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Bradley Manning and the Drama of Instant Messaging

By Alyssa Rosenberg on January 2, 2012 at 2:51 pm

"Bradley Manning and the Drama of Instant Messaging"

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My main opinion of Bradley Manning is that it sounds like he has pretty serious emotional problems and turned out not to be a particularly effective whistleblower, the former probably having quite a bit to do with the latter. And while there almost certainly will be a live-action movie about WikiLeaks and Manning’s relationship with the organization, and with Adrian Lamo, who busted him, I’m actually much more intrigued by this short animated film, Bradley Manning Had Secrets (go to the site to watch it), by filmmaker Adam Butcher.

The dialogue will be familiar to anyone who’s followed the story at all, it’s drawn directly from Manning and Lamo’s chat logs. But it’s amazing how much it adds to see those words in motion, transmogrifying into a pile of supply boxes, an image of Manning in women’s clothes, and to hear them spoken, full of stress and wistfulness. I’d be curious to know if anyone’s studying text-based communication, like texting and instant messages, to see if we’re either misunderstanding each other more without tone of voice and facial expressions, or if we’re sharpening our skills of interpretation to catch nuance and tone in the written word. Because of who each man was, and because of Lamo’s decision to string Manning along, Manning and Lamo’s conversations seemed designed to allow for significant misinterpretation of both the specifics of what the other was saying, and what the conversations meant to the person on the receiving end of the messages. But even without stakes that high, the way we talk to each other can get fraught without us even knowing it.

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