Swift boating the media

Clipart Photo of John Kerry SalutingIt seems like forever, but it was only three and a half years ago that John Kerry was the Democratic front runner, with the MSM lining up for his anticipated coronation. And then something strange happened: the Vietnam vets started speaking up, challenging the mythology Kerry had created — and the press had sustained — around his brief time in Vietnam. And so a new verb was born: “to swiftboat,” which the Left defines as to lie about someone’s past for political advantage, and the Right defines as revealing the truth about someone’s past for the public’s benefit.

Now, the story is no longer about what Kerry did and did not do in Vietnam. Instead, the more interesting story is about how the Veterans pressed to get the truth before the public, and how the MSM pushed back, desperate to deep six a narrative that had the potential to destroy Kerry’s candidacy.

Someone involved in the matter from the beginning (indeed, he worked with John O’Neill in 1971 to challenge the Winter Soldier slanders) was Bruce Kesler, a former Marine who served in Vietnam. At the Democracy Project website, he tells about a book called To Set The Record Straight, How Swift Boat Veterans, POWs and the New Media Defeated John Kerry, whose authors, Scott Swett and Tim Ziegler, explain all about the Swift Boaters’ and the media’s role in Election 2004. It sounds like a great book and I’m betting that, after you read what Bruce has to say, you’ll want to read the book too.

UPDATE: In writing to Bruce about his book recommendation, I said something with which I’ve become enamored, so I’ll repeat it here: As I’ve often said, I don’t have problems with bias. That is a fairly basic part of the human condition. I have a huge problem with a media conglomerate that denies bias, and denies the steps it takes to promote its position. I like anything that exposes the shell game the media plays on the American public.

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  • nightjar

    “and how the MSM pushed back, desperate to deep six a narrative that had the potential to destroy Kerry’s candidacy.”

    “narrative” ? You are kidding of course.

  • Danny Lemieux

    It really is kind of interesting to juxtapose and contrast how the MSM handled the heavily corroborated Swift Boat veterans “narrative” versus how it handled the fatally flawed Rathergate narrative.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    I like anything that exposes the shell game the media plays on the American public.

    Such things contributed much to the beliefs formed by the people I wrote about.

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  • expat


    This is OT, but I remembered your list of online readings the other day, and I have another good one. Every Tuesday, John Vinocur has his Politicus column at the International Herald Tribune (on line).. I’ve ocassionally seen his works at NYT. He is the best commenter I’ve read on European politics. He helps to counter some of the self-serving stuff that Spiegel puts out.

  • Friend of USA

    Has Kerry finally given authorization for the release of his military record? ( or whatever it is called )

    correct me if I’m wrong but I think he has not.

    What is he hiding?

  • Friend of USA

    And so a new verb was born: “to swiftboat,” which the Left defines as to lie about someone’s past for political advantage, and the Right defines as revealing the truth about someone’s past for the public’s benefit.

    interesting observation, clear explanation, that is one of the reasons why I like to read you Bookworm.

  • Ellie

    He is hiding (according to the Swifties) a less than “Honorable” discharge. He discharge was upgraded to “Honorable” by Pres, Carter some years later.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    Somewhere else, I can’t remember exactly, had the “swiftboat” label defined as “telling the truth that people don’t like to hear”.

  • Winston Smith

    Republican-funded Group Attacks Kerry’s War Record

    Ad features vets who claim Kerry “lied” to get Vietnam medals. But other witnesses disagree — and so do Navy records.


    You can also view this documentation:

    Casualty Report for 3rd Purple Heart (.pdf 168.65 kb)
    Silver Start citation signed by Zumwalt (.pdf 471.14 kb)
    Silver Star citations signed by Hyland and the Secretary of the Navy (.pdf 385.49 kb)
    Thurlow’s Bronze Star citation for courage “in the face of enemy fire.” (.pdf 31.64 kb)
    recommending Thurlow for Bronze Star for actions “under constant enemy small arms fire.” (.pdf 82.45 kb)

    Group quotes Kerry’s descriptions of atrocities by US forces. In fact, atrocities did happen


    The lies of John O’Neill: An MMFA analysis; Swift Boat Vets’ founder has told repeated untruths about himself, Swift Boat Vets, Unfit for Command


  • Ellie

    BTW – I inquired of the “Set the Record Straight'”
    authors f they accepted Paypal. They said they are
    working on it and to come back in a few days.

  • http://www.daveinboca.blogspot.com daveinboca

    bookworm, you’re going on my blogroll.

    “Has Kerry finally given authorization for the release of his military record? ( or whatever it is called )

    correct me if I’m wrong but I think he has not.

    What is he hiding?

    Friend, whatever he is hiding, it is pretty evident that if he ran in ’08, he would be obliged to live up to his “promise” made two years ago to release his records. Whatever’s in those records saved us from the delight of unmasking this pompous fraud/impostor a second time!


  • http://radamisto.blogspot.com Steve J.

    One of the great things about this is that it came during an interview with war-whore Hannity.

    HANNITY: I want to play a tape of John Kerry, and I want to get your reaction to this tape.

    SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I personally didn’t see personal atrocities in the sense that I saw somebody cut a head off or something like that. However, I did take part in free fire zones. I did take part in harassment interdiction fire. I did take part in search and destroy missions in which the houses of noncombatants were burned to the ground.And all of these, I find out later on — these acts are contrary to The Hague and Geneva conventions and to the laws of warfare. So, in that sense, anybody who took part in those, if you carry out the application of the Nuremberg principles, is in fact guilty.

    HANNITY: What does that mean to you?

    FRANKS: I think we had a lot of problems in Vietnam. One was the lack of leadership of young people like in — in John Kerry’s position. He was a young officer over there, and I’m not sure that — that activities like that didn’t take place. In fact, quite the contrary. I’m sure that they did take…

    HANNITY: But there’s a difference. You were faced with a situation where you were around men that perhaps could have engaged in something like this.

    FRANKS: Right.

    HANNITY: And you were the one that stood up, and you described the scene in your book where you said no.
    FRANKS: Right. Right, I decided to not be involved in activity like that.
    HANNITY: Let me ask you this. I want to play you another tape of his where he talks about what other soldiers did when he was there.
    FRANKS: Right.
    HANNITY: And then, I’ll get your reaction to this. Roll this tape.

    KERRY: I relived the absolute horror of what this country, in a sense, made them do. They told the stories of times that they had personally raped, cut off the ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in the fashion of Genghis Khan.

    HANNITY: I mean, raped, murdered, all these things. But he never told names. Does that anger you? I mean, this is the guy now that is the leading candidate for the Democrats.

    FRANKS: I don’t know. I — I think Vietnam was — I think Vietnam was a bad time. I think that what I’ve learned in my life, Sean, is that it’s a heck of a lot easier to protest than it is to step up and take responsibility for the actions of a unit or for — or for your own actions. And so, I don’t — I don’t like what I saw. But at the same time, I — I wouldn’t say that – the things that Senator Kerry said are undeniable about activities in Vietnam. I think that things didn’t go right in — in Vietnam. And so…


    Copyright 2004 Fox News Network, LLC Fox News Network
    August 3, 2004 Tuesday
    Transcript # 080301cb.253
    SECTION: News; Domestic
    LENGTH: 3792 words
    EADLINE: Interview With Tommy Franks
    GUESTS: Tommy Franks
    BYLINE: Sean Hannity, Pat Halpin

  • SGT Dave

    What truly bothers me about the testimony in the hearings and with Kerry’s military record is the lack of responsibility involved. By military law (UCMJ) failure to report a violation of the Law of Land Warfare (the U.S. laws based on the Geneva and Hague Conventions and Treaties) is considered a violation of the UCMJ and makes the non-reporting person an accomplice after the fact. We get classes on this; officers get multiple classes regarding command responsibility and legal liability. It isn’t a choice to divulge names and information to the command – it is a requirement under law, on penalty of imprisonment or worse.
    I know the times (and the Army) have changed and that holding people accountable for their actions from that time period is not fashionable; however the fact remains that these men have admitted, of their free will, to violations of the UCMJ (with few or no limits to the statute of limitations).
    Kerry probably received a General Discharge for Medical reasons – this would be linked to his Purple Heart awards. Note that since he did not complete the combat tour he would have to wait until his original term of service expired to upgrade the discharge to an Honorable one. The basis for that is that the service member is part of the Inactive Ready Reserve (medical hold status) until his term expires – even if he has a discharge in hand! This is not to hurt the service member, but rather to provide for medical care if further problems from their injury arise since the VA is not required to take them on until their original service term expires. Note that the VA traditionally waives this requirement, but it covers the service member until they reach their home of record/permanent new residence and get in the VA system. It also allows the Army to exercise authority over soldiers in the process of leaving the service; in more than one case it has allowed a service member that had a problem re-adjusting to have his case moved to a military court instead of a civilian one (I don’t have the references, sorry, just personal observation of one case).
    The case I know of involved a service member who left on medical (he’d gotten a compound fracture of the left leg in an airborne drop) who got in a fight with his ex-fiancee’s new boyfriend. The local post commander sent the sergeant-major to get him out of the prison, brought him on post under an agreement with local authorities, and gave him an Article 15 (a type of misdemeanor/non-judicial proceeding). His punishment? Fourteen days with the Chaplain and Mental health personnel, the same fourteen days in the billets (quarters) with supportive soldiers, and forfeiture of pay and allowances for the fourteen days. We got him to the VA for mental health (anger management issues) and he continued on the outside. The locals were happy – they didn’t have to pay for jail, court, and all that stuff. We try to take care of our own now; in the past it was not quite so pleasant.
    Long and short – as these two men go on about war crimes they witnessed or of which they received reports they are incriminating themselves. I wish someone would get around to charging them. Even if it is just hearsay, the lack of investigation by these two former commissioned officers into war crimes is in and of itself a criminal failure. They took an oath; they are admitting they broke that oath because of indifference or cowardice (or both). Neither is tolerated today in the Army (or the other services). Yet this is the example the media have for commissioned officers – known liars and scoundrels. Is it any wonder after their actions that soiled the honor of the service that other, honorable men (recently General Patreus) are tarred by the media? I don’t forgive the media their faults, but men like Kerry and Gen. Franks make it hard to defend ourselves from accusations of lies and evasions.

    Enough of my anger; I have to get back to the work of finding the truth (Truth?) so my soldiers stay safe.

    SGT Dave
    “It is good that war is so terrible, lest we grow too fond of it.” – Gen Sherman

  • Danny Lemieux

    I just find it interesting how Democrat leaders just seem to become the victims of these vast Right-wing conspiracies.

    With Bill Clinton, it was his state troopers who en mass conspired against him with tales of Clinton’s debauchery. Imagine that – an entire cohort within the Arkansas state police actively conspiring against a sitting governor. How many other governors have had to endure such insubordination. Outrageous! The MSM press, of course, as part of this conspiracy, did little to nothing to publicize the vehement outrage expressed by his undoubtedly large, fair-minded supporters within the state police. /sarcasm.

    In the case of Kerry, he similarly became the victim of condemnation by a large conspiracy of his former brothers-in-arms, including both officers and enlistees. Once again, the MSM press conspired to keep silent the highly vocal expressions of support that he received from the undoubtedly much larger contingent of officers and sailors that stood ready to back up Kerry’s professions of innocence…and I mean people in addition to that CIA guy that gave Kerry “the hat”. /sarcasm.

    Fortunately, thanks to T. Boone Pickens, Kerry has been give a great opportunity to set the record straight and win a $-million in the bargain.

    Oh, the inhumanity, the inhumanity….when can we all just learn to get along.

  • Friend of USA

    The Left defines ” to swifboat” as to lie about someone’s past for political advantage,

    and what do they call hiding facts for political advantage as Kerry has done by refusing to make public his military record?

    isn’t witholding part of the facts/truth a way of lying?

    The left… poor little victims of the evil right!…

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    What SGT Dave said made steve look like a cheerleader for war whores. A poetic justice in a way.

  • http://www.tinyvital.com/blog John Moore

    As one peripherally involved in the vets vs. Kerry (and mentioned in the book), I want to say that the book’s story of an internet enabled grass roots campaign by Vietnam Vets is true and instructive. This was a bottom up movement, in spite of the Democrat and Main Stream Media (is there a difference?) attempt to paint it as a Republican plot. In fact, when I first talked wilth John O’Neil, before the first SBVT press conference, he was in favor of Edwards – a Democrat – for the presidency (I guess those lawyers stick together).

    And… The author, Scott Swett, was in the middle of it al all an facilitated a lot of it. If you want the unvarnished story of how the Swifties, the POWs, and other Vietnam Vets rose up spontaneously against Kerry and then united via the net, read the book. it’s good.

    The speculation about Kerry’s records release is simple: he should have been discharged in 1972. In fact, he got an honorable discharge in 1978. There is no released record which can explain the discrepancy. The Boston Globe erroneously (even after I wrote to correct them) reported he got an “early honorable discharge” in 1970, but actually that was just a release from active duty. So the question is: what happened between 1971 and 1978 as far as Kerry and the Navy? T. Boone Pickens asks the same question implicitlyu in his demand for Kerry’s records from that time. A very reasonable explanation is that, as a result of his treasonous activities in 1971, Kerry received a less than honorable discharge, which was then expunged in the Carter Amnesty, as was standard practice.

    As to the so-called “refutations” – they are bunk. Yes, there were atrocities in Vietnam, and nobody denies that. They were not, however, systematic except by the Viet Cong. Elliott did change his affidavit – very slightly and he specifically stated that the change was not material – I have a copy of the change. Some of the refutations fall into the he-said/he-said variety, but the bulk of the evidence is on the side of the Swifties, including new evidence first presented in this book.

    John Kerry was not just an anti-war protestor. Nobody would fault him for that. He was a liar and a traitor, conspiring (by his own report) with the enemy in a KGB funded organization and urging the US to adopt precisely the North Vietnamese negotiating position (even when it changed).

    John Moore
    USNR Vietnam 1968

  • http://www.tinyvital.com/blog John Moore

    PS – “narrative” is a journalistic term of art meaning essentially “the story.” The US main stream media tends to uniformly adopt a single narrative and then stick to it in the face of contrary facts.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com/ ymarsakar

    John Kerry was not just an anti-war protestor. Nobody would fault him for that. He was a liar and a traitor, conspiring (by his own report) with the enemy in a KGB funded organization and urging the US to adopt precisely the North Vietnamese negotiating position (even when it changed).

    And he is a Senator and almost became President, by a vote of 48-49% of American of voters in support.

    This is very similar to Nero, Emperor of Rome, and Boadicea’s rebellion in Briton. Except Nero was in power and Kerry the narcissist wasn’t.

    The point is simple really. Don’t put people like that in power, or else bad things will happen.