The Swift Vet leaders quickly realized they were going to need an alternative way to get their message out. They likened their situation to that of the American POWs in North Vietnam who had to develop a tap code to communicate among themselves in spite of the intense efforts of their North Vietnamese guards to prevent any such interaction or information sharing. Regarding this obstructionism by the mainstream media, the authors quote John O'Neill, a leader and primary spokesman of the Swift Vets:
"We had our own set of guards. They were called the mainstream media. We had to have some way to get around them, and we devised a method of doing that."Reading those words, I experienced a sudden, flashing insight that the forty years of anger, resentment and conflicting emotions that I and my Vietnam veteran brothers had endured since our return from Southeast Asia was no less than a form of psychological imprisonment, a life sentence of disrepute and dishonor imposed upon us by a left wing media which had been too easily manipulated by America's enemies. Worse, not only had this leftist media been the prosecutor, judge and jury in charging us with vile war crimes and passing this life sentence upon us, they had since served as the ever vigilant wardens and guards of this mental prison just as O'Neill described them. And just as at the Hanoi Hilton, their Soviet-directed misrepresentations erected a wall of lies around us and kept us within by controlling what America and the world heard of and from us. Just as today, where the New York Times attempts to make crazed killers of returning veterans, positive reporting of successful, well-adjusted Vietnam vets was not permitted. After all, should America discover that the vast majority of her warrior sons weren't drug-crazed misfits, driven to desperation by guilt-ridden memories of our vicious war criminal pasts, and had, in fact, quietly shed our uniforms, returned to our communities and become productive citizens, just as had our fathers and grandfathers following their wars, might not some folks begin to question that phony, crazed Vietnam vet persona that Hollywood and the mainstream networks perpetuated?
But that didn't happen because those in control of the MSM would not permit positive images of Vietnam veterans to reach the American public. A liberal media that readily condemns any institution that attempts to stereotype and profile any group based on their race, gender or sexual orientation, felt no compunction whatsoever in doing exactly that to millions of Vietnam veterans. So for years we languished in our psychological prison, silenced by our guards at ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN, being force-fed only negative images of ourselves by these media wardens. That is, until the advent of the Internet, which quickly became our tap code. Because many of us were now in our fifties and sixties, not quick to pick up on the freedom of communication this technology offered, the tapping was tentative and limited at first. But it was steadily growing in volume and with the nomination of John Kerry as the Democratic candidate for president in 2004, that tapping quickly became a booming crescendo. With the Swift Vets leading the way, in the summer and fall of 2004 it led to a full-fledged prison break.
Not that our wardens and guards didn't do their very best to keep us in our dark cells. The same leftist media elite that had been responsible for the lies that long imprisoned us now called upon a new generation of liberal journalists and broadcasters to put down this Swift Vets-led insurrection. They first tried to contain us behind walls of silent indifference, down-playing the skirmishes and hoping the public would take no notice. When that tactic failed, they attacked our integrity and denigrated our service, all the while blithely ignoring our calls for the one veteran who actually did have something to hide to release his military records, which, by the way, almost four years later, he still refuses to do. You really don't want America to see that original dishonest discharge do you, John?
I know that by this point I have beaten this media/prison guard analogy to death, but it was one that simply had never occurred to me before reading To Set the Record Straight. I do know that supporting the Swift Boat Vets and doing my small part to help bring about the defeat of John Kerry freed the troubled soul of this Vietnam veteran. One of the many poems I wrote in support of the Swiftees during the campaign is quoted in Swett and Ziegler's book:
The vindication we'll acceptThat fateful election day was also Liberation Day for many Vietnam veterans; we took a stand against the leftist ideologues of MSM and we beat them and their anointed, phony war hero. Moreover, we are outside our prison walls now and we're never going back. Interestingly, there's an irony here of Greek tragedy proportions: it was the unbridled arrogance of the same man whose self-serving, treacherous perjury before a Senate committee created the insidious libel that put my brothers and I behind those media prison walls for forty years, that enabled us to free ourselves by his audacious run for the presidency. Trying to portray himself as a hero of the very war for which he had condemned us, his brothers in arms, John Kerry set in motion the movement which would bring us out from behind those media walls of lies and misrepresentations and make us free men, free patriots and free Americans once again. I think even Martin Luther King, Jr. would have appreciated the sweet justice of that.
In settling up this long-held debt,
Is each of us will do his best
To deny you, John, your life-long quest.
Listen carefully John to what we say,
November 2nd is Veterans' Day.
Free at last, free at last; thank you, John Kerry, webre free at last.John, when you close your eyes at night in whatever mansion, I hope you hear that tap, tap, tap. I would wager that if you put your ear to that long black wall in Washington and listen closely, you will hear that tap, tap, tap. Should I outlive you, Senator John Kerry, I promise I will seek out your burial site and with the old G.I. spoon from the mess kit I carried in combat, tap out my victory signal upon your gravestone, tap, tap, tap...
2d Bn, 327th Parachute Infantry Regiment
101st Airborne Division
Presidential Campaign 2004