In yet another twisted example of patriotism as defined by Fox News, the All-American channel is singing the praises of a disgraced Air Force veteran who sought to deny protesters their constitutional rights.
Michelle Manhart was once a drill sergeant in the Air Force, which she believes gives her the right to decide who can engage in a public demonstration and how they should behave. She exercised that right at Valdosta State University in Georgia where a group of students were using an American flag in a manner considered disrespectful by Manhart. The flag was on the ground and some of the protesters were walking on it. So Manhart took it upon herself to confront the protesters and assume possession of the flag.
This was an unambiguous case of theft. The flag did not belong to her and she refused to return it upon request. She actually argued on video (below) that the flag “belongs to the entire United States.” The absurdity of that is self-evident. In fact, it violates every principle of private property that conservatives are usually pretending to cherish.
In addition, Manhart was interfering with the rights of the students to express themselves. Their free speech rights, including the treatment of the flag, are protected by the Constitution and have been upheld by the Supreme Court. No matter what your position on flag desecration, the Constitution takes priority. As so often is the case with right-wingers, the hypocrisy of Manhart’s stance is entirely missed by herself and the wingnut media that supports her. Manhart told Fox News that…
“When it comes to the flag, it’s our iconic symbol. It stands for everything that we are. It stands for the freedom to allow those individuals to do what they want to protest or have an organization. So how are you even gonna justify ruining or walking upon something that’s given you the right to do what you’re doing?”
In other words, according to Manhart, the protesters do not have the freedom to do those things that the flag supposedly represents the freedom to do. So enjoy your freedom so long as you don’t actually use it. And if you do try to use it, expect to be stopped by some other citizen who disagrees with you.
Eventually, campus police had to forcibly take the flag from Manhart who refused to follow their order to release it and return it to its proper owners. This outraged Manhart, who whined to Fox News that…
“I have seen that flag on caskets returning home. It was just the thought of those demonstrators standing on someone’s casket. I was so internally frustrated.”
Perhaps she would have been able to gather some sympathy for that argument if not for her own past of disgraceful military conduct. Manhart, it turns out, was discharged from the Air Force after posing for Playboy both in her uniform and out of it. The Air Force advised her that such behavior was a violation of the standards of the service. She was demoted and shortly after left the military to pursue an acting career. Did she consider the poor souls in those caskets when she exploited her body and uniform in a publication that objectifies women?
And if that weren’t bad enough, Manhart also appeared in the nude on other occasions, including in an anti-fur ad for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). I’d give her credit for having compassion for animals, but it might rub some of her right-wing fans the wrong way. But the real problem as regards hypocrisy is that she blatantly desecrated the flag in those photos and others by allowing it to touch the ground, and using it as drapery/clothing.
Despite Manhart’s history of less than honorable service and disrespect for the flag, Fox News and other right-wing media have taken up her cause. The usual suspects including the Daily Caller, Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze, Newsmax, and of course Fox Nation, all published stories exalting the Nekid Patriot. The Pope of Fox News, Todd Starnes, hyperbolically declared that “Valdosta State University loves flag burners more so than flag wavers.” However, besides the fact that no one here burned any flags, the university actually loves free speech and obeying the law more so than thieves and censorship.
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Obviously Manhart has a selective sense of outrage with regard to respect for the flag. And on that matter, Manhart is not alone. With relative frequency Fox News has blasted what they called flag desecration by protesters with whom they disagreed. However, they ignore similarly disrespectful behavior when it is done by their rightist heroes. Sarah Palin, Ted Nugent, and George Bush have all been caught in public desecrating the flag. Yet Fox News hails such behavior as patriotism when the perpetrators are conservative icons.