Activist community

Chelsea Manning emphasizes the importance of community building during an interview with the campus community

American activist and whistleblower Chelsea Manning values ​​community building.

On Thursday night, Manning gave his first in-person lecture since the pandemic began to an audience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Manning was responsible for one of the largest leaks in military history, concerning human rights abuses in Iraq. She was convicted of violations of the Espionage Act and is now well known for her security advice and activism in ethical public communication.

She touched on topics ranging from transparency in government, technology and the private sector to her continued role in activism – as well as the importance of being active in your community and connecting with the people in your community. be part of.

The first part of her speech detailed her early life and how she got involved in the military. It is through her background as a data scientist that she knows there is a human component to technology that is often overlooked. Computer programs are neither good nor bad in themselves, they just are. What we humans decide to put in is what we get out of it, whether it’s a helpful or harmful outcome.

With the increase in public access to technology and the Internet, an improvement in the quality of life can be expected. Manning disagrees that this prediction has come true. As technological reach continues to expand, surveillance capabilities keep pace.

This, she said, is extremely important to remember when connecting to people online. Manning specifically pointed out how uniquely alienating online organizing can be. Mutual aid and offline communication with the territory are one of the best ways to escape the market effect of online connection.

“Capitalism pushed every interaction into microtransactions,” Manning said. She went on to explain that if nothing is sold to you, you are the product, be it your time, your attention or your data.

This individualization of targeted advertising and bundled personal data has had an unsavory effect on the way we interact with each other online, where everything becomes a “team sport”, in his words. When every aspect of what you put online is for sale, everything is up for debate.

These debates only fuel the growing polarization, which in itself backfires to fuel the arguments themselves, Manning said. This creates a feedback loop, which diverts attention from the collective good to the individual good.

Manning explained it as “not a problem of raising awareness” but rather a “problem of how to solve it”. The reason the solution to this problem is so hard to come by is that everyone is waiting for someone else to fix it, but no one is, Manning said.

According to her, the people who have the power to solve the problem are those who benefit from the current model.

Manning identified this as a feature of administrative violence, which was another central theme of his lecture. Administrative violence is the negative material effect of the power structures embedded in our lives.

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To illustrate his point, Manning described his experience spending seven years in a general population prison with people convicted of all kinds of crimes, but said the most violent and dangerous people in the prison were the guards.

Manning gave fellow inmates credit for surviving prison, saying it was inspiring to see how kind and resilient people in difficult situations could be.

“For me, being denied access to housing, to health care, is a form of violence,” she said. Manning said there are no easy answers to solving these problems, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any answers at all.

Being aware is the first step, but she reiterated her previous point – the roadblock is not with awareness, but with action. Manning emphasized communication and overcoming his fear of speaking. Again, community building, according to Manning, is the biggest step to moving towards a world that can combat the systems that inflict violence.

Even when there are setbacks to progress, Manning’s outlook remains optimistic. “I’ve been through worse. I’ve seen people go through worse and come out the other side,” Manning concluded.

Manning’s lecture was hosted by the Wisconsin Union Leadership Distinguished Lecture Series.

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