Molly Crabapple has an excellent article in Vanity Fair on how journalists love to love dissidents in other countries (Pussy Riot) but ignore those in their own country (Barrett Brown, Cecily McMillan, Bradley Manning) who make them uncomfortable. In other words, all the people we cover here at FDL.
So I was really happy to see her call out Kevin Gosztola for his work on the Manning trial:
Last summer, I sat in the courtroom when a judge declared Chelsea Manning guilty of violating the Espionage Act.
Neither Madonna nor Marina Abramovic came out to support one of the 20th century’s most important whistle-blowers. At Fort Meade, a small crowd of activists sweltered in their “Truth” T-shirts. Many were older. Many were veterans. Most were defiantly un-hip. Passing cars screamed that they were traitors. On sentencing day, TV news was more concerned with Anthony Weiner’s dick.
CNN’s Larry Shaughnessy repeatedly fell asleep in the media center.
Without independent journalists like Alexa O’Brien and Kevin Gosztola, the trial itself would be largely unknown. Only one TV network consistently covered Chelsea Manning’s trial: the Kremlin-funded Russia Today.
It wasn’t easy for Kevin to cover the Manning trial — it meant an hour long drive (at least) each way to Fort Meade where the trial was held, and the military demanded that all journalists be there at the crack of dawn regardless of when the day’s hearing started. It took a lot of personal fortitude and commitment on Kevin and Alexa’s part to do what they did, and their constant presence there made everyone in the courtroom aware that their actions were being scrutinized.
But I think one of the big takeaways here was that Kevin’s coverage of the Manning trial was funded by our readers and supporters who really wanted to know what was happening. There was tremendous demand for those reports from the courtroom on the part of the public, and traditional media was deaf to it.
It wasn’t for lack of interest that traditional media outlets ignored the Manning trial. As Molly notes, journalists who celebrate dissidents when they criticize Putin wilfully turn their backs on home grown dissidents. Kudos to Kevin and Alexa for being willing to buck the trend, and to our readers for supporting it.