Yesterday the New York Times made the audacious choice to publish an article linking military veterans to white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan.
Frazier Glenn Miller shot and killed three people at Jewish Community Centers near Kansas City, Missouri earlier this week. He was a former KKK leader and also a former Master Sergeant in the Army who was forced to retire for circulating racist material. That information seemed to be enough for Kathleen Belew, the author of the article, to draw a distinction between veterans, the ‘radical right,’ and their tendency to become an danger to society, and apparently enough for the New York Times to publish it.
The title of the piece, “Veterans and White Supremacy” and the entire slanderous article are almost as offensive as the picture that accompanied it. It displays a row of soldiers saluting, the way they would to an American flag, while one ‘soldier’ in the middle is posed doing a Nazi salute. It is despicable. It is reckless and it only further contributes to stereotypes that veterans must overcome each and everyday in the civilian world.
Unfortunately there are real and significant issues in the veteran community that some veterans are forced to deal with each and every day.
The military-civilian divide is greater than ever. Roughly one half of one percent of the U.S. population has served on active duty over the passed decade. And the two wars during that decade have taken their toll on those who answered the call to defend their nation.
22 veterans commit suicide every day.
Veteran unemployment, especially for post 9/11 enlistees, continues to remain unacceptably high. Additionally, veterans are finding it increasingly hard translate their military work experience to the civilian sector, resulting in underemployment.
The media unintelligently continues to jump to conclusions about veterans and Post Traumatic Stress, which contributes to the stigma that veterans are unstable or gun-crazed lunatics when they come home from war. We saw this most recently with the coverage of the second Fort Hood shooting earlier this month.
Some veterans have to wait months, sometimes years to receive their benefits they have earned from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Others are dying because of the treatment or lack of treatment they received at VA healthcare facilities, while those responsible are still on the payroll and have yet to be held accountable.
These are some of the real problems and stereotypes veterans must deal with when they transition back into the civilian world. Military members and veterans have sacrificed enough. They do not need the New York Times perpetuating one more stereotype that veterans are all inclined to join a hate group.
But should we be surprised by the New York Times actions? The paper is all too familiar with publishing regrettable pieces. To put into context just who we are dealing with, this is the same news outlet that published an op-ed from Russian President Vladimar Putin, who lectured President Obama and America about freedom and exceptionalism and then proceeded to invade Ukraine. Ethics clearly comes second in decisionmaking at the Times.
But that is not an excuse. The article is biased, unfounded, poorly researched, and disrespectful to veterans. Perhaps the New York Times should focus a little more of their content on some of the aforementioned issues veterans face, rather than creating a new stereotype that they will now be faced with thanks to their reckless publishing.
Amber Barno is U.S. Army veteran. She is a former Kiowa Warrior helicopter pilot who served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. For more information visit amberbarno.com