By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Spit and tarnish

As if Los Angeles Times columnist Joel Stein weren’t already taking enough grief for his snotty Tuesday piece (the one that begins “I don’t support our troops”), he also manages to repeat a disproven myth about what happened to some soldiers when they came home from Vietnam.

“I’m not advocating that we spit on returning veterans like they did after the Vietnam War, but we shouldn’t be celebrating people for doing something we don’t think was a good idea,” Stein writes.

Unfortunately for Stein, there is no proof that that ever happened. He needs to read this.

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  1. Anonymous

    He’s entitled to his opinion but the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence. His agenda is as clear as that of the apocryphal “spitees”.

  2. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 8:59 — Your comment says so much about what is wrong with political discourse circa 2006. Lembcke has demonstrated conclusively that there is no evidence for the spitting-on-veterans trope. I’m not aware of a single person who’s stepped forward to challenge him. And you respond with a weak cliche about “evidence of absence” and dismiss his findings as an “opinion” based on an “agenda.” Good Lord.

  3. Anonymous

    I t chaps my behind to see references to the spitting on of returning vets that didn’t happen. Thanks, DK, for including appropriate context in your post and for trying to keep the thread on the up and up. This is an important discussion.

  4. Anonymous

    C’mon Dan. That’s such a harsh reaction to the post. There needs to be evidence for either side to argue. Maybe no one has stepped forward because no one read the piece (it’s in the Globe for crying out loud). Ron Kovak wrote in “Born on the 4th of July” about being called a baby killer and not getting the respect that was afforded to WW2 vets. Let’s face it. Vietnam Vets got the stinky side of the stick because..1. They lost2. The media covered the war like no other war3. Bad shit happened from the start of the war to the end.There’s plenty to suggest a lack of respect for the troops. I think their use of the term ‘spat’ was a metaphor developed over the years from talking to each other about their experiences returning home. It’s absolutely believeable if you understand how some people act and are in this country. If you are a loser or perceived to be one, people shit on you. You needn’t look any further than high school for that and 75% of this country still act like they did in high school. That’s why discourse is so atrocious.

  5. neil

    After the provocative, troll-like first sentence, it seems the only “support” that he’s really against are those stupid yellow Chinese-made car magnets, and parades. Blaming the troops for joining the military in the first place, knowing (!) they’ll likely be used as tools of imperialism, is snotty indeed. After he’s through being glib and lazy (re the spit trope/urban legend as Dan points out) though, it seems that he in fact supports the troops in the ways that actually matter. He belies his own faux-outrageous initial sentiment when he says:All I’m asking is that we give our returning soldiers what they need: hospitals, pensions, mental health and a safe, immediate return.He refers to the “wussiness” of those who oppose the war but support the troops. But other than objecting to the frippery of yellow ribbons and parades, how is he any different? What meaningful support does he propose to withhold?Support now, celebrate later. If this administration can somehow get us out of Iraq with any semblance of hope for its future, then we’ll have a reason to celebrate–strike up the band and get out the confetti. Till then, what Stein is asking in the quote above seems like as good an expression of true support as any.

  6. neil

    Re anonymous 10:43 and spit…right, I think it has developed into a metaphor. But since there’s no evidence it ever happened, it may be time to put it to rest. Maybe it’s better to consider the level of disrespect the vets faced without resorting to such a nasty, unnecessary image.As to Stein’s article, if he had said, “I’m not advocating that we _disrespect_ returning veterans like they did after the Vietnam war…”…then the article is one inaccurate metaphor less lazy than it was, and still conveys its original trite point namely “don’t celebrate people who do things we disapprove of!”

  7. Anonymous

    In much the same way that some people’s athletic exploits expand as they age, (a la Al Bundy), people really have convenient memories about how uncivil discourse was about the Vietnam War at the time. At BC in 1970, I was PERSONALLY spat upon by members of SDS for my beliefs.(BU was like another country at the time). To presume that because people were correct in their appraisal of the war, they were incapable of less lofty actions, is pretty naive. When did proving a negative become so easy?

  8. Anonymous

    Great! Dandy Dan finds any nuance to hammer a conservative but when Mr.Stein steps on his dong with that inane screed, he finds an ancillary topic “spitting” to sidestep the real issue. What a pansy.

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