The recent article in the Washington Post about the militia “commander” who says he went to Charlottesville to defend free speech is being lauded as the return of good press for the militia. Some on Facebook have even gone so far as to claim that the WaPo is giving the militia “kudos.”
This could not be further from the truth, and it’s a dangerous belief that needs addressing in a firm and blunt way.
I’m about to break down this article and show you that not only is it a well-constructed piece of anti-gun, anti-patriot propaganda, but it’s also Exhibit A in the neverending case titled “Why You Should Never, Ever, Ever Talk to the Media.” In fact, I’ll even go so far as to say it’s also Exhibit A in the case titled “Why Certain People Should Never Represent Your Overall Group.”
For those who’ll say I’m ‘punching right,’ or targeting a good man for ridicule, I’ll simply say this: He put himself out there. He wanted that attention, he wanted the platform, and in accepting that platform he also, by default, accepted all that comes with it. If you cannot read this with an open mind for facts, then you’re part of the problem.
I’m not even going to touch the militia authority issues inherent in this. My friend JC Dodge already handled that here, here, and about fifty other places on his site. I’m merely talking about the propaganda/representation angle in this article.
Start With the Title
The title of the article is “Militiamen came to Charlottesville as neutral First Amendment protectors, commander says.” This should have signaled to everyone that it would not be a complimentary piece. Why? Because it includes the phrase “commander says.” This means the WaPo author is saying, “We all know what they were actually there for, but THIS guy is lying and saying differently.” Or, more to the point, “Hey folks! We interviewed one of the crazies that were at Charlottesville and he’s saying he was there to defend free speech…can you believe this guy?” It sets the tone for all that comes after.
It Just Gets Worse
The first sentence of that article is:
Of the harrowing images televised nationwide from Saturday’s white nationalist demonstration in Charlottesville, one of the more chilling sights, amid hours of raging hatred and mayhem, was of camo-clad militiamen on the streets, girded for combat in tactical vests and toting military-style semiautomatic rifles.
What exactly about that sentence is in any way condoning, supporting, or offering “kudos” to the militia? Here’s a hint: It’s not.
- It uses the word “chilling” to describe their appearance, an inherently negative word.
- It specifically calls out their “military-style semiautomatic rifles.”
- It announces that they were “girded for combat,” which implies that they wanted to engage in combat.
It’s easy to interpret things the way we want to see them. The problem is, while some of you might read that and think, “Oh, gee, the WaPo says we are WARRIORS,” you need to read that without your biases. The author isn’t saying anything of the sort. He’s saying “You, Mr. Public, should be afraid of these people.” But let’s keep going, because the author isn’t done.
Photos and video of the heavily armed cadre — a relatively small force commanded by a 45-year-old machinist and long-ago Navy veteran from western Pennsylvania — spread rapidly on social media, raising fears the clash of hundreds of neo-Nazis and counterprotesters might end in a bloodbath.
What’s being said here?
- They mention he’s a machinist and “long-ago” Navy veteran, and there is a subtle insult there, both of his vocation and his service. In other words, this guy is a freaking machinist, he’s not even in a career field conducive to security work, and he was in the military like, ages ago so that doesn’t even count.”
- They purposely link his “relatively small force” with “fears” that the rally “might end in a bloodbath.” Again, the underlying message here is that these guys are scary and were all about violence.
Next we have the ‘commander’ talking about his “show of strength.” Well, judging by the title and first two lines of this article, their intended “strength” came across a lot differently to the audience. As a friend pointed out to me this morning:
A polo with the unit logo, some pressed cargo pants, shined boots, a decent haircut, and a pistol that looks like its seem use in a holster is all you need to send message of strength.
Someone might want to mention this to the camo crowd; not that anyone’s listening. but let’s move on.
The fact that no shots were fired, Yingling said, was a testament “to the discipline of the 32 brave souls serving under me during this particular operation.” In a telephone interview Sunday, he sought to dispel “the absurd idea in the public’s mind” that his group of “patriots” was allied with or sympathetic to the white nationalists.
Mistake: Crediting discipline for them not opening fire. That’s basically the same as saying, “Hey we could have shot people, but we’re disciplined so we held ourselves back. You’re all very welcome.”
Eroding the Credibility
Then there’s the part where WaPo says he “sought to dispel” the “absurd idea” about them being sympathetic to white nationalists. The phrase “sought to dispel” is a lot different than “dispelled.” It means, for the record, that he tried and failed. The WaPo is once again saying, “yeah he SAYS this, but we all know it’s BS.” In addition, the commander makes a point of reminding everyone that the 32 “brave souls” were “serving under me.” That will become a common theme as we move forward.
Many militia units in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast have “mutual defense agreements,” Yingling said. Because he has overseen several militia responses at contentious gatherings in recent months — helping “keep the peace” at right-wing public events in Boston; in Gettysburg and Harrisburg, Pa.; and at an April 29 rally in Harrisburg for President Trump — Yingling said the commander of a Virginia militia asked him to organize and take “tactical command” of the Charlottesville operation.
An entire paragraph devoted to “I’m in charge and here’s why.” Note the quotes around phrases like “keep the peace” and “tactical command.” That’s not the author quoting the commander, that’s the author using selective phrasing to mock the commander.
“He had never handled anything like this,” Yingling said. “And given the volatility of the event, it was not a good place to start.”
See the theme yet?
When his group arrived in Charlottesville, “we put our own beliefs off to the side,” Yingling said. “Not one of my people said a word. They were given specific orders to remain quiet the entire time we were there. . . . Our mission was to help people exercise their First Amendment rights without being physically assaulted.”
…except they got “drastically outnumbered.”
“Jacka—s,” was how he described both sides, meaning the white nationalists, who billed the gathering as Unite the Right, and the counterprotesters, many marching under the banner of Antifa, for “anti-fascist.” Yingling also criticized police, saying that officers were poorly prepared for the violence and not assertive enough in combating it and that they should have enlisted the militiamen to help prevent the mayhem.
On what authority, pray tell? Did the camo and rifles impart some kind of special authority? Because claiming you’re a militia sure doesn’t, as Dodge and many others have pointed out about a million times.
He said several of his troops were battered and bloodied, having been attacked by people on both sides of the demonstration, yet they did not retaliate.
So they got their butts kicked? They turned the other cheek? Hey, we showed up looking like we just came from Frank’s Military Surplus to defend free speech, and we got “battered and bloodied” but we didn’t retaliate.
Now, I need to also point out that there’s some prime-grade stupid in the remarks of the police and authorities here as well. The Secretary of public safety said, “The fighting in the street was sporadic. But soon after it started, we began to have conversations about when to go in.” Really? Hey guys, people are killing each other out there so let’s talk about what we should do. Fail to plan, plan to fail.
And then we get back to the commander, who is apparently in contradiction mode.
Yingling called the weapons “one hell of a visual deterrent” to would-be attackers from either side.
So, according to this guy’s own words:
- They were there to defend free speech and defend people from assault.
- They carried loaded rifles and chambered sidearms which were a visual deterrent to attackers.
- They got battered and bloodied and did not retaliate.
Those points don’t make sense.
In addition to having overall command of units in Pennsylvania, Yingling said, he is the leader of his home unit, the Light Foot Militia Laurel Highlands Ghost Company, based near his home in New Derry, Pa., about 50 miles east of Pittsburgh. The Ghost Company has about a dozen members, he said.
More discussion on this commander’s level of perceived power. The readers who are plastering this all over Facebook miss the part where it’s being portrayed in much the same mock-serious way as one might interview former presidential candidate Vermin Supreme, or the lady who sincerely believes that Cleopatra lives on in her cats.
But here we get to the coup-de-grace, a one-two-three punch meant to destroy whatever credibility the commander had.
A Navy veteran of Operation Desert Storm, Yingling said he was an aviation machinist’s mate for three years before leaving the service in 1993 as a petty officer third class, meaning he was four rungs up the enlisted ranks.
One. This guy was a nobody in the military, only four rungs from the freaking bottom. Keep your own knowledge out of it – read it like someone who isn’t familiar with the military and is already predisposed against it.
“I joined the military to avoid the addictive lifestyle of my parents,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “I was raised in a VERY dysfunctional, abusive home. The military gave me the structure I needed.” After his discharge, however, “I quickly fell right into the lifestyle I had known all my life with my parents. I quit going to church, I started using drugs and alcohol, heavily becoming addicted to both. It started a . . . downward spiral which led to an eventual suicide attempt.”
Two. Heartwarming stories about overcoming adversity and addiction are for reality shows like The Voice, not for an interview with the media trying to explain why someone is credible and should be trusted with firearms in the public square. If anything, this will get used later to push the “SEE? These patriot people are former drug addicts, alcoholics, suicidal…”
Then, in 2008, President Barack Obama was elected. Yingling said he was drawn then to right-wing, anti-government extremism.
Aaaand THREE. While the commander said later that he said “anti-corrupt government,” not anti-government, it doesn’t matter. The media did what the media does, and no one cares what he actually said because the article says what it says.
When I was interviewed for Lies of Omission, one of the questions all of us were asked was whether our activism and/or liberty beliefs came as a result of Obama being elected; that’s one of the biggest misconceptions about the movement – that we’re all racists who just hated Obama because he was black. We all laughed at how preposterous the idea was, and every last one of us treated it like the idiotic and false idea it was. Yet here Mr. Commander hands that exact vindication to them on a silver platter, and the author does the expected thing – he uses it to paint him as a racist with his own words. He’s done.
In the interest of this somehow not being any more of a book than it already is, I’ll skip to the end paragraph.
“We knew what we were walking into,” he said on Facebook Live. “We knew what the results were going to be. And yet we walked in anyway. We weren’t afraid. And we didn’t give a good damn about our image or about what anybody thought about us. And I still don’t.”
Great. You knew what the results would be and you did it all anyway. You got the exact effect you expected. That’s not noble, it’s not something you should be getting back-pats from your peers for. It means you knew that your presence would be a) ineffective, b) send a certain message, and not the one you think; and c) you’d get whacked around by protesters and thrown out by police. If you knew all this and still went, there’s only one reason: you wanted the attention.
I’m glad he’s so open about not caring what anyone thinks, because it means the rest of us can point out that he screwed the pooch so thoroughly that it’s now dead and rotting. This so-called commander accomplished nothing good for the movement. He did, however, achieve the following:
- Told the public that a former drug addict who basically radicalized because Obama got elected is now in charge of all the armed ‘militia’ forces in the entire state of Pennsylvania.
- Told the public that it was only their ‘discipline’ that kept shots from being fired.
- Told the public they all knew exactly what would happen when they showed up, and did it all anyway.
- Told the public that he doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him.
He must have missed the part where he needs the support of the public in order to win.
But hey. Never mind that. There’s another rally soon.