Deciphering the Latest Events at VMI

Cedric Wins

by James A. Bacon

In my past couple of posts about the Virginia Military Institute, I observed that VMI Superintendent Cedric T. Wins and the Board of Visitors have caved into the demands of the Northam administration for transforming the racial climate of the military academy — not just by updating traditions and iconography relating to the Confederacy but hiring a director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, a sign of obeisance to woke orthodoxy. At times I may have conveying the impression that Wins is in the same side of the culture wars as Governor Ralph Northam and Washington Post reporter Ian Shapira, who have done more than anyone to push the VMI-as-racist-hellhole narrative.

We won’t know the degree to which VMI has adopted the premises of wokism until Wins has had time to to carry out his “One Corps – One VMI” action plan.  Wins’ vision for VMI expresses a desire to balance “diversity and inclusion” with, in its words, honor as a way of life, the forging of leaders with character, and building an ethic of competing and winning.

One should not read too much into VMI’s acceptance of Governor Ralph Northam’s request to deliver a speech to the cadets Monday night. The Governor is Virginia’s commander in chief, and to have rejected the request would have been highly irregular for anyone who believes in respecting the chain of command. Meanwhile, it is abundantly clear that VMI regards Washington Post reporter Shapira as a hostile actor. Earlier this week VMI took the step of publishing a transcript of a recent Shapira interview — along with some pointed commentary.

Bill Wyatt, VMI’s director of communications, prefaced the transcript by noting that the Institute had granted Shapira an interview with Wins to take place immediately after Northam finished his speech: “Despite knowing that he was going to interview Maj. Gen. Wins after the governor’s talk, the Post’s Ian Shapira published a story at 8:55 p.m. prior to talking to Maj. Gen. Wins. Shapira’s story was published six minutes after the governor’s speech ended.”

No matter how skilled Shapira may be as a writer, there is no way that he could have composed his news article, submitted it for copy editing, and having it posted online within six minutes of the end of the Governor’s speech. One can conclude only that someone — someone in the Governor’s Office — leaked the speech and he wrote it ahead of time. After interviewing Wins, Shapira updated the story by plugging quotes from the interview into the story.

Apparently, the Post had irritated VMI officials with the headline of a story published before the speech: “Northam heads to hostile terrain — VMI — to speak to 1,700 cadets.”

In the interview Wins made the following point: “The first thing I would tell you is that the governor did not come to a hostile environment, as was described.”

“The governor came to his alma mater,” Wins continued, “to speak to about 1,690 young men and women who embody and carry out what we talk about when we talk about citizen soldiers and young men and women who are civil, whether or not they believe or agree with the message that’s being put before them.”

Shapira made no note of the point in his update.

Communications director Wyatt was not amused. To the transcript of the Wyatt interview, he appended a transcript of an exchange he had with Shapira right after:

COL. BILL WYATT, VMI: You couldn’t have waited 15 minutes to include the Institute’s perspective? How will you be incorporating his remarks?

IAN SHAPIRA, Washington Post: We are updating the story now with his remarks.

COL. WYATT: You couldn’t have waited 15 minutes?

COL. WYATT: That’s pretty unprofessional knowing full well you were going to interview MG Wins.

SHAPIRA: My editors wanted the story online as soon as the speech was over. I am adding the superintendent and other reaction now and we will republish the story online once I am done. The story will not appear in our print edition until Wednesday’s paper.

COL. WYATT: Didn’t you tell them you had time scheduled with MG Wins?

SHAPIRA: Yes and they told me we’d add that after publishing the initial versions.

COL. WYATT: That’s a bunch of crap. Maybe next time I will talk MG Wins out of making time for you.

Bacon’s bottom line: Shapira and the Post broke the news that Northam would be coming to speak at VMI before the public found out about it from the Institute. It is reasonable to conclude that the Governor’s Office leaked the news to Shapira because he is regarded as a friendly media source. Similarly, it is reasonable to conclude that the Governor’s Office leaked a transcript of the speech as well. I don’t view any of this as terribly significant, other than as evidence that the Governor’s Office is working hand in glove with Shapira.

Trying to figure out what’s happening inside VMI is like Kremlinology in the Cold War era — divining changes in the power structure through small clues. Although VMI has acceded to many of Northam’s demands for change, one can argue that Wins and the Board are trying to navigate a middle course between progressive fire breathers and alumni unhappy with the Institute’s new direction. Knowing of continued tension between Wins and the uber-woke Shapira seemingly confirms that view.

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25 responses to “Deciphering the Latest Events at VMI”

  1. tmtfairfax Avatar

    Did anyone expect anything more from the Post?

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      In fairness, I suspect this model of posting an incomplete story quickly and adding to it after the initial appearance has become almost the norm. Jim is dead right that the paper had the text in advance and the story ready to post as soon as Northam’s lips stopped moving.

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        Is handing out the text pre-speech an unusual thing? Did not the WSJ get one?

        1. Stephen Haner Avatar
          Stephen Haner

          Sometimes it is broadly distributed. But not always. Bacon would have asked before the WSJ. 🙂

          1. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            Did he? Did I miss that?

        2. .
          I cannot imagine a politician who wants coverage NOT handing out an advance copy of a speech to a favorable news outlet.

          It is absolutely de rigueur.


      2. Matt Adams Avatar

        Clearly, the great intrepid “reporter” who comments here, just stated above running an incomplete story is okay as long as it suits the narrative.

  2. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Hey, old news is fish wrap. Presses roll.

    As to the rest, we see how long it takes for BR to publish on how woke Wins is, and ruining VMI. I give it a year — a long time in the fish wrap business.

  3. As I have noted before, having dealt with him in the past, Shapira is an unprincipled scumbag. Nothing new here.

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      There are those who would say the same of the entire industry — probably more of ’em than those who take the effort to single out one particular person,

      1. I don’t disagree but I single him out as one of the most egregious examples, and he made it personal.

        1. Nancy Naive Avatar
          Nancy Naive

          Personal as in named? Ooooh, tell us more!

          1. Not me, someone else.

          2. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            Okay. Someone cared about. Cool. I appreciate that.

            I am in the larger group. The whole of the business are muckrakers.

          3. Actually an employee of sorts who Shapira slandered. Got him transferred from Virginia Metro section to the hinterlands of the People’s Republic of Maryland for that transgression. The editor of the Metro Section was actually pretty understanding.

          4. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            Maryland. Wow! Living hell. Wait, Shapira got transferred to Maryland, and not your employee of sorts, right?

            Well apparently, Maryland sent him back.

  4. Wahoo'74 Avatar

    Ian Shapira is an unprofessional hack. One can only conclude he has a personal vendetta against not just VMI but the military. If I were the Institute, I would ban him and the Post from any future events. He’s fully earned his expulsion.

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      That worked sooooo well for Nixon, eh?

  5. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    Clearly the rush to post online with less than a full story was driven by their fear that Bacon’s Rebellion had a source inside the room and would scoop them.

    As I learned in “Yes, Minister,” the ship of state is the only ship that leaks from the top.

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      C’mon Steve. Think! Work is time, and time is money.

      If I publish with less than the full story today then I’ll have work to do tomorrow.

  6. YellowstoneBound1948 Avatar

    VMI can’t swim with the sharks. You know who they are. As far as they are concerned, VMI is little more than chum.

    Even so, VMI still wants to be “friends.” What a delusion. The Left cannot be appeased. What was that Churchill said about the Munich Agreement? That Germany would continue to devour Czechoslovakia as if it were being served course by course? (Something like that.) Forget Shapira. He’s fully fungible. His name is not even important.

    VMI has got itself in the usual wad. Why? Because the Board of Visitors is, as always, fully compliant. Just complete sycophants. They should resign now. And take Wins with them.

    1. Carmen Villani Jr Avatar
      Carmen Villani Jr

      Spot on about appeasement. If I may add to that from another leader of that time, General Douglas MacArthur. In his famous “Old Soldiers Never Die” speech, he said: “There are some who for varying reasons would appease Red China. They are blind to history’s clear lesson, for history teaches with unmistakable emphasis that appeasement but begets new and bloodier wars. It points to no single instance where this end has justified that means, where appeasement has led to more than a sham peace. Like blackmail, it lays the basis for new and successively greater demands until, as in blackmail, violence becomes the only other alternative.”

      Three questions come to mind. Why grant an interview to a reporter that has been trashing VMI for the past year? Why do so a second time when the previous time a transcript of the interview was released as well (January 27,2021)? Aren’t transcripts typically released to set the record straight?

  7. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    I don’t see the point of this post. Six minutes? Does VMI control the Governor’s office assuming that was the source of the obvious leak.? The story here is Northam. He’s governor and a VMI grad. He has taken strong measures in the controversy about race and women. Sorry but MG Wins is not the main story. Of course I’d like to read his comments. Of course reporters have stories ready to go. They can update. And if the PR guy at VMI thinks he can control a paper like the Post, well gee. When the paper sees a story, they go after it. Good for them. I covered the Bob McDonnell trial for Bloomberg and at times the Post had four or more reporters tag teaming testimony.

    Also, there’s really no need to personally trash the reporter. It doesn’t add much. After all, the Roanoke Times broke the story but that isn’t remembered.

  8. david Beauregard Avatar
    david Beauregard

    There is nothing more that could have been expected from the Northam administration. The Northam administration presents a unmistakeable signal to all Americans; mainly, our country is in danger from an aggressive, leftists ideology operating without voter consent, willing to ignore the Constitution and disparage our basic freedoms, strangers to responsible governance and unable to enforce the laws of the land while uninterested in exuding the level of common good essential to our Democracy.

  9. I give Gen Wins and the BOV — some moreso than others, granted — high marks for doing the best in a tumultuous situation. Bravo.

    There are no binary wins available — meaning we don’t get to smote the bad guys and make a pyramid of their skulls whilst their women folks wail and tear their garments.

    We do, however, get a new Governor. Thank you, God and soccer/school board moms. We send our boy out to pasture, glue factory?

    The most difficult military maneuver is the retreat in which a unit fights its way to the rear whilst attempting to maintain its unit integrity and combat power to live, refit, and fight another day — see MG Oliver Prince Smith and the 1st Mar Div @ the Chosin Reservoir for an exemplar.

    That is where VMI is — we are surrounded by detractors who have a sharp edge for whatever is their particular woke priority. So what? We are fighters and who doesn’t love a damn good fight?

    Deal with them slowly, carefully, putting each in their place one by one, marginalize them, prove then wrong by the quality of our grads, but preserve the integrity, the values, the special sauce that is VMI. This requires cunning and tactical flexibility.

    There will be days to give ground and there will be days to take ground, but there will be milestones passed and never revisited. As an example, there will not be another silly, nonsensical report ordered up by a dopey governor. That bit of predictable tantric jack offery is moldering as we speak. But we learned a few things, so we take them, act on them, and burn the rest of it.

    MG Wins putting out the transcript of the Wash Po call w/ the faux reporter moron is a good stroke, but not a killing blow. It comforts me, but then I am a simpleton focused solely on the outcome.

    Can we address a few things that may require a bit of repointing? Yes, of course.

    Can we do some Spring cleaning? Absolutely.

    Do we compromise on the core values? Not bloody likely and not a chance.

    What do we do?

    We look over the horizon, we plan for the next decade, we soldier on and we emerge stronger, smarter, more cunning, and we win.

    It is going to be fine. Stonewall’s statue coming back? Nope.

    Geo C Marshall’s star ascendant? Yep. Wow, what a man, what an exemplar, what a great school, what an inspiring narrative.

    We win. We fight with cunning and we pick our spots and we line up to piss on the grave of wokeness — you will need a reservation and a number cause the line will not be short — but we do it as gentlemen.

    We come together. We do not fight amongst ourselves — we specifically do not rat fuck VMI out to the Wash Po — if that shoe fits, wear it, Keydet.

    We discuss. We compromise. We work together. When VMI men/women are united in a cause the outcome is inevitable. What did Churchill call Marshall? The Architect of Victory in World War II. That is the cloth from which we are made. Live up to it.

    We got this.

    Rah Va Mil!

    Minch, JL VMI ’73
    Austin By God Texas

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