There is a flap about whether returning Vietnam veterans were really spat upon (via Instapundit). One commenter at Countercolumn says that Bob Greene, a former Chicago columnist, wrote a column in the 1980s saying that it was a myth. He received so many stories of spitting that he interviewed the purported victims and wrote a book concluding that many such stories were probably true.
Then Jerry Lembcke wrote a book saying it was a myth, that he researched news stories and they started appearing around 1980. I have no independent source of information on this, but having done literally thousands of WESTLAW and LEXIS/NEXIS searches, I can say that when something starts appearing in the press in the early 1980s, that is almost always a function of when these two news services started including the full texts of major newspapers. (I find a clear Feb. 1, 1981 reference in the New York Times.) Although I can't say for certain that Jerry Lembcke made this error in his research, I can say that my students make this error all the time. I haven't yet read either Greene's or Lembke's book, but in my experience when someone says that a word usage or a story starts appearing around 1980 or in the early 1980s, they are almost always reflecting the limitations of their online search database, rather than the origins of the phenomenon they are tracing.
I'm suspicious of the coincidence between Lembke's account and the beginning of full-text coverage in WESTLAW and LEXIS. In other words, did Lembke's research show that such stories began appearing in the early 1980s, or did his research show that by 1981-82, when the major newspapers came online in full text, the story was already well known?
UPDATE: In the comments below are several seemingly credible first-hand accounts of being spat on. In addition, several note a bunch of 1971 published stories (I found one in the June 2, 1971 Chicago Tribune) involving the claims of an anti-John Kerry serviceman that he was spat on.
I was also able to confirm my speculation above that the spitting meme may have been spread long before 1980. Alfred Kitt, after he had resigned as General Counsel to the Army and was working at Yale, wrote a heartfelt Sept. 15, 1971 op-ed in the Washington Post, looking back on working in a situation in which many thought him a war criminal--and even his own family was against him. Kitt also discussed the plight of the ordinary soldier, including this sentence: "You can’t be fond of being spat on, either literally or figuratively, just because of the uniform you’re wearing."
Many 1967-72 Spitting Incidents Are Documented in the Press.
Hundreds of Vietnam-era veterans have publicly claimed in recent decades that they were spat on by citizens or anti-war protesters because of their military status, either before they went to Vietnam, when they were on leave, or after their returned from overseas. Yet several journalists and at least one scholar, sociologist Jerry Lembcke of Holy Cross, think that such things never happened, that they are an “urban legend.” Lembcke claims: “Stories of spat-upon Vietnam veterans are bogus.”
In a 1998 NYU Press book, The Spitting Image; a 1999 scholarly conference paper of the same name; and two op-eds, Lembcke spins an elaborate tale to support his view. In this post I’ll take up just a few of Lembcke’s arguments (I’ll have much more on spitting over the next week):
 “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.”
 The stories started appearing about 1980.
 Stories about arriving back from Vietnam into San Francisco and Los Angeles “are implausible," and one of the storytellers lacks "credulity." According to Lembcke, “no returning soldiers landed at San Francisco Airport,” and “GIs landed at military airbases, not civilian airports, and protesters could not have gotten onto the bases and anywhere near deplaning troops.”
 “Many tellers of the spitting tales identify the culprits as girls, a curious quality to the stories that gives away their gendered subtext.”
“One clue is that many of the stories have it that it was women or young girls who were the spitters. Students of gender behavior are usually quick to point out that girls do not spit, at least not as a form of communication. That being the case, it seems all the more significant that defeated male warriors would make a point of giving the spitters a gender. One has to consider that the loss of war equates in the culture with a loss of manhood. Coupled with the tendency to alibi for defeat on the battle field, it is understandable that men might have fantasies involving hostility from women.”
“The element of spit in the coming-home stories of veterans who feel betrayed reveals a binary, man-nature dichotomy that lies at the heart of our understandings of human existence. . . . Subconsciously, the individual feels a primal connection with the warmth and dampness of that in utero existence, and perhaps even desires to return to it, while consciously recognizing that life itself depends upon successful separation from the safety and comfort of that watery world. . . . The idiom of wetness in myth is also gendered in ways that help us understand why the stories of spat-upon veterans frequently tell of women or girls doing the spitting.”
I have been looking into these and other claims by Lembcke and they appear to hold about as much water as do his notions about a primal (wet) unconscious.
It is surprising that, without his having done an exhaustive review of published sources in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Lembcke would manufacture such a speculative argument, essentially treating hundreds of eyewitnesses as victims of “false memory” (at best).
Contrary to Lembcke’s claims, I quite easily found many accounts published in the 1967-1972 period claiming spitting on servicemen.
For example, on October 6, 1967, John F. Geyer and Bill Bowers, two sailors in uniform on a ten-day leave before shipping out, were accosted and taunted by a group of about ten young men while leaving a high-school football game in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Bowers heard one of them say, “We’re going to get a couple of sailors.” Then one of the band of attackers spat at Geyer, hitting both Geyer and Bowers. Geyer, who was a former high-school football lineman, swung at his attacker. The attacker then stabbed Geyer in the side with a knife. After two hospital stays, Geyer fully recovered. In January and February, 1968, Geyer’s 18-year-old attacker was prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced to a reformatory. All this is laid out in a series of stories in the local newspaper, the Bucks County Courier Times.
This was one of many stories published in American newspapers in the late 1960s and early 1970s in which American servicemen were spat on by citizens or anti-war protesters or the opposite: pro-war servicemen or citizens spat on anti-war protesters. (Because Lembcke recognizes the existence of the stories of people spitting on protesters, I'll leave that substantial body of evidence out of this post. Perhaps the most famous example is Ron Kovic, who after heckling Richard Nixon's 1972 acceptance speech, was spat on as he was wheeled from the convention hall.)
Among the journalists who gave first-hand accounts of spitting on soldiers was James Reston, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Spitting was one of the actions tame enough for Reston to describe in his New York Times front page story covering the October 21-22, 1967 Washington anti-war demonstrations: “It is difficult to report publicly the ugly and vulgar provocation of many of the militants. They spat on some of the soldiers in the front line at the Pentagon and goaded them with the most vicious personal slander. Many of the signs carried by a small number of militants . . . are too obscene to print.”
A May 16, 1970 story in the Pomona Progress Bulletin recounted how on May 15, Col. Bowen Smith, head of Claremont Men’s College’s ROTC program, was spat on by protesters as he went to his campus office.
Many newspapers carried a July 21, 1971 AP story about a Northwestern University student, apparently under surveillance by the FBI for many months, who had been observed spitting on a mid-shipman in uniform. She denied that she had done it (presumably she did not deny that some young woman had spat on the mid-shipman).
Several newspapers, including the June 18, 1969 Panama News, printed an interview with General Chapman of the U.S. Marines, in which he “confirmed stories of physical abuse,” including spitting. According to Chapman, a Marine recruiter is invited on campus by the administration, but students have been allowed to enter the area set aside for the Marine recruiter. They “stepped on his hat, smashed cigarettes, spit at him and insulted him. Frequently the recruiters are young officers or NCOs who have served in Vietnam.” They are trained to suffer this abuse in silence. “Marines are under very strict orders not to react, not to talk back, not to fight back. Just to stand in dignified silence.”
Indeed, according to an August 27, 1967 New York Times article by Neil Sheehan, as part of military training in the national guard, soldiers were actually being drilled by being spat on, abuse to which they were instructed not to respond.
One of the more amazing stories of protester abuse of veterans (and one veteran’s violent response) were the attacks on Congressional Medal of Honor winners. In a March 14, 1968 column in the Bucks County Courier Times (and elsewhere), the head of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, WWII Medalist Thomas J. Kelly, reveals that even Medal of Honor winners have been abused and “spat upon as ‘monsters.’”
Kelly recounts how, in an appalling lack of decency, about 200 anti-war protesters showed up to harass the Medal of Honor winners at their annual dinner, held one year in Beverly Hills. Most Medalists were able to dodge the hecklers, but WWII Medalist James Conners was unable to avoid a particularly obnoxious man yelling, “Killer, killer, killer.” Conners decked him.
In the November 14, 1967 New York Times, Pulitzer-Prize winner Max Frankel quoted Jack Risoen, a California Democrat who runs a liquor store: "Last week I took my parents to an American Legion meeting--it was just a memorial service for the First World War dead and outside three kids spit on my father." Imagine that: spitting on a veteran attending a memorial service for dead veterans!
Several articles, such as in the August 3, 1969 Odessa American, refer to anti-war students spitting on ROTC uniforms, without being entirely clear whether the students are in them at the time.
With all this documented spitting going on, not surprisingly there were many more discussions by politicians and writers of letters to the editor complaining about militants spitting on the military. Indeed, one might say that people at the time were almost obsessed with spitting: in just a day of searching, I found dozens of stories about spitting on flags, spitting on police, spitting on the military, and spitting on protesters. Responsible anti-war activists, such as Allard Lowenstein implored students who opposed the war to stop all the spitting (May 14, 1969 WAPO). When California Governor Ronald Reagan insulted another politician with a crack about spitting on the sidewalk, columnist Drew Pearson (November 25, 1967) suggested that perhaps Reagan had a “spitting gap” as big as his “credibility gap.”
The tipping point seemed to come with the White House’s efforts to found a counterforce to John Kerry’s Vietnam Veterans Against the War. In early June 1971, there was a huge press push to trumpet the new organization headed by (among others) John O’Neill (later of Swift Boat fame) and Jim Minarik. The first paragraph of the most common story included a claim by Minarik that “he walked out of doors in his uniform and he was twice spat upon.”
Over the following eight months, there was an explosion of concern about the shabby treatment of veterans returning from Vietnam, discussions in which some version of Minarik’s story seemed to resonate. In July 1971, a month after Minarik’s story hit, Birch Bayh was spat on in a Florida airport by a man reported to be a pro-war Vietnam veteran. Bayh’s attacker was neither arrested, nor (apparently) questioned by the police.
In August, under a contract with the Veterans Administration, Harris conducted a poll of Vietnam-era veterans, employers, and the general public to assess how veterans were adjusting to life at home. The study would be released in January 1972 to much handwringing.
Even the anti-war movement took notice. Several of the fall 1971 demonstrations adopted explicitly pro-troops orientations. And anti-war servicemen had long been welcome in most anti-war organizations, but particularly (of course) Vietnam Veterans Against the War.
In the December 11, 1971, Stars and Stripes, the brilliant behavioral scientist Norman Zinberg wrote about the three weeks he spent that fall in Vietnam studying heroin addiction for the DOD. By then, the stories of harassment and spitting were so engrained in the minds of soldiers that they used them as excuses for their addictions. Zinberg writes about a difference from earlier wars:
The society which sent the soldier to fight not only does not reward him for his participation, but in fact is often hostile to him. EM (Enlisted men) repeatedly told me bitter and poignant stories (some of them undoubtedly apocryphal about two types of letters they received from home).
One would be from a buddy who would report that he had walked down a street in “The World” still in uniform and somebody had harassed or even spat on him. The other type of letter, described even more bitterly, would be from a civilian wanting to know, “Have you really killed any babies?”
Note that by late 1971, the spitting story (in a form much like Minarik’s) had become such a cliche that Zinberg probably correctly surmised that more a few tellings of it are not literally true.
In any event, by the fall of 1971 the story of the spat upon serviceman was both well known and much written about. Lembcke’s first and second arguments are simply wrong: Stories of gob-covered servicemen started appearing in the press when anti-war protesters started spitting on them in the late 1960s, not around 1980.
Lembcke’s 3rd Argument: RETURNING SOLDIERS DID NOT LAND AT SAN FRANCISCO OR LA COMMERCIAL AIRPORTS.
Again, I am amazed that Lembcke would simply state this without checking. The May 7, 1967 New York Times story on re-entry into civilian life states: “Almost all veterans are flown back from Vietnam, usually in commercial jets.” There are many press stories about servicemen flying to and from Vietnam through commercial airports, particularly on the US west coast.
Lembcke’s 4th Argument: GIRLS DON’T SPIT”
If you read enough accounts of the vulgarity of some of the anti-war protesters of the period, Lembcke’s notion that “girls don’t spit” is almost laughable. Beyond the two examples I already gave of young female anti-war protesters spitting on servicemen, I found many examples of female Vietnam protesters spitting on police or other authority figures. Here are three of many:
The L.A. Times of February 27, 1969, like many other newspapers that week, recounts an anti-war female student spitting on University of Chicago Dean James Redfield.
Another first-hand account of spitting on police by an anti-war demonstrator was published in the Washington Post under the byline of Pulitzer-Prize winner Carl Bernstein on May 7, 1970. A woman described by Bernstein as a “girl” and a “University of Maryland Coed” “spit at a policeman, then called him a ‘pig’ and a ‘filthy swine.’” Less than an hour later,” the same woman “offered a flower to a different police officer,” saying, “It’s not your fault.”
Ben A. Franklin, writing in the January 26, 1969 New York Times, talks about the “provocatory tactics employed by the children here”: “The spit of a sweet-faced girl ran down a policeman’s jacket. Endless insults and [tiny] burning American flags . . . were thrown at the police on the parade route.”
I guess some young women do spit!
On the issues raised by Professor Lembcke, I have to say that I'll take the world of Congressional Medal of Honor winners and Pulitzer-Prize winning journalists for the New York Times and Washington Post over the professor's armchair speculations--especially since many of the former actually witnessed the events they described, while the professor appears not to have made a serious attempt to review the available evidence before publishing his book.
There Are More Blockbuster Revelations to Come on Some of Jerry Lembcke’s Other Arguments (in a few days).
UPDATE: I just saw that Jerry Lembcke was kind enough to respond here
. Next week I should have time to answer (if an answer is needed), though on a quick read, there appears to be nothing earth-shattering in his response.
Spitting Report, Part II: Of Civilian Airports and Attempted Debunkings.--
Spitting Report, Part II:
Landing at Civilian Airports and Other Problems With Attempted Debunkings.
In my first, somewhat speculative post on the stories about servicemen and veterans being spat upon during the Vietnam era, I suggested that perhaps Professor Jerry Lembcke had not fully understood the limitations of LEXIS/NEXIS, the most popular service for news searches (a problem NEXIS shares with WESTLAW). Because in NEXIS the full texts of most of the major newspapers start about 1982, NEXIS is effective for searching 1983 to the present, but is usually not useful for pre-1979 events and is of only marginal utility for 1979-82 searches.
My next post (on newspaper evidence of spitting 1967-72) was the first of several more formal reports on the issue of spitting. Perhaps Lembcke’s most central evidentiary claim is that, if spitting on servicemen was fairly common in the Vietnam era, there would be at least some evidence of it in accounts of the period—if not news reports of spitting on soldiers at least some discussions of it. Lembcke claims that there were no contemporaneous accounts of spitting and no discussions of it, except for one retrospective account in a 1973 book by Robert Jay Lifton and an ambiguous mention by Cardinal John J. O’Connor in a 1968 book. Lembcke claimed that stories of spitting started appearing in the press about 1980.
I found and documented many contemporaneous news accounts of spitting on servicemen in the 1967-72 period. I found many other more generalized discussions of spitting on servicemen in news stories, columns, and letters to the editor (most of which I didn’t bother to cite). Thus, one of Lembcke’s main reasons for doubting the many 1987-2007 extant oral histories of being spat upon is simply false.
Today’s post considers several issues, including Professor Jerry Lembcke’s claims that “no returning soldiers landed at San Francisco Airport,” and that “GIs landed at military airbases, not civilian airports.”
I show that the San Francisco International Airport, where some of the spitting incidents are alleged to have occurred, was authorized as one of the four main West Coast “ports of debarkation” where servicemen returned on direct flights from overseas (among the others was Travis Air Force Base). Not only did Army Regulations in the late 1960s and early 1970s designate the San Francisco International Airport to receive direct flights of military personnel, they required the Oakland Army Terminal to staff a returnee team located at the San Francisco Airport to meet and process servicemen arriving directly from Vietnam and the Far East. Further, the particular spitting story that Lembcke has most often attempted to debunk involved a soldier on emergency leave, a status that typically allowed soldiers to fly on commercial flights directly to US commercial airports at Army expense (see discussion below). Thus, another reason that Lembcke raises for doubting spitting stories is also flatly false.
2. EVALUATING THE STORIES IN BOB GREENE’S HOMECOMING:
Although ultimately it is unclear how many of the spitting stories in Bob Greene’s collection Homecoming (1989) are true and how many are false, the 60 first-hand accounts he published at least avoid making one obviously false claim after another. Like Lembcke (Spitting Image, 1998, p. 6), I take the first-hand accounts of being spat on or witnessing spitting more seriously than the second-hand or third-hand accounts. Besides the 60 first-hand accounts, there are an additional five spitting stories in the Homecoming in two classes that are less credible or relevant: one account of being spat upon in New Zealand and four second-hand (hearsay) accounts.
Two of these 60 stories are so sketchy that it’s hard to tell the details of what is supposed to have happened, leaving 58 first-hand accounts with enough detail to get at least a rough idea about what is supposed to have happened. Four letter writers to Bob Greene tell of two spitting incidents, and one writer, Barry Streeter (p. 41), tells of three incidents. I found one error in one story, though not a serious one: one story refers to the Oakland AFB (p. 12), by which the writer probably meant Travis AFB near Oakland, though I may have missed other errors obvious on the face of the stories.
Most of the stories in Bob Greene’s Homecoming involve servicemen who are still in the service (many are coming home on leave), not those who have been discharged or separated from the service. Some letter writers reported being spat on before going to Vietnam and some do not claim to have been to Vietnam at all. Some have been home and out of active service for months or years. Some responded violently to the spitting attack, such as by punching the spitter; most did not.
About half purportedly took place in or near commercial airports, the rest did not—but then, Bob Greene invited stories of spitting by describing a returning serviceman being spat upon by a hippy in an airport, so his collection should be skewed toward these sorts of stories. For example, others were described as taking place on several college campuses; at a shopping mall; on a street, highway, or a freeway; and in front of the Waldorf Astoria in NYC. A Catholic priest, who served as a chaplain, reported being spat on at the JFK airport by a woman about 43 years old who said that “I napalm babies” (Homecoming, p. 35).
Although not typical of Greene’s collection of spitting stories, even some of those who opposed the war or were pleased about the incident reported spitting on servicemen or vets. One Berkeley neurosurgeon who opposed the war, never went to Vietnam, spending his military service in San Francisco saving the lives of men whose heads were blown apart in Vietnam. He reported being spat on by a young neighbor and asked about how many he had killed today as he was getting out of his car in Berkeley, California. He said that he later sat down to have a talk with the boy (Homecoming, pp. 18-19). A female anti-war activist and University of Wisconsin student said that in the fall of 1971 she was spat upon in Madison, Wisconsin by an 18 or 19-year old while wearing her Air Force Overcoat and her Vets for Peace hat. (Lembcke might speculate that this Madison teenager spat on her because of her Vets for Peace hat, not her Air Force Overcoat.) A National Guardsman describes his pleasure when during the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention a young woman spit in the face of a lieutenant who “gave us hell” (p. 130).
3. DEBUNKING MYTHS:
A. How Many First-Hand, Public Accounts of Spitting on Vietnam Vets Has Lembcke Debunked?
When one looks for the source of the idea that no spitting occurred, most roads lead to Professor Jerry Lembcke. While there are many Vietnam veterans who don’t believe the spitting stories (probably because they didn’t experience harassment themselves), the academics, journalists, and public intellectuals who are pushing the no-spitting meme seem to derive many of their arguments from Lembcke. So it makes sense to look more closely at Lembcke’s evidence and argumentation.
Jack Shafer at Slate writes:
Lembcke, a professor of sociology at Holy Cross and a Vietnam vet, investigated hundreds of news accounts of antiwar activists spitting on vets. But every time he pushed for more evidence or corroboration from a witness, the story collapsed—the actual person who was spat on turned out to be a friend of a friend. Or somebody's uncle. He writes that he never met anybody who convinced him that any such clash took place.
Is this true? Did Lembcke claim to have “investigated hundreds of news accounts of antiwar activists spitting on vets.” If this were true of published accounts of spitting on Vietnam veterans, I can’t imagine that Lembcke wouldn’t have detailed some of these debunkings in his book.
Here are some of the claims that Lembcke made about spitting:
The truth is that nobody spat on Vietnam veterans . . . . (Jerry Lembcke, Spitting on the Troops: Old Myth, New Rumors, The Veteran, vol. 33, no. 1 (2003))
There were also actual incidents of Vietnam veterans being treated abusively, but in all the documentable cases it was pro-war people who were the abusers. And there are, finally, the reports by Vietnam veterans themselves of either having been spat upon or having witnessed buddies being spat upon. For obvious reasons, I gave these reports serious consideration, but their validity was hard to establish. Almost all such reports came years after the incidents were alleged to have occurred, while in the actual time frame in which men came home from Vietnam there are no such reports. When one attempts to validate the stories through follow-up research, many such claims dissolve rather quickly, and in others one finds details that betray a lack of authenticity. (Lembcke, The Spitting Image, 1998, p. 6)
[T]he real story of solidarity between the anti-war movement and Vietnam veterans has to be told, and the image of the spat-upon veteran has to be debunked and its mythical dimensions exposed. (Id., p. 26)
[W]e need to dispel the power of myths like that of the spat-upon Vietnam veteran by debunking them. (Id., p. 10)
What about the public first-hand accounts of spitting, such as the 58 reasonably detailed spitting stories in Bob Greene’s book Homecoming? How many, if any, of these public, first-hand spitting stories has Lembcke actually debunked? Is Lembcke referring to Greene’s published stories when he writes, “When one attempts to validate the stories through follow-up research, many such claims dissolve rather quickly . . . .”?
It is one thing to assert, as is probably true, that the second-hand and third-hand stories of spitting have been spread so widely that the general public substantially over-estimates the incidence of spitting.
But this is true of most memes. For example, Lembcke himself has spread a false meme that there were no contemporaneous accounts of spitting on soldiers in the press at the time or even (with a couple of exceptions he is willing to admit) any discussions of the issue in the press at the time. Referring to spitting, he writes:
Not only is there no evidence that these acts of hostility against veterans ever occurred, there is no evidence that anyone at the time thought they were occurring. (Lembcke, 1998, p. 75)
Problem is, the spitting story seems to be fantasy. Perhaps some soldiers somewhere got spat on. Yet no reports of such incidents ever appeared while the Vietnam war was going on. Not until years later did the story surface. (Lembcke, Newsday, May 1, 2000).
Lembcke’s false meme (about no contemporaneous discussions of spitting on soldiers) has spread so widely that it now appears in scholarly books and articles, press accounts, and even movies.
It is entirely possible that many retrospective hearsay accounts of spitting are unreliable, but it does not follow that most of the hundreds of extant first-hand accounts are doubtful as well.
One should also be sensitive to the context in which spitting stories arise. If a first-hand account arises only when the story-teller has been asked to justify his own wrongdoing, failures, or mental problems, that context would render the account less reliable than when a veteran writes in to Bob Greene who wants to know if the spitting stories going around are true, or writes to Shafer to tell them of his experiences of abuse.
B. Attempted Debunking By Lembcke (letter by Barry Streeter):
The one spitting story that Jerry Lembcke has most often attempted to debunk is the letter from Barry Streeter, published in Bob Greene’s Homecoming (p. 41). Instead of picking one of Greene’s more typical accounts for an attempted debunking, Lembcke picks the most extreme example in Greene’s book, the only letter writer claiming three instances of spitting. After mentioning Bob Greene’s stories, Lembcke writes:
These stories have to be taken very seriously, but as historical evidence they are problematic. In the first place, stories of this type didn't surface until about ten years after the end of the war. If the incidents occurred when the storytellers say they did, in the closing years of the war, why is there no evidence for that? Moreover, many of the stories have elements of such exaggeration that one has to question the veracity of the entire account. One that Greene published read,
My flight came in at San Francisco airport and I was spat upon three times: by hippies, by a man in a leisure suit, and by a sweet little old lady who informed me I was an "Army Asshole."
Besides the fact that no returning soldiers landed at San Francisco Airport, I find it hard to believe that the same veteran was spat on three times in one pass through the airport.
There are many stories like this one (the prevalence of San Francisco in these stories might be suggestive of a story-telling cliché) . . . .
Let’s look closer at this supposed debunking of the letter from Barry Streeter.
C. Contemporaneous Stories.
First, as Part I of my report shows, there are contemporaneous references in the 1967-72 press of spitting on servicemen.
D. Did Servicemen Land in San Francisco?
Next, Lembcke argues: “[N]o returning soldiers landed at San Francisco Airport.” Not only is Lembcke making a false claim here, but his differing treatment of this case may reveal something about Lembcke’s reliability in argumentation. Let’s compare his critique of Barry Streeter’s letter in the 1999 article quoted above to Lembcke’s critique of it in his 1998 book on spitting.
On page 1 of the book Spitting Image (1998), Lembcke begins with two quotes—one from Streeter’s letter, which Lembcke attacks, and the other from an anti-war friend, Sharon Moore, who recounts the return of her friend Terry from Vietnam and who considers spitting an urban legend. Lembcke appears to treat Moore’s hearsay account of no harassment of Terry as true.
Yet, unlike his 1999 article, Lembcke’s 1998 book does not critique Barry Streeter’s letter by claiming that “no returning soldiers landed at San Francisco Airport.”
Because in the book Sharon claims that her friend Terry also flew into the San Francisco airport: “Terry returned to McCord Air Force Base near Seattle, flew to San Francisco on a commercial airline, then took a bus into the city.” (Spitting Image, 1998, p. 2)
So in his book, Lembcke can’t claim that veterans coming back from Vietnam wouldn’t have flown into San Francisco, because they sometimes did, as his friend Sharon’s story indicates. Streeter’s letter never says that he flew into San Francisco directly from Vietnam; Streeter wrote: “My flight came in at San Francisco airport . . . .” Like Moore’s friend Terry, Streeter may have flown in from Seattle (or elsewhere), after transferring by bus from a military airport.
Yet in Lembcke’s 1999 article, without his juxtaposing Sharon Moore’s story, readers would not be able to see that Lembcke’s claim is false. As the New York Times reported (May 7, 1967), servicemen often have to take many different flights to get home. Further, soldiers on leave were sometimes flown directly to civilian airports such as O’Hare, especially around the holidays (Zanesville Times Recorder, December 26, 1970). Streeter flew home in mid to late November, immediately before Thanksgiving. But there are much bigger problems with Lembcke’s stories about servicemen not returning to commercial airports, such as San Francisco.
E. The San Francisco Airport Was One Of Four Official West Coast Airports Used For Direct Flights Back From Overseas.
Perhaps the most bizarre claim made by those who are trying to debunk the spitting stories is that returning servicemen didn’t fly directly into commercial airports on the West Coast. Army regulations tell a different story. There are extensive regulations governing military personnel flying from overseas on commercial airlines into commercial airports, some of which are summarized in Army Regulations (612-5) and on the form “Commercial Air Travel Information Sheet,” which was given to servicemen flying back from Vietnam to commercial airports other than the standard commercial ones of San Francisco, Seattle, or JFK, or such military airports as Travis AFB and McChord AFB.
There were four West Coast locations designated for returning soldiers as “aerial debarkation” ports or “arrival points” within the continental US on direct flights from overseas: Travis AFB in Fairfield, CA ([north]east of Oakland), McChord AFB in Tacoma, WA, San Francisco International Airport, and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (1969 AR 612-5; 1973 AR 612-5). Chart 2.1 from 1969 AR 612.5 shows the San Francisco International Airport as one of these four main “aerial debarkation” ports for servicemen returning from the Far East.
CHART 2.1 (click the chart to enlarge it)
Further, Army regulations ordered the Oakland Army Terminal to “Establish . . . liaison teams at the port of aerial debarkation serving the returnee-reassignment station.” (1969 AR 612-5, 3.1(15) & 3.16) This designation of the San Francisco International Airport as one of the four West Coast “aerial ports of debarkation” and the requirement that the Oakland Army Terminal staff the San Francisco commercial airport with returnee-reassignment teams was carried forward in the 1973 version of the same regs.
Thus, according to Army regulations in the late 1960s and early 1970s, military personnel from the Far East were authorized to fly directly into the San Francisco International Airport, where they were to be met by Army returnee processing teams, staffed out of Oakland.
Soldiers who flew directly from Vietnam, Tokyo, or Honolulu into civilian airports other than the three US civilian airports where Army processing teams regularly met troops (San Francisco, Seattle, or JFK)—civilian airports such as Los Angeles or O’Hare—were given the “Commercial Air Travel Information Sheet” to explain their travel procedures.
Here is an excerpt from the 1969 AR 612-5 (pp. 31-33), revised through 1971:
Commercial Air Travel Information Sheet
1. You are returning to the United States through a commercial air terminal that does not have a U.S. Army Returnee-reassignment Station. Therefore, there may, or may not, be a military assistance team located at the terminal at which you land. Since these instructions will assist you in complying with your movement orders, you should retain them for future reference. . . .
5. This paragraph pertains to those individuals who are returned to the United States for TDY or leave and will be returning to their overseas organization.
a. You should retain your copy of your commercial airline ticket as verification of the date you returned to the United States. This date will be used by the custodian of your military leave record in computing the amount of leave for which you are to be charged.
b. If you are on TDY or emergency leave, port call instructions should be included in your orders. If this information has been omitted from your orders and you are:
E1-E5—Report to the Oversea Replacement Station listed in your TDY or emergency leave orders upon expiration of your leave and travel time.
E6-E9 and Officer Personnel—Request assistance from the Port Call Section of the applicable Military Traffic Management and Terminal Service (MTMTS) Area Office immediately upon arrival in CONUS.
Eastern Area MTMTS for East bound travel; telephone (212) 439-5400, . . . Brooklyn, NY.
Western Area MTMTS for West bound travel; telephone (415)466-2081, Oakland, CA.
c. If you are returning to the United States in an ordinary leave status, your return trip transportation is at your own expense.
Consider these arguments that Lembcke made about another spitting story not in Greene’s book, one where the serviceman flew into Los Angeles:
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.
As I understand the army regulations (and newspaper accounts) of the time, these three sentences of Lembcke contain three false claims and one seriously misleading one. Contrary to Lembcke’s claims:
(1) GIs often landed at civilian airports, such as San Francisco.
(2) Protesters could get near deplaning troops.
(3) While some returnees, especially GIs being separated from service, would ordinarily have been transferred to a base for processing, other returnees, especially GIs on leave, would ordinarily have gone straight home, rather than having to transfer to military installations.
(4) To encounter large numbers of servicemen returning from Vietnam, protesters would not need to know anything about flight schedules because of the sheer volume of military personnel going through the larger West Coast airports, especially San Francisco.
The first of these four issues has just been dealt with, and the second issue follows from the first (since in that era, anyone was routinely allowed to go out to the gates, as well as to baggage claim areas). The third will be dealt with in next section, and the fourth will be handled in a later report.
F. Emergency Leave.
In quoting from Barry Streeter’s letter, Lembcke omits another crucial aspect of Streeter’s story: that he was coming home on “emergency orders,” i.e., an “emergency leave, a common practice for events such as a death in the family. Although I am still waiting for full regs from the late 1960s to arrive in my mailbox to fill out some of the details of my analysis, those granted emergency leave were authorized to fly on commercial aircraft to commercial airports at the military’s expense. If a military flight to an Air Force Base were leaving immediately, the soldier might have taken it, but otherwise he would have taken a commercial flight to a commercial airport. If he flew directly into the civilian airports at San Francisco, Seattle or JFK, he would have been quickly processed and sent on his way (at his own expense for travel within the continental US). If he arrived at another airport, such as LAX, if there were no processing team there (the regs did not mandate that there be one at LAX), he would simply call the Oakland Army Terminal to inform them that he was in the US.
So, for a serviceman like Barry Streeter, who claimed to have “returned from Vietnam in November 1971 on emergency orders,” perhaps the most likely place for him to arrive would have been directly on a civilian flight from the Far East to the civilian San Francisco International Airport.
1969 Army Regulation provided:
2.13. Personnel returning to CONUS or other areas for temporary duty or leave. . . .
c.(2) Emergency leave personnel.
(a) Orders issued for personnel returning to CONUS for emergency leave (AR 630-5) will specify that transportation used by the individual from the aerial port of debarkation will be without expense to the Government and will direct his return to the oversea command upon completion of leave. Orders will direct these individuals to contact the appropriate U.S. Army returnee-reassignment station, if not processed by a U.S. Army returnee- reassignment processing team at the port of debarkation. The orders will include only the travel to CONUS. Orders issued for personnel returning to CONUS or non-CONUS area of residence for emergency leave via air which authorize air transportation for return to the oversea command, will include a specific fund citation to defray cost of travel to and from overseas. . . .
3-12. Leave of absence.
a. Travel orders issued by the oversea commander to personnel traveling individually normally will grant such individuals a delay en route from the U.S. Army returnee-reassignment station to the specific unit of assignment. . . .
d. Personnel returning to CONUS on emergency leave will be permitted to depart on such leave without delay.
G. Are Three Spitting Incidents Too Many?
Once all of Lembcke’s fact-based criticisms of Barry Streeter’s letter have collapsed, Lembcke is left with just an intuitive argument. Lembcke argues that three instances of spitting in one time spent in the airport seems awfully high—and they are. If most accounts depicted multiple spittings on the same day, one might raise this as an objection. But of the 58 first-person accounts in Greene’s Homecoming, only Barry Streeter’s depicted three instances of spitting and only his depicted more than one separate incident on the same day in the same location.
Also, one must remember (using crude Bayesian insights) that more unusual stories are more salient and more likely to be volunteered. Greene’s collection is not a random selection of typical veteran experiences (as Lembcke recognizes in his book). Whether this outlier is implausible depends on how frequent spitting actually was.
To continue in the intuitive style of argumentation that Lembcke raises, imagine that a Duke Lacrosse student claimed that he was spit at three times in one day on the Duke campus last fall. That might sound high, but it would not be implausible, even though the great majority of Duke students probably supported the Lacrosse players. Similarly, if 30 years ago a person of a different race had walked through a community with a significant minority of vicious racists, a report of three spittings in one day would seem high but not implausible.
Until a few years ago, I was very overweight, though otherwise I was reasonably fit. I would often go for six months or a year between hearing someone insult me directly on the street. In other settings, however, insults averaged more than one a day. For example, in the early 1990s, I was sometimes riding my bike the approximately 10 miles to work from where I live on Chicago’s South Side and 10 miles back four or five days a week. Most of the trip was on the lakefront bike path where one could go quite fast. I once counted the number of insults over 10 days of riding during good weather, and it was 9 insults. Although the average was about one insult a day, on many days I got no insults, while on other days it wasn’t unusual to get three to five insults a day. The great majority of those doing the insulting were teenagers. I was able to reduce that rate of insults by about 80% simply by wearing an imposing looking helmet and sunglasses.
So Barry Streeter’s three spitting events in one day seems high intuitively, but if the other accounts of spitting in the San Francisco airport are true, then this account is not too implausible. Barry Streeter’s relatively extreme account may or may not be reliable, but at least Streeter makes no claims that Lembcke has yet shown to be false, while Jerry Lembcke has unfortunately made several demonstrably false claims while trying to debunk Streeter.
H. How Typical is Streeter’s Account?
Lembcke claims that “there are many stories like this one.” Yet of the 58 relatively detailed first-hand accounts in Bob Greene’s book, Streeter is the only writer claiming more than one independent act of spitting on the same day in the same location, and there are only four other letter writers who claim two spitting incidents in any combination of locations. The only even slightly suspicious thing about Barry Streeter’s story that Lembcke has managed to raise is that Streeter reports being spat on three times during a single day at the San Francisco Airport. At least on the frequency of spitting, there are NOT “many stories like this one.”
MORE TO COME WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON.
SPITTING REPORT III: EVIDENCE RELEVANT TO ONE OF BOB GREENE’S SPITTING ACCOUNTS.--
The 1968 Walker Report—Rights in Conflict, the official federal commission report on the 1968 Democratic Convention that came out a couple months after it ended—was made famous by its initial branding of the Chicago police’s spectacular brutality during several periods in the long week as a “police riot.” The behavior of the Chicago police was indeed appalling; the police even targeted the press for beatings (63 of the 300 press working the street were beaten by police).
Antiwar demonstrators spat and threw urine at both police and National Guardsmen. Spitting on police is recounted several times in the book.
The Walker Report also describes a torrent of abuse heaped directly at National Guardsmen in uniform in an apparent attempt to goad them into violence. According to accounts, many of the demonstrators were holding cameras, ready to take pictures of guardsmen who reacted violently.
Interestingly, given Professor Jerry Lembcke’s prior stereotyping of women, one policeman stationed at the Hilton reported that the obscene abuses shouted by “women hippies” outnumbered those by men “four to one.” (Rights in Conflict, p. 235) (Of course, it might have been that the police officer just wasn’t accustomed to women being as foul-mouthed as men.)
One Guardsman is quoted describing how one male demonstrator went down the line spitting in servicemen’s faces, flicking ashes and lit cigarettes at them, and making religious slurs (Rights in Conflict, p. 213). This represents yet another story debunking Jerry Lembcke’s claim that there were no contemporaneous accounts of servicemen being spat upon (the Walker Report was completed just 53 days after the late August, 1968 convention).
A September 1, 1968 Chicago Tribune account praised the guardsmen who (unlike the police) were credited with showing extreme restraint in the face of extraordinary taunting:
“Newsmen observed that the demonstrators hurled insults at the guardsmen and some spit on them in an attempt to provoke them into action.” (p. 2)
These two accounts tend corroborate in an indirect way one of Bob Greene’s spitting stories in Homecoming. John Kelly, a national guardsman in uniform, was guarding the Conrad Hilton during the 1968 Democratic Convention (p. 130). When a young 2d lieutenant “gave us hell” for joking with the “young female hippies” who were putting flowers in the barrels of their guns, “one of the girls spat right in the lieutenant’s face.” She “melted into the crowd” before they could carry out the order to arrest her. Interestingly, Kelly was pleased with the young woman’s spitting; he wrote: “What she did was just as good as fragging the son of a bitch.”
And it shows that spitting stories do not necessarily feed some psychological need to account for the U.S. losing the war. Further, spitting was claimed to be witnessed by someone who had the anti-brass orientation that Lembcke for some reason thinks is being denied by those who claim that servicemen were spat upon.
Although neither the government report nor the contemporaneous Tribune news story directly confirms John Kelley’s account, they do confirm that Guardsmen were spat upon at the place Kelly reports during one of the times that the National Guard was posted in front of the Hilton. And, of course, the Walker Report and the Tribune account are both contemporaneous accounts of spitting on troops.
Another installment soon . . . .
Spitting Report IV: Opposition To The Troops
Professor Jerry Lembcke asserts that it would have been highly unlikely that soldiers or veterans were spat upon because relations between soldiers and the antiwar movement were generally very friendly.
This post raises some serious problems with Lembcke's use of one 1995 study by Beamish et al. to support this claim. In particular, Lembcke somehow falsely reports a 56% incidence of anti-troop behavior as a 6% incidence of anti-troop behavior, a mistake that he has repeated in several publications.
In a very revealing passage, Lembcke argues:
How do you prove that something did not happen? For this book I adopted two strategies. The first was to make the assumption that two mutually exclusive sets of circumstances cannot coexist in the same time and space. In the case of Vietnam veterans and the anti-war movement, I assumed that those two parties could not have been simultaneously hostile to one another and mutually supportive; anti-war activists could not have been spitting on veterans while at the same time befriending them in off-base coffeehouses. (Jerry Lembcke, The Spitting Image, 1998, pp. 3-4)
This reflects a rather unsophisticated view of human nature. The fact that most people don’t hate African-Americans doesn’t mean that stories of people using racial epithets against them are untrue. To explain spitting, there need be only a non-trivial minority who loathed the military during the Vietnam War (I’ll have more on this in future reports).
Lembcke may also be reflecting his own experience as an activist for Vietnam Veterans Against the War, a group that was always genuinely open to veterans who wanted to give up support for the US government’s position in the war and join its efforts. It is not at all a contradiction that most antiwar activists were welcoming to individual servicemen while a minority of those who opposed the war were quite hostile to them. The flaw in Lembcke’s logic can be illustrated by observing that, during the Cold War, the US welcomed Russian spies who wanted to change their orientation to the Cold War and join the CIA or the US side; yet Russian and US spies who had not had a change of heart were working hard against each other.
To support Lembcke’s view of very little anti-troop behavior by the antiwar movement, he cites a 1995 study by Beamish, Molotch, and Flacks, which counted 495 instances of pro-troop or anti-troop behavior in 380 New York Times and L.A. Times news stories accompanying major antiwar demonstrations.
They counted as an anti-troop stance "any portrayal that implied, even indirectly, a troop-blaming orientation" (Beamish, Molotch, and Flacks 1995).
The researchers used an extremely liberal interpretation of what counted as a report of anti-troop behavior. Many of the reports they counted were actually reports of confrontations between activists and uniformed authorities, such as National Guard reservists or military police, who were policing the demonstrations or peace marches. Even by counting such reports as "anti-troop," the researchers reported finding only thirty-two instances, or 6 percent of all the stories over the six-year period, that could be construed as antagonistic behavior by the anti-war movement against GIs or veterans. (Lembcke, 1998, pp. 74-75)
It is true that the Beamish study used broad definitions: if antiwar demonstrators were rooting for the troops to lose on the battlefield, such as by waving Viet Cong flags, chanting for Ho Chi Minh to win the war, or holding up a sign saying “Beat Army,” that would apparently be coded as anti-troops. And if after chanting “End the war in Vietnam, we support the Viet Cong,” the demonstrators chanted “Support our boys in Vietnam, bring them home alive” (NY Times, April 17, 1966), Beamish et al. would code the latter chant as pro-troops, if this demonstration were to fall within their sample.
Here is the chart from Beamish et al. reporting their results (click the chart to enlarge it):
Note that in 380 stories from two major papers, Beamish et al. classified 279 instances of anti-troop behavior, which constituted 56% of the total of 495 coded instances. Counting 279 instances of anti-troop behavior in 380 stories sounds like a lot to me. They found 172 instances in which the demonstrators took some sort of action opposed to the troops (such as presumably waving the Viet Cong flag or cheering for a victory for Ho Chi Minh) and 27 instances in which the demonstrators themselves characterized their actions as anti-troops. They also found 75 instances in which others accused the demonstrators of being anti-troops, 74 instances in which the protesters were coded as pro-troops (such as protesters arguing to bring the troops “home alive”), and 142 instances of the demonstrators being against military elites (anti-brass).
Yet Lembcke falsely claims that only 6% of the 495 instances “could be construed as antagonistic behavior by the anti-war movement against GIs or veterans.” If you look at Beamish et al.’s chart (above), you can see what Lembcke did. He took the 6% of cases in which the demonstrators openly declared their opposition to the rank-and-file troops and falsely described this narrow subset of cases as if it were the numbers for the larger, “extremely liberal interpretation of what counted as a report of anti-troop behavior.”
I’ll be generous and call Lembcke’s sleight of hand extraordinarily sloppy. However it occurred, it is a very serious error to report (as Lembcke has repeatedly done) a 56% incidence of anti-troop behavior as a 6% incidence of anti-troop behavior, especially when Lembcke goes out of his way to quote Beamish et al.’s description (of the 56% figure) as representing "any portrayal that implied, even indirectly, a troop-blaming orientation."
LIMITATIONS OF THE BEAMISH STUDY
The Beamish study is a serious piece of scholarship, but like any empirical study (including my own work) it has some limitations, most of which are no fault of Beamish et al.
First, as Beamish et al. note, the kind of spitting story that most people fixate on (a veteran returning through an airport) is not likely to be captured by looking at big street and campus demonstrations, which after all did not take place at airports. Although Lembcke claims, “No researchers cited reports that veterans were spat on (Beamish, Molotch, and Flacks, 1995),” Beamish et al. do indeed cite Bob Greene’s reports of many such stories (Beamish et al., p. 344, n. 2).
While Beamish et al. seem highly skeptical of these spitting stories, they note that these stories typically involve hostility “not from organized protesters, but from random bystanders.” Since their study covered only organized protests, they make clear that “We have no evidence to test the veracity of Greene’s accounts.” Id. Disturbingly, Lembcke uses Beamish et al. as evidence against stories of spat-upon returning veterans (such as many of Bob Greene’s stories), when the Beamish study explicitly says that they have NO EVIDENCE to test these accounts.
Second, as exhaustive as the 1995 Beamish study may have been for its day, it was done before the New York Times and the LA Times were searchable back to 1965 (the New York Times appeared online for the Vietnam era in 2002). Thus, the authors first determined which demonstrations to examine, and then looked at news reports in the few days before and after the event (a wider window was used for the NYT than for the LAT).
This approach causes them to miss some important behavior they would want to code. For example, Beamish’s article says that only a “smattering” of stories mentioned the presence of Viet Cong flags. I found that odd because Viet Cong flags were present at all of the few antiwar demonstrations I attended in the early 1970s. (I occasionally helped my Trotskyite roommate on some of his tamer activist projects when they were consistent with my McGovern-style liberalism of the day. Even my roommate, who favored a socialist revolution, opposed the presence of such flags.)
Using Proquest, I found references to Viet Cong flags in stories in either or both of the two newspapers Beamish sampled for the great majority of demonstration periods they selected between mid-1965 and mid-1971. When I started to dig deeper into a few demonstrations for which no Vietnam flags were mentioned in the NYT or LAT, I usually found references in other newspapers to such flags—or I found problems with Beamish’s sampling.
For example, a questionable set of demonstrations were those over the People’s Park in Berkeley, which Beamish et al. list for the entire month of May 1969. I skimmed roughly 40-70 articles in the NYT and LAT about those demonstrations during that period, and I didn’t see one that mentioned that they were antiwar or against the war, though again I might have missed one. Yet calling these antiwar demonstrations and (if I read their criteria correctly) including a month’s worth of stories on them might skew the results in one direction or another. I wonder what their results would be without these stories.
The reason that another demonstration (July 10, 1969 in Seattle) might have included no Viet Cong flags is that there were only 50 antiwar demonstrators present, too small to reflect a cross-section of the antiwar community. So beyond the great majority of mid-1965 to mid-1971 demonstration periods where Viet Cong flags were present, perhaps many of the other instances where they aren’t mentioned were either very small demonstrations or were not really concerned much with the war.
The limitations of the Beamish study’s approach are significant in another way: they report no instances of spitting on soldiers, a finding that Lembcke widely trumpets. But at least one of the spitting on troops stories I found started on the front page of the New York Times during their date window: James Reston’s story from the Pentagon on October 23, 1967.
Also, it would also have been better (in the interest of full disclosure) if they had mentioned the story of spitting on police officers (not soldiers) in the January 21, 1969 NYT, though since it involved police, it would not have been coded in their statistical counts. Beamish et al. also strangely limit the Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 21-22, 1967 Pentagon demonstrations, which ended early on the morning of Monday, Oct. 23, 1967, with the arrests of more than 200 people, as having occurred on only one day, Oct. 21, even though the main New York Times account of it is headlined on the carry-over page as a “two-day protest.” Coincidentally, limiting the event to only one of its two days meant that the Tuesday, October 24 LAT story mentioning soldiers being spat upon fell just outside their sampling window.
Further, if the Chicago Tribune had been included, another spitting on troops story would have surfaced, one at the Democratic convention (Sep. 1, 1968).
But there is another problem: not only do Beamish et al. report no instances of spitting (even though there were was at least one instance in the days of their samples), they also claim that there was no evidence of taunting troops. This suggests a possible breakdown by their coders or some problems with their sampling practices. (Did they use students who were influenced by the desired conclusion?) I wonder how they coded taunting, since there are some examples of what I would call taunting of troops in NYT and LAT stories for demonstrations that they examined. And there are more examples of taunting in stories about demonstrations that they did not cover.
This raises a more serious problem. Since nearly all demonstrations were handled by the police, not the military, there would ordinarily be little occasion for antiwar demonstrators to taunt military people directly except for veteran counter-protesters. (Especially in the earlier years of the war, almost all of the taunting appears to have been initiated by the pro-war people against the anti-war people.) Given the level of taunting of police by antiwar protesters, is there any reason to suppose that many of the antiwar protesters wouldn’t consider the national guardsmen or regular army troops as just another kind of “pig.” Again, the evidence is much more complex than that. Some protesters treated the military differently from the police, some treated them the same.
If one reads the newspaper accounts of the Chicago convention, there is very little mention of protesters taunting police, though enough was mentioned that it should have shown up in the Beamish study. When one reads the Walker Report, which on balances excoriates the police, one can see an incredible amount of abuse heaped on both police and guardsmen by activists over long periods of time. One can only speculate about the reasons for leaving it out of most stories: the relative triviality of repeated spitting given all else that went on, press hostility to the police because the police actually targeted the press for beatings (63 of the 300 press working the street were beaten by police), press sympathy for the activists, or the unprintable nature of the taunts.
One should not discount this last reason for not printing taunts in news stories more generally. For example, here are some of the taunts used against police or guardsmen that the Walker Report appeared to find credible:
Some abuse of guardsmen:
As Guardsmen arrive for the first time at the Hilton: chant of “Pigs, pigs, fascist pigs!” 212
Then chant of “Oink, oink, oink.” 212
Then jeers of “Pigs ... sons-a-bitches ... f--king pigs ... f--king son-of-a-bitching pigs”
Then “Sieg-HEIL! Sieg-HEIL! Sieg-HEIL!” 212
African-American guardsman lt. taunted “mercilessly” as a “tool” of the “bad guys” 213
Calling several Jewish-named guardsmen “Kike” 213
Walking down the line and spitting in guardsmen’s faces 213
Flicking lighted cigarettes at guardsmen 213
Guard subjected to unbelievable abuse without any significant response. 214
To troops: “F--king draft dodgers, too chicken to serve your time in the regular army.” (Walker Report: “Though such taunts went on for about 20 minutes at a time, no response by the Guard was reported.”) 338
Other abuse, mostly of police:
“Pig! ...Pig! ... Pig!”
“Who’s your wife with now?” 247
“Where’s your wife tonight?” 247
“We’re f--king your wives and daughters while you guys are protecting your city.” 209
Young female pulls up her skirt and says to cop: “You haven’t had a piece in a long time.” 248
To citizens in cars on the street: “How would you like me to f--k your wife?” 276
Chants of “F--k, f--k, f--k.”
“F--k you, pig.”
“Fascist Pigs!” 210
“Pig f--kers.” 154
“Police are pigs.” 164
“Kill the pigs.” 173
“F--k the pigs.” 173
“Sieg heil, schwein!” 174
“Pigs, Oink, Oink!” 179
“Kill the pig, flush him out, bring him in!” [apparently from Lord of the Flies] 144
“F--k you.” 166
“F--k the pigs.” 224
“Dirty pigs.” 224
“You dirty son-of-a-bitch.” 166
Spitting and screaming insults at the police 235
Spitting on a policeman 338
Police bombarded by Pepsi cans “filled with urine”
Plastic bags full of urine and feces dropped from a 15th floor Hilton suite rented out to some of Eugene McCarthy’s staff and supporters
If you think this sounds pretty shocking, you should read some of the stuff I left out. And the Walker Report is justifiably much harder on the police’s behavior. Much of this stuff is not “fit to print” in the New York Times.
My point here is that there was a lot of taunting going on in the Chicago demonstrations that was never mentioned or even hinted at in most of the first-person newspaper accounts of the demonstrations. Most newspapers made no mention of taunting of guardsmen, and many made little or no mention of the taunting of police in their first accounts of the demonstrations.
What this means is that the Beamish study is not a report on what the antiwar demonstrations were like, but rather a report on how they were covered by the press. I also found it odd that the Beamish study included NYT stories from the two days before the demonstration, as well as the five days after a demonstration. This decision would seem to bias the results toward pro-troop behavior, with organizers seldom indicating their aspirations to abuse the troops.
In the days before the Chicago demonstrations, for example, would organizers have said to the press: “If the National Guard is called in, we plan to spit in their faces and taunt them mercilessly to try to get them to commit violent acts against us, which we would then photograph and use against the government”? I doubt that many activists were even thinking along those lines, yet (as the Walker Report makes clear) that is what happened with the taunters standing in front of the Guard at the Hilton. Note that the fact that most demonstrators were probably decent, nonaggressive sorts does not preclude viciously nasty behavior by a significant minority in a crowd.
Breaking down Beamish’s results by the day of the newspaper article (i.e., before or after the demonstration) would make it clear whether their results were biased by the inclusion of pre-demonstration stories. Along similar lines, I would be very curious to see the results broken down by newspaper. I get the impression that the LAT infrequently described negative behavior by antiwar activists at the same demonstrations where the NYT did describe such behavior.
More to come tomorrow . . . .