Thursday, March 05, 2009

Conservative falsification of history [updated]

Kathy Shaidle, now bearing the impressive title of "Examiner" (*cough*) is busy exposing "liberal myths" about the Vietnam war.

One prevalent "myth," we are told, was that African Americans were overrepresented in draftee ranks during that conflict. Here's what our "examiner" has to say:

As I noted in a previous column, one of the most stubborn myths about the Vietnam War was that African Americans were drafted and wounded far above their numbers in the general U.S. population. But as black conservative author Larry Elder has revealed, “During the Vietnam War draft era, blacks comprised 13.5 percent of the population. Of those who died in Vietnam, 12.5 percent were black...”

Note, first of all, that Shaidle doesn't cite any draft figures at all. But in any case, Elder got things wrong. In 1960, according to US Census figures, only 10.5% of the US population was African American, that figure rising to 11.1% in 1970. What Elder might have done is to mistake the draftee figure for 1966--which happened to be 13.4%--with the population figures. But the Black population of the US hasn't come anywhere close to 13.5% to this day: the CIA World Factbook gives the total Black population in 2007 as 12.85%.

In any case, the actual draftee numbers are telling. Over the course of the war, as author James E. Westheider notes in The African American Experience in Vietnam [23], Department of Defence figures indicated that Blacks comprised 12% of the population.
(In fact, according to the US Census Bureau, the population didn't rise to that percentage until 1990.) Even if one accepts this somewhat inflated figure, in 1966 13.4% of inductees were African American, and the number rose to more than 16% in 1967 and in 1970. Between 1965 and 1970, an average of 14.3% of draftees were Black.

The Black casualty rate for the Vietnam War was 12.6%. The rate for the beginning of the conflict was so high, however, that, towards the end of the war, special measures were taken to keep Black troops out of harm's way in order to get the figures down. (Talbot, Richard. "White, Black and Hispanic Casualty Rates During the Vietnam Conflict: Any Differences?" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, Atlanta Hilton Hotel, Atlanta, GA, Aug 16, 2003, p.8. Pdf can be downloaded here.)

In other words, the draft rate was considerably disproportionate, and so was the casualty rate, until the latter was addressed for political reasons. My purpose here, however, is not to delve into the issues further, but simply to point out, by way of a minor example, how some conservatives just make stuff up and/or are too lazy to fact-check, while posing as researchers, or examiners, or whatever the current glamour-term might be. All in a day's work for a "polemicist," I guess.

UPDATE: (March 5) The unemployed (and probably unemployable) Kathy responds, sort of. I think she's simply checking on whether I read her blog on occasion, which I do, of course. (Shouldn't I?) Anyway, I pass this on for a chuckle:

Ann Coulter describes Olbermann (and my apparently unemployed, hobby-less lefty critics, especially ones who call themselves "doctor") perfectly (the difference being that Olbermann at least, like, has his own tv show and is kind of a big deal...):

These small-time opportunities to show off by correcting someone else's teeny-tiny mistakes are the lifeblood of Olbermann's MSNBC show, "Countdown." (...) There is utterly no purpose to these lame "gotchas," except that Olbermann is so desperately insecure that he is willing to waste valuable airtime in order to convince other status-conscious idiots that he is, like, scary-smart. (...)

"Teeny-tiny mistakes," eh? Good grief. It's not as though I was correcting her spelling or her grammar. Now, that would just be petty.

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