A Receding Tide? Flagging Interest in Confederate Heritage

We are coming upon forty days since a person fond of the Confederate flag gunned down nine people in cold blood in a church in Charleston, South Carolina. Within days outrage and anger about that event became transformed into a rather testy debate over Confederate heritage and its symbols, with South Carolina’s decision to remove the Confederate flag from the state house grounds in Columbia marking a important moment.

Of course, the debate did not stop there. People argued about removing the Confederate flag from license plates, famous TV cars, and National Park shops; there were discussions about moving (or simply removing) statues and one pair of bodies. As might be expected, defenders of Confederate heritage rose up in opposition and did their best to suggest that they were making up ground, although several of these protests were somewhat less impressive than their supporters claimed. For example, at its height a protest in Fredericksburg, Virginia, drew less than three thousand hundred dozen people, as this film suggests … and not a lot of people were paying any attention:

By the way, my understanding is that this was not a Virginia Flaggers function … too many people for that. But I also understand that 149 people promised to show up. Desertion remains a Confederate tradition.

By now we have a pretty good idea about what will happen. The once-surging tide will now begin to recede … not because Confederate heritage advocates have prevailed (they have lost serious ground) but because people soon get interested in other things. What happened in Columbia remains the emotional high point of this recent controversy. As many people pointed out, at most it was a first step in addressing far more serious questions. But it did not mark an end to gun violence, as we’ve seen since then; it did not mark an end to racism or to white supremacy; and in fact it remains to be seen whether the discussion that commenced on the heels of the Charleston murders will persist before people grow tired of it or turn their attention to the Kardashians or Donald Trump. Certainly the debates have grown predictable once more (and a little boring); while I expect to see a few more flashpoints in the fight over Confederate heritage in the coming weeks, I think the front is stabilizing, so to speak, as people sort out gains and losses.

This is not to minimize the importance of the discussion, merely its persistence. While the participants may continue to argue, the attention-span of the broader American public, always short, will decline absent another vivid event. Some people swept up in the initial fervor that looked as if it would sweep everything before it will find that there are other things to talk about, and it remains to be seen how many proposals will be acted upon. More will happen than one might have anticipated two months ago, but less than one hoped (or feared) might happen three weeks ago.

What do you think? What really happened over the last forty days? What will persist? What has changed? You tell me.

15 thoughts on “A Receding Tide? Flagging Interest in Confederate Heritage

  1. Rblee22468 July 27, 2015 / 4:39 am

    The best part of the video is that it is slowed down so that you can get a good luck at how many, errr, scratch that, how few there were.

    These Northern Virginia rallies are in essence LOSer rallies. They are not being billed that way publicly, for good reason, but behind the scenes the LOSers are organizing them. The media has for the most part been failing to do any type of fact checking or serious scrutiny of those involved with the organization. Although, the American Free Press has noted that the organizer is a member of a hate group, especially damning, as that is coming from a newspaper founded by a well known hater, Willis Carto.

  2. Sandi Saunders July 27, 2015 / 5:30 am

    I think the only thing that has really changed is the tacit government approval and acceptance. The best outcome will be some new verbiage on plaques and monuments but the major battle, the flag on statehouses and license plates appears to be decided. I do not see removing much else and certainly no one is going to pry the flag from the fingers of whomever for whatever reason they fly it. They are out-numbered so mostly people don’t care or simply support the First Amendment.

  3. Leo July 27, 2015 / 6:08 am

    ” … Desertion remains a Confederate tradition. …”

    You made me spit out my morning coffee with that jewel.

  4. bob carey July 27, 2015 / 12:56 pm

    Brooks,
    I believe that there were some positives that occurred because of the tragedy in Charleston. The removal of the CBF from the capitol grounds being the most obvious. I also think that the exposure given to the “heritage” groups have hurt them severely. Their feeble attemps in defense of the CBF being on the grounds of the capitol only showed the foolhardiness of their position. However I think the larger issue has been barely discussed, and that is the ability of these extremist organizations to reach a larger audience through the use of social media. I remember a book that was required reading in a high school course I took, “The Medium is the Massage” by Marshall McLuhan where he warned about the dangers of mass media and it’s intoxicating effects on the public, and he was only dealing with TV and radio. My thoughts are not meant to be an indictment of social media (afterall where else could a retired Civil War buff from NY communicate with a history professor from Arizona) but I do think the issue should be discussed.
    I too enjoyed the desertion comment.

  5. Jim Vines July 27, 2015 / 2:45 pm

    Football season starts soon so that will diminish interest. The Confederate heritage has been diminishing for years and will continue, bit at a slower pace.

    • bob carey July 28, 2015 / 3:53 am

      If Texas does secede, as some folk down there have advocated, would that mean that the Longhorns, Aggies , Hornfrogs etc would not be eligible for the national championship? I can live with that but can Texans .

      • Jimmy Dick July 28, 2015 / 10:23 am

        The Dallas Cowboys could secede and form their own league with the Houston Texans and still have a less than 50% chance to be national champions.

  6. Jim July 27, 2015 / 9:29 pm

    The Anthony Hervey funeral is Sun at 2 in Oxford MS. There appears to be an all hands call for reenactors and SCV types to attend. It will be interesting to watch what the attendance is.

    • The Lamp July 28, 2015 / 6:32 am

      I imagine it will go something like this…

    • Andy Hall July 28, 2015 / 9:22 am

      More than that, the odious Kirk Lyons is soliciting donations to his law office to organize a formal, Confederate military funeral for Mr. Hervey. Lyons says any remaining monies will be passed along to Mr. Hervey’s widow, but — it would seem — staging a Confederate funeral is first priority.

        • bob carey July 29, 2015 / 4:20 am

          How much does a Confederate funeral cost nowadays?

          • Andy Hall July 29, 2015 / 4:14 pm

            A good bit, apparently. Lyons says he’s raised $2,600, but “we are going to need a lot more.”

          • The Lamp July 29, 2015 / 8:56 pm

            Grifters gotta grift

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