Hysteria and Hypocrisy at Old Virginia Blog

By now nearly anyone with access to the outside world has heard how President Donald J. Trump has once more managed to mangle nineteenth-century American history by offering a rather tortured interpretation of Andrew Jackson and the coming of the Civil War. That the president asserts that no one every asks why there was a Civil War and why the issues at stake were not settled short of armed conflict demonstrates that he is not familiar with either historical scholarship or blogs, although there may be room for him in some discussion groups.

There’s no reason to harvest President Trump’s low-hanging fruit once more. I accept that respected historians know more about the Civil War than does our 45th president. They also know more about Andrew Jackson, Frederick Douglass, and Susan B. Anthony. What I noticed, however, is that those bloggers who pretend that they are writing about heritage and/or history in a never-ending battle against the hypocrisy of the left or “political correctness” have remained rather silent about this latest presidential stumble.

Why is that worthy of note? Consider this:

OVB 01

It seems that the author of Old Virginia Blog, Richard Williams, is arguing that because other blogs did not seize upon this tweet, interpret as he has as a sign of Chelsea Clinton’s stupidity, and so on, that those blogs are really no more than the expressions of the political opinions and philosophy of their authors (which, as he freely admits, is what he’s all about … see here):

ovb 02

Note that Mr. Williams has declared that he’s not a historian, just a writer who writes about history (in order, it appears, to show his biases and push an agenda that may or may not have anything to do with understanding the past). Assess the worth of what he has to say with that caveat in mind.

Thus, we can conclude from what this blogger has declared that either he agrees with Trump’s historical analysis or that he’s chosen not to hold President Trump to the same standard he holds Chelsea Clinton. We can also conclude from what he says that he doesn’t hold himself to the same standards of blogging that he applies to bloggers he does not like because of what he presumes to be their political preferences (he never actually documents those preferences: indeed, reading Williams’s blog reminds me of reading Trump’s Twitter feed).

In other words, Richard Williams is either incompetent when it comes to American history, or he is a hypocrite about his blogging practices (or he could be both).

Remember, after all, his rather shoddy practices when it came to this case.  There’s been no change (and yes, he reads this blog).

Who’s dishonest and cowardly? Ahem. What we have here is a case of someone projecting their own shortcomings, prejudices, and severely limited integrity and honesty upon others, and then parading about the result as a sign of his own self-professed virtue.

Compare this to what Bill O’Reilly said about the president’s recent ranting:

ovb 04

At least Bill O’Reilly stood up for his hero, while Richard Williams remained cowardly in his hypocritical silence. One might conclude that O’Reilly possesses more integrity than Williams. That’s saying something.

But that’s not all. Several months ago Williams felt compelled to offer this observation:

OVB 03

Now, I don’t know who these “moral reformer historians” are, but then Williams has a reputation for erecting strawmen in his imagination before posting about them as points of departure for various rants. But let’s apply his logic to a matter far more important than the defacing of a statue to Thomas Jefferson. Using Williams’s own logic, aren’t advocates of Confederate heritage who espouse those beliefs in advance their own agendas also at least “partly” responsible for Dylann Roof’s decision to gun down members of an African American church in Charleston, South Carolina?

Note I have never made this argument. But it seems consistent with Richard Williams’s logic, or what he believes passes for logic. If “moral reformer historians” are “partly” responsible for the painted blood on Jefferson’s hands, who’s “partly” responsible for the real blood on Dylann Roof’s hands?

Well, according to what Williams says … if one connects the dots a la Williams …

Is there a cause and effect? Just asking.

Advertisements

Research Question: How Reliable is Richard Williams’s Old Virginia Blog?

Had it not been for Kevin Levin, I probably would never have heard of Richard Williams’s Old Virginia Blog, which over the years has become better known for its author’s rants about political correctness (as well as his distain for certain blogs, including this one) than for anything having to do with the study of the American past. During that time Williams has abdicated offering original commentary in favor of presenting his blog as a largely uncritical clipping service of conservative news sources supplimented by his own distinctive prose stylings. Readers of his blog (which will now most assuredly reach double digits) already know of his boasting that proclaim his subjectivity and bias is superior to everyone else’s (Williams believes that one’s political position explains nearly everything about them and how they see the world, although only he really knows what they think), as well as his assumption that people who don’t post about what he thinks they should post about are part of some left-wing (and usually Marxist) conspiracy to upend American values, which he thinks are best reflected through the experiment in Confederate independence.

Or so some might say.

So let’s test this proposition and in the process assess Mr. Williams’s blog by exploring his most recent post, reproduced below:

polston OVB

This is his only post on this news item. For the item to which he links, look here.

So, folks … let’s do a little research, and see whether this post is complete, sufficient, and accurate in understanding the incident it purports to highlight. Tell us what you find and how what you find might alter your understanding of the story as presented by Mr. Williams.

Oh, yes, and then be on the lookout for the whailing and whining that are sure to follow from Virginia Whine Country.

Enjoy.

Ben Carson Clarifies … Kinda

Ben Carson took a lot of flak for a comment he made about slavery and immigration on Monday. In turn, when I highlighted his comment, some readers of this blog, reflecting their own assumptions, went off on what I conclude was a Rorschach test of reading and reacting to blog posts.

Even Ben Carson understood he had to clarify what he meant. On his Facebook page, he did so:

Carson FB slavery

If only he had stopped there … because, afterwards, in chatting with Armstrong Williams, a conservative commentator, Carson observed: “Slaves came here as involuntary immigrants.” That drew renewed criticism in some corners.

I’m inclined to give Carson the benefit of the doubt here, because the modifier represents an important advance. The same could be said of the formulation Barack Obama used, because, contrary to some careless readers (I’m being kind here), he did not simply declare that slaves were immigrants.

In short, Dr. Carson now admits he could have spoken better, and he’s offered observations that ought to be heeded by his defenders here and elsewhere. Let’s see whether they are as big as he is, or whether they wish to go the way of, say, someone who resides in Virginia Whine Country, where heritage correctness and right-wing opinions always trump historical accuracy and objectivity in what amounts to a mindless clipping service of the blogger’s referred political reading pretending to be a blog about history.

Silly Season is Underway

One of the amusements of blogging is the knowledge that some people who really don’t like you are among the most faithful readers of your blog. You learn this when you see that there is a surge of incoming traffic from a blog that you may not hold in high regard, and a check of the link leads you to another elaborate denunciation of your blog for its open partisanship, commitment to political correctness, or whatever tends to offend these overly-sensitive folk who ventured forth from their intellectual and emotional safe space to see what other people were saying. Indeed, some blogs probably would not exist or have even smaller audiences than they currently enjoy were it not for this desire to draw attention to themselves in front of their fan base.

(Note: that’s one reason I don’t link to these blogs. Let them earn their own hits. I know they’ll come here anyway.)

We can expect more of this cross-blog commentary as we enter the heart of the presidential election contest. Politicians love to draw upon historical images and comparisons to make their points, and every presidential election offers case studies in the use and misuse of history, the state of historical memory, and the propensity of some people who claim to be historians to render their fledgling efforts at historical understanding primarily through the lens of political partisanship.

Take a recent whiny complaint from someone whose obsession with left-wing academics (a redundancy in his mind) and political correctness overwhelms what might be considered useful observation and information. Apparently we now know that the political season is upon us because of a surge in posts attacking Republicans, and only Republicans: “They prove it by only doing this type of thing to Republican candidates. And the virtue-signalling is extremely nauseating.”

I guess I struck a nerve.

We note that this protest appeared just a week after a post appeared declaring “Why Progressives Love Abraham Lincoln & Why Conservatives Don’t Undertsand Him.” I’ve retained the original spelling. Oh, no politics here, right? That’s surrounded by three more posts, two reflecting this blogger’s obsession with political correctness and another about protesters bearing Soviet flags outside the Democratic National Convention, something, the blogger asserts, should warm the hearts of “moral reformer” historians.

Now that we’ve established which blog is primarily an exercise in political commentary, we can test its claims for historical accuracy. The blogger appears to be upset that comments to various entries here that talk about how politicians use (and misuse) history are simply political commentary (and thus that the posts to which these comments allude were framed to elicit such commentary, betraying the nefarious motives of the blogger). One need only to examine the comments section of the blog in question to realize that this is just another case of the pot calling the kettle black (given the propensities of some of the commenters over there, “black” will drive them nuts). What people say is what people say. But to see in others what one does note recognize in oneself is telling.

But does this blog restrict itself to commenting on Republican candidates’ misuse of history? The record suggests otherwise. This blog commented on Hillary Clinton’s flawed commentaries on Reconstructiontwice. Nor would it be true the say that we don’t follow up on stories concerning Republicans who take positions where it’s assumed that we agree with them. This blog also followed up on leads that suggested that an advocate of removing the Confederate flag from the grounds of the South Carolina state house may have misstated the facts when she claimed to be descended from Confederate president Jefferson Davis (suffice it to say that the post in question received substantial traffic with the politician in question ran for office and lost).

In short, these are issues of historical accuracy, not political correctness. We conclude that either the critic is incompetent or dishonest. Which is the case, and why that’s the case, we leave to others to decide.

We do notice, however, that while the critic is loud about the supposed faults of others, we have yet to see any commentary on the critic’s blog about the historical shortcomings of his heroes. I bet you didn’t know that there were twelve articles in the Constitution, although Donald Trump (another not-so-well-informed foe of political correctness) says he will defend Article Twelve. And we are surprised that a man who wants to share with us how well a certain Confederate general treated his slaves had nothing to say when Bill O’Reilly asserted that the slaves who helped build the White House were treated rather well. But does our critic note such lapses? No. He’s practicing his own form of political correctness, I guess.

In short, someone who complains that certain blogs are partisan forums without admitting that his blog is indeed slanted for political and philosophical reasons is something of a hypocrite who lacks integrity. But did we really expect anything else?

Talk about “virtue-signalling.”

We admit, however, that we are amused to hear that this blog and other blogs are “nauseating” for this poor critic. We suggest that the best remedy for this particular reaction is to cease reading such blogs. Exercise some self control, please. As for me, I find such whiny rants amusing. I have indeed struck a nerve, and, it appears, more. To point out someone’s incompetence, hypocrisy, dishonesty, and lack of integrity is to fill an empty net with pucks. But whenever I come across such tripe, I’m reminded of this:

Lighten up, Francis.

PS: Yes, we expect to hear from the offended party that he’s endeavoring to prepare a forthcoming reply. Invariably these promises are never fulfilled. That was the case a few weeks ago with another blog, and it’s been the case with me several times.

 

Even More Ranting …

Several readers of this blog have drawn my attention to yet another rant about me from an unhappy fellow blogger.

Brooks Simpson is a paragon for an underlying fault among many academic historians identified by Harvard’s Gordon Wood that might explain why Simpson thinks publishers have been “duped” into issuing my books and articles:

… many historians have become obsessed with inequality and white privilege in American society. And this obsession has seriously affected the writing of American history. The inequalities of race and gender now permeate much of academic history-writing, so much so that the general reading public that wants to learn about the whole of our nation’s past has had to turn to history books written by nonacademics who have no Ph.D.s and are not involved in the incestuous conversations of the academic scholars.

Really?

Continue reading

A Confederate Heritage Apologist Shares His Understanding of History: Phil Leigh

Phil Leigh is a very funny person posing as a student of the American Civil War. He’s duped other people and publishers into believing the same thing. Writing about history allows him to get something off his chest, and he can become very unhappy when someone reveals that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about and that what he says reveals that he holds some beliefs and prejudices that might not make him a very appealing person … unless, of course, you are a fellow Confederate heritage apologist in a state of constant denial (with a bitter edge) when it comes to African Americans.

Continue reading

The Memphis Massacre of 1866: A Conference Blog

Readers of this blog will recall that not long ago I mentioned the Memphis Massacre of 1866 (also known as the Memphis Riot of 1866, although the reasons for the renaming are of interest) in examining a rather badly-flawed attempt to discuss the event and its implications.

It seems only right and proper to direct you now to a blog bringing together and reporting on the results of a recent conference on the event. Click here to go there. I guarantee you’ll learn something.

I think this is a wonderful way to share the scholarship presented at a conference by people who know what they are talking about, and I believe more conferences should follow suit.

Republicans and Black Suffrage During Reconstruction

Phil Leigh’s upset. Having had his essay on the Memphis Riots shredded in this blog, he complains that I’ve failed  “to address the central question of whether black suffrage in the South was more important to Radical Republicans as a matter of morality or as a tool to sustain the Party’s political power.”

Generally speaking, that’s not the central question people choose to explore when they discuss the wholesale slaughter of African Americans, including US Army veterans, by an out-of-control white supremacist mob egged on by local leaders. But Mr. Leigh would rather not tell you whether white southerners who opposed Reconstruction killed African Americans for political advantage or simply because they were vile racists. After all, in his mind it was the murderers who were the victims, not the murdered.

Continue reading

A Massacre of History

On May 1, 1866, a mob of whites in Memphis, Tennessee, attacked blacks in the city. The violence continued through May 2 and ended only after federal forces intervened on May 3. By that time some forty-six blacks were dead, while only two whites died; five women had been raped, and a significant number of people were injured. You can read a summary of the event here. Blogger Patrick Young has written on both the riot and the events leading up to it.

So has Phil Leigh in a post that reminds us of his skills as a historian. Continue reading