So apparently, Newsweek and Perlstein have been experiencing an avalanche of roiling shit ever since they saw it fit to publish the tripe about the “racist” POW/MIA flag. The comments I have seen were mostly negative, even from diehard leftists, and only the most dedicatedly ignorant of the bunch saw it fit to defend this dreck.
Looks like both Perlstein and Newsweek had to do a little mea culpa verbal dance after getting hammered by anyone with half a brain.
A Writer’s Apology
I sincerely regret the use of the word “racist” to describe how the POW/MIA flag distorts the history of the Vietnam War. The word was over the top and not called for.
I’m deeply sorry it hurt people—especially people who’ve selflessly served their country. Most of all, I’m sorry because many of the people offended by the word “racist” are the same people who were hurt when the experiences and feelings of common soldiers and veterans were manipulated to serve the powerful interests and individuals who blithely and perennially send men and women to war, then don’t take care of them when they return home. And, of course, I regret the pain caused to the families of those who gave the last full measure of devotion to their country in Southeast Asia.
I would ask the people I angered to consider carefully reading the article, which explains, for example, that the Chinese Communists cynically leaked lies about the existence of live POWs in the years after the war in order to harm their rival Vietnam.
Most of all, I wish to express my regrets. Other than that, I stand by my article. —Rick Perlstein
The Editor’s Response
We published Rick Perlstein’s article on the POW/MIA flag, because it insightfully examines the cynical manipulation of public opinion at the expense of the downed pilots and foot soldiers the creators of the MIA movement claimed to represent. Perlstein is an accomplished historian who has spent years researching the Nixon and Reagan years. He knows this material. Our prolonged national discussion of the tragic Southeast Asian war that extended beyond Vietnam is often framed in what can be reasonably described as racist terms. The defenders of an Asian country that was invaded, bombed, defoliated and savaged (see: Kill Anything that Moves by Nick Turse) are vilified, while the invaders are beatified. Neither position is correct or fair. It was a persistent yet perhaps understandable disregard for the “other” victims of a war, beyond our own nation’s tragic losses, that informed the piece.
Nowhere is it suggested, nor do we imply, that individuals who remain devoted to the POW/MIA flag are racist. And it was neither Mr. Perlstein’s intent, nor ours, to dishonor those who served in Vietnam, although based on comments of readers, many were offended. A more careful editor would have moved the term “racist” lower in the body of the story and kept it out of the headline, where it was an unintended red flag that provoked the understandable ire of many readers. —Lou Dubose
First, Perlstein should learn the difference between “I’m sorry I said it,” and “I’m sorry it hurt people.” It’s a coward’s cop out, and had people not expressed their indignation at his spew, he would have happily continued to use the “racist” epithet to the delight of every screeching, perpetually offended, CHORF (click the link for definition).
Second, the piece “insightfully” does nothing. Perlstein has no concept of what cynical manipulation of public opinion really is, and he distorts history to fit his myopic view of it. You want cynical manipulation of public opinion? Try burning tons of “banned” food to make a point that sanctions aren’t affecting you, even as your people starve, and you do nothing to actually feed the poor in your country, and THEN see your approval ratings at 87 percent, because you’re fighting for Mother Russia!
That’s cynical manipulation of public opinion!
And yes, you don’t just imply that “individuals who remain devoted to the POW/MIA flag are racist,” you outright SAY it! With every dripping, disgusting sentence, you imply that the flag vilifies them poor Vietnamese, because RACISM! That was the point of your entire screed, you lying piece of detritus, and frankly, your removal of the word from the article does nothing to mitigate the very reason you wrote and published it.
“It was a persistent yet perhaps understandable disregard for the “other” victims of a war, beyond our own nation’s tragic losses, that informed the piece.” And that disregard was due to, of course, RACISM, as explained in the very first paragraph. “You know that racist flag? The one that supposedly honors history but actually spreads a pernicious myth? And is useful only to venal right-wing politicians who wish to exploit hatred by calling it heritage? It’s past time to pull it down.”
As for your “accomplished historian,” certainly allegations of sloppy scholarship and possible plagiarism certainly don’t serve to support your contention.
Try some honor, Perlstein. It should be a new experience for you.