Courtesy of Johnny Bivera via Wikimedia Commons under Public Domain Mark 1.0

Last week, a New York Times report about the discovery of classified documents, pertaining to the war in Ukraine, and other national security concerns, sent the intelligence community into a frenzy. This week, a 21 year-old member of the Massachusetts National Guard, named John Texiera, was arrested in connection with the leak. Just as quickly as he was brought into federal custody, suddenly there were swarms of commentators and actors on the right seeking to defend his status as a “whistle blower:” despite the piles of evidence indicating he was anything but. This pattern of glorification of otherwise troubled individuals by major conservative figures is emblematic of the perversion of “patriotism” that has become embedded into conservative politics.

Representative Majorie Taylor Green took to Twitter to claim Texiera was a victim of the Biden Administration’s weak “national security policies,” as he was attempting to pull back the “flimsy transparent curtain.” This portrayal conveniently omits initial reporting that  members of Texeira’s Discord group  categorically denied any intent to expose the conduct of the US government, instead claiming Teixeria’s goal was to inform some of his friends about what’s going on

Similarly, Tucker Carlson asserted on his nightly show Tucker Carlson Tonight that the news media was treating Texiera like Osama Bin Laden, maybe even a little worse and came to his defense that he was simply “exposing the truth” about Ukraine. This is, of course, coming from the same reporter who just last week called for the pardoning of a convicted felon Daniel Perry, on the grounds that he was seeking to defend himself from a “violent mob” despite having sent outwardly racist messages to his friend about his intentions to instigate violence in Austin in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and subsequent protests. Both Carlson and Greene were also ardent supporters of another “conservative hero,” Kyle Rittenhouse, who in 2020 traveled across state lines from Illinois to Washington in order to “defend property,” killing 2 people in the process but was eventually acquitted of all charges and is now being pursued in civil court by the family of one of the victims. These three men have all become celebrated figures of the conservative movement as a direct result of the crimes they are accused of committing. These actions are easily exploitable as political capital by the increasingly extreme Republican party.

The framing of the innocence of these men fundamentally misunderstands what it means to be a patriot, and more importantly illustrates that the conservative movement of today is exclusively concerned with a perverted sense of patriotism. Before John Texiera had even been arraigned Greene tweeted her defense of his actions, and Kevin McCarthy began his congressional inquiry and in doing so, fundamentally ignored their obligation to the institutions of our country. These individuals have repeatedly failed to respect the institutions put in place specifically to assess an individual’s guilt or innocence, instead favoring the usage of political capital and media hysterics to assuage the public of the men’s innocence and assign the blame for their actions onto the democratic party. Furthermore, Texiera avoided all available protections for whistleblowers and instead chose Discord to publish classified information. If a man like that is called a “patriot” by today’s conservative media, maybe it’s time to question what that word really means.