More Drool

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.

65 thoughts on “More Drool

  1. 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. 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?


  3. 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????


  4. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.

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  11. 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.


    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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.”

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

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  21. 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. Once somebody starts with a viewed in the context of the times 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”

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  24. 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…

  25. 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.

  26. 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.


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  29. 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.

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

  31. 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.

  32. 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?

  33. 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.

  34. 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.

  35. 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.

  36. 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.

  37. 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?

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  40. 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?

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

  42. 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.

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