When Chelsea Manning was arrested in May 2010 for leaking massive
amounts of classified Army and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks, she
was almost immediately profiled by the mainstream press as a troubled
person: someone who had experienced harassment due to her sexual
orientation and gender non-conformity, and who leaked documents not
on behalf of the public good, but out of motives of personal revenge
or, as suggested in the New York Times, "delusions of grandeur."
Compared implicitly to Daniel Ellsberg's apparently selfless devotion
to the truth and the public good, Manning comes up short in these
profiles--a failed whistleblower who deserves pity rather than
book-length theoretical treatment of Manning's actions, Insurgent
Truth argues for seeing Manning's example differently: as an act
of what the book terms "outsider truth-telling." Bringing
Manning's truth-telling into conversation with democratic, feminist,
and queer theory, the book argues that outsider truth-tellers such as
Manning tell or enact unsettling truths from a position of social
illegibility. Challenging the social alignment of credibility with
gendered, classed, and raced traits, outsider truth-tellers reveal
oppression and violence that the dominant class would otherwise not
see, and disclose the possibility of a more egalitarian form of life.
Read as outsider truth-telling, the book argues that Manning's acts
were not aimed at curbing corporate or governmental bad acts, but
instead at transforming public discourse and agency, and inciting a
solidaristic public. The book suggests that Manning's actions offer a
productive example of democratic truth-telling for all of us.
develops this argument through an examination of Manning's prison
writings, the lengthy chat logs between Manning and the hacker who
eventually turned her in, various journalistic, artistic, and
academic responses to Manning, and by comparing Manning's example and
writings with the work and actions of other outsider truth-tellers,
including Cassandra, Virginia Woolf, Bayard Rustin, and Audre Lorde.
Showing the shortcomings of existing approaches to truth and
politics, Maxwell advances a new theoretical framework through which
to understand truth-telling in politics: not only as a practice of
offering a pre-political common ground of "facts" to
politics, but also as the practice of unsettling public discourse by
revealing the oppression and domination that it often masks.