• Bernie Stein

    Enjoyed your piece, not a libertarian but I don’t see much controversial here.

  • dnr

    History is written by the victor. For an eye opener read what Lincoln really thought of the negro race… and the real reason for the war.
    The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War
    Thomas J. Dilorenzo

    • Fair enough. But the false sanctification of Lincoln doesn’t justify the even more false sanctification of Robert E. Lee or Jefferson Davis.

      • stevenjohnson2

        DiLorenzo is a dirty joke, so I for one don’t agree that’s “fair enough.” Also, I disagree there’s any false sanctification of Lincoln or Davis. The racist Birth of a Nation did because it wanted to claim Lincoln, but the latest round of Hollywood Lincoln, Spielberg showed Lincoln hitting Robert Todd. That’s not sanctification. As a big time loser, sanctification of Davis has never been very successful.

        But Lee? Gotta give ya that one!

        • Well, no. The point is that EVEN IF one thinks Lincoln was bad (I don’t) then that’s not a defense of the Confederate statues. But….I’m amazed that you think one movie changes the fact that there is an enormous Lincoln Memorial on the mall. Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, all secular saints with memorials on the mall. Lincoln has been deified, for better or worse. EVEN IF you think that is a mistake, that doesn’t mean the Confederate statues should remain.

          • stevenjohnson2

            You were wrong to accept DiLorenzo, and THAT is the main point. dnr cited DiLorenzo to claim that Confederate statues have nothing to do with racism but with honoring true heroes (unlike Lincoln and Grant, whom I suppose you think is also deified.) And you tacitly agreed. Your counter-argument is some sort of secular iconoclasm where you would break the images of secular saints, presumably to purify worship of the true religion of patriotism, or democracy, or liberty, or the free market, whichever god whose prophet you are.

            Your quarrel with my “also” is I think wrong too. At the very least, I’m amazed you don’t know a lot more people see movies than see the mall.

          • Well, that’s an interesting question. Should one quarrel with the PREMISE of opponents, or grant the premise and then show that the claim still doesn’t work. I’ve never been a preference quarreler, it leads the discussion off into the blackberry bushes away from the main trail. As a matter of rhetoric I don’t see why accepting the claim of DiLorenzo is a mistake. You may be right that it is a moral mistake, in the sense that it’s a terrible book.

          • stevenjohnson2

            If I thought your counter-argument actually worked, I wouldn’t be nearly as provoked. If we took your counter-argument seriously, we would be taking all portraits off coins and bills, not (rarely) arguing about who should be on them. I suppose I could agree with that, in preference to some of the men we have now. But rhetorically, i think it’s non-starter, because I don’t think most people really regard these figures as being deified, even if you do.

          • I get it, you disagree. You’ll forgive me if nonetheless I sleep well tonight, pumpkin.

          • stevenjohnson2

            So will dnr.

        • Jeff R.

          Tim Burton’s version had him as a bad-ass vampire hunter:


      • martinbrock

        When you find a truly sanctified head of state, let me know.

        • stevenjohnson2

          The Senate of Rome deified, literally, those emperors whom it deemed suitably solicitous of the aristocratic interest (or, in Julius Caesar’s, if it was forced to.) I suppose by our standards, given it was a polytheism, the outcome was more like a canonization. Of course, the Pharaohs ruled long before. More recently the Khmer god-kings built Angkor Wat and others.

          But in the contemporary world, the most outstanding figure is the Dalai Lama, even if he is a god-king in exile. The long tradition in Chinese-influenced cultures of the emperor being a sacred ritual figure has left us the emperor of Japan. There is also Haile Selassie. Theologically being long dead makes no difference, but politically? As I understand it there are god-men in the Indian culture, but they are not heads of state. But do priest-kings count? If so, there priest-kings in various Mesopotamian cities from Sumer on. As near as I can tell, the kings of Sikkim was one. If being truly sanctified means able to work at least one miracle, in Europe, apparently all kings were supposed to be able to cure scrofula, the king’s evil, with their touch. If I recall correctly, the last king to try was Charles X of France.

          I think the Chinese heritage has been copied in the modern-day cults of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, but that is all mixed up with juche etc. so I guess that doesn’t count.

          But I think being the head of the church should count as being a truly sanctified figure. This then includes Elizabeth II or the late lamented Tsars of Russia.

          Most people who like to sling charges about something being like a religion or like being deified in practice seem to know very little about religion (or do not use the knowledge.) That gives us things like Munger equating the Lincoln Memorial with a temple.

  • stevenjohnson2

    As I understand it there are no statues of Longstreet or George H. Thomas anywhere in the South. They were brave and distinguished men of the South too. That they were deemed unworthy of honor reveals what the Confederate statues are about too, I think.

  • DST

    So, you’re proudly stating that you lost your ability to see nuance? Creating an unbreakable link between a WWII-era German soldier and Naziism is like calling a soldier involved in the 2003 invasion of Iraq a “neocon.” You can can respect those involved in the fighting, including senior officers, without respecting the decision to go to war. (Hint: sculpting technology might have advanced to the point where we could leave the swastikas off of the uniforms in a hypothetical German war memorial).

    I find it rather odd that Germans are expected *not* to honor those that died in WWII, particularly those who died desperately trying to slow the Soviet advance, just as I would find it odd if Russians were expected not to honor those that died fighting the Germans. I don’t see a contradiction in that. It’s only rational to expect everyone to fight for their side, and respect the decision of others to do the same.

    Just because we find the causes of slavery or fascism unjust, doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate the sacrifice of those who were caught defending their countries at times in history when the leaders of those countries were implementing those evil policies. If you found yourself in a country that was implementing such policies, wouldn’t you rather fight off an invading force and try to change those policies from within, rather than cheering on the invaders?

    Would the lefties that see Trump as “a literal fascist!!!” want a foreign country to invade the US to depose him, or would their patriotism cause them to rise up to fight off the invaders? Would the answer be different if the invader were France than if it were Russia? Would they disdain those of their fellow countrymen who fought bravely to repel the invasion?

    Taking down war memorials of the other side, even the losing side, is just narrow-minded and spiteful.

    • geoih

      There is a difference between remembering, honoring and celebrating. And a realistic understanding of history is not black and white. The south may have succeeded to save slavery, but the north didn’t invade to end it, at least not at first. And once the fighting was over, the north was still just as bigoted as the south, even if it was less explicit. Nor were those in the west any less bigoted, even if their racism was more aimed at non-black minorities. It is all very complicated and worthy of more effort to remember it more accurately than simply trying to erase the unsavory.
      I favor the idea of moving these relics into museums, where the whole story can be told, including the story of what is happening today. Perhaps a statue of Robert E. Lee will become a way to not only remember what happened 150 years ago, but how that history was reconciled today.

      • DST

        Moving them into museums sounds reasonable in itself, but it then raises the question of why other memorials are allowed to stand.

      • stevenjohnson2

        We could put up new statues right next to the old ones? For instance, every statute of Lee will be accompanied by figures of blacks being driven back into slavery, or maybe brine poured into the wounds from a whipping? Every statue of Bedford Forrest can show black soldiers being massacred at Fort Pillow?

        • King Goat

          After all, we want to preserve the history and heritage, and not ‘erase’ it, right?

    • stevenjohnson2

      ” You can can respect those involved in the fighting, including senior officers, without respecting the decision to go to war.”

      That is not what Confederate statues are about. Longstreet was one of the most eminent Confederate generals. But he is not honored or respected, because after the war he became a Republican. He was attacked and driven from public life by White League rioters. The Confederate statues were erected as symbolic affirmations of the effective undoing of Negro suffrage and the permanent (they hoped) degradation of African-Americans by a “redeemed,” that is, white, South. Everyone who claims that the statues are about honoring courage is a liar. It is not an accident that Bedford Forrest is more honored than George H. Thomas, a general whose victories rival the best of the Confederates. The purpose is to honor racism, and that’s why Longstreet and Thomas great achievements are left to oblivion.

      • DST

        It’s a strange argument to say that because two individuals who you think were honorable were not specifically lauded, no actual memorial was done for honorable purposes.

        It’s like saying, “John said he ate carrots to be healthy, but we know that cucumbers are healthy, and he didn’t eat any of those, so he must be lying about the carrots!”

        • stevenjohnson2

          No, I’m saying “John said he ate carrots to be healthy [put up Confederate statues to honor courage etc.] but then he wouldn’t eat these carrots![put up statues to honor the courage of two other Southerners!] If he’s making a difference between carrots, it’s not because he eats carrots for his health, which does prove he’s lying!”

          • DST

            That doesn’t change anything. As long as the carrots that John eats *are* healthy, then the fact that he hasn’t eaten all the healthy carrots does nothing to undermine his stated motive. The key here is that eating carrots / putting up monuments is something discretionary. The fact that people are tremendously complex means that you can’t infer much from their failure to do certain things.

            Your analysis might work if setting up memorials to officers was mandatory under some statutory scheme. If Longstreet had an entitlement to a memorial under such a scheme, and officials withheld the honor, then you would be on much surer ground in criticizing those officials.

          • stevenjohnson2

            Let me see…your proposition is “If people are very complex, you cannot infer from much from their failure to do certain things.” That would be the same as saying “If you can infer much from what people do, then they must be simple.” Re-framed like that, the proposition sounds far fetched, like desperate pleading. Skepticism about how much you can know in my experience is always aimed at supporting conservative practice, just as here.

  • Sean II

    “…and when at last they ran out of ideas for reducing such disparities, the people of early 21st century America soothed themselves by attacking vodoo dolls of stone and bronze. With no credible plan to make the future more equal, they tried instead to make the past less racist. They could not change the patterns of social life among the living, so they dutifully set about altering status among the dead.”

    – some archeologist writing about us 1,000 years from now.

    • King Goat

      Fallacy of relative deprivation

      • Sean II

        No. That’d be relevant if people were saying “let’s topple the statues” in addition to a number of more substantial things.

        But they’re not. They’re toppling the statues instead of doing anything else. Because they can’t think of anything else to try. Because we already tried everything they could think of.

        It’s a punchline at this point that every race protest starts with a grand dream for equality, and ends with a stupefyingly petty demand that some college president or police chief resign, or some building be renamed, some word be changed, some VP of Inclusion get a raise for producing the same dreary stats he turned in last year, etc.

        And that’s when there is any substance at all. To the extent that activists can think of a policy demand, it’s usually some pathetically vapid thing like “more training”, “appoint an oversight commission”, etc. Or something absurd like “we demand independent Black political power and Black self-determination in all areas of society”.

        That last one – which is a call for separatism if it means anything at all – is item six out of six on Black Lives Matter’s list of demands. A list the movement took two years to assemble.

        Because they couldn’t think of anything to demand.

        And it’s hardly their fault. No one else can, either.

        • Peter from Oz

          Good point. Such activists have always been animated by symbolism rather than real events. This is because they can’t really determine that the weak performance of their group has been caused by the actions of other groups.
          They imagine that if all the nasty symbols were removed, then the problem they think they face would disappear. It is voddoo thinking.
          Of course it all stems from the fact that the ”racism” they claim is omnipresent and all-embracing doesn’t really exist.

          • Sean II

            I’ve been trying to figure out lately when the movement went bad, and what were the turning points.

            I’m not really sure, but it’s interesting to consider.

            For example, in 1995 it was definitely still possible to be BOTH an active anti-racist and a reasonable person. We know this because even most white progressives were capable of noticing that O.J. did it

            Wouldn’t go like that today. To much pressure to make every little battle a proxy in the big war. Now they’d have to defend him.

            Likewise for 2006, when Kayne West was widely regarded as a buffoon for dragging race into the Katrina story.

            If that happened today, the Atlantic would send out its best and brightest to say what he did less directly, in jargon-heavy hot takes of 1,500 words.

            Which is to say: the madness of today is very much of today.

          • Peter from Oz

            I think the extermist activists were always there. It’s just that a lot of more normal people on the left seem to have fallen for the extremist viewpoint of recent times.

          • Here’s Robert Lucas in 1993:

            Region: This question may relate to what you were saying just a minute ago about the old Keynesian ideas and the new Keynesians. Have the neo-Keynesians once again stormed the castle in Washington?

            Lucas: It’s hard for me to say. What troubles me about
            neo-Keynesians is not so much that they have a definite clear-cut
            ideology that I dislike, but that they have too little ideology.
            They’re too good at rationalizing anything. So if I’m worried
            about anything, it’s that economics as a kind of independent force
            won’t really be operating in this administration. These guys have
            enough talent to put a kind of semi-respectable economic rationale
            on whatever the hell the politicians come up with. I don’t see
            a neo-Keynesian agenda on policy issues.

            Source: https://www.minneapolisfed.org/publications/the-region/interview-with-robert-e-lucas-jr

            I think Generation X brought so much cynicism into the world that they were ready, willing, and able to put a veneer of credibility on any idea, no matter how “out there” it was. I think Gen-X was capable of seeing the irony while they were doing this, and there was a subversive nature about it that may have been a little good. Like, “Oh yeah? Well now this idea is backed by math, too. What are you gonna do about it?”

            Problem is, the Millennials didn’t get the irony. They just grew up reading the arguments and figuring that it was just an equal but opposing viewpoint. So they just swallowed it.

            And of course the generally increasing trend of narcissism plays into this, since narcissism and image maintenance is all about presenting things as believable, not about presenting things as they are. It’s more important that you can’t deny that the LAPD is racist than it is that any one particular event involving the LAPD involved racism.

            Because facts belong to specific situations, whereas perceptions follow you everywhere you go, like a ghost.

            That, at least, is my conjecture about the situation.

          • Luke Reeshus

            I’ve been trying to figure out lately when the movement went bad, and what were the turning points.

            I’m not really sure, but it’s interesting to consider.

            The presidential election of 2008, perhaps?

            What stands out about modern anti-racism is that it never lacks for targets. Which is paradoxical, of course, because as a movement is successful, so its targets should dwindle. Not nowadays though. Nowadays, goes the thinking, racism may be less visible and blatantly discriminatory, but that’s not because there’s less of it, oh no. It’s just more abstract. It imbues our institutions, colors (as it were) our thinking, taints the very air we breath. It’s everywhere, man. And indeed, by this conception, it’s possible not only to believe that there’s just as much racism as ever, but even more. Like I said, paradoxical.

            Which brings me back to Obama. The election of a Muslim Kenyan (jk—I’m not a birther; it just tickled me to write that) for president was a huge symbolic victory for anti-racism, a sign that America was finally living up to its ideals and putting its racist past behind it. From what I recall of foreign coverage, that’s certainly the way most Europeans saw it.

            Not our native radicals, though. Like the good utopian millenialists they are, they saw Obama’s election as a sign of the end-times—the “end” of course, referring to racism. “We’re damn close now,” they thought. “Time for that last lunge into paradise.” The rest of us our currently dealing with that collective lunge.

            It may be coming to an end though. The paradoxical and hysterical nature of their current movement is, by my reading, a very natural response to what all millenialists eventually experience—disappointment. The utopia of equality they envisioned was and is a hallucination, and what we’re witnessing nowadays is a desperate bid on their part to keep seeing it.

          • Peter from Oz

            Could it also be that the activists don’t want to go back to dull boring jobs after fighting on the frontline for a noble cause? So they keep the cause going out of self-interest. To do this they have to make more and more outlandish arguments as to why ”racism” is endemic in society. They also have to change the definition of racism.

          • Luke Reeshus

            Oh, certainly. It’s perpetually difficult to untangle the psychological motivations of people. Some do it out of real belief, some do it mainly for the feels. It’s always hard to tell. Hell, I myself am not sure most days whether I mock modern anti-racists out of principle or out of my sheer enjoyment for mocking ridiculous ideologues.

          • Peter from Oz

            I’m doing it just for the fun. Piercing the balloons of pompous twits is always good value.

          • Sean II

            “The utopia of equality they envisioned was and is a hallucination, and what we’re witnessing nowadays is a desperate bid on their part to keep seeing it.”

            The tragic part is they’re willing to fuck over their children rather than admit being wrong.

            I’m just kidding. They don’t have any children.

          • Rob Gressis

            Trayvon Martin case?

          • Sean II

            Somebody on Twitter said that the other day, that “2012 was the last sane year”.

            Probably some truth to it. Trayvon certainly was a case where the Left (and especially the libertarian left) bit a whole box of unpleasant bullets when the evidence turned against them.

            It was really weird to hear An-Caps of all people falling back on arguments like “Zimmerman should never have left his car. The police dispatcher told him to say put!”

            I couldn’t help but wonder if some of these guys have been putting us on. Like maybe there the political equivalent of those phony tough guys who shout “let me at’em” when they’re being held back

          • Rob Gressis

            Well, hold on. It’s not like Trump was Pat Buchanan. Trump seemed and seems to be a very erratic character whom we’re entrusting with a great deal of power. Granted, there were reasons to think that he would be effectively hemmed in, but lots of us were caught up in the panic and didn’t see those reasons. And the thing about an-caps is that they’re scared of the state, so, putting someone really unpredictable in charge of it is scarier than putting someone really predictable in charge of it.

          • Sean II

            This one’s hard for me. Because I recognize your point. Some people didn’t have enough public choice cynicism to see how neutered Trump was gonna be. And they got nervous, which I suppose you’d have to in the absence of such knowledge.

            My somewhat harsh response is: “yeah but if they didn’t know how the system works well enough to predict its behavior, maybe they shouldn’t have super strong political opinions.”

            Let me hasten to say I don’t include you in that, because I’ve watched you respond to evidence. However worried you were in January, you clearly calmed down once you saw the establishment circle its wagons.

            But many have not. Many people are persisting against all evidence in an Aaron Sorkinized view of politics where the decency of the President (as signaled by polished speech and genteel manner, rather than actions) is some huge important thing.

            And some of them are willing to tolerate any dirty trick they can come up with to make the tweets stop.

            Here I can be harsh without apology. Trump is a temporary problem. But many of the schemes being hatched to oust him would have lasting consequences. Abusing the impeachment process risks turning the U.S. into a pseudo parliamentary system with no confidence votes. Bad for the balance in “checks and balances”. The Russia thing is blatant case of selective and vindictive prosecution. Bad for rule of law, having a crime that only is a crime when one particular person does it. And so on for any of the other “we can’t wait until 2020” panic moves now being proposed.

          • D Hampton

            Many people are persisting against all evidence in an Aaron Sorkinized view of politics where the decency of the President (as signaled by polished speech and genteel manner, rather than actions) is some huge important thing.

            I think many may be clinging to this view in order to justify (to themselves) their euphoric unconditional support for President Obama, based in his outward appearances and feel-good speeches and in spite of his actions and inactions.

          • King Goat

            “the fact that the ”racism” they claim is omnipresent and all-embracing doesn’t really exist.”

            They can’t even go down main street to work or school without passing a monument to their enslavement based on their inferiority, that seems pretty close to omni-present.

            It’s funny to see people so casually dismiss ‘symbols.’ It’s not as if symbols are, like, a defining feature of our species or anything!

          • Peter from Oz

            Ah, the Agincourt defence, i.e. drawing a long bow.
            I wonder when we will get to the stage when some black activist will tell us that even seeing a white man will be a manifestation of racism for any african american. Oh, I forgot that already happened in some US college where all the whites had to leave the campus for a day to give the blacks a day off from racism.
            The thing is that the ”racism” complained of is really political dissent and hatred of the chippiness of so many left-wing blacks and their white enablers.
            Lionel Shriver just countered that staute racism in a great article in the Spectator. The fact is that most people have no idea about the identity of the those memorialised in statues. As usual it’s only a few activists who care and who make trouble where none needs to exist.

        • King Goat

          This seems very confused. Wouldn’t a ‘dream for racial equality’ naturally lead to a place where, I dunno, monuments to the enslavement of people based on their race cease to be?

          • Sergio Méndez

            What a surprise…Sean II defending the statues erected to celebrate slavery and remind blacks “of their place” after the civil war…who will have guessed?

  • King Goat

    It’s pretty telling when on a website devoted to a movement that is ostensibly so pro-liberty that it adopts the term itself in the name of its political philosophy (indeed, and a site for a *bleeding hearts* variant of said philosophy) that opposition to publicly erected and maintained monuments to liberty’s exact opposite, slavery, is so tepid (at best).

  • Roderick T. long

    I find the Confederate flag horrifying. But I find the American flag horrifying too, for similar reasons.