Karen Cooper, Confederate Heritage Celebrity

Yesterday I received an e-mail from a producer at CNN asking for Karen Cooper’s contact information. Apparently Don Lemon wanted to interview her. I thought this was an odd, even clueless inquiry, given what I have written about Ms. Cooper, but then this is Don Lemon’s producer, right? Given that Lemon sometimes comes across as clueless, I should not have been surprised.

This morning I received another inquiry about using material posted on the blog for a story on Ms. Cooper that’s about to appear. Once more, I was puzzled. What was going on?

A quick trip to a handy search engine revealed why. Karen Cooper’s become a celebrity, making her the ideal subject for sensational and superficial reporting. She’s become Confederate heritage’s answer to Kim Kardashian.

Here’s Ms. Cooper profiled in Salon. The reporter, picking up on Ms. Cooper’s now famous claim that slavery was a choice made by black people, asks:

Given that she just declared “death” the only viable response to slavery, it is somewhat odd that she then referred to herself as a “slave of the federal government,” saying that “I can’t smoke what I want to smoke, I can’t drink what I want to drink. If I want to put something into my body, it’s my body — not theirs. That’s tyranny!”

Of course, this is not the first time a Virginia Flagger has employed inconsistent logic in the effort to portray oneself as a victim.

But wait … there’s more. Take Guns.com. Or the New York Daily News. There’s the Washington Post. BET. The Inquisitr. The Independent (not a very independent report, as it comes from the Post). The Root (where’s John Stauffer when you need him … and we’re waiting for Skip Gates to chime in). At Cocoafab, the report offered this rather ungracious headline: “Crazy Black Woman Defends Confederate Flag and Slavery.” The Mirror includes reactions to the story.

CNN may be late to the party. Certainly The Daily Mail was.

Most of this reporting is rooted in the circulation of a documentary video highlighted on this blog. I hope the filmmaker’s enjoying the attention and getting the credit for the work.

What does this flurry of attention tell us? Not much, I’m afraid. The pack mentality of an insipid media increasingly devoted to recycling each other’s stories continues, as does an absolute failure of journalistic curiosity. As for the story itself, Ms. Cooper’s comments make it painfully clear that her interest in the flag stems not from a desire to honor the service of Confederate soldiers and sailors, but from a desire to make a political statement about her views today as she seeks acceptance from her fellow travellers.  That the media can’t figure that out is testimony to its mediocrity.

At least Ms. Cooper’s receiving the attention that so many of her fellow flaggers crave.

The View From the Sidelines: Scholarship and Activism

Some bloggers like to blog. Other bloggers often blog about their fellow bloggers. This begets a process whereby still other bloggers have to decide whether they want to blog about bloggers blogging about bloggers.

It’s an occupational hazard. I don’t particularly care for it, but there are times I believe there’s something worthwhile to say. I’m not sure whether that’s the case in the following instance, but we all make mistakes. Had it not been for a fellow blogger, indeed, the posts that provoked my curiosity would have passed by unnoticed by me altogether.

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An Opportunity For Advocates of Confederate Heritage

You may have heard that the Ku Klux Klan is planning a protest in Columbia, South Carolina, later this month.  A spokesman for the group has spoken out in support of the man who last month slaughtered nine African-Americans in cold blood in a church in Charleston.

It is time for all those advocates of Confederate heritage who tell me that it’s all about heritage, not hate, to stand up and be counted.

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Return From Europe

I’ve just returned from nearly three weeks in Europe, much of which was devoted to visiting battlefields and historic sites. I spent several days at Waterloo, and walked the field all day on the 200th anniversary of the battle on June 18; I also visited in turn Bastogne, Quatre Bras (also on the 200th anniversary of the action there), Ligny (ditto), Ghent, Flanders, Ypres, Vimy Ridge, the Somme, Cambrai, Reims, Verdun, Chateau-Thierry, the Meuse-Argonne, St. Mihiel, and Metz, before returning to my point of departure, Luxembourg City. It was a busy trip, and it took a day or so to recover fully from over 24 hours of continuous travel.

I’ll be posting my reflections on what I saw in the next several weeks: although I kept up with administering this blog despite uncertain internet connections, I decided to approach the events at Charleston and its aftermath with some caution as well as curiosity for how the story would play out. I’m pleased with that decision, because I think that for me, given where I was, prudence and restraint paid off. However, I know that there were people who wondered what was going on (or why I wasn’t speaking out more frequently on whatever they wanted to hear). I preferred in this instance to watch from afar and select my spots. After all, other historians were quite visible, including several who had not taken part in previous debates about Confederate heritage; moreover, judging from site hits and posts read, I know that this blog served as a resource for others curious about aspects of this discussion. Whether that makes me a “content blogger” is another matter altogether. :)

Should You Be Able to Buy a Confederate Flag?

One of the ramifications of the events of the last several weeks is the decision of many retailers and resellers not to stock Confederate flags for sale. This is, of course, their right, and the people who are complaining about this (and thus implicitly think that some outlets should be forced to carry such items … so much for private enterprise and freedom of choice, folks) miss the point (of course, some of these folks are the same folks who think bakers should not be forced to provide wedding cakes for same-sex marriages, but then consistent logic has never been their strong suit). After all, other providers will still market an assortment of Confederate flags, and we know there will be buyers.

Yet, as we seek some clarity and clear thinking about recent discussions, I think it’s a fair question to ask: should one be allowed to purchase such items? There is, of course, a good argument to be made that one should be allowed to do so (and I’m in that camp). However, if we do see these flags as symbols of hate, when why allow them on the market?

As for myself, I had my eye on a replica of the banner of the 28th North Carolina to purchase for my wife, who had an ancestor serve in that regiment, but I can no longer find it (it disappeared from eBay). I’m sure this will astonish some of my (mindless) critics, who will ignore that statement in their rush to characterize me in whatever way suits their agenda. But I do notice that the Virginia Flaggers were making a lot of noise about raising yet another flag just before the Charleston murders took place (and they did raise it, working alongside another Confederate heritage group recently denounced by the Virginia Division of the CSA). Since then, it’s been rather quiet.

Notes on the Confederate Flag Controversy

It has been an interesting month. We have witnessed changes that would have seemed improbable not all that many years ago. Here are a few observations concerning the controversy over Confederate flags, symbols, and icons:

1. It remains regrettable that it took the murder of nine people in cold blood for Americans to have this discussion. The debating points have been out there for some time.

2. For all the chatter in some quarters about this debate being driven by left liberal Marxist Southern-hating politically-correct academics and their allies in the evil executive branch of the federal government, the politicans who have made the key decisions in several prominent instances were at one time the darlings of the heritage crowd. Nikki Haley, Lindsey Graham, and Mitch McConnell are not favorites of the radical liberal movement. Neither is the current president of the College of Charleston. The heritage folks may find it difficult to understand how those they once trusted came to betray them, but then they also confuse political correctness with political pragmatism. I don’t believe these politicans experienced a change of heart: however, they know how to count votes.

3. Confederate heritage organizations have proven to be utter failures in achieving their objectives. The ranting and whining remain unchanged, as has the anger and ill-concealed bigotry in many corners. Ben Jones, the chief of heritage operations for the SCV, has proved unable to chart a new path, precisely because he, too, held fast to the traditional mantras. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, Ben. I did. As for the various flagging organizations and their cheerleaders, they seem overwhelmed, ineffective, and confused.

4. However, there is hope for these folks. That rests in the overreaction in some quarters as well as the incidents of vandalism against CSA monuments. More on that later.


Prevarication in Pensacola

During the past several weeks we’ve seen a whirlwind of activity concerning Confederate flags, symbols, and icons. Some of the discussion has been thoughtful, while other treatments have not. Some proposals have made sense, while others smack of bizarre overreaction.

Defenders of Confederate symbols have been remarkably unable to defend their positions, in past because they have failed to articulate those positions in the first place. They have been reduced to seeing their efforts blown away … gone with the wind, if you will.

Of particular interest is that it appears that once more authorities in Pensacola, Florida, have changed their mind about displaying the Confederate flag. We await the revival of the Gulf Coast Flaggers … er, West Florida Flaggers (sic) … as the battle returns to the sidewalks of this Florida community.

Down It Comes … Now What?

It certainly looks like the days of the Confederate Battle Flag flying on the grounds of the state house in Columbia, South Carolina are numbered. This is in large part due to prominent South Carolina political leaders changing positions under pressure given the recent mass murder in the state.

No one can deny that. The arguments concerning the display of that particular flag are neither more nor less valid than before. Nor will the flag’s removal silence white supremacists and Confederate heritage advocates (especially those who have freely associated with white supremacists).

So, what’s next? Will this debate subside or continue, as people look to other uses of Confederate icons and symbols? Is this simply about a flag that is as much a symbol of resistance to civil rights and equality as it was a symbol for soldiers whose performance on the battlefield might have secured the independence of a republic founded upon the cornerstone of white supremacy and inequality?

One thing is clear: it has not been a good ten days for Confederate heritage advocates. Between licence plates, several SCV divisions rebuking other Confederate heritage groups for outrageous and childish behavior, and the fallout from Charleston, it may be that in 2015 people marked the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War by doing to Confederate heritage what Grant and Sherman did to the Confederacy itself in 1865.