Recently, new photographs were released -- incriminating ones -- of an American public figure who has entered into the American imagination as a figure of supreme infamy. No, it was not another shot of Anthony Weiner's junk. No, Britney Spears has not gone off her meds and experienced yet another relapse that involved a paparazzi snapshot at a peculiar angle. Neither was it footage of former Senator Larry Craig, employing an unusually wide stance in the men's bathroom of an airport terminal... next to a police officer with an exceptionally attractive appendage. Rather, it was a black-and-white photograph of Bradley Manning -- the notorious Wikileaker -- in of all things most damning: a wig.
The timing of this could not be more opportune. Bradley Manning has been found guilty of leaking information to the public about the United State's government's activities. He is due for sentencing and, presumably, this classified photo, which has the imprimatur of client-doctor privilege has circulated in order to put some final nails in the coffin.
Let us put aside my disagreements with Bradley Manning's actions; I'm not entirely sure if I condone the private's actions; most certainly I would find it difficult to engage in such an action glibly. But as the child of a military man -- a man educated at one of this country's top institutions, a graduate institution that produced the likes of Eisenhower and Petraeus, Powell and Westmoreland -- I wonder what strategic rationale exists behind the deployment of photographic evidence that can only be understood to be, well, part of an...offensive?
My Dad always told me that Command and General Staff College -- his alma mater -- taught him to ask questions about how action represented moral character. I was always taught to maintain a high moral character, despite my failings, despite the fact that I often had to deal with bullies and all-around assholes that I could easily whip in a good old-fashioned fist fight. He kept his diploma in the foyer -- framed -- and it always embarrassed me that at the drop of a dime, he would regale me with the lessons that he learned at this elite institution.
So this begs an important question: what have we learned from this new action -- this new "evidence"?
Well, we've learned this much: we've learned that Bradley Manning looks fierce in a wig. We also learned that he turned to the military to find help for what he perceived to be a problem. But we've also learned things that are troubling about the United States government:
1) That private information is no longer considered sacred by the institution that, itself, is seeking to privilege private information.
2) That the United States military is probably not the best environment for young men and women seeking to work through issues of gender identification... despite a widespread publicity campaign that suggests otherwise.
3) That the attempt to make Bradley Manning stay naked in solitary confinement WITHOUT CLOTHES was probably a very special kind of torture... one that was performed quite intentionally.
4) That the United States government has many ways to leak and reveal information at its convenience.
So Bradley Manning is revealed to look fierce in a wig. Bully for him. My only quarrel with this young soldier is that he could have chosen a better one.