Tag Archives: Civil War

Making it seem as if anyone said anything you want

I was having a conversation recently with some acquaintances, one of whom is a doctrinaire Tea Party type — let’s call him TP — and the subject of the Civil War came up.

“The Civil War was not fought over slavery,” TP said.

“If the president who was shot in the back of the head in a theater could speak, he might differ with you,” I said. 

“No, it’s true,” TP said. “Lincoln said it in a letter to some newspaper editor.”

What TP was referring to was the Aug. 22, 1862, letter from President Lincoln to the the famed newspaper editor Horace Greeley, in which Lincoln stated: 

“If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.”

The letter, when read verbatim, out of context, to someone not familiar with all that was going at that time could then be used as it is being used now by Tea Partiers looking to defend Confederate monuments and the honor of the Confederate cause.

Of course, Lincoln was readying to deliver the Emancipation Proclamation in just just four months on New Year’s Day 1863, an action which should have forever put to rest any notion of whether the war eventually ended up being about slavery in Lincoln’s mind. 

His letter to Horace Greeley is widely seen by historians as Lincoln playing politics, trying to convince everyone that, no matter how much of a tyrant the Confederacy tried to say he was, he really just had the best interests of the Union in mind. (Some also believe that words such as these by Lincoln were anticipatory in trying to lessen the blow of the Emancipation Proclamation.)

Yet he we are 154 years later and the forces who would defend the Confederacy for whatever reasons are using Lincoln’s words (all just in text form, mind you) to convince entire swaths of the population that he really didn’t care about freeing the slaves.

It really is so easy to do in an age where people on both sides of the political divide increasingly get their news only from sources which match their political sensibilities, left or right.

As I listened to this acquaintance continue to try to convince me that I was wrong about the Civil War, I was taken back to an episode of the Radiolab podcast I heard this summer, and meant to mention in this space then, but never got around to it.  (You can just hit the play button below to listen to it yourself.)

The hosts of Radiolab said of making this episode that the more they got into the subject matter, the more if sent chills down their spines. I thought that might be hyperbole when I first read the words.

Not so after I listened to the podcast, titled “Breaking News.” I thought it was worth sharing with you if you did not get a chance to hear it a couple months ago.

Imagine if it were this easy to get anyone you want to say anything you want by using just an audio recording of their voice.

If you the think the news is broken now and people believe strange things they read, just wait until everything you say in audio recordings can be changed as easily as moving around some text in a transcript.

Debunking the right-wing meme that the Civil War was not about slavery

It’s no secret that America’s extreme right-wing simply makes up American and world history with which it does not agree. 

The doctrine of the separation of church and state, which is inarguable if you simply look at the correspondence of those who wrote the Constitution, is explained away through lies and sophistry until it has been distorted to mean the exact opposite of what it actually means.

One of the Right’s latest projects is to change the history of the Civil War to mean it was about the South’s sovereignty alone and not what it was actually about: the enslavement of African-Americans.

The video above does away nicely with these arguments. Send it to a right-winger you love.

However, since the video above comes, oddly, from a right-wing “university” I am balancing it with another video below from the Young Turks. I like the one above because it is new and includes a military person with all those medals on this chest. Right wingers love medals. But the Young Turks video featuring John Iadarola is a month older but is interesting in its own right.




Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker’s presidential hopes spring a leak

Hear that loud hissing sound? It’s the sound of the balloon that was Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s (R-Clueless) presidential aspirations springing a leak and zigzagging wildly around the dome of the Massachusetts State House.

Just as with that previous Republican former CEO elected to statewide office there — Mitt Romney (R-I Wish I Could Go To An R-Rated Movie) — the moments that define Baker’s true character are not the high-minded campaign speeches about big tents and economic freedom, but rather in those unguarded moments away from his handlers when he’s just Charlie being Charlie.

Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts
Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts

Another of those moments came in a radio interview June 18 in the Boston studios of PBS’s flagship radio station WGBH, during which Baker said the states should be able to decide whether to take down Confederate flags from government displays.

Gov. Baker meet shitstorm. Shitstorm? Your friend Charlie:

Gov. Charlie Baker quickly clarified Thursday that he opposes South Carolina’s flying of the Confederate flag after initially saying the state seemed to fly it out of tradition.

“I think they should take the flag down,” Baker told the The Boston Globe in a “hastily” arranged interview Thursday evening. “The symbolism of this one is important and I should have done a better job of appreciating that.”

Earlier in a day, during a WGBH radio interview, Baker said that South Carolina should “make their own call” regarding the Confederate flag regularly flown at the state’s capitol.

“I do believe that the reason that flag still hangs there is, you know, what I would call sort of ‘tradition’ or something like that,” Baker told WGBH host Jim Braude.

Braude brought up the topic in light of South Carolina’s state house flying the Confederate flag at full staff after Wednesday night’s fatal shooting of nine black people at a church in Charleston. Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old white suspect who was arrested Thursday, touted Confederate and white supremacist symbols on Facebook.

You read that correctly. Within mere hours of a Confederate flag-waving racist goon gunning down nine innocent parishioners in a black church in the state known for still flying the Confederate flag above its state capitol, Gov. Baker essentially defends the shameful icon of slavery as just another form of free speech.

Sorry, Charlie. No do-overs.

The true measures of the Republican Party’s descent into sheer nuttiness are not the flag-waving Tea Partiers in the red states screaming about God, guns and guv’mint. It’s the elected officials of the GOP in the blue states who could remain on political cruise control giving all the right answers on the free market and small government while eschewing the social controversy baggage heaped upon them by their yahoo counterparts South of the Mason-Dixon line.

Mitt Romney tried to portray himself as the kindly Mormon economic savior and, “Gee whiz, can’t we all just have milk and cookies and get along with one another?”

But underneath his linen onesie he could not escape himself: the ruthless Wall Street raider; a capitalist with a mean streak. His moment came when his true self destroyed his manufactured image as he was caught saying he thought most Americans are freeloaders and moochers getting fat on government benefits.

Aside from the fact that government benefits paid to needy individuals can these days barely cover their living expenses, many Americans recoiled at the thought of being lectured about their increasingly precarious financial condition by a man who made his living by buying profitable companies, larding them up with unpayable debt while slashing American jobs, and then selling off the companies before everyone caught on to the grift and those companies tanked.

Charlie Baker just had Mitt’s moment.

Not because the error on that radio station is in itself a fatal mistake. Americans largely ignore so many other everyday signs of racism — whites getting far less jail time than blacks for the same crimes, black men being murdered in the streets by law enforcement — a Confederate flag will be easy to forget.

But Baker’s gaffe does show that he is, at his core, not a wise person and certainly not ready for the national political stage. (Come to think of it, he’d be perfect for the Republican presidential field.)

Within throwing distance of Baker’s corner office on Boston’s historic Beacon Hill is a memorial to the all-black Massachusetts 54th Regiment which fought valiantly in the Civil War. It’s every bit as iconic as the Iwo Jima memorial in Washington, perhaps more so. Dedicated in 1897 it depicts a regiment that was not only fighting for the idea that was America, land of the free. It depicts men who were fighting for their very lives. Their stake in the Civil War was greater than anyone else’s.

The memorial is very large and prominently placed at one of the crossroads of tourism and government in that city. One suspects Gov. Baker can’t miss it while he travels so often across the Boston Common, up the steps to Beacon Street, as he returns from some meeting at one of the many state government offices that dot the area.

That it has never apparently really registered in his mind says as much as we need to know about Charlie Baker.

Via Baker backtracks, now says South Carolina’s statehouse Confederate flag should be removed | Boston.com

The Memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts Fifty-Fourth Regiment, on the Boston Common.
The Memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts Fifty-Fourth Regiment, on the Boston Common.