A fresh wave of online vitriol is being directed at Spenser Rapone, the decorated West Point graduate who posted a photo of himself on Twitter in which he was holding out his cap with the words “COMMUNISM WILL WIN” written along the inside. The original post was issued to show solidarity with the wave of protests in the NFL that were first ignited by Colin Kaepernick, and some conservatives were not pleased.
The controversy over his actions, which elicited death threats in September when Rapone posted the picture, was reignited today in part by Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who issued a statement demanding answers from the military for Rapone’s behavior.
“Members of the military who harbor anti-American views and express their desire to harm our country and its leaders are unfit to serve and defend our nation,” Rubio writes in a statement that was posted on Facebook. “Spenser Rapone held a security clearance, but he advocated violence against political opponents and expressed admiration for Private [Chelsea] Manning, a traitor who provided troves of classified information to Wikileaks. Rapone clearly was and is a national security threat.”
In a longer version of the statement posted on his website, Rubio accuses Rapone of having "publically and vulgarly derided the secretary of defense" on social media.
The Army has not announced any disciplinary action against Rapone, but West Point issued a statement suggesting that they are “looking into the matter.” Meanwhile, the Daily Caller obtained a two-year-old report criticizing the avowed socialist’s politics, issued by a retired Army Lieutenant and his former history teacher. Fox News and the far-right blog Gateway Pundit ran aggregated content on it, and a familiar sense of outrage trickled into the comment sections.
“McCarthy was right,” a user posted on Fox News, referring to Joseph McCarthy, the U.S. Senator who led witch hunts against Americans, searching for anti-communist activity. Numerous Fox readers called Rapone a “terrorist,” while others claimed that he sympathizes with ISIS. On Gateway Pundit, some users speculated that Rapone represents the “tip of the iceberg,” implying that a communist infiltration is already underway in America’s military.
Meanwhile, the Veterans Working Group of Democratic Socialists of America, a leftist organizing group—of which Rapone is a member—issued a longer statement yesterday defending their “comrade” from what the group describes as the “reactionary right.”
“A healthy democratic society must allow for dissent and debate, including among military ranks. Furthermore, it is of note that complaints against Spenser are driven by reactionary online zealots who object to any and all leftist or anti-imperialist political worldviews and beliefs,” the statement says. “Spenser Rapone is our comrade and we are proud to support and defend him and his right to express his political beliefs.”