Making sense of the events at the Capitol on Wednesday, unpacking the right-wing "Lost Cause" myth and its historical antecedent, and revisiting "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down."
On this week’s On The Media, journalists struggle to find the words to describe what happened at the capitol on Wednesday. Was it a riot? A mob? An insurrection? Plus, why supporters of the president’s baseless election fraud theories keep invoking the “lost cause” myth of the confederacy. And, taking a second look at "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down."
3. Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw [@sandylocks], professor of law at UCLA and Columbia Law School, on how post-Civil War appeasement allowed for the perpetuation of white supremacy in the United States. Listen.
4. Jack Hamilton [@jack_hamilton], associate professor of American studies and media studies at the University of Virginia, on the mixed and missed messages in the rock anthem "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" by The Band. Listen.
Music from this week's show:
Invitation to a Suicide — John Zorn
Sneaky Adventure — Kevin MacLeod
Glass House/Curtains — David Bergeaud
The Last Bird — Zoe Keating
Lost, Night — Bill Frisell
Using the Apostate Tyrant as His Tool — Kronos Quartet
The Night They Drove Ol' Dixie Down — The Band
The Night They Drove Ol' Dixie Down — Richie Havens
Examining the consequences of 'White Jesus' in America.
In a time where monuments are being toppled, institutions and icons reconsidered, we turn to a portrait encountered by every American: "White Jesus." You know, that guy with sandy blond hair and upcast blue eyes. For On the Media, Eloise Blondiau traces the history of how the historically inaccurate image became canon, and why it matters.
In this segment, Eloise talks to Mbiyu Chui, pastor at the Shrine of the Black Madonna in Detroit, about unlearning Jesus's whiteness. She also hears from Edward Blum, author of The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America, about how the image came dominate in the U.S., and psychologist Simon Howard on how White Jesus has infiltrated our subconsciouses. Lastly, Eloise speaks to Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas, womanist theologian and Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary, about the theology of the Black Christ.
This is a segment from our October 1st, 2020 program, God Bless.
After watching many Republicans on the Sunday morning shows and hearing a few on the radio this morning, I notice that they’re actively preferring only one or two of the three solutions after Wednesday’s insurrectionist coup attempt.
The three broad options that everyone is talking about:
- Trump resigns
- 25th Amendment removal of Trump
- Impeachment in the House possibly followed by conviction in the Senate
Generally Republicans are looking more closely at options one and two (in that order) and then they’re immediately shifting the discussion to the appalling nature of the events themselves.
The important question we need to ask ourselves is why are they preferring resignation or the 25th amendment? The answer comes down to who is actively receiving the blame and who has to actively do the work to make the system function properly.
In option 1, Trump and Trump alone takes the blame and initiates the action. This lets all his Republican supporters off the hook for allowing him the bullying free reign he’s had for more than four years now.
Presently the chance that Trump resigns is hovering around zero because he is so loathe to smear his own reputation or take responsibility for anything. Resignation is too closely associated with the idea of being a “loser” which Trump cannot admit himself to be at any cost.
In option 2, Trump still takes the blame and only a small handful of primarily un-elected leaders needs to take the action.
As we’ve already seen this past week, cabinet members are either still too loyal to Trump, or have chosen to jump ship to save themselves rather than take the necessary proactive action against him.
In option 3, Trump takes the blame, but a large number of people need to take action. While almost all Democrats and a handful of Republicans can easily take this route, some Republicans are loathe to want this option.
In particular, most Republicans won’t want to take this route because it also means that they must take some of the blame for so actively supporting Donald John Trump’s lies and views for so long.
Not a single Republican I’ve seen was willing to take even an iota of responsibility for supporting Trump, his outright lies, racist policies, or insanity for the past four+ years much less the last two months. Two months in which they either actively supported his lies that the election was stolen or supported it with their acquiescence by silence. They’re still abjectly holding to the belief that the emperor is fully dressed, while only trying to admit that he’s taken off one glove. They may not want to say it but they know better.
We need to be able to admit that the Emperor is naked and that far too many of us are only half dressed at best. We need to ardently press for all three solutions to happen. We also need to advocate for a fourth option that requires sanctions of the members of congress who voted to continue to support the lie even after the insurrection.
To be the Americans we say we are or want to be, we need to hold power to account. We can’t leave the message that a future leader can do the same thing and get away with it. We need to admit our complicity in allowing Trump to pretend to lead us. We cannot absolve ourselves of responsibility.
We can’t absolve ourselves without true penance
If you’re still unsure of why we cannot absolve ourselves (and honestly even if you aren’t), then I highly recommend reading a short Twitter thread/essay from earlier this week by Lili Saintcrow. It’s a highly illustrative parable about what has been going on in America and why it continues.
Let me explain something to those of you who didn’t grow up around violently abusive white supremacists.
*They absolutely do not believe their own bullshit*, but it’s useful for them to pretend they do.
— Lili Saintcrow (@lilithsaintcrow) January 7, 2021
And for those who don’t click through, I’ll excerpt two tweets in the thread which are very important to her searing point:
Domestic abusers, white supremacists, and religious bigots all operate off the same thin but very useful playbook that exploits other people’s politeness and (I’ve got to say it) “civility.”
“Obama was born in Kenya.” “She provoked me, I had to hit her.” “Biden’s followers stormed the Capitol.” “It was Antifa.” “I thought that black child was going to shoot me.” These are all the same species of lie, and they serve the same purpose–to absolve the speaker.
Republicans (and let’s be honest, really all of us) are going to have to individually and collectively do some very hard work here, take responsibility, and stop attempting to absolve ourselves.
Without it, we’re just repeating the mistakes of ending Reconstruction after the Civil War which ushered in the despicable Jim Crow laws and have kept our nation mired in racist ideas and racist policies. If we’re not careful we’ll be heading back to an actual and far more costly Civil War. Let’s take this opportunity to admit our mistakes and actually move forward.
We all deserve better. We all need better. We all require better.
We should all demand better.
Twenty years ago, Spike Lee’s “Bamboozled” skewered America’s love of minstrelsy. Has Hollywood learned anything about blackface since?
Somehow, beyond all reason and understanding, another person has been caught pretending to be a woman of color. At least this time around, the story has an extra fucked-up layer. Anonymous internet sleuths uncovered Professor Craig Chapman, who teaches chemistry at the University of New Hampshire, posing as a woman of color on Twitter under the name The Science Femme. According to The New Hampshire, Chapman was brought down by his own hubris when he tweeted about his brother’s brewery from both his fake account and his real account. The Science Femme and Chapman’s personal account have both been deleted, but unluckily for him, screenshots exist.
Soul Man is a 1986 American comedy film about a white man who takes tanning pills in order to pretend to be black and qualify for a black-only scholarship at Harvard Law School. The film was directed by Steve Miner and stars C. Thomas Howell, Rae Dawn Chong, Arye Gross, James Earl Jones, Leslie Nielsen, James B. Sikking, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
I also appreciate the contrast put in here with respect to Tootsie, which has a similar plot structure.
Krug was an associate professor of history at George Washington University (GWU) (2012–2020) until becoming the focus of controversy after she disclosed in an essay that she had lived for years under assumed racial and ethnic identities (including that of being half-Algerian-American and half-German-American and of being a Bronx-bred Afro-"boricua" (Afro-Puerto Rican) who went by the self-described "salsa" name of "La Bombalera"). In a September 3 2020 blog post, Krug confessed that: "I have eschewed my lived experience as a white Jewish child in suburban Kansas City under various assumed identities within a Blackness that I had no right to claim: first North African Blackness, then US rooted Blackness, then Caribbean rooted Bronx Blackness."
I wonder if it could really be used in reverse to help break down racist policies on the next nomination?
The California Ideology is a mix of cybernetics, free market economics, and counter-culture libertarianism and is promulgated by magazines such as WIRED and MONDO 2000 and preached in the books of Stewart Brand, Kevin Kelly and others.
Lacking the free time of the hippies, work itself ho become the main route to self-fulfilment for much of the,virtual class’. ❧
They’re right that overwork and identification with work has become all too prevalent over the past several decades.
Annotated on September 17, 2020 at 09:11AM
Community activists will increasingly use hypermedia to replace corporate capitalism and big government with a hi-tech ‘gift economy’ in which information is freely exchanged between participants. ❧
I know the idea “gift economy” was around in the late 2000’s and even more prevalent in the teens, but not sure where it originated. This is one of the earliest sitings I’ve seen.
Annotated on September 17, 2020 at 09:15AM
In this version of the Californian Ideology, each member of the ‘virtual class’ is promised the opportunity to become a successful hi-tech entrepreneur. ❧
In retrospect, it’s really only made a much higher disparity between the top and the bottom.
Annotated on September 17, 2020 at 09:19AM
Almost every major technological advance of the last two hundred years has taken place with the aid of large amounts of public money and under a good deal of government influence. The technologies of the computer and the Net were invented with the aid of massive state subsidies. ❧
examples of government (public) funding for research and it’s effects
Annotated on September 17, 2020 at 09:23AM
Americans have always had state planning, but they prefer to call it the defence budget. ❧
Annotated on September 17, 2020 at 09:24AM
Entrepreneurs often have an inflated sense of their own ‘creative act of will’ in developing new ideas and give little recognition to the contributions made by either the state or their own labour force. ❧
Annotated on September 17, 2020 at 09:25AM
When Japanese companies threatened to take over the American microchip market, the libertarian computer capitalists of California had no ideological qualms about joining a state-sponsored cartel organised by the state to fight off the invaders from the East! ❧
A good example of so-called capitalists playing the do as we say and not as we do game.
Annotated on September 17, 2020 at 09:27AM
In American folklore, the nation was built out of a wilderness by free-booting individuals – the trappers, cowboys, preachers, and settlers of the frontier. Yet this primary myth of the American republic ignores the contradiction at the heart of the American dream: that some individuals can prosper only through the suffering of others. The life of Thomas Jefferson – the man behind the ideal of `Jeffersonian democracy’ – clearly demonstrates the double nature of liberal individualism. The man who wrote the inspiring call for democracy and liberty in the American declaration of independence was at the same time one of the largest slave-owners in the country. ❧
Some profound ideas here about the “American Dream” and the dark underbelly of what it may take to achieve not only for individuals, but to do so at scale.
Annotated on September 17, 2020 at 09:29AM
Working for hi-tech and new media corporations, many members of the ‘virtual class’ would like to believe that new technology will somehow solve America’s social, racial and economic problems without any sacrifices on their part. ❧
In retrospect, this has turned out to be all-too-true.
Annotated on September 17, 2020 at 09:31AM
Slave labour cannot be obtained without somebody being enslaved. At his estate at Monticello, Jefferson invented many ingenious gadgets – including a ‘dumb waiter’ to mediate contact with his slaves. In the late twentieth century, it is not surprising that this liberal slave-owner is the hero of those who proclaim freedom while denying their brown-skinned fellow citizens those democratic rights said to be inalienable. ❧
This is a powerful example
Annotated on September 17, 2020 at 09:33AM
Abandoning democracy and social solidarity, the Californian Ideology dreams of a digital nirvana inhabited solely by liberal psychopaths. ❧
And nearly twenty years later, isn’t that roughly what we’ve got? (aside from the digital nirvana, which didn’t work out so well.)
Annotated on September 17, 2020 at 09:35AM
The venture capitalist and Facebook board member staked his reputation on a Trump presidency. Now what does he have to show for it?
You cannot claim to support the rule of law while also ignoring it.
Francis James Child (February 1, 1825 – September 11, 1896) was an American scholar, educator, and folklorist, best known today for his collection of English and Scottish ballads now known as the Child Ballads. Child was Boylston professor of rhetoric and oratory at Harvard University, where he produced influential editions of English poetry. In 1876 he was named Harvard's first Professor of English, a position which allowed him to focus on academic research. It was during this time that he began work on the Child Ballads. The Child Ballads were published in five volumes between 1882 and 1898. While Child was primarily a literary scholar with little interest in the music of the ballads, his work became a major contribution to the study of English-language folk music.
Child considered that folk ballads came from a more democratic time in the past when society was not so rigidly segregated into classes, and the “true voice” of the people could therefore be heard. He conceived “the people” as comprising all the classes of society, rich, middle, and poor, and not only those engaged in manual labor as Marxists sometimes use the word. ❧
Annotated on August 04, 2020 at 09:31AM
Though there were no graduate schools in America at the time, a loan from a benefactor, Jonathan I. Bowditch, to whom the book was dedicated, enabled Child to take a leave of absence from his teaching duties to pursue his studies in Germany. There Child studied English drama and Germanic philology at the University of Göttingen, which conferred on him an honorary doctorate, and at Humboldt University, Berlin, where he heard lectures by the linguists Grimm and was much influenced by them. ❧
Annotated on August 04, 2020 at 09:33AM
Elizabeth Freeman (Mum Bett), the first enslaved African American to sue for her freedom in the courts based on the law of the 1780 constitution of the state of Massachusetts, which held that “all men are born free and equal.” The Jury agreed and in 1781 she won her freedom. Her lawyer had been Theodore Sedgwick. ❧
Annotated on August 04, 2020 at 09:35AM
I find myself seeing some immediate and excellent historical examples in Dr. Ibram X. Kendi‘s book Stamped from the Beginning. In chapter nine of the book he discusses the variety and flavors of racism espoused by Thomas Jefferson in his book Notes on the State of Virginia (1785), which would become the most consumed American nonfiction book until well into the mid-nineteenth century.
Shortly afterward Samuel Stanhope Smith countered portions of Jefferson’s racist ideas in the 1787 annual oration to the august American Philosophical Society. This annual lecture was already one of the most heralded scholarly lectures in America and was attended by the wealthy and elite leaders and thinkers in the country. The lecture would be published as the influential Essay on the Causes of Variety of Complexion and Figure in the Human Species.
Samuel Stanhope Smith joined those preeminent intellectuals in Boston’s American Academy of Arts and Sciences and Philadelphia’s American Philosophical Society in attacking polygenesists, in reviving climate theory in America. His scholarly defense of scripture was quickly printed in Philadelphia, in London, and in Lord Kames’s back-yard, Edinburgh. By the time he sat down in Princeton’s presidential chair in 1795, he had amassed an international scholarly reputation.
So in just a few pages Kendi lays out some serious evidence of the direct spread of a wide variety of racist ideas by not only by the academic elite, but the leaders of multiple influential universities and scientific and philosophical institutions in America. The reverberating echos of these wrongs are still haunting us today. They still need to be addressed and righted. We need to use our moral alembic and distill these racist ideas out of science in America.
Lest one wonder about the influence of Samuel Stanhope Smith’s essay, I’ll note that Noah Webster cited Smith directly in Webster’s 1828 Dictionary in the definition of philosophy. The citation was from Smith’s second edition of his Essay on the Causes of Variety of Complexion and Figure in the Human Species (1810). The quote as given: “True religion, and true philosophy must ultimately arrive at the same principle.”
We’re obviously still seeking both true religion and true philosophy.
While you’re thinking about #shutdownSTEM on June 10th and long thereafter, I recommend you spend some time sitting with the ideas that have been handed down to us and question them closely, for this is what science and philosophy are all about. If you find you can’t do that hard work–and it is hard, then perhaps read a bit of Dr. Kendi’s excellent and ardent text Stamped from the Beginning.