Skip to comments.Book Review, TO SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT
Posted on 01/13/2008 4:50:51 PM PST by JoeFromSidney
Swett, Scott and Tim Ziegler, To Set the Record Straight, 2007, New American Media, 389 pp., index, ISBN 978-0-9799841-5-0. $29.95
Full disclosure: The first author's father and I served together at Holloman AFB, New Mexico, 1968 - 1972. I do not recall ever meeting the first author.
The thread that runs through this book is how the Swift Boat Veterans attempted to bring out the truth about John Kerry's service in Vietnam and his collaboration with the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese afterwards. However, it covers a great deal more than that.
The opening chapters deal with how the American public's image of the Vietnam veteran came to be that of a baby-killing, atrocity-committing, drug- addicted loser who was always suffering flashbacks and who couldn't cope with civilian life afterwards. The book places heavy emphasis on John Kerry's Senate testimony in 1971, in which he claimed that American troops in Vietnam routinely committed atrocities, and even claimed to have participated in them himself. More important than the testimony itself, however, was the way the testimony was received and lauded by anti-war Senators, and how it was played up in the liberal media. The book reminds us that in 1971, the media consisted of 3 networks and 2 news services, which effectively held an oligopoly on informing the public. If they decided something was news, it was. If they decided it wasn't news, it disappeared into the memory hole. Since the networks and the news services marched in liberal lockstep, the American people received a very one- sided picture of events. The book presents a brief discussion of how the public image of the Vietnam veteran was mistaken, and in fact the vast majority of veterans were doing as well in civilian life as their contemporaries who had not served in Vietnam, or who had never even been in the military.
The book outlines John Kerry's activities as a leader in the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), including his attendance at a meeting at which the group seriously considered assassinating pro-war senators. It also covers his meetings with leaders of the Viet Cong and North Vietnam in Paris. Most of these events had received little or no coverage in the liberal Mainstream Media (MSM).
With the start of John Kerry's Presidential campaign, a group of Swift Boat veterans who had known Kerry in Vietnam, or who had served in the same unit, some even while Kerry was there, finally decided to go public with their belief that he was unfit to be Commander in Chief. As an aside, it's worth noting that these men were all successful professionals or business executives, thus giving the lie to the "loser" image. After putting together an organization and a "527" political group, they held a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. The presentations consisted of brief testimony by men who had served in the Swift Boats, in the same command as Kerry, and who denied emphatically Kerry's tales of atrocities. The room was packed with reporters, who complained that the group should have reserved a bigger room, knowing that the event would be news. To the deep dismay of the Swifties, however, the event wasn't news. It dropped into the memory hole. The MSM simply weren't interested in presenting the Swifties' stories. The Swifties had hoped to tell their story and go home. They realized they still had to get their story out.
This led to a reorganization. The Swifties realized they needed the help of PR professionals to get their story out. They recognized they needed ways to get around the liberal media "iron curtain."
The first channel they used to bypass the media was the Internet. An early web site was knocked out several times by hackers. With professional help they established a more robust web site. Despite concentrated attacks by pro-Kerry hackers, the site stayed up. As the book notes, "Talk radio and TV appearances came and went, ,but the web site was always there." Free Republic is credited with helping promote the site.
The second channel was the book Unfit for Command, by O'Neil and Corsi. This was published in the amazingly short time of 12 weeks. (Every book I've written took at least 2 years from start of manuscript to appearance in print.) With a boost from the Drudge Report, the book reached number 3 on Amazon, spent 4 weeks as number 1 on the New York Times list, and was on the Times list for 10 consecutive weeks. It ultimately sold 650,000 copies.
The third channel was TV ads. Unlike the Internet or the book, TV ads cost big money. The Swifties' treasury couldn't buy many. Instead, they bootstrapped the ads, with the income generated by each ad paying for the buy of the next one.
The Kerry campaign at first dismissed the Swifties. The book quotes an unnamed source inside the Kerry campaign that "The media is committee to seeing us win this thing." However, it was no longer 1971. The lockstep liberal media no longer had an oligopoly on the news. Millions of people saw the TV ads and thousands read O'Neil and Corsi's book. The MSM counterattacked, but as the book shows, with no effect. The truth had gotten out.
Kerry had lied not only about atrocities, but about his presence in Cambodia on Christmas 1968, and about his "heroism" in rescuing a Green Beret whose boat had been blown up by a mine. The book goes into considerable detail about how these false claims were demolished. It also casts serious doubt about the "after action reports" Kerry filed, which led to his receiving several medals.
The book reports that many times the Swifties were referred to as shills for George Bush. They had to keep making the point that their goal was "to set the record straight." As usual, however, the Republicans were embarrassed by the whole thing. President Bush made what amounted to a "plague on both your houses" statement condemning both sides. John McCain denounced the ads as "dishonest and dishonorable," although he was in no position to know the facts. So much for being shills.
Much of the book is devoted to the wars between the "blogosphere" and the MSM. It recounts the way bloggers spotted discrepancies in Kerry's tales, and dug up facts to counter those tales. To some extent it's a sidetrack from the main thread of the book, but should be of special interest to Free Republic members, especially its recounting of Dan Rather's fall.
Swett and Ziegler's book may overstate the total effect the Swifties had on the Kerry campaign, but there is no doubt they hurt that campaign badly. At least as important in the long run, however, was the fact the Swifties' campaign went a long way to overcome the "baby-killer" and "loser" image that John Kerry had helped to create. It had been a long time coming, but America finally heard the Vietnam veterans' side of the story.
I highly recommend the book. It's well written and tells the "inside" story of a campaign for vindication. If you're a Vietnam vet, or the relative of one, you owe it to yourself to read this book.
I haven’t read the book but I know from the grassroots level the Swift Boat movement galvanized Vietnam veterans and got them, their families and friends to the polls. Kerry not only insulted Vietnam veterans but also all reservists and guardsmen when he publicly denigrated George Bush’s guard service.
This is such a well-written book that I stayed up until 2 A.M. reading it.
It is a must read,IMO.
I bought it too, a very good read!
Nice Joe. Thanks.
Each co-author is a Freeper....Interesting Times and The Shrew.
My copy just arrived, virtually a quick couple days after I ordered it. Nicely bound, great cover (with tantalizing blurb on it) and of a meaty length.
I can't wait to read it. I flipped through it quickly and it looks interesting as all get-out....with an abundance of sourcing notes on the end pages.
I'm so proud of so many of our Freepers.....and support them all I can.
It’s listed on Amazon, at $25 (no discount offered). So far there are no reviews there. Freepers might consider going to Amazon, even if you buy the book elsewhere, posting reviews there, and voting 5 stars for the book and “yes” for the good reviews.
Joe, you might consider posting this review at Amazon for a starter. (I would also reconsider that comment that the SwiftBoat campaign didn’t have as much influence on the election as hoped; I think it did turn things around. Otherwise the MSM would have made Kerry into a war hero, as he initially intended from his remarks at the Dem convention.
it has been my experience that, after 30+ years of USA/USAR/ARNGUS service (note:i retired with 20.5 years active service), NO REAL HERO sits around BRAGGING about how "wonderful" he was and how "brave".
i have been PRIVILEDGED to KNOW personally MANY real/authentic HEROES before/during/after my service & NONE of them, bragged about (or in fact TALKED ABOUT) their COMBAT experiences. (NOTE: "war stories told by drunken VFW members don't count!!!)
SOME of America's HEROES (who i know/have known) include:
1LT Joseph O. Berry, late of Merrill's Marauders (WW II),
CPT Roger Donlon, an SF recipient of the MOH (RVN),
PO3 Wayne T. Bankhead,Acting Chief of the Boat, USS Champion (WW II) & my uncle,
Gunnery SGT Frederick Shue, noted sniper of the USMC (RVN),SSM/2BSM/4PHM
CPL R.B. Lewellen, late of the Marine Raiders & the Makin Island Raid (he was tortured by the Japanese when captured & lost his right arm to a Japanese officer's sword), (WW II)
NONE of those men BRAGGED. they did tell me "funny stories" about their service.
otoh, "poseurs" BRAGG.
just my opinion.
sorry, i "pinged" the wrong man.
This is a fine review. One comment: John Kerry and the RATs apparently think the Swifties were a major reason he wasn’t elected.
Thanks for the ping!
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