The Myth Of The “Spitting Myth”

Like most other people, I have often heard stories about veterans who were spit on by revolting hippies when they came back from the Vietnam War. That’s why I was quite surprised to run across a recycled article in Slate that claims it didn’t happen. In part, Slate’s piece reads,

“Although it’s impossible to disprove a negative, there is no evidence that anybody ever gobbed on a soldier returning from Vietnam. Holy Cross sociology professor Jerry Lembcke devoted an entire book to demolishing the spit myth, and in 2000, in this “Press Box” article, Slate press critic Jack Shafer reprised Lembcke’s findings when the New York Times and U.S. News & World Report repeated the myth inside the same week.”

So according to Slate, there is simply “no evidence that anybody ever gobbed on a soldier.” Moreover, if you click on the link from the article, you’ll see this quote from a May of 2000 piece in Slate about the same subject…

“Lembcke, a professor of sociology at Holy Cross and a Vietnam vet, investigated hundreds of news accounts of antiwar activists spitting on vets. But every time he pushed for more evidence or corroboration from a witness, the story collapsed–the actual person who was spat on turned out to be a friend of a friend. Or somebody’s uncle. He writes that he never met anybody who convinced him that any such clash took place.”

So Slate has been saying for YEARS now that not only is it untrue (to the best of their knowledge) that anyone has ever spit on a Vietnam Vet, but that no one can even turn up a SINGLE PERSON who was spat on.

Well, maybe it’s because I’ve noticed that liberals have a tendency to revise history when they find it unflattering or perhaps it’s just because I didn’t believe the people at Slate, but I decided to do a bit of research to try to confirm this story.

So I headed over to Google and typed in “I was spit on” & “Vietnam.” Imagine my surprise (not) as I immediately ran across several Vietnam vets talking about being spit on. Take Mike Teter for instance,

“Teter said he supports the people’s right to protest, but he’s seen protesters cross the line. When he came home from Vietnam after spending a tour building infrastructure for the Army, it was “the wackos” waiting at the bus station in Mobile, he remembered.

“I was spit on, threatened,” Teter said. “They had to escort me onto the bus (to keep me from getting hurt).”

Then there’s Vietnam vet Kevin Cooper who said,

“When I arrived home in California, I was treated like someone with the plague. I was spit on, yelled at, threatened and looked upon as a mass murderer.”

One could also look to the experiences of Gene Stocks who says,

“When I returned home, I was spit on in the airport, called a ‘baby killer’ and had things thrown at me. It was the same for the other vets – there was lots of animosity toward those of us who had gone and done our duty. We were treated like second-class citizens.”

You know what it took for me to completely blow Slate out of the water on this story? Less than five minutes and access to Google. In fact, I found these stories (among others) on my FIRST SEARCH.

So why didn’t Slate fact check this story and how can it be that a guy who wrote a WHOLE BOOK on this subject didn’t actually find anyone who was spit on? Draw your own conclusions, but I’m of the opinion that there are many people on the left who prefer to buy into a sugarcoated version of reality rather than face up to the disgraceful behavior their ideological brethren engaged in during the Vietnam War.

Now, the next question is: will Slate retract the story? My advice is not to hold your breath…

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