March 30, 2018
MY CORNER by Boyd Cathey
A Few Words (Again) on Russia, and a Longer Column on the Continuing Attacks on the South and the Confederacy by the Neoconservatives and Dominant Conservative Movement
This morning I had
hoped to return—it seems like for the umpteenth time—to a discussion of the
immense ideological legerdemain being foisted upon the American populace by nearly
every news network, including Fox, about the supposed “Russian poisoning” of
expatriate Russian Sergei Skripal and his daughter which occurred near
Salisbury, England, earlier this month. I wrote about it on March 15 [
http://boydcatheyreviewofbooks.blogspot.com/2018/03/march-15-2018-my-corner-by-boyd-cathey.html]. As I pointed out then, this
bizarre case in which facts have been massaged, manipulated and withheld from
the accused party, contains one major fundamental objective: the continued
attack upon a Russia which refuses to accept the precepts and controls of secularist
globalism, economic tutelage, liberal democracy, and, to summarize, the New
World Order. After all is said and done, the template is really that simple. The
current frenzied hatred for Russia, from the Neoconservative “right” to the
radical farther Left, is anchored squarely in that.
Additionally, and connected to this overriding thematic narrative has been the Mainstream Media (and including Fox) “take” on the recently completed Russian presidential elections. Everyone from Andrea Mitchell on NBC, who termed those elections a “sham,” to Karl Rove on Fox, who suggested that Russian opposition figure, Alexei Navalny, would have won the election had he been allowed to run, echoed this party line.
Perennial protester/candidate Navalny had been convicted of corruption and thus unable to offer a challenge:
In December 2017, Russia's Central Electoral Commission barred Navalny from running for President in 2018, citing Navalny's corruption conviction. The European Union said Navalny's removal cast "serious doubt" on the election. Navalny called for a boycott of the 2018 presidential election, stating his removal meant that millions of Russians were being denied their vote. [Wikipedia]
Yet even if Navalny had been able to offer his candidacy, every poll—including the highly respected Levada Poll—indicated that at best he would have gained no more than around 15%. Indeed, in the March 18 election Vladimir Putin garnered over 76% of the vote, with a nearly 70% total turnout of the Russian electorate—Navalny’s vaunted “boycott” never got any traction at all. And despite the best claims of Rove and Mitchell of election shenanigans, the some 1,500 international election observers agreed that the presidential election was fair.
Indeed, one could make the case—as Ron Paul and Dr. Paul Craig Roberts have both done—that the elections in Russia were more democratic than our own elections here in the United States have been [see, for example: https://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2018/03/26/integrity-vanished-west/]. After all, our country has a highly visible history of election irregularities—and not just the vote stacking in Chicago (by Mayor Dailey) in 1960 that allowed John F. Kennedy to win the presidency, or the fact that by just getting a driver’s license in California, no matter your citizenship, enables you to register to vote, or the constant scenes of paid-for buses carrying voters to the polls, each rider armed with a little card instructing him or her whom to vote for.
Talk about democracy? And that we should condemn Russia for not practicing it? When was the last time we condemned our Middle Eastern ally Saudi Arabia, an autocratic non-“democratic” state, if there ever was one? Or, Egypt under its authoritarian president al-Sisi, or Turkey under its president Erdogan? All allies of the United States….
Let’s face it: democracy in the United States today, at least nationally and to large degree on the state level, is dominated and controlled by money and moneyed interests. You have money—and lots of it—you have a real voice.
More on these topics later.
But today I want to pass on the latest blog entry by my friend, columnist Ilana Mercer. It concerns the most recent column by vaunted “conservative” Victor Davis Hanson who, it seems, possesses a fixation about the Confederacy and the Old South. The pre-War Between the States South was a region dripping with racism and bigotry, he repeatedly exclaims, that deserved its “punishment” from those Godly soldiers who went marching, burning and pillaging through to bring to the poor, unenlightened Southerners all the fruits of democracy, equality and “righteousness.”
In the past Hanson has praised Sherman’s March as “holy work” and “actually not that hard” on Southern civilians [http://victorhanson.com/wordpress/?p=5133], and called any decent or fair treatment of Confederates in cinema as glorifying “folksy racists” [http://victorhanson.com/wordpress/the-strange-case-of-confederate-cool/]. Obviously John Ford, who treated Confederates with respect, if not sympathy (think here of John Wayne’s Ethan Edwards in the classic, The Searchers, or Pvt. John Smith, AKA General Rome Clay, CSA, in She Wore A Yellow Ribbon, for instance), did not get the memo.
Hanson is a prominent senior contributor to the “conservative” magazine National Review, and his views are shared by its other contributors, including editor Rich Lowry. It is a view that partakes of the very same narrative as the Marxist writers, historians and journalists on the “farther Left.” It is the same viewpoint that is now being foisted off every Sunday evening by Fox News in its televised “history” program titled, “Legends & Lies: The Civil War.” It is a theme that posits that the United States was founded specifically on an “idea,” and that “idea” was equality, which, they quickly point out, is proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence.
But it is an idea that the Founders rejected and, in fact, understood was and would be the death of the American republic.
In several columns and published articles over the past few years I have cited the twenty year correspondence and series of debates between the late Professors Mel Bradford and Harry Jaffa regarding the American Founding and the idea of “equality.” Bradford’s volume, Original Intentions, gives the lie to those who pose the ideology of equality as this nation’s founding principle. And, more recently, Professor Barry Alain Shain (Colgate University), in his mammoth study, The Declaration of Independence in Historical Context: American State Papers, Petitions, Proclamations, and Letters of the Delegates to the First National Congresses (2014), provides overwhelming documentation of Bradford’s view and the ahistorical views of Hanson and those like him. An excellent, if detailed, summary can be found in Bradford’s essay in Modern Age quarterly, “The Heresy of Equality” (Winter 1976). [The essay may be online; I have a PDF of it, should anyone desire a copy.]
In short, the arguments of Hanson, Lowry, and other Neoconservatives violate the basic standards of historical investigation and writing.
There is no daylight historically between the Neocons and those now leading the establishment “conservative movement,” and the far Left Marxists when it comes to interpreting American history and our nation’s Founding. Indeed, George W. Bush's point man and vaunted political consultant, Karl Rove, has praised viciously anti-Southern Marxist historian Eric Foner as his "favorite historian." Given that fatal historical myopia, is it any wonder that “conservatism inc.” is now a miserable and losing proposition when it comes to opposing the forces of the farther Left in the battle for what is left of the American republic and our inherited culture? Needless to say, any traditional American who claims to be a real conservative and who continues to accept the tutelage of such individuals and their organs—indeed, any Southerner who continues to conflate such historical drivel with a defense of his own heritage—needs to re-examine his views and undergo a reality check.
I pass long Ilana Mercer’s column, which quotes extensively Professor Clyde Wilson and Dr. Brion McClanahan:
Victor Davis Hanson’s Attack On Southern Heritage Is Vintage Leftist, Cultural Marxism
by Ilana Mercer March 29, 2018
Victor Davis Hanson’s [latest essay] “The Confederate Mind” is an attack on the South, which is, as Prof. Paul Gottfried points out, “fully consonant with the Cold War left-liberal tradition that one finds, for example, in the work of Arthur Schlesinger. Note that in The Vital Center, and in other tracts, Schlesinger repeatedly compares Confederate leaders to Nazis, Communists and other unsavory types that the US had been at war with.” Gottfried is the historian of the American and European Right.
“This may be the most loathsome thing I’ve seen by Hanson in quite a while,” ventures historian Dr. Boyd Cathey (who contributes to the Unz Review and to Barely a Blog). “The Confederate Mind’ is just one more piece of screaming evidence that the neoconservatives and the establishment ‘Conservative Movement Inc.’ is not only no friend of traditionalists, but rather is collaborating with zeal with the far Left in the destruction and the extinguishing of what is left of Southern heritage.”
Yet, all so-called conservatives, Rush Limbaugh included, continue to quote Hanson admiringly.
A brilliant scholar himself, historian of the South Clyde Wilson regularly critiques Hanson for being a poor historian; primary sources are hardly the primary focus in Hanson’s “work.”
This is an interesting angle (and Wilson a most interesting thinker). Ignorance of the historic method is in fact a must for the likes of Hanson, explains Prof. Wilson, in “The War Lover,” with reference to Hanson’s ideological relative, Dinesh D’Sousa. For if you cleave to primary sources, as the historic method demands, it becomes difficult to reduce the warp-and-woof of history to the abstracted, desiccated principles the neoconservative seeks out in support of his theories:
… D’Sousa actually knows less about the real history, the real lived human experience, of his adopted country than I do about Paraguay. … But in ignorance is strength, because by the Straussian cult ritual, which D’Sousa here popularizes, you are not supposed to know any history. In fact, knowing history and giving it any weight is prima facie evidence of fascist tendencies. It demonstrates that you are incapable of seeing the universal principles by which proper interpretations are made. That is, the universal and eternal meaning of history is only to be obtained by Straussian exegesis of a few sentences which Straussians select, from a few documents which they select, written by a few men they select.
This methodology is perfection when one wants to sacralize Lincoln and what he wrought. All one need do is quote a few pretty phrases that evoke nationalist and egalitarian sentimentality. Though the methodology does tend to break down when challenged by the well-informed, as when Professor Harry Jaffa, in his debate with Professor Thomas DiLorenzo, was reduced to irritable denials of plain historical facts.
Hanson first came to notice by pointing out how Greek democracy was a product, not of theory, but of the importance to the state of the body of armed citizen-soldiers. There was not much really original about this – it is the old story of the Anglo-American yeoman—but it was useful to point it out.
Since then, Professor Hanson has gone on to writings about modern history that appear to glorify war, at least war as carried out by the armed forces of what he regards as democratic societies. This celebration (not too strong a word, I think), of the allegedly wholesome benefits of war has obviously provided comfort to the “democratic” global imperialists with which America is cursed today – and has thus made Hanson something of a celebrity.
In “A Class War” Hanson glorifies the great democratic achievements of General Sherman’s notorious March through Georgia and South Carolina in the winter of 1864-1865. Let us quote the blurb: “How 60,000 armed Midwestern men, in a 300-mile march taking less than 40 days, squashed aristocracy in America, and changed the entire psychological and material course of our national history.”
One might ask where, exactly, General Sherman got the moral and constitutional authority to change the psychological and material course of American history, but such questions do not occur to those who are preaching crusades. This is not a new story. It is the same old stamping-out-the-grapes-of-wrath rationalization: Northerners rising in righteous might to put down the treason of Southerners who, corrupted by slavery, harbored an evil desire not to want to belong to The Greatest Nation on Earth. It’s the same familiar story, but the old girl has had a make-over. She has a new hair-do and different cosmetics.
Here is a fair summary of Hanson’s description of Sherman’s March: a brave and democratic army of sturdy, idealistic Midwesterners performed a great military feat. In the process their democratic spirit was outraged by haughty Southern aristocracy and by the oppression of black people, whom they heartily embraced. As a result they resolved to destroy Southern society once and for all, and thereby bestowed on the universe a new birth of freedom.
There are so many things wrong about this paean to Sherman’s March that it amounts to a fantasy. Historians, before the era of PC, were expected to study primary sources, documents of the time, before they expounded on the meaning of historical events.
Anyone who has spent some time with the primary sources knows what a dubious characterization Hanson has made. That war was an immense event, occupying a huge area and involving several million people, and one can snip quotations to provide examples of anything one wants to find. I am referring here to the bulk and weight of the evidence and only the evidence left by Northern soldiers.
You do not have to pay heed to a single Southern testimony to understand what happened on Sherman’s March and why. It is all in the letters and diaries of the participants. I urge anyone who lives above the Ohio and Potomac to go to your local historical society or state library and read some of those letters and diaries for yourself. You will see how “A Class War” creates a fantasy of righteous virtue and intention that badly distorts the weight of the evidence.
Why would anyone who wanted to celebrate American military prowess pick out one of the US military’s most inglorious episodes, and one which involved brutality against other Americans? When there are a hundred more edifying examples?
To begin with, the march was not a military feat. What was left of the main Confederate army, after self-inflicted wounds at Atlanta, was in Tennessee trying to attack Sherman’s supply lines and deal with two huge federal armies that were holding down the people of Tennessee and Kentucky. Sherman’s advance from Chattanooga to Atlanta, opposed by a small but seasoned Confederate army, had not been so easy. The March through Georgia and Carolina was contested only by a few thousand cavalry and old men and boys of the home guard. When Sherman got to North Carolina he was met by the remnants of a genuine Southern army and was halted [temporarily] by a small force at Bentonville.…
[READ Dr Wilson’s “The War Lover“]
UPDATE: “Should we believe Russell Kirk or Victor Davis Hanson?” Brion McClanahan responds:
… Hanson has a strange fixation on the South, one that involves a constant effort to attach progressivism to Southerners like Calhoun and every American evil to the Confederacy. His truth is marching on.
The most recent example was an intellectually vapid piece in National Review Online titled “The Confederate Mind.” To summarize, Calhoun and the South invented the sectional conflict by insisting that their society was “superior to the grubby, industrial wasteland of the north,” despised the “deplorables” of their day, led the “secesh” movement with “evangelical style” language, and through their “regional chauvinism” caused the destruction of the Union.
The sheer a-historical stupidity of these positions almost merits no response. The sectional conflict was born in the North almost immediately after the Constitution was ratified. Northern sectionalists, under the guise of “nationalism,” insisted on secession as early as 1794. Northern “religious” leaders called Southerners devils while her political sons said that Southern statesmen were the drunken vomit of civilization. Seems the nastiness flowed from North to South for most of the antebellum period. …
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