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?

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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.

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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.

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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

Fumbling the Heritage … and Homer

At Dead Confederates Andy Hall recently highlighted another fumbling of Confederate heritage by its most impassioned advocates. This time the effort betrays an ignorance of American art as well as Civil War history.

Here’s the post, which appeared on the Facebook group “Defending the Heritage”:

DH Homer spoof

I’m sure this post came from the heart. And I’m sure many people actually understand the emotions that drives certain people’s passion for the Confederacy. And I’m sure that someone believes this is all somehow a deprivation of civil rights (Confederate heritage advocates are experts on the issue of depriving people of their civil rights).

But it’s just wrong.

This is not a painting of long-suffering Confederates by an unknown artist. Rather, it’s Winslow Homer’s 1871 painting of Union soldiers in camp, supposedly based on Homer’s observations in the spring of 1862 during the Yorktown campaign.

DH Homer MMA

The painting itself betrays a refashioning of history: although the barrel in the foreground displays a corps badge, those badges were not introduced until later, first by Phil Kearny for his men, followed by a more widespread systematic employment starting in 1863. A closer look at the soldiers (as well as the row of horses in the background) betrays that they are cavalrymen. Moreover, the sketch upon which the painting is based would have to have been made in late April or early May 1862, for the 61st New York, the regiment supposedly related to the corps insignia in question, was transferred to the Peninsula at that time, just before the siege of Yorktown ended (Homer included the regiment and its former commander, Francis C. Barlow, in another well-known painting). While a sketch of the mule survives, one might venture that other efforts to date and place the scene portrayed by the painting are at best suggestive but problematic, and that the trifoil on the barrel is really what one nowadays calls an “Easter egg.”

Perhaps the MMA will have a Civil War art expert examine the painting more carefully.

Homer knew how to paint haggard and hungry Confederates, but he did not do so here. But we must remember that it’s not the only time Confederate heritage advocates have mishandled images in service of their cause, and frankly this is not nearly the most serious case.

After all, it’s heritage, not history.

Confederate Heritage Advocates Duped Again

Much has been made in recent weeks of protests on university campuses concerning the reputation of various prominent Americans. Even as the University of Maryland unveiled a statue of Frederick Douglass

563fea4746a4d-image

not without protest … students at Princeton University questioned that university’s commemoration of Woodrow Wilson, who was once president of that institution.

It was left to a certain Confederate heritage blog to post this Facebook image as a warning about the logical consequences of the so-called war against Confederate heritage:

LincolnFoxRacist

That report was immediately picked up by a loyal follower of said blog, who declared:

Will Mackey Report This???

Not shy about taking up this challenge, fellow blogger Al Mackey did just that, as this post demonstrates.

The problem, of course, is that the original blogger had been duped by a fake website mocking Fox News into believing it was indeed the Fox News website, So had three of her followers: the second blogger and one Eddie Inman, who fights the good fight for Confederate [><] heritage across cyberspace, and one David Tatum, another infrequent blogger.

The original blogger, who had previously responded to comments as if they were related to an actual news report, subsequently used her own knowledge of how photoshopping images distorts reality to claim that she knew it was satire all along. Yeah, right.

Remember how this …

VF Heros in the Sky

… became this?

VF Smith photoshop typo

Of course you do.

Funny how people who complain about erasing history (1) have problems when it comes to verifying facts (2) have no problem “revising” what they’ve said in an effort to erase their own history of being fooled.

The Virginia Flaggers, their webmaster, and their supporters remain an endless source of amusement … together they are the gift that keeps on giving.

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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