In the 1960s, one of the chief causes of social upheaval was the Vietnam War. Many issues were raised during this time, including the right of the American citizen as some young men found themselves old enough to be drafted but still too young to vote, human rights abuses in Vietnam and the tenuous justification for being in Vietnam. In both the foggy details of the Gulf of Tonkin incident and the defense of Domino Theory and the rising threat of communism that some saw as an excuse for American imperialism, there was always going to be opposition to the Vietnam War. What the U.S Government did to re-frame the argument was to imply they were anti-troop protests and so was born the slogan of “Support Our Troops” to take the focus off of the war and make the folks on the fence see the protesters exercising an American right to assembly as un-American haters of soldiers.
What we see today is a little bit of a remix. The folks in the field still follow the old way of even addressing the issue. Take for example, Tomi Lahren’s tweets, wherein she states that protesters of the inauguration were blood-suckers and “everything they claim to fight against”, or that women marching in the Women’s March don’t represent all women, or the old tried and true argument of lazy liberals not caring about family values or life choices. Tomi makes the careful choice to conflate violent outbursts with legitimate protest (that, for posterity, I will condemn), she implies that the Women’s March claims to represent all women, rather than being composed of women and supporters of their cause, and attacks a strawman idea of who the protesters are so as to delegitimize their actions. It’s impressive work, to be honest. Sheriff David A. Clarke used similar ad hominem attacks on American citizens by claiming that people choosing to look however they want to look made them freaks. But where he really shined was in the dishonest characterization of the Women’s March as a women’s riot despite still no evidence that even one arrest was made on Saturday in relation to the Women’s Marches around the globe. There are still appeals to this old way of re-framing the argument as illegitimate or attacks on something they are not attacks on.
But at the higher levels, the paradigm is shifting. What we’re now seeing from the White House may perhaps become an official policy of deflection because what Press Secretary Sean Spicer addressed on Saturday in his first press conference was crowd size at the inauguration. Spicer weaponized a false claim to attack the media, undermining public faith in the accountability they hold the government to and to draw attention away from coverage of the success and unity of the Women’s March and the actual workings of the office he serves. Spicer made no reference to the Women’s Marches held around the world but even the most conservative estimate of the Washington, D.C. march of 500,000 is above any estimate of Trump’s inauguration, which is closer to 250,000. The discussion of crowd size further allowed Spicer to ignore the executive orders Trump signed after the inauguration, one of which was an Affordable Care Act repeal prelude, another of which suspended the Office of Housing and Urban Development’s reduction of Federal Housing Administration’s mortgage insurance premium rates. The tide is turning and a public policy of deception and misinformation is becoming more prevalent. For the survival of our nation, truth must be our continued pursuit.