Home > Political Ranting > The Right-Wing Email Brigade

The Right-Wing Email Brigade

March 31st, 2008

Reading Snopes every day, one gets the very strong sense that right-wingers do a hell of a lot of propagandizing via email, and this under-the-media-radar stuff verges on the explosive–and often goes way over the edge. I mentioned this within a previous omnibus post.

In fact, I posted on this kind of thing two and a half years ago, but focused more on the propensity of right-wingers to vilify Katrina victims. Back then, there was a wave of rumors spread by email claiming that blacks from New Orleans were living high off the FEMA hog, blowing their aid money on luxuries or gambling it away, refusing to accept jobs, and instead spreading crime and disease to good-samaratin victims trying to help them.

A lot of fake emails making the rounds are hoaxes or scams–pleas for emails for sick children which are probably spam address harvesting ploys, or frightening stories about abuse to animals which have no basis in reality. However, those which seem politically slanted far more often slant to the right wing ideals, with racial overtones often in overt display.

Many seem to be political attempts to dampen criticism of Republicans by heaping blame and scorn on Democrats or even those who are victims of Republican mismanagement. The many attacks on destitute blacks out of New Orleans after Katrina was almost certainly intended to blunt criticism against the Bush administration by making the victims seem despicable and deserving of what they got, or otherwise portrayed them as stupid and lazy, making their misfortune their own fault.

But a lot of it is politically motivated, like the flood of fake propaganda emails assailing Barack Obama, no doubt responsible for so many thinking he’s a Muslim. Or the one I pointed out that paints a starkly racist picture of his family, equally fake. Similarly, criminal acts by Bush and fellow Republicans are responded to by making Democrats seem worse, like this email claiming Clinton was a felon who somehow got “pardoned” (by whom?), or that he was the real Enron beneficiary.

However, it was a Snopes story from a few days ago which prompted this post, as it had yet another viral email from the right wing which perfectly exemplified this kind of thing. It was an email which has appeared in blogs, forums, newspaper letters-to-the-editor–you name it, it’s been there. The basic claim is that more soldiers died while Clinton was president than did under Bush–the obvious implication being that Bush is not costing soldier’s lives with his botched con-job in Iraq. Here’s how it’s laid out:

These are some rather eye-opening facts.

Since the start of the war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan, the sacrifice has been enormous. In the time period from the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 through today, we have lost over 3,000 military personnel to enemy action and accidents.

As tragic as the loss of any member of the US Armed Forces is, consider the following statistics: The annual fatalities of military members while actively serving in the armed forces from 1980 through 2006:

1980 ……..2,392
1981 ……..2,380
1984 ……..1,999
1988 ……..1,819
1989 ……..1,636
1990 ……. 1,508
1991 ……..1,787
1992 ……..1,293
1993 ……..1,213
1994 ……..1,075
1995 ……..2,465
1996 ……..2,318    Clinton years @14,000 deaths
1997 ……….817
1998 ……..2,252
1999 ……..1,984
2000 ……..1,983
2001 ……… 890
2002 ……..1,007
2003 ……..1,410
2004 ……..1,887
2005 ……….919
2006………. 920     Bush years (2001-2006): 7,033 deaths

If you are confused when you look at these figures, so was I.

Do these figures mean that the loss from the two latest conflicts in the middle East are LESS than the loss of military personnel during Mr. Clinton’s presidency; when America wasn’t even involved in a war? And, I was even more confused; when I read that in 1980, during the reign of President (Nobel Peace Prize winner) Jimmy Carter, there were 2,392 US military fatalities!

These figures indicate that many members of our Media and our Politicians will pick and choose. They present only those “facts” which support their agenda-driven reporting. Why do so many of them march in lock-step to twist the truth? Where do so many of them get their marching-orders for their agenda?

(These statistics are published by Congressional Research Service, and they may be confirmed by anyone at: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL32492.pdf )

The funny thing about this is that whoever it was who wrote this included the URL for the actual data on military casualties–a report which shows the numbers claimed are not just wrong, but clearly faked.

As you might expect, military deaths under Clinton were not higher than they are under Bush. In fact, they were the lowest under Clinton than they were under any other president since 1980. Furthermore, the data cited is flawed in another fundamental way. Before getting into that, however, one wonders at the idea that hundreds of right-wing bloggers and forum-goers would repeatedly post the fake data, right along with the URL to the proof the data was fake, and never bother to check it out. Is there that little capacity to self check, that great a desire to believe what they want to believe that so many would do something so lame-brained?

A quick look at the relevant table on page 11 of the linked PDF file shows that the figures in the right-wing rant have been clearly altered to make Clinton’s numbers higher and Dubya’s lower.The number of deaths on both lists remains mostly consistent up until 1994… after which Clinton’s numbers are fictionalized as being higher, and Bush 43’s numbers are artificially lowered.

The real numbers show the following: in total deaths, average per year:

Reagan: 2150
Bush 41: 1556
Clinton: 938
Bush 43: 1465

In accidental deaths, average per year:

Reagan: 1332
Bush 41: 872
Clinton: 494
Bush 43: 521

And in hostile deaths, in combat, average per year:

Reagan: 7
Bush 41: 43
Clinton: 0*
Bush 43: 433

*Clinton’s zero figure comes from the fact that while he was president, only one soldier died from hostile fire–despite harsh Republican criticism that Clinton was putting U.S. soldiers in harm’s way in the Balkans.

In fact, counting by almost any category–homicide, suicide, illness, accident, or hostile fire–fewer soldiers died under Clinton than did under either Bush or Reagan. The only exception is in the category of terrorist attacks, in which fewer died under Bush Sr. But that’s it.

Even if the creator of this forged polemic had been honest in reporting the numbers, the basic premise is still flawed–as it counts not just casualties from fighting, but all casualties. The idea being that a president is going to be held responsible for all servicemen who died in accidents of any kind, for example.

But the obvious gist of the article is that Bush is not being irresponsible with the troops, with the natural assumption being that the Iraq War is not as hard on soldiers as was duty under Clinton–and this is patently false, under any pretense, but especially under the only reasonable comparison, which is counting deaths under hostile circumstances.

Now, when you think about it, you don’t even need to look at the tables to see that the numbers have been faked; just look at the purported number of total deaths for 2005 and 2006 that the right-wingers are claiming: 919 and 920? In years where 846 and 822 U.S. soldiers died in the Iraq War, respectively? Supposedly we are to believe that the number of soldiers who died in accidents or other causes fell to nearly zero under Dubya after being in the thousands in other years?

The whole thing is an example of the blatant lies that ardent right-wingers so fiercely embrace, even when the evidence they are flat-out wrong is staring them in the face, so long as the fake “truths” tell them what they want to hear.

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  1. Kitty
    April 1st, 2008 at 04:20 | #1

    I don’t know if this means anything, but it seems that Clinton also had more than 1 million additional active duty troops than B_43. Since the rightwingers like to claim that Clinton destroyed the military, how then did he command more troops?? Like atrios says “teh stupid — it hurts!”

  2. Roger
    April 2nd, 2008 at 03:02 | #2

    …then there is the “wounded in action”: 25,830 in Iraq (34,778 medical air transported – includes non-hostile)… …and that a significant portion of these (~10,000?) have involved severe head trauma…

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