Army Maj. Gen. Patrick Donahoe is the commanding general at Fort Benning. Georgia, one of the country’s biggest military installations.
Last week, he tweeted from his official account that there was a spike in COVID-19 infections involving the Delta variant and made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that he expected his soldiers to get the vaccine.
In response, Josiah Lippincott — a former Marine and journalist with several major conservative publications — published a Twitter post questioning Donahoe’s point, arguing that there had been 26 more suicides in the fourth quarter of 2020 among Department of Defense personnel than there had been in 2019. Meanwhile, there had been 26 COVID deaths total throughout the armed services.
It wasn’t clear where Lippincott got his number of 26 more suicides in the fourth quarter. According to the Department of Defense quarterly suicide report for 2020, there were actually 33 more suicides among active duty, reserve and National Guard units in the fourth quarter of 2020 than there were in the fourth quarter of 2019.
Regardless, Lippincott’s point holds.
But Donahoe didn’t bother to question Lippincott’s methodology — it was worse than that.
Donahoe’s response — again from his official account, attached to the United States government — was to “Block and report” Lippincott and his ilk.
(But remember, the government isn’t trying to censor Americans’ free speech. It’s just telling private companies like Twitter and Facebook to do it — lest they lose the protections they currently enjoy.)
Breadcrumbing this one back, it all began on July 2 when Donahoe, who has since set his account to private, warned about the Delta variant and urged readers — many of them, presumably, young adult soldiers under his command — that “if you think your youth will protect you, you may want to reassess. There is a free and virtually pain free way to prevent this. Get the shot.”
He quote-tweeted himself a few weeks later: “3 weeks ago. Since then we’ve seen a spike in young trainees in the ICU, spike in trainees arriving positive, and it moves quick in the formation. To get ahead get the shot. Takes five weeks to build the immunity. If you havent done so, do it right now. Delta variant aint playing.”
That’s when Lippincott, a graduate of conservative Hillsdale College who is pursuing a Ph.D., made the suicide-COVID-19 comparison, suggesting Donahoe’s priorities were misplaced.
“The lockdowns, liberty restrictions, quarantines, and general disruption of servicemember’s lives is a way bigger killer than the virus,” he wrote.
General, in Q4 of 2020 alone, there were 26 more suicides than in Q4 2019. There have been 26 Covid deaths TOTAL in the DoD.
The lockdowns, liberty restrictions, quarantines, and general disruption of servicemember’s lives is a way bigger killer than the virus. pic.twitter.com/NFFGdDtCEu
— Josiah Lippincott (@jlippincott_) July 23, 2021
Donahoe got irritated:
“Your false equivalency of suicide compared to the virus doesn’t hold up. Why don’t you compare auto accidents while you’re at it,” he said.
“Your apparent aversion to the vaccine is wrong headed. It’s the way to normalcy while saving lives. In 1918 people prayed for a vaccine,” Donahoe wrote, referring to the Spanish flu pandemic of a century ago.
Lippincott wasn’t backing down, and responded with some logic of his own about comparing different ways of dying.
“Suicide is an intentional act. Car accidents are not,” he responded.
“When policy treats healthy soldiers as biological hazards we shouldn’t be surprised by an increase in suicide and psychological problems.”
That’s when Donahoe began playing a low-rent social media version of Col. Nathan Jessup: “Hey @Hillsdale come get your boy,” he tweeted Friday.
Alas, Maj. Gen. Donahoe wasn’t done yet: “Public Service Announcement. Block and report the trolls and the disinformation tinfoil hat team,” he tweeted on Sunday.
Just so we’re clear, this is a clarion call from a high-ranking commander of the nation’s armed forces, putatively a nonpartisan organization not meant to intimidate its own citizens, urging his charges to not only block but report — presumably with the aim of censoring — civilian dissidents.
The Western Journal reached out to Fort Benning for comment, but had not received a response by early Tuesday afternoon.
Donahoe’s tough anti-COVID-19 stance has gotten him some favorable media coverage in the Fort Benning area, like this report from July 2020 on WRBL-TV in Columbus, Georgia.
But his Twitter post urging readers to report dissidents didn’t quite have the galvanizing effect Maj. Gen. Donahoe evidently hoped it would, as social media criticism poured in.
Please tell me you’re not a real general and that you play one on TV or something.
— Jordan Schachtel @ dossier.substack.com (@JordanSchachtel) July 26, 2021
We’re gonna lose a major war. https://t.co/ktkaiXLM9i
— Jesse Kelly (@JesseKellyDC) July 26, 2021
Important “Public Service Announcement” from General Donahoe:https://t.co/OSaRdX8ioh
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) July 26, 2021
Woke General Big Mad https://t.co/4527oKutRs
— John Cardillo (@johncardillo) July 26, 2021
The US Army isn’t what you think it is https://t.co/PAZo4uqS3i
— ELIJAH SCHAFFER (@ElijahSchaffer) July 26, 2021
And yet, this is what the armed forces are in the first months of the Biden administration.
The only tough talk is reserved for citizens who take issue with the political trajectory of our military. Meanwhile, Iran doesn’t get the kind of threatening confrontation on social media that a journalist gets from one of the armed forces’ top brass.
This isn’t an isolated incident, either, particularly given the military’s public targeting of media members who question its trajectory. It’s not just the big fish they’re going after, however.
If you don’t believe me, just ask Josiah Lippincott — the man Maj. Gen. Donahoe asked his followers to “report” to Twitter for stating his opinion.
UPDATE, July 28, 2021: This story has been updated to reflect the fact that following publication, Maj. Gen. Donahoe set his account to private.
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