How easy it is to make people believe a lie, and how hard it is to undo that work again.
Just in case you have not heard, we are in the midst of a Culture War. Death by Journalism? is a battle report from the front lines. The Last Confederate Flag and Bedford: A World Vision are fictional near-future projections, in the spirit of Orwell, of how the war is going to end. Coming all at the same time, these books provide a grim view of our prospects. The war is heating up, and culture is losing.
Fortuitously, these authors tend to support my understanding of what the war is all about: a totalitarian-minded drive to impose a uniform public nonculture on the American people. Despite optimistic statements to the contrary, America has never been culturally homogeneous. (By culture, I mean something like widespread folk attitudes and articulated and unarticulated assumptions about private and public things.) There is a Jamestown/Robert E. Lee/country-music America. Let’s call it “Confederate America” for short. Conquered, impoverished, and despised, Confederate America remarkably maintains a continuing vigor, mostly below official radar and fashionable discussion.
Then there is Plymouth Rock/Abraham Lincoln/General Motors America. (I am talking here about “culture,” not economics.) For short, let’s say “Yankee America.” Yankee America never really had much folk culture except a kind of leveling of distinctions and what John Lukacs has aptly described as a genuine but peculiarly materialistic idealism. Yankee America has had, and continues to have, lots of power, prestige, and wealth, but its chief strengths have been technology and productivity.
Next came Ellis Island/Catholic/Perry Como America, which we can call “Catholic America.” It mostly acquiesced in such aspects of Yankee America as it liked or was forced to accept, while adding a little spice to the Boston pot roast.
Now we have Frankfurt School/Martin Luther King, Jr./MTV America, invented by European totalitarians and imported into the United States in the 1930’s. It is aggressive, mean-spirited, bent on conquest, and, based on the evidence in these books and all around us, controls much of the American arsenal of cultural power. Let’s call this phenomenon, though the label is not really accurate, “Multicultural America.” Multicultural America initiated the Culture War and is spearheading its offensives. Its leaders take no prisoners and do not spare the weak and innocent.
Yankee America is culturally and demographically moribund. The victories of the Multiculturalists are mostly a result of the Yankee elite’s intellectual shallowness, moral cowardice, and continual appeasement. In fact, the Yankee elite and the Multicultural elite can barely be distinguished anymore. Though it has temporarily rallied its masses by an appeal to abstract “America,” with the help of Rush Limbaugh radio demagoguery, the Yankee elite is really holding on to its wealth and some of its prestige by drawing taxes, votes, and fighting men from Confederate America and Catholic America. Two Connecticut Bushes have become president by pretending to be Texans and pretending to represent the concerns of traditional Americans, for whom they have never done and never will do anything. (Ford, Dole, Kemp, etc., could not pull off the trick.) It is Little George, the preferred candidate of sincere Christians, who has changed the American motto from “Protestant, Catholic, Jew” to “Protestant, Catholic, Jew, and Muslim.” (Clinton took money from the Buddhists, but even he did not promote them to the pantheon.)
As I see it, Catholic America is very uneasy about the advances of the Multiculturalists but has developed no widespread resistance to them. Its allegiance is to “America,” and it has not quite grasped that the map of America has been redrawn by the Multiculturalists and that it is next on the list of targets after Confederate America has been disposed of. Pat Buchanan has tried to sound the alarm, but so far he has not had much success.
The fact is that Confederate Americans (wherever they live) make up the only sizeable block of the American populace that has so far resisted (largely reflexively rather than reflectively) the multicultural dispensation. Confederate America is the only American culture that can keep and recruit individuals into its ranks at the folk level without, and even in opposition to, government education and patronage. In fact, it has been gathering recruits from among the ranks of Yankee and Catholic defectors.
The first objective of the Multiculturalists in their current offensive is to quash and eliminate Confederate America by Soviet-style propaganda and suppression. This task is made much easier by the fact that much of both Yankee and Catholic America disdains Confederate America, harbors many old prejudices against it, and is not averse to giving us another thrashing now and then.
Those who do not live in Dixie may have missed the pervasiveness of the attacks against the culture and history of Confederate America. In a small way, this can be seen as a late mopping-up campaign of the civil-rights revolution. It is certainly fueled by the prospective raid on the federal treasury known as “reparations for slavery.” But there is more to it than that. It is a major offensive of the Multiculturalists. It is being abetted by the shortsighted leaders of Yankee America who are hoping that Confederate Americans (still demographically numerous) will keep voting Republican and be pacified into resembling Yankee America. Unfortunately, becoming more like Yankee America is merely a stage on the way to multiculturalism. As a great 19th-century Southern thinker, Robert Lewis Dabney, observed, Northern “conservatives,” over the entire course of American history, have never conserved anything.
The Last Confederate Flag is a story of an upright, respected citizen who, by speaking publicly in favor of Confederate symbols and resisting a murderous armed attack on his home by militant minorities, finds his family slaughtered and himself in prison, demonized in the media. In Bedford: A World Vision, we get a taste of the New World Order. “Worldvision,” totalitarian, therapeutic, and pseudotolerant, is the pervasive ideology, enforced at every level. What used to be Alabama is now a numbered district of the World Order. Nonliberal Christians are confined, except during work hours, in camps where their intolerance will not damage the public. And there is much more. Both books are well told, attention-holding, and thought-provoking.
Are these authors’ predictions fevered fantasies, unthinkable in good old quotidian America? Here are some things that have really happened in recent years.
A boy doodles a Confederate flag in his notebook at school and is suspended. In another state, a boy checks out a school library book with the same offending symbol. Beaten to the point of hospitalization by black and Hispanic students, the victim is suspended from school. The thugs remain untouched by any authority.
During the presidential primary in South Carolina, candidates McCain and Bush declare that the status of the Confederate banner is a question for the people of the state to decide. After the primary, Bush’s henchmen illegally remove, in the dark of night, two harmless plaques put up years ago by Confederate widows in the Texas Supreme Court building. McCain makes a special trip back to South Carolina to declare that he lied for advantage and really thinks the flag must be banished.
A peaceable old gentleman stands up to ask a question of a famous “civil rights” personality after a speech at a public university. In accord with instructions by the speaker, the old gentleman is hustled out of the chamber and roughed up by three burly young policemen before he has said a word. The policemen make no reply and seem embarrassed when onlookers ask what the gentleman had done wrong.
A longtime, respected congressman dies, leaving a request that “Dixie” be played at the gathering of his mourners. The Vice President of the United States demands that the tune be suppressed as the price of his attendance at the funeral.
Distinguished clergymen and scholars who have spoken publicly against the official, “totally evil” version of Southern history are characterized as part of an extremist conspiracy by low-level employees of a “civil rights” organization who have no credentials or moral standing to pass judgment on either history or other people’s character. The libels, however, are taken as fact by the media and registered by law-enforcement agencies.
I could catalog a hundred more such instances. Do not think that only the useless nostalgic sentiments of misguided Southerners are at stake here. The Yankee or standard version of American history is also an obstacle to the conquering forces. I know of a university professor who teaches that colonial Virginians (Washington and Jefferson) were similar to the Taliban (presumably because they were not feminists and sometimes carried weapons). I would bet your children are learning the same.
All this should tell us several things, besides the truth that The Last Confederate Flag and Bedford: A World Vision are not fantasies but merely logical extensions of present trends. They tell us that local initiative and decisionmaking and (almost) local thought itself have disappeared. Law enforcement and education and information media have been imperialized to the point where every public-school principal in the land has been conditioned to enforce uniform policies from Washington, D.C., however unreasonable or in defiance of common sense or community sentiment those policies may be. Every newspaper reports (and ignores) the same stories in the same way, and every police department takes instruction from the FBI. And history, as an humane, intellectually liberating study, is being replaced by an officially enforced party line.
In the Foreword to Death by Journalism?, Jerry Bledsoe explains that he was prompted to carry out his careful investigation because he had come to realize that “political censorship had become a very real possibility” in his own neighborhood. And the dust-jacket copy, for once, is precisely accurate: “Death by Journalism? raises important questions about free speech, academic freedom, racial politics and news media integrity.”
Bledsoe, a maverick investigative reporter and best-selling author of true-crime books, tells the sad, true story of Jack Perdue, who became a national media demon and was literally hounded to death when he was picked to be the target of a Multicultural advance man in the heart of North Carolina. That is my native country and Bledsoe’s, and the author’s account rings true. Jack Perdue was a year or two ahead of me in Greensboro High School (which, incidentally, was the first school in the state to be integrated, while we were there).
Jack was an engineer by trade and a lifelong, published amateur (in the best sense) historian, with a vast knowledge of all aspects of local lore. He was also a benevolently active citizen, respected for integrity and service, who volunteered to teach for free an adult education course on “North Carolina in the Civil War” at a branch of the Randolph County Community College. Randolph County is a largely rural region, partly absorbed into the southern suburbs of Greensboro.
Enter from the left Ethan Feinsilver, son of a Washington, D.C., psychiatrist and a University of Chicago graduate, recently hired as a reporter for the Greensboro News & Record and assigned to the Randolph County beat. Mr. Feinsilver, whose press associates considered him to be a disagreeable loner, found Randolph County the domain of despicable rednecks, and his reportage of local affairs reflected his attitude even before he had heard of Jack Perdue.
Then, in 1998, he discovered Jack Perdue’s history course. Perdue was giving a balanced account of conditions and events in his beloved area during the war, including the well-established fact that some black people served the Confederacy. He taught nothing that is not being taught in a hundred places at this moment or that has not been taught for the last century. The trouble was that Jack Perdue had not taken advanced study, where he would have learned that evidence must be reinterpreted according to current dicta.
No civil-rights group had complained. Students in the elective course, some of them Northern immigrants, have been extensively interviewed by Bledsoe. None had found anything biased or offensive in the course. They also thought Jack Perdue a fair and good teacher, resisted repeated attempts by Mr. Feinsilver to provoke negative comments from them, and were amazed by the baseless and outrageous assertions reflected in Feinsilver’s questions and in his subsequent articles.
The News & Record reported that Randolph County Community College was sponsoring a course that taught that antebellum blacks were happy as slaves and was serving as a front for a “neo-Confederate hate group” (the Sons of Confederate Veterans). The story was distributed worldwide on the AP wire, provoked an investigation by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and became a topic for national TV news and talk shows. Soon, it was received as “fact” that a Southern college was teaching the old, evil, exploded fiction that slaves were happy. Across the country, papers carried headlines like “Sugar-coated Slavery,” “A Rosy View of Slavery,” and “College Course Opens Old Wounds.”
The college officials, faculty, and students all emphatically denied the substance of Mr. Feinsilver’s “news” stories, but the newspaper executives stone-
walled and upheld Feinsilver’s accuracy. (Curiously, however, he was put on probation and, apparently, dismissed six months later.) After months of the stress of international demonization, Jack Perdue died suddenly of a heart attack. He had always been healthy and was barely 60. His family and friends believe that he was literally murdered by the media. The same news executives refused to run an obituary of a local who had been made an international figure a few months before through their own efforts and refused to be interviewed by Bledsoe, a former prize-winning reporter for the paper (which twice offered me a job as editorial writer long ago in my misspent youth).
We see in these events the awful evil power and lockstep thinking of the media, of course. We find a local press that dances to the tune of the Multiculturalists and heeds not its own community.
But we already knew those things. I am more interested in the role of history in all of this and what it tells us about the state of American thought and public discourse. Why was the college allowing Jack Perdue to teach false ideas and in such a controversial way? Feinsilver demanded to know.
I have my own questions. What was a newspaper reporter doing in a classroom, uninvited, investigating the orthodoxy of what was being taught? Can you imagine this happening, say, in an Afrocentric or Gay and Lesbian Studies course? (Set aside the condition that the reporter is a hostile outsider who seems to believe that his orthodoxy should be enforced on other people with a different heritage by the methods of media lynching.)
Where does Feinsilver’s orthodoxy come from? What authority or knowledge does Mr. Feinsilver possess that makes his version of history unquestionable truth and someone else’s false and dangerous? Obviously, he considers himself a representative of Multicultural America, endowed with divine right (if only the Multiculturalists believed in the divine) to impose its orthodoxy on all of society. Is there now an official version of history? Should dissenters be punished? Are we all required to accept the official summing up of several centuries of complex American history in a few vulgar slogans? Are historical interpretations to be eternally static in keeping with the attitudes of official “experts” rather than responsive to the weighing of evidence and the debating of conclusions?
Of course, none of this is really history. It recalls Soviet history, in which dogma and slogans were substituted for the study of the immense complexities of human experience. The latter can, perhaps, make us a little wiser; the former serves only the purpose of conquest. Do not expect the numerous cohort of credentialed academic historians to mount any opposition to the reduction of investigation and understanding to propaganda and conformity, however. They will acquiesce in, if not actively abet, the official orthodoxy.
[The Last Confederate Flag, by Lloyd E. Lenard (Baltimore: AmErica House) 432 pp., $29.95]
[Bedford: A World Vision, by Ellen Williams (Belleville, Ontario: Guardian Books) 299 pp., $15.95]
[Death by Journalism? One Teacher’s Fateful Encounter with Political Correctness, by Jerry Bledsoe (Asheboro, NC: Down Home Press) 241 pp., $24.95]
Leave a Reply