The Right Wing Lie Machine

Heidi Czerwiec dared to complain about ROTC carrying out unannounced military exercises on the University of North Dakota campus — I sympathize completely. There were a few times when I was at Temple University that I’d sleepily arrive on campus early in the morning and suddenly be surrounded by men in buzzcuts and fatigues waving rifles around, and no, it wasn’t a pleasant shock. We don’t seem to have a ROTC program here at UMM, fortunately.

But Czerwiec was reasonably concerned and later quite angry when she looked out her office window to see men in camouflage gear with guns, and she complained loudly to the ROTC officer in charge — you do not spring these kinds of activities on people without warning in this era of “active shooters” and mass murder at schools. It was irresponsible and unethical. Maybe the ROTC ought to carry out their exercises elsewhere?

And then right-wing radio and news sites got the story.

They play her up as one of those liberals, unpatriotic and hatin’ on the military, wanting to take away your guns. It turned into a frenzy of ignorant hatred.

Out of the 500 or so emails I receive (not counting voicemail and Facebook messages), most are hatemail, most calling for my job.

Nearly all the hatemail (98%) is from men.

Most of the hatemail accuses me of one or more of the following: being anti-military, anti-gun, and liberal:

And then she quotes a series of emails. They are so, so familiar. I’ve seen similar responses, in similar floods of right-wing hate. She’s a woman, so she also gets lots of dismissive insults about her appearance, her genitals, her “fuckability”. I wish I could say I’m safe from those, but nope — I get similar comments, and a common insult is to suggest that I’m a woman, so they can recycle their misogynist cliches against me, too. They can’t even criticize a man without letting their contempt for women ooze through.

What always strikes me is how unoriginal the haters are, how much their language is one of primal grunts and unthinking rote recitals of the same old stupidity and prejudice. Even when they can string together a proper and grammatical English sentence, the sentiments are the same crude bigoted knee-jerk execrations — it’s the difference between a turd and a lovingly sculpted turd.

It was a disconcerting article to read, bringing back unpleasant memories of past deluges of yahoos hating on me that I’ve received. But then I open my inbox and see that this morning I’ve only received two hate mails that got past my filters today, and only one of them wanted me to die horribly, and even he was willing to wait for me to passively die of cancer without actively causing my demise, so I’m feeling like maybe this will be a good day, relatively.


  1. Siobhan says

    I can’t help but feel the uptick in impulsive, knee-jerk harassment campaigns coincides with the media changing its model to sell outrage rather than journalism.

  2. davidnangle says

    It might be a good compromise for ROTC organizations to carry a rifle surrogate for all but licensed parade events. Something that couldn’t be exploited by terrorists or lone shooters. Something that would set the public’s mind at ease, and still allow ROTC maneuvers whenever and wherever they need them.

    Sparkle fairy wands. Let them wield sparkly pink princess scepters and everyone will understand.


  3. A Masked Avenger says

    (Military) parade rifles are disabled by removing the bolt and/or firing pin. (Civilian parade “rifles” are rifle-shaped wooden sticks.) They are also, unfortunately, M1 Garands (WWII rifles), because they just look so damn snazzy on your shoulder, rather than modern guns. But I assume (and certainly hope to hell) that the rifles issued to ROTC cadets are similarly disabled.

    What surprises me, in this day and age, is that they aren’t also spray-painted fluorescent yellow. Sooner or later the cops are going to gun down a lone ROTC cadet walking across campus with his rifle. Especially when you figure that about 20% of students in the ROTC are black.

  4. whheydt says

    I recall reading somewhere that land grant colleges were required to have ROTC programs, at least in the past.

  5. blf says

    [… L]and grant colleges were required to have ROTC programs, at least in the past.

    Apparently yes, this was a mandatory requirement and strongly connected to the 1862 origin of the land grant colleges (source: Ye Pffft! of All Knowlege).

    Perhaps more insidious is the much later (1996) Solomon Amendment:

    [… A] United States federal law that allows the Secretary of Defense to deny federal grants (including research grants) to institutions of higher education if they prohibit or prevent ROTC or military recruitment on campus.

    It’s “only” recruitment which is coerced, the college / university does not have to have any actual ROC program. How many do not have any form of ROTC is unknown to me. Some have an extracurricular program, my own alma mater broadly fits into that category, allowing brainwashed cannon fodder to be shot at / shoot at another nearby university.

  6. Usernames! (╯°□°)╯︵ ʎuʎbosıɯ says

    What surprises me, in this day and age, is that they aren’t also spray-painted fluorescent yellow.
    — A Masked Avenger (#3)

    Perfect camouflage for a would-be maniac: paint the tip of the barrel orange. Then when all the shooting is over, society is now in turmoil because we can’t use color as an identifier. It’s the old double-whammy!

  7. multitool says

    PZ, one of the ads on your blog attempted to install malware on my Android phone.

    First your front page auto-rolled over to a fake ‘your phone is BADLY DAMAGED by a virus!!!’ page, and then it proceeded to download an apk file, which my phone wasn’t stupid enough to install, fortunately.

  8. chigau (違う) says

    multitool #7
    Click the Tech Issues button at the top of the page and report it.

  9. dhabecker says

    #3 comment about lone ROTC cadet on campus causes more concern.
    It’s good that those on-line thugs don’t have the guts to actually do anything; otherwise we’d need more armed and trained ROTC/COP type people on campus.
    And I hope I didn’t just goad some asshole into doing something.

  10. jrkrideau says

    RE: 13 Robert Westbrook

    But, but, wait he is an immigrant, therefore a suspicious character, so clearly those soldiers were doing a great job.

    Err, wait, cancel rant! Mom was from Michigan.

    Possibly police are police no matter what and there always are some that will be outstanding idiots.

  11. whywhywhy says

    #2 davidnangle
    I thought you were going to suggest bright pink dildos but fairy wands is a fine choice too…

  12. says

    Well, the local commander screwed up. But not as badly as the commanding generals at TRADOC (the Training and Doctrine Command, which includes ROTC)… for the past forty years or so. Ever since some of the lessons of Vietnam (which were accepted by the Air Force and Navy (including Marines) but rejected by the Army) became brutally apparent.

    The main one is this: If you inculcate disrespect for civilians, civilian structures, civilian sensitivities, and civilian safety precautions in the name of making your training more “realistic” and/or cutting costs by using “convenient” civilian facilities instead of special-purpose training sites, your trainees later on WILL screw up and violate the laws of war through excessive collateral damage… or worse. There are several nonclassified — if poorly publicized — studies demonstrating this (my files are in storage so I do not have citations available). The “extra precautions” referred to in that WaPo article (item 17 above) obviously do not include adequate prior coordination with all local emergency response services and/or public facilities. The laws of war do NOT treat “we notified the guy at the top” as “adequate prior coordination,” if only because civilians really don’t have a full chain of command with true responsibility.

    I’d snark and say that the Air Force doesn’t have this problem and hasn’t had it since the 1970s, but then some yobbo (probably an Academy grad) will screw up and prove me wrong.

    N.B. I was a battalion-equivalent commanding officer during the tail end of the Not-So-Cold War. And, for that matter, an ROTC instructor, my reserve duty during law school (which just made me more dangerous…).

  13. blbt5 says

    Did 3 years in Army ROTC, and can echo others with similar experience here that what the North Dakota military students were doing was a parade, not an exercise. Clearly against policy and obviously ridiculous. However, it was also known that some cadres in the boonies made up their own rules.