Earlier today, the Department of Veterans Affairs sent out a seemingly innocuous tweet about oceans, which ended up causing something of a firestorm amongst the department's critics.
The tweet links to a page inviting people to "help protect our ocean," by tweeting out certain pledges, like "I will not eat shark fin soup," and "I will let my national and local leaders know that our ocean is important to me," and signing up for a virtual thunderclap. The page promotes the State Department's upcoming "Our Ocean" Conference, which will "bring together individuals, experts, practitioners, advocates, lawmakers, and the international ocean and foreign policy communities to gather lessons learned, share the best science, offer unique perspectives, and demonstrate effective actions." Pretty non-confrontational stuff, as far as environmental action goes. Just one government agency doing a favor for another.
But many were quick to criticize the VA for tweeting off-topic in the midst (or perhaps at the tail end) of a massive departmental scandal. Those who were most infuriated by that scandal, accuse the department of caring more about climate change than veterans:
The system's a disaster, vets dying bc they're put on a waiting list, & what does the VA address? CLIMATE CHANGE! https://t.co/r9Q4OuW9FS— Matthew (@Matthops82) June 16, 2014
@DeptVetAffairs um...really VA? Our oceans are in trouble? Are they being treated by the VA? If so they're screwed.— Jamie (@BubbaSmiley) June 16, 2014
The vehement response could be a sign that people are, legitimately, still extremely upset by the VA's fatal negligence. (Although the VA has tweeted off topic before, without raising the ire of its followers):
Right-wing bloggers quickly seized on the criticism. "It's as if the Obama government is going out of its way to be ridiculous, pathetic, unbelievable, foolish... choose your own adjective," wrote PJ Media. Truth Revolt wrote that "one might think that the VA's communications strategy would be disciplined and focused on touting improvements in the area of veteran's health," but "instead the Department of Veteran's Affairs' official Twitter account sent out a tweet encouraging people to help defend the ocean, which it said was 'under threat.' Only not from terrorism." And, of course, Twitchy picked up on the negative tweets.
To be fair, the VA probably should have known the tweet would strike a nerve. But it's hard not to link the venomous reaction to President Barack Obama's recent verbal slam of climate change deniers. Last week, in a commencement address to UC Irvine's class of 2014, Obama said that, "Today’s Congress is full of folks who stubbornly and automatically reject the scientific evidence. They will tell you climate change is a hoax or a fad. One member of Congress actually says the world might be cooling.” He added that lawmakers who fail to acknowledge that human-caused climate change is real fear they will be "run out of town by a radical fringe that thinks climate science is a liberal plot."