Fighting a long-dead enemy with intellectually dishonest tactics

Nothing seems to get the modern-day journalist riled up like the Confederate States of America.

More than 150 years after 11 Southern states opted out of the Union, journalists and a variety of others 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 more than 15 decades ago is simple: it’s for the good of mankind:

A memorial to a dark part of American history was recently unveiled in Montgomery, Ala. The memorial opened the same week when the state of Alabama, and several other Southern states, celebrate Confederate Memorial Day, an official state holiday. It was also fitting that the memorial is located in Montgomery, the first capital of the Confederacy.

Called the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, it is the first monument of its kind in America. It addresses the legacy of enslaved blacks, the terror of lynchings, and racial segregation.

So writes an emeritus professor of surgery and humanities at the University of Toledo in a piece that appeared in the Toledo Blade. Because, of course, slavery, lynching and segregation are associated only with the Confederacy. In fact, it’s increasingly become gospel among some that the Confederacy existed solely to enslave, lynch and segregate blacks. Any other argument isn’t worthy of the light of day.

Or this from the editorial board of the Biloxi (Miss.) Sun Herald:

Confederate Memorial Day is divisive. It attempts to obscure the fact that slavery was the reason for the war. It is not, as some will undoubtedly argue, about honoring the bravery and sacrifice of those on the losing side. … This is not about erasing history. Mississippi and the former Confederate states have set aside battlefields and museums in the name of preserving history.

Unfortunately, with most of these self-righteous scribes it’s fruitless to try to 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 most certainly 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 Southerners solely for the right to enslave other human beings.

However, attacking the Confederacy is an easy target for progressive 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 more than a century and a half ago.

This is not unlike the great uptick in ex post facto civil rights’ support that’s taken place at media outlets and big business over the past 35 years.

Today’s modern journalist, for example, is completely convinced that had they been of age 50-plus years ago, he or she would have gladly walked alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and his supporters and faced down the tear gas and billy clubs on the marches from Selma to Montgomery in 1965.

In reality, they would have almost certainly have done just what nearly all their counterparts at Southern newspapers and businesses did in the 1950s and ’60s: either ignored the issue or blamed them on radical influences.

Right or wrong, we’re all products of the periods we grow up in, which is something these self-proclaimed prophets of enlightenment either won’t realize or don’t want to acknowledge.

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. If you disagree with the concept of secession, argue the issue on its merits.

But don’t use a simplistic interpretation of one of the most complex periods of American history as a soapbox to brag about your progressive mindset.

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31 thoughts on “Fighting a long-dead enemy with intellectually dishonest tactics

  1. What do they call it…virtue signalling? ‘Look what a great guy I am…right on on all the issues that matter…’ and totally ignorant of history and the need to make a reasoned argument to support your views.

    • Yes, I believe that’s the current term. I call it being a smug schmuck. Anyone who thinks they can boil anything as complex as a war down to a single cause probably isn’t interested in historical accuracy. And I’d say the same for those who say slavery had nothing to do with the US Civil War.

      Too many folks living in echo chambers these days rather than engaging, or at least being open to, actual debate.

      • Tell me…we are living through the Brexit maelstrom where a referendum on membership of the European Union was called by a Tory government intent on settling its internal power struggles. Not one of them thought for a moment that a majority of those who voted would vote to leave.
        Now we have the smug schmucks hurling abuse at the Leave voters whom they characterise as ignorant, racist knuckledraggers without bothering their heads for one moment with considering why people voted to leave. I suppose ignorant racist knuckledraggers don’t have the right to a point of view…..
        As the Remainers sabotage any real chance of leaving the Union I hope they will reflect on the schism in society that will result from their assumptions of moral superiority…but I doubt it.
        It is getting to a stage where if you admit to a total lack of interest in croque monsieur you are shunned by ‘decent society’ as being beyonf the European pale.
        If I could have voted it would have been to leave a corrupt and disfunctional organisation so I shall now shab off,…I would be dragging my knuckles, but my knees do not permit…

      • Our equivalent is being tarred with the knuckledragger label for voting for Trump. I didn’t vote for either of the two main candidates, but to characterize Trump voters as racist white supremacists, as so many the media and academia do on a regular basis, ignores the fact that perhaps his opponent was even more unpalatable.

        I suppose I’ve been “beyond the pale” for quite some time, which is why I no longer engage in political talk with much of anyone, because to do so runs the risk of being called a neanderthal, a snowflake or some other pejorative term at either end of the spectrum.

        As I’ve noted before, it’s unfortunate we’re out of unclaimed lands to settle. I wish we had a modern equivalent of 19th century New Mexico or New Zealand, some place where I could be away from the long arm of the politically correct / inane.

      • The infection has not become too bad in Costa Rica yet….except on the expat forums where it is rife. Probably one of the reasons I like living here.

  2. Cotton Boll,
    Thanks for this post. As they say, the winners write the history books. I really liked Thomas di Lorenzo’s “The Real Lincoln,” but North-South issues go back way before Lincoln’s war. The more I study American history, the more I realize the federalist vs. anti-federalist battle, the tariff issues, and yes, the slavery issues, all contributed to the rift.

    What seems forgotten is that the British forced slavery on the colonies and were the major slave traders, primarily to ports in Boston and New York. If it weren’t for exports, slavery would never have been necessary, but the British wanted raw materials for their manufacturing boom. Also, while the South was economically ruined by the war, Northerners–who didn’t have to fight on their own turf–got rich. The railroads boomed.
    Andrew Carnegie, JP Morgan, Jay Cooke, the so-called robber barons, and NYSE speculators all profited handsomely. I could go on, but will close with this: as di Lorenzo notes, Abraham Lincoln wanted a war. After all, he was a corporate railroad lawyer before becoming president.

    • Yes to all your points. And then many of the industrialists who profited off the war came down south and made a killing buying up foreclosed land, continuing high tariffs that hurt the South and using the region as a source of labor, but locating few headquarters here. The South itself was unable to much of these things because it had been ruined by the war.

      • Yes. As they say, the winners write the history books. That is especially true when it comes to that war and its aftermath, as one of your previous blogs noted.

  3. If you think that the war was not 99% a battle to protect the institution of slavery and the rights of southerners to own people as property I suggest you read this –

    https://digital.scetv.org/teachingAmerhistory/pdfs/DecImmCauses.pdf

    nothing like getting your info straight from the people

    One more point, Walter Edgar in his book “South Carolina A History” gives multiple reasons for why the south, and SC in particular, continued to suffer economic depression after the war, even into the 20th century. While he does agree that certain federal policies played a part, he further argues that the main culprit was SC’s inability or unwillingness to let go of a desire for plantation era economics and models.

    The really sad part is that the same racist, elitist, and greed filled attitudes in our legislature continue to hold us back today. Despite a long history of Republicans in this state siding with monied interests at the expense of the people the simple fact is that for a large portion of this state all you need to do to get elected to any office is be on the ballot with an “R” next to your name.

    Look at the current crop of Republican candidates for governor, it is truly a race to the bottom.

    • Stephen,

      I appreciate you taking time to respond. And I agree that the candidates we have today are weak, to put it mildly. I have long said that were Stalin alive today, he would win election in South Carolina as long as he had an “R” next to his name. Prior to 50 years ago, he would have only needed a “D” next to his name to be elected. Elites have controlled this state since its inception.

      However, I would respectfully argue that while a handful of elites may have cited slavery as a reason for secession, slavery was still legal and there was no overwhelming desire in the North to do away with slavery at the outbreak of the Civil War. Abolitionists were considered a fringe element, just as fire-eaters in the South were. The nation had been on a course toward war for decades because of several issues, including, but not limited to, slavery.

      Further, poor men, which made up the majority of the South’s white population, don’t risk their lives and livelihoods willingly to preserve the wealth of rich men, no matter what era we’re talking about.

      • “Further, poor men, which made up the majority of the South’s white population, don’t risk their lives and livelihoods willingly to preserve the wealth of rich men, no matter what era we’re talking about.”

        I disagree, this is the reason SC is at the bottom of almost all quality of life lists. The populace of 1860 is no different then what we see today, southern whites getting ginned up by politicians spouting racism, hatred, and the fear of “others”. Sure, the words of the “Southern Strategy” may have changed with the times, but the goal remains the same.

        One more point, the “D’s” from 50 years ago, at least in the south, are the “R’s” of today. Had to switch parties due to those pesky civil rights demands.

      • I think you and I see the world differently. I’m white and I don’t care for demagogues who pander on issues of race, class, etc.

        I couldn’t care less who lives around me, who I work with, who I associate with, as long as they treat me with the respect I treat them (and I very, very rarely have had any problems with anyone, no matter what their background).

        I spend a great deal of time in rural areas, which have significant minority populations and I don’t fear others, nor, with but a couple of exceptions, have I been treated in a less than charitable manner. Those were unusual situations, and ones I chalked up to folks having bad days.

        I have no illusions that those in political power, on both sides of the aisle, cannot but fail to understand that demonizing their opponents is one of the easiest and most successful ways to retain office. But, at least in my experience, the folks I know and those I meet don’t express these same distasteful views. If they hold them, they don’t spout them off around me, which is good because I don’t have patience for that foolishness. Life is difficult enough without bigotry making things even uglier.

        I don’t argue that there aren’t people out there who hold disagreeable views, but we are a far different society than we were in 1860, in 1900 and in 1960. We will likely be different in 2060. To think we’re just the same is to fail to understand just how people perceived one another 160 years ago.

        Finally, today’s Republican is far different than yesterday’s Democrat. Parties evolve over time; unfortunately, neither party, or at least its standard bearers, has evolved in a particularly positive manner. We all lose as a result.

  4. Excellent post. You put into words thoughts I’ve had on this issue very well. It’s easy to look back 50 years, 100 years or 200 years or more and feel morally superior to those who came before. Self righteous scribes is a pretty good description.

  5. Recognizing that adverse economic conditions played a part in all three death rates, is it not unpleasant that more federal soldiers perished in Confederate prison camps than those of Germany, Japan, and Korean War China — all put together.? Having said this, we must note that the British during the American Revolution facilitated the deaths of almost as many Americans as the Confederates did. We must also note than thousands of Confederate prisoners died in Union stockades when food was available just outside the gates. Perhaps the best memorial would be to stop using military actions like the “sneak attack” at Pearl Harbor — see OPERATION SNOW, it was no surprising to Washington — to justify the atomic bombings in Japan, or to use the Communist invasion of South Korea to justify the U.S Air Force killing of 20 per cent of North Korea’s population by random strafing and napalm attacks. None of the German civilians burned or suffocated at Dresden were on the staffs of Nazi death camps. .The men who fought for the Confederacy believed they were right, and fought with great courage for their beliefs. But that does not justify slavery. The men who fire-bombed German and Japanese civilians may have believed they were “avenging Pearl Harbor” or “saving lives on both sides.” They were deliberately mislead by politicians who favored either Soviet or British interests over the interests of the United States.

    • We’re going to have to disagree on whether the use of the atomic bomb was “justified.” While horrible, it ultimately saved millions of US and Japanese casualties. It also showed the world what nuclear weapons are capable of, which may be one reason more powerful weapons have never been used in war. An awful way to demonstrate the power of a weapon, but better than if more powerful hydrogen bombs had been used, say, on the Chinese during the Korean War.

      War is ugly business. There are often many different factors involved. Slavery was not the sole cause of the US Civil War. The US made things difficult for Japan by enacting an oil embargo prior to Pearl Harbor. But that doesn’t justify a surprise attack, or the Japanese treatment of other countries in Asia.

      And the death rate for American POWs held by the Japanese was 33 percent, higher even than that of Union POWs at Andersonville, the most notorious of Southern prisoner of war camps. If more federal POWs died in Confederate camps than in German, Japanese and Korean War camps combined, it’s because there were fewer prisoners.

      • The U.S. prisoner death rate was 23 per cent — American sources, not Japanese — and the largest single number were men who drowned when being shipped fro the Philippines to Korea on Japanese ships.
        Chinese COMMUINISTS claim the Japanese killed umpteen million helpless Chinese. In 1944, Operation Ichi-Go, with combined Chinese and Japanese and Korean soldiers, drove a wedge through the Chinese Nationalists that not even American air power could blunt. Do you really think the Chinese would have fought that hard (on the Japanese side) so the Japanese could finish exterminating them.? U.S. Marines report that the big hit song in Shanghai after the Japanese left was “China Night,” This is a love song about a Japanese soldier and a Chinese girl. The Chinese were still singing it five years after the Japanese left. Look it up under U.S. Marine Corps sources — no Japanese input whatsoever.

        Hiroshima saved ZERO lives. The Japanese had already offered to surrender through the Vatican. the Swedes, and Stalin when the bomb fell — in absolutely violation of the Geneva and Hague Conventions which banned attacks intended to cause mass civilian casualties. Hiroshima was a war crime. Period.

        As for the “sneak attack” — I recommend you read OPERATION SNOW or THE BATTLE OF BRETTON WOODS, supported by THHE VENONA SECRETS. Soviet intelligence ordered Harry Dexter White, a U.S. Treasury official, to start a war between the United States and Japan before Hitler attacked Russia so that the Russians didn’t have to fight on two fronts. White, acting through Secretary of State Cordell Hull, sent the Japanese an ultimatum so tough that they expected to be attacked, His boss, Henry Morgenthau,. masterminded a round-up of ALL Japanese-Americans on the West Coast because. FDR needed a scrape-goat. He did not originally plan the attack but he let it happen to he could save Britain. The Japanese ultimately killed about 104,000 Americans. White — and FDR — set them up to be killed. Then the authorities used the Bomb to cover their tracks after the “fanatics” tried to give up in 1944.

      • I’m not sure where you’re getting your information.

        Of the 27,000 Americans taken prisoner by the Japanese, 40 percent died in captivity, according to the U.S. Congressional Research Service. – Time magazine, Sept. 12, 2014. http://time.com/3334677/pow-world-war-two-usa-japan/

        Japanese statistics show that 27 percent of all Allied troops who were captured died in captivity, but approximately 33 percent of US troops died as POWs. http://www.lindavdahl.com/FrontPage_Links/pows_of_the_japanese.htm

        Even after both atomic bombs had been dropped there was an attempted coup to prevent Hirohito from surrendering. was an attempted military coup d’état in Japan at the end of the Second World War. On the night of Aug. 14-15, the Staff Office of the Ministry of War of Japan and many from the Imperial Guard of Japan attempted to stop any move to surrender. They killed Lt. General Takeshi Mori of the First Imperial Guards Division and attempted to counterfeit an order to the effect of occupying the Tokyo Imperial Palace. They attempted to place the Emperor under house arrest, but the bid failed.

        It would seem difficult to believe that a group that still had individuals wanting to fight after having two cities devastated by two atomic bombs would have surrendered before the bombings, when it had millions of troops in China and other parts of Asia, and a populace willing to sacrifice itself should it be invaded.

        I’ve not read enough on the purported plan to bring the US into WWII by not alerting American forces ahead of time that Japan was going to attack Pearl Harbor to offer a solid opinion. It seems difficult to fathom risking most of our Navy, however. There are easier ways to get involved in wars than putting the bulk of one’s navy at risk.

  6. I think it a little naive to use yourself to somehow insinuate that old racial prejudices or stereotypes no longer exist in SC and that they can’t be used effectively to prompt people into voting their “fears”.

    If true then why is the “southern strategy” been so succesful? See Lee Atwater’s own words –

    Also consider this regarding the issue of the “new” Republican party in the south

    https://www.thenation.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/race-party-realignment-in-the-south-old-times-not-forgotten2.pdf

    • I go on what I experience and hear from others. It would be counterproductive to ignore my own experiences, wouldn’t it?

      I made a point that we don’t live in a perfect world, that racism, discrimination and any number of other ills still exist. I’ve seen them, so I know they’re out there. But the world is a different place than when Nixon ran in ’68 and ’72. It’s not perfect and never will be, but it’s far better than in was 40 years ago. That doesn’t mean there’s a ways to go, however, but claiming we’re in the same boat we were 160 years ago is not a reasonable argument.

      • My argument was the people today are just as susceptible to having their fears manipulated as people were in 1860. In the south those fears that are most manipulated are those centering on race, ethnicity, and the fear of “others. This was as true in 1860 as is it is today.

        This is why the “Southern Strategy” continues to be successful for Republicans to this day.

      • I would agree that people are just as susceptible to having their fears manipulated. It’s probably an inherent issue, but one that has been seized upon by politicians for centuries. I’ve lived in places other than the South; we’re not the only ones who can be susceptible to fears ginned up regarding race, ethnicity and “others.” And, as we’ve seen from world history, including that of the present, it takes place elsewhere, as well.

        The key is to call politicians on it and hold them accountable. If we stop electing demagogues, we’ll stop rewarding demagogues.

  7. The question must follow: Was Hermann Goehring correct when he told his American captors that the atomic bomb would never have been dropped on a German county because German children look like (white) American children?

    • No, I don’t think he was correct. The Germans had a relatively half-baked atomic bomb project, and they wouldn’t have hesitated to drop the bomb on Allied forces, US-British-Canadian or Russian. I have no doubt that if the Germans weren’t being rolled in colossal fashion by the summer of 1945 (still held large swathes of central and eastern European), were putting up fierce resistance, the US would have dropped the bomb on them.

      Goering was a notorious blowhard, besides.

      • You’re right about the last part. When he was being interrogated after the war, the American colonel asked Goering: “Why did you declare war on the United States after Pearl Harbor?”
        Goering replied; “We felt we had to honor our treaty with Japan/”
        The U.S. German-Jewish interpreted cut in. “Why THAT treaty in particular?” Given the context, a funny remark.
        But we never would have used to bomb on whites — except maybe Russians who had been marginalized by Communism and by killing even more people than Hitler, and about 10 times more than Japan.

        Now here’s a context:

        1849 – 1860: Britain and France (with some small U.S. help) invade China to force the Chinese to allow the British to sell recreational opium, which the Chinese government opposes. FDR’s grandfather and one uncle made good money doing this.

        1853: The United States sends heavily armed ships to force the Japanese, who simply want to be left aione, to sign unequal treaties. When they Japanese construct their own navy, the treaties quietly lapse.

        1871: U.S. Marines and armed sailors invade Korea to punish the Koreans for killing some Anglo-Saxon trader-pirates who had previously killed Koreans, including diplomats, women and children, after sailors from a previous ship were fed and given ponies and told to ride to China and never enter Korea again. In both ins6tances, the Americans killed first. U.S. forces kill about 360 Koreans. The next morning 5,000 more Koreans show up ready to fight to the death. The Marines left.

        1905 — Theodore Roosevelt tells Japan,. a country he absolutely loves, to take over Korea whenever they want to. That’s known as “Let’s you and him fight.” The Japanese build the first public schools in Korea and the first railroads,, drain the swamps, and marry off a royal princess to the crown prince of Korea. The Japanese are, of course, the “aggressors” for keeping Russia out of Korea at the cost of 100,000 dead in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 — which is what Theodore Roosevelt wanted them to do, since the Koreans and the Chinese (and the Americans) hated the Russians a lot more than they hated the Japanese. at that time..

        Very dangerous to write about international history unless one knows the languages or has reliable interpreters. The Japanese word for “German’ is “doits” which is how they pronounce “deutsch.” The Chinese word for “German” is pronounced “DEHR” with a falling inflection and means “honest.” This was, as you note, invented before Hermann Goering’s time.

  8. I knew people who lived next door to Tojo. The New York TIMES confirms that Tojo scrapped plans for a bubonic plague attack on San Diego because he thought it was uncivilized, Read Rana Mitter, who is Asian Indian, in FORGOTTEN ALLY, for Operation Ichi-Go. Read Judge Rahadbinod Pal of India for the provocation of Pearl Harbor, I served during the Viet Nam War — honorable discharge, two service medals,. not claiming to be a war hero — and I am unimpressed by any U.S. justifications of mass killing — remember, we were told that the NVA and VC had been wiped out before the Tet Offensive showed otherwise. I also tutored Boat People for five years and they told me the whole war was a blood feud and the peasants all supported Ho Chi Minh.
    RE internal takeovers: an older friend of mine who was decorated with the U.S. Marines told me, and actually believed, that Japanese would have killed all are POWs is we had not dropped the bombs. In fact, the Japanese lynched about 140 American slave after after the bombs hit — these men would otherwise have survived the war. Japanese don’t loiter before killing people — they kill them or they don’t. The Japanese had put surrender offers registered with the Vatican and the Swedes in 1944, THAT is a matter or record. The other stuff is justification for war crimes by very sketchy authors.. Iris Chang had the Japanese killing 300,000 Chinese in Nanking — there were 200,000 Chinese in Nanking, most of them survived, and many were photographed accepting Japanese food and medical assistance. Many later served in the Japanese Army. I know Chinese today (from Taiwan) who boast that their families fought for Japan. I know Chinese who have married Japanese and forget where they came from whenever possible….
    Skip the a-bomb justification — Holocaust Denial is illegal in Germany — and read OPERATION SNOW, STALIN’S SECRET AGENTS, or THE BATTLE OF BRETTON WOODS. That’s what made Pearl Harbor happen. The FBI declared Harry Dexter White a traitor in 1950 and the Russians confirmed it in the 1990s. Just look up SNEG on-line and put it though a Russian transat8ing program.

  9. PS: RE sketchy authors — a Japanese Communist named Seiji Yoshida wrote two books in Japan about how he had helped kidnap screaming Korean virgins to serve as “Comfort Women” for the Japanese Army. Yoshida confessed before he died that he made the whole thing up, and independent investigation by a South Korean woman journalist found NO evidence the kidnapping ever happened. The Japanese editor who printed Yoshida’s “fake news” in Asahi, a liberal newspaper, lost his job…

    …And American and Chinese Japan-bashers are still promoting the kidnapping story 18 years after the fabricator admitted he made it up and South Koreans who still hater Japan said it never happened.

    Look up SEIJI YOSHIDA on Wikipeida.

  10. Well said. The present appears to be an echo of the McCarthy Era, with the targets changed from imagined communists to imagined racists.

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