Sunday, December 19, 2004

The "peace activist" who attacked an off-duty soldier

Remember that story?  A guy beat up an off-duty soldier after a Toby Keith concert.  Freeperville went nuts, flogging the story as a case of an antiwar protester and John Kerry supporter attacking a soldier because he had on a t-shirt showing he was in the military.

I wound up having several posts on this:

Truth or Fiction or Folklore? 09/24/04
Stigmatizing critics of the Iraq War 09/26/04

Roy Edroso, whose blog pokes fun at rightwing trends all the time, sort of like my Chuckie Watch feature, has been following this story.  From his post on Citizen Journalists 12/18/04:

Yesterday Cornwell [the assailant] pleaded guilty to a felonious assault on Barton [the off-duty soldier]. In his statement to the judge, Cornwell did not denounce the Bush Administration or the Iraqi invasion, or cry "Viva La Huelga." He told the judge that the fight outside the Toby Keith concert "started after the two exchanged insults about the other's military unit," according to the local news.

Former Soldier Pleads Guilty To Concert Assault News 12/17/04.

Roy's blog post also has several links to some of the stories from rightwing sites pushing their version of the tale.  One of them features a photo of what looks like a silouetted Manson cult crazy standing in front of a giant bonfire placed before a huge American flag.

I originally picked up the story from RepublicanJen's AOL Journal.  Among other things, that led to an exchange with one of her readers: AOL-J jerks: A case study 09/27/04.  I'll be curious to see if RepublicanJen bothers to post on the resolution of the case.  Currently, she seems to be mainly obsessing over the alleged campaign against Christmas.

This is a story worth remembering, not because it's substantially any different from any other story of a rowdy guy starting a fight.  But because it was highlighted on the Drudge Report and spread all over Freeperdom, and because very few of those who flogged the story as showing how Iraq War critics hate the soldiers will bother to inform their readers of the resolution, this will be remembered by many people as a factual occurrence.

So five or ten years from now, stories will still be circulating about how "antiwar activists used to assault soldiers that were home on leave."  Those who sneer at the "reality-based community" don't much care whether their favorite tales are actually true or not.


Anonymous said...

I don't look for Republican Jen to pick up on the outcome.  Stories like this are only good to certain people when they suit their needs.   When it turns out they were making much ado about a bunch of doo-doo, the subject is quickly forgotten.

Anonymous said...

Oh, gee, so nice of you to decide what I'm going to put on my blog.  Maybe that's how the two of you would act, but conservatives are often honest to a fault.  Maybe I shouldn't put up any blog on it all and fulfill your high expectations.  Why bother.

Anonymous said...

RepublicanJen *did* make a post on the story's resolution:

Jen, in response to your comment here:  Blogs may not be quite the Wild West of political commentary, but they are at least still the unruly frontier.  So there's no "industry standard" that says bloggers have to follow up on stories they mention.  But I think you did your readers a service by posting that.

And, believe it or not, the popular notion of the anti-Vietnam War protesters having been hostile to the soldiers is also heavily influenced by folklore tales like the "antiwar activist" attacking Foster Barton.

Another folklore stereotype to be on the lookout for these days is the notion of the crazed veteran.  Now, I personally think the services need to do a lot better job than at present providing counseling services to combat veterans.  And I think the sentimentalizing of military service may interfere with friends and family members dealing with the very real adjustment problems combat veterans can have.  But the popular culture image of the demented, crazed, drug-addicted Vietnam veteran was also greatly exaggerated.

For people who actually care what's really going on, it pays to give this stories a critical reading. - Bruce

Anonymous said...

What this story proves is that we all have our favorite stereotypes -- and we love to use them to excoriate and demonize our political opponents (increasingly, enemies).  Lately, I have been trying hard to restrain my own culture-war hyperbole, so as not to commit the same offense.

I think you are right, Bruce.  Despite the facts that have now emerged, this will remain an urban legend about anti-war people doing hateful things against our men and women in uniform.

This war was wrong from the start.  Those of us who figured that out at the very beginning do not deserve the attacks against our patriotism, especially those that are based on such ridiculous stories.