Stolen Honor

October 2004


A discussion of the film "Stolen Honor" and the use of propaganda to achieve political objectives. Having nothing to say about issues, the Republicans resort to other tactics.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this film, it is a documentary about the anti-Vietnam war activities of John Kerry in the early 1970s. Promoters of the film describe it as an expose of Kerry's unamerican activities to advance his own political career at the expense of his former comrades (in the military). Opponents of the film describe it as a Republican funded libel of John Kerry, an emotional fact-free denunciation of a man with more than thirty years of dedicated public service. You can see excerpts of it yourself at You can also read news stories discussing the controversy over the film at

Now my opinion: this is a propaganda film. It is a propaganda film because it is entirely one-sided and does not even attempt to examine the complex issues in their native context. It is an emotional appeal that uses a variety of tactics to paint a picture that relies upon prejudice instead of supporting an argument through conviction.

Some of the unexamined assumptions implicit in this film:

It is very sad that there are a substantial number of people in our nation who would agree with each of these points.

Point of fact: the Vietnam war wounded this nation. It was the rallying point for a generation of Americans who cried foul when their government lied to them and put their lives on the line for goals they did not believe in. Remember the Gulf of Tonkin resolution? That was when the executive branch lied to the American people about an incident in the Gulf of Tonkin that was used to get authorization from the House and Senate to take military action. Sound familiar? We went to war in Iraq to prevent weapons that did not exist from falling into the hands of people who were hostile to America, in case you've forgotten.

We have a proud history of dissent in this country. We believe that the government should be accountable to the people. John Kerry was a young man of principle in the 1970s. In common with many young men who felt strongly about important issues of the day, he did things that today he wishes he had done differently. Young people who care passionately about causes do things they live to regret, if they're lucky.

If I came up with hard evidence that George W Bush had been a cocaine addict when he was 24, that would be a fact that really has no bearing on the man seeking the presidency today... unless I could prove that he was still an addict. If it were a proven fact, it would still be irrelevant. So is John Kerry's passionate opposition to the Vietnam war. People change in 30+ years and what matters today is the man who may enter the white house now, not who that man was more than 30 years ago.

I do know that the Bush administration is made up of people who think that they know best and who will lie to us and cheat us in any way they can to achieve their goals. Using smear tactics like this against your opponent just highlights the fact that you have nothing to say about the real issues being debated in the campaign -- nothing to say honestly with which the people would concur. But then, our objections don't matter to them. They have no commitment to democracy -- they want to lead the people, not follow the will of the people. When 70-80% of the people of France and Germany stood up and declared their opposition to the Iraq war, Bush said that their governments should support our war anyway. When the government of Poland ignored the fact that more than 70% of their people opposed a war with Iraq and joined us in the war, Bush said that they were a model among democratic nations.

The members of the Bush administration use words like Freedom and Democracy without any meaning. This is rhetoric they use to placate the people and distract them from paying attention to what is really going on. I believe in democracy and the lessons I learned from the Vietnam war are that governments can sometimes make big mistakes, which they do not want to admit. When they do screw up, we have a patriotic duty to demand that they pay attention to us. They'll call us traitors for a while, but we can make a difference and mitigate the harm done by politicians refusing to admit their mistakes.

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