Feb 12

(Though it probably doesn’t deserve it, we have a ton of thoughts on Lt. Col. David Grossman’s “Sheep, Sheepdogs and Wolves” analogy. To read the entire series, please click here.)

On Monday, we addressed two of the criticisms of our Slate piece, (“The Surprising History of American Sniper’s “Wolves, Sheep, and Sheepdogs” Speech”). Today, we want to tackle some more of the rebuttals.

“This doesn’t have anything to do with race!”

Far and away, people--even people who liked the article--objected to us connecting the sheep, sheepdogs and wolves analogy to race more than any other objection. Some felt the connection was not related to the core article, or Chris Kyle.

There’s a number of rebuttals we could issue in response. First, as we wrote in the article, many (most?) Americans use race, consciously or subconsciously. In particular, many police officers use race in their decision making. (By now, most people have seen the Harvard Implicit Bias test. If not, check it out.) The sheepdog analogy, by its very nature, divides people into categories. And most people in America divide their fellow Americans into categories...using race.

Ironically, many of the people objecting to the accusation of racism had an odd response: being racist. For example…

“But black people are wolves!”

I wanted to make this point in the original article, but Michael C made me leave it out. Follow this simple logic train (which we don’t agree with):

- The world is divided into three groups, sheep, sheepdogs and wolves.

- Wolves commit crimes.

- African-Americans commit crimes more than any other group.

- Therefore, African-Americans are more likely to be wolves. (Again we don’t agree with this at all.)

Think that’s crazy? I do too, but I just wanted to follow the crazy logic of the sheepdog analogy to its logical conclusion. If this analogy is true (it’s not), African Americans are more likely to be wolves. Turns out, some commenters are already leapt to that conclusion, citing crime statistics and saying, “See, African Americans are wolves!”

And people say the gun rights debate doesn’t have anything to do with race. But let’s get more specific...

“Michael Brown was a wolf!”

Many commenters on Twitter and in the comments section objected to us using Michael Brown as an example.

From Twitter: “at the same time, the pieces author mourns a violent criminal like Michael Brown (can't speak to Garner), so…”

From the comments section: “BTW, Mike Brown was a wolf, as shown on the security video in which he assaulted and robbed a much smaller man.” and “Mike Brown was a wolf killed by a sheepdog.”

Or in more racially-loaded terms, Michael Brown was a “thug”. (Yes, someone wrote that.) And less sensitively, some commenters wrote that he deserved to get shot.

This is really where I get upset. In essence, they’re arguing that petty larceny is a crime deserving a death sentence. Yes, I mourn the death of any young man who gets shot, because I don’t see the failing as his, but a society that couldn’t help him. Especially when an overzealous law enforcement community and its supporters see shooting him as a justified action for robbing a liquor store.

Sad.

“Evil exists!”

That’s the gist of this article refuting us. On one hand we can’t refute this. There are definitely horrific, vile acts in the world it is hard to call anything but evil. But, as we wrote in our Slate article and many times since, the number of horrific, vile acts in the world is decreasing. Evil isn’t spreading in the world, it’s receding.

But going from “evil acts” to “evil people” is a different ball game and it begs way more questions than it answers. Does one act forever make someone evil?  What about soldiers or police officers who beat their children or cheat on their wives? Are they evil? What about the torturers?  What about drone strikes of weddings in Yemen? Does that make the operators in Langley sheepdogs or wolves? What about politicians making bad decisions about wars that kill innocents? Are they sheep or sheepdogs? Evil or justified?

Evil is too simplistic a term to judge people with, unfortunately. And so is the “sheep, wolves and sheepdog” analogy.

Feb 09

(Though it probably doesn’t deserve it, we have a ton of thoughts on Lt. Col. David Grossman’s “Sheep, Sheepdogs and Wolves” analogy. To read the entire series, check out the posts below:

- On V in Other Places: Slate's "The Surprising History of American Sniper’s “Wolves, Sheep, and Sheepdogs” Speech”

- Race, Evil, and Black Wolves: Answering the Critics Part 2)

 

Our Slate piece from two weeks ago (“The Surprising History of American Sniper’s “Wolves, Sheep, and Sheepdogs” Speech”), got a lot of responses. And by a lot of responses, we mean approximately 1,300 comments. (An On V record!) Like any good comments section, most of the responses were insane. But we thought we’d debunk a few of the most common rebuttals to our article.

Today, we tackle the responses that attacked our research.

“Grossman didn’t invent the analogy!”

Unfortunately, this was the most popular response about our article, challenging the idea that Lieutenant Colonel David Grossman invented the analogy.

First, we had people pointing out any analogy with a wolf, a sheep or a sheepdog in it and claiming, “See! Someone else said it first!” Most of these analogies only had two of the three animals, which wouldn’t make it quite the same. In particular, a reader filed a correction with Slate, saying it came from The Dogs of War by Frederick Forsyth. So I found the analogy in the book, forwarded it to Slate, and we all agreed: the analogy in that book was actually the opposite of Grossman’s analogy. (That specific analogy claimed that every member of every military in the world was a wolf preying on the innocent.)

This also happened with Plato and few other analogies. In short, people have been crafting analogies about sheep for years (like the Bible); this analogy is very specific and different.

Closer to the point, a sociology professor pointed out that Grossman may have first used the actual analogy in On Killing. He also pointed out that another sociologist in the 1990s used the same analogy to criticize the media’s perception of police. Based on the follow-up research we’ve done, this seems accurate.

But it’s all besides the point.

Despite the headline “The Surprising History of American Sniper’s “Wolves, Sheep, and Sheepdogs” Speech”, we weren’t writing a history of the analogy. We were debunking it. Oh, and we even wrote in the article that Grossman said he heard it from an old vet.

Anyway, who first crafted the analogy doesn’t matter. Grossman popularized the analogy. Grossman did more than any other person to make this analogy a cornerstone of the conservative, gun rights movement, by writing articles and giving hundreds of talks around the country. Grossman may not have invented the analogy, but he made it famous.

“You’re taking these quotes out of context!”

A lot of people objected to how we used quotes from both Chris Kyle and Lt. Col. Grossman, saying we took the quotes out of context. You can probably say this about anyone quoting anything anytime. Since you can’t (and wouldn’t) quote entire texts, someone can always claim that the next sentence, paragraph or chapter clarifies a quote that makes someone look bad. (*cough* Clausewitz *cough*)

That’s not the case with the quotes we used.

On Chris Kyle, he’s an extremist. In his book American Sniper, he hates like few people have the power to hate. More importantly to the critics of what we wrote, I re-read the passage we quoted in the article. Nothing before or after it contradicts what he said.

Some people claim that Kyle only referred to the bad guys as “savages”, not all Iraqis just the people he was fighting. And yes, at one point in the book Kyle makes that distinction. Of course, in the first chapter alone, he uses “savages” without making that distinction. And here are some more quotes about Iraqis from American Sniper:

“I never once fought for the Iraqis. I couldn’t give a flying f*** about them.”

“I don’t shoot people with Korans. I’d like to, but I don’t.”

So yeah, our quotes stand.

Did we take Grossman out of context? Some people complained that Grossman didn’t view his groupings as definite. To be fair, Grossman does make that point [emphasis mine]:

“This business of being a sheep or a sheepdog is not a yes-no dichotomy. It is not an all-or-nothing, either-or choice. It is a matter of degrees, a continuum. On one end is an abject, head-in-the-grass sheep and on the other end is the ultimate warrior. Few people exist completely on one end or the other. Most of us live somewhere in between.”

And this point…

“In nature the sheep, real sheep, are born as sheep. Sheepdogs are born that way, and so are wolves. They didn’t have a choice. But you are not a critter. As a human being, you can be whatever you want to be. It is a conscious, moral decision.”

But then he contradicts himself later:

“If you are a warrior who is legally authorized to carry a weapon and you step outside without that weapon, then you become a sheep, pretending that the bad man will not come today. No one can be “on” 24/7 for a lifetime. Everyone needs down time. But if you are authorized to carry a weapon, and you walk outside without it, just take a deep breath, and say this to yourself... “Baa.”

Sounds like an all-or-nothing choice. And in his earlier work, On Killing, he classified the emphatic psychopath as the ultimate warrior, dividing humans into groups based on genetics. So yeah, it’s pretty much a dichotomy.

Of course, Grossman doesn’t write anything about wolves becoming sheep or sheepdogs, but we’ll discuss that in a future post.

Nov 03

A few years ago, I wrote in an “On V Update to Old Ideas” that Eric C and I fall into the “optimist-idealist” camp when it comes to the future of war. Not only do we think war is decreasing over time, we think someday humans will be able to end all war. That makes us optimists.

But it feels strange to describe ourselves as “idealists”. Certainly a view of humanity as fundamentally good is idealistic. But is that inherently unrealistic? We didn’t come to that idea in a vacuum. Rather we found it in in academic research by Stephen Pinker, Joshua Goldstein, John Horgan, Bruno Tertais, Micah Zenko, Michael Cohen and John Mueller, who all wrote that--despite the constant war coverage in the media--the world is actually more peaceful and less violent than at any time in its history. The forces making it less violent and more peaceful, they also tend to argue, will likely continue in the foreseeable future. In essence, our optimistic views aren’t idealistic at all, but founded in a realistic view of contemporary events.

Yet, ironically, some international relations realists stand in front of this academic train yelling, “Halt.” For instance, Frank Hoffman writing on the realist website War on the Rocks, “Plato was Dead Wrong: Embracing Our Better Angels”.

When it comes to debating war, the “realists” like Frank Hoffman may as well be the idealists. Instead of using facts, data or anything empirical, they rely on ideals...an idealism based in a pessimism. To show this, I am going to go through Hoffman’s 2,500 word article and show the (lack of) evidence he uses to support his worldview that the world isn’t getting less violent:

- A misattributed quote. That’s right, the central uniting theme of his article is a “quote” from Plato, an incorrectly attributed quote that, “Only the dead have seen the end of war.” As we’ve written before, Plato didn’t say this; the unknown George Santayana did. Unfortunately for Hoffman, he googled the phrase to link to it. GoodReads.com doesn’t count as a reputable academic resource. If he had scrolled down, he might have stumbled across our article on “Quotes Behaving Badly.

- No academic citations or footnotes. Yep, after linking to Stephen Pinker, Bruno Tertais, Micah Zenko and Michael Cohen, Hoffman doesn’t link to a single academic article that argues that war is increasing in frequency. He doesn’t link to them because they don’t exist. Instead, he simply argues that globalization makes interstate war more likely, but can’t provide the data to support this.

- No charts or graphs. As a student of history and business, I know better than most that line graphs can be easily manipulated to prove anything. Hoffman, though, doesn’t even bother because he doesn’t even have the basic data on his side. No amount of chart manipulation will make it seem as if the world is on the verge of cataclysmic war.

- Elevating current news stories to data points. The key to arguing against optimists who say the world is less violent is doubling down on what one sociologist has called, “mean world syndrome”. Because the constant news cycle emphasizes violent and particularly heinous crimes, it makes the world seem more violent and chaotic than it really is. Hoffman absolutely embraces this strategy in his second paragraph:

“Ignore the front page of today’s paper. The civil war in Syria doesn’t exist and Damascus is a vacation hot spot. Egypt embraced Jeffersonian democracy while you slept. North Korea’s leadership has offered Disneyland and Starbucks unlimited access to the Hermit Kingdom...the Mullahs in Tehran have renounced clerical rule, asked for forgiveness for storming our embassy, and given us permanent basing rights on their coast.”

And Hoffman wrote this before Russia invaded Ukraine. (The article is from last year.) He takes four data points and says, “See the world is more violent than ever.” Hoffman, like most realists who insist the world is more dangerous than ever, do so by selecting certain current data points and ignoring the rest, all the countries not engaging in wars.

- An anecdote. Hoffman then tells a story how British Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger, Norman Angell and Ivan Bloch all predicted peace and were proven wrong by World War I. He, of course, doesn’t mention the countless people who predicted a nuclear war in the 1950s, only to be proven wrong. The point is, the accuracy of past predictions isn’t evidence either way.

- Appeals to pessimistic beliefs about human nature. To cap off his argument, Hoffman, like most pessimists/realists, relies on the foundational belief that humans are naturally violent and self-interested:

“...human nature and history have not changed.  Better yet, go back and glance at Plato, Thucydides, Hobbes and Clausewitz.  They all recognized that the “better angels of our nature” was mere gossamer.  A realistic appreciation of the human condition, one founded on a few millennia of frequently brutish and violent human history, will always serve as a reminder of the folly of illusory and Utopian thinking.”

For a website founded on realism that allegedly prefers personal experience to ideology as a starting point, Hoffman seems to start with Thucydides, Hobbes and Clausewitz--again, his Plato quotation is completely inaccurate and contrary to much of Plato’s writings--and goes from there. Worse, as John Horgan completely demolished in The End of War, there is hardly any scientific evidence--either genetic, historical, anthropological or cultural--that human nature is fundamentally evil.

Unlike the times of Thucydides, Hobbes and Clausewitz, we now have rigorous social science that can test hypotheses. And the hypothesis that human nature is fundamentally evil has failed.

So there you have it: quotes, single data points, anecdotes, and an over-riding pessimistic belief a la Hobbes that mankind is nasty, brutish and violent. Data is the enemy of the realists, so that doesn’t make them very realistic, does it?

Oct 28

In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch shoots and kills a rabid dog. Why? Because you can’t rationalize with an animal, especially a crazy animal caught by disease.

Too many Americans--even influential pundits and politicians--feel the same way about Arabs or Muslims, especially the extremists. From Andrew Bacevich in the Washington Post:

"You have to understand the Arab mind," one company commander told the New York Times..."The only thing they understand is force -- force, pride and saving face."

Far from representing the views of a few underlings, such notions penetrated into the upper echelons of the American command. In their book "Cobra II," Michael R. Gordon and Gen. Bernard E. Trainor offer this ugly comment from a senior officer: "The only thing these sand n*****s understand is force and I'm about to introduce them to it.”

Societies use language to manipulate how we feel about other groups. We use language to dehumanize our enemies. By dehumanizing them, we make them easier to kill. It’s one thing to kill another rational human being with thoughts, emotions, feelings and a family. It’s another to kill a “sand n*****” who can’t be reasoned with.

Muslims (even the so called “islamofascists”) aren’t animals. They aren’t less than human. They aren’t barbarians, primitives or savages. They’re people. We may hate them and what they do. They’re still human.

We’ve been writing about language and hate speech for these last few months not because we’re grammar and usage mavens (though I am). We’re writing about language and war because words matter especially when those words sustain conflicts instead of ending them. Words actively change points of view and perceptions. Words actively shape worldviews. Language affects whether the American military ever tries to adopt population-centric counterinsurgency, or whether it decides that the enemy is an sub-human that must (and can only) be killed.

Take this quote from Marcus Luttrell in Lone Survivor:

“To meet these guys in these remote Pashtun villages only made the conundrum more difficult. Because right here we’re talking about Primitive with a big P. Adobe huts made out of sun-dried clay bricks with dirt floors and awful smell of urine and mule dung. Downstairs they have goats and chickens living in the house. And yet here, in these caveman conditions, they planned and then carried out the most shocking atrocity on a twenty-first-century city.”

This quote makes the masterminds of 9/11 sound like backwards primitives. But Osama bin Laden was anything but. Osama bin Laden, as is commonly known, was a millionaire from a rich, cultured family. He was educated; he was not a primitive. In fact, most terrorists are educated.

Tactically, this misguided belief puts us (the West, if you will) at a disadvantage. Understanding the enemy is the key to winning a war. By not actually knowing your enemy, you can’t defeat them. By labeling all Muslims--or at least, entire nations--as backwards, primitive, savages or barbarians, it destroys all nuance. After the Innocence of Muslims debacle from last year, Slate ran an article on Muslims who support free speech.

But I hate writing about tactics. Just like the debate about torture, it doesn’t matter if hate speech is  ineffective; morally, it’s wrong. That’s all that matters.

Oct 21

(To read the entire “Quotes Behaving Badly” series, click here.)

Last year, Matthew Bradley passed along a link to an essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education on, well, “Quotes Behaving Badly”. Corey Robin, a political science professor at Brooklyn College, describes the phenomenon of the “Wrongly Attributed Statement” (or as we call them, “Quotes Behaving Badly”. Naming things!). I really liked the essay…

Until I read the ending.

Corey Robin ends his essay defending this phenomenon as a (sort of) triumph of group think, or in his words, crowdsourcing:

“It's precisely these sorts of affectations—and appeals to authority—that have led me over the years to a greater appreciation of the WAS. I no longer think of it as a simple pain in the neck or desperate appeal to authority. I now see it as a kind of democratic poetry, an emanation of genius from the masses. We recognize the utility of crowdsourcing. Why not the beauty of crowdwriting? Someone famous says something fine—"When bad men combine, the good must associate"—and some forgotten wordsmith, or wordsmiths, through trial and error, refashions it into something finer: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

“It's good that we remember the knockoff rather than the original. The knockoff is better—and we made it.”

Nope.

First, Wrongly Attributed Statements, by definition, don’t change the meaning of a quote; they misidentify its authorship. That’s just intellectually wrong and corrupt. Misinformation exists; we don’t need to celebrate or endorse it. Most “Quotes Behaving Badly” (or Wrongly Attributed Statements) violate basic truth by misidentifying the author in an attempt to give the thought greater gravitas. (Think Plato versus George Santayana.) We should try to stamp that misinformation out, not celebrate it. Websites like BrainyQuote, ThinkExist, GoodReads and others, which use algorithms to systematically misidentify the actual authorship of a quote, just need to go. They perpetuate bad information.

Especially in today’s world, when it takes, what, a couple minutes to find the actual authorship of a quote? When Edmond Halley investigated comets, he had to comb through ancient tome after ancient tome documenting every mention of a comet. Today, you can Google search virtually every book that’s ever been written. Sites like Snopes, Quote Investigator, Wikiquote and Google Books make the process of researching and debunking “Quotes Behaving Badly” easier than it’s ever been in human history.    

Worse than that, as the cliche goes, conventional wisdom is just that, conventional. (If I wanted, I could attribute that cliche to Ben Franklin, inventing my own Wrongly Attributed Statement, giving the cliche the imprimatur of intellectual rigor.) Or often flat wrong.

As any reader to our “Quotes Behaving Badly” series know, we don’t just debunk the authorship of quotes; we debunk the quotes themselves. Let’s just look at two examples cited by Corey Robin. First, he cites Plato’s George Santanaya’s quote, “Only the dead have seen the end of war.” as an example of a “Wrongly Attributed Statement”. Yes, it’s misattributed. It’s also wrong. As we’ve written and written, the world is safer than it has ever been; war is decreasing. Though most people reject this thesis, it’s happening. But this fatalistic little maxim denies this reality without using any evidence to support its claim, using the second or third most famous ancient Greek philosopher to give it the veneer of wisdom.

Same with Robin’s example, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." As we wrote before, “It’s banal and, in the hands of demagogues, has probably caused more death than it's saved.” This quote is also useless. Anti-war.com uses this quote and so do far right extremists. So does this sentiment actually send more people to battle than not? Does it actually prevent peace or reconciliation?

We’re going to keep debunking quotes like this, both their authorship and their sentiments. In a rigorous, forward-moving world, it’s not just something people can do; it’s something they should.

Especially academics.

Aug 12

(To read the rest of our posts on language and war--our “Getting Orwellian” series--please click here.)

To prove that many (too many) Americans demonize our enemies, we’re listing examples, starting last week and continuing today, of examples of hate speech against Muslims. What better place to do that than with conservative milblogs?

In the minds and words of some milbloggers, Muslims aren’t human. They’re barbarians, primitives, or savages. In other words, they’re less than human. We’ll detail why--on moral, ethical and practical ground--this language is unacceptable in later posts. Today, consider this post to be the proof, slaying the “straw man” ahead of time.

Without further ado, the hate, uncensored:

Barbarians

They are ruthless barbarians who boast about killing those they have taken hostage.

- The Jawa Report, “Beheading Desecration Video of Dead U.S. Soldiers Released on Internet by al Qaeda

It is high time for Pakistan to decide whether it belongs to civilization or to the barbarians.

- The Captain’s Journal, “When It Comes to Pakistan, We Just Can’t Handle the Truth

They are barbaric and full of hatred and vile for this country, regardless of whether we’re following the rules or not.

- A Soldier’s Perspective, “Take Off The Gloves

 “Feel better now you sub-human swine?...F**ing animals!

        - Blackfive, “Our Barbarian allies Kill UN Workers in Kabul

I hope the stars stay aligned for more operations against these barbarians.”  

- This Ain’t Hell, “US Marines free German ship from pirates”

Primitives

The primitive peoples of the middle east are perhaps the most gullible ethnic group on the planet.

        - Blackfive, “Squandering Our Victory”

Savages

So let me say that the proper response is not to look deep inside our souls and reflect on how it is that we could have done something to not offend these savages.

- Blackfive, “It’s not you, it’s me...

We are driving down the road of appeasement in speaking with savages that understand only one thing; power.

        - Blackfive, “1979 Anyone?

“...let's not let a bunch of marginally-civilized savages screw around with international shipping.

        - Blackfive, “Taking down pirates the hip thing to do

(For more examples from Blackfive, please don’t click here, here, here (also a Washington Times op-ed.) or here.)

Yeah, well, here’s the thing; these goat roping 6th century savages are going to attack us no matter what we do – remember the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the attacks on our African embassies, the attack on the USS Cole, the attacks on 9/11?

- This Ain’t Hell, “Peace talks inspire more terrorist groups”

“...goat-humping, 7th century, savage...

- This Ain’t Hell, “Ask an Infantryman”

Have you considered what would happen if the US and NATO declared victory and left your backwards-assed, 7th century collection of savages that you call a country...”

- This Ain’t Hell, “Just a Friendly Note to President Karzai from Col. Nathan Jessup

- “The Democrats recommend that we negotiate with 12th Century savages who are still cutting off hands and executing criminals in public. Savages who deny that there were millions executed in Europe because of their religion and sexual preferences in the last century.

- This Ain’t Hell, “Jack Reed; this drawdown is not a drawdown

Two thoughts: one, which century are these savages actually from? The sixth, the seventh or the twelfth? Finally, This Ain’t Hell has two more examples of using “savages” here and here.

Aug 14

A few week’s back on Carrying the Gun, Michael C rebutted the idea that, if women join the infantry, it somehow prevents young soldiers from validating themselves as men. He responded to this specific quote:

“The question looming, hidden and afraid in masculine hearts, as this discussion rages, is nearly impossible to ask: Where now does a man go to prove his manhood in society?”

This wasn’t the first time I’d read something like this. Donovan Campbell, in his war memoir Joker One, wrote:

"I also knew in the infantry I’d be in a place where I could no longer hide behind potential, a place where academic achievements and family connections were irrelevant."

(Before I go on, I do have to point out that Campbell’s assertion is absurd. Family connections absolutely make a difference in the military. Unfortunately, I will agree with him that academic accomplishments are meaningless.)

Andrew Exum, in his memoir This Man’s Army, wrote:

"I began to believe that war might be the only answer to all my doubts. That war might validate my existence as a soldier and a man."

In my time living with Michael C in Italy, I met more than one soldier who justified their experience in the Army with this explanation. In short, if you want to prove yourself, go to war and see some action.

Michael C, in his guest post, addressed gender issues. To me, the real issue is a moral one: why should one have to validate their existence by killing people?

The above quotes don’t talk about joining the military, but going to war. Exum specifically writes, war is “the only answer” while Campbell advocates joining the infantry, not say, logistics or the Signal Corps.

The vague, indefinable self-worth one gets from going to war comes at a cost. That cost is human life. Whatever self-worth a soldier gains from his combat experience, the cost in human lives will always outweigh it.

Want a good reason to join the military? Do it to protect our country. Or to help other people around the world. Or to pay for college. (I just happen to think that should be free regardless.) Do it to learn leadership or gain life skills. My favorite reason comes from my dad when he justified Michael C’s decision to join the military: the military needs smart, ethical soldiers. It needs soldiers who will question authority, who will strive to improve the organization and, most importantly, who will maintain the moral high ground.

Those are all good reasons to join the military.

But no one should have to prove their self worth by killing someone else.

May 23

(To read the entire "Our Communist Military" series, please click here.

And as we now have to clarify in each one of these posts, we don’t actually think that the military is “communist”. That’s a rhetorical stand-in for socialist, liberal, progressive, what have you.)

On Tuesday, I wrote a post clarifying what we mean by “Our Communist Military”. A common, and probably justified, complaint was that we threw around the epithet “communist”, labeling people and institutions “communist” when they weren’t.

Who would do that? Who would casually accuse someone of being a communist or a socialist with little to no proof? Who would compare someone to Stalin, Marx, Lenin or, less famously, Trotsky? The reaction to our post had a resoundingly clear point: you can’t just accuse someone or some organization of being communist when they aren’t.

Who would do that?

Oh yeah. Milbloggers. (At least, conservative milbloggers.)

“This political cow, our president, is a far leftist in whose mind the weapon of choice is the AK 47, a veritable symbol of violent revolutionary communism around the world. As a Vietnam veteran, I’m telling you, Barack Obama might as well have raised a red star communist flag.”

This Ain’t Hell, “A President is Known by the Weapons He Chooses…

“If all this sounds a bit too much to swallow, consider the political origins of the key players in the current administration. All are products of the Chicago political machine, a thoroughly liberal/socialist/communist movement”

This Ain’t Hell, “Actually Going After a Cartel”

“The opening of Great Leader's address to the People's Congress was pretty disturbing...That or maybe he really is a socialist...Friedrich Hayek, a guy who actually deserved his Nobel, took a preemptive axe to Obamunism in the "Road to Serfdom"...Mr. President, just because you slid into the chair of the Commander in Chief doesn't mean you command the American people. So don't expect us to salute and move out smartly when you crank up the Internationale and start barking out orders.”

Blackfive, “Obama's call for an Army of the Proletariat

“In case you missed it, the American Civil Liberties Union (more accurately - the American Communist Lawyers Union) has filed a lawsuit demanding the basis for conducting targeted killings with armed drones.”

Blackfive, “Military Roundup

(And if you think we had to make any of the photos for this page, don’t worry. We just googled “Obama communist” and hundreds of examples came up.)

I suppose I should end this post by drawing some larger conclusion, by standing on a pulpit and judging everyone. I’m not. Everyone throws epithets around; it doesn’t make it okay, but it isn’t the worst thing in the world, especially if it’s done as a rhetorical device. (Without insults, we’d have no Menken, Twain or Stewart.)

Or I could just point out that, when we called the military communist, we didn’t mean it. Though, the military does (subconsciously) embrace communist ideals, we don’t actually think the military is communist.

But I’m not sure the same is true for the above writers.