For years now, actress/activist Sophia Bush has been a major champion of the LGBT community. Need proof? Just look at her official Twitter account. When she’s not sparring with opponents of gay marriage or gay rights in general, she’s voicing her full-throated support for LGBT victims of crime & injustice and celebrating many moments of triumph they achieve on the long road to full equality. When she lectures people about being on the right side of history, in this case, she’s right.
So, why hasn’t she said a word about Bradley Manning? The former American army analyst was officially sentenced today to 35 years in prison for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents (plus a video) to WikiLeaks, the adversarial website dedicated to holding global governments accountable since much of the media can’t be bothered. The heroic whistleblower’s tragic farce of a court-martial (he also loses all future pay & benefits and is now dishonourably discharged from the military) got scant coverage on cable news channels and not nearly enough in mainstream newspapers (although journalists like Alexa O’Brien, Kevin Gozstola and the Freedom Of The Press Foundation relentlessly documented the proceedings online).
Manning was deeply troubled by what he experienced in Iraq, particularly the lack of concern for civilians harmed and killed by the American military. When he tried to speak up about it to his superiors and fellow soldiers, no one cared. Before he made his decision to leak to WikiLeaks, he initially tried getting The New York Times and The Washington Post to listen. They didn’t care, either.
And, judging by her complete silence on the matter, neither does Sophia Bush. Which is odd because Manning is gay/transgendered. You would think that fact alone would warrant Ms. Bush’s interest. You would be wrong. You would also think that because Manning was psychologically tortured for much of the first year he spent in custody (which only stopped because of a public outcry), this blatant violation of the Eighth Amendment would also inspire some kind of a public comment from her. Again, you would be wrong.
So why the lack of outrage? Only Ms. Bush knows for sure but my guess would be that defending Manning would strongly conflict with her undying love and support for her hero, the “unicorn” President Obama. (In this recent interview, she says she’s worked with him and the First Lady “on a few [unspecified] things.” I bet none of them involved transparency.) Despite claiming that she’s been disappointed with his first term (she put most of the blame on Republican obstructionism, however, as if he has no other way to work around that) and even admitting to me on Twitter that he isn’t perfect (so harsh), when has she ever uttered a single, substantial criticism about the 44th President of The United States? Has there ever been a peep of protest about drones, Gitmo, the drug war, secret mass surveillance, the war on whistleblowers, the war on the press, his plan to drill in the melting Arctic and the dirty wars being fought far away from Congressional oversight in numerous countries in Africa and The Middle East? If there is, I’ve haven’t seen it, read it or heard it.
But back to my point. For all the kindness and warmth she freely shows for the LGBT community generally, where is the kindness and warmth for Bradley Manning specifically? Is it because he exposed the lies of this administration (and the previous one), not to mention countless war crimes, that she is indifferent to his cause? Is stubbornly supporting a disappointingly heartless, gutless, lying Obama preferable to her than the humble, courageous decency and honesty of Manning? Put simply, is a man who exposes war crimes less worthy of support than a man who commits them and covers them up?
Also curious is her lack of comment on Glenn Greenwald, the openly gay journalist who has led the way in reporting the shocking secrets of the American surveillance state, a subject he’s been writing about for years. Earlier this week, Greenwald’s husband, Brazilian David Miranda, who often assists him in his work, was on his way back home from a trip to Germany to visit filmmaker Laura Poitras, a fellow collaborator on the NSA beat, when he made a pit stop in Britain. (He was in Berlin to retrieve materials for The Guardian journalist.) Unfortunately, he was flagged and not allowed to board his connecting flight. Then, he was grilled by the Heathrow Airport police for nearly nine hours about his association with Greenwald and the NSA stories he’s been writing. He also had all his electronics confiscated and had to give up passwords or be thrown in jail.
How were they able to do this? Easy. Through a section of The 2000 British Terrorism Act, a supremely broad law which allows them to detain and question “suspicious” passengers who have very little due process rights. Anyway, after Greenwald wrote about it on The Guardian website, it has become a major worldwide scandal, most notably in Britain where a injunction has been filed on Miranda’s behalf to retrieve the confiscated items and prevent any public official from retrieving the data contained within (which probably can’t happen away because much of it is encrypted). As the world hopes to get answers from David Cameron’s increasingly authoritarian government on the embarrassing episode, there’s also a growing British political movement to re-examine the BTA.
But does Sophia Bush say a word about any of this? Does she show any concern for an innocent gay man detained and interrogated by the British authorities for reasons not at all to do with terrorism in order to send a sinister message to another innocent gay man, a respected journalist highly critical of both the American and British federal governments? Keep dreaming. Honestly, is she not taken aback by the fact that the Obama administration was well aware of what was going on and apparently approved? Is that the kind of President you support, Ms. Bush? One who intimidates and persecutes whistleblowers & journalists (gay or straight) and their loved ones because they care about criminal actions committed by your hero’s administration and want justice for them? Then again, you defended Lance Armstrong up until last summer, so the answer must be yes.
You know what, carry on fighting the good fight against Vladimir Putin’s ruthless anti-gay campaign in Russia and keep defending gay marriage and the LGBT community in general. I wholeheartedly support you in doing all of that. But at the same time, maybe you should think about defending Bradley Manning, David Miranda and Glenn Greenwald, as well. Otherwise, you look awfully selective about which gay folks you stand by.
I mean, if Lady Gaga can voice her welcome concern for Manning, why can’t you?
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, August 22, 2013