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All Reason.com articles with the "History" tag.



Published: Wed, 23 Aug 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Wed, 23 Aug 2017 13:15:38 -0400

 



CNN Looks Back at Elian Gonzalez Saga

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 15:00:00 -0400

Elian. CNN. Thursday, August 24, 9 p.m. The night after Thanksgiving of 2016, the phone in my vacation hotel room in Orlando rang. The death of Fidel Castro had just been announced, and the obituary that I'd been regularly updating for 15 years for the Miami Herald had finally rolled out onto the internet. It caught the eye of a CNN producer, who had tracked me down to ask if I would agree to be interviewed on the air about the reaction of Cuban-Americans. So far, the dismayed producer said, all the talking heads CNN had been able to round up were saying Miami Cubans would be ecstatically celebrating Castro's departure, and they were hoping for a little balance. You know, a few words about the nostalgic and the bittersweet. "I'll be happy to go on the air," I told the producer. "But I'm afraid I'm going to say the same thing. Cubans don't come to Miami because they have mixed feelings about him—they come because they hate him. As far as they're concerned, he's a communist who robbed them, bullied them, jailed them, maybe executed some of their relatives. If anybody's crying in Miami tonight, it's because he didn't die 50 years earlier." The producer was clearly disappointed. I went on the air for a few minutes, but when I was finished, he pointedly didn't thank me. Though I've long ago given up trying to understand why so many American journalists don't recognize Castro for the tyrant he was, this conversation still left me puzzled. How could anybody imagine that there would be even the slightest sympathy for Castro in Miami? Didn't they remember the tale of Elian Gonzalez? I hope that producer is watching when his network airs the documentary Elian this week. It offers, in painful detail, the whole saga of 5-year-old Elian's 1999 voyage from Cuba to Miami on a boat that broke up and sank somewhere in the Florida Straits. His mother managed to get Elian into an inner tube before slipping beneath the waves with 10 others. The inner tube drifted to Miami, where Elian became the center of an epic tug of war with Havana that ended with federal agents kicking in the door of the home where he was staying, and snatching him at gunpoint so he could be shipped back to Havana. The Elian story triggered much journalism that ranged from uncomprehending to obscene. Be my guest at choosing which label Eleanor Clift, then of Newsweek, should get for cheerleading the Clinton administration's decision to send Elian back to Cuba, where "he doesn't have to worry about going to school and being shot at, where drugs are not a big problem, where he has access to free medical care and where the literacy rate I believe is higher than this country's." (And no, she didn't send her own kids there.) This documentary, however, is from an entirely different mold. Put together by Irish filmmakers Trevor Birney and Ross McDonnell, it gets a big boost from the presence of writer-director Tim Golden. As a former Miami Herald reporter who shared in two Pulitzer Prizes for his Latin American coverage, Golden is properly wary both of the myth that Miami's Cuban community is nothing more than a collection of deranged fascists and its counterpart, that Fidel Castro was a misunderstood social democrat. (Full disclosure: Though both Golden and I have worked as Miami Herald foreign correspondents, it was at widely different times.) The result is a film that picks its way carefully down the middle of the road, seeking to illuminate rather than vituperate, and does an excellent job, both at relating facts and providing context. Elian includes interviews with figures from virtually every chapter of this story, including the boy himself, and all viewpoints get a fair exposure. No doubt people on both sides will point to things that were left out, but the filmmakers were doing a two-hour documentary, not an epic miniseries, and there's no partisan pattern to what's missing. Aside from his young age, the Elian story was not a new one on either side of the Florida Straits. Until President Barack Obama, in the waning days of his presidency, ended a U.S. policy of auto[...]



In Defense of Lenin Statues and Canyon of Heroes Plaques

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 12:50:00 -0400

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has called for the removal of the Vladimir Lenin statue in the neighborhood of Fremont. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio has launched a 90-day review of "all symbols of hate on city property"; his eyes seem to have settled on a plaque commemorating Philippe Pétain, the Nazi-aligned leader of Vichy France. Both moves come in the wake of a national discussion on Confederate statues, and both moves miss the mark completely. Statues for Confederate generals frequently went up during periods of heightened racial tension. They were sometimes meant specifically to intimidate local black populations, and they often had that effect whether that was the intent or not. If a Lenin statue was put up in, say, a neighborhood where Eastern Europeans were starting to move, it could represent something else. But it wasn't. The plaque mentioning Philippe Pétain is found at the Canyon of Heroes, a section of Lower Broadway ithat has been the site of more than 200 ticker-tape parades since the late 19th century. Pétain received a parade there in 1931 as a French military hero; he had been named a Marshall of France, a military distinction given to generals for exceptional achievements. This was about a decade before he collaborated with the Nazis. Removing it would represent precisely what the opponents of taking down Confederate monuments say they're afraid of: erasing history. The man really did receive that parade, and the plaque establishes that event. Taking down Seattle's Lenin statue would make even less sense. It's a statue that had already been taken down—in 1989, in Czechoslovakia after the Velvet Revolution. It was found in a scrap heap by an American English teacher living abroad, who convinced the authorities to sell it to him and who then spent tens of thousands of dollars to ship it to the U.S. He wanted to use it to promote a restaurant he planned to open. The statue was placed in a retail area in Fremont in 1995, and it has officially been on sale ever since. (It can be yours for $250,000.) It is essentially a surreal joke. It has become a tourist attraction, not for communist sympathizers but for people who enjoy seeing weird things; it is now a symbol of the character of the neighborhood, whose motto is Latin for "the freedom to be peculiar." State Sen. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle), whose family came from Poland in the 1920s, has defended the Lenin statue. "Unlike the Confederacy statues throughout our nation built to formally honor those in that battle of ideas, this statue is distinctly not showcased in Fremont to celebrate the murderous, painful regime," Carlyle wrote on his blog. "The statue was, simply, installed with artistic intent to show that our very ability to install political art is the triumph of democracy over tyranny." He continued: "Art can be offensive and painful, but it can also bring us alive with curiosity, wonder, knowledge. Installing a political statue of a man and regime that would never allow installation of political statues of opponents is a symbolic representation of the victory of democracy and freedom over oppression. And of the role of art itself." It is also private property standing on private land, so Seattle's mayor shouldn't have any say about whether it stays or goes. What is he, some kind of communist? Correction: A previous version of this article implied the Pétain plaque went up before World War 2. Plaques noting the ticker-tape parades in the Canyon of Heroes were installed in 2003. Sorry for the error.[...]



What to Do With Your Embarrassing Confederate Statue

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 14:00:00 -0400

So you've got an old Confederate statue you need to toss out. Don't worry, many cities in America are going through the same spring cleaning you are. The relevant question is: what do you do with a marble effigy of an old bearded racist once you've knocked it off its pedestal? The main argument against removing these statues hinges on historical preservation, that we shouldn't dynamite historical artifacts whenever the Left gets tetchy. I agree with that in principle: If Michael Moore starts wandering around a Calvin Coolidge statue with a hacksaw, I'll be the first to restrain him. Most of these statues, however, are not memorials to the dead erected by their mourning relatives. They are tributes erected at the height of the Jim Crow era, basically big bronze and concrete middle fingers racists erected to protest integration. And if there's one thing I really hate, it's passive aggressive statuary. That's why I've provided these elegant solutions for all of the Confederate detritus you've got lying around. Discuss them with your mayor next time you run into him at a Rotary Club breakfast or key party. Turn the Statue into Darth Vader Eastern Europe is littered with statues of dead socialists. Lenin is the lawn gnome of Eastern Europe. Commie strongmen are less in vogue since the Soviet Union petered out, however, leaving people with a glut of memorials to murderous psychopaths who murdered millions of people, or alternately, to disastrous technocrats who murdered millions of people inadvertantly. Ukranian artist Alexander Milov came up with the brilliant solution for all of the Lenin clutter: turn them into statues of Darth Vader. I've never visited Columbia, South Carolina but I'm fairly confident tourism would spike if only the city retrofitted its surplus of Confederate ephemera into Sith lords. There could be copyright issues, but that's an easy fix. If Disney protests, simply turn your statue of Stonewall Jackson into a velociraptor riding a Tyrannosaurus-rex. Stonewall Jacksons's horse probably wasn't racist, so there may be no need alter it. But if you're already making one dinosaur, why not splurge and do two? A velociraptor riding a T-Rex makes an awesome cover for your tourism brochure. Another nifty option is to weld boxy metal parts to your Jefferson Davis statue to make it look like a clunky 1950's robot. Be sure to add a plaque that says, "Erected in Eternal Memory to the Robot Uprising of 2046." Three hundred years from now won't that be a great practical joke. Oh, and did I mention installing lasers in Ol' Jeff's eyes? Build a Monument Over It People are preoccupied with the celebration of institutional racism these monuments represent. But has anyone stopped to consider that Confederate statues celebrate losers? We don't celebrate losers in the USA. That sends a bad message to the kids. We look up to winners. Consider building an eighty-foot statue of Ulysses S. Grant triumphantly stepping on your now-dwarfed Stonewall Jackson statue. Voila, you've now got a Union monument. Also makes a phenominal roadside attraction. Donate It to a Third World Country You know how Third World countries wind up with all the t-shirts from Superbowl teams that lost? Well here's an idea: donate your statue to one of those countries. Do your research beforehand because many of them have their own peculiar reasons for disliking confederates. Dump it in the Ocean You might be tempted to round up all of the Confederate statues and put them in one place, say, somewhere like Fallen Monument Park in Moscow. The problem is your park is going to be swarming with bigots and their tiki torches. That's a fire hazard. Your park should be under water, maybe somewhere in the Florida Keys. That way if the Alt-Right wants to hold a rally, it's going to have to leave the continental United States. Good. Recycle It Sorting garbage into organized piles of garbage is all the rage right now. No reason not to do the same thing with large bronze figurines, although it's slightly more labor[...]



Trump’s Idea of Uniting the Country: Complaining About Removal of Confederate Memorials

Thu, 17 Aug 2017 11:55:00 -0400

Another Twitter flare-up from President Donald Trump this morning is going to command the news cycle for the day. Trump began ranting about Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham (South Carolina) and Jeff Flake (Arizona), consistent critics of Trump's behavior. Trump called Graham a publicity seeker and expressed happiness that Flake was facing a primary opponent. And then Trump decided to wade back into the Confederate monument debate, after having been blasted on all sides yesterday. A trio of tweets to get your morning started: Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments. You..... — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2017 ...can't change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson - who's next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish! Also... — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2017 ...the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2017 Trump knows all about removing art that will be missed and cannot be replaced. When Trump was building his tower in New York City he had destroyed art deco friezes a museum wanted to preserve because it delayed the demolition of a skyscraper that needed to come down. Trump also has a monument to a civil war battle that never happened at his golf club in Virginia. As for the slippery slope contention—that this will lead to the tearing down of non-Confederate memorials because people are offended—Eric Boehm and Ronald Bailey have both explained effectively here at Reason how easy it is to draw a line between American historical figures who have owned slaves or have done other bad things versus those who waged war with the United States in order to preserve slavery. It is worth noting that Trump is hardly an outlier in not wanting monuments to come down. An NPR poll released this week showed that 62 percent of Americans want these statues to remain "as a historical symbol." A remarkable nugget from the poll: Even more African Americans (44 percent) want them to remain than want them removed (40 percent). Unsurprisingly, more African Americans were unsure what to do with them (16 percent) than white people (8 percent) or Latino people (11 percent) polled. There are many ways to interpret these results that have nothing to do with support for the Confederacy. The results may say more about the unease of many Americans with what appears to be censorship (even when it's not actually censorship). Perhaps it would be easier if these statues were not in the hands of government, and the social cost of the controversy shouldered by private individuals. And as an added bonus, it wouldn't cost taxpayers to deal with it. I joked on Twitter that cities should sell the Confederate statues to people who care so much about preserving them and redistribute the money back to its citizens. In Los Angeles, a memorial for Confederate soldiers at Hollywood Forever Cemetery was just removed at the request of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the group who placed the marker there at the 1920s. Yes, there was some social pressure to remove it, obviously, but private people making the decision about whether to display such a memorial is preferable to government officials deciding the correct way to remember our Confederate history and Civil War.[...]



Charlottesville's Legacy Shaping Up As Exact Opposite of What Alt-Right Wanted

Mon, 14 Aug 2017 11:10:00 -0400

Before last weekend's "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville devolved into violence and tragedy, the gathering's ostensible goal was to preserve a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Earlier this year, city officials announced plans to remove the statue, erected in 1924, from the park once named in Lee's honor and recently rechristened Emancipation Park. An ongoing lawsuit has left the future of Charlottesville's Lee statue unclear at the moment. But this weekend's rally was hardly a boon for the statute-keepers' cause more broadly. The only thing the U.S. right seems to have united on is condemnation of protesters playing "patriots" while wearing the insignia of two entities—the Confederacy and Nazi Germany—that declared war on the United States. Meanwhile, mayors of several Southern cities have declared an intent to remove memorials to Confederate generals from their city centers. On Monday, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said she has reached out to contractors about removing four Confederate-era monuments from central Baltimore and transferring them to Confederate soldier cemeteries around Maryland. In Lexington, Kentucky, Mayor Jim Gray has announced plans to move two Confederate monuments from an area on the city's Main Street to a cemetery for Confederate veterans. Another Kentucky mayor, Louisville's Greg Fischer*, said Sunday that the city's Commission on Public Art would review pieces throughout the city that could be interpreted as honoring racism and slavery. "I recognize that some people say all these monuments should be left alone, because they are part of our history," said Fischer. "But we need to discuss and interpret our history from multiple perspectives and from different viewpoints. That's why a community conversation is crucial." Commenting on a statue of Confederate officer John B. Castleman that was vandalized Saturday, Fischer added that, "for many, this statue is a beloved neighborhood landmark, but for others, it's a symbol of a painful, tragic and divisive time in our history—which gets at the complexity of this conversation. I believe this is community conversation worth having." In the wake of this weekend's events in Charlottesville, even some prominent GOP figureheads have spoken out in support of plans to remove Confederate monuments. "We are the Party of Lincoln and a party that stands against divisive and hurtful symbols," Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel told BuzzFeed yesterday. "As Americans we can find ways to preserve our history but only if we are working toward an inclusive future that separates us from a hateful past." Critics of moves like these tend to warn of slippery slopes—once we start judging historical figures by today's moral standards, most will come up wanting. Where does the call to remove relics of racism, sexism, and bigotry end? Many of the founding fathers were slaveowners, after all. Generations of Very Important Dudes didn't have such great views of women. And so on. But we should also beware reflexively embracing the status quo just because there may be some merit to slippery-slope fears. It's not an all or nothing proposition here—one can support, say, Charlottesville removing this statue in this instance and still oppose broader calls to censor historical monuments or artifacts. One can support removing a particular figure's statue from a particular place of honor while still believing there is some place for the display of that work, such as a museum or a cemetery. And one can oppose the social-justice-ification of popular politics while remembering that cities are dynamic places, which can and should evolve to meet the demands and preferences of their populaces. Those calling for blanket bans on removing Confederate monuments are guilty of exactly the kind of authoritarianism they accuse their opponents of promoting. Ultimately, these decisions should be left to the people and elected officials of the indivi[...]



Trump’s 'Fire and Fury' Wouldn’t Be the First for North Korea

Sun, 13 Aug 2017 08:00:00 -0400

Leave it to Donald Trump to threaten to rain "fire and fury" on the North Korean people the same week the world observed the 72nd anniversary of the U.S. government's vindictive atomic bombings of Japanese civilians. In case anyone missed the message, Defense Secretary James "Mad Dog" Mattis warned that the Kim Jong-un regime's actions risk the "destruction of its people." He wasn't talking about Kim's cruel communism. We know what Trump and Mattis mean, even if many conservatives twist themselves like pretzels to transform the threatened savagery into something more benign. Trump and Mattis were referring to America's nuclear arsenal. Trump promised "fire and fury like the world has never seen." No one would expect him to know this, but the North Korean people have seen their share of fire and fury at the hands of the U.S military. It happened almost 70 years ago, when Harry Truman, another president who went ga-ga over generals, unleashed America's savage vengeance during the Korean War. It's called the "forgotten war," but even when it wasn't forgotten, few Americans realized how brutally the United States treated people that posed no threat whatever to Americans. How many know that, quoting historian Bruce Cumings, far more napalm was dropped on Korea [than on Vietnam] and with much more devastating effect, since the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) had many more populous cities and urban industrial installations than North Vietnam…. By late August [1950] B-29 formations were dropping 800 tons a day on the North. Much of it was pure napalm. From June to late October 1950, B-29s unloaded 866,914 gallons of napalm. It was also known as "jellied gasoline." Regarding its effect on the human body, Cumings quotes the survivor of a "friendly fire" attack on Americans: Men all around me were burned. They lay rolling in the snow. Men I knew, marched and fought with begged me to shoot them…. It was terrible. Where the napalm had burned the skin to a crisp, it would be peeled back from the face, arms, legs … like fried potato chips. Cumings adds: George Barrett of The New York Times had found "a macabre tribute to the totality of modern war" in a village near Anyang, in South Korea: "The inhabitants throughout the village and in the fields were caught and killed and kept the exact postures they held when the napalm struck — a man about to get on his bicycle, 50 boys and girls playing in an orphanage, a housewife strangely unmarked, holding in her hand a page torn from a Sears-Roebuck catalogue crayoned at Mail Order No 3,811,294 for a $2.98 'bewitching bed jacket — coral'." US Secretary of State Dean Acheson wanted censorship authorities notified about this kind of "sensationalised reporting," so it could be stopped. Thus the war that is also known as a "limited police action" was anything but. Cumings writes that "from November 1950, General Douglas MacArthur ordered that a wasteland be created between the fighting front and the Chinese border, destroying from the air every 'installation, factory, city, and village' over thousands of square miles of North Korean territory." Gen. MacArthur presented his own impressions of the early results at a congressional hearing in May 1951 after Truman fired him: The war in Korean has already almost destroyed that nation of 20,000,000 people. I have never seen such devastation. I have never seen, I guess, as much blood and disaster as any living man, and it just curdled my stomach, the last time I was there. After I looked at the wreckage and those thousands of women and children and everything, I vomited. If you go on indefinitely, you are perpetuating a slaughter such as I have never heard of in the history of mankind. [Quoted in Napalm: An American Biography by Robert M. Neer, 2013.] Air Force Chief of Staff Curtis LeMay, in an oral history quoted by Cumings, said that "over a period of three years or so … we burned down[...]



The Manchurian Crooner

Fri, 11 Aug 2017 11:21:00 -0400

(image) It was the Korean War—I mean the war they fought in the '50s, not the nuclear holocaust that various idiots are proposing now—that brought the word "brainwashing" into the common lexicon. Introduced in Edward Hunter's 1951 book Brain-Washing in Red China, whose cover declared that "an entire nation" was under "hypnotic control," the word's popularity exploded when the public learned that the American POWs who had recorded propaganda messages for North Korea had been subjected to intense indoctrination sessions. The idea took hold that the Communists had actually reprogrammed their captives' brains, perhaps permanently.

As science, this turned out to be false—the mind is not so malleable. As fuel for pop culture, on the other hand, it has given us everything from The Manchurian Candidate to the record I've embedded below. Eddie Hill's "I Changed My Mind," released in 1954, may well be the only country song ever written about brainwashing. In this particular spin on the subject, the cure for mind control turns out to be prayer; that isn't quite as exciting as the end of The Manchurian Candidate, but I suppose it was better suited for radio airplay.

src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/h56OfKVgqtg" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0">

Trivia: Joan Javits, co-composer of the song, made more of a mark when she co-wrote "Santa Baby." She was also the niece of Sen. Jacob Javits, which I guess makes this record the lost bridge between Nashville and the Rockefeller Republicans.

(For past editions of the Friday A/V Club, go here.)




How Freedom Made Us Rich

Wed, 09 Aug 2017 13:00:00 -0400

"In [1492], if you were going to bet on who was going to have a 'Great Enrichment,'" says University of Illinois at Chicago economist Deirdre McCloskey, "you would have been crazy not to bet on China because China had the most advanced commercial institutions, the most advanced ship building technology, [and] the most advanced machinery all together." But it didn't work out that way. "My claim," McCloskey says, "is that liberty was the key to modern economic growth." In her new book, Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World, the third volume in a trilogy, McCloskey argues that our vast accumulation of wealth over the past two hundred years— which she's dubbed "The Great Enrichment"—was the result of "massively better ideas in technology and institutions." Where did they arise from? &tag=reasonmagazineA"A new liberty and dignity for commoners," she argues, "expressed as the ideology of European liberalism." McCloskey sat down with Nick Gillespie at Freedom Fest, the annual convention for libertarians in Las Vegas, for a wide-ranging conversation on topics including the roots of "The Great Enrichment," why her gender reassignment surgery was an "expression of [her] libertarianism", and the importance of advocating policies that "actually help the poor" instead of just "making people feel good about helping the poor. McCloskey is also a Reason columnist. Her archive is here. Edited by Todd Krainin. Cameras by Meredith Bragg and Justin Monticello. Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes. This is a rush transcript—check all quotes against the audio for accuracy. Nick Gillespie: Hi, I'm Nick Gillespie with Reason and today we are sitting down with Deirdre McCloskey. She's an Emeritus Professor of Economics, History, English, and Communication at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the author most recently of Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World. She's also a columnist for Reason Magazine. Deirdre, thanks so much for talking with us. Long time contributing editor to Reason as well. McCloskey: I'm extremely pleased to be here and ... Gillespie: Well, your latest column, because I think this puts us right into a lot of current discussions, is titled The Myth of Technological Unemployment. McCloskey: Yeah. Gillespie: The subhead is, if the nightmare of technological unemployment were true, it would have already happened repeatedly and massively. In it, you take issue with a lot of libertarian or free-market economists who are talking about how we've reached the end of technological innovation or productivity growth and yeah, we're going to have to find something to do for people who are replaced by robots. McCloskey: Yeah. Gillespie: What's wrong with that? McCloskey: I think it's just completely wrong. My friend, Tyler Cowen, my friends at George Mason think maybe it's time for an intervention and Tyler, we think maybe we should send him to dry out somewhere because he seems to have gone crazy on this and he's not alone. I mean, there are people like Bob Gordon wrote a book last year, which was very successful. Gillespie: Which argued that basically say goodbye to 2%, ... McCloskey: Exactly. Gillespie: ... even 2% economic growth. McCloskey: Exactly. Innovation in the United States is finished and we've invented all the window screens and drop ceilings we're ever going to invent. There are a whole bunch of things wrong with it. One is that it doesn't make a lot of quantitative sense. In Tyler's book, which is called Average is Over, he's got a chart, which he says, "Summarizes my point." It's terrible. See the falling share of labor in national income. You look closely at the chart, which is one of these Time Magazine charts, it goes down like that. It turns out it's gone from 63%[...]



Sloppy History in The New York Times

Mon, 31 Jul 2017 23:30:00 -0400

Katherine Stewart has an op-ed in today's New York Times that purports to expose the sordid history of the phrase "government schools." The "attacks on 'government schools,'" she claims, "have a much older, darker heritage. They have their roots in American slavery, Jim Crow-era segregation, anti-Catholic sentiment and a particular form of Christian fundamentalism." How reliable a historian is Stewart? Not very. Take this passage, for just one example: One of the first usages of the phrase "government schools" occurs in the work of...the Presbyterian theologian A.A. Hodge....Hodge decided that the problem lay with public schools' secular culture. In 1887, he published an influential essay painting "government schools" as "the most appalling enginery for the propagation of anti-Christian and atheistic unbelief, and of antisocial nihilistic ethics, individual, social and political, which this sin-rent world has ever seen." Here's a fun fact about Archibald Alexander Hodge: He wasn't opposed to government schools. His great fear was that the schools would be secularized, and to prevent that end he wanted to keep them under strictly local control. But he didn't want to detach them from the government. As he wrote in his 1887 essay "Religion in the Public Schools," he wanted legislators to let the system of public schools be confined to the branches of simply common school education. Let these common schools be kept under the local control of the inhabitants of each district, so that the religious character of each school may conform in all variable accidents to the character of the majority of the inhabitants of each district. Let all centralizing tendencies be watchfully guarded against. Since Hodge is supposed to be Stewart's example of "anti-Catholic sentiment," I should note that his article actually speaks rather respectfully of Catholics. If you're looking for a cause with a special appeal to anti-Catholic bigots, look not to the critics of consolidated public education but at the public schools themselves: In that era they were often deliberately used as tools of Protestantization. So what about those quotes in Stewart's op-ed? They appear to come from a lecture Hodge wrote around the same time, titled "The Kingly Office of Christ." The phrase "government schools" appears in it precisely once: "The Protestants object to the government schools being used for the purpose of inculcating the doctrines of the Catholic Church, and Romanists object to the use of the Protestant version of the Bible and to the inculcation of the peculiar doctrines of the Protestant churches." The other phrase that Stewart quotes comes several pages later: I am as sure as I am of the fact of Christ's reign that a comprehensive and centralized system of national education, separated from religion, as is now commonly proposed, would be the most appalling enginery for the propagation of anti-Christian and atheistic unbelief, and of antisocial nihilistic ethics, individual, social and political, which this sin-rent world has ever seen. So it's not government schools per se that he thinks are the problem; it's "a comprehensive and centralized system of national education, separated from religion." He's not criticizing the idea of public schools; he's criticizing centralized, secularized schools. If you're searching for someone who said "government schools" in a sneering way, this is a dead end. As it happens, I do know of a 19th-century figure who used the phrase "governmental schools" sneeringly. What's more, he did it in 1858, three decades before the lecture that Stewart called "one of the first usages of the phrase 'government schools.'" Here's what he said: Question.—Are you in favor of common schools being supported by government? Answer.—I am opposed to all governmental schools. Compulsory schools are absurd and oppressive[...]



Reefer Madness at The New York Times

Sat, 22 Jul 2017 06:00:00 -0400

"The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana," The New York Times declared in an editorial published on July 27, 2014. That week, the paper ran a series of essays fleshing out the case for legalization, including a piece in which editorial writer Brent Staples exposed the ugly roots of pot prohibition. "The federal law that makes possession of marijuana a crime has its origins in legislation that was passed in an atmosphere of hysteria during the 1930s and that was firmly rooted in prejudices against Mexican immigrants and African-Americans, who were associated with marijuana use at the time," Staples wrote. He mentioned "sensationalistic newspaper articles" that tied marijuana to "murder and mayhem" and "depicted pushers hovering by the schoolhouse door turning children into 'addicts.'" He did not mention that many such stories appeared in The New York Times. In the context of the era, when papers across the country were running news reports with headlines like "Evil Mexican Plants That Drive You Insane" (Richmond Times-Dispatch) and "Smoking Weed Turns Mexicans to Wild Beasts" (Cheyenne State Leader), the Gray Lady's marijuana coverage during the first few decades of the 20th century was not especially egregious. But to modern eyes, it is remarkably naive, alarmist, and racist. There were occasional bursts of skepticism, but in general the paper eagerly echoed the fantastical fearmongering of anti-drug crusaders such as Harry J. Anslinger, who ran the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) from 1930 to 1962. The path the Times traveled from promoter to opponent of pot prohibition parallels the journey of Americans generally, most of whom supported legalization by the time the paper's editorial board came around on the issue. In both cases, the single most powerful explanation for the reversal is growing familiarity with marijuana, which discredited the government's claims about its hazards. Since exotic intoxicants tend to be scarier than the ones you and your friends use, it is not surprising that fear of marijuana receded as direct or indirect experience with it became a normal part of adolescence and young adulthood. Conversely, people are much more inclined to accept outlandish claims about drugs they have never personally encountered. In that respect, the supposedly sophisticated and empirically grounded journalists employed by The News York Times are no different from their fellow citizens. 'Mexican, Crazed by Marihuana, Runs Amuck With Butcher Knife' On the face of it, the fact that marijuana seemed exotic to Americans at the turn of the 20th century is puzzling, since it was a common ingredient in patent medicines during the 19th century. Elixirs containing cannabis were sold as treatments for a wide range of maladies, including coughs, colds, corns, cholera, and consumption. An 1857 letter to what was then known as the New-York Daily Times even recommended "Cannabis Indica, the East Indian hemp, known most widely as Hesheesh," as "a sure counteractive to the poison of rabies." The letter cited "that famous benefactor to medical science," Irish physician William O'Shaughnessy, who encountered cannabis as a folk cure in India and introduced it as a medicine to Europeans in the early 1840s. By 1876, a Times story (reprinted from The Boston Globe) was describing cannabis as a medicine that "has been used by the faculty here with great success in cases of dropsy." But that was cannabis, a.k.a. Indian hemp. The first reference to "the Marihuana" in the Times, in a 1901 story with a Mexico City dateline, described it as "a harmless-looking plant" that "sends its victims running amuck when they awaken from the long, deathlike sleep it produces." The origin of the word marijuana (also spelled marihuana and mariguana) is uncertain. A quarter-century after the term first[...]



Impeach Eisenhower!

Fri, 07 Jul 2017 12:29:00 -0400

Impeachment talk has been in the air this week, with rallies in dozens of cities calling for Donald Trump to be ousted from office. Impeachment talk has been in the air for nearly a quarter-century now—you have to go back to George H.W. Bush for a president who didn't inspire a big chunk of the opposition to talk about kicking him out of the White House, and even then there was a small chunk of the opposition who wanted to kick him out of the White House. There always is.

In that spirit, here's the anarcho-pacifist Beat writer Lawrence Ferlinghetti reading his 1958 poem "Tentative Description of a Dinner to Promote the Impeachment of President Eisenhower" (with bonus video footage assembled ably by an anonymous YouTuber):

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If you'd rather read to yourself than be read to, you can see the text of the poem here.

Ferlinghetti's four pages of antiwar verse did not inspire a mass movement to remove Eisenhower from office (nor was that the point), but it did help inspire a young broadcaster named Lorenzo Milam to try to start a pacifist radio station in Washington, D.C. I tell that story in chapter three of my book Rebels on the Air: An Alternative History of Radio in America; the short version is that it was 1958, the Cold War was in full swing, and the FCC wasn't about to license a dissident radio outlet in the nation's capital. After two years Milam gave up, applied for a license in Seattle instead (on the theory that maybe the authorities wouldn't care about an outlet located far away from the nation's capital), eventually got the go-ahead, and founded KRAB-FM, which in turn inspired a wave of listener-supported non-state, non-commercial radio stations around the country. Not a bad legacy. Certainly a better legacy than actually impeaching Eisenhower, which would've just saddled us with Richard Nixon a decade early.

(For past editions of the Friday A/V Club, go here.)




What Frederick Douglass Teaches Us about July 4th and American Exceptionalism

Tue, 04 Jul 2017 15:05:00 -0400

I don't think there's a greater Fourth of July speech than Frederick Douglass' 1852 address, "What to the slave is the Fourth of July?" The titular passage is the most-searing indictment of precisely the sort of cheap and easy American exceptionalism that continues to clot political rhetoric with the phoniest sort of patriotism: What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelly to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour. Contemporary conservatives especially recoil from this sort of auto-critique that is in fact one of the most unique facets of our national identity. Even before the United States was a nation, figures such as Samuel Sewall (one of the judges in the Salem witchcraft trials who recanted his actions, wore sackcloth and ashes in penance, and authored the first anti-slavery tract in the colonies) and Roger Williams (the religious dissenter who first articulated a theory of fully secular government in English and is the subject of this brilliant biography) excoriated the my-country-right-or-wrong mentality that is hardly specifically American. Sure, there is something grotesque about intergalactic "apology tours" that never seem to right past wrongs or change future policy, but as the constantly shifting valorization of dissent reminds us, partisan politics is a weak foundation upon which to rely for moral standing. Contemporary liberals loved dissent under Bush, found it unpatriotic under Obama, and now with Donald Trump in the White House, are busy rebranding themselves as "the Resistance." Conservatives simply reverse the process. In pre-abolition America, Douglass was of course specifically addressing slavery, a national original sin so monstrous that he notes its justification is elided in the founding document of the United States. The Constitution is a "glorious liberty document," he notes. But "if the Constitution were intended to be, by its framers and adopters, a slave-holding instrument," Douglass asks rhetorically, "why [is] neither slavery, slaveholding, nor slave...anywhere...found in it"? Yet for the all fury that courses through Douglass' lecture, he "do[es] not despair of this country." Instead, he paints a picture of globalization, interconnectedness, and progress toward more expansive freedom that resonates well over a century after he first spoke it: While drawing encouragement from the Declaration of Independence, the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age. Nations do not now stand in the same relation to each other that they did ages ago. No nation can now shut itself up from the surrounding world, and trot round in the same old path of its fathers without interference. The time was when such could be done. Long established customs of hurtful character could formerly fence themselves in, and do their evil work with social impunity. Knowledge was then confined and enjoyed by the privileged few, and the multitude walked on in mental darkness. But[...]



Is Libertarianism a 'Stealth Plan' To Destroy America?

Mon, 03 Jul 2017 08:30:00 -0400

As its title suggests, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America, by Duke historian Nancy MacLean, is filled with all sorts of melodramatic flourishes and revelations of supposed conspiracies. Chains, deep history, radicals, stealth—is this nonfiction or an Oliver Stone film? Even the cover depicts a smoke-filled room filled with ample-chinned, shadowy figures! This book, virtually every page announces, isn't simply about the Nobel laureate economist James Buchanan and his "public choice" theory, which holds in part that public-sector actors are bound by the same self-interest and desire to grow their "market share" as private-sector actors are. No, MacLean is after much-bigger, more-sinister game, documenting what she believes is the utterly chilling story of the ideological origins of the single most powerful and least understood threat to democracy today: the attempt by the billionaire-backed radical right to undo democratic governance...[and] a stealth bid to reverse-engineer all of America, at both the state and the national levels, back to the political economy and oligarchic governance of midcentury Virginia, minus the segregation. The billionaires in question, of course, are Koch brothers Charles and David, who have reached a level of villainy in public discourse last rivaled by Sacco and Vanzetti. (David Koch is a trustee of Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this website; Reason also receives funding from the Charles Koch Foundation.) Along the way, MacLean advances many sub-arguments, such as the notion that the odious, hypocritical, and archly anti-capitalistic 19th-century slavery apologist John C. Calhoun is the spirit animal of contemporary libertarianism. In fact, Buchanan and the rest of us all are nothing less than "Calhoun's modern understudies." Such unconvincing claims ("the Marx of the Master Class," as Calhoun was dubbed by Richard Hofstadter, was openly hostile to the industrialism, wage labor, and urbanization that James Buchanan took for granted) are hard to keep track of, partly because of all the rhetorical smoke bombs MacLean is constantly lobbing. In a characteristic example, MacLean early on suggests that libertarianism isn't "merely a social movement" but "the story of something quite different, something never before seen in American history": Could it be—and I use these words quite hesitantly and carefully—a fifth-column assault on American democratic governance? Calling attention to the term's origins to describe Franco's covert, anti-modern allies in the Spanish Civil War, MacLean writes the term "fifth column" has been applied to stealth supporters of an enemy who assist by engaging in propaganda and even sabotage to prepare the way for its conquest. It is a fraught term among scholars, not least because the specter of a secretive, infiltrative fifth column has been used in instrumental ways by the powerful— such as in the Red Scare of the Cold War era— to conjure fear and lead citizens and government to close ranks against dissent, with grave costs for civil liberties. That, obviously, is not my intent in using the term.... And yet it's the only term up for MacLean's job, since "the concept of a fifth column does seem to be the best one available for capturing what is distinctive in a few key dimensions about this quest to ensure the supremacy of capital." Sure, "fifth column" is a dirty, lowdown, suspect term among historians because using it trades in hysteria at the service of the ruling class rather than rational analysis intended to help the downtrodden. But come on, people, we're in a twilight struggle here, with a movement whose goals have included, among other things, ending censors[...]



Confederate Monuments Deserve to Go

Sun, 02 Jul 2017 00:00:00 -0400

In 1871, the city of Richmond, Virginia, publicly celebrated the Fourth of July. It was an unfamiliar experience. There had been no general commemoration of Independence Day since 1860—before Virginia had seceded from the nation that was formed in 1776. Other Southern cities were not ready to resume participation in our national ritual. Cheraw became the first place in post-Civil War South Carolina to do so, in 1891. Jackson, Mississippi, waited until 1901 to hold a reading of the Declaration of Independence on the occasion. Vicksburg, Mississippi, didn't join the party until 1945. Staunch supporters of the Lost Cause had little fondness for the United States. The Stars and Stripes was the banner of their enemy. When Union troops occupied Richmond in April 1865, the first thing they did was hoist the American flag over the capitol. The die-hards recognized what some Southerners miss: the deep contradiction between loving America and revering the Confederacy. The struggle over what to do with monuments to rebel leaders is a conflict between those who think what they did was admirable or heroic and those who think it was disgraceful. My long-dead relatives include several men who fought for the South. One was Gen. Leonidas Polk, who commanded troops in several major battles before being killed in action. He was not the last person to illustrate that fallibility runs in the family. In 1961, when I was a boy in the West Texas city of Midland, a new high school opened. It was named after Robert E. Lee, for reasons that are obvious: White resentment of the civil rights movement had produced widespread nostalgia for the Confederacy. San Antonio's Lee High School opened in 1958; Houston's in 1962. Midland Lee called its sports teams the Rebels and used the Confederate battle flag as its symbol. Black students didn't mind, because there weren't any. They attended a segregated black school. The general did have a connection to Texas. His last U.S. Army command before the Civil War was at a fort in the Hill Country town of Mason—which has no Lee monument. Gerald Gamel, editor of the Mason County News, ascribes the omission to strong anti-secession sentiment in Mason. That tells you something about why other places honor Confederate heroes. The town had good company in its resistance. Gov. Sam Houston, who fiercely opposed secession, was removed from office because he refused to take an oath to the Confederacy. His role comes to mind because of a recent rally in defense of a statue of him in Houston, which supposedly was under threat from leftists because he owned slaves. Armed counter-protesters, many expressing secessionist views, showed up on the appointed date. But the threat was a hoax, and Houston's self-styled defenders apparently didn't know that he saw disunion as treason. It was. Yet grand memorials were erected across the South to celebrate what the traitors did. The monuments were built by whites at a time when blacks had no political power—a condition those whites were desperate to preserve. They failed, and they deserved to fail. It's only fitting that Southerners who reject the legacies of slavery, secession, and Jim Crow would prefer to be rid of these tributes to them. It's not a symptom of modern political correctness. Days after the Declaration of Independence was signed, a New York mob destroyed a statue of King George III. If the men and women of the Revolution were eager to be rid of the images of those who had oppressed them and made war on America, why should African-Americans in the South feel differently about statues of leaders who fought to keep their race in chains? For a long time, American history was owned by white men and minimized the treatment [...]



Law & Order: P.O.W. Unit

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 10:15:00 -0400

Resisting Enemy Interrogation was nominated for a Best Documentary Oscar, though it's not a documentary as the term is usually used today. It's a World War II–era military training film that tells a scripted story, dramatizing the ways that Germans might try to extract information from their prisoners. Carefully, methodically, the captors trick their captives into revealing important intelligence.

Here's what's weird about it: The story delves so deeply into the nitty-gritty of the interrogators' methods, observing as they piece together their puzzle, that the bulk of it is basically a police procedural shot from the Nazi point of view. If there's a Law & Order in the Man in the High Castle universe, it probably looks a lot like this:

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In 1951 the film was remade as a regular theatrical war movie, called Target Unknown. I don't think that happened with any of those training films about venereal disease, but you never know.

(For past editions of the Friday A/V Club, go here.)