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Dead Soldiers Worth $20

This is the epitome of profiteering off of war tragedies. Forget Halliburton, forget defense contracts, whatever the left-wing blames the war for. This is about something else, something closer to my heart. It’s about veterans and service members KIA in war.

This story tells about Dan Frazier, a businessman in Flagstaff, AZ who is selling Anti-war T-shirts that have the NAMES OF SERVICE MEMBERS that have died on them for $20 a piece. There is nothing I hate more than a liberal or conservative or whoever that uses the deaths of soldiers and Marines for political statements. The utter disrespect for the sacrifice is appalling.

Arizona is trying to outlaw the sale of such a shirt, and Frazier is defending it as his First Amendment rights. This speaks of a larger problem with American society. People have lost moral sense whatsoever. They do not look at what is socially irresponsible or wrong, but just what is legal and illegal. And people are just looking to make a buck, regardless of the emotional or moral cost. I suppose that’s the downside of having a market-driven economy/country. Sure, Frazier might have the right to sell such a shirt (which he may not even, since I don’t know if the First Amendment applies to making profit). But does that fact that he is a shitbag and WRONG say anything to him? No.

The end of the article reaffirms all assumptions I made about Frazier: he said that any publicity is good because it boosts the sales of his T-shirts.

  1. Danimal says:

    Some things elude criteria, Tim.

  2. Timothy says:

    Sean: I’m going to guess not that guy. 🙂 I’ve been talking to another friend of mine and it seems like if pretty much everybody disagrees with my position that members of the service don’t deserve any special respect above that granted to everybody, there’s a good chance I’m wrong.

    The thing is, I’m not coming up with any reasonably good criterion for who gets respect+ and who only gets regular respect. My buddy suggested positive externalities from the work, but that’s so broad a category that I’m not sure it’s useful.

  3. Sean says:

    Looks like Dan Frazier has sparked more controversy than I had initially imagined. Who knew that an offensive shirt would spark a debate on the ideologies of state, country, and military service?

  4. Timothy says:

    Danimal: To a certain extent, I think it is. The point I’m trying to make, maybe badly, is that I don’t think that signing up to perform one of the state’s legitimate duties is any morally different from signing up to perform any number of other legitimate duties. And, again, in a country with a relatively benign state those jobs are legitimate and respectable, and people who do a good job of them are praiseworthy, but I don’t think it affords people any special status. Just joining the Army doesn’t make a person a hero, is my point, although heroic acts while in the Army certainly do. Maybe I’m looking at things from the wrong angle here.

  5. Blaser says:

    One small response:

    “I don

  6. Sean says:

    Michael, you hit the point on it. That is what I respect and admire about all veterans and servicemembers, they (usually) have the perspective to say they will defend people’s rights to say what they disagree with. I suppose I ‘forgot where I came from’, for lack of a better term, but you have to understand that I found it disturbing that someone would even consider selling such a thing.
    But like I said above, I kind of realized where my arguments and such were wrong.
    And again, like you said, I don’t like the fact that someone is using that shirt to make a profit.
    But I DO have a right to be offended, just as he has the right to sell that shirt.
    What I realized through this discourse is that it sucks and I can’t do anything about it. And probably with good reason, too.

  7. Danimal says:

    I reject the notion that the state is the equivalent of ‘the country’ or ‘the people.’

    Is it necessary to accept that notion, in order to accord some measure of honor to people who voluntarily risk their lives in jobs that all but the most ridiculous libertarian has to admit are legitimate, necessary functions of “the state”? We’re not talking about venerating the employees of the Consumer Products Safety Commission here.

  8. Timothy says:

    Almost nobody joins up because he/she wants to shoot folks, which is why that’s not a claim I made. In fact, last I checked, all of the branches tried to weed those sorts of folks out because they’re bad soldiers.

    My point is that I think it’s a little suspect to equate signing up to do what the government says with serving the country in the sense of being useful to one’s countrymen. If you think that one has a positive duty to the state, then okay, it makes sense to equate joining the military with serving the country. I don’t think anyone has a positive duty to the state, so I don’t see carrying out the state’s wishes* as particularly noble or ignoble, it’s just another job to be done by somebody. I reject the notion that the state is the equivalent of “the country” or “the people.” I have a lot of reasons for that, all of which I’m willing to explain at great length with run-on sentences and over use of semicolons. Maybe you don’t share that view, or as extreme a view on the matter as I do, which means we’re basically at an impasse.

    And let me be perfectly clear, it’s not that I think joining the military is morally inferior to any other job out there that isn’t as hazardous and doesn’t involve getting shot at, I just reject the claim that it is somehow morally superior. That said, I hope that everybody currently deployed gets home safe. And I hope anybody who wants a successful military career can find one, if it’s what people want to do they should and best of luck to them.

    *When undertaken for a relatively benign state voluntarily. There is an obvious difference between, say, folks who REALLY LOVED being in the Red Army and folks who’ve signed up in the modern US. There’s also a pretty obvious difference between volunteers and conscripts, I mostly pity the latter (as in feel badly that they were treated in such a manner, not to imply that they’re particularly pitiful or something) Being coerced into state service is probably the most disgusting practice I can imagine aside from chattel slavery. Really, it basically is chattel slavery.

  9. Blaser says:

    So I know I’m a little late on this, but come on, Tim:

    “Oh, sure, I wouldn

  10. Michael G. says:

    I did my time in the Army. I may not like this guy’s shirts using dead soldiers to make a profit, especially since there is a nonzero chance that somebody’s name I know is on the shirt. However, as the latter part of the quote commonly attributed to Voltaire goes: I would defend to the death his right to say it. Including on a T-shirt.

    You have no right to not be offended by speech or print in this country (despite what certain people think), which is good, because finding offense at mere words is largely subjective.

  11. Timothy says:

    If an SUV with a “Support the Troops” ribbon is crushed by a tree after running over a mime in the forest, does anyone care?

  12. Danimal says:

    Nowhere are ethical questions more nebulous than inside a U-Haul branch.

  13. niedermeyer says:

    I was at a U-Haul once, when I saw desert camo wristbands (ala Livestrong) with “pray for our troops” emblazoned on them. I asked how much they were, and the clerk said $3, which was more than I wanted to spend. The clerk told me he’d sell me one for $1, but I only had a $5 bill on me. “No problem,” he said, as he opened up the register, took out a dollar for himself and gave me five dollars back. U-Haul lost $6 on the deal, the clerk got a buck, and I got a free wristband and a healthy respect for the ethical complexity of “support our troops” memorabilia.

  14. Olly says:

    “You have the Constitution, the corporate argument.”

    Yikes, dude.

    “This is about something else, something closer to my heart…. This speaks of a larger problem with American society.”

    Alas, we all tend to find it a bit too easy to get from the first of these statements to the second.

    These names are a matter of public record. I reckon Frazier could probably mount a coherent (moral) defense of his shirts without the need for any anti-Halliburton pabulum; the “political message” they send isn’t necessarily anything more objectionable than “these people died, that sucks, and I blame Bush”. It’s not hard to think of shirts that would really cross the threshold of bad taste (and probably get Frazier lynched) but this is not the situation.

  15. Sean says:

    That’s my point, the Constitution doesn’t make any provisions for moral judgment. So violating the Constitution, in a time like this, is setting moral framework. It does not mean that I am advocating legislation that go against the Constitution, though. But it is just about rights and freedoms, what you are allowed legally to do, not what anyone should or shouldn’t do. This is with good reason, but there are times when something completely legal is just WRONG.
    Here’s another pet peeve of mine: People equating supporting a war with supporting the men and women of the service.
    I suppose I was wrong being pissed off at people that exploit the freedom of speech. The ones that don’t care, or give a rats ass about others, and just want to make a buck.
    I didn’t bring up Halliburton, oil companies, defense contractors, or any of those companies profiting off of Iraq. But you’re right, they don’t help the problem. However, does their presence make Frazier’s actions better?
    Everyone may have proved me wrong in asserting my point, and I’m definitely fighting a losing battle. You have the Constitution, the corporate argument. All I have is the fact that what he did is utterly disrespectful and offensive.
    But one digresses, for one must cut one’s losses and run.

  16. Joseph j7uy5 says:

    Mr Jin,

    When the Arizona legislators passed the law, they did so knowing full well that it was unconstitutional. Think about that for a minute, or two. State lawmakers conspired to violate the Constitution of the United States. In what moral framework does that make any sense at all? If you argument against the t-shirt is based on morality, you haven’t made your case.

    Halliburton, Exxon-Mobil, General Electric, and many others have made billions off this war. How much respect do they have for the military? Remember that Halliburton’s former president “had other priorities” when his turn to serve came up. KBR continued to do business in Iran, even knowing it was illegal. The current US administration is pressuring the Iraqi government to pass a law that would guarantee foreign oil companies access to oil contracts, even though that proposed law is a major source of sectarian violence. So if your argument is based upon a rejection of dishonorable profit motives, you have not made your case.

    The only case you have made is that what Frazier is doing is something you find offensive. Fine. How about printing a bunch of t-shirts that say “Dan Frazier is a jerk” and giving them away for free. Or selling them for $20. Whatever will make your point.

    Yeah, free speech can be a pain in the ass sometimes, Probably all freedoms can be a pain in the ass sometimes. But the alternative is worse.

  17. Timothy says:

    Oh, sure, I wouldn’t equate one job with another, but in the sense that it’s completely voluntary, I don’t see it as any more important/noble than going to work serving coffee. It certainly takes a different set of motivations and priorities to want to make getting shot at your profession, and I’m damn glad we have an all volunteer military staffed by people who want to be there, but I’m unconvinced that it’s more important than other jobs that need doing and I don’t have any particular interest in.

    But, I agree that the military likely does lend itself to a deep sense of commitment to one’s peers that, frankly, is unlikely to develop slinging lattes or ginning up ridiculous reports. Both of which are much more likely, I think, to help one develop a deep commitment to getting one’s peers to shut the hell up and leave one alone.

  18. Sean says:

    You have a different interest in the issue than I do, then. I’m deeply involved with veterans and applying for programs in the military. I like to think that what I’m doing is a little more than just any other job, because frankly, I don’t have to do this.
    But you’re right in the sense that most people initially join for reasons economic, or for lack of direction, or ‘nothing better to do.’
    However, if you’re saying that what they DO in the military is the same as any other profession, well, that’s like saying working at Starbucks is the same as being prepared to die for others. By others, I mean those in his/her unit, etc…
    Note that I did not even mention ‘defending your country’ or ‘dying for freedom’ because those are more abstract, vague, and more debatable causes given today’s situation.

  19. Timothy says:

    Vincent: Heh, that is a little hilarious.

    Sean: Now that I’ve slept, I think we probably have a disagreement over the moral difference between just using folks KIA to make a political point and using them to make both a political point and a buck. I actually don’t think there’s much of a difference. Of course, I don’t really think the military is any more or less respectable than any other profession because, like other professions, it’s voluntary and the people who signed up pretty much knew that their job could turn out to be getting shot at by jerks in some other country. On the whole is it kind of a dick move to use dead folks as a political club? Probably, but I don’t think it’s more of a dick move if you sell a shirt or give it away.

  20. Vincent. says:

    On something of a tangent, and speaking of “hate speech” or “hate crimes,” does anyone else find it somewhat ironic that the Eugene Weekly Brigade is all up in arms about the terrorism enhancement being added to the sentences of those “eco-saboteurs”, especially considering the EW Brigade and their like-minded comrades are inevitably the first ones in line to support “hate crime” legislation?

  21. Timothy says:

    Well, I don’t need a swift ass kicking, and while nothing says “kick my ass” like pantaloons, a racist shirt might be a close second. Especially in a town where I can’t read half the restaurant menus.

  22. Sean says:

    Well, when speaking of market-based economies, I never did state that I am generally for them. I am econ major, also, and have studied socialist societies that have tanked because the economy doesn’t recognize or play to incentives.
    As a whole, market-based economies work, but they do not have a place for morality or social responsibility, especially in this case where there is no economic or financial incentive to exhibit such responsibility. We know it’s wrong, but we can’t do anything about it.

    As for hate speech, try walking around with a shirt that has racial slurs on it.
    But if I implied that I am talking about free speech issues, I made a mistake. Don Goldman was out in the amphitheater every day, yelling his lungs out badmouthing the military and veterans, but I never thought anything more than “He’s a dick, but he has a right to his opinion, and as reluctant I may be, I will defend that right for him.” And everyone of my friends that are or have been in the military echo that sentiment.
    Free speech aside, what I initially wrote the blog post about was my disgust at people exploiting and making profit off of the deaths of service members.

  23. Timothy says:

    What about hate speech? I can

  24. Sean says:

    If you are trying to say that our society doesn’t have an implicit moral code or sense of social responsibility, then you are wrong. What about hate speech? I can’t go around wearing a shirt that says N*gger on it.
    I’m not trying to say that this is the same as hate speech, but I’m saying that there are regulations about what can or can’t be said BECAUSE it would hurt a particular individual or group, or that group would find it excruciatingly offensive.

    I wasn’t high when I wrote that, and instead of ad hominem, maybe you could explain to me why what I said was so wrong or nonsensical. Maybe I’ll learn something new, and maybe we’ll get a little bit further than you just bagging on me all the time.

  25. Vincent. says:

    I still want one of those reasonably priced Sudsy shirts.

  26. Timbo says:

    I’ll pay $15 for a T-shirt if it’s really frickin awesome. $20 is exorbitant.

  27. Vincent. says:

    I definitely see no reason this should be illegal, even though I count myself among the ranks of those who find it appalling that the anti-war crowd feels comfortable appropriating the names (and, often, portraits) or war dead to score cheap emotional and political points.

    Such antics merely go to show that this country has indeed forfeit common sense and perspective, but they are free speech.

  28. Timothy says:

    This is so clearly covered by the First amendment that the conversation isn’t even worth having. If speech that was done to earn a profit wasn’t covered, any publication in the country would be subject to regulation, and that’s clearly not the case.

    Both Reason and Volokh have more on the AZ proposal. Short version: clearly unconstitutional.

    Maybe the guy is a fuck, maybe he isn’t, but that’s completely irrelevant to the question of whether or not some prig legislator can stop him from saying what he wants.

    This speaks of a larger problem with American society. People have lost moral sense whatsoever. They do not look at what is socially irresponsible or wrong, but just what is legal and illegal. And people are just looking to make a buck, regardless of the emotional or moral cost. I suppose that

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