New Statesman: announcing our new bloggers

Glosswitch, Martin Robbins, Bim Adewunmi, Ryan Gilbey and Kate Mossman join the "blogging powerhouse".

Five new bloggers today join the New Statesman team, writing about parenting, pop culture, film, music and science. Meet the newest additions to our "blogging powerhouse" (seriously, that's what we called it last time we had newbies). 

Glosswitch

A mother of two, and writer of the Glosswatch blog, she describes herself as a "humourless feminist in mummy blogger clothing". In her previous posts for the NS, she has dared to defend "yummy mummies" and told off Benedict Cumberbatch. She tweets @glosswitch

Go to her blog

Martin Robbins

Author of the Guardian website's Lay Scientist blog, Martin will be writing for the NS about skepticism (and scepticism), the media and sexuality. His posts might sometimes be NSFW, but will always be both entertaining and factual. He tweets @mjrobbins

Go to his blog

Bim Adewunmi

Bim blogs at Yoruba Girl Dancing and The Flick, and she will be writing a weekly column on pop culture and telly. She tweets @bimadew

Go to her blog 

Ryan Gilbey

The New Statesman magazine's film critic now has his own dedicated blog on the site (he's a StumbleUpon crowd favourite). Ryan blogs about films with authority, puns and love. 

Go to his blog

Kate Mossman

The New Statesman magazine's pop critic will be writing an extra weekly piece for the website on "pop" music (whatever that means these days). She recently wrote about the 30th anniversary of Michael Jackson's Thriller, which you can read here.

Go to her blog

Our five new writers join our existing blogging team:

David Allen Green on law Go to his blog

Laurie Penny on politics, pop culture and feminism Go to her blog

Mehdi Hasan on world affairs Go to his blog

The Vagenda on magazines and media Go to their blog

Nicky Woolf from America Go to his blog

Helen Lewis on games, satire and anything else, really Go to her blog

Nelson Jones on belief and religion Go to his blog

Steven Baxter on the media Go to his blog

Rowenna Davis on politics outside Westminster Go to her blog

Gavin Kelly on economics and evidence Go to his blog

Martha Gill on psychology and neuroscience Go to her blog

John Stoehr on US politics Go to his blog

Alex Hern on the internet (it's a series of tubes, apparently) Go to his blog

Michael Brooks on science and discovery Go to his blog

Samira Shackle from Pakistan Go to her blog

Alan White on social affairs and society Go to his blog

Juliet Jacques on culture and counter-culture Go to her blog

Alex Andreou on finance and Europe Go to his blog

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.

Garry Knight via Creative Commons
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Why Barack Obama was right to release Chelsea Manning

A Presidential act of mercy is good for Manning, but also for the US.

In early 2010, a young US military intelligence analyst on an army base near Baghdad slipped a Lady Gaga CD into a computer and sang along to the music. In fact, the soldier's apparently upbeat mood hid two facts. 

First, the soldier later known as Chelsea Manning was completely alienated from army culture, and the callous way she believed it treated civilians in Iraq. And second, she was quietly erasing the music on her CDs and replacing it with files holding explosive military data, which she would release to the world via Wikileaks. 

To some, Manning is a free speech hero. To others, she is a traitor. President Barack Obama’s decision to commute her 35-year sentence before leaving office has been blasted as “outrageous” by leading Republican Paul Ryan. Other Republican critics argue Obama is rewarding an act that endangered the lives of soldiers and intelligence operatives while giving ammunition to Russia. 

They have a point. Liberals banging the drum against Russia’s leak offensive during the US election cannot simultaneously argue leaks are inherently good. 

But even if you think Manning was deeply misguided in her use of Lady Gaga CDs, there are strong reasons why we should celebrate her release. 

1. She was not judged on the public interest

Manning was motivated by what she believed to be human rights abuses in Iraq, but her public interest defence has never been tested. 

The leaks were undoubtedly of public interest. As Manning said in the podcast she recorded with Amnesty International: “When we made mistakes, planning operations, innocent people died.” 

Thanks to Manning’s leak, we also know about the Vatican hiding sex abuse scandals in Ireland, plus the UK promising to protect US interests during the Chilcot Inquiry. 

In countries such as Germany, Canada and Denmark, whistle blowers in sensitive areas can use a public interest defence. In the US, however, such a defence does not exist – meaning it is impossible for Manning to legally argue her actions were in the public good. 

2. She was deemed worse than rapists and murderers

Her sentence was out of proportion to her crime. Compare her 35-year sentence to that received by William Millay, a young police officer, also in 2013. Caught in the act of trying to sell classified documents to someone he believed was a Russian intelligence officer, he was given 16 years

According to Amnesty International: “Manning’s sentence was much longer than other members of the military convicted of charges such as murder, rape and war crimes, as well as any others who were convicted of leaking classified materials to the public.”

3. Her time in jail was particularly miserable 

Manning’s conditions in jail do nothing to dispel the idea she has been treated extraordinarily harshly. When initially placed in solitary confinement, she needed permission to do anything in her cell, even walking around to exercise. 

When she requested treatment for her gender dysphoria, the military prison’s initial response was a blanket refusal – despite the fact many civilian prisons accept the idea that trans inmates are entitled to hormones. Manning has attempted suicide several times. She finally received permission to receive gender transition surgery in 2016 after a hunger strike

4. Julian Assange can stop acting like a martyr

Internationally, Manning’s continued incarceration was likely to do more harm than good. She has said she is sorry “for hurting the US”. Her worldwide following has turned her into an icon of US hypocrisy on free speech.

Then there's the fact Wikileaks said its founder Julian Assange would agree to be extradited to the US if Manning was released. Now that Manning is months away from freedom, his excuses for staying in the Equadorian London Embassy to avoid Swedish rape allegations are somewhat feebler.  

As for the President - under whose watch Manning was prosecuted - he may be leaving his office with his legacy in peril, but with one stroke of his pen, he has changed a life. Manning, now 29, could have expected to leave prison in her late 50s. Instead, she'll be free before her 30th birthday. And perhaps the Equadorian ambassador will finally get his room back. 

 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.