Last month, I linked to a powerful, thoughtful piece by David Masciotra that criticized military worship, in which he wrote that American soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan haven’t done so to protect our freedoms, that not every soldier is a hero if you include the large number who have been charged with sexual assault and rape, and that “supporting the troops” is a worn-out cliche in a country that practically forgets about our men and women in uniform once they return home — particularly those with physical and mental impairments.
After his essay was published, right-wing media went to town on Masciotra with the highest levels of vitriol, and its viewers/listeners — who didn’t bother to read his words, but reacted to claims about it made by fear-mongering, incendiary radio/TV hosts — went ballistic online. In a followup entitled, “My Week In The Right-Wing Lie Machine,” Masciotra writes about that reaction:
Just as observing the indifference toward rape in the military exposes the depth and breadth of American sexism, any engagement with right-wing media and culture confirms all the worst suspicions anyone could have about its leaders and followers.
There is not only an acceptance of ignorance, but from Fox News, an encouragement of it. On “Fox and Friends,” “The Five” and Fox Business News’ “The Independents,” the respective hosts of the programs vilified and demonized me as someone who hates everyone in the military. “Fox and Friends” posted my photo, over the ominous tones of their hosts condemning my words – almost none of which they quoted – as if it was a mug shot, and then told readers, “Go tell him what you think of this.” The language of the command exposes the poison of their propaganda. They did not tell viewers to go online and read the article, evaluate it according to their own analysis, and decide for themselves what they believe. They ordered their viewers to believe a certain way, without acquiring any information, and target me with their hatred and hostility. Judging from my inbox, thousands of viewers marched along like wooden soldiers, eager to behave as if they just received a lobotomy from the skilled surgeons of Fox.
The pattern of ad hominem attacks, without any engagement of the evidence or acknowledgment of the argumentation of my article, demonstrated the thoughtlessness that defines political activism on much of the right wing, but also the racism, homophobia and prejudicial scorn and fear of Islam. Clearly, the worst thing much of the right can think to call someone is “gay.” Nearly every email I received contained some accusation of homosexuality. When one homophobic crackpot suggested that I’ve had sex with John Mellencamp, Jesse Jackson, Noam Chomsky and Jimmy Carter, because I’ve written favorably about all four men, I emailed a bisexual friend and said, “I’m not gay, but if I was, I guess I’d have some impressive and accomplished partners.” My friend wrote back, “I’d be in awe.”