'Foreign Policy' Names Chelsea Manning Top 'Global Rethinker' for 2017

'For forcing the United States to question who is a traitor and who is a hero'

Chelsea Manning / Twitter
Chelsea Manning / Twitter
December 4, 2017

Foreign Policy placed Chelsea Manning on the publication's list of 2017's top "Global reThinkers," declaring her a "living symbol" for whistleblower protection and transgender rights.

Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst who was convicted of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. documents, was sentenced to 35 years in prison until then-President Barack Obama commuted her sentenced in January. Manning was released in May, after serving seven years in prison.

Foreign Policy said that Manning earned its recognition "for forcing the United States to question who is a traitor and who is a hero."

Manning told Foreign Policy that the world is "scary" since she got out of prison, describing how she anticipated many problems she now sees in society because of the Iraq war.

"I came out of prison, and the world is a different place. It's scary out here," she said. "I see how [pervasive] problems I anticipated in Iraq have [found] their way into our society today."

Those problems are "what I was worried about in the first place," she added.

Foreign Policy writer Jenna McLaughlin pointed to Manning's social activism and Twitter exploits to explain her inclusion on the list.

To be a living symbol is to be objectified. So Manning decided to do something about it. Following her release in May, Manning began to align herself with various movements, becoming a public spokesperson for social activism. And she has used her growing social media profile to build a powerful brand. Her jubilant tweets opposing President Donald Trump ("there is more to politics than elections #WeGotThis") and promoting LGBT rights and whistleblower protection reach more than 300,000 followers every day.

Foreign Policy introduced its list of global rethinkers by declaring that all of them, such as Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.) and U.K. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, found "amazing ways" to rethink and reshape the world.

This year, Foreign Policy is proud to feature the Global reThinkers—the legislators, technocrats, comedians, advocates, entrepreneurs, filmmakers, presidents, provocateurs, political prisoners, researchers, strategists, and visionaries—who together found amazing ways not just to rethink our strange new world but also to reshape it. They are the doers who defined 2017.

In July, however, Manning criticized her fellow "reThinker" Harris for not being progressive enough, tweeting that she is "more of the same."

Manning has made news this year for her frequent public commentary, but also for her ill-fated turn as a visiting fellow at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. She was disinvited after widespread outcry from people such as CIA Director Mike Pompeo, and McLaughlin wrote that Harvard "seemed to bend to pressure from prominent intelligence officials."

McLaughlin also described the excitement of Manning's life—noting that she plays video games, writes, and reads—but said that she did not want to be caught up in the public eye.

"She also plays video games, writes articles for the New York Times, and reads," McLaughlin wrote. "Still, she says, this new public persona was merely incidental; Manning claims that she had hoped to disappear from view after leaving prison but that media attention on her case has placed her in the spotlight."