01/16/11-by L.S. Carbonell
Sometimes, the United States government gets it right. Up to their butts in damage control from the Wikileaks release of thousands of classified documents, the State Department announced yesterday that it has included the film The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers in the 18 films being sent on tour around the world as part of the “American Documentary Showcase” series. The project, funded and organized by the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs in the State Department sends American independent documentaries around the world as a window into American culture, to promote understanding of our nation and society, warts and all. The films for the series are chosen by a committee of international filmmakers, educators and students and cover topics such as civil rights, the treatment of military veterans, the environment and the freedom of the press.
Among the other documentaries chosen for this year’s showcase are If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front, which deals with the radical environmental group that some regard as a terrorist organization; Freedom Riders, which traces the experiences of civil rights advocates in 1961; and No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson, which examines the youthful legal troubles of the basketball star.
The Most Dangerous Man in America focuses on Daniel Ellsberg, who spent months copying classified Pentagon documents on a Xerox machine, rather than on the New York Times editor who spent three months reviewing the documents and redacting them before publishing them. Ellsberg was tried and convicted in civilian courts and spent 8 years in prison for the theft of the documents. PFC Bradley Manning, who has been publicly defended by Ellsberg, will be court martialed under military law and faces 52 years in prison just for the present charges. The fact that one of the recipients of those documents was a member of the Icelandic Parliament may drastically change the charges and his punishment.
Now, if we could just get a few American television networks to air the movie, we might be able to finally make Americans realize that they are concentrating on the wrong person in the Wikileaks uproar. PFC Manning could have sent his overwritten Lady Gaga discs to a stateside friend who could have put the documents on-line on an independent website. Manning could have waited until he was home on leave and done it himself. He could have sent those discs to any one of thousands of newspaper and magazine editors or the news directors of hundreds of television networks. Instead, he sent them to Wikileaks. Manning knew the risk he was taking, the punishments he would face if the documents were traced back to him. He did it anyway. Wikileaks equally knew, from the Pentagon Papers history, that they weren’t really taking any risks. In fact, Birgitta Jonsdottir seems unbelievably dense on the matter of how her membership in the Icelandic Parliament compromises Wikileaks status as members of the protected press. So, who should Michael Moore be donating money to? Who should we all be paying attention to? Why isn’t PFC Manning’s treatment in the Quantico brig getting as much press coverage as Julian Assange’s sex life?
We are allowing this story to be driven by Julian Assange’s immense ego, instead of the realities of the situation. Maybe showing The Most Dangerous Man in America would remind us what a whistleblower really is.