Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Navy Petty Officer Mike Monsoor and the Trident Hoax

One of this blog's more well-visited posts is "Golden Tridents on Petty Officer Michael A. Monsoor's Coffin" (July 5, 2008). A follow-up post, "Monsoor Coffin Trident Hoax? Probably Not" (July 30, 2008) isn't nearly as well-visited.

I think it may be the second post's title that makes the difference.

People visiting the "Golden Tridents on Petty Officer Michael A. Monsoor's Coffin" post generally come there by way of a search engine string like this:

navy petty officer mike monsoor hoax

Rumors Die Hard

Rumors, like the idea that those golden tridents in rows is a hoax, die hard.
"Nothing is New Under the Sun"
I've gotten used to rumors like these:
  • New Orleans levees were blown up by the American government during Katrina
  • American soldiers spied on Iraqi women in Fallujah
    • They had night vision goggles: 'what else could they possibly do with them?'
  • Mike Mansoor's coffin tridents were a hoax
In fact, I've been hearing and reading them for about a half-century now. Names and details have changed over the decades, but the idea that "they" are behind "it" is nothing new.

I was born during the Truman administration, so I remember the tail end of those days of yore, when rumors of communist plots and commie conspiracies littered America's intellectual landscape. (Frank Burns of M*A*S*H is a caricature of a sort of person who really existed. To this day, there are living specimens, although "terrorists" have generally replaced "commies" in that sort of rumor.)

These days, it's the CIA and the military-industrial complex for some, towel-heads and Ay-rabs for others, in rumors about what "they" are doing.

There are times when it's easy to think that I know just how Qoheleth felt. Not the most cheerful author in history.
Why All These Rumors? Is it Some Kind of Plot?
Seriously? I do not think that rumors about the American military, American Muslims, or even the lizard people, are some kind of plot. It would make an interesting story, though.

I think rumors, aside from their entertainment value, serve to make those who pass them along seem well-informed, and to back up assumptions and preferences about the world and how it works.

You could write a book about rumors and how they work: and two psychologists did:

"...Rumors are an enduring feature of our social and organizational landscapes. They attract attention, evoke emotion, incite involvement, affect attitudes and actions-and they are ubiquitous. Rumor transmission is motivated by three broad psychological motivations—fact-finding, relationship-enhancement, and self-enhancement-all of which help individuals and groups make sense in the face of uncertainty...." (Review of "Rumor Psychology: Social and Organizational Approaches" (Nicholas DiFonzo, PhD and Prashant Bordia, PhD (September 2006)) on APA Books) (emphasis mine)

For someone who doesn't like immigrants, or poor people, or rich people, or people who talk funny, it's probably reassuring to believe that "they" are really plotting against "real Americans." That sort of rumor gives a sort of reason (ersatz as it is) for the person's biases.

And, I think the same goes for someone who doesn't like soldiers, or Big Oil, or corporations in general.

Michael Monsoor and the Strange Case of the Impostor Coffin

One idea behind the Michael Monsoor trident hoax rumor is that nobody, but nobody, could possibly be "slapping badges on a coffin as it passes by." Nobody.

That may be true, but that's not what the video showed happening. (More in the "Golden Tridents on Petty Officer Michael A. Monsoor's Coffin" post's update.) ("Mike Monsoor") has decided that the video is real, but the coffin is fake. Or, more precisely, has another SEAL, James Suh, inside. If that's true, the mis-identification of the coffin in the original video could have been part of what started this enduring rumor. It's not that big a leap, from 'that's not really Monsoor's coffin' to 'it's a fake photo.'

As for being able to put tridents in a row, as shown in the video: I'm generally cautious about saying something I can't do is impossible. "My guess is that most SEALS can do quite a few things that I can't."


Brian H. Gill said...

Re. The previous comment:

MI6 said...

hey buddy. i dont know what the fuck your talking about. so go die in a fire.

April 18, 2009 3:02 PM

This is a fairly good example of how politically incorrect ideas, and the people who express them, are treated.

An example from last weekend: "Miss USA Contestant Gives Wrong Answer: "Dumb B***" Booed by Audience" (A Catholic Citizen in America (April 20, 2009)).

Although I try to accommodate reasonable requests, I will not willingly "go die in a fire." As a practicing Catholic, I'm not allowed to commit suicide.

Anonymous said...

Having "once BEEN a Catholic" I KNOW that Catholics only follow the rules feel like following at the moment. I am a Physician and also KNOW how many Catholic women use birth control :) - another no no. So like they said:

Brian H. Gill said...


Your comment deserves more of a response than I have time for here.

I think you may have an issue with what is called "cafeteria Catholics." I do not see that as an acceptable way to approach any faith.

As to your professional advice, as a physician, to "GO DIE IN A FIRE!" - I'm afraid I can't oblige you on that point.

I am not a "cafeteria Catholic," and so am not allowed to commit suicide. More about that at "The Catholic Church Won't Even Let People Kill Themselves." A Catholic Citizen in America (January 28, 2009).

Brian H. Gill said...

Following up on some aspects of the comment by Anonymous of May 25, 2009:

" 'Cafeteria Catholics' and a Diverse Church"
A Catholic Citizen in America (June 8, 2009)

Brigid said...

Oy. -.-

Hmm. Seem the "Monsoor Coffin Trident Hoax?" link is broken.

Brian H. Gill said...


Thanks! The link is now fixed: there was a spurious blank-space code in the link's code.

Anonymous said...

I read your opinion with interest. My question is what do you believe is the purpose of continuing this folklore, if in fact it is? Second, who, in your opinion, is behind that?
Thanks for commenting.

Ron Simpson said...

MI6 is a fool. Plain and simple. People who like to follow ill speaking rumors and beleive they are real are also the people who haunt blogs they disagree with to drop the trollish comments.
In my opinion, these people are the ones that could never do these acts of heroism and courage, nor could they honor those that do. To them a fallen hero is a target to be torn down. The recognize at some level that they are not as good as the hero and must destroy that hero in order to somehow make themselves look better, simply by doing nothing positive.

Anonymous said...

The photo is of another Navy Seal. However, if you would quit running your mouth before you get your facts straight, why don't you go view the video of Michael Monsoor's funeral and you will see what really happened. No, the Trident was not slapped on as it passed by, however, the Trident's were embedded into the casket before it was lowered into the ground.
And while your at it..why don't you learn to respect our military who DIE TO SAVE ALL OF US! EVEN IGNORANT PEOPLE!

Anonymous said...

Go ahead and try to deny this video is true!

Anonymous said...

First, the Tridents being slapped on PO2 Monsoor's coffin is TRUE. If you want to slam a SEAL tradition, check with SEAL TEAM Three in San Diego. One of PO2 Monsoor's shipmates says it is true, he was there. He left his on the lid - no they do not retrieve them the Tridents go to the grave with their shipmate. Yes they lined up, yes they did it one at a time and YES Seals can and do regularly things us mere mortals can only dream of including a unique send off to an honored shipmate and line up Tridents on a coffin lid.
Stop whining just pick up the phone and do a little research

Brian H. Gill said...

The three most recent Anonymous comments:

Okay. Thanks for the background.

Based on experience, though, I don't think that facts and/or logic will keep sufficiently determined people from assuming that the 'trident' video is a hoax.

The clincher, for them, will be that 'it's all lies.'

I don't think so: but then, I'm probably one of Them.

Anonymous said...

I am a former USN SEAL BUDS CLASS 57 SEAL TEAM ONE Viet Nam Vet. The story about the Tridents is true and it is Mike Monsoor's Casket. I checked this out with other team mates of mine. No hoax.

Evan said...

I understand where M16 is coming from. He's upset and rightfully so, though his words came out harsh, which can happen, assuming M16 is military and understands the sort of dedication, loyalties and bonds that are built under the conditions that Monsoor and countless other service men have been in.

I'm a civilian and I live in San Diego. I regularly see Marines and Sailors training, deploying, and leaving their families for months on end to do what needs to be done.

For any internet jockey to stand by and criticize this type of tribute is grounds for a thorough ass kicking and an education on what it takes to be a SEAL or any Special Forces operator for that matter.

If you've never been to war, seen death in person, and fought and bled with your comrades, then the best thing you could possibly do is to remain very respectful and keep your ridiculous "conspiracy theories" locked in your head. This is obviously genuine, and Monsoon is an unbelievable man who deserves the utmost respect. How many people do you know, really, that would do what Monsoor did for his brothers?

God bless Monsoon, SEAL Team 3, and all of the true heroes out there past and present laying it on the line while we live safely in our great country.

Evan said...

Sorry, MSWord screwed up/incorrectly auto-corrected my spelling of Monsoor's name.

Brian H. Gill said...

Anonymous of March 3, 2010 10:21 PM,

I'm inclined to think that the 'trident' account is true, as you said.

Thanks for (anonymously) expressing your opinion.

Brian H. Gill said...


Thanks for the comment - and for the clarification/correction. Been there, done that - even with names I use more often.

With respect, I think you offered a whacking great assumption: "...assuming M16 is military and understands the sort of dedication, loyalties and bonds that are built under the conditions that Monsoor and countless other service men have been in...."

I have no idea who MI6 is, or what his/her background is.

The brief statement suggests that MI6 is male, and at least familiar with informal American English.

It is possible that he is the sort of bitter, angry, disillusioned, and alienated vet.

Such people exist.

I find it a bit easier, though, to assume that MI6 has never been in the military: and has been immersed in one of the less disciplined of the American subcultures.

That is, of course, an assumption: born in part of my experiences when I was doing time on American college campuses.

Thanks again for the comment and insight.

ScourgeMeister said...

If any have doubts, click this link. Petty Officer Michael Monsoor is a genuine hero. Those who dispute this fact are only adding to their own dishonor.

Brian H. Gill said...


Here's that URL, as a link: And thanks!

I agree with you: but I suspect that the Anonymouses of the world are in the 'my mind is made up, don't confuse me with the facts' mode.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.