Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Hero worship

Updated Just a matter of passing interest, I have made one I suppose you could call it a contribution to discussion on the web. My post Heroics, intended as a critique of the left's over-eagerness to embrace the view that all soldiers are "our heroes," has gotten noticed in a couple of forums - often enough hostile ones - and generated some degree of discussion, not to mention by best guess over 8,000 hits here. It is far and away my most "popular" (in terms of generating traffic) post.

It has produced some, um, interesting responses, including a number of comments I deleted for violation of comments policy - specifically, the part that says "comments that are merely personal slams on me or another commenter will be deleted without hesitation or warning."

"Heroics" was first picked up by a Facebook group called "Soldiers are not heroes" which linked to it and quoted a bit of it. Then it actually made the first page of Reddit. A website called The Hero Workshop quoted from it. More recently, some site called Lightfighter.net, which I gather is a forum for exchanges on military tactics and reviews of weapons, especially small arms, must have referred to it because I started getting a bunch of hits from them. And just recently, RelicNews Forums had a discussion thread which linked to the post and, surprisingly, generated some actual back-and-forth about if soldiers are by definition heroes - even though the title of the thread was "Disgusting what people think of our guys."

Probably the most interesting link, however, came from the New York Sports Day site, which had a comment thread with the title "Why it should be legal to shoot 1 hippy per year" with "Heroics" as the lead example, accompanied by the comment "I'd use my round on this guy." (It appeared that to the commenters, the word "hippy" - which as anyone of the proper age knows, is properly spelled "hippie" - referred to anyone they dislike for reasons other than race, religion, or ethnicity.)

One person in that latter thread made the effort to search Lotus and said "two of this guy's 'heroes' [are] John Murtha, and an activist who repeatedly insisted on working the word 'GAY' into some vanity license plates despite declines from the DMV."

That got me to wondering about just who I have called a hero in this thing, so I did my own search. The first thing I discovered is that while I had called Murtha a "hero," the poster completely missed the point. I had sarcastically referred to Murtha as a "Democrat and antiwar hero" in the course of criticizing him for adopting without discussion or debate an amendment to a DOD funding bill that enabled the intelligence budget to remain secret. It was a slap at the liberal left that had been drooling over him.

(We might also want to consider just what is the problem these folks have with Murtha, considering he is a decorated Vietnam veteran who had a 38-year career in the Marines, which would seem to make him their kind of hero. I suspect the trouble started when he came out against the Iraq War and criticized Shrub.)

As for the "activist," her name is Elizabeth Solomon and I called her "definitely a true American hero" because of her stubborn, principled refusal to back down in the face of official opposition and personal threats.

I have used the term "hero" in reference to three other people:
- the unknown person who leaked the information that the CIA was running a secret prison system
- Mark "Deep Throat" Felt ("a whistleblower extraordinaire")
- my personal hero, I. F. Stone

There is one other person I could add to that list, one who I didn't call a hero, but rather "a true patriot." That would be former Sergeant Joseph Darby, the man who risked his safety and sacrificed his career to blow the whistle on Abu Ghraib.

And if you think you see a pattern in those five people, you'd be right.

Updated to say that with a deeper look, I found two individuals I called "unsung heroes." One was Bev Harris of BlackBoxVoting.org, an organization that was a pioneer in calling attention to the risks of electronic voting.

The other was Betty Ostergren, a privacy activist in Virginia, who ran a sort of guerrilla campaign against that state's program of putting public records online - public records which often contained personal information irrelevant for the purpose of government oversight but very relevant to identity thieves, who could now peruse those records at their leisure. She sent hundreds of letters to people in three counties containing personal information she had culled from those online records. The response was outrage so great that all three sites were closed within days and two remained offline two years later.

I don't think those additions affect the pattern.

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