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American History, conservatism

Believe it or not, Michael Medved has a column at Townhall making excuses for slavery in America. It wasn’t all that bad, he says.

Medved presents six “inconvenient truths” about slavery, which (condensed) are:

1. American didn’t invent slavery. Lots of other countries did it too. Yes, but by the mid-19th century the practice had been pretty much run out of Europe, as well as the northern states, for being barbaric and immoral.

2. Slavery existed only briefly – 89 years from the Declaration of Independence to the 13th Amendment. It probably didn’t seem all that brief to the persons who were enslaved. And, of course, it had been going on for some time before the Declaration of Independence. Medved figures that only about 5 percent of today’s Americans are the descendants of slave owners. That may or may not be true, but I’m not sure why it’s relevant to anything.

3. Slavery wasn’t genocidal. Dead slaves brought no profit, Medved says. Of course, about a third of the people captured in Africa to be sold into slavery died in the ship voyage to America, but Medved says the slavers didn’t intend the slaves to die, so it doesn’t count. “And as with their horses and cows, slave owners took pride and care in breeding as many new slaves as possible,” Medved writes. No, really, he actually wrote that. I am not making this up.

4. It is not true that the United States became wealthy through slave labor, Medved says. Many “free soil” states were more prosperous overall than the slave states. That may be true, or not, but those cotton plantations were cash cows for the plantation owners. In 1855 raw cotton amounted to one-half of all U.S. exports, valuing $100 million annually in 1855 dollars. (Source: Encyclopedia of American Facts & Dates [Harper & Row, 1987] p. 255.) There was huge income disparity in the slave states; the plantation-owning elite hoarded the wealth.

5. The United States deserves special credit for abolition. Huh?

6. “There is no reason to believe today’s African-Americans would be better off if their ancestors had remained in Africa. ” Actual quote. Who says conservatives are insensitive? Well, me, for one.

Jillian at Sadly, No and John Holbo at Crooked Timber also comment. But no one so far has asked the critical question, which is What the hell was eating at Medved’s reptilian brain that inspired him to write this? Has criticism of American slavery been in the news lately?

Update: See also Kevin at Lean Left, who has a more substantive retort to “fact” #5 than I did.

Year the British ended slavery throughout the Empire: 1833. Number of wars it took to do so: 0. Year the Spanish Empire ended slavery (except in Cuba, where the ban was not enforced by local governors until 1886): 1811. Number of wars to do so: 0. Year the U.S. ended slavery throughout the country and its territories: 1865. Number of wars it took to do it: 1, the bloodiest one in American history. In fact, all European powers abolished slavery before the United States did. So, no, dear Mr. Medved, we as a nation don’t deserve special credit for a bloody damn thing. We were below average, even by the standards of the day.

Update 2: I’d like to add that during our civil war the wealthy industrial interests of Britain put a lot of pressure on Victoria and Parliament to enter the war on the side of the Confederacy. The Americas were their chief supplier of raw materials for their textile mills, and the owners were losing money. But anti-slavery sentiment was so strong in Britain — even among mill workers who’d been laid off because of the war — that active support for the Confederacy was out of the question. And, of course, Prince Albert favored the Union, which means Victoria did, also.

Update 3: This is a riot.

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65 Comments

54 Comments

  1. atheist  •  Sep 28, 2007 @10:15 am

    Perhaps he was personally worried about this matter for some reason? Perhaps he truly wishes to believe that the US is a much more innocent nation than any other, but slavery makes this problematic? Of course I don’t really know his reasons.

  2. Ian  •  Sep 28, 2007 @10:27 am

    So … all the republican candidates skip the latino debate AND the african-american debate, because supposedly, they had a thing with a guy, a caucasion thing with a caucasion guy, to very loosely quote Stephanie Miller … and at the same time, Bill O’Reilly is expressing shock and surprise that a resteraunt that is black owned with majority black clientel was, like, almost as good as a white resteraunt, with nobody doing any drive by’s or sreaming out obscenities or anything, and now this Medved guy has a column defending slavery …

    What the hell is going on around here, anyways? Have they just decided to give up on the brown vote, and go ahead and say what they’ve been thinking all these years? Or what?

    -me

  3. Ian  •  Sep 28, 2007 @10:39 am

    Sorry for the second post, but this is just mind-boggling … went and read it, saw ~300 comments, opened it up expecting a whole boatload of incredulous outrage, and found … ~90% saying ‘great column, right on, just so’ …

    What CENTURY are these people living in????

    -me

  4. John Palcewski  •  Sep 28, 2007 @10:43 am

    You can be absolutely sure that this BS–as well as any other BS Republicans spout these days–is serving a well-thought out purpose. There are no accidents in the Republican game plan. Republicans never, ever deviate from the daily Rovian talking points. And you can be absolutely sure that somehow, some way, the adroit manipulation or framing of the slave issue or the “soft on terra” issue will lead to Republicans re-taking Congress and the election of a Republican as the next president. We’re all now in the Twilight Zone. And what really hurts is that we allowed it to happen.

  5. Redwretch  •  Sep 28, 2007 @10:57 am

    I suspect Medved’s article is just a standard preemptive strike against anyone who dares to suggest that there should be reparations for slavery.

    Those of us who are civil understand that reparations ARE in order. I’ve felt this way for a long time, and have always noted that the Medved’s of the world completely misrepresent how reparations would be managed, if they ever were seriously considered.

    The right wing canard against just compensation for the historical atrocity that was slavery has always been along the lines of blacks getting bucks direct deposited into their accounts. This isn’t how I believe reparations would be distributed.

    The legacy of slavery and racism has well documented effects on Americans of African descent: Poverty, lack of educational and employment opportunities, both sanctioned and overt oppression by authorities, and overall indignity. The argument for responsible reparations is that programs and efforts would be focused on combating these effects, and spent over decades. Think about how largely poor, largely black neighborhoods would benefit from such investments.

    The fear mongers focus on a supposed lump sum transfer, and use it as part of the argument that today’s African-Americans don’t deserve reparations because they were never slaves. The Medveds of the world never see nor suffer these effects, so surely they don’t exist. There’s no issue in Jena, except violent black teenagers.

    This whole ‘Slavery wasn’t that bad’ argument is a new low, at least for my eyes.

    America has stolen labor, and now steals oil. I shudder to think that this is the real American way.

  6. apikoros  •  Sep 28, 2007 @11:02 am

    2. Slavery existed only briefly – 89 years from the Declaration of Independence to the 13th Amendment. It probably didn’t seem all that brief to the persons who were enslaved. And, of course, it had been going on for some time before the Declaration of Independence. Medved figures that only about 5 percent of today’s Americans are the descendants of slave owners. That may or may not be true, but I’m not sure why it’s relevant to anything.

    First, Slavery existed in America (legally) from 1619 until 1868. That’s 249 years. Briefly, my ass. The only country I know of that held on longer was Brazil (1888).

    Second, Alfred and Ruth Blumrosen make a very strong case in their book “Slave Nation” that the Somerset decision, in 1772, ending slavery in Britain was a proximate cause for the southern colonies joining the new england colonies in the revolution.

    Third, on descent, since the children of rape are rarely proud of their paternal sires, the true percentage would take massive genetic analysis and even if the analysis were done, the “legitimate” descendants would deny its validity. See the fight over descent from Thomas Jefferson via Sally Hemmings. I am certain that Medved’s 5% only includes “legitimate” descendants. I’d add at least another 14%.

    “And as with their horses and cows, slave owners took pride and care in breeding as many new slaves as possible,”

    The history of “breeding farms” in the northern slave States (Virginia, Maryland, Delaware) for export to the south is a story yet to be told. I am certain that it occured, but I am as certain that, over time, much destruction of evidence has occurred as well. I think if it were done it would have to be done by inferrence from census records and court documents. As such it would be labeled “controversial” as so much of the less pleasant side of the peculiar institution is and ignored.

  7. Leigh  •  Sep 28, 2007 @11:09 am

    I had a similar conversation with fundie relatives a year or two ago. Unfortunately, they have another, even more insane item that could be added to this list.

    Because America was a christian nation, those slaves were able to hear the gospel and be saved whereas they would not have had that opportunity back in their home contenent of Africa.

    The frame is that it was really horrible that our ancestors were slave owners (geneology research sparked the discussion), but the good thing was that now a good number of those poor slaves are going to spend eternity in Heaven instead of burning in Hell…. so we really shouldn’t feel guilty because it all turned out ok for those slaves that opened their heart and accepted Christ as their personal savior.

    Not only that, but their decendents became christians too. Who knows how many souls were saved from the fires of hell by slavery.

    Too often, people just don’t realize how insane their thinking process can be.

  8. maha  •  Sep 28, 2007 @11:17 am

    apikoros –

    Alfred and Ruth Blumrosen make a very strong case in their book “Slave Nation” that the Somerset decision, in 1772, ending slavery in Britain was a proximate cause for the southern colonies joining the new england colonies in the revolution.

    I did not know that. Fascinating.

  9. maha  •  Sep 28, 2007 @11:20 am

    Leigh –

    Because America was a christian nation, those slaves were able to hear the gospel and be saved whereas they would not have had that opportunity back in their home contenent of Africa.

    Slaveowners and antebellum slave apologists made the same excuse, often. Mary Chesnut, a plantation owner’s wife made famous by Ken Burns’s Civil War documentary, wrote in her diary that she imagined herself to be a white Christian missionary in an African village.

  10. ken melvin  •  Sep 28, 2007 @11:29 am
  11. ken melvin  •  Sep 28, 2007 @11:29 am
  12. ken melvin  •  Sep 28, 2007 @11:32 am
  13. apikoros  •  Sep 28, 2007 @11:48 am

    Yes, maha, the combination of:

    1. the Declaratory Act (1766) stating

    That the said colonies and plantations in America have been, are, and of right ought to be, subordinate unto, and dependent upon the imperial crown and Parliament of Great Britain; and that the king’s Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, of Great Britain, in Parliament assembled, had, hath, and of right ought to have, full power and authority to make laws and statutes of sufficient force and validity to bind the colonies and people of America, subjects of the crown of Great Britain, in all cases whatsoever.

    and

    2 the Somerset decision stating

    The state of slavery is of such a nature, that it is incapable of now being introduced by Courts of Justice upon mere reasoning or inferences from any principles, natural or political; it must take its rise from positive law; the origin of it can in no country or age be traced back to any other source: immemorial usage preserves the memory of positive law long after all traces of the occasion; reason, authority, and time of its introduction are lost; and in a case so odious as the condition of slaves must be taken strictly, the power claimed by this return was never in use here; no master ever was allowed here to take a slave by force to be sold abroad because he had deserted from from his service, or for any other reason whatever; we cannot say the cause set forth by this return is allowed or approved of by the laws of this kingdom, therefore the man must be discharged.”

    implied that the British government had the power to end slavery in the colonies. This scared the piss out of the slave owners in the southern colonies. Until then, there was little sympathy for in the south for what those new england radicals had been doing. Afterward, the southerners were as ready as the new englanders to fight for their “states rights”

    BTW, as Somerset was brought on a habeas corpus petition, it is a further argument for an unrestricted “GREAT WRIT.” I have not commented on any of the various threads on “restoration” because I firmly believe that the true cure lies not in legislative action but in the discovery of a reincarnation of Justice Mansfield. What legislatures give, they can also suspend and I firmly believe that habeas corpus is the sort of fundamental right that the courts ought to be out there enforcing the bloody constitution and telling the rest of the government that they have (except in time of war) NO right to restrict it. NO time limits, NO formats, NO NOTHING limiting it. A writ presented on a cocktail napkin in pencil should have full force and effect, no matter what, no matter when.

  14. biggerbox  •  Sep 28, 2007 @11:56 am

    He should re-focus on movie reviews. If he tries to tell me that Gigli was a great film, I will be able to laugh, and won’t feel so nauseated.

    Do you suppose he was sparked into this excrescence by the protests in Jena? Perhaps he felt the need to ‘explain’ why black folk shouldn’t be getting so uppity?

    Between the front-runners avoiding last night’s debate, the latest O’Reilly flap, and this, it’s pretty clear what the nutso right thinks about blacks.

  15. Marshall  •  Sep 28, 2007 @11:58 am

    Gee, what a blast from the (pre Civil War) past – I am surprised he didn’t quote Leviticus 25:44-46.

  16. apikoros  •  Sep 28, 2007 @12:08 pm

    Aw, c’mon, Marshall, I was surprised he didn’t quote from Alexander Stephens’ “Cornerstone speach”

    “Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition.”

  17. wmr  •  Sep 28, 2007 @12:29 pm

    Medved’s #5 is of a piece with Freddie Thompson’s line about more Americans dying for other people’s freedom. Whatever we do, we’re special and deserve extra credit.

    American exceptionalism at its finest.

  18. Swami  •  Sep 28, 2007 @12:32 pm

    Medvid is a stupid man. He doesn’t have enough wisdom to know that you don’t try to defend the indefensible. What’s his next intellectual jaunt going to consist of? Defending the virtues of incest? The necessity of the holocaust? The social benefits of kiddie porn?..
    Whatever men conceive god to be..slavery has to be the antithesis of that conception.. Medvid is just sugar coating poison. And if he had a brain, he’d know not to touch the issue of slavery in America( or anywhere) with kindness or soft words.

  19. Doug Hughes  •  Sep 28, 2007 @12:42 pm

    If you subscribe to the theory that there is coordination and intent behind a buch of the wingnut publications/meda – and I do think so. then you have to consider this with the previous post, about our buddy Rush, who was shocked and delighted that black in NY could talk and act just like civilized folks.

    Elections are battles for the ‘undecided’ vote. Blacks are generally decieded, and Republicans don’t mind offending them. But Republicans do NOT want voters to identify with – or feel sympathy for blacks – like those who had homes in Louisiana before Katrina. The redistribution of wealth by Republicans has been from those without (which includes Blacks) to those who are already rich.

    Seven years of this Republican administration have provided more than enough facts about the nature of the economic ‘recovery’ Bushies will claim credit for. Only Wall Street has recovered; on Main Street, wages and prospects are dismal, and wingnuts want the faithful righties and swing votes in the middle anesthetized to the truth before the election.

  20. DoubleCinco  •  Sep 28, 2007 @1:40 pm

    In his post Medevil said: …any more than it’s true that America displayed unparalleled barbarity or enjoyed disproportionate benefit from kidnapping and exploiting innocent Africans.

    Unparalleled barbarity, hmmm, very tricky way to say that American slave runners and owners weren’t any worse than anybody else.

    He might as well have said that running an anchor chain with live humans locked onto it down into the ocean to escape detection as a slave ship was just standard for everyone.

    Now there’s a pinche pendejo.

  21. moonbat  •  Sep 28, 2007 @3:55 pm

    Just when I step away for a few days, something utterly unbelievable happens. I formerly saw Medved as merely a somewhat conservative movie reviewer, but he’s really gone around the bend with this one. The minute you look away…

  22. Swami  •  Sep 28, 2007 @5:39 pm

    Once somebody starts with a viewed in the context of the times statement..you better roll up your pants. I heard the same idle bullshit about Torquemada. Has it ever been right to burn to death another human being because their beliefs don’t agree with your own?
    It becomes the ultimate justification for evil…I could say that the rape of Nanking was not an atrocity, but the expression of a rightful Samuri code of warfare wherein the conquered have lost their right to life by the fact that they have been conquered in warfare.
    Medved is a sick individual, and every one of his points to minimalize the inherent evil in slavery are despicable. Frederick Douglass says it best..” justifiers of the most shameful evil”

  23. Pat  •  Sep 28, 2007 @6:51 pm

    Let’s not forget that many whom our American mythology deems barbarians (er, almost the entire Arab world) did away with slavery before freedom loving America.

    Another myth bites the dust…

  24. khughes1963  •  Sep 28, 2007 @9:08 pm

    Why, oh why didn’t Michael Medved stick with bad movies and high school memoirs? He was funny when writing about bad movies, but he’s now a very sorry spectacle.

  25. Urbaniak  •  Sep 29, 2007 @4:21 pm

    What the hell was eating at Medved’s reptilian brain that inspired him to write this? Has criticism of American slavery been in the news lately?

    On his radio show of Feb. 26th* he went on at length against reparations, referencing the recent news stories of the Virginia Legislature’s slavery apology and the Al Sharpton-Strom Thurmond slavery connection. (He led off the segment by warning that reparations as an issue would be “poisonous” for Barack Obama.) One assumes the “Six Inconvenient Truths” treatise was written around that time and then put in drawer for future use. (The essay’s form and some of its content is clearly inspired by David Horowitz’s “Ten Reasons…” anti-reparations essay of 2001.) The man’s blithering idiocy never ceases to amaze.

    * http://www.townhall.com/TalkRadio/Show.aspx?RadioShowID=4&ContentGuid=bc6591e1-1cb6-4341-8e3f-fcd6440059a8

  26. NoOneYouKnow  •  Oct 1, 2007 @12:25 pm

    Another sterling example of how RWA (right-wing authoritarians) are humans with a different operating system than the rest of us. Why would Medved write this nonsense, which is unencumbered by anything like scholarship to back it? Because of the desperate need for the world to be as he needs it to be. Wingnuts simply can’t handle reality, and they’ll do or say anything to keep themselves from having to acknowledge the truth.

    http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/%7Ealtemey/

  27. clytemnestra  •  Oct 1, 2007 @12:48 pm

    I heard most of this clapptrap from Rush Limbaugh over 10 years ago. It’s not just Michael Needs-Medved

  28. Tom  •  Oct 1, 2007 @12:56 pm

    I suppose next this right wingnut will claim the holocaust wasn’t so bad either, since it took even less time than slavery.

  29. Pale Rider  •  Oct 1, 2007 @12:57 pm

    Medved–what a jackass!

    One thing he somehow forgets is that the British abolished slavery AND sent its ships against the US slave traders, sometimes seizing them and returning the cargo to Africa. What little the British Navy had to do between 1815 and our civil war centered around interdicting and stopping as much of the slave trade as they had the resources to do. Every time they tried to enlist the cooperation of the United States, they were undermined by southern politicians.

  30. slappy magoo  •  Oct 1, 2007 @1:12 pm

    I imagine Medved as a Kurt Vonnegut character brought tragically to life. hack writer who earns the praise of the powerful (and the enmity of the intelligensia) by occasionally spouting off something so f’in stupid, it disracts from real problems that the powerful would like us to stop noticing. He serves his masters well, and all he loses for it is his soul, and really, what’s that worth after taxes?

  31. steve  •  Oct 1, 2007 @1:22 pm

    Medved’s is simply re-enforcing the basic rightwing canard: problems surrounding the African-American community have nothing to do with slavery or race. Whites are generally innocent, and African-American leaders are the ones responsible for all racial problems in this country.

    Next week, Medved will explain why some folks are just genetically inferior.

  32. J Neo Marvin  •  Oct 1, 2007 @1:27 pm

    First, Slavery existed in America (legally) from 1619 until 1868.

    I presume 1868 was the year the amendment was passed. But was there any documented slavery going on between 1865 and 1868? Not intending to be snarky, just curious.

  33. Glen Tomkins  •  Oct 1, 2007 @1:48 pm

    What’s eating at Medved

    Everybody’s always picking on Bubba. Sure, blacks had to endure slavery, but that was brief and benign! Bubba, however, still groans under the oppression of the moral taint of slave-holding.

    Medved cares about Bubba’s tender feelings because Republicans have won elections since 1968 for one reason and one reason only. They took over the segregation franchise from the Dems in 1964. Yes, the Dems took over the black vote that year, but the anti-black vote, the Bubba vote, has always, until lately, been bigger than the black vote.

    Lately, however, the anti-Bubba vote threatens to become bigger than the Bubba vote. Of course, Medved’s chosen method of rehabilitating segregationist sentiment, by ameliorating the reputation of slavery, is wildly counter-productive. There’s never been a racist majority in this country, and the Republicans were only able to get away with basing their coalition on the segregtionist vote by means of the dog whistle effect, whereby they would do and say things that the segs understood perfectly well, but the inherent racism of which escaped the non-crazy (or crazy about other issues) wing of their party. But if you have to outright, openly defend slavery in order to rehabilitate Bubba’s reputation — well, your dog whistle can now be heard by human beings, and your attempt to court the Bubba vote while avoiding the anti-Bubba vote has already failed.

  34. burple  •  Oct 1, 2007 @1:49 pm

    One additional point about Medved’s #4. The Northeast’s economic dynamism in the 19th century was partly a RESULT of southern slavery. We love to kid ourselves that the US caught up to and surpassed the British as the workshop of the world during the 19th century because of good old Yankee ingenuity. We forget that a chief competitive advantage of the US textile industry was… wait for it… preferential access to cheap cotton from the slave south. Yes, if your raw materials are produced by slaves, you can industrialize rapidly and catch up with more technologically advanced nations.

    I’m reading W.E.B. Du Bois’s (1935) classic sociological work, *Black Reconstruction in America.* I recommend it to all. Still relevant obviously.

  35. Apikoros  •  Oct 1, 2007 @2:08 pm

    Mr. Marvin,

    The end of slavery gets complicated. The emancipation proclamation ended slavery in the states “in rebellion” on Jan 1, 1863. The 13th amendment ended chattel slavery in the United States upon ratification by 27 States on December 6, 1865. However, some states moved from chattel slavery to debt slavery almost immediately. This was banned by the 14th amendment which was ratified in July of 1868. Since some States waffled on ratification, you get to pick your date in July, but it was valid no matter what by July 21, 1868. OK?

  36. J Neo Marvin  •  Oct 1, 2007 @3:14 pm

    Got it. Thanks.

  37. maha  •  Oct 1, 2007 @3:18 pm

    Apikoros, #42 — Damn, you’re exactly right. You must be as big a history nerd as I am. :-)

  38. Liam O'Neill  •  Oct 1, 2007 @4:33 pm

    Wasn’t Michael Medved the same guy who called “The Birth of a Nation” the “feel-good comedy of the year?”

    What’s next?

    Is he going to dress like a Klansman for Halloween?

  39. throwthembows  •  Oct 1, 2007 @4:41 pm

    Maybe he thinks we should bring slavery back if it’s not that bad

  40. scott  •  Oct 1, 2007 @4:45 pm

    Medved presents six “inconvenient truths about slavery”
    Inconvenient?Inconvenient for who?What the hell does that mean?

  41. REd  •  Oct 1, 2007 @5:44 pm

    Going to hang my neck out on this one. The problem America was facing with slavery was very complicated. For instance slavery wasn’t as bad as, lets say, global warming, If in fact global warming does lead to the extinction of all humans. The solution to global warming is easy, we stop burning fossil fuels. The solution to slavery was a bit less complicated but still not as easy as it seems in retrospect. America failed to be a leader at ending slavery and although the South is often blamed for most of it I believe that had they won their independence slavery would have eventually ended more subtly there also. Often things aren’t as bad as we imagine them to be. Slavery doesn’t need an excuse, it was wrong, it flourished for many reasons and ended because of human progress not because Lincoln wasn’t a racist.

  42. laa laa  •  Oct 1, 2007 @6:13 pm

    As an actual functioning historian of Africa (with a job, whee!) I am sick and tired to death of points #1 and #6.

    Slavery was an ancient institution…but it had a place within those societies, and people were not merely units of labor in African slavery within sub-Saharan Africa. It’s a vast difference from the removal of people from the system entirely as units of labor and trans-shipment to places where their average life expectancies were on the order of 5 to 8 years.

    #3…Slave owners wanted to breed as many new slaves as possible. What? No; this only became the case after the spigot of the trade was turned off. Pregnant or childrearing slave women were not producing cotton, tobacco, or sugarcane; it was also far cheaper to bring a new slave than to raise a child to working age while also losing the mother’s labor for part of that period. Slave owners decidedly did NOT want to encourage procreation until they were forced to do so by exigency of the trade’s abolition. Even then, it was sometimes preferable to risk being caught in violation.

    As for #6, well, we can’t say African Americans would be better off had their ancestors not been shipped across the ocean. We also can’t say they would NOT have been. We can say, however, that Africa’s economic and political stability would have remained far greater; without the Atlantic Slave Trade, Africa would look radically different today. Someone needs to introduce Mr. Medved to the great kingdoms of early modern Africa, which were the equal of anything in Europe or much of Asia–they simply didn’t transfer knowledge by writing or have an interest in sailing to places far away because they already had the things that they wanted and needed close by.

    Medved’s a twit.

  43. cherria  •  Oct 1, 2007 @6:25 pm

    Mikey Medhead seems to be looking to justify the redesign and implication of southern strategy. For all the code words they have , one would think he would just say the words ‘make them sweat and pay them even less’ and just get on with his life.

  44. woody  •  Oct 1, 2007 @8:06 pm

    [Deleted for being offensive on a couple of levels. -- maha]

  45. Dale  •  Oct 1, 2007 @10:10 pm

    I don’t particularly care for Michael Medved’s viewpoints, but in this case Maha is being disingenuous, quote mining and selectively editing to achieve effect.

    All Medved is doing is calling for a balanced analysis of slavery, in some cases addressing specific complaints presented by others in the public arena. People who are making criticisms of Medved here, based on what Maha has written, should go to the original and read what it says.

    And then they ought to read up on the history of humans for the past 2000 or 3000 years. Morality is relative. I’ve been reading about waning years of the Republic of Rome. The Romans frowned on the Gallic practice of human sacrifice, or of the Belgic practice of killing the old and weak as being barbaric, yet they saw nothing wrong with leaving unwanted babies to the elements, nor with enslaving millions of Gauls, Germans, Slavs, and others, nor of crucifixion as punishment for all kinds of trivial crimes.

    The US was not particularly evil in its handling of slaves and slavery, that’s all Medved is saying.

  46. maha  •  Oct 1, 2007 @10:26 pm

    Dale — “All Medved is doing is calling for a balanced analysis of slavery” — No, he’s presented an unbalanced and dishonest analysis of slavery.

    “People who are making criticisms of Medved here, based on what Maha has written, should go to the original and read what it says.”

    Oh, please do read the whole thing. Every word. It’s stunning. I only presented highlights. I can’t believe anyone bright enough to tie his own shoes actually wrote that crap.

    “And then they ought to read up on the history of humans for the past 2000 or 3000 years. … The US was not particularly evil in its handling of slaves and slavery, that’s all Medved is saying.”

    Well, we weren’t as bad as the Aztecs, I give you that. However,considering slavery throughout human history, what was done to plantation slaves, especially in the lower Mississippi plantations, was on the more brutal end of the scale (see comment #51, above). Saying that “The US was not particularly evil” just tells me you don’t know much about history.

  47. Emily  •  Oct 1, 2007 @11:13 pm

    As a child of the south with no political loyalties (right now, I’m just about equally annoyed with both sides, although the Dems are more consistent and less evil), slavery wasn’t the big reason for the civil war. One difference was that the north didn’t depend on slave labor – they just paid people as little as possible with no obligation to make sure they were fed, clothed and housed (not that slavery was any better, just different). Thus, there were fewer blacks in the north – so freeing them or being friendly to them meant the south would have a smaller fighting force, since they were definitely pulling in slave labor to their armies. And, finally, they were fighting for states’ rights – rather than have something be mandated from above, they wanted to be able to chose it for themselves. With the way society was going, they’d have probably ended it sooner or later, but it would have disappeared slower, possibly state by state.

    That said, Medved is an idiot. While some of the stuff may be at least partly true in an abstract sense, you can’t use it to justify slavery. You can’t use ANYTHING to justify slavery. Just doesn’t work that way.

  48. IndyHoosier  •  Oct 2, 2007 @6:34 am

    Emily – In the north, if you wanted to change your lot in life, and leave the opressive mills in New England to hunt or farm in Illinois, you did not have a posse chase you down, whip you senseless, strap you in chains and drag you back to your workstation. One cannot say the same about a slave in Georgia, now can they?

    Equating low pay to the abuses of slavery is just so …. Republican.

  49. apikoros  •  Oct 2, 2007 @9:01 am

    maha #45 I am a history nerd :-) but in a fairly specialized way. I am fascinated by the period prior to the civil war especially the growth and spread of slavery. I live in Alexandria, VA, a headquarters of the interstate slave trade before the war, altho “we don’t talk about that.” and have fallen into studying what I call “we don’t talk about that” history. It’s quite fascinating. When I go to historic sites and the docent lectures on “servants” I always ask what they were paid, etc. etc. Since I know all the embarrassing questions at this point, I can be quite a tryiung tourist.

  50. maha  •  Oct 2, 2007 @9:20 am

    Emily –

    As a child of the south with no political loyalties (right now, I’m just about equally annoyed with both sides, although the Dems are more consistent and less evil), slavery wasn’t the big reason for the civil war.

    Yes, it was. The southern states seceded to protect the institution of slavery. This is beyond question. Four states — Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas — prepared “declaration of causes” documents when they seceded, giving their reasons for secession, and the reasons were slavery, slavery, slavery, and slavery. You should read them yourself. A few other issues were mentioned, but those issues were only important because they were connected to slavery. States’ rights, for example, only mattered to southerners when it came to protecting their “property.” In other circumstances — such as enforcement of the fugitive slave laws — they were real big on federal government solutions.

    One difference was that the north didn’t depend on slave labor – they just paid people as little as possible with no obligation to make sure they were fed, clothed and housed (not that slavery was any better, just different).

    Northern factory and sweatshop workers had a bad time, but you really can’t compare that to plantation work. On some plantations slaves were literally worked to death within months.

    Thus, there were fewer blacks in the north – so freeing them or being friendly to them meant the south would have a smaller fighting force, since they were definitely pulling in slave labor to their armies.

    Not to fight, except toward the end of the civil war, when the Confederates put together a black regiment that never saw combat. In most southern states African Americans were not allowed to have firearms. They certainly weren’t allowed to join the state militias. It is documented there were a handful of free African Americans — slave owners themselves — who joined Confederate regiments, but I’m not sure how much they were allowed to do.

    And, finally, they were fighting for states’ rights – rather than have something be mandated from above, they wanted to be able to chose it for themselves.

    And the “it” was slavery, slavery, slavery, and slavery.

    With the way society was going, they’d have probably ended it sooner or later, but it would have disappeared slower, possibly state by state.

    Probably not for a couple of generations. But the South started the war — South Carolina fired on the FEDERAL military reservation of Fort Sumter — so whatever happened, the South brought on itself.

  51. Robert Fernando  •  Oct 2, 2007 @11:56 am

    Slavery, Reparations, Medved… Can we get more silly?

    Fact: There was an active movement in this land from early on to ban slavery. It doesn’t make up for the fact that slavery existed but this needs to be said.

    Fact: The American Civil War was not about freeing the slaves; this was an outcome, not the cause. For evidence of this look no further than the date of the start of the war and the date of the Emancipation Proclamation.

    To my knowledge the 50,000 white slaves who were brought over to the plantations in Virginia never received compensation, nor did their great-great-great grand children. (I’m not trying to quantify whose slavery experience was harsher, just stating that other people besides blacks from Africa were enslaved here)

    Nor did the govt of Australia pay reparations to the descendants of British prisoners including those who trace their heritage to the infamous rape ships. Nor does anyone speak of reparations for the indentured servants from Europe, China and India who live in the Caribbean.

    Money will not heal a wound, certainly not one that has no visible scar. It certainly will not heal those whose great-great-grand parents were victimized. (how do you heal that?)

    If you were to pay money to people how would go about doing it? Base it on race? There is no such thing as a “black” person or a “white” person from a scientific stand point. (see http://www.pbs.org/race/ ) Would Halle Berry get 1/2 as much as Oprah Winfrey due to their parentage? Should people on public asst. get more than people with jobs? Should recent immigrants pay blacks compensation for which their ancestors bear no responsibility? I suppose someone could work out some grand complicated formula of who has to pay what to who, but why?

    What if they all just said they are sorry for what their ancestors did to your ancestors? Does that even make sense? Can you imagine the premier of China apologizing to the president of Iran “I’m sorry that Ghengis Khan raped and pillaged your ancestors land. I don’t know why he did these horrible things…”

    It’s all pretty silly. History is something you learn from so as not to repeat the errors of the past. If anyone really deserves any compensation for something it would be the Native Americans. Pay them for the value of the land taken from their ancestors (at today’s prices) and you bankrupt the treasury before you are done.

    What we all need to do is to forget about outdated concepts like race and forget about whose great-grand-daddy did what to whose great-grand-ma.

    We really need to decide how we are all going to live together and make this Nation a better place for our children. That is a goal for which we, as humans and as Americans should all strive for.

  52. maha  •  Oct 2, 2007 @12:27 pm

    Fact: There was an active movement in this land from early on to ban slavery. It doesn’t make up for the fact that slavery existed but this needs to be said.

    Yes, some people recognized that slavery was bad. But before the Civil War abolitionism was something of a fringe movement. The majority of northern whites didn’t care for slavery but were willing to put up with it as long as it stayed in the South. Abolitionist meetings and literature were banned in most Southern states.

    Fact: The American Civil War was not about freeing the slaves; this was an outcome, not the cause. For evidence of this look no further than the date of the start of the war and the date of the Emancipation Proclamation.

    No. Although the Union didn’t start out with the objective of ending slavery in the slave states, it is a bare-assed fact that the reasons the Southern states seceded were slavery, slavery, and slavery. Oh, and slavery. You don’t have to take my word for this; read the declarations of causes yourself. The South rebelled to protect the institution of slavery, and the northern states responded to preserve the Union.

    To my knowledge the 50,000 white slaves who were brought over to the plantations in Virginia never received compensation, nor did their great-great-great grand children.

    You are talking about indentured servants, right? I believe some of my ancestors were indentured servants. It really wasn’t quite the same thing as slavery, and I don’t think I need reparations for it.

    I’m not going to respond to reparations arguments, because that’s not the issue here, and it’s a bit late for that, IMO. I just want to set you straight on history.

    History is something you learn from so as not to repeat the errors of the past.

    This only works if you actually learn history rather than embrace some revisionist myths.

  53. John C. Calhoun  •  Oct 4, 2007 @1:24 am

    It’s not like he doesn’t have sources for Point #6

    From Slavery a Positive Good
    http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/index.asp?subcategory=34
    John C. Calhoun
    February 6, 1837

    But let me not be understood as admitting, even by implication, that the existing relations between the two races in the slaveholding States is an evil:—far otherwise; I hold it to be a good, as it has thus far proved itself to be to both, and will continue to prove so if not disturbed by the fell spirit of abolition. I appeal to facts. Never before has the black race of Central Africa, from the dawn of history to the present day, attained a condition so civilized and so improved, not only physically, but morally and intellectually.

    In the meantime, the white or European race, has not degenerated. It has kept pace with its brethren in other sections of the Union where slavery does not exist. It is odious to make comparison; but I appeal to all sides whether the South is not equal in virtue, intelligence, patriotism, courage, disinterestedness, and all the high qualities which adorn our nature.

  54. Paul Fraser  •  Feb 12, 2008 @12:48 am

    More drool?! None of us, including Michael Medved lived back in the time of slavery. Unless you believe in reincarnation! So how do we know what really happened? Besides, has anyone on this blog actually considered Michael’s remarks openly?!
    http://battlesoftim.com

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