Manning tries to reinvent persona as neo-cyberpunk, fails

Classified information leaker, former military prisoner and social justice starlet Chelsea (nee Bradley) Manning is claiming to be rocking a “neo-cyberpunk look”- only it seems that she doesn’t quite understand what “cyberpunk” actually means.

“Another beautiful day in the park,” she wrote on Twitter and Instagram, posted up in a black dress and assault pack. “Trying out my neo-cyberpunk look – like a boss.”

Unfortunately for Manning, the idea of being a neo-cyberpunk hero is partially incorrect and highly subjective- not including the fact that her clothing choices were more Breakfast at Tiffany’s than Ghost In The Shell.

In layman’s terms, “Cyberpunk” is a subgenre of science fiction -frequently seen in video games, anime and live-action film- that represents a society that is dystopian in nature despite incredible technological advances, where information and cybernetics are mashed with a radical breakdown in social order and quality life in general. To sum it up, think “high-tech, low-life.”

The issue with that is that Manning arguably didn’t accomplish much with her leaks, aside from dissemination of military information and battle footage- much of which (to include the infamous “Incident in New Baghdad”) was immediately edited out of context to tell a completely different story than what had actually happened to the men on the ground that day.

Sure, Manning stole some digital information and leaked it for what she likely thought was the “greater good,” just as many leakers had done before her. At the same time, it is also true that Manning would quite likely have faded into obscurity if she hadn’t been paraded and turned into a symbol through social media. When she announced she was diagnosed with “gender dysphoria,” she picked up more supporters from the social justice crowd.

However, none of this makes one a “cyberpunk” hero, masterfully running along the cutting edge of society and technology as if they were one and the same.

Considering we live in a post-smart phone world where technology is omnipresent and intrusive while society becomes increasingly more distant, violent and divided, we’re all living in a cyberpunk world. The future is now- and it isn’t very pretty.

So what does that make Manning in an arguably cyberpunk world? Well, given her history and accounts from basic training, it doesn’t paint a pretty picture. She was a sub-par soldier who only had her self-interest in mind. She was a soldier who leaked information that risked the lives of many, unfairly tarnished the reputations of a few and forces a handful of men to repeatedly relive a traumatic combat event every time the “Incident in New Baghdad” video resurges on social media- men wrongly portrayed as villains by a modern narrative that either doesn’t know -or doesn’t want to know- what really happened.

In short, Manning is no hero. Manning is just a selfish, sub-par soldier with identity issues who managed to play the system and catch a lucky wave of social change and identity politics at the right time, resulting in her getting off fairly lightly.

Photo credit: Jay B Huwieler

Oh, and as an unashamed nerd- a black dress and matching MOLLE backpack does not “cyberpunk” make, Chelsea. You might wanna check your sources. Go get a cybernetic arm and combat boots to go with the ensemble- then we will talk.

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  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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