Did Spitting ‘Victim’ from DC Protest Cry Wolf?

This piece was first published at AlterNet. This post is revised and extended from that piece.
The media interest surrounding Private Joshua Sparling’s claim that he was spit at during the Washington, DC protest merits skepticism considering that his previous claims of victimhood have turned out inaccurate, and that he’s been a frequent associate of right-wing figures such as Sean Hannity and Oliver North.
There is a conventional wisdom that Vietnam War protesters included fringe elements who did uncivil things, including spitting at soldiers returning from Vietnam. Evidence of this belief in the mainstream media appeared as recently as early this month in Newsweek earlier this month wrote,,

Returning [Vietnam] GIs were sometimes jeered and even spat upon in airports; they learned to change quickly into civilian clothes.

Decades later, little has changed. With the headline “SPITTING MATCH WITH DISABLED VET…” the Drudge Report on Monday linked to New York Times coverage of the weekend marches against President Bush’s Iraq “surge” plan to escalate the war. The story, Protest Focuses on Iraq Troop Increase, included the following:

There were a few tense moments, however, including an encounter involving Joshua Sparling, 25, who was on crutches and who said he was a corporal with the 82nd Airborne Division and lost his right leg below the knee in Ramadi, Iraq. Mr. Sparling spoke at a smaller rally held earlier in the day at the United States Navy Memorial, and voiced his support for the administration’s policies in Iraq.
Later, as antiwar protesters passed where he and his group were standing, words were exchanged and one of the antiwar protestors spit at the ground near Mr. Sparling; he spit back.

Wow — those horrible “antiwar protesters” are still at it! And what unspoken message is sent by this? That “antiwar protesters” are such terrible people, doing such terrible things.

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