Anyway, today’s Faux Fact comes to you from Max Blumenthal of The Nation. In his blog entry entitled “Kill or Convert, Brought To You By the Pentagon,” Blumenthal links the creepy Pentagon, a creepy evangelical group called Operation Straight Up, and a creepy video game called Left Behind: Eternal Forces. Then, he ties it all up in a Hollywood bow by inserting creepy Stephen Baldwin. The Creepy Quadfecta.
Here are the basic facts he presents:
Stephen Baldwin has signed up with an evangelical entertainment troupe that performs for the troops. The group is also sending “freedom packets” to soldiers. These packets contain socks, baby wipes, and a nifty shoot-‘em-up video game that pits Christians against the Antichrist’s army. The freedom packets also include religious materials in English and Arabic.
Now, my complaint isn’t really so much about the accuracy of Blumenthal’s entry as it is about the quality of his discourse. If truth be told, I didn’t check all the facts in the story. That’s because I got hung up on a single phrase toward the beginning of the article:
As an official arm of the Defense Department's America Supports You program, OSU plans to mail copies of the controversial apocalyptic video game...Hmm. An “official arm of the Defense Department's America Supports You program,” you say? Sounds like something a person should confirm. So, I looked it up. And as I suspected, the phrase is misleading.
Blumenthal’s implication is that Operation Straight Up is an official arm of the Defense Department. It took me three reads before I realized that he’s linking OSU to the America Supports You program, not the Defense Department itself. Is it a deliberate mislead, or is it just bad writing? I haven’t read enough of Blumenthal’s stuff to know. Could be I’m just too tired to concentrate.
Anyway, here’s what I found out. America Supports You is, indeed, an entity within the Department of Defense. According to its website,
America Supports You is a Department of Defense program dedicated to connecting members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families with individuals, groups, and businesses from the community who want to support and encourage our military
men and women. America Supports You currently lists more than 275 non-profit groups that are devoted to helping our service men and women. These groups provide a multitude of services, including financial assistance, sending care packages and letters, and helping our wounded warriors.
OSU Tours is listed as one of those 275 organizations. America Supports You is kind of like the United Way with a testosterone imbalance.
Now, it’s time for your SAT question of the day. Choose the answer that is the least incorrect:
OSU is to the Department of Defense as:
a. Bush is to Cheney
b. Max Blumenthal is to Al Franken
c. Al Franken is to Stephen Baldwin
d. A student organization is to the University Board of Regents.
Get the idea? Inclusion in America Supports You does not, on its face, indicate endorsement or direct governance by the Pentagon. (Note, though, that I do not rule out a connection. In fact, a connection would not surprise me. This is, after all, the Bush administration.)
Later, Blumenthal goes on to say that OSU had a private meeting with Pentagon officials. That’s true, if you believe OSU’s own propaganda, which is clearly intended to imply Pentagon approval. But for all we know, that “meeting with officials” was really just a birthday lunch for somebody’s old Uncle Colonel Bob.
Finally, Blumenthal states:
This week, Pentagon employees and active duty service members are expected to enjoy a breakfast with Spinks and Baldwin, followed by an OSU performance in which they will receive "spiritual encouragement via a Biblical message." The events will be held respectively in the Pentagon Executive Dining Room and the Pentagon Auditorium.
Blumenthal fails to mention that this event will be hosted by the Pentagon Chaplain. Last I heard, spiritual encouragement and biblical messages were pretty standard fare at such events.
The thing is, Blumenthal didn’t have to take his cue from The Sean Hannity-Michael Savage Graduate School of Journalism and Shit-Slinging. There’s plenty of creepy stuff in this story without making stuff up. There’s at least some evidence of creepy linkage between this group and the Pentagon – linkage that poses real threats to religious freedom not only here but in Iraq. And I would be very curious to learn more about the application process for getting a listing in America Supports You. Who’s getting accepted and who’s not?
Sadly, because he engaged in uncivil discourse, Blumenthal made it easier for the Right to dismiss the very real concerns raised in the article. Can you say, “counterproductivity”?