(To read all of our “Lone Survivor” posts, please click here.)
Since we demolished Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robison’s “memoir” Lone Survivor a few months ago, a ridiculous new trend started at On Violence: haters and hateration.
Two examples. The first is from Patrick in the comment section of “He Got The Title Wrong? and 6 More Mistakes from Luttrell's "Lone Survivor” “this website is stupid. its nothing but a bunch of computer nerds and paper pushers that have never been in our boots. you guys have no idea what you are talking about...michael, are you even in the military? have you at the very least received a degree in military studies?” [SIC]
The second example--from the same post--is by Kyle, “We trust these men to do the work that 99.9% of you are too [profanity] to do...if you have ever stepped one foot on a battlefield, then you have half a right to comment on this subject. if not, shut your mouth and live your little lives that are being secured by men like this. being an infantryman myself, it absolutely sickens me that this site is even up and running. what you all should do is simply say ‘thank you for everything you did for us, marcus’ and leave it at that.” [SIC]
We’ve since deleted about three other comments along the same vein. Commenter “youguysaremorons” claimed Michael and I “sit on our couch drinking diet cokes” while others do the fighting for us. (We’ve also developed a new policy: no personal attacks. If you want to insult us or another commenter, do it somewhere else.)
Behind these profanity laced quotes is something much worse: the idea that people outside the military are unable/not allowed to comment on it. Michael C made a comment once on a post at Abu Muqawama, and another person dismissed his comment because he wasn’t a soldier. On a number of levels, it's a logical fallacy. Here are five:
1. Lots of people have not been lots of things; they still comment on them. I mean, I don’t know a soldier since Eisenhower who was president, but I know lots of Soldiers who complain about the President. Only a handful of ex-Soldiers have gone on to join our Congress, but I know tons of service members who think Nancy Pelosi is doing a terrible job. Soldiers don’t want anyone to judge their job, but they feel free to judge politicians. To paraphrase Kyle--the scholar-cum-commenter from above--”If you have ever stepped one foot in the White House, then you have half a right to comment on this subject. If not, shut your mouth and live your little lives that are being led by men like Obama and Bush.”
This sentiment is silly, of course, but so is the idea non-soldiers can’t comment on military matters.
2. A speaker’s personality/traits/anything else that defines that person, technically has nothing to do with the accuracy of a statement. Fools can say wise things; wise men can say foolish things. People forget this, which is why so many smart sentiments and quotes said by anonymous people get attributed to smarter, more famous people. It’s why Einstein, Plato, Franklin, and Ghandi have dozens of quotes attributed to them, and George Santanaya does not.
3. If you have valuable, first-hand experience, then provide it. The only benefit an expert has is using personal experience to back-up his position. In the cases of Patrick and Kyle, neither argues about the factual inaccuracies in Lone Survivor, instead they say we don’t know what we’re talking about. We have found this a lot when Lone Survivor comes up. Instead of debating the merits of our arguments, most people simply say, “if you weren’t there then you can’t judge”, as if the only relevant first hand experience, in the case of war, is that of our soldiers and them alone.
3. This is a formal logical fallacy, and a fairly famous one. The Ad Hominem attack. Neither commenter deals with the fact Lone Survivor is inaccurate and poorly written. Instead they come after us with personal attacks.
4. We live in a democracy and the military serves at our behest. Thus, everyone has a right to comment. Let me rephrase that: everyone has an obligation to comment on the military because it is the most important, most violent and most influential organization that represents us. Not trying to make it better is giving up part of one’s civic duty. Historically, the military has been the greatest threat to freedom and democracy; for every revolution by liberals there have been five coup d’etats by a military or general.
5. Oh and even though it doesn’t matter, Michael C is in the military and has been to Afghanistan. Regular On Violence readers probably spotted this very reasonable objection to the haters right off the bat. Michael C is in the military. Michael C deployed to Afghanistan. To answer Patrick’s claim. Yes, Michael C has a minor in military studies, graduated with honors from both Infantry Officer Basic Course and the Military Intelligence Captain’s Career Course, and went to Ranger School.
Not only did neither commenter not check our “About” page to learn that Michael served in Afghanistan, earned the combat infantry badge, and is currently serving in Iraq, neither read the first paragraph of the post they were commenting on. Michael wrote, “I lived in the Korengal valley; I walked the trails on the other side of the Sawtalo Spur.”