Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Short Story about Agent Orange

There are a lot of protests going on in Turkey right now.

As usual, there are a lot of pictures and rough reports of the situation flying around the internet.

One that made it around was a user submission to CNN iReport that stated that Turkish authorities used Agent Orange.

The story took off, and people on Twitter and Facebook started posting "evidence". Photos of canisters of unknown substances, photos of a "orange smoke distress signal".

It seems like there is quite a bit lost in translation here, and it's very unlikely that the government has deployed Agent Orange to fight protesters.


Agent Orange, by many accounts, isn't actually orange.

From the Agent Orange article on Wikipedia:
It was given its name from the color of the orange-striped 55 US gallon (208 l) barrels in which it was shipped, and was by far the most widely used of the so-called "Rainbow Herbicides"

No government has deployed Agent Orange as riot control.

Agent Orange was used in Vietnam to primary do two things:
  1. Destroy vegetation used as cover by the enemy
  2. Destroy the agricultural production of the enemy
It was not used as a chemical agent to disperse North Vietnamese troops.

Agent Orange would be more difficult to acquire

While it wouldn't be impossible to get some Agent Orange, it would be far easier to acquire "mass market" riot control weapons.

Agent Orange would be more difficult to deploy

Presumably Agent Orange is not immediately available in units similar to pepper spray cans. The Turkish government would either have to build their own devices or find a very shady supplier of these weapons.

Use of Agent Orange would absolutely destroy the foliage in an urban area

Apparently the protests in Turkey began in a 70+ acre park that was to become a shopping mall.

If the government used Agent Orange in that location now, it would soon become a rather unimpressive park. But it would also become less desirable as a place for a shopping mall as the surrounding area would be as sparse in vegetation as the moon.

The Turkish government may actually have Agent Orange. In that case, the more plausible scenario would be that the conspirators would poison the park first and then propose building a mall in the place of dead trees.

No police officer of sound mind would use Agent Orange

Agent Orange has to be one of the most famous carcinogens of our time. Anyone remotely aware of its use in Vietnam would not want to handle it in close combat. 

Imagine the sales pitch - "Spray this on the protesters that you will stand about 20 feet away from. They'll be annoyed for a bit. Soon, they'll have kids with birth defects, and you'll have kids with birth defects!"

"And a decades later, everyone may have cancer!"

The moral of the story

The Agent Orange news item has done the following things:
  1. Decreased the credibility of the Twitter activists sharing the information
  2. Given the Turkish government a simple talking point about the protester's "lies"
  3. Distracted from the weapons the government is using (chemical and otherwise)
Undoubtedly, the government is using tear gas, pepper spray, fists and worst of all, batons.

Getting bludgeoned by a police officer swinging a blunt instrument is bad enough. We don't need further stories to fill in the fantasies of social justice activists with short attention spans.

Where does this tie in to the other things on this blog?

Well, in some circles, this note about Agent Orange is just more "hyper-skepticism" in response to a "lived experience" and that we should defer to the "victims" of the event to counter our "privileged" position.

The vast majority of the "news" on Twitter is absolutely erroneous. Things get particularly bad when the events are of major significance. The effect of this is  as we saw when Twitter/Reddit/Etc blamed the Boston bombing on innocent Sunil Tripathi

If one doubts the ability for people to make stuff up online just to make political hay, simply read about the case of UW student that threatened herself on Facebook to make her political opponents look insane.

Twitter "social justice" activists make for terrible allies.

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