Friday, January 26, 2018

Writing Neutral Headlines is Actually Impossible

You can tell I'm not a Twitter person because apparently this has been a thing happening and I had no idea until today. But I guess Chelsea Manning, who says she was acting as a spy, was spotted in some photos hanging out with alt-right fucks and everybody lost their minds, and now there's an article out about the whole thing.

Chelsea Manning on Her Alt-Right Partying: I Was a Spy, Not a Racist

The author appears to be skeptical of Manning's story that she was infiltrating alt-right crowds to try and feed info to anti-fascist groups. At least, it seems like it to me - I might be reading into some of the language. Manning herself has said that she understands that many of her followers and fellow trans people feel betrayed by the revelation that she has been associating with these evil people and appears to very much regret doing it. The author is also trans and has every right to her feelings.

I'm cis and white, and a considerable fan of Manning, and this all has an influence on my reaction and feelings around this story. My initial feeling is that Manning's story makes sense. The author says:

Manning’s decision-making process appears nonsensical to all but the most ardently engaged in the anti-fascist movement and the whole thing has an air of impulsiveness.

Just based on this article, I don't find it nonsensical at all, and I don't consider myself to be actively engaged in anti-fascist workings, though what the author means by that is perhaps different than what I think. I am definitely anti-fascist and write in support of anti-fascist activity. I am not in contact with any groups that actively engage in antifa tactics. I have never been part of a black bloc thing. So... I dunno.

But I myself have considered the possibility of using my white and cis privilege to infiltrate alt-right groups. My only disadvantage would be my gender if I could successfully hide my queerness. I have seriously considered going among the people of local white supremacist rallies to try and determine what the mood was and figure out their plans. Or even just to try and understand what the fuck is wrong with them, because I'm always trying to do that.

If given a real opportunity to infiltrate the alt-right, I might decide to go for it, and it might be on impulse. It might have to be, because as soon as I really think about what that might mean, I get scared.

I can completely understand an initial feeling of intense betrayal and hurt upon seeing photos of Manning with horrible alt-right fascists, smiling and even laughing, without knowing her intentions. But in just reading this article, I feel like I can believe Manning. I am a little bit cautious because I've been burned before. But at this point, nothing about her story sounds suspicious. Even her laughing face in the photo of her with that Gavin shithead I can understand. The number of times I've laughed when presented with an intensely uncomfortable or even threatening situation, I mean. It's a very common reaction, nervous laughter. I wish I didn't react like that, but my lower brain functions take over.

Maybe I'm giving Manning a lot of rope here. Again, I have an amount of privilege that shields me from the hurt I'm sure a lot of people experienced over hearing this. Manning understands and has expressed regret over the whole thing.

“People have every right to be confused and hurt by this,” Manning said. “Regardless of good intentions, I leveraged my privilege to gain access to spaces others couldn’t dream of entering safely. I never meant to hurt my supporters. No amount of information on the alt-right is worth losing the trust of my supporters.”

Maybe she's right. Though I feel like leveraging your privilege for the ultimate benefit of the oppressed is generally a good thing, maybe this wasn't appropriate for a public hero like Manning. Maybe it would have been better for her to stay... more pure? Not sure if that's the right word. I'm not even sure if any information on the alt-right is ultimately helpful, because they don't even seem to know what the fuck they're doing. But it is interesting to learn that she thinks many of them don't actually believe in their own rhetoric and are just opportunists. Which doesn't make them any better. Just a different kind of awful and soulless.

There's a lot to consider here and I'm sure more opinion pieces will come out on the entire thing. I just hope transphobes don't lean on this too much to attacking Manning for being a trans woman, but they almost certainly will.

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