On today's date in The Beacon archives, we published:•21c Hotel Celebration of Discrimination (2012)
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Posted by The Dean of Cincinnati
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In a Sunday post at his blog, The Daily Bellwether (and if you don’t know, a “bellwether” is a ram with no testicles), Bill Sloat—recently let go from his position at the Cleveland Plain Dealer—writes about a legless veteran getting spit at during the recent anti-war march in Washington D.C. this past Saturday. He also shares his own “vivid” memory about allegedly being spat upon while wearing a uniform back in 1970. There is only one problem with both of these stories: they seem to be entirely fabricated.
Sloat blasts anti-war protesters for spitting at a legless veteran named Josh Sparling:
An Iraq War veteran who lost his right leg below the knee at Ramadi was heckling the large throngs of anti-war protesters marching Saturday in Washington. Apparently, things got boisterous and somebody spit towards the soldier, Joshua Sparling, who spit right back.
Lest anybody think the spitting incident Saturday is Internet fiction, there is this account from Sunday’s New York Times (page 20 National Edition), whose reporter Ian Urbina seems to have been a witness:
“There were a few tense moments, however, including an encounter involving Joshua Sparling, 25, who was on crutches and who said he was a corporal with the 82nd Airborne Division and lost his right leg below the knee in Ramadi, Iraq. Mr. Sparling, who was not scheduled to speak, addressed the counterprotesters to voice his support for the administration’s policies in Iraq.
Later, an antiwar protester passed where he and his group were standing, words were exchanged and one of the antiwar protestors spit at the ground near Mr. Sparling; he spit back.
Firstly, let’s just acknowledge the fact that the myth of the spat-upon veteran is simply a myth. Check out this piece from CommonDreams.org:
STORIES ABOUT spat-upon Vietnam veterans are like mercury: Smash one and six more appear. It’s hard to say where they come from. For a book I wrote in 1998 I looked back to the time when the spit was supposedly flying, the late 1960s and early 1970s. I found nothing. No news reports or even claims that someone was being spat on.
What I did find is that around 1980, scores of Vietnam-generation men were saying they were greeted by spitters when they came home from Vietnam. There is an element of urban legend in the stories in that their point of origin in time and place is obscure, and, yet, they have very similar details. The story told by the man who spat on Jane Fonda at a book signing in Kansas City recently is typical. Michael Smith said he came back through Los Angeles airport where ‘‘people were lined up to spit on us.”
Like many stories of the spat-upon veteran genre, Smith’s lacks credulity. GIs landed at military airbases, not civilian airports, and protesters could not have gotten onto the bases and anywhere near deplaning troops. There may have been exceptions, of course, but in those cases how would protesters have known in advance that a plane was being diverted to a civilian site? And even then, returnees would have been immediately bused to nearby military installations and processed for reassignment or discharge.
The exaggerations in Smith’s story are characteristic of those told by others. ‘‘Most Vietnam veterans were spat on when we came back,” he said. That’s not true. A 1971 Harris poll conducted for the Veterans Administration found over 90 percent of Vietnam veterans reporting a friendly homecoming. Far from spitting on veterans, the antiwar movement welcomed them into its ranks and thousands of veterans joined the opposition to the war.
So now we know that stories of spat upon veterans can be questionable. What, then, can we say about Josh Sparling—and the allegations that an anti-war protester spat in his general direction?
Check out this post at Digby’s blog, documenting the frequency with which Josh Sparling is apprently victimized. It happens so many times, some even consider Sparling a professional victim. And in this post, Digby shows that Sparling was even invited to a State of the Union Address. So Sparling is no ordinary spat upon veteran— he has friends in very high places!
Who knows how many places Sparling made appearances during the protest, but The Beacon accidentally caught some incidental footage of him goading protesters. We find it noteworthy that a fenced-off chasm of about twenty feet separated the protesters from the counter-protesters. Is this the location of the alleged spitting? If so, how could someone launch a phlegm-wad that far?
Whatever modicum of credibility the Sparling story has, what can we therefore make of Bill Sloat’s own claims of being a victimized veteran?
In Sloat’s Bellwether item, Sloat leaves the following note:
A commenter asks him to provide more details of his own experience. Sloat writes the following:
This anecdote begs several questions. Firstly, would a bunch of military guys on leave in New Orleans, going to see a porno, be in a sober state of mind? Is it likely that there was some partying?
And how realistic is this spitting woman? Can we really imagine a lone woman spitting at three male soldiers? Further, what kind of interaction do we think three soldiers would have with a woman after allegedly leaving a porno?
Nevertheless, Sloat claims his memories from 1970 are vivid. He remembers going to see a porno named “the Devil is Miss Jones” (sic). He remembers this vividly in 1970.
There is just one problem. The porno in question wasn’t even made until 1973.
It seems, therefore, that Bill Sloat’s “vivid” memories may be a bit more cloudy than he would have us believe.
People from all over the world—people of all races and ages—came to protest the current war. But a so-called seasoned journalist like Bill Sloat saw fit to go for shock-and-awe, spreading the propaganda of a professional victim like Josh Sparling.
In times like these we need hard hitting journalism—journalism that has some balls. You won’t find any of those at The Daily Bellwether.
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