Nothing seems to get the modern-day journalist riled up like the Confederate States of America.
Nearly 150 years after South Carolina became the first of 11 southern states to secede, journalists and former journalists today are falling all over themselves to take on the Confederacy, whether it’s attacking Confederate monuments, the Confederate flag or, as here, Confederate Memorial Day.
The reasoning for such brave assaults on a cause that ended nearly 15 decades ago are simple: it’s for the good of mankind:
“You have to marvel at the power of the mythmakers for the Confederacy,” according to former Atlanta Journal Constitution reporter Keith Graham at blog Like the Dew. “They really have convinced some people, even all these years later, that there was something noble about the Southern cause in the Civil War, even though that cause happens to have been one of the most ignoble imaginable: the right to enslave other human beings.”
Unfortunately, with most of these self-righteous scribes it’s fruitless to try and discuss the myriad causes of the War Between the States, which included federal economic policy such as the Morrill tariff, taxes that were seen as unfairly burdening Southern citizens, States’ rights, expansionism, and, yes, slavery.
But to say the Confederate States of America existed solely to ensure the continuation of slavery is inaccurate.
As historian Thomas DiLorenzo has pointed out, “In 1861, Southern slavery was secure, although not perfectly so. The 1857 Dred Scott decision had just ruled that slavery was constitutional and that the document would have to be amended in order to end slavery. (Abraham) Lincoln announced in his First Inaugural Address that he had no intention to disturb Southern slavery, and that, even if he did, there would be no constitutional basis for his doing so.”
So, while it would be incorrect to say that slavery played no role in the War Between the States, it would equally incorrect to say that the war was waged by Southerns solely for the right to enslave other human beings.
However, attacking the Confederacy is an easy target for liberal journalists and other like-minded folks. After all, it’s easy to take a stand on an issue (especially if one doesn’t make the effort to fully understand it) that was settled nearly a century and a half ago.
This is not unlike the great upswell in civil rights support that’s taken place at many Southern newspapers over the past 30 years.
Today’s modern journalist is completely convinced that had they been of age 45 years ago, he or she would have gladly walked alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and faced down the tear gas and billy clubs on the marches from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, or spoke truth to power following the events at Orangeburg, SC, in February 1968.
In reality, they would have almost certainly have done just what nearly all their counterparts at Southern newspapers in the 1950s and ’60s did: either ignore the issue or blame them on radical influences.
Right or wrong, we’re all products of the periods we grow up in, which is something these self-proclaimed Gandhis either don’t realize or don’t want to realize.
Historical revisionism to boost one’s own ego is the worst kind of intellectual dishonesty. If you don’t like the Confederacy because some of the folks who wave the battle flag today aren’t as educated as you, don’t speak as well as you or don’t share your same sophisticated views, then just say so.
But don’t use a simplistic interpretation of one of the most complex periods of American history as a soapbox to brag about how enlightened you are.