No Bonus for Lister

Libertarian nutjob Dave Lister writes another long opinion piece for The Oregonian, this time on the Occupy movement compared to the 1932 Bonus Expeditionary Force. As usual, it’s riddled with errors, lies, and wacky conclusions, but it’s also just historically inaccurate. Not that I expect anything else from someone like Lister. The paper’s already run a couple of letters in response, so I guess they’re probably not going to run mine:

Dave Lister’s comparison of 1932’s Bonus Army to the Occupy movement is colored by the rosy lens of time and shows a stunning lack of knowledge of actual history.

Contemporary news accounts of the Bonus Expeditionary Force (BEF) occupation of Washington DC show that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and others claimed the protestors ranks were full of criminals and subversives, and that crime in the District of Columbia spiked during the occupation (DC Police Superintendent General Pelham Glassford refuted those charges). Army Chief of Staff Douglas Macarthur was convinced—despite the reports of his own intelligence unit—that the marchers were part of a Communist conspiracy to undermine the United States. Even before the marchers reached Washington, the federal government asked states to help stop their advance because the existing camp “constituted the gravest health menace in the history of the city” (New York Times, June 10, 1932, page 1).

The truth is that BEF was made up of men without much money (which is why they wanted their bonuses), without jobs, in the first years of what became known as the Great Depression. Their camp wasn’t some fantasy vision of a Boy Scout Jamboree with veterans; it was cobbled together out of whatever materials and scraps they could gather. The country was full of other ramshackle encampments (Hoovervilles), with the primary difference being that the members of the BEF were owed money by the US government and they massed together in larger numbers to try to make their point.