The implication of this Metafilter post is that someone is providing soldiers with pre-written letters which they simply sign and send to newspapers. Or, according to this article, someone is signing the letters for them.
This kind of thing has been nicknamed astroturf — i.e., a fake grassroots. The Republican Party is fairly fond of it.
I think it’s more than usually repugnant when it’s used to misrepresent what our soldiers think, however. The men dying in Iraq deserve better than to have their views hijacked by a public relations flack.
“Sgt. Christopher Shelton, who signed a letter that ran in the Snohomish Herald, said Friday that his platoon sergeant had distributed the letter and asked soldiers for the names of their hometown newspapers. Soldiers were asked to sign the letter if they agreed with it, said Shelton, whose shoulder was wounded during an ambush earlier this year.
“Everything it said is dead accurate. We’ve done a really good job,” he said by phone from Italy, where he was preparing to return to Iraq.
Yes, I read that. In fact, if you’d actually read my post, you might have noticed that I linked to that article.
I also read, from the same article, this:
“A seventh soldier didn’t know about the letter until his father congratulated him for getting it published in the local newspaper in Beckley, W.Va.
“‘When I told him he wrote such a good letter, he said: “What letter?”‘ Timothy Deaconson said Friday, recalling the phone conversation he had with his son, Nick. ‘This is just not his (writing) style.'”
Since at least one soldier had his name signed to the letter without reading it, I’m not real confident that whoever did this actually checked for agreement in all cases.
I would also expect our soldiers not to express public disagreement with the letter, since in general I believe our fighting men understand that they should remain apolitical and not undermine their leaders. It’s a pity that someone saw fit to take advantage of that.
It’s worth reading Sgt Stryker on freedom of speech in the military. Expressing public disagreement with the commander in chief is grounds for a court martial.
Ah! Thanks, Dan — I was thinking of exactly that post but I couldn’t remember where it was.
I just happen to be reading Catch-22 when I spot this on MetaFilter. Pfc. Deaconson and Spc. Whitelatch seem to have similar opinions and writing styles. But only if you take ‘similar’ to mean ‘identical’. The Olymipian, the paper for