At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

Islamic Oppression of Christians in Niger and Nigeria

posted by Jack Kerwick

Scarcely a day passes that media personalities aren’t sounding the alarm over the relentless march of “Islamism”—i.e. militant Islam.  To hear them tell it, one could be forgiven for thinking that “Islamism”—exemplified by the likes of ISIS—is mere centimeters away from destroying both America and Israel.

Of course, this is hysteria.  Jihadists are dangerous individuals, for sure, but America and Israel have ample resources with which to protect their citizens.

Such, however, cannot be said for the Christians of dozens of countries around the world who daily suffer unimaginable predations at the hands of the Muslim majorities of their homelands.

Take Niger, for example.  This West African country has a population of 17 million people.  About 98 percent of Niger’s inhabitants are Muslims.  The remaining 350,000 consists of Christians and animists.

In January, following the Charlie Hebdo incident a continent away, Muslims ravaged Christian communities from town to town.  The mobs looted, burned, desecrated, and destroyed churches while unleashing violence—including lethal violence—on vulnerable Christians.  In the capital city of Niamey alone, 45 churches were burned, 173 people injured, and five murdered.

Yet it wasn’t just churches that were destroyed.

An orphanage and a school were both torched as well.

A Christian from the town of Zinder conveyed the sense of terror that has overcome his community.  “They are looking for Christians.  They burned everything with any Christian symbols on it, whether Catholic or Evangelical.”

Another Christian said bluntly: “We are living in fear.  Many Christians won’t sleep in their own homes for fear of being attacked.”

Those who witnessed the attacks are traumatized by the memories of hordes of people, particularly young boys, ransacking their places of worship before igniting them in flames.

The archbishop of Niamey explained that the Muslim marauders were “going around asking, ‘Are you Allahu Akbar or are you Alleluia’” in their attempts to “to identify Christians in the city.” He desperately asked: “What are they going to do next?”

Nearly 400 homeless Christians are now living in military camps in Zinder.  Some Christians, however, have returned to their homes.  But they know the violence is far from over, for their Muslim victimizers are demanding the release of those who authorities managed to arrest.

More recently, the violence has escalated—and, as it turns out, suspicions regarding Boko Haram’s involvement that were raised last month have been confirmed.

Diffa is a border region between Niger and Nigeria.  The latter just declared a State of Emergency in response to a series of assaults courtesy of Boko Haram.

Thousands of Christians (and others) are evacuating Diffa and heading to Zinder city.  Families have been separated.  According to the BBC, one evacuee, a female, was desperately trying to find her loved ones.  “I left home when I heard the blast at Tattasai market and went looking for my children.”  Although she left Diffa the day before, she stated that “I have no peace of mind because I could not locate my mother, my son, my aunties and my other relatives.”  The woman continued: “Everybody went their separate way and I did not meet any of them on my way here.”

The refugee explained that while she searched nearly “everywhere” in Zinder, she had been unable to find her son.

The Christians in Nigeria can relate.  Since the rise of Boko Haram, roughly 3.2 million residents have left their homes. According to Open Borders, an organization dedicated to “serving persecuted Christians worldwide,” a Nigerian official told the BBC last month that as many as 2,000 people may have been murdered in the northeastern town of Baga: bodies littered the streets and the entire town had been burned to the ground.

In the Borno State capital of Maiduguri, a suicide bombing claimed the lives of 16 people and injured 20 more.

The bomber turned out to be a 10 year-old girl.

As if the displaced citizens of Nigeria and Niger didn’t already have it rough enough, Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has just launched an investigation into reports that the refugee camps are being used for purposes of raping and child trafficking.

According to a report published by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), hundreds of girls have been delivered to the slave traffic.  Quoted in the report is a nurse who says that many girls were brought to her hospital upon being raped.  The ICIR report also mentions that not only are refugees being enslaved and sexually brutalized; they are as well tortured with knives and fire.

Christian minorities in Islamic nations the globe over are being made to endure merciless oppression.  And yet for all of the constant chatter over “Islamism” that we hear from Americans and, for that matter, such representatives of Israel as its Prime Minister, we hear little to nothing about the untold numbers of Christians who find themselves at the mercies of their murderous Islamic persecutors.    




Why the Need to Sort Myth from Truth: A Response to Chris Kyle’s Hero Worshippers

posted by Jack Kerwick


Nationally syndicated talk radio host and Fox News contributor Mike Gallagher has recently lambasted me for besmirching Chris Kyle, “the American Sniper.”

It’s time to separate truths from untruths.

(1)Gallagher accuses me of throwing in with the likes of Michael Moore.  But the latter implied that Kyle, being a sniper, was a coward.  Contrary to Gallagher, I never said or so much as slightly suggested anything of the kind.  I even conceded Kyle’s heroism in defending the backs of his fellow soldiers during his four tours of duty in Iraq.

(2)Nor have I, contra Gallagher, called Kyle a “liar.”  Rather, I noted that all of the available evidence compels rational people—people not blinded by ideology and the hero-worship to which it gives rise—to conclude that Kyle did in fact lie about at least a few things while promoting himself upon his return to civilian life.

Now, Kyle may or may not have been a liar, i.e. one who lies habitually.  Gallagher may find it scandalous to hear, but just because a person has donned military fatigues or is a combat veteran doesn’t mean that he is beyond succumbing to vice.  Still, it is possible that these are the only occasions on which Kyle’s ever been dishonest. The point, however, is that he did lie on the occasions in question.

(3)But even if I did refer to Kyle as a liar (or anything else), so what?  Gallagher’s reaction—and that’s all that it is, a quite sincere, though deeply confused, hyper-emotional reaction—is just another form of the old ad hominem attack: “You didn’t actually say that, did you?! Only an icky low-life would say that!” Shocked, shocked! Intimidate into silence.  End conversation.

(4)I wrote an exhaustive essay, drawing from a wide range of disparate sources—local publications in Minnesota, where Jesse Ventura’s defamation case against Chris Kyle and, later, his estate, transpired, and Dallas, where Kyle claimed to have gunned down two carjackers; New Yorker magazine, which did an extensive, and especially sympathetic, expose on Kyle and his fellow soldiers; and even National Review On-Line, a mainstream “conservative” publication from which Gallagher himself reads often on the air—to make the case that Kyle was less than honest about his post-war exploits.

I sent this essay to Gallagher.  It was a waste, for he continued speaking as if he hadn’t read a word of it.

There are four claims that Gallagher continues to repeat:

I was “inaccurate,” he says, because I said that all ten jurors who composed the jury presiding over Ventura’s defamation suit against Kyle found in favor of Ventura. But the jury was actually “split,” for two jurors “believed” Kyle’s version of events.

There are three problems with Gallagher’s assertion here.  The first, and biggest, is that I never said that all ten jurors agreed.  Never.  Quite simply, and truthfully, I wrote this: “The jury awarded him [Ventura] 1.8 million dollars in damages: $500,000 dollars for ‘defamation’ and the remainder for ‘unjust enrichment’ (Kyle, it was determined, monetarily benefitted from defaming Ventura).”

The truth hurts sometimes, I know, but guess what?  This is exactly what happened.

It’s also revealing that Gallagher would refer to an eight-to-two decision as being “split.”  I noted that if 80 percent of the American electorate agreed on any decision, no honest person would say that it was “split.” On the contrary, the “issue” wouldn’t be regarded as an issue at all.  The topic would be heralded as the one topic—perhaps the only topic—that’s succeeded in unifying Americans.

Thirdly, Gallagher states that the 20 percent of the jury that didn’t decide in Ventura’s favor believed Kyle.  Wrong: all this shows is that they weren’t convinced—but not necessarily unconvinced—that Kyle acted with “actual malice,” i.e. that he actually knew that he lied and/or acted in reckless disregard of the falsity of his claims.

Gallagher brings up O.J. Simpson’s acquittal to reinforce his contention that juries get it wrong.  But if he wants to be consistent—and this is a big if here—then he should compare apples to apples.  The Kyle/Ventura trial was a civil trial.  Here, “preponderance of evidence” is the standard of proof.  In a criminal court of the sort that acquitted Simpson, the standard of proof—“beyond a reasonable doubt”—is significantly higher.  Guess what?  When the families of Simpson’s victims sued him in civil court, the jury found him guilty.  Did the jury get that one wrong too, Mike?

Gallagher insists that he essentially confirmed Kyle’s account of the carjacking gone-bad when he spoke to DMagazine’s Mike Mooney, who assured him that Kyle may very well have been telling the truth.

Had Gallagher cared to read the essay that I sent him, he would know that I checked Mooney’s account (yes, Mike, as hard as it is to believe, some of us do research these things before we comment on them).  Mooney admitted that he could not verify Kyle’s story.  Still, he accepted it. I also noted in my piece that Nicholas Schmidle of the New Yorker quoted the authorities from all three of the counties covering that area where this incident was alleged to have occurred.  They unequivocally denied that anything of the sort happened.  Moreover, Schmidle quoted a former special operations commander who assured him that it was “bullshit.”

Gallagher continues to peddle the line that the Kyle/Ventura situation is a case of “he said, he said.”

This is simply and utterly false (Guarantee you that had the jury found in favor of Chris Kyle, Gallagher would most certainly not be saying any such thing).

Although Gallagher initially, and wrongly, said that it was the word of a bunch of Navy SEALS versus that of Ventura, even he has now retracted that (though without apology). The truth is that not only is Ventura a former SEAL himself (something that Mike scarcely mentions—why not thank him for his service, Mike, instead of casting aspersions at this veteran?); his witnesses, including the owner of the bar in which the fight was supposed to have occurred, were SEALS (Since several of them served during the Vietnam War era, Mike, by disregarding their testimony on Ventura’s behalf, are you essentially no different from those who spat on our troops when they returned from Vietnam?)

The fact is that the jury—or, if it will please Gallagher, at least 80 percent of it—found Ventura’s witnesses credible and Kyle’s witnesses incredible.

Gallagher said that I accused Kyle of lying about being the most “prolific” sniper in American history.

Wrong.  For starters, I couldn’t have possibly accused him of this, for Kyle never claimed to be the most prolific sniper; he claimed to have been the most lethal sniper.  It’s strange that though this claim is the subtitle of Kyle’s book, Gallagher doesn’t repeat it.

But even so, I never accused him of lying about that.  I objected to his bragging about that.   That he bragged about his kills and sought to build his reputation on this feature of his life alone suffices to show that he was a braggart.  This arrogance is an ugly character trait (Imagine George Washington, General George Washington, promoting himself as the bad ass that chased the British from North America!).

Humility, however, is a cardinal Christian virtue.

Gallagher expresses incredulity that anyone, let alone someone, like me, who’s on the right, would so much as think, let alone speak aloud, any criticism of Chris Kyle.  What’s the end game?

There are several reasons for why I’ve said what I have.

First, it is the truth.

Second, at no time is truth more needed than when lies are being spun to vindicate a policy that has resulted in the astronomical loss of blood and treasure.  And make no mistakes about it: ultimately, it isn’t Chris Kyle the man who Gallagher and his ilk care a lick about; rather, Kyle is a politically-useful symbol by which to vindicate the unmitigated disaster that is the Iraq War and, perhaps even more importantly, the foreign policy vision—the global crusade for Democracy, and ever larger government—underlying it.

Those of us who value the lives of flesh-and-blood soldiers; the untold numbers of innocent Iraqis (and others) whose lives have been destroyed; the resources of American taxpayers; American liberties; and a truly limited, federal government have an invested interest in seeing to it that the overwhelming majority of Americans who turned against the Iraq War do not forget why they did so.

Third, Kyle, or at least the Kyle of the extremely popular Eastwood film, could very well influence untold numbers of impressionable young boys.  He is now a “role-model.”  One needn’t be an opponent of the Iraq War in order to see why this is bad.

(1)Kyle, as I already mentioned and as is obvious to all with eyes to see, has bragged about his exploits.  This is arrogance.

(2)He’s bragged about things with respect to which he’s lied.  This reveals both arrogance and dishonesty.

(3)It isn’t just that he lied about killing carjackers and armed rioters and knocking out Jesse Ventura.  Even if he was telling the truth about such things, these are not the stuff of which an education in liberty is made.

Think about it: I have no problems with Kyle shooting and killing men who tried to carjack him.  I do have a problem with local police deciding, on a whim, or on the sole basis of a suspect’s word, who can and cannot kill with impunity.  I have an even bigger problem with agents of the national government (the Department of Defense) deciding who local authorities can and can’t arrest.

I have no problem with Kyle shooting armed rioters in an American city.  I do have a problem with government authorities commissioning by stealth, i.e. “off the books,” former soldiers to do this.

If Ventura initiated force against Kyle, I’d have no problem if Kyle dropped him.  I do have a problem with a man, especially one who is supposed to have fought for “our freedoms”—including our freedom of speech—assaulting a person with whom he disagreed.

I do have a problem with a man assaulting a person with whom he disagreed over an issue about which the entire country disagreed.   Even if Ventura did make the ugly comments that

Kyle said he did, it would have still been fundamentally immoral—to say nothing of criminal—for Kyle to have punched out Ventura just because of this.

I do have a problem with a man assaulting another man who is 23 years his senior and who did not physically threaten him.

In short, the events that Kyle relays are worse if they really happened.

(4)There is one final consideration why I want to undermine the hero worship of Kyle.  It is a reason that, shockingly, no one, as far as I have been able to determine, has mentioned.

Kyle supposedly had, and presumably still has, huge bounties on his head.  Very dangerous people—exactly those who the Gallaghers of the world insist are already here, in the USA—have wanted Kyle dead.  If this is true, then it was utterly reckless—not gutsy, but reckless—for him to flash his face to the world and promote himself as America’s “most lethal sniper.” In doing so, he endangered his whole family: his wife, his children, etc.

Those who now continue to promote him act recklessly as well, for though Kyle is gone, his family remains.

Courage should be emulated.  As the father of a five year-old, I for one do not want my son growing up to emulate recklessness.

In the final analysis, then, it isn’t Chris Kyle who was the target of my criticisms.  Had it not been for the hero-worshipping of Kyle, exemplified by Mike Gallagher and his fellow devotees of the Iraq War, I doubt that I would’ve written much if anything about him.

So, I end with a question for Mike?  Heroes there have always been and will always be.  Why rave to the extent that you do about “the American Sniper?”  What’s really going on here?








The Hero-Worship of Chris Kyle: The Need to Separate Myth from Truth

posted by Jack Kerwick

I confess to having been more than a bit shocked, and even mystified, to have recently found myself on the receiving end of some wildly baseless attacks by people, Iraq War devotees, who accused me of “tearing down” the late Chris Kyle, the subject of Clint Eastwood’s latest blockbuster film, American Sniper.

I have written three articles on Kyle.  Unlike those who have derided him—outrageously, in my judgment—as a “murderer,” “racist,” “psychopath,” “sociopath,” “coward,” and even “liar”—I at no time and in no way uttered a single syllable to slander the man.  In fact, I have conceded his heroism.

This isn’t enough for some, particularly those who ache to vindicate the scandal that is the Iraq War and the foreign policy vision to which it belongs. As I’ve written, for them, as for their “libertarian” critics, Kyle is a prop for their ideology, perhaps the one last attempt to prove to the American public before 2016 that the Iraq War was both just and necessary.

Thus, acknowledgment of Kyle’s heroism is insufficient: nothing less than unadulterated hero worship is called for.

Hero worship, especially when it revolves around a government agent—in this case, an agent of the United States military—is dangerous to a free people.  It’s dangerous because the hero then fills the entire range of our vision, eclipsing all other considerations—including, most importantly, moral and legal considerations.

I’ve pointed out that Kyle was a braggart.  Yet he bragged not just about his exploits in the military; he bragged about those violent confrontations about which he lied. 

(1)Kyle said that while at a Texas gas station, he shot dead two men who attempted to carjack him.  Supposedly, when police officers arrived and ran Kyle’s license, the license check gave them the phone number of the Department of Defense. The officers were then informed of Kyle’s identity as the skilled sniper that he was. There was no arrest—even though, according to Kyle, the whole event was captured on video.

I have claimed that this incident never occurred. One angry critic castigated me for having failed to do my due diligence and insisted that had I done my research (as he allegedly had done) I would’ve discovered that I am sorely mistaken.

Michael J. Mooney, a writer for DMagazine (in Dallas, Texas), wrote about this with Kyle’s cooperation.  Mooney apparently believed Kyle—in spite of the fact that, to his admission, he was unable to confirm anything that Kyle said: no video surveillance, no police reports, and no coroners’ reports on the dead carjackers.  “Consider this story confirmed by the man himself,” Mooney remarked.

Fortunately, Nicholas Schmidle of The New Yorker—the same writer who distinguished himself on account of his feature on the killing of Osama bin Laden—did a little more homework than Mooney was willing to do.

Schmidle wrote a sympathetic, yet honest, piece—“In the Crosshairs”—on Kyle and some of his comrades-in-arms back in June of 2013.  He supplies reasons to doubt Kyle’s account of this carjacking-gone bad.

The alleged incident was said to have transpired on a stretch of highway bounded by three counties. Yet the sheriffs of these counties assured reporters that there was no such incident.

Sheriff Tommy Bryant, of Erath County, said that he could “‘guar-an-damn-tee it didn’t happen here.”  Greg Doyle, the sheriff of Somervell County, was just as adamant that the story was a hoax.  Before asserting that he “‘never heard’” of it and found it “‘kinda shocking,’” he stated bluntly: “‘It did not occur here.’” Sheriff Bob Alford, of Johnson County, pulled no punches either: “‘If something like that happened here I would have heard of it, and I’m sure you all at the newspapers would have heard of it.’”

Schmidle adds but another reason to be skeptical about Kyle’s account. A “SEAL with extensive experience in special-mission units” told Schmidle “that the notion of such a provision [a direct line to the Department of Defense] being in place for a former SEAL driving a private vehicle was ‘bullshit.’”

Taya Kyle, when (much later)asked by a reporter for the Dallas Morning News about this event and the press’ inability to verify it, replied thus: “All I can say in response to that is that people enjoy taking rumors and try to paint a picture of what they want it to be.”  She added that she doesn’t recall her husband ever mentioning this “in public” (but he did mention it—to DMagazine’s Michael Mooney).  When then asked whether Kyle ever mentioned it to her privately, she responded that she’s “been sticking to what he decided to share publicly and share only those things.”

Only blind hero-worship explains how, in light of these considerations, one can continue to maintain that Kyle gunned down two carjackers (But even if he did, how can anyone who claims to value liberty, to say nothing of a person who is said to have fought for “our liberties,” take heart in hearing that a man, because he was once a combat soldier, can determine when he is permitted to kill as a civilian?  How can the lover of liberty be untroubled believing that the national government coerced local government agents—police officers—into allowing a double-killer to ride off without any further questioning or paperwork?).

(2)Kyle claimed to a bunch of people that he and another sniper were commissioned to shoot, from atop of the Superdome, armed rioters in New Orleans during the Hurricane Katrina mess in 2005.

Nicholas Schmidle spoke with three people to whom Kyle made this claim.  One person said that Kyle boasted of killing 30 rioters himself.  Another said that Kyle said that he and his fellow sniper killed 30 people collectively.  The third commented that she could recall no specifics regarding the conversation that she had with Kyle.

Brandon Webb, who served with Kyle on SEAL Team Three and is the editor of SOFREP, a website covering special operations forces, invited Kyle on a radio show to discuss life as a special operator.  Webb originally posted an article regarding Kyle’s alleged time as a sniper in New Orleans on his website.  According to Schmidle, he eventually took it down, concluding that it was “dubious.”

A spokesman for Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, told Schmidle: “‘To the best of anyone’s knowledge at SOCOM, there were no West Coast SEALS deployed to Katrina’.”

One of Kyle’s officers insisted that he had “‘never heard that story’.”

And a “SEAL with extensive experience in special-mission units wondered how dozens of people could be shot by high-velocity rifles and just disappear; Kyle’s version of events, he said, ‘defies the imagination.’”

Not unlike the carjacking episode, all of the evidence points to one verdict: Kyle was untruthful about his time as a sniper in New Orleans.

(3) Among the most famous—notorious—of Kyle’s claims is that he knocked out Jesse Ventura when the latter began running down the Iraq War while expressing his desire for the deaths of more American soldiers who were deployed there.

Ventura was in Coronado, California in order to address a graduating class at the nearby naval base.  Kyle was there for the funeral of a fallen SEAL.  Both, according to Kyle, were in a bar when the fight happened.

In his memoir, Kyle writes that he initially asked Ventura to keep his comments to himself.  When the latter only got more belligerent, Kyle said: “I laid him out. Tables flew. Stuff happened.  Scruff Face [Kyle never referred to Ventura by name in his book] ended up on the floor.”

It wasn’t until Kyle went on his book tour, and on “The Opie and Anthony Show,” specifically, that he first started identifying Ventura as “Scruff Face.”   He continued doing so while on the “conservative” talk radio and Fox News routes.

It was then that Ventura sued Kyle for defamation.

A.J. Delgado, writing for, not Alex Jones’ Prison Planet, Slate, or some other leftist or fringe “libertarian” site, but National Review On-Line, does as excellent a job as anyone of separating out the “myths” from the facts of what followed next.

Legal experts generally, Constitutional experts specifically, assumed from the outset that Ventura had virtually no chance of winning.  Not only are defamation and libel suits notoriously difficult to win given the First Amendment, they are even that much more difficult when it is a public figure who is leveling the suit. Ventura had to prove not just that the stories told of him were false; he had to convince a jury that Kyle knew that what he stated was false or that he acted “recklessly” in regard to the falsity of his statements.

But given that, by the time the case went to trial, Kyle—a distinguished war hero—was dead, and that his widow was sure to cry on the stand—she did, and on more than one occasion—the odds were stacked further against Ventura.

Still, of a jury of ten, eight jurors ruled in his favor and awarded Ventura over $1.8 million for defamation and “unjust enrichment.”

One of my critics charged that the jury was “split.”  Technically it was, but if 80 percentfour out of five—Americans were in agreement over any issue, only the most cynical of ideologues would say that the country was “split.”

This same critic elsewhere argued that juries can be mistaken, hence implying that this jury got it wrong.  Delgado’s response is decisive:

“Yes, juries sometimes get it wrong. (Though, statistics show, not often….) But common sense would tell you that Ventura’s case must have been exceptionally strong and Kyle’s case extremely weak if the jury held in favor of Ventura. Defamation is notoriously hard to prove, and juries do not easily find against a young widow (who cried on the stand multiple times) or a fallen war hero, let alone both.”

Another critic asserted that this is a case of “he said, he said.”  Delgado notes that this is simply not true.  “There were multiple witnesses, called by both sides.  Clearly, the jury found Ventura’s witnesses believable and not Kyle’s.”

Among Ventura’s witnesses, incidentally, were former Navy SEALS, including Terry “Mother” Moy, the owner of the bar in which this fight was supposed to have occurred (Tellingly, those, like my critics, think that the Vets and war heroes with whom they agree should be beyond criticism while those Vets and war heroes—like Ventura and his witnesses—with whom they disagree can be blasted, and even slandered, without end).

One of my critics, like several on Fox News, wax indignant over Ventura’s suing Kyle’s widow.  Again, for the truth, we must turn back to Delgado who reminds us that Ventura sued Kyle in 2012 before the latter was murdered—and after Ventura demand for an apology and a retraction from Kyle was denied.

Since Kyle’s wife is the executor of his estate and profited immensely from her husband’s book—over $6 million as of last summer, months prior to the release of the film, American Sniper—the lawsuit had to shift to his estate. Delgado notes that Kyle’s widow is a “multi-millionaire” who is scarcely going to hurt financially because of this verdict.  The $500,000 for defamation will be paid by libel insurance. The remaining $1.3 million for “unjust enrichment” will be paid for easily enough given all of the millions in rights and royalties from the sales of her late husband’s book, to say nothing of his life insurance policies.

Delgado remarks that the claim that this judgment is “cruel or [imposes] a hardship on a destitute widow is ill-informed and disingenuous.”

But the point is that Ventura first took aim at Kyle.  And—here goes another one of my critics’ myths—Kyle did indeed take the stand in his own defense.

According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Kyle gave a videoed deposition in 2012.  As the jury watched it, the defendant’s credibility gradually started to slip.  Kyle admitted that “tables” did not go “flying,” and claimed to not recall who told him about the injuries—a damaged head and a black eye—that he originally boasted of delivering to Ventura.

That Ventura was awarded damages for “unjust enrichment” means that the jury found that Kyle and his estate profited from the lies that Kyle told about Ventura.  Delgado directs skeptics to the words of Kyle’s publisher to confirm that sales for the Harper Collins book most definitely increased astronomically once Kyle revealed “Scruff Face” to be Ventura.

Marino Eccher, a reporter from Minnesota who covered the trial, relayed the testimony of Kyle’s publicists.  The story of Ventura, one said in an email to Kyle, “is priceless.”  Another characterized it as “hot [,]hot [,] hot!” Eccher reports: “In another email, an executive said a planned talk show rebuttal of Ventura’s denial would be ‘a nice little bonus hit for us.’  A publicist said ‘the so-called incident has helped the book go crazy,’ according to emails excerpts read in the [Kyle’s] deposition.”

There is no reason, other than Kyle’s own word, to believe his tales about carjackers and armed rioters in New Orleans.  There is even less reason to believe what he said about Ventura.

(4)There is a final claim that Kyle made that, perhaps most tragically of all, has since been exposed as untrue: Kyle claimed that the proceeds of his book went to the families of fallen soldiers.

A.J. Delgado notes that while Kyle, his publicist, and several other publications advanced this line, it simply ain’t so. “Of the staggering $3 million that American Sniper collected in royalties for Kyle, only $52,000”—that’s 2 percent—“actually went to the families of fallen servicemen.”

Kyle’s widow said that “gift-tax laws” precluded her and her husband from giving more than $13,000 each to two families from the prior year.  When questioned by Ventura’s lawyer as to why they just didn’t start a non-profit organization, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that she replied that “she had not had the time to set up such a non-profit.”

Delgado is correct when she expresses incredulity that neither Chris nor Taya Kyle managed to find the time to find families in need. “Surely it’s quite easy to locate the families of fallen servicemen.”  She is further correct when she blasts the Kyles and their publisher for “strongly implying, and allowing others to claim unambiguously, that they were giving all the money away when this was clearly not true.”

One particularly angry critic of mine expressed being “perplexed” as to why anyone—like, presumably, yours truly—would want to “tear down” Kyle.  I, for one, am not interested in tearing down anyone. Nor have I done anything of the kind.

But this critic actually makes the case for why it is of crucial importance to separate truth from myth: Once we are swept up in hero-worship—or maybe its idolatry—reason, facts, logic, evidence, and, most importantly, considerations of fundamental fairness and decency are all too easily swept away.

Delgado makes this point while focusing on the law.  Americans “are showing a disturbing level of either support or disregard for the legal system—based solely on what they think of the parties involved.”  This, she warns, “is a dangerous approach,” and contradicts “the fundamentals of justice to decide how you feel about a case based on how much you like the plaintiff or defendant, rather than the facts.”

Hero-worship—the inability or unwillingness to think beyond our clichés, stock phrases, and feelings—can and has resulted in evil.

This, ultimately, is why we must sort out truth from myth.

More Thoughts on “the American Sniper’s” Ventura Tall Tale

posted by Jack Kerwick

While listening to a “conservative” talk radio show recently, the host—who, along with other Iraq War devotees and, what amount to one and the same thing, “American Sniper” worshippers—brought up Jesse Ventura’s lawsuit against the estate of Chris Kyle.   I was amazed at the dishonesty of his coverage.

Chris Kyle, “the American Sniper,” claimed in his book to have knocked out a man named “Scruff Face” who supposedly had badmouthed American soldiers fighting in Iraq.   Interestingly, it wasn’t until he began promoting his book that Kyle identified this man as Jesse Ventura.

Ventura has always sworn that Kyle had blatantly lied about the whole incident: Ventura—a former Navy SEAL himself, let’s not forget—insisted that he never made the comments that Kyle imputed to him, and there was never any sort of physical confrontation between them.  In fact, Ventura didn’t even know who Kyle was.

Ventura sued Kyle for defamation.

And he won. 

Among the wild distortions of my radio host was the claim that the jury was “split.”  Literally, that’s true. But if 80 percent—eight of ten—Americans agreed on any issue, no one would claim that they were “split” or “divided.”  Everyone would chalk this up as one issue around which the nation was unified.

Well, 80 percent—eight of ten—jurors in Ventura’s defamation lawsuit sided with Ventura.

The significance of this can’t be overstated. Among those Constitutional scholars interviewed by The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, one remarked that Ventura’s case has proven to be “one of the most important First Amendment cases in recent Minnesota history.”  The reasons for his judgment are not difficult to grasp.

First, because of First Amendment protections, victory in defamation and libel lawsuits are significantly hard to come by.  To prove defamation, a plaintiff must establish that both the content of the defendant’s claims are false and that he knew that what he was saying was false.  In other words, plaintiffs must prove that defendants acted with “actual malice.”

Second, since Ventura is a public figure, his hurdle was even tougher than that of most.

Yet he did it: The jury awarded Ventura a little over $1.8 million in damages.

Former Navy SEALS, including Terry “Mother” Moy, the owner of the bar at which this incident was supposed to have occurred, testified on behalf of Ventura’s account, swearing that it never happened.

As Ventura remarked, if this event had really occurred, then word of it would’ve “spread like wildfire” through the SEALS community. However, Ventura is actually guilty of understatement here: Given his high visibility as a public persona, to say nothing of the fact that he was in the town, Coronado, when this incident never occurred precisely in order to address a graduating class of Navy SEALS at the nearby Naval base, something like this, if it happened, would’ve become big news—and quickly.

As Thomas Sowell put it not too long ago, juries “deal in facts.”  And the facts to which this jury had access were not in Chris Kyle’s favor.

But there’s another angle to all of this that neither the Kyle worshippers nor the Kyle critics are willing to consider.

Let’s suppose that Kyle did not lie, that every syllable he uttered about his alleged confrontation with Ventura was the God’s honest truth.  This hardly reflects any better on him.

Think about it: According to the Kyle worshippers, Kyle was over in Iraq fighting for “our freedoms,” including and especially our sacred “freedom of speech.” This, after all, is the line that his defenders have used against the Michael Moores and Seth Rogens: Kyle fought over there so that they would have the freedom to express themselves here—even when, in doing so, they “trash talk” Kyle and his comrades-in-arms.

Yet Kyle didn’t respect Ventura’s right to freedom of speech.  Rather, once the latter said something that he found offensive, Kyle committed aggravated assault against him.

And then he ran.

Aggravated assault is a crime that carries a prison term of years.  If Ventura wanted to avenge himself against Kyle, he wouldn’t have sued him for defamation; he would’ve and could’ve pressed criminal charges against Kyle and then sued him for injuries.   After all, won’t the Kyle-worshippers admit that this is just the kind of thing that a publicity hound like Ventura would do?

Nor would Ventura have to worry about keeping quiet to save face.  And this brings us to another piece of unflattering commentary on Kyle if things happened as he said: Ventura could’ve taken comfort in knowing, and revealing to the world, that he, a veteran in his 50’s (at the time) was sucker punched by a guy 23 years his junior—and over a disagreement on an issue that conflicted the nation.

In any event, Kyle did lie, and he lied in order to profit.

Only blind Kyle-worship—or, to put it more accurately, blind neoconservative ideology—can prevent people from seeing this.

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