I cannot more strongly condemn your choice to publish “Becoming A Racist: The Unfortunate Side Effect of Serving Your Country?” (David Fagin, 8/17/17). This is irresponsible and damaging journalism, and it merits a response and public correction or retraction.
Flawed logic, incoherent political comments, evidence that is anecdotal at best, and an overall tone of condescension underlie this article’s most dangerous propositions: that all vets have PTSD, and that PTSD causes racism.
Fagin writes, “Running security for white supremacists is quite a unique avenue regarding symptoms/display of PTSD, and these individuals obviously need help.” Later, he describes the racism espoused by some of the veteran participants in the Charlottesville protests as a “new type of expression of their trauma,” and he characterizes transitioning veterans as “members of the armed forces whose opinions and beliefs have been shattered and damaged due to their perilous environment.” These statements are not just false; they are also dangerous on multiple levels. Below are three points of clarification that need to be made:
Fagin’s argument hinges upon the presupposition that all veterans present and providing security in Charlottesville were suffering from PTSD, but he freely makes this stereotypical assumption with no justification whatsoever. A service member obtains veteran status through all types of combat and non-combat related service, and there are no statistics to support the assumption that every veteran suffers from the effects of post-traumatic stress. According to the National Center for PTSD, in any given year, only 11-20% of Operation Enduring Freedom / Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans meet the diagnostic criteria for PTSD; the numbers are 12% for Gulf War and 15% for Vietnam veterans, respectively. These numbers in no way justify Fagin’s assumption that all vets providing Charlottesville security were suffering from the disorder.
· There is no clinical link between PTSD and racist beliefs.
Fagin’s argument fundamentally presumes a direct causal relationship between PTSD and racism—hatred of other groups—but this argument has no basis in science. Nowhere in the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for PTSD is there any statement to this effect. To publish an article making such a dangerous claim, unsupported by scientific evidence, is unethical and misleading. Fagin’s only evidence in support of his argument is a case study of his racist uncle, an NYPD lieutenant who never even served in the armed forces. What type of journalism admits this subjective example as credible evidence that all veterans are racists with PTSD?
· Veterans are not “damaged.”
We are living in an era in which the veteran suicide rate by far exceeds that of the civilian population, and in which young veterans are returning from war in droves only to be turned away from civilian jobs, by far surpassing their civilian peers in the unemployment rate. It is well-known that young veterans returning stateside face many great challenges in transitioning to civilian lives and careers, and their cause is not helped when the stereotype of all veterans being somehow “damaged” is allowed to persist. How is a young vet supposed to find a civilian job when he or she is confronted by a hiring team that believes all veterans are suffering from PTSD, and that PTSD causes racism?
This is where journalism, and the professionals associated with journalism, are under severe criticism, and being accused of creating “fake new”, where salacious rumors can spread like wildfire even when they have no basis in actuality. Allowing Fagin’s wildly unfounded assertions to persist on Huffington Post is irresponsible, as this article unnecessarily perpetuates ugly stereotypes that need to be toppled. Huffington Post is considered to be a credible news source, and this article falls far below your journalistic standards. I strongly urge you to issue a retraction or correction to this piece.
J.C. Glick, LTC, US Army, Retired