Are the Virginia Flaggers Now Irrelevant?

Today the Virginia Flaggers will dedicate yet another flagpole bearing the Confederate navy jack, this time along I-81 near Lexington, Virginia.

How many people really care? I know I don’t.

Of more interest to me is the notion that despite over forty-two months of picketing the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, complete with many, many pictures of Flaggers posing for effect (and a few embarrassing videos involving law enforcement and security), it appears unlikely that the VMFA will heed the cries of “Restore the Honor (sic)! Return the Flags (sic)!” directed at the decision to remove two small Confederate flags from the portico of the War Memorial Chapel. Forty-two months for two flags. Nor does it seem likely that the SCV chapter in question will decline to sign the agreement offered by the VMFA, which renders them complicit in the decision (note that the national organization of the SCV remains silent about the approaching lease renewal).

Several years ago the Virginia Flaggers received a lot of attention for their first effort to raise a flag along an interstate highway. The actual event proved to be something of a letdown and offered critics reasons to laugh. Since then the Flaggers have learned from their mistakes, making sure to find taller flagpoles and better viewsheds, while they have given way on the style of flag that is flown in most cases (one would honor the fighting men of the Army of Northern Virginia by flying the ANV’s battle flag, not other flags not associated with that army). The result is that people drive by those flags much like they drive by billboards: even if they notice a flag most people soon forget it. Realizing this, the Flaggers post photos of the flags whenever they can.

One assumes that their next preferred target is Charlottesville.

These flag raisings constitute the organization’s biggest (and some would say sole) accomplishments. Time and again the Flaggers have failed to carry the day across the commonwealth, whether it be with the VMFA, the Museum of the Confederacy, Washington and Lee University, or the Charlottesville City Council. Threats to initiate legal proceedings against organizations, institutions, and individuals have not resulted in any action. Rather, Flagger spokesperson Susan Hathaway no longer appears in front of the VMFA, having decided that discretion is the better part of valor. Norwood B. “TriPp” Lewis is busy playing with his drone. Other Flaggers save their best efforts to pose for photographer Judy Smith. Only in Danville did the Flaggers enjoy any success, and that was due to that city’s decision that the agreement they concluded with the SCV gave them no choice.

With the sesquicentennial drawing to a close, one expects that come this summer the media will no longer be quite so interested in the antics of the Virginia Flaggers. Oh, we can expect a few snippets of coverage in print and on video this weekend, but nothing major after that. It’s an easy story to cover, after all, next to a lost puppy or the opening of a new restaurant. Show video of flag going up, interview a few Flaggers, and perhaps give airtime to someone who disagrees with the display of the flag. But changing hearts and minds? Please. Educating the public about Confederate heritage? No way. Exhibiting symbols that even SCV proponents in the Texas licence plate case classify as “offensive speech”? Yup.

Even Flagger blogs have suffered. Unable to engage their critics, they simply chirp away, offering short-lived amusement to anyone but true believers. Were it not for signs that other Virginians do not share the Flaggers’ definition of heritage (such as it is), the Flaggers would be even less visible, for only the discussions in Danville and Charlottesville opened up an opportunity for protest. Other than erecting flagpoles and circulating photographs of their meager numbers outside the sight of their latest defeat, the Flaggers have no game, no plan, no way to get their message across.

We are well aware of the observation made by some that the Flaggers would fade away altogether were it not for the attention given them on several blogs, including this one. This, of course, comes with a contradiction: at times the Flaggers and their supporters discount the importance of such blogs (as do others), which renders such criticism meaningless. To say that these blogs give these people attention is to concede that these blogs have an audience that attracts wider attention that some people want to admit, and I for one accept the compliment. With the end of story lines in Danville, Charlottesville, and elsewhere, the only story worth following is the 2015 VMFA/SCV lease concerning the War Memorial Chapel. Thus we can anticipate a decrease in attention paid to the Virginia Flaggers (including on this blog), which can only serve to damage their cause. Even signs that the Flaggers continue to be irritated by what some people say to the point that their outrage prevents them from offering sensible counterarguments have lost their capability to amuse (take as an example their feeble efforts on Twitter to defend a flawed slogan). We’ll see what happens.

But raising flags is no longer raising awareness, and it no longer raises some people’s blood pressure … if it ever really did. After all, there were lots of Confederate flags at Appomattox … especially at Surrender Triangle.

14 thoughts on “Are the Virginia Flaggers Now Irrelevant?

  1. Eek-A-Mouse March 28, 2015 / 9:53 am

    Not so fast. I, for one, am looking forward to some good laughs when the SCV confab hits Richmond this July. Mr. Lewis is surely polishing his shades already, determined to make more enemies. Rumors on FB of a friendly-fire flagging when the SCV holds an event at the MOC/American Civil War Center at Tredegar (just another location where Red Leader is professionally obligated to make herself scarce). They might put a laser cannon on that drone yet!

  2. C. Meyer March 28, 2015 / 12:46 pm

    Today’s ceremony was a private event. I am guessing it was private so that they can use that excuse to push the notion that the small numbers in attendance was only because those were the invited folks. If it wasn’t private, the small number of devoted attendees would stand in sharp contrast to the lack of local citizens who did not attend.

  3. Ira Berkowitz March 28, 2015 / 1:37 pm

    These folks have always been very marginal reflecting a relative fringe in terms of the issues they advocate for and their approach to addressing those issues. The symbolism associated with their cause and the way they choose to present it stirs passions and understandably so. The result is that the Flaggers are able to draw attention to themselves from time to time. But overtime the stunts and hi-jinx have grown old and tired. In the end we are left with a sad group of folks who appear isolated and angry and unable to articulate any kind message that resonates or is meaningful anywhere beyond their own echo chamber.

  4. OhioGuy March 28, 2015 / 4:01 pm

    The only thing these large flag poles with the CBF (or Navy Jack) accomplish is to reinforce the belief among cultural bigots in the North who happen to be traveling down the road and see the flag that most southerners are racial bigots. This is quite an accomplishment to be proud of. It certainly projects a positive image of the New South. Oh, I forgot, these guys and gals want to live in the Old South with slaves to do their bidding and be their underclass.

    • Leo March 28, 2015 / 5:48 pm

      OhioGuy hit that one out of the park!

  5. Jessie Alan Sanford March 28, 2015 / 6:06 pm

    They must be doing something right they, they keep y’all’s tail feathers in a ruffle.

    • Brooks D. Simpson March 29, 2015 / 12:39 am

      Nah, Jessie, they amuse me … just like you amuse me. They’ve just gotten boring and predictable, that’s all. Now go run back to Backsass, because you just can’t share here what you say there. After all, Backsass is all about the lust of denigration, and you do your best to contribute to it.

      Here’s one of your more recent outbursts:

      Simpson and his followers are a sick lot, just like schoolyard bullies they like to gang up on someone just to make them fell superior and that their life has value.But thats ok one day life is going to reach out and bit them right in their rear end.
      For them to call you racist is like the pot calling the kettle black as has been pointed out on this blog they need to only look in the mirror to find a racist.

      At least you admit CC’s a racist. That’s a start.

    • Eek-A-Mouse March 30, 2015 / 5:51 am

      In the context of the billboards on that hill it now reads to me (l to r): Marse Robert’s TA Truck Stop, Some Flag, Iron Skillet and Burger King, Natural Bridge Zoo.

      Sounds about Right. Exit 205: Restore the Whopper!

  6. Brooks D. Simpson March 29, 2015 / 1:48 am

    “He couldn’t wait one day to express his, um, total indifference?”

    So says our favorite Confederate heritage fanatic. Actually, the post was composed before the event and appeared before the event. But please don’t let the truth get in the way of Confederate heritage’s “lust to denigrate.”

    What a dimwit.

  7. Al Mackey March 29, 2015 / 7:51 am

    By and large, it seems as if the news media has forgotten about them. The flag gig has gotten old from the media’s standpoint, I suppose. For all the noise they’ve made in the past, I’m at a loss to think of a single substantive change any of these flagger groups have made. The “Confederate Flaggers” Facebook group, which has many Virginia flaggers in it, is a closed group. I guess they’re scared of people finding out what they believe. Same for the Facebook group run by our friend in Pensacola.

  8. Leo March 30, 2015 / 8:40 am

    You are assuming these flagging groups want to be relevant. Judging from their tactics and history, I believe these flagging groups are more interested in getting in the faces of people who disagree with them or are offended by the Confederate battle flag than offering any positive solutions. They appear to have no interested in history or any form of compromise. They often site “the right to offend” as justification for their actions even though doing so harms their cause in the end.

    • Connie Chastain March 30, 2015 / 10:40 am

      Hi, Leo. I have an observation and some questions. First, just because one perceives that one’s face has been “gotten into” doesn’t mean the Flaggers are getting in one’s face. That could just be he perception of someone who disagrees with what they’re doing.

      Positive solutions to what? Compromise what?

      I’m not sure how you conceptualize “often” but could you provide some proof — links, preferably — of the Virginia Flaggers citing the right to offend? Not all Flagger groups are the same, and the focus on Mr. Simpson’s blog is overwhelmingly the Virginia Flaggers, so that’s who I’m asking about here, not other groups.

      I try to keep up with them as much as I can, but since I’m so far away, and I my contact with them is via the Internet, it’s possible that this has slipped past me. However, I’ve never seen them cite the right to offend, and I really wan to see at least one example of it. If they do it often, as you claim, it shouldn’t be difficult to provide one example, or several.

      I have seen heritage folks, including some Flaggers, say that being offended is not a right, and it is not justification for trying to silence others or mislabel and remove their beliefs and positions about their heritage. But that’s not the same thing as claiming the right to offend.

      • Brooks D. Simpson March 30, 2015 / 2:13 pm

        Note Chastain reproduced this comment on her blog, then declared: “Too bad Simpson won’t post it.”

        Oops. Lying again … too easy.

  9. Andy Hall March 30, 2015 / 10:12 am

    I believe these flagging groups are more interested in getting in the faces of people who disagree with them or are offended by the Confederate battle flag than offering any positive solutions.

    The highway flag project is about marking territory. That’s it. Anyone who’s ever owned a tomcat understands what’s going on there.

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