A misleading headline can ruin a reputation and destroy a career.
WEST POINT N.Y., Nov. 9, 2015 – William C. “Brute” Bradford is a bigger-than-life character in many ways. At 6-foot-5, this Apache Indian towers over most people, and when you read that he is an LLM, his description enters the realm of where political thriller characters reside.
For those of you who have not had the experience of entering the legal profession, an LLM is a lawyer who didn’t have enough of the law after three years of study with no time off for good behavior and sought a higher degree. He became a military intelligence officer in the Middle East, and returned to the United States to complete his higher law degree at Harvard. He went on to become a law professor and is an expert on military defense strategy. Somewhere along the path to tenure, he ran afoul of the academic and political establishment, and that is how his character assassination began.
Despite his stellar accomplishments in life, Brute Bradford has committed the social sin of being politically incorrect. He decided to speak his mind in a scholarly article that would have escaped the attention of the world, if only he had not also stirred the political attack machine from a mid-term slumber. He acquired an unwanted nickname during his years teaching at Indiana University; “Clarence Tomahawk,” a reminder of the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, with a little anti-Indian bias thrown in, coined by an academic colleague. It reminded him that he was a conservative teaching in a liberal environment.
“They began accusing me of walking around campus with the Silver Star displayed on my jacket, among other things. That’s absurd. I was an Army Intelligence Officer. Intelligence officers don’t get medals. During most of my service in the Middle East, I taught at the National Defense College. Legal scholars and professors don’t get medals, either,” he explained. “I demanded a retraction, but they never got around to it.”
Like most lies that are repeated loudly and persistently, the military service allegations gained a life of their own. He was thoroughly investigated and vindicated, but a successful defense against false allegations is seldom as newsworthy as a salacious headline.
For a short time, it appeared that the story had died a natural death. Bradford continued to receive high ratings from students and his peers until a change of administration at Indiana University again made him a target for vilification. He was asked to sign an anti-Semitic petition promulgated from faux Indian Ward Churchill, with which he adamantly disagreed, realizing the practical effect the petition would have on the lives of Indians. From his position as attorney general of the Chiricahua Apache Nation, it was a subject on which he was an expert, but again, the writing was on the wall. It is difficult for a conservative legal scholar to teach in a liberal legal environment, and rather than engaging in a battle of wits with unarmed people, he decided to teach elsewhere.
He continued to write in the format with which he was most familiar. Professors are expected to write and be published in scholarly journals, and law professors write articles, usually hundreds of pages long, in publications that are read almost exclusively by law students and the legal community. Law students read the articles because they have to, and the rest read because they want to. This time, however, politics and political correctness got in the way of reason. Again, the liberal attack machine engaged in his character assassination.
Here is how the attack machine works: A lie is created to discredit anyone they perceive to be a threat to their political or ideological agenda. They repeat that lie at every opportunity, through every news outlet that will publish it, and the lie is illuminated and magnified. Reality soon becomes irrelevant and the perception of reality takes over.
The recent political smearing of Dr. Ben Carson is a very public example of the discrediting an opponent by the attack machine. Last Friday morning, Politico published an article with the headline, “Ben Carson Admits Fabricating West Point Scholarship.” By that afternoon, Politico retracted and admitted that it had created a lie, that Carson had made no such admission, that the facts as reported were not only inaccurate, but that they were an outright fabrication.
Carson tried to correct the “error” by going on the Sunday news talk shows, but once the horse leaves the barn it is too late. The false article was rebroadcast over the Internet multiple times, and the lie developed a life of its own.
By Sunday evening, AOL republished the article retracting Politico’s lie, but with the original headline. In our internet world, the public seldom reads beyond a headline, especially when they are deceived to think that they have already read beyond it. The truth had been diverted, and the lie lives on.
In the spring/summer edition of the National Security Law Journal, a legal periodical published by students at George Mason University, Bradford published an article entitled “Trahison des Professeurs: the Critical Law of Armed Conflict as an Islamist Fifth Column,” hardly a barn-burning bestseller by any standard.
If not for the attack piece from the British news agency, the Guardian, it is very likely that Brute Bradford would still be a professor at West Point, secure in his career as a legal academic. The title of his academic work attracted the attention. The translation from French is “Treason of the Professors.” If you want to stir up the attack machine, present ideas that are contrary to the Obama administration’s agenda in the Middle East while calling out your peers for being duped by Islamic extremism and ISIS. That will get their attention.
The Guardian published an article that accused Bradford of advocating that his peers, fellow law professors, be tried for treason. The lie had been planted, and it, too, took on a life of its own. The intent of Bradford’s scholarly piece was to inform his audience that liberalism is hostile to the military profession and unwittingly assists our enemies by engaging in psychological warfare that destroys the political will of the American people. After all, he reasoned, if you accuse the American military of war crimes and make them the world’s bad guy, how can the U.S. achieve victory over ISIS and Islamic extremism?
Shortly after Bradford took a job at West Point Military Academy doing what he considers his first love, teaching, the article was posted in the National Security Law Journal, the Guardian attack piece was launched and the article he had written was soon retracted. After a month on the faculty, Brute Bradford was out of a job. He didn’t have the luxury of going on the Sunday talk show circuit to attempt to clear his name.
A misleading headline can ruin a reputation and destroy a career.
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