job of the university is to provide opportunities for both people like Manning and people like Morell to participate in public debate, without necessarily feeling the need to pronounce on the merits of either. “

This is exactly correct for the type of discussions/debates/etc. that Manning was being invited to attend. It also answers the question of whether or not Charles Murray should be allowed to attend such things. I’m constantly annoyed by how many on the left think that weakening the norms of what universities are for to try to shut down Murray won’t hurt us far more.

The whole think is especially weird though, because there is some sort of bullshit status thing going on with Harvard that I just can’t grok. They didn’t disinvite Manning, just removed the title so far as I can tell. That much just makes me want to roll my eyes at how the elite play games.

11

Howard Frant 09.18.17 at 6:29 pm

I found this much more convincing than your previous post. The only problem is that the tone of your two posts is markedly different, and it’s not at all obvious from this post how you get from “Elmendorf made a bad decision” to having nothing to do with them for the foreseeable future.

12

Sandwichman 09.18.17 at 6:42 pm

“I don’t imagine that this is what Elmendorf wants.”

I imagine that this is exactly what Elmendorf wants.

13

Henry 09.18.17 at 6:59 pm

The only problem is that the tone of your two posts is markedly different, and it’s not at all obvious from this post how you get from “Elmendorf made a bad decision” to having nothing to do with them for the foreseeable future.

Because I don’t want to be associated in any way with an institution which, as I put it has “a standard of public service that discriminates … so that it apparently includes Morell, Corey Lewandowski and others, while being retroactively and specifically being defined to exclude Manning.”

14

Barry Ronneseth 09.18.17 at 8:14 pm

It’s very simple.
1 Chelsea betrayed the military- yes
2 the military betrayed Chelsea- yes
3 The military betrayed humanity- yes
4 Chelsea betrayed humanity- NO

15

Anarcissie 09.18.17 at 8:19 pm

Eoin 09.18.17 at 3:32 pm @ 5 —
It seems to me that a ‘well-informed, sincere’, rational argument could be concocted to support the theory that Afghan lives are just as important as American lives. I mean morally speaking. Taking such an argument seriously (what an idea! but nevertheless–) might entail certain very unpleasant risks. No?

16

Waiting for Godot 09.18.17 at 8:26 pm

I just have one question: “Why are we supposed to care or be educated by whatever Harvard says or does or has anything said or done or bestows anything on anyone?”

17

S_Ou_B 09.18.17 at 8:37 pm

@Eoin

Presumably the cost-benefit exercise at work is “how many fucking Arabs can I kill versus the cost of this missile”, which seems to be the position that well informed, intelligent and sincere people like Morell take, given their blase attitude towards the deaths of innocent people that get droned. Might be yours, too. In which case, you can take the grand total of people that were killed by Manning’s leaks–that is, zero, 0, nada, zip, none whatsoever–and count them as (imaginary) collateral damage as part of that cost-benefit exercise. Given the attitude that Morell and others–again, maybe also you–take towards collateral damage, they shouldn’t have any right to complain.

18

SusanC 09.18.17 at 9:11 pm

At the universities I’m familiar with, “visiting fellow” and similar titles basically just mean they trust you enough to be allowed inside the building without a chaperone. You typically wouldn’t bother for someone who is only visiting for a day, but you would for someone who is going to be around long enough that it would be annoying to have someone watching over them the entire time they’re there. It is not particularly an honour.

Declaring it to be a honor that requires that the institution approve of the person opens up a whole can of worms: along the lines that the students will protest whenever you want to invite to visit someone they don’t approve of.

Heck, even I’ve been a visiting fellow at some well-known institutions (though not Harvard).

19

Waiting for Godot 09.18.17 at 9:34 pm

Again I ask “Why do we care about what is going on at Harvard?” Seriously, we are living in a rolling fascist coup and at a time when every institution in this country is corrupted by the concentration of wealth resulting from 76 years of war and war economy, how does anything that institutional Harvard says or does have any real importance to our existence? Arguing the morality of Harvard in any context but particularly this one seems to me to be another exercise involving angels, pins and dancing.

20

Bruce Baugh 09.18.17 at 9:40 pm

Eoin, it is not clear to me that Manning’s leak got people killed. The Defense Department didn’t think she got American troops killed in 2011, at least. 2013 testimony produced the name of one Iraqi translator…who turned out not to be in the leak.

Civilian deaths in drone attacks, meanwhile, are in the hundreds to thousands. If reckless disregard for life is the criterion (and I’m not about to take “reckless disregard for life, but only if it’s American life” as a standard worth talking about), then Morell is way ahead in undeservingness even before we get to championing torture.

21

mrearl 09.18.17 at 9:45 pm

I’m a bit confused. Is there a thought among some commentors that Manning recklessly disregarded the possible consequences of her actions while Morrell thoughtfully weighed the consequences of his decisions and that correctly makes a material difference to Harvard? Or is it that Manning might have killed American soldiers while Morrell might have killed people opposed to American soldiers? Either way, in moral/ethical terms is such a difference really material?

22

kidneystones 09.18.17 at 9:54 pm

Thank you for this Henry, but unlike others I feel this is a far weaker statement than your earlier piece. There are three key problems with your piece.

1/ @3 highlights a fallacy that runs through all problems. “The way that the Kennedy School used to think about fellowships, as Elmendorf describes it – which I think is the only sustainable way for it to think about them – is as no more and no less than a way to facilitate debate and conversation.” (my italics) To suggest or imply that the there is only one way to think about a Harvard Visiting Fellow, and that this honorific is simply a term of reference places a severe burden of proof upon you, a burden you simply choose to set aside.

2/Morel and Manning are not simply advocates on two sides of a position. Morel is a career civil servant who, like it or not, executed policies sanctioned by the elected US government, policies I personally object to but which at the time were nonetheless legal. And if one takes the position that Morel should be prosecuted, he at least deserves a trial (yes?) to explore why he and not the 44th president and the former Democratic presidential nominee should not also be in the dock. Manning is not simply a leaker, but a convicted felon found guilty while wearing the uniform of the government she/be swore to serve.

3/ Your use of the term “a standard of public service that discriminates” seems to me far to vague. Wayne Rooney will be doing 100 hours of public service following his conviction from driving under the influence. Working in a soup kitchen might be public service. Manning’s crimes might be considered a public service, but that’s certainly a view that those who’ve actually served in government without being found guilty of violating the law might reasonably take exception with.

Broadly speaking I completely agree with your position. I question, frankly, your selective approach to free speech. I don’ recall you posting any/many similar posts on the need for diversity in debate when conservatives were being banned and dis-invited from campuses, although I’m quite willing to believe you have.

You speak and write with integrity on issues that matter. You’ve publicly supported people you disagree with in the past. Your argument here would be much, much more persuasive had you placed the Manning case alongside a defense of a conservative who liberals find equally deplorable.

Because it is about free speech and diversity, no matter what other issues clutter-up and confuse the debate.

23

William Berry 09.18.17 at 10:10 pm

What Barry, anarcissie, S_Ou_B said. And Henry, too, of course.

24

gaboor 09.18.17 at 10:26 pm

I agree

25

Yankee 09.19.17 at 12:40 am

It’s the Heckeler’s Veto isn’t it, and so wrong prior to discussion of content.

26

J-D 09.19.17 at 12:43 am

Eoin
I don’t understand what the evidence is supposed to be that Manning’s actions led to people being killed; and I don’t understand what the evidence is supposed to be of benefits from drone strikes that outweigh (or might arguably outweigh) the loss of life caused.

27

Quill 09.19.17 at 1:35 am

It is pretty hard to see how Visiting Fellow is not construed as some form of honor. That being said, if that isn’t intended it would be easy enough to eliminate the Fellow Designation across the board, to more accurately convey that no honor is intended.

You can conclude that Manning, because she is a convicted criminal, does not, as a result, have a valid perspective to offer the students and other members of the academic community at the Kennedy School. This is a defensible position, but it is unlikely that the Kennedy School really believes that the criminal law is a good criterion for this.

As a result, if you want to argue that this is legitimate, I think you are left with the argument that the indiscriminate nature of Manning’s actions are what renders her perspective invalid or that her actions specifically were unjustified and thus worthy of exclusion.

From the admittedly limited amount that I’ve heard from her, I’m not sure Manning has any real perspective to offer here, other than as a kind of object lesson.

28

Michael Remler 09.19.17 at 1:42 am

Has it ever occurred to you that working for the government of the United States, for example the CIA, incurs a different level of legitimacy that does subverting the laws of the United States ?

29

kidneystones 09.19.17 at 2:37 am

The CIA and George Washington University enjoy a close working relationship, which clearly suggests Henry is broadminded enough not to let that interfere with his own research/career. GWU competes to attract former CIA senior officials, just as the Kennedy School does. A simple search offers some interesting names.

Most elite universities work hard to recruit public servants of Mr. Morel’s stature, which makes it somewhat easier to understand the Kennedy School decision. My guess is that pretty much everyone would enjoy being able to place HKS Visiting Fellow on a CV. So, there’s that.

30

Donald Johnson 09.19.17 at 3:40 am

“Has it ever occurred to you that working for the government of the United States, for example the CIA, incurs a different level of legitimacy that does subverting the laws of the United States ?”

Has it ever occurred to you that loaded rhetorical questions don’t really prove very much? They are mainly useful in demonstrating the bias of the questioner. If I am reading the intent of your snark correctly, you seem to think that torture is okay if it is a government policy, but leaking about torture is illegitimate because it is against the law.

31

J-D 09.19.17 at 3:51 am

Michael Remler

Has it ever occurred to you that working for the government of the United States, for example the CIA, incurs a different level of legitimacy that does subverting the laws of the United States ?

No. I don’t understand how you arrived at that conclusion.

32

TM 09.19.17 at 7:30 am

“working for the government of the United States, for example the CIA, incurs a different level of legitimacy that does subverting the laws of the United States ?”

What if your work for the government consists in subverting the law (US or international law or both)? Heck these moral philosophy exercises can get complicated.

33

relstprof 09.19.17 at 7:41 am

I think Harvard has shamed itself by rescinding Manning’s invitation.

But this argument by Henry seems to be presented entirely in the register of a utilitarian argument. What does it mean to value “honor” or “debate” in an open society? We’re left debating utility in limited contexts. Thus we get Eoin making a utilitarian argument about body counts (unsubstantiated, as we see in the comments push-back).

Chelsea Manning’s trans identity has something to do with it, I think. What’s the implication of this? For her, and those of us listening to her?

There’s a dimension of human dignity as human being for human being here that I think is being missed.

34

Chris Bertram 09.19.17 at 7:54 am

Has it ever occurred to you that working for the government of the United States, for example the CIA, incurs a different level of legitimacy that does subverting the laws of the United States ?

Well of course actions that conform with the law are always more legally legitimate than ones that break it. But we have to assume that this tautologous point is not the one being made here.

It has never occurred to me that the bombing of Cambodia and Laos by those working for the US government was more “legitimate” than Ellsberg leaking the Pentagon Papers that exposed this. For example.

35

Nia Psaka 09.19.17 at 9:27 am

Apologies for the language, but–

Why can’t it be as simple as Manning being seen as a “ridiculous little queer,” or however one puts that in a polite Cambridge register?

This tiny, midgetlike he-she?! Transgender?! Blonde, of all things! Is this Iceland? Surely a proud, American institution like the Harvard Kennedy School wants its “fellows” to be tall, dark, and manly fellows, at least four times Manning’s body mass.

Bradley Manning, quirky, tiny, underprivileged Okie, angry enough at the power structure to lash out given a chance, would be horrifying enough to the macho (yet bootlicking) culture of the power elite. Chelsea Manning, then, could be an abomination and a nightmare to such men, an affront to all (and I do mean all) they hold sacred. To defy what they think of as America, and to defy even virility itself, is to be the un-patriot and un-man, lower than Satan, to one who bleeds red, white, and blue.

I mean, I guess. I don’t know. We could use a Tom Wolfe to write cuttingly about Cambridge, Mass., though.

36

Nia Psaka 09.19.17 at 9:45 am

After reading up on this a wee bit, I want to challenge my own assumptions.

I think I assumed Manning’s background was more impoverished than it actually was.

And, honestly, I’m not sure what the Kennedy School was trying to do with this fellowship. Apparently they saw inviting her as about “LGBTQ identity in the military,” not about whistleblowing? Really? What did they think she was in confinement for?

37

Anarcissie 09.19.17 at 2:59 pm

Waiting for Godot 09.18.17 at 9:34 pm @ 19, 16:
It’s something to do while ‘waiting for the van to come’. Once in the van, it is true, these delicate distinctions won’t matter much. But maybe it’ll take a wrong turn or something? Meanwhile, have another cup of tea, and let’s chat wittily onward. It’s not like you can do anything about it.

38

patiniowa 09.19.17 at 4:44 pm

kidneystones @ 22

“Manning is not simply a leaker, but a convicted felon found guilty while wearing the uniform of the government she/be swore to serve.”

Here’s the oath she swore:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”

I believe that it’s obvious that she adhered to the first clause of this oath. And the second. The third is what you’re focusing on, and I believe that it’s reasonable to be more interested in the first two than the third.

39

Andy Lowry 09.19.17 at 11:07 pm

Kidneystones thinks that torture was/is legal. This does not encourage me to give much credit to anything else that Kidneystones says, tbh.

… And while I’m at it: criminals are never worthy of being heard from? I gather, then, that David Petraeus should never be invited to speak at Harvard?

40

Belle Waring 09.20.17 at 12:10 am

Seconding Nia Psaka.

41

kidneystones 09.20.17 at 12:25 am

@38 That’s a very fair assessment. You’ll note that ignoring the third places one in some interesting company.

@39 Please attend to @38, but please feel free to ignore all of my future comments.

42

J-D 09.20.17 at 1:31 am

Andy Lowry

Kidneystones thinks that torture was/is legal. This does not encourage me to give much credit to anything else that Kidneystones says, tbh.

I haven’t been reading what kidneystones has been writing, but it’s true that there have been times and places where (some) torture has been legal; however, when torture is legal, it doesn’t mean that torture is all right, it means that the law is all wrong.

43

Orange Watch 09.20.17 at 2:58 am

patiniowa@38

The third is what you’re focusing on, and I believe that it’s reasonable to be more interested in the first two than the third.

The third clause is less purely problematic than you might think (though it’s still far and away the most problematic of the three for Manning), as regulations and UCMJ make distinctions between lawful and unlawful orders.

44

LFC 09.20.17 at 4:49 am

Nia Psaka @35

Surely a proud, American institution like the Harvard Kennedy School wants its “fellows” to be tall, dark, and manly fellows

While a cult of machismo was (or so some historians and others say) a feature of the JFK administration, this particular suggestion, while amusing, is rather out of date. Hence good to see Nia Psaka questioning her (I assume it’s “her”) own assumptions in the comment that follows that one.

45

Faustusnotes 09.20.17 at 9:50 am

Kidneystones has been a trenchant critic of Clinton and obama’s militarism over the past year, even going so far as to give this as one of his main reasons for supporting trump (along with having once been told by a black man that he was racist). His criticisms of those two h e been heavily dependent on the information that Chelsea manning leaked. Isn’t it interesting then to find that he thinks she’s a criminal beyond redemption? It’s almost as if he is just a bog-standard authoritarian looking for excuses to vote for an open fascist!

46

Raven 09.20.17 at 11:03 am

Andy Lowry @ 39: Odd that you made your response only to kidneystones @ 29, when you might as easily and even more aptly included Michael Remler @ 28, given the CVs of some former government employees….

47

Donald Johnson 09.20.17 at 3:59 pm

” It’s almost as if he is just a bog-standard authoritarian looking for excuses to vote for an open fascist!”

That seems like a reach. More likely he is a contrarian for the sake of being contrary, a not uncommon internet type.

48

Nia Psaka 09.20.17 at 6:20 pm

LFC @44

I admit to undercutting any sense of seriousness in my post by making jokes, such as about other, probably now archaic, connotations of “fellow.” But it the case that how one sees Manning, down to the pronouns one uses, is tied up in one’s perception of multiple subjects: whistleblowing, the US Army, doing one’s duty, and indeed manhood in more than one dimension.

Manning isn’t just a trans woman. As Bradley Manning, she was a scrawny gay man, and thus “less than” the macho ideal.

Similarly, she isn’t just a whistleblower. Manning had a difficult time in the army, and had a defiant, even arrogant, manner. Her behaviour, unlike Snowden’s or Ellsberg’s, can be seen as merely the lashing out of someone forced into an unsuited position by an abusive organisation.

It is very easy to sympathise with her and still think poorly of her choices; or to sympathise with her choices while finding her personally distasteful. It is no surprise that some Americans hold her every choice in contempt and despise her on multiple grounds, and that others tend to reflexively take her side for one or more reasons. There’s the case, there are the abstract principles one wants to argue about in the case, other abstract principles other people want to argue about instead, and then the elements of the case that bring out our biases.

I don’t know what particular kind of machismo has any meaning for the Dean of the Kennedy School. I think I can, however, guess at the character of the operating varieties of machismo and of “patriotism” in the mind of Director Pompeo or former Deputy Director Morell. The CIA, fairly or not, is notorious in all places & contexts.

49

F. Foundling 09.20.17 at 6:30 pm

@35
>Why can’t it be as simple as Manning being seen as a “ridiculous little queer,” or however one puts that in a polite Cambridge register?

@36
>Apparently they saw inviting her as about “LGBTQ identity in the military,” not about whistleblowing? Really? What did they think she was in confinement for?

36 is a good refutation of 35. Manning was imprisoned for whistleblowing about US imperial activities rather than for being ‘a ridiculous little queer’, and there is no reason to doubt that she was protested against and, accordingly, disinvited from Harvard for the same reason – just as, say, Edward Snowden or Julian Assange would have been. Attributing this to Manning’s queerness can only be perceived as the ‘simplest’ explanation from a perspective that is extremely narrowly focused on identity politics (which is, unfortunately, all too common in US discourse). In fact, as the ‘LGBTQ identity in the military’ topic shows, it wouldn’t be very exaggerated to say that not only was Manning not disinvited for being queer, but she was actually *invited* for being queer, and then, upon consideration, disinvited for being a whistleblower.

On a related note, everyone keeps saying how the CIA helped kill Che Guevara because he was fighting against the capitalist order, against US imperial policy and all that boring stuff, but that sounds like so many straight white men’s excuses to me. Am I the only one seeing the elephant in the room, folks? He was a *Latino*.

50

TM 09.20.17 at 7:06 pm

Masha Gessen:

Three Tales of Moral Corrosion

Let’s linger on this for a second: the head of the nation’s spy agency has pressured the country’s most prestigious private university into reversing an academic appointment.
http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2017/09/18/three-tales-of-moral-corrosion/

51

tompaine 09.20.17 at 7:28 pm

When has Kennedy School been anything butfirst responder to outside pressure from one side in governance debates generally, and external influence that reflects the interests not of the country or the public but of the deep state, if you will, and its attendant careerists and private contractors?

Henry, from prior post*:
But when the Kennedy School rescinds an invitation – as it just has – because of pressure from one side in the debate . . .”

*Why I’m having nothing to do with

52

kidneystones 09.20.17 at 9:59 pm

@45 Well, I’ve yet to call for you or anyone else on this site to banned, or shunned, so there’s that. Yes, my critiques of Democrats have been as sharp as a former lifelong supporter can be. The Democrats support for the Iraq debacle (which my own country Canada managed to avoid) put me very much on the edge.

My antipathy towards Obama and his proxies began when I still an open supporter of first Edwards, and then Hillary. I was far from alone in being called a racist. The Obama campaign drew a yellow line separating voters into two groups: Obama supporters and non-supporters. Then people like argued that if one does not support Obama the most likely explanation may be that this individual is a closet racist. Sound familiar?

I was frankly astonished to find myself among the millions of folks not enthused by Smoke and Mirrors bundled into the ‘probably racist’ category. The militarism of the Obama administration and of Hillary in particular, the banker bailout, coupled with the continued attacks on dissent as ‘racism’ destroyed any illusions I had about what the Democrat elite represented. The inefficacy of their efforts to improve education among minorities, as well as their love of low-priced undocumented labor didn’t help.

So, yes, Manning is an ally, of sorts, for outing the transgressions of the Obama administration. Which is why I’m happy to have Manning out of prison, and free to decline to speak at HKS. Unlike you and few others here, I don’t believe that speech is a threat, especially at universities. You and I are very, very different in this respect and many others perhaps.

Like Manning, I served, which allows me some perspective on the range of opinions people may hold regarding his near-treasonous actions. Manning got a kiss and is out. I glad. Whether Manning speaks at HKS is his/her choice. The only people calling for banning people from speaking at universities and elsewhere (CT) are people like you.

53

patiniowa 09.20.17 at 10:45 pm

Orange Watch @ 43

I think you’re right. It occurred to me immediately after I pushed the “Submit” button.

54

faustusnotes 09.21.17 at 1:44 pm

Further proof of the reason I usually avoid reading anything by Kidneystones. In case you haven’t noticed, kidneystones, a whole bunch of people are calling for Manning to be banned from speaking at universities. Why are you so continually immune to any facts that disagree with your bigoted worldview?

55

LFC 09.21.17 at 3:02 pm

N Psaka @48

how one sees Manning, down to the pronouns one uses, is tied up in one’s perception of multiple subjects

probably, yes.

Manning isn’t just a trans woman. As Bradley Manning, she was a scrawny gay man, and thus “less than” the macho ideal.

I wouldn’t presume to speculate on what she was as Bradley Manning unless she has spoken or written publicly about this — which may be the case, but I don’t happen to be aware of it.

On another point, I wonder how many people even remember the contents of the documents Manning leaked (a lot of it, not all to be sure, was boring diplomatic cable traffic, as I recall, though I cd be mixing up her case w Snowden or another) and her stated reasons for doing so. People in the mil and intel agencies remember, as well as people deeply interested in these issues, but I wonder whether the average consumer of news does. The 24-hour news cycle and info overload mean that events that are not that old become relegated to the category of half-remembered rather quickly for many people, I’d guess. Which is unfortunate, but just the way things often tend to be.

56

William Berry 09.21.17 at 6:22 pm

@nia psaka: You are right about everything so, obviously, I completely agree with you!

@kidneystones: It is true that, as a candidate, Obama expressed support for the EESA, but it was passed by a Republican legislature and signed into law by GWB somewhat before the general election.

57

William Berry 09.21.17 at 6:33 pm

Further, to my last: A lot of people of various ideological persuasions, myself included, felt that the EESA was necessary in order to avoid further economic distress, including, and especially to, the most vulnerable people. But we (those on the left who felt the EESA was necessary) also hoped, perhaps dared to believe, that (a.) the fraudulent banksters would be prosecuted, and would actually serve time in prison for their crimes, and that (b.) the economic stimulus package would be fifty per-cent larger to twice as large as it actually was. That this didn’t happen was, indeed, a failure of Obama and the new Congress.

58

patiniowa 09.21.17 at 6:37 pm

kidneystones @ 52

I responded to something you wrote. As far as I’m concerned I got a respectful answer. Your further elaboration of that answer gives me much to think about, which is what I come to these threads to find.

That’s the dataset I’m working from.

Peace.

59

b9n10nt 09.22.17 at 5:39 am

It’s good to see this thread remind us of how wide spread the institutional decay of the US is. Harvard’s chasing a master (for whom else would one sacrifice an opportunity for Moral Acclaim?), the master is left with Trump as his spokesperson, the Papers are chaising their own tales, and the Democrats -the one reasonable shot at introducing peaceful reform into the system- are somehow* consistently anathema to the voters who matter.

It’s a riot. Hah!

Wait, no!

It’s an opportunity…

60

b9n10nt 09.22.17 at 5:43 am

*actually it’s quite simple. The professional Dems are wealthy and it’d be kind of embarrassing for them to work for real people in their immediate social milieu. And the voters can smell the Cowardice.

61

TM 09.22.17 at 7:14 am

kidneystones (other thread): “Manning belongs in prison”
kidneystones: “I’m happy to have Manning out of prison”

Taking anything kidneystones writes at face value is a risk not worth taking.

@Henry I’m wondering why my comment on the other thread is in moderation?

62

engels 09.22.17 at 10:14 am

63

kidneystones 09.22.17 at 1:47 pm

@57 Cheers.

As there’s a lull in comment processing, I’ll post this link on the consequences of open asylum immigration in Germany. Three guesses which party looks to break the 5 percent threshold and send 60 odd (yes, in every sense) MPs to the lower house. The SDP may end up only single digits ahead.

https://www.afp.com/en/news/826/merkel-takes-hard-right-final-german-vote-push

64

Layman 09.22.17 at 2:06 pm

patiniowa: “I believe that it’s obvious that she adhered to the first clause of this oath. And the second. The third is what you’re focusing on, and I believe that it’s reasonable to be more interested in the first two than the third.”

In fact, Manning was obligated to pay more attention the the first clause, as the UCMJ makes it a crime to follow unlawful orders. I recall the multiple classes I attended at the NCO Academies in the early eighties which were largely devoted to the question. Hell, I was told it was a crime to take a prisoner’s boots away when you needed them to be able to walk somewhere. How can it not be a crime to strip them nude, bind them, and penetrate their anus with a ‘feeding tube’? Maybe the effect of the lessons of Vietnam faded from the collective consciousness of the military; or maybe they were driven out by post 9-11 jingoism. But in either case, I guess they don’t teach that class anymore.

65

TM 09.22.17 at 9:02 pm

Th Grmn lctn s rthr dd hrs t bt, n ddtn t bng cmpltly ff-tpc. nd th lnk pstd by kdny dss dsn’t spk bt mmgrtn t ll. s sd @60. ngh sd, n mr fdng.

66

Collin Street 09.22.17 at 9:42 pm

That seems like a reach. More likely he is a contrarian for the sake of being contrary, a not uncommon internet type.

See, to be a “contrarian” requires a fundamental lack of respect for others and a fundamental conviction that your own amusement is of greater value than the time and effort of others. You’re saying things… fundamentally to distress people, no? And then laughing about it. It’s fundamentally selfish, and has to come from a place where the experiences of others are not as genuine or as valuable as your own. IOW, “contrarian” necessarily implies “empathy deficit”. You can call it “self-centred arsehole” if you prefer, but from my perspective the medical framing both removes culpability from the afflicted and offers the prospect of solutions.

So… “contrarianism” is a pretty severe accusation, there’s no “just” about it.

[I was originally trying to argue that to be a contrarian you have to be such an arsehole that you have to be essentially a nazi as well; I haven’t succeeded in this, I can’t build the deductive link I’d need, but the induction is worth looking at.]

67

kidneystones 09.22.17 at 11:43 pm

@ 60 If selective editing is your thing, I give you TM. Here’s the damning!! paragraph.

I’m pleased Manning is invited to speak at HKS, her/his decision to deny the students the opportunity of discussion confirms something. For my money the entire argument over an honorific reeks and reminds me how trivial silly ‘academic’ priorities often are. Manning belongs in prison if the laws are applied equally and fairly. She/he is only free to choose not to speak at HKS, because an exception to a general rule was made

That’s the complete passage and the context – whether HKS has an obligation to treat all guests according to one set of metrics which must always be applied in all cases.

Harvard Kennedy School by Henry on September 15, 2017
@ 55
kidneystones 09.20.17 at 12:39 am

68

kidneystones 09.22.17 at 11:51 pm

Henry, I’m posting this separately and feel free (as you always do) to delete. As you know I have no difficulty with the adhoms, the profanity, and the misquotes, but surely attacks on me, my motivations, hidden agenda, etc. make for tiresome reading. It seems as though a few feel that CT readers lack the skill to read for themselves. I very much doubt you believe me to be a closet racist, or authoritarian, or to engage in dishonest smears of the like that used to be commonplace, but are now thankfully much more infrequent. I say thankfully not because they have much bite, but because they derail threads and add so little, imho, to any discussion, except to demonstrate on occasion, as they do here, that tribalism is alive and well pretty much everywhere. I abide both the letter and the intent of the comments policy here which really has compelled me to focus on issues, rather than individuals.

Perhaps others might benefit in the same way if given the opportunity.

69

Raven 09.23.17 at 9:03 pm

Sadly in support of #68, I quote verbatim site comments policy — “If your comments are blatantly racist, sexist or homophobic we will delete them and ban you from the site. The same goes for comments which are personally defamatory or insulting or which seek to derail a thread through provocation of one kind or another.” — and note that such comments (TM’s “kidney disease” in #65 being only the latest) nevertheless passed through editing to be posted above.

Which is to say, those commenters have at least one silent partner in their breaches of policy.

And this has become less of a “safe discussion” community as a result.

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