Friday, June 26, 2015

This is getting out of hand

Your Freedom and Ours is what this blog is called and that is what it is. I am getting a little perturbed by the news that is coming over from the other side of the Pond where there is now war of cultural and historical vandalism going on in the wake of the tragedy in Charleston, South Carolina.

There is no need to rehearse what happened, which was terrible, or the dignified response of the city to the tragedy that struck them. Nor is there any need to go through the various articles, essays and analyses (the books are to come) that have followed the shooting. For one thing I have no space for all the links and for another anyone who is interested would have read a great deal and will probably do so in the coming days, weeks, months but not years because something else will happen to take people's attention away.

What caught my interest, inevitably, is the campaign against the Confederate Flag, which is now being taken off not just public buildings but private merchandise. In fact, it will soon be banned completely and not for the first time in American history. It came back last time and it will come back again but, in the meantime, a good deal of historical knowledge and understanding will be destroyed in the name of some spurious feeling of justice. The truth is that the events that led up to the Civil War or the War Between The States or the War For The Union, the actual war and the years after it are far too complicated to be reduced to this sort of simplistic rubbish. (Though I am rather enjoying the reminders that the Confederate Flag was the flag of the Democrat Party. Of course, it was. Don't believe me? Look it up, while you can.)

I hear stories of Civil War memorials being defaced with stupid slogans and suggestions that Confederate generals should be dug up (what's left of them) and put on trial or their bones thrown to the dogs or whatever. This is insane. All of it.

The killer of Charleston did not carry out his attack because of the Confederate Flag or the presence of Civil War memorials. And, let's face it, even on this side of the Pond we know that the greatest number of black lives wasted in many American cities are in gang fights and criminal attacks carried out by other black young men. The situation is appalling and something ought to be done because black lives do matter but not only when the killer is white.

The worst suggestion I have seen is that Gone With The Wind should now be "retired". Well, good luck with that - "retiring" one of the most popular films of all times is not going to be easy, not even for leftist, progressive journalists. I hope nobody is thinking of retiring Birth of a Nation, which I am due to see at the NFT on Sunday. I notice that there are several comments on the NY Post article that I have linked to, which compare this attitude to the destruction of historic and cultural sites by IS because they do not like the religion or ideology that motivated their building. Well, I cannot disagree too much.

Incidentally and completely off the topic, here is a conundrum: why is it that the best and most highly regarded films about the Civil War, Birth of a Nation, The General and Gone With The Wind are all from the point of view of the South? There have been films from the point of view of the North, not least several biopics of Abraham Lincoln (no, dear, he was not a Democrat either, but a Republican) but nothing of that calibre. Is it because like the Royalists, according to 1066 And All That, the Confederates were Wrong but Wromantic?

So, just because I hate what is happening I have decided to post two pictures: one of the Confederate Flag as it used to fly together with the Stars and Stripes and a photo of General Robert E. Lee, the man who not only fought in that War but, when that became hopeless, surrendered, refused to institute a guerrilla war and worked for the reconstruction of the shattered union.


  1. The rewriting of history is sadly all to too common now. The examples are legion, and whilst some might seem trivial, it's like a criminal, once you've got away with the first crime, the ones after are easier to commit.

    In no particular order I offer you the numerous historical photographs where either cigarettes or pipes have been photoshopped out. A quick Google will turn up hundreds like this:-

    The non-showing of dated sitcoms like "it Ain't Half hot Mum", and countless others. The renaming of Guy Gibson's dog from nigger to digger in the remade Dambusters etc.

    I live only a couple of miles from the final resting place of George Orwell, there really is a MinTruth out there. I know 1984 was meant to be a satire on the World in 1948, but it was remarkably prescient.

    It can't end well.

    1. 1984 was not a satire on the world in 1948. I really don't know where that comes from. MiniTruth was, to some extent, based on the BBC World Service but the novel was a highly unsatirical description of the Soviet Union.

    2. I think that idea comes from Anthony Burgess; he wrote an essay on "1984" published together with a short novel called 1985. As far as I remember he certainly acknowledged the anti-Soviet theme, (anything else woudl be very strange) but he also noted other themes based on the UK in the late 40s (and of course the BBC during and after war).


    3. Thanks for the feedback. In truth probably only Orwell knew what exactly he meant, but the 1948 meme has somehow become an established orthodoxy. I think Helen is closer to the truth, and given everything else I know about the man makes more sense. I'm not sure why I didn't question it more before.

      But whatever its origins the novel itself has come to be an adopted text of the libertarian movement who see it as a description of the dystopian future we're headed towards. It would be absurd to pretend that the UK today is anything like the World portrayed by 1984, but as a direction of travel it seems to be where we're headed. If you don't believe there is thought crime try sending a tweet expressing a negative opinion of Islam in anything other than moderate language, and see what happens.

  2. In a TV series of some years ago, I was greatly impressed by a Southern historian, called Shelby Foote. In summing things up, he said " Before the war, people said " The United States ARE" . After the war, they said " The United States IS" . You could say that was what it was all about "

    I just found the first volume of his series, " The Civil War", much reduced.

    O - and while the Cavaliers were " wrong but romantic", the Roundheads were " Right but Repulsive" !

    1. It was about a lot of things but in some ways that distinction does sum it up. What will happen now is not clear: it will not be possible to study the Civil War because some of the subject matter will upset people and that we cannot have. Idiotic, really.

      It seems that the Confederate Flag will no longer be there at Gettysburg, implying that it was never there, which must mean that the Confederate Army was not there. So who lost the battle?

  3. American historian Clyde Wilson wrote a series of articles on ‘Confederate Hollywood’ for the Abbeville Institute you may find of interest.

    1. Thanks. I'll have a look. The whole subject is fascinating. I did go to see The Birth of a Nation. Quite an extraordinary film with a brilliant first half and a truly weird second half.