Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Warner Todd Huston, "Breitbart," pro-Confederate writings to appeal to banal white nationalism.

UPDATED 2/16/2017 Editing mostly. I am not going to change the title, but I think that the appeal to white nationalism isn't so "banal" but is more open.

Recently the city of Charlottesville, VA has voted to remove the Robert E. Lee statue from downtown by a vote of 3 to 2. The following is an article about it.

Warner Todd Huston writing for Breitbart has had two articles on the story.

The first is here:

The title is "Virginia city removes nearly 100-year-old statue of Robert E. Lee."

It is a report on the events except at the conclusion of the article when Huston makes essentially an editorial comment:
"Whitewashing Confederate history is ingoing effort for cities throughout those areas where civil war battles were waged 150 years ago."[Term "ingoing" in the original.]
This statement doesn't make sense. The term "whitewashing" means "to gloss over or cover up" something bad. Keeping the statue of Robert E. Lee representing Lee as a hero rather as a negative figure in history who was a racist and fought for slavery and white supremacy is whitewashing. Removing the statue is putting an end to whitewashing.

It might be argued that Huston was complaining that the statues being removed across the South weren't being re-located into museums or history exhibits showing how at one time the cities in which they original stood to show how white supremacy dominated these cities understanding of the Civil War. If so he does not state this or indicate this.

Perhaps Huston meant to say that history was being erased across the South. However, monuments are erected to literally monumentally endorse an individual and set of values. History is learned by reading the historical record and otherwise using other historical sources such as video instruction or reading material in the archive, or visiting museums which have an accurate and contextual explanation of artifacts and records.

A lot of people bring up terms like "erasing" or "whitewashing" history to pose as high minded defenders of history and avoid representing themselves as who they really are, that is defenders of the Confederacy and possessing a sort of instinctual white nationalism. This may explain why the title emphasizes the age of the statue to make the statue a historical object to be defended.

Of course I don't know what motivates Huston and this could merely be a badly thought out article. In the beginning of the article however Huston refers to Lee as "the Confederate hero" instead of referring to "the Confederate general" or "the Confederate leader" which would be a value neutral reference. So this would rule out that Huston is complaining that the statues need to be re-located and contextualized as showing how white supremacy once dominated Charlottesville. It suggests that Huston meant "erased."

Huston's 2nd article referring to the statue removal is:

The title is, "After vote to eliminate Confederate statues, city decrees 'Liberation and Freedom Day.'"

The article suggests opposition to the Robert E. Lee statue as being driven by "Black Lives Matter ideology" and persons who are opponents of Pres. Trump.  Breitbart elsewhere has suggested that the Black Lives Matter movement is a terrorist movement.

Huston writes;

"During the discussion, some residents said the election of Donald Trump proves racism is alive and well and that the city needs to "transform" its history to conform to a Black Lives Matter ideology." 

Opponents to a Robert E. Lee statue are likely not to be supporters of Pres. Trump and probably are supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement or at least sympathetic to it. It is very likely indeed that as Huston wrote "some residents" said these things. However, there has been opposition to Confederate statues for decades prior to the election of Donald Trump as president and prior to the Black Lives Matter movement. What did other residents, besides these "some residents" referred to by Huston, say to support the removal of the statue is not stated.

Huston reports that the Charlottesville Daily Progressive, a student paper, also reported that "some in the meeting" saw the election of Trump as representing racism and white nationalism. What others might have said again isn't reported.

Huston refers to residents being concerned about "whitewashing" history and "excise" it without critically reviewing these arguments.

The judgment of Univ. of Virginia professor Schmidt is questioned since she argued for removing the statue which Huston writes is "despite the town's deep civil war history." Again in the 2nd article, as in the first article, "Civil War," isn't capitalized, in this quote and in another instance in this 2nd article. Neo-Confederates reject the term "Civil War." It has to be asked what name for the Civil War would Huston capitalize?

Huston also writes:

"The professor also suggested that the town's history should better reflect the current black lives matter trend of historical revisionism."

I rather doubt that Schmidt specifically used the word "revisionism." I suspect that the concept of "black lives mater trend of historical revisionism" is a concept invented by Huston. Huston quotes Schmidt whose argument was that the statues should be removed so "we can change our history's narrative around race." Concern to have an accurate historical record in general, and in regards to race, predates the Black Lives Matter and the 2016 election. The issue of whitewashing in American history has been long understood as the obscuring of the history of race in the United States.

Nowhere in Huston's article is it reported that there was opposition to the Robert E. Lee statue because the Confederacy was an effort to preserve slavery and maintain white supremacy as explained by Vice-President Alexander H. Stephens in his infamous "Cornerstone" speech. We are told what "some residents" said, but we don't know what the other arguments presented against the statue were. Almost invariably in discussing the Confederacy the issue of the Confederacy being an effort to preserve slavery and white supremacy is brought up. The topic is missing from Huston's article.

(Incidentally, there is a new neo-Confederate argument that Stephens made a mistake in the speech. Stephens did think he made a mistake in the "Cornerstone" speech in his criticizing of the American Founders, but not the white supremacy and pro-slavery sections. Stephens gave similar speeches at other times.)

So both articles suggest or imply that opposition to Confederate statues is driven by Black Lives Matter "ideology" and persons who are against Pres. Trump. Huston positions the opposition to the Confederacy to be an opposition to Breitbart conservatism and Pres. Trump to be related and not just coincidental.

Huston then discusses the "Liberation and Freedom Day" decree supported by Charlottesville Vice-Mayor Wes Bellamy. The article explains that this day, March 3rd, is now to be celebrated by the city as the day "in 1865 when the Union Army entered the city." Yes, the Union Army arrived liberated Charlottesville, just as American armies liberated Europe at the end of World War II.

Huston doesn't discuss "Liberation and Freedom Day" except one sentence to mention what it is and instead devotes much of the remaining article to attack Bellamy for things such as "his antics over 'racism.'"

Huston states that the city has "deep connections to civil war history," again avoiding capitalizing "civil war," elaborating more on his argument against professor Schmidt's reasons to remove the Lee statue, and states "federal forces invaded" the region in rejection of the idea of Union armies liberating the region and bring freedom to the region.  This terminology is a rejection of Liberation and Freedom Day,This would be consistent with a mentality in which the human worth, the lives of African Americans didn't really mat

The two articles write Confederate nationalism into American nationalism and maps the struggle over  the Confederacy into contemporary political struggles.

Huston doesn't directly say that he is pro-Confederate or admires the Confederacy. Instead the article represents the opponents of Confederate statues as wrong headed persons whose wrong headedness is manifest by their being supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement and opponents of Pres. Trump; are enemies of history, and are really driven by an agenda against conservatism and Pres. Trump.

Huston articles work to validate the idea that opposition to Pres. Trump, Breitbart conservatism, and Confederate statues are the same.  Further articles like this can effect a change such that it becomes a reality that these three things become overlaid and the same thing.

From other articles in Breitbart this does seem to be the agenda of this publication to make these three things the same thing.

Breitbart in defending the Confederacy and attacking those who are trying to get rid of the glorification of the Confederacy is pushing a white nationalist agenda and race conflict.

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