Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Maybe I Am Enabling Some Odious Folks, After All. . . .

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on August 11, 2011

Simpson unloads on the self-appointed defenders of Southern heritage — and the bloggers like me who’ve inadvertently given them more credibility than they warrant:

Those findings [that expose shoddy research on black Confederates] displease a small but sometimes visible minority of people who claim that they are defenders of southern [sic.] heritage, although their defense of southern heritage amounts to a defense of the Confederacy, whitewashing the story of slavery, and the usual array of “you, too” attacks upon their critics.  Over time these attacks have grown more juvenile and pathetic.

It’s natural at first to want to highlight these responses, because, like cockroaches, these folks can’t stand the light of day as they scurry off to feed on more garbage.  Nor do I see anything wrong in challenging specific claims of research, and calling it research is being very kind.  But I question the wisdom of going beyond that, because I don’t see what good is to be achieved by exchanging potshots with these people.  Not everyone agrees with me: they may have their own reasons for responding, and it’s understandable given some of the abuse they have withstood.  But I wonder about giving these fringe elements too much attention, and, after having reviewed some of their blogs and a Facebook page over the past few weeks (and I’ve been astonished at what I’ve come across), I have come to the conclusion that to feature these groups and blogs is in fact to grant them a sort of recognition and legitimacy that they do not deserve.  They simply aren’t responsible participants: indeed, they are rather childish. . . .

As someone who lived for some ten years in the South and who counts southerners, white and black, as good friends, I think that to give these fringe ranters undue attention is a disservice to the South and all southerners.  Other bloggers may continue to draw attention to these folks, but, aside from highlighting specific examples of research claims, I will let them languish and stew in their own scalding juices of hate and resentment.

I need to cogitate on this a while. Food for thought, as it were.
__________

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21 Responses

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  1. Kevin said, on August 11, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    I pretty much agree with what Brooks has to say, but I also agree that it is perfectly reasonable to point out the most egregious mistakes that populate the Internet. No one has done this more convincingly than you, Andy and I trust that you will not discontinue the practice. I have taken the position that if an individual’s work has been challenged on my site he/she has every right to respond. What I am no longer tolerating is the ridiculous back and forth with folks who have nothing to say about the content in question. It’s simply a distraction.

  2. Brooks D. Simpson said, on August 11, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    My distinction here (as elsewhere) is between specific claims about “research” (such as the “Negro Cook Regiment”) and getting into the mud with these people. Tatum and Chastain simply have nothing to add to any debate of substance, and engaging them directly is a profitless exercise. Besides, even a cursory glance at their posts suggests that they don’t always know to make of what they set forth, as in Chastain’s bizarre effort to attack not only me but also my institution by linking to a site that celebrates ASU’s commitment to free speech while ranting about thought police. For thought to be policed it must first exist, and I see no thought coming from Chastain, who should simply be held in disdain. However, addressing specific claims of “research” seems perfectly acceptable to me.

    • Andy Hall said, on August 11, 2011 at 3:02 pm

      Thanks for commenting, but I got that message clearly. I let myself get dragged into that mire, in this case with someone who professes that she doesn’t care whether BCS existed, and acknowledges not having looked at the research closely.

      Apologies as well for block-quoting most of your post — it was all on-point and quotable.

      I hear Liberia is beautiful in the spring.

      • Brooks D. Simpson said, on August 11, 2011 at 4:21 pm

        I was amused that those folks didn’t understand that being a member of the ACS (an organization favored by distinguished white southerners, such as John Marshall and Henry Clay) did not mean one was among those designated for removal. Perhaps those folks think it was a mistake to look toward the end of slavery under any circumstances, especially since it was such a wonderful thing in their (white) minds.

        See, to debate with those people is to sink into their mire.

        • Andy Hall said, on August 11, 2011 at 5:01 pm

          It’s been interesting to watch the way heritage groups latched onto the “discovery” a few months ago by a British researcher that Lincoln was still considering colonization during the war. Hardly new information, but new to them, and all the more so since they likewise seem unaware that colonization schemes had been discussed, planned, adopted, dropped for decades before, and carried on well after the war. It fits within the Southron meme that it was (Northerners, abolitionists, Black Republicans, bloggers) who were the “real racists.”

    • Connie Chastain said, on August 13, 2011 at 10:13 pm

      Well, you have to not stop reading after the reference to the Huffpoo article. Read on and you’ll find that until January 2011 — just months ago — ASU had one of THE WORST ratings for free speech from FIRE.org.

      The university has also experienced controversy over segregated classes….

      http://thefire.org/spotlight/schools/46

      http://one80dts.blogspot.com/2011/08/academic-leftism-and-civil-war.html

      • Andy Hall said, on August 14, 2011 at 12:11 pm

        That’s some highly selective reporting. Aside from childish references to “Huffpoo,” what did FIRE itself actually say? It’s not hard to find:

        FIRE President Greg Lukianoff commended the nation’s seven best colleges and universities for freedom of speech in an article for The Huffington Post today. The article is a companion to our highly publicized list of our nation’s 12 Worst Schools for Free Speech published in January.

        The colleges listed as the nation’s best are Arizona State University, Dartmouth College, The College of William & Mary, the University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, and the University of Virginia.

        In determining the seven best colleges and universities for freedom of speech, FIRE considered whether the school’s policies restrict speech protected by the First Amendment and whether the school had censored speech in recent years. Each of the seven institutions chosen has earned a “green light” rating in FIRE’s Spotlight database of university policies. FIRE awards a college or university a “green light” rating if it does not maintain any policies that seriously imperil speech on campus. Only 14 schools out of the nearly 400 FIRE rates have earned “green light” ratings.

        My emphasis. Your own source currently credits ASU as being somewhere in the top 2% of campuses it rates (“seven best” out of “nearly 400″), on free speech issues.

        The negative stories you refer to date from 2005, mostly are about a single case you ominously refer to as a “controversy over segregated classes.” It was, in fact, a single class, a freshman composition course designed by the instructor to focus on Native American topics, after Native American students complained that they had little experience with the topics they were being asked to write about under the standard syllabus. While it’s hard to defend barring non-Native American students from such a course — the instructor said any student could have taken it, although it was actively advertised to Native American students — it’s hard to fault the intentions of the instructor in improving student retention, and it’s a serious misrepresentation to use this as a vague reference to “segregated classes” at ASU as whole, which conjures up mental images of “whites only” signs on water fountains and Jackson State.

        Finally, you’re done commenting here. I should’ve done that last week. You really do contribute nothing of substance to any discussion, and seem to have no interest in doing anything other than finding a way to question the motives, or agenda, or character, or (in this case) the affiliated institution of those who challenge your preferred historical narrative. You have a blog and readership, there and elsewhere; you don’t need electronic real estate here to make your voice heard. I know that you will take being blocked as full vindication of the rightness — indeed, righteousness – of your position, and that blocking you simply affirms that an unwillingness to acknowledge the “truth” you offer. In fact, what you offer, as in the example above, is little more than rhetorical contortions, ugly insinuations and evasions best described using Stephen Colbert’s term, “truthy” — there’s just enough reality behind it to make it seem truthful to those who want to deem it so, if no one looks too closely.

  3. Woodrowfan said, on August 11, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    I think they are well-worth debunking on sites such as this one and Kevin’s. As a college history teacher I worry what my students come across online and am happy that there are blogs that not only debunk this nonsense, but show the whole “black confederate” claim to be very, very sloppy at best, and dishonest at worst. In other words, don’t get into the mud with these people, but please continue to point out the mud to the rest of the world..

    Actually I plan on using the “negro cook’s regiment” fiasco as a lesson in one of my classes.

    • Andy Hall said, on August 11, 2011 at 4:04 pm

      Thanks. I likely wouldn’t have commented on this example at all, were it not very local to me.

      Yes, there is some rank dishonesty, outright fraud, out there on this subject.

      Glad it will be of use in your class. Please contact me offline for royalty payment information. ;-)

      • Kevin said, on August 11, 2011 at 4:49 pm

        Andy,

        I really want to emphasize how important it is that we continue to point out poor research and “outright fraud” as we move ahead. We can do this w/o having to get wrapped up in some of these ridiculous squabbles. Yes, I am guilty of it from time to time beyond simply pointing out unreliable websites, but then I end up in a workshop and realize how few people in k-12 education are even thinking about digital media literacy and I realize it’s worth it. This is the front lines of history education as far as I am concerned. You have no reason to feel down on yourself or regret having written these posts.

  4. Neil Hamilton said, on August 11, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    Kevin, Andy, and Brooks,

    While I understand where Brooks is coming from, I am very concerned about not confronting those who perpetuate the Lost Cause and myths of history concerning the Civil War.

    All too often, silence seems to give consent to such tales of tens of thousands of black Confederate soldiers and that the war was not primarily about slavery.

    I am concerned for my grandchildren, now in their teens, stumbling across such nonsense and believing such because it is on a website, the new version of, “they wouldn’t put it in a book if it wasn’t true” garbage.

    Perhaps it is the need to engage, to make certain to all who come and read a blog or website that not all buy into the myth and that evidence and actual history need to be presented, that is needed.

    But having said all of the above, I understand the idea of not giving credence to a mud-slinging contest, but where does one begin to confront the myth and how?

    Sincerely,
    Neil

    • Kevin said, on August 11, 2011 at 6:53 pm

      Neil,

      I think it is possible to achieve a sound balance between both countering problematic interpretations and not bringing undue attention to a specific site.

    • Brooks D. Simpson said, on August 11, 2011 at 7:13 pm

      Hi–I don’t think anyone would accuse me of not confronting the argument (and some folks will recall that I have defended confronting the argument). I sense in the comments here and elsewhere a growing consensus that one can deal with the message without becoming entangled with the messenger and their sidekicks. After all, I’ve had one of the participants (Chastain) admit she really hasn’t looked carefully at my blog and another commenter today (one Phil Leigh) claim that I’ve never discussed issues of evidence or dealt with “true facts.” I don’t know what to make of that. Once you highlight incompetence, ignorance, and stupidity, there isn’t much else you can do but ignore these folks and their efforts to distract people from the discussion at hand.

      • corkingiron said, on August 15, 2011 at 9:47 am

        Did he really use the term “true facts”? What other kinds of facts are there? Compliments on your piece, btw.

  5. Neil Hamilton said, on August 12, 2011 at 12:38 am

    Kevin and Brooks,

    Thank you for your advice.

    And Brooks, for your public service example.

    It is sincerely appreciated.

    Neil

  6. Foxessa said, on August 13, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    Well, then there’s Perry whose campaign for POTUS seems to be concerned that Carthage Must Be Destroyed!

    http://www.texasobserver.org/forrestforthetrees/rick-perry-pastor-prophet-president

    A Perry – Rubio ticket really could win. The crazier you are the more likely you are to succeed. The energy’s at the edge. Lenin understood that. So did / does Rove (he and Cheney are there behind the curtains somewhere, if only with $$$$$$$$$$).

    Love, C.

    • Andy Hall said, on August 14, 2011 at 12:17 pm

      Perry’s a very good campaigner, both relentlessly shrewd and opportunistic. He managed an easy victory here last fall over a competent-but-bland technocrat, without having publicly debated him on the issues once. That’s not going to fly in the GOP primary, and the more he surges in the polls (of which I have no doubt), the more the other GOP candidates will be looking to knock him off the pedestal. Both Romney, the clear “establishment” candidate, and Bachmann, who seems to have caught fire among the Tea Party-ish base, will be going after Perry hammer-and-tongs, because he seems to be the one candidate right now who can draw support from both those constituencies.

  7. Richard said, on August 14, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    Andy, he only gave you half an ass, do you feel slighted? LOL. If you become a full ass do you get one of those fine confederate flag shirts to wear?

    Corey Meyer / Jack, A.S.S.
    Brooks D Simpson / Half, A.S.S.
    Robert Moore / Half, A.S.S.
    Andy Hall / Half, A.S.S.
    Kevin Levin / Total, A.S.S.


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