Screenshot, Washington Post video

The Trump campaign yesterday sent out a nastygram telling media organizations that they'd better retract their stories about having ordered police to fire tear gas into a crowd of peaceful protesters in front of the White House Monday. You see, said the statement, it's simply not true that anyone was "tear gassed" so Donald Trump could cross the street, stand in front of a church, and then wave a flag and carry a Bible while bringing fascism to America. (We are doing "metaphor" and "allusion" — but not to Sinclair Lewis— with the flag part.) Trump campaign comms director Tim Murtaugh insisted the lying media had all lied about the tear gas, because the National Park Police had issued a statement saying that only "smoke canisters" and "pepper balls" had been used to clear away the peaceful protesters, oh, and also they weren't peaceful either.

The statement really gave the lying media hell for lying, darn the lügenpresse:

For nearly an entire day, the whole of the press corps frantically reported the 'news' of a tear gas attack on 'peaceful' protestors in Lafayette Park, with no evidence to support such claims. We now know through the U.S. Park Police that neither they, nor any of their law enforcement partners, used tear gas to quell rising violence. We also know that police discovered stashes of weapons like glass bottles, baseball bats, and metal poles hidden nearby, which are indeed strange items to have on hand for a 'peaceful' protest. Every news organization which reported the tear gas lie should immediately correct or retract its erroneous reporting.

And now, all over social media you can find Trumpers repeating "no tear gas!!!!" They are, of course, the ones who are lying, since the chemical agents used by the Park Police are indeed classed as "tear gas" by no less a group of lying media liars than the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


As the Washington Post and Mother Jones both explain, it's all a matter of semantics and teargaslighting, and Trumpworld is, as ever, nitpicking about semantics for the sake of covering its tracks. As Mother Jones explains, there are actually two ways to use the term "tear gas":

"Tear gas," an umbrella term for about a half-dozen so-called "riot-control agents" or "less lethal" chemical weapons, most often refers to CS gas, a powerful irritant devised by two Middlebury College researchers in the 1920s.

But it can also refer to OC, or oleoresin capsicum, an ultra-concentrated form of the compound in hot peppers mixed with carriers that make it stick to your skin and lungs more easily. Both cause tears, and both, in quantity, do a permanent number on lungs and nerves.

OC agents, which are actually used far beyond Orange County, can be used in "nonlethal" projectiles, like the very "pepper balls" the Park Police acknowledged using, and in a gas or smoke form that, like CS, irritates the eyes, skin, and lungs. And "pepper balls" are much beloved by riot (and peaceful protest) control folks:

They can be fired again and again from a gun. They hurt. (In fact, they hurt worse than CS gas.)

In prisons, where tear gas is used to suppress unrest, correctional officers mix-and-match CS and OC freely when they have both on hand—and sometimes hit prisoners with a combo.

MoJo's Daniel Moattar puts it bluntly: The only real reason you might insist on the distinction between the generic and specific terms is "if you're treating medical damage or covering your ass."

WaPo's Abigail Hauslohner also notes a third type of agent that's typically classed as tear gas, at least in the generic sense used by the CDC: "chloroacetophenone (CN), more commonly referred to as 'mace,' or pepper sprays — in other words, the compound that was deployed in Lafayette Square[.]"

As for those harmless "smoke canisters" the Park Police said its forces used, smoke alone doesn't generally cause the kinds of physical symptoms experienced by people in the park Monday. As it happens, Nathan Baca, a reporter for DC teevee station WUSA, found an empty canister on the street in DC Monday after it was fired at him and his crew. Lookie!

WUSA contacted the Park Police to "ask how many 40 mm OC gas canisters they used on the crowd at Lafayette Square. They did not immediately respond."

So, FACTCHECK TRUE: Although the Park Police says it didn't use CS gas, the agent most commonly known as "tear gas," on protesters Monday, the evidence is very clear that other chemical agents that are generically classed as "tear gas" were very definitely used.

Not that it matters to rightwing assholes who have already adopted the party line: Only CS gas can be called "tear gas," and that magically renders harmless all other chemical agents that cause similar reactions.

No tear gas, just extremely irritating OC gas that causes identical symptoms. That's what we do to peaceful protesters in our great country, which is not a democracy, it's a REPUBLIC.

Who are you going to believe, the Trump administration and its anti-semantic toadies, or your lying, stinging, tear-choked eyes?

[WaPo / Mother Jones / WUSA]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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