Debating DiLorenzo: An Ideal Discussion

In our final dissection of Thomas DiLorenzo’s comments in a 2008 C-SPAN interview with Brian Lamb, we learn of a conference that Dr. DiLorenzo liked and indeed helped organize:

LAMB: Andrew Ferguson wrote about a meeting you had in Richmond, what was that?

DILORENZO: In Richmond? Well, we had the – after my book came out it created quite a – I had a lot of fan mail, thousands and thousands of e-mails from all over the world and it created a lot of controversy and I’ve been in a couple of debates with some well known Lincoln scholars. And so we put on an academic conference in Richmond, we thought it would be a good thing to do and we had six or seven academics talking about different aspects of Lincoln. And we put it on at a hotel in Richmond. It was a very low cost event. It was at the old John Marshall Hotel in downtown Richmond which was being renovated at the time.

We had over 300 people attendance on a beautiful spring day in April on a Saturday.

LAMB: What year?

DILORENZO: This was – I guess this was – I think it was ’04, I’m pretty sure it was ’04. And so we had a big attendance. And we had, I think, seven academics gives speeches, give talks, and then we had a 90 minute question-and-answer session at the end. And I thought it was all very educational and very stimulating. A lot of people from Washington, D.C. drove down to Richmond to see this event and Andrew Ferguson wrote about it. I was kind of disappointed in him though he said almost nothing about the substance of what was said in our conference but he did mention it in his book.

LAMB: Now did you try to balance your conference out? Or did you do the same thing you accuse the others of doing?

DILORENZO: No, our conference is the balance.

LAMB: The whole conference?

DILORENZO: Yes. When we opened it up, there was an open question-and-answer session after each presentation and there were 300 people in the audience. And then we left an extra hour-and-a-half at the end just to ask any question of any of the speakers. And so I’ve never been to a conference dominated by the Lincoln scholars that did that. They never seemed to let people like myself have an hour-and-a-half to interrogate them about their views. And so, I thought, that would be our way of doing this. And I personally I was the organizer of the conference along with two or three other people. But, I didn’t have much of a taste for inviting many of these people after they had treated me so shabbily like the History Channel example is one.

Croossroads Comments:  First, Dr. DiLorenzo does not like Andrew Ferguson, who described the conference in question.  Second, although Dr. DiLorenzo frequently observes that he’s not welcome among Lincoln scholars (although he does admit to debating them), he did not feel moved to invite them to his conference.  Somehow he knows what happens at the conferences Lincoln scholars put on … but I’ve never encountered him at a meeting of the Abraham Lincoln Association.  Maybe I missed when he came.  I do know that this year, there was a 90-minute round table where people asked questions of Jonathan Earle, Jonathan White, Russell McClintock, Michael Holt, and myself, and that two years ago I participated in two round tables during the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth at Springfield.

What strikes me is that DiLorenzo admits that he stacked the deck at his own conference but then calls it “the balance.”  Then again, he makes mention again of how Lincoln scholars used the History Channel to conspire against him.  I remain curious as to what real evidence he has for this claim.

Thomas DiLorenzo has written a great deal on Lincoln, largely by repeating his claims as if mere repetition is sufficient to establish veracity and truth.  I’ve looked at this interview because readers of several blogs wanted someone to hold his assertions up to the light and see what’s there.  There isn’t much.  However, what remains remarkable to me about this interview is the amount of time spent by DiLorenzo in describing a cult that is conspiring to prevent truthtellers such as himself from getting the word out about the real Abraham Lincoln …  aided by, of course, the History Channel.

Oh well.  I hope you learned something.

13 thoughts on “Debating DiLorenzo: An Ideal Discussion

  1. Frank March 4, 2011 / 12:42 pm

    In the course of this discussion I’ve learned…

    – That Abraham Lincoln is beyond reproach because, he, well, you know, stated that he wanted slaveoWNeras to be KICKED TO DEATH!!1&$!! and Freedrick Dougrilass, because he’s TRUTH and anyone else like De Lorenzo is a LIaRE who LIES AND IS EVIL because he just is and must get through DOUGLASSS’s TRUTH first. And Lincoln’s KICKING to death, which is worse than just kicking because death is DEATH!

    – That DiLorenzo is an evil neo-confederate slaveocrat who is linked by way of David Livingstone, apparently sometime after his famed meeting with Stanley, to the Abbeville Institute, which in turn is linked to Clyde Wilson who is linked to the League of the South which, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, held a meeting at Golden Coral sometime in the 1990’s that advocated secessionism, proving that it is really just a giant cover outfit for the Ku Klux Klan to clear the way for them to lynch black people again.

    – That there’s no such thing as a Lincoln cult and criticism of Lincoln is thoroughly welcomed and embraced by the Lincoln community as a normal and friendly component of scholarly dialogue, but DiLorenzo is an unprofessional agenda driven quote cherry-picking hack who is worse than Lee Harvey Oswald for criticizing Lincoln and what he does to Lincoln’s legacy…and probably deserving of being KICKED TO DEArTH!!#$@! like a SLAVE-ownreer, who Lincoln PERFECTLY described as deserving a KICKING! To DEATH!

    – And that none of the above could ever remotely be considered evidence of either (1) cultish behavior surrounding Lincoln or (2) anything less than a welcoming embrace of criticism towards Lincoln, even though it all occurred in the course of a discussion about whether DiLorenzo had a valid reason to complain that such tendencies existed.

    Oh, and anyone who points that out must simply be “obsessed” with the comments section, and not really contributing to the discussion in that comments section even though it was occurring by way of those very same comments.

    All said, it’s been an interesting experiment to observe.

    • Brooks D. Simpson March 4, 2011 / 1:12 pm

      Actually, you’ve shown us the challenges of the participant-observer, especially one who does so much to shape the environment one claims to observe.

      • Frank March 4, 2011 / 1:28 pm

        Participants inherently shape a discussion, hence the root “discuss.” I simply find the course of this one amusing in that it has illustrated many of the same points the series set out to refute, putting DiLorenzo far closer to the mark than others drawing conclusions from it would care to admit.

        • Brooks D. Simpson March 4, 2011 / 1:42 pm

          Actually, your participation illustrated one of the central points that the series set out to prove: when someone (such as yourself) can’t deal with content, you turn toward attacking people. You’ve illustrated the sort of mindset that sees conspiracies where there are none, and attacks people because one can’t refute arguments. I appreciate that. It’s been very helpful.

          • Frank March 4, 2011 / 2:08 pm

            Show me where you took on the content of either of DiLorenzo’s Lincoln books. They are not without fault. But I don’t see a single attempt in your entire series to critique either of them.

            Instead you chose an ad hoc interview on C-Span where the host also happened to choose a line of questioning that focused overwhelmingly on personalities in the larger Lincoln criticism debate. Whether DiLorenzo is to be faulted for taking that bait is another issue, but I’m at a loss as to how you could have expected your discussion of that interview to focus on anything other than – surprise! – personalities.

          • Brooks D. Simpson March 4, 2011 / 2:36 pm

            Thank you for sharing your opinion. Evidently you have nothing to say in defense of Dr. DiLorenzo’s scholarship. Other blog entries have dealt with several of his claims. I don’t know how you overlooked them. Nevertheless, thank you for sharing.

  2. Chuck Brown March 4, 2011 / 12:48 pm

    You are much too kind to DiLorenzo, Brooks.

  3. James F. Epperson March 4, 2011 / 1:16 pm

    Thanks for doing this, Brooks. I’m wondering if you will hear from DiLorenzo. Anyway, I will post links to these blog entries on my DiLorenzo site tonight.

  4. Chuck Brown March 4, 2011 / 1:36 pm

    I appreciate you taking the time to look at DiLorenzo “assertions” objectively. It’s great to read the views of an academic historian. I have seen some websites devoted to DiLorenzo “arguments,” , one of which examines The Real Lincoln nearly line by line, but you are the first professional historian to do so.

  5. Chuck Brown March 4, 2011 / 1:37 pm

    Another typo, Frank. “DiLorenzo’s,” not “DiLorenzo.”

  6. Richard March 4, 2011 / 2:33 pm

    This has been a fascinating series to read. It has been great seeing how you analyze and respond to his comments with well thought-out comments.

  7. Roger E Watson March 4, 2011 / 5:23 pm

    “Oh well. I hope you learned something.”

    Not just something but a lot !! I read the entire Ferguson article and it was very enlightening. Thanks for all the work you put into providing us with this blog.

  8. Brian Hampton March 4, 2011 / 7:47 pm

    This has been quite illuminating. Thank you for taking the time to do it.

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