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This just in: Jane Fonda is eating babies in North Korea
November 13, 2005 8:49 PM   Subscribe

Operation Barbarella - from the London Review of Books, a review of Jane Fonda’s War: A Political Biography of an Anti-war Icon by Mary Hershberger.
So, what is the story behind Jane Fonda? You will find few people so reviled among macho warrior types. Back in the Depressingly Christian Private School (DCPS) that I went to, to hear some of the things she had been accused of you'd have thought she was the Whore of Babylon herself.
The truly interesting thing about this article isn't the discussion of the reality of Fonda's anti-war protesting measured against the myth, but as an illustration of the kind of pass-it-along info, whose truth is a matter of almost-scriptural faith, that serves as the conventional wisdom concerning the Left in the ill-educated backwaters that compose so much of our nation. This kind of thing is the political equivilent of the story of the midget who hanged himself on the set of The Wizard of Oz.
Additional reading: the Snopes page on Jane Fonda.
Via Linkfilter.
posted by JHarris (34 comments total)

 
My favorite aspect of the entire "Hate Hanoi Jane" chronicle was when she attempted to apologize to the VFW-types. Their answer to her overtures was that she could only begin to atone by personally looking into the matter of the American MIAs. Because, you know, we could not take the word of the U.S. government.

It seemed to escape them that this unwillingness to believe the U.S. government (making it necessary for her to go over and see for herself) was exactly why they were mad at her in the first place.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 9:09 PM on November 13, 2005


Of course it escaped them- they are morons! What else would you expect from the mentally retarded: acute minds relying on penetrating logic in a relentless pursuit of the truth?!
posted by hincandenza at 9:11 PM on November 13, 2005


This hagiography is about as convincing as her demonization. The truth lies somewhere in between, as usual.
posted by Falconetti at 9:28 PM on November 13, 2005


The truth lies somewhere in between, as usual.

I'm not versed enough to know if this is true in this particular case, but beware of this "logic." The truth is most certainly NOT always somewhere in the middle.
posted by teece at 9:36 PM on November 13, 2005


teece is correct. There are plenty of people who depend on the assumption that Falconetti makes to get move the "center" of a discussion in their direction.
posted by JHarris at 9:44 PM on November 13, 2005


My theory is that truth is thin at one end, much much thicker in the middle, and then thin again at the far end.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:50 PM on November 13, 2005


Truth sometimes lies at one extreme end of an argument or the other, but more often not as each side competitively over-states their case.
posted by scheptech at 9:59 PM on November 13, 2005


"Of course it escaped them- they are morons!" - And we are so smart........if we were any smarter our heads would explode.
posted by troutfishing at 10:19 PM on November 13, 2005


One of the more fascinating aspects of the anti-antiwar movement has been the appropriation of the tiger cages.

The Tiger Cages of Vietnam were built by the French on Con Son Island, the local version of Devil's Island. Con Son remained a prison for the South Vietnamese government during the war, and they housed various dissidents, Communists, and Viet Cong there. They were discovered by American congressional aide -- and future Senator -- Tom Harkin, and photographs of these cages were published in Life magazine.

The Tiger Cages episode in 1970 was the Vietnam version of Abu Ghraib.

In the mythos of the anti-antiwar movement, though, Tiger Cages have become a symbol of the terror that American POWs experienced. They've been depicted in various movies with US soldiers caged in them. To the anti-antiwar movement, the South Vietnamese tiger cages are a hoax, and the tiger cage is the preferred symbol of the POW-MIA movement, which uses mockup displays, often with a human, in military holiday celebrations and July 4th parades.

I don't want to minimize the known mistreatment of US POWs held in North Vietnam, and if they existed in one place they can exist in another -- but the case for People's Army of Vietnam tiger cages is much less certain. And this symbolism has, in time, completely erased the public memory of the widespread disgust over our ally's use of them.
posted by dhartung at 12:09 AM on November 14, 2005


My theory is that truth is thin at one end, much much thicker in the middle, and then thin again at the far end.

This may be the case as for the odds of where the truth may lie. Or, it might not.

The problem is that I think a lot of people have an unconscious assumption that the truth in these hotly debated situations is like how you have stated it. You can be sure that misinformation strategy is planned with it in mind.

Which means the side who is most honest, that is, who embellishes their arguments the least, will be the one who loses. It's just too easy to game that kind of system, as it will be for any system that doesn't have the finding of actual truth somewhere in it.

For my part, I recognize that the article I linked to doesn't hold Fonda entirely blameless (at the end, it says the reviewed book goes too far), and I also provided the Snopes page, which is not as positive concerning Fonda, although I'm not sure it can be called negative either.
posted by JHarris at 12:17 AM on November 14, 2005


if we were any smarter our heads would explode.

yeah, well, stupid is what stupid does.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 2:51 AM on November 14, 2005


My theory is that truth is thin at one end, much much thicker in the middle, and then thin again at the far end.

This may be the case as for the odds of where the truth may lie. Or, it might not.


Ahem.
posted by Grangousier at 3:16 AM on November 14, 2005


Jane married Ted Turner. Isn't that enough?
posted by jfuller at 3:59 AM on November 14, 2005


I wish this could have had a title other than "Operation Barbarella" -- I've always had a (at times horrified) fascination with that movie.
posted by alumshubby at 4:43 AM on November 14, 2005


Often, the truth lies at a third point not found on the line drawn between the other two. In fact, the truth may even be a cloud of probability, not unlike QM; where the actual location depends on how you look at it, when you look at it, and what your measure is.
posted by Eideteker at 6:20 AM on November 14, 2005


I agree that the truth may lie anywhere from the extremes to the center in any given case, but when an article is clearly coming from a biased point of view and the competing point of view is even more clearly incorrect and biased, the truth of the matter is most likely found somewhere between those poles. The linked article was very interesting but it was also quite slanted, which anyone with a modicum of media literacy who keeps his/her preconceived notions checked at the door could see. The veterans' views of Fonda are facial incorrect and quite over the top. My guess then is she is neither a saint, nor a demon, which may be trite, but I also think true.

And I think this process plays itself out often.
posted by Falconetti at 6:20 AM on November 14, 2005


“The veterans' views of Fonda are facial incorrect and quite over the top." - posted by Falconetti at 6:20 AM”

This just in: veterans are human beings too and, brace yourselves, make mistakes!

Yeah, seriously though, the views of Fonda are dead on, just the facts are distorted. It is not “macho warrior types” (or not just them) who find fault with her position.
Understand - the politcal reason for fighting in Vietnam and in Korea was to oppose communism. Ask any older Russian who lived under the Soviets and they will most likely say they wholeheartedly supported America in those actions. Anything to oppose old Joe’s system.
Politically, I don’t find fault with Vietnam. My position is similar on Iraq. Politically it is/was a wise move to attempt to stabilize and create a democracy in Iraq.
However - like Iraq - the political objectives got paid lipservice while defense companies and the like simply got paid. Perhaps it was always that way. I don’t know, I wasn’t on Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon or Bush’s cabinets. Either way, the line of bullshit prevailed over truth and democracy (which is very often the way).
So the whole thing became a shit sandwich and many people went to war and were killed for no good reason other than (partly) presidential ego and money.
Add to the fact that the political strategy quickly became nothing more than a cover story, the fact that we were drafting people and sending them - on pain of imprisonment as well as being possibly disowned by their WWII vet families, and you get a sense of troubled confused kids from low income families trying to do the ‘right thing’ and having no idea what that is anymore.

We sent the first armed Hueys into ‘Nam in 62-63. In ‘67, McCain had been shot down and was still in the Hanoi Hilton in ‘72 when Fonda said our guys weren’t being mistreated. I guess McCain was merely placed in a ‘stress’ position. Which is why he can’t raise his arms anymore. I’m not sure why he’s so opposed to torture though. Hmmm.

Anyway, she’s speaking in 1972, years after the protests were rolling and were well underway, three years after My Lai, two years after four kids were killed protesting at Kent State, (Krause and Miller and the wounded protesters were heroes as far as I’m concerned) and she’s retroactively calling soldiers - again draftees, and not the makers of policy - war criminals. A movie star, who was connected enough to take that kind of picture on an anti aircraft gun.
Seems a bit hypocritical to me. And I respect people who protested that war (and the current fiasco) who actually risked something, because they weren’t rich or famous.

On the one hand you have the country blaming the guys coming home for not winning. For not perhaps being fucking Rambo or whatever, and on the other hand being called (metaphorically) babykiller by some people (hell, some of their ilk are on mefi now) for getting shipped off somewhere they really didn’t want to go in the first place, but were told it was their civic ‘duty’ like being a choirboy or a cub scout or whatever.
Couple that with no support once they are there, racism (we were still calling black folks ‘negros’ - if they were lucky - ahoy? It was still ok to not like people based on ethnicity. We were calling the Vietnamese ‘gooks’ - not in polite society of course. Anyone remember any of this?) and internal politics in ranks, lack of discipline, and all the goofy ass rules (can’t attack the main source of supply for the Vietcong - that would be cheating! - Ho Chi Minh trail for you young’uns), movies at home - at the time - with the ‘crazed antisocial vet’ type thing - meme - happening (Travis Bickle anyone?) and you get a real Kafkaesque thing going on for guys who were coming home.

And on top of that you get a big Hollywood star taking a shit on you and telling folks at home that the people shooting at you every day are the good guys and our troops are war criminals - when while you were there you found your guys tied to trees by their necks, bellies cut open alive and left for the rats.

So yes, Fonda giving aid and comfort to the enemy is bullshit. Fine. That does not mean that vets are all wrong about not liking her.

She still seems to be milking this thing for her career. I don’t see how she did anything for peace, as opposed to simply denegrating American troops, which was admittedly fashionable then. As it is fashionable now to support the troops but oppose the administration (sort of, but I can agree with that approach). Which is the bandwagon she appears to be on now.
This is why vets were/are mad at her. Not because she supposedly was against the government that sent them to ‘Nam (AsYouKnow Bob) but because she was specifically against the troops. Or seemed to be. At a time when everyone else was. So it didn’t even seem to be in earnest. Just one more boot kicking you when you were down.

That said I wouldn’t have spit on her or anything. I think that would be wrong. Not that I don’t understand it, but I don’t condone it. Free speech and all that.

- Ususal ‘fuck you’s all around to the knee jerk ‘all soldiers are evil gestapo thugs’ spouting folks.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:08 AM on November 14, 2005


I saw this article via Aldaily yesterday. I live in the reddest of red states, and I think the author and reviewer way overstate the prevalence of the supposed anti-Fonda cult. And the statement that "You don’t know America if you don’t know the Jane Fonda cult." is preposterous.
posted by LarryC at 8:31 AM on November 14, 2005


I live in the reddest of red states, and I think the author and reviewer way overstate the prevalence of the supposed anti-Fonda cult.

I likely would not have posted the article if I had not had first-hand experience with it, at the previously-mentioned Depressingly Christian Private School.

I do not know how actually prevalent the "cult" is, but I do know you can live in a red state (mine's Georgia, argh) and still not circulate in the circles that say that, yeah, of course Jane Fonda directly caused the torture of U.S. servicemen, and Carl Sagan was a Satanist, and don't you know Star Wars is based off of Wicca, and they cast a demon out of some lady in church last night, and several people spoke in tongues, and of course it's all a sign of the End Times.

Does it seem like a stretch to lump this stuff together? I recognize that it might to you. To me, it doesn't, for these are exactly the kinds of things that tended to come up in clusters with each other.
posted by JHarris at 8:51 AM on November 14, 2005


From the linked article: "The lot of American prisoners in Hanoi was in many ways worse than that of other pows in the 20th century. The enemy, pointing to America’s refusal to declare war, declared themselves outside the requirements of the Geneva Conventions. "

This seems relevant in some way to current events, but I can't quite put my finger on it...
posted by illovich at 9:47 AM on November 14, 2005


If you mention Jane Fonda around my Dad, he, quite literally, gets red in the face. His blood pressure rises, the pitch of his voice increases, he gets really angry.

To say he is biased against Fonda would be wrong -- he loses all pretext of rationality at the mere mention of Fonda, and goes into fight or flight mode -- which manifests itself in a verbal tirade about the woman.

His views of Fonda are intimately and irrevocably tied up with his overall view of the Vietnam war. Further, to my Dad, every Democrat, liberal, peace protester, etc. is essentially the same as Jane Fonda. Indeed, it is that kind of thinking which drove him from the Democratic party into political agnosticism decades ago, it is that which opened him up to arguments from the likes of Reagan, it is that which made him into the staunch Republican that he is today.

I assure you he is not unique. I think Fonda really is emblematic of the way an entire, and rather significant, bloc of Americans views politics today. So I would tend to agree with the author that understanding the phenomenon is important.
posted by teece at 10:05 AM on November 14, 2005


and I think the author and reviewer way overstate the prevalence of the supposed anti-Fonda cult

I don't. Two of the most informative (about the war) vietnam vet sites, authored by soldiers, both authors are horribly whack in their anti-communist anti-liberal positions. I don't know how wide this Bircher position is, but it sure is deep.

Vietnam is a tricky nut to crack. I like to approach it from the "How was it different from the Korean Conflict?" angle. The differences answer the question why we were able to "save" S. Korea but not S. Vietnam from stalinist dictatorship (though for the bulk of the people of what was SVN, whether they're sharecropping the ricefield they work every day from an urban absentee landlord or Hanoi is pretty irrelevant).
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 10:40 AM on November 14, 2005


How was it different from the Korean Conflict?

We tied in Korea and lost in Vietnam.

Vietnam and Korea were different types of conflict, both in the reasons for the wars, and the ways we fought them.

The Korean War was a proxy fight in the Cold War, with the US-backed South fighting the USSR- and China-backed North after the North invaded the South. Korea was similar to World War II in that it was a conventional army-versus-army conflict. We "saved" South Korea so it could be ruled by a series of strongmen who killed at least 200 protestors at Gwangju in 1980.

The Vietnam War was a continuation of the First Indochina War and was fundamentally a nationalist stuggle for independence. Communism was more of a unifying vehicle than it was the underlying reason for the war. South Vietnam refused to hold the national elections to determine a national government for a united Vietnam called for in the Geneva Accord, and the Viet Cong began guerilla warfare that escalated into open conflict. It was an insurgency, with guerilla warfare more common than large-scale engagements.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:55 AM on November 14, 2005


Kirkaracha, why put saved in quotes? Do you honestly not think that South Korea was saved from the Communists? Do you think it would have been better had the North overrun the South, so Kim Jung Il could rule all of Korea today? Quite honestly, that's fucking nuts.

It hurts my brain to even consider the South as even remotely similar to the North in terms of freedom and prosperity.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 12:59 PM on November 14, 2005


fundamentally a nationalist stuggle for independence

Zzzz. It was a power struggle. The Frenchified Vietnamese in the N didn't want to yield to the the Communist/Nationalist power structure and voted with their feet. "Independence" for the guy pulling a plow through a paddy is poppycock. It is true that SVN and RoK weren't that different wrt client-state status, which makes the not-parallels more significant.

Prior to post-Tet land reform, 60% of SVN farmers were tenant farmers. This fueled a lot of the rebellion, hell if I were renting my land from some fatcat in Saigon I'd support the commies too.

It was an insurgency, with guerilla warfare more common than large-scale engagements.

The insurgency was something of a sideshow that the US was able to pound down over time. The main war was concerned with closing off the easy ingress via Laos and Cambodia -- something not present with defending the RoK. The 1972-75 denouement show the war was an armed takeover of a stalinist N vs a client S.

The people of SVN weren't that enthused to be incorporated in an "independent" Vietnam under a sclerotic, reactionary Hanoi leadership.

The US really fucked up that war. It didn't have to turn out like it did.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 1:35 PM on November 14, 2005


Kirkaracha, why put saved in quotes?

Ummm...I copied Heywood Mogroot. Maybe you should ask him?

I'd say that South Korea was better off being ruled by a series of military dictatators than it would have been under the Communists, but not amazingly better off. How much difference is there between the killings at Gwangju and Tianamen Square? The freedom is a relatively recent development, and South Korea's been a better place recently than it was for most of the time since the war.

Zzzz. It was a power struggle.

OK. It was more of a struggle internal to Vietnam, though, that it was an international Communist drive for world domination.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:46 PM on November 14, 2005


It was more of a struggle internal to Vietnam, though, that it was an international Communist drive for world domination.

Sure. We oversold that war going in, and that was part of the problem on the back-side of our involvement.

'course, getting Americans to agreed to put their life on the line for a military junta, Catholic landowners, and Michelin is a tougher sales job than just screaming "The commies are coming!".

But I see the war in the context of currency blocs. We wanted to keep SVN and the rest of SE Asia in the USD bloc, to facilitate the Japan < -> US < -> Asia USD trade triangle. I think a lot of wars are usefully looked at with this frame.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 2:15 PM on November 14, 2005


I'd say that South Korea was better off being ruled by a series of military dictatators than it would have been under the Communists, but not amazingly better off.

Uh...really? I would consider South Korea amazingly better off than the North. How is it not?

Just to be clear, I'm not condoning the military dictatorships that ruled Korea for so long, nor am I making a blanket apology for US policy with respect to Korea. I'm just saying that the people of the South were saved from the aggression of a Stalinist state that to this day remains arguably the most repressive regime on the planet. This is a good thing, and the US keeping South Korea independent from the North has been a very good thing for the South.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 2:21 PM on November 14, 2005


S.Korea, Vietnam, whatever the real struggle was, they both have Coca-Cola and McDonalds now. The world can rest easy.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:00 PM on November 14, 2005


We oversold that war going in, and that was part of the problem on the back-side of our involvement.

Good thing we learned that lesson, though!

Uh...really?

Uh...yes. South Korea is amazingly better than North Korea now. A military dictatorship isn't amazingly better than a Stalinist state.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:21 PM on November 14, 2005


You will find few people so reviled among macho warrior types.

That alone would have been enough to make me love her. If macho dickheads hate something it's almost always safe to assume that thing is a very good and decent thing indeed.

The fact that she also had the guts to vocally stand against America's obscene and wholly inexcusable actions in Vietnam could only make me love her even more. Okay, I admit it didn't hurt that she was hot as fuck, but that really had nothing to do with my adolescent masturbatory excesses with grubby, much-fingered pictures of Ms. Fonda. No no no. Perish the thought. That was some heavy-duty political wanking, there. Respect, Jane.

By the way, I'll tell you what really caused the torture of US servicemen in Vietnam: the US attacking Vietnam. Here's a lesson: don't attack other countries when they're no threat to you or your allies. Got that? Oh.... I see you haven't. Man, Jane Fonda's still pretty hot, don't you think? I do.
posted by Decani at 7:16 PM on November 14, 2005


“The fact that she also had the guts to vocally stand against America's obscene and wholly inexcusable actions in Vietnam could only make me love her even more.”

Yeah. Lotsa guts there to do it years after the country was already on board with this. You’ll pardon me if I am slightly more suspicuous of the altruism of Jane Fonda over those protesting at say Kent State two years earlier.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:05 PM on November 15, 2005


You’ll pardon me if I am slightly more suspicuous of the altruism of Jane Fonda over those protesting at say Kent State two years earlier.

I will indeed pardon you for that, sir, in my usual magnanimous way. I am, however, somewhat less inclined to pardon you for the dreadful stench of blush herring you have dragged into the place.
posted by Decani at 4:28 PM on November 15, 2005


I am, however, somewhat less inclined to pardon you for the dreadful stench of blush herring you have dragged into the place.

Amazing what cynicism drives a person to drag in. Equally courteously I have to admire your stylish method of emphasising how my most recent argument was presented while ignoring the content of my overall statements.

I question whether her commitment was real or just for publicity.

But, if real, even she noted it was misguided in some respects.
That doesn't excuse the bullshit made up about her of course. But I have no problem with her now. People make mistakes. She recognized it. I agree with your other points. I dislike your worship of her (strikes me similar to Coulter worship), but that's a matter of taste.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:08 PM on November 17, 2005


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