Thursday, April 16, 2015

Kevin Levin wants people to stop talking about this neo-Confederate stuff and leave the Civil War to experts like himself. Also, the banal white nationalist progressively reveals himself.

Kevin Levin represents a certain type of thinking among Civil War enthusiasts and Civil War scholars. Examining his attitudes is good to illustrate this certain type of thinking

For these types of Civil War enthusiast the Civil War is to be a nostalgic toy soldier game and all this discussion about race and neo-Confederates just isn't wanted. He, like others in the circles of the Civil War enthusiasts longs for the Civil War Round Tables of the 1960s.

Recently he has really outdone himself.


There is this blog posting where he is upset with Brian Buetler advocating for a national holiday celebrating the preservation of the United States and the end of slavery.

New Republic Brian Buetler's proposal advocates that the American victory and Confederate defeat is a good thing and should be recognized as such and his proposal directly confronts the Confederate memorialization that saturates the former Confederate states and even slave states that didn't secede.

The links to the two articles are:


The discussion of such a proposal would help people confront the civil religion of the former Confederate states and the idea that the Confederacy maybe isn't something to be celebrated. It would be a very salutary debate.

Levin response doesn't really get to specifics, the Lost Cause is supposedly a very complicated topic, and the subject of historical memory usually is, and because of this, Buetler's proposal is supposed a bad thing, but it isn't clear why the complexity of the phenomenon precludes Buetler's proposal. Levin emphasizes in his blog posting that Buetler isn't knowledgeable about Lost Cause historical memory unlike experts such as himself.


Then there is this posting.

The blog posting criticizes Jamelle Bouie's column about an Appomattox observance in Slate.

Bouie finds that the, "The emancipation of black Americans has been written out of our celebration of the Civil War’s end."

Anyone who has had a subscription to Civil War News, the newspaper of Civil War "re-enactors" and enthusiasts would realize that it is often true. Bouie's comments may not be true of every Civil War event, but they are true about a great many Civil War events, if not the majority of those not run by the National Park Service (NPS).

Levine refers to the NPS's three day Appomattox observance and gives this web page:

The NPS is realizing that non-white people aren't going out to the National Parks and with changing demographics the NPS is looking at a decline in support for the NPS in the future. So they are making an effort. They are bringing in the issue of slavery to the Civil War Battlefield parks, much to the consternation of the readers of Civil War News.

If an event isn't an NPS event it very well might be like the event Bouie encountered.


Then there is this blog posting criticizing Euan Hague's and my article in

Levin asserts that support for the Lost Cause is in full retreat. He writes about a bill in Texas to get ride of the Texas state holiday Confederate Heroes Day. However, it is very unclear whether this bill will pass.

There is a growing opposition to the Lost Cause interpretation of the Civil War and the Confederacy and I have seen progress in some areas, however I don't see necessarily the Lost Cause necessarily retreating and much less than in full retreat.

Levin is just picking a few examples to support his point and of course since he doesn't want to acknowledge the existence of neo-Confederacy, because of that, he only looks at certain aspects of the public and historical memory and not others, and only some issues and not others.

In 2011 the Pew Research Center did a poll on attitudes towards the Civil War. This is the link:

One poll result was very disturbing. Quoting from the report:
Young people are more likely than older Americans to say that the war’s main cause was states’ rights – 60% of those younger than 30 express this view, the highest percentage of any age group. Those 65 and older are the only age group in which more say that slavery, rather than states’ rights, was the main cause of the Civil War (by 50% to 34%). While 48% of whites view states’ rights was the war’s main cause, so too do 39% of African Americans.
It seems that with time a Lost Cause view of the Civil War may become dominate.  

Even if Texas acts to get rid of Confederate Heroes Day which is not likely to happen, the state of Texas has acted to ensure that the teaching of Civil War and Reconstruction in Texas public schools will teach a Lost Cause view. Even if the Confederate Heroes Day is dropped, with public schools teaching a Lost Cause understanding of history it won't be too long before it is readopted.

This was an assessment of the Texas Teaching standards in the Washington Post.
"Elements of the Texas curriculum standards give undue legitimacy to neo-Confederate arguments about “states’ rights” and the legacy of slavery in the South. While most publishers avoid problems with these issues, passages in a few U.S. history and government textbooks give a nod to these misleading arguments."

Since Levin refuses to acknowledge neo-Confederacy he ignores how neo-Confederate ideology is percolating into the conservative movement in the country.

As an example, many of the "Politically Incorrect" series of conservative books have made the New York Times best seller list. A great many of them, including ones which made the NYT bestseller list, are written by persons who are active in the neo-Confederate movement.  This is only one example where neo-Confederates are mainstreaming their ideas.

The Politico article may well upset Levin because it shows that the SCV isn't just a nostalgic group involved in "southern heritage," as he likes to label these type of groups, but a nasty reactionary group.

People are rejecting the Lost Cause and becoming aware of the existence of the neo-Confederate movement and really not liking it. They are willing to call it a bunch of toxic rubbish and strongly express their opinions that it is a bunch of toxic rubbish and that it needs to be thrown out with the trash.

This alarms Levin. 

NOTE: I define banal white nationalism in this essay:

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