December 17, 2004 · Geof Stone
I’ll get back to the history tomorrow (Saturday). For now, though, I want to tell you about my experience tonight as a guest on the Bill O’Reilly show. I received a call this afternoon (Friday) from the producer inviting me to debate O’Reilly on the question: �Is dissent disloyal?� After the producer and I discussed this issue, O�Reilly (according to the producer) decided to redefine the question: �Can an American want the United States to lose the war in Iraq and still be patriotic?�
Of course, this is a loaded question. It not-so-subtly implies that those who oppose the war want the United States to lose and, even worse, want American soldiers to die. One of Joseph McCarthy�s favorite tactics was to imply that anyone who believed in the social or economic principles of communism also supported the violent overthrow of the government. The tactic of guilt-by-inference is all-too-familiar in American history. (I’ll return to McCarthyism in my next entry.)
In any event, in our �debate� O�Reilly insisted on his �narrow� framing of the question and, when I called him on the issue, denied that he intended to imply anything about those who merely oppose the war. I accepted his framing of the question (it is, after all, his show) and argued that a patriotic citizen could in principle want the nation to lose a war if the war is unjust and if losing meant that fewer American soldiers would die for no good reason. O’Reilly maintained that losing a war necessarily means that more American soldiers will die than continuing the war and that no one could therefore patriotically wants the nation to lose. O�Reilly tossed out such ugly phrases as �despicable,� �traitor,� and �disloyal� to describe those who would disagree. The purpose, of course, was to excite his audience.
After the show, I received dozens of emails, most of which were along the following lines:
�You ought to be arrested, tried, convicted of wartime treason. And I don’t have to tell you the penalty for that.�
�I hope they are checking you out for being a traitor!!!�
�You are not only despicable, but should go ahead and move out of the USA.�
�I must imagine, Mr. Stone, that you will look over your shoulder a little bit, because maybe some soldier in a foxhole somewhere might be a tad angered with you and your lunacy. There may be a few G.I.s in Chicago even that would like to �speak� with you.�
�There is the tendency for citizens to take the law into their own hands in these cases. Decent, ordinary people, not of the left, are angry enough at the far left to be willing to go along with things you would consider unconscionable.�
�You’re a despicable Piece of feces, A Gutless Traitor. and I strongly suggest that you get your Terrorist Sympathizing Worthless ass out of this country while you can still walk and talk.�
And so on. What do you make of all this in light of our on-going conversation?