How the media is perpetuating public’s fear of veterans

In the cold aftermath of two major ambushes that resulted in slain police, a new trend is developing that highlights the military backgrounds of the offenders, rather than the ideologies.

The mainstream media’s lexicon that traditionally blames shootings on inanimate objects -such as firearms- has been expanded, reflecting on the “military focus” and “military-like precision” of the gunmen, highlighting their “elite military training.”

In short, it would appear that veterans may be the new “threat of the week”- and the media is going to make it a point to potentially sway public opinion.

Make no mistake- the Dallas and Baton Rouge shooters were Army and Marine veterans. They went through their respective forms of basic training, learning how to march in formation, wear a belt properly and be able to shoot, move and communicate on a basic level.

However, basic military training does not an effective “warfighter” make.

Dallas gunman Micah Johnson was a Carpentry and Masonry Specialist, which essentially made him a construction worker in military fatigues. Baton Rouge shooter Gavin Long was a Data Network Specialist, which has more to do with Best Buy’s Geek Squad than Black Hawk Down.

While it is true that every soldier is trained for combat and every Marine is a rifleman, the bulk of servicemembers are in no way as equally combat savvy as infantry-tier troops, let alone special operations forces. Sure, they could have enhanced their training through sport, instructional courses (or even YouTube), but they likely didn’t learn it in the service of Uncle Sam.

Despite this, the mainstream media persists, labeling them as enigmatic dissidents and ignoring their affiliations and/or sympathies with organizations such as the Nation of Islam, the more extreme fringes of the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as other leftist revolutionary organizations. Not wanting to be immediately judged in an era where an ill-informed populous immediately rallies around an opinion before the dust has settled, the current government administration distanced themselves from attaching divisive labels, focusing on easier targets of criticism.

While their list of questionable affiliations and skewed personal beliefs about the human race could fill an entire file cabinet, the mainstream media immediately runs to the “veteran” angle.

Much like the feared “assault weapon” (which is in itself a made up political term based on uneducated assumptions by the uninitiated), the focus on the veteran angle of a shooter belies a derogatory sentiment toward a once-contained tool of war being re-purposed for a new task or life in the civilian world.

While veterans were marketable “heroes” in service to their country, it would appear they serve as little more than political talking points, employer tax breaks and scapegoats in civilian life. Never mind that they were human beings before enlistment or that they may have served as a keyboard jockey in the Marines- they are out now and as such are dangerous weapons that could snap or revolt at any time, even according to the FBI.

Yet at the same time, veterans are more likely to come to the aid of someone than to attack them, often defying the “bystander effect” that often plagues people in times of crisis. An Army veteran was shot five times trying to hold off the Oregon community college shooter in 2015, another with a concealed carry permit engaged (and was shot by) the Houston shooter in May and a Marine veteran helped victims escape during the Orlando terrorist attack in June. Some of these stories received coverage, though not at same extent than when a veteran is on the offensive instead of defenses.

Instead of focusing on the fact that these men were veterans (which denotes former affiliation to what may be one of the least divisive cultures in the US right now) with guns, how about focusing on the fact that they were hateful, racist and easily manipulated radicals who weren’t that great of people to begin with?

Micah Johnson and Gavin Long had lives outside of the military. They expressed opinions on social media, met with like-minded people, wrote books on racial superiority and displayed symptoms of potential agents of terror just looking for a cause. When they engaged those police officers -some of whom were veterans themselves- they committed the worst kind of fratricide possible and forfeited their veteran title. Therefore, this should have never been a “veteran” issue. It was a “bigot” issue, an issue of hate and what happens when people allow themselves to act on those emotions.

Riding your motorcycle on the weekends does not make you a member of the Hell’s Angels biker gang. Doing a term of service or going to drill one weekend a month doesn’t make you a ticking time bomb of potential domestic terror or a war fighter who operates with “military precision”. The real threats- such as how a person behaves, treats his fellow man or sees the world- are the ones that seemingly go unnoticed, and the ones that should be highlighted most of all.

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  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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