The other day I watched “The Most Dangerous Man In America,” who, up until now, I always thought was Rambo. But no: apparently it was Daniel Ellsberg, probably America’s most famous whistle-blower. Apparently now it’s Bradley Manning, a 23-year-old private in the US army. There are some glaringly obvious connections between the two, beyond their action movie hero titles.
Both are responsible for bringing to light secret documents—allegedly in one case—that pissed off the government. Both were willing to be martyrs for their alleged causes. Both were labeled traitors; Ellsberg certainly was, and if the charges alleged against Manning are true, then so is he.
A traitor is someone who betrays his country by committing treason. By this definition, Ellsberg is a traitor, and Manning allegedly is. However, being a traitor isn’t neccesarily a bad thing. You just need the right spin. Instead of traitor, why don’t we call them rebels. Instead of terrorists, we’ll call them freedom fighters.
What’s really troubling, though, is that there is no direct connection between Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks.
The Ellsberg/Manning issues logically lead to whether the media’s primary obligdation—or even responsibility—is to the preservation of government secrets, or to the public’s right to know. However, this is mostly a pointless consideration, save for rare instances like Ellsberg or manning. Because of the knowledge/ignorance gap, whether or not the media is on the side of the public ceases to matter. An educated elite knows everything, and the commoners know nothing. It’s only in cases like Ellsberg and Manning where that becomes an important question.
So: what about in those cases? Well, considering that the knowledge/ignorance gap is a thing that exists it only makes sense that the media should work to enlighten the public. By doing the opposite they are propagating the divide between the educated elite and the ignorant. It is only through fear of the repurcussions that the media should even consider obeying the government. If Manning and Ellsberg can have the courage to defy giants, why can’t the media?