The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

An Aside On Safe Passage For Messengers

Posted on | November 13, 2011 | 26 Comments

by Smitty

Twice now in recent memory, on

I have had commenters level the charge of “shooting the messenger”. Well, allow me to retort.

In the former case, I am to view Politico as some wholly innocent information nozzle, and in the latter case, Julian Assange and Bradly Manning as wholly innocent information nozzles. Your opinions may vary substantially from mine, but stand by while I develop the notion of “shooting the messenger,” and why I don’t think any of the above merit such a label.

“Shooting the messenger,” I contend, implies:
(a) A party in an authority position over the messenger. If you are, say, a the guy at the Metro station whose task it was to inform me at 8:30 AM that an “all day” pass does not mean “all day” in the normal sense, but a special “after 9:30 AM” sense peculiar to the Metro, then you are indeed the messenger, communicating the policy of an authority, and shooting you would be crass.

(b) A lack of a market incentive for delivering the message. Politico needs to have at least one allegation of sexual harassment against Herman Cain prove more substantial than a finger-pointing exercise for Politico to look more credible than the Weekly World News. Now, if  Politico wants to print that a six-eyed alien from Planet Q’uddlethumpin’ has endorsed Herman Cain’s candidacy, and thus be honest about its substantive content, then its mimetic warfare will be less of an odious distraction from real policy questions.

The media in general has so thoroughly abandoned any notion of a free, balanced presentation that it is an insult to honest messengers to be equated with these cheap propaganda mongers like Politico.

(c) A message that is not a warlike act. I don’t know how anybody can conflate Manning’s and Assange’s actions with anything other than a warlike act. If you think your government behaves dishonorably at various time and on various issues, then the way to deal with that is at the ballot box. A U.S. citizen giving away bulk information like Manning who is looking for sympathy should check the dictionary between s***t and syphilis, for all I care. We can have a theological discussion about sympathy for the lad’s soul, fine, but his actions are indefensible in my opinion.

As for Assange, it’s a miracle of modern technology that one twerp can inflict so much damage. However, his organization is substantially similar to Al Qaeda in my book. The fact that he draws breath, and he and his organization are not long since atomized probably means he has good friends. Notwithstanding any theological argument about his soul, as with Manning’s, Assange had better hope his friends remain good. Assange has broad jumped the line of demarcation between “things you do” and “things you just don’t do”.

Anything unfortunate happening to Assange before he dies at a peaceful old age is an argument in favor of being careful when you make enemies.

Something should be said about the inevitable ‘freedom fighter’ equivalencies that will ensue. Bore me not with such piffle. From what I can tell, Manning was not motivated by anything beyond the vacuous 20-something angst which Commies have pumped into our schools. I’m not a scholar of the fellow, and stand by for correction. In any case, a figure of George Washington’s caliber he is not. Equating a punk with any great American is a disservice to the great American.

Summarizing, the Metro attendant in example (a) is the only situation in which I think a “shooting the messenger” claim has merit. Thrashing people for ‘doing their job’ is in bad taste. Also unimpressive: demanding sympathy for the likes of Politico or Assange/Manning.


26 Responses to “An Aside On Safe Passage For Messengers”

  1. Joe
    November 13th, 2011 @ 3:25 pm

    What Politico did to Herman Cain was shitty but it is what political media organizations do.  I do not know if this is true or not, but I have heard Adjoran say Politico gave Cain more than a week notice of the story.  Sorry, I would have expected a better response from Team Cain. 

    What Manning did was a criminal act of treason.  Julianne Assange, on the other hand, is an albino toad.  But unlike Manning, who deserves a very long prison sentance (life would be appropriate), Assange is just a creep tool.  To call what Assange did an act of war is a bit much, but it was certainly a reckless dangerous act.  The real blame is with Manning. 

  2. richard mcenroe
    November 13th, 2011 @ 3:33 pm

    No, they gave him ten days’ notice of “a” story with no details, apparently in the ace journalistic hope he would start defending himself against all sorts of crimes they didn’t even know about.  “What? No!  That Boy Scout said he would never talk!  Who told you?”

  3. Tennwriter
    November 13th, 2011 @ 3:36 pm

    I would tell you that you are wrong, but…
    1. I’m afraid you’d shoot me.
    2. You’re not wrong.

  4. Anonymous
    November 13th, 2011 @ 4:21 pm

    I touched on this connection a while ago, and let me toss in one more: the Mexican drug cartels. What do all three have in common?

    They are non-state actors taking on the exclusive prerogatives of a state.

    Al Qaeda is an independent military.

    Wikileaks is an independent intelligence agency.

    And the drug cartels are setting themselves up as an independent law enforcement, judiciary, and taxation body.

    They are all taking on the powers of a state, but avoiding the responsibilities and liabilities of a state.

    And all three need to be crushed.


  5. Jorge Emilio Emrys Landivar
    November 13th, 2011 @ 4:33 pm

    “They are all taking on the powers of a state, but avoiding the responsibilities and liabilities of a state.”

    I can’t think of any responsibilities or liabilities that are necessary conditions for something to be a state.

  6. ThePaganTemple
    November 13th, 2011 @ 4:37 pm

    While you’re all busy judging Bradley Manning guilty of treason, you might want to consider going after the people who gave him-a damn lowly private-unlimited, and yet unguarded access to reams and reams of classified information. Does anybody really believe Manning was involved in this by himself, that he didn’t have help from at least one or two higher-ups? Bullshit!

  7. richard mcenroe
    November 13th, 2011 @ 4:47 pm

    Well, if you believe our Constitutiom, there’s a pretty clear list.  Most of which the current Feds are falling down on…

  8. Adjoran
    November 13th, 2011 @ 4:51 pm

    When the “messenger” is a spy and his “message” is clearly illegal “work product” of classified material which damages our national security, shooting him is entirely appropriate. 

    One of the key defining characteristics of criminal acts is intent.  Both Assange and Manning knew they were breaking American law, knew they were committing crimes which would both damage our national security and endanger the lives of those who aided American interests abroad or even gave us information, and intended to do just that.

    Do the so-called “Libertarians” defending these enemies of America, these criminals also blame the homeowner for the burglary?  “The poor burglar couldn’t have got into the house if the security system were adequate.”

  9. Adjoran
    November 13th, 2011 @ 4:52 pm

    Think some more.

  10. smitty
    November 13th, 2011 @ 4:54 pm

    In the context of the post, an order for Manning to expose information would not have been lawful; the patriotic thing to do would be to expose the traitorous hypothetical superior.
    I really have no opinion whether Manning was or was not a pawn in some larger game; a Court Martial would seem the right vehicle for that. And if you’ll contend the Court Martial is just a show trial, then We Hava A Bigger Problem.

  11. Adjoran
    November 13th, 2011 @ 4:56 pm

    So, there were so many instances in Cain’s past he didn’t have a clue which ones these were?  Is that what you are saying?  That he couldn’t possibly figure out it was the same issue he himself claims to have briefed his campaign staff on in 2004?

    I thought he was supposed to be smart?  Yet his reaction is that of the panicked and guilty man, telling several different versions, not able to keep his story straight from interview to interview?

    Loyalty is a great and admirable quality.  But just because you choose to suspend disbelief to defend your guy doesn’t mean I have to.

  12. Anonymous
    November 13th, 2011 @ 5:12 pm

    As richard and adjoran noted, it’s pretty clear to most people. But I was thinking of things like providing services like protection to their citizenry…


  13. ThePaganTemple
    November 13th, 2011 @ 5:52 pm

    Help me out here, I’ve forgotten which government agency Manning was assigned to. I seem to remember it was the State Department. Is that right? Because that’s all the more reason to believe he was just a small fish in a big toxic pond. I’m not saying don’t prosecute him, I’m saying a lot of heads should probably roll. And if by some off quirk it were to turn out he really was in this by himself, with no intentional aid or support from any of his peers or higher-ups, then that bespeaks a level of incompetence and carelessness that beggars the imaginations.

  14. Bob Belvedere
    November 13th, 2011 @ 5:55 pm

    Brilliantly put.

  15. Bob Belvedere
    November 13th, 2011 @ 5:56 pm

    Also brilliantly put.

  16. Anonymous
    November 13th, 2011 @ 8:38 pm

    PT, you have no experience in the security field and that is obvious.

    Every security measure is a trade off between securing the information and making it available to those who need it to do their jobs.  A server sitting in a 3 foot thick steel vault with no power is perfectly secure. It is also perfectly useless.

    Ultimately, you are dependent on the trustworthiness of your personnel. One way to ensure that trustworthiness is to make it clear that abusing the trust will result in unpleasant things happening. If the result of being caught had been life at hard labor, or being stood up against a wall within 48 hours, then the other personnel would have a concrete measure of the risks involved.

    Unfortunately, we’ve crippled the risk side by such things as whistleblower laws, absurd definitions of cruel and unusual, etc. Unless and until we make the downside equal to the upside of fame, book deals, etc., we’ll have more Mannings and Assanges.

  17. richard mcenroe
    November 13th, 2011 @ 10:31 pm

    Your Treacher-like determination to misunderstand a simple point aside: YOU are assuming there were any reasons Can should need to feel guilty; not us.  And to do so you are suspending disbelief to the point where you credulously accept the words of two — out of five — women who filed complaints, who subesquently proved to have a history of false and vexatious complaints at NRA and other employment, one woman who doesn’t even allege anything happened but simply did not like Cain’s attitude, and two women who refuse even to identify themselves or go on the record with details about whatever awful thing happened they won’t talk about.

    Please stop accusing us of suspending OUR disbelief.  Pot/Kettle/Old.

  18. Anonymous
    November 14th, 2011 @ 11:44 am

    Everyone seems to think they know “what Manning did.”

    Whether you think what was done was right or wrong, it has thus far not be demonstrated that Manning is the one who did it. He’s been held pending trial for 18 months now, but that trial has not been held, nor has a verdict issued.

    The information which he allegedly divulged was not properly secured and was available to thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of people.

    The main witness against Manning is a convicted hacker, with admitted personality disorder issues, whose account of Manning’s confession and his own actions and motives has not remained constant. Elements of said account conflict with the alleged chat logs that have been released (disclosure: While I cannot really claim to “know” the accuser, I have exchanged occasional notes with him; while I don’t think he’s a “bad guy” per se, his changing story and inherent conflicts of interest in this matter should be of concern to anyone who wants to see a fair trial).

    And the bottom line: Even if Manning did it, so far not so much as a crumb of national security damage has been credibly alleged, and at least one all-out, no-shit war crime has been brought to attention. If he did it, he’s an American hero who deserves the Distinguished Service Cross far more than President Barack Obama deserved the Nobel Peace Prize.

  19. Anonymous
    November 14th, 2011 @ 11:45 am

    “Both Assange and Manning knew they were breaking American law”

    And I know I’m breaking Saudi law every time I eat a pork chop.

    As it happens, though, I don’t live in Saudi Arabia, and Assange doesn’t live in the United States.

  20. smitty
    November 14th, 2011 @ 11:51 am

    Point to the knappster on that one. I so badly want to refute your argument, but the name Clayton Hartwig comes to mind. Let it come to trial.
    However, you lose me here:
    If he did it, he’s an American hero who deserves the Distinguished Service Cross far more than President Barack Obama deserved the Nobel Peace Prize.
    Even if my foreign policy opinions may tend toward yours over the long haul, that end is not justified by these means.

  21. smitty
    November 14th, 2011 @ 11:52 am

    Also, holding Americans in America to Shari’a Law should remain a bizarre notion.

  22. Anonymous
    November 14th, 2011 @ 12:05 pm


    Holding Americans in America to Sharia should remain a bizarre notion.

    So should holding Australians in Australia (or the EU) to US State Department secrecy standards.

    There’s a very obvious difference with Manning, but if he did it, it does come down to the question of whether or not the standing order to preserve the secrecy of classified information was, in the case of the leaked documents, a lawful order.

    It is illegal to intentionally classify information that does not meet the identifiable/serious/grave damage standards of classification, for the perfectly good reason that that opens the door to abuse of the classification system to hide crimes, or to just make embarrassing stuff disappear.

    If the information was illegally classified, the order to treat it as classified was unlawful, and no member of the US armed forces was bound to follow that order.

    At which point someone argues that that was not a decision for Manning (if he’s the one who leaked it) to make on his (or her) own … but that’s a bullshit argument.

    Every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine makes those decisions every minute of every hour of every day. You are responsible for what you do or don’t do, and “I vas just followink orrrrrders” is no fucking excuse.

    Unfortunately, most of us are cowards. Shortly before I took my honorable discharge and left the Marine Corps (and having everything to do with that decision), I was given an order which violated both the mission’s stated rules of engagement and the Secretary of the Navy’s standing order requiring the Marine Corps to comply with the Posse Comitatus Act. I requested mast all the way to the commanding general of the unit involved, and the order was affirmed at each level. I should have stood my ground. Instead I obeyed the order, while taking steps to avoid picking the poison fruit its issuers were after. So as far as I am concerned, if Manning did it he’s a better soldier than I was a Marine.

  23. Dave
    November 14th, 2011 @ 12:15 pm

    Let me guess, “war crime” = enhanced interrogation, right? You’re in the “waterboarding is torture” camp?

  24. Anonymous
    November 14th, 2011 @ 12:35 pm


    While waterboarding is indeed torture (and while “enhanced interrogation” is Doublespeak on par with “Arbeit Macht Frei”), so far as I know none of the released cables made any torture cases.

    It has been alleged from various sources that Manning’s first leak to Wikileaks was not the State Department cables, but the video of US troops murdering Iraqi civilians and Reuters journalists.

  25. Dave
    November 14th, 2011 @ 1:18 pm

    Thank you for posting that video, it does a great deal to establish an idea just how credible the accusations you make here are. When you have one of something even approaching a “war crime”, let me know. 

  26. ThePaganTemple
    November 14th, 2011 @ 2:34 pm

    I’m sorry, that’s just not good enough. There should be safeguards. One of Mannings superiors should be able to tell at the end of a shift whether he or any other employee downloaded, or copied, sensitive material, a record of e-mails, etc. There should be a record of every piece of data accessed by the person. And such sensitive data should not be entrusted to just one individual, with no oversight. Finally, I can’t stress enough, Manning was a mere private. How a private gets that kind of security clearance is yet to be explained.