H-Civil War: Scholarly Resource or Just Another Message Board?
I´ve been meaning to comment on this for some time, but wanted to see how long it would take the editor to jump in and cut-off the message thread which started with the excellent review of John Coski´s study of the Confederate flag. While late is better than never, clearly this discussion (if you can even call it a discussion) went on much too long. The review should have led to a discussion of the merits of Coski´s interpretation and/or the reviewer´s contribution. Instead we got the all-too-common nonsense that failed to go beyond one´s own opinion as to the proper display of the flag or the author´s own historical interpretation that indicated no understanding of the secondary literature. Very few of the messages (I stopped reading after 10) contained anything which indicated that the author had actually read the book. The message thread reads like any of the current crappy message boards that you can waste your time reading.
H-Net was created as a forum for scholars to share research projects, ask questions, and engage in serious dialog that contains analysis rather than an airing of one´s opinion. My guess is that most of the other H-Net forums do not suffer from this problem. However, in the case of the Civil War everyone is an expert. I am tired of hearing from people who wish to share their views of whether Sherman´s and Sheridan´s marches were immoral or whether they believe the Confederate flag is a racist symbol. This has little to do with serious research. And as I just mentioned there are plenty of forums that will eagerly embrace this shallowness.
I call on the editors of this particular forum to exercise tighter control over the kinds of messages that can be posted to the listserv. If individual parties continue to abuse the forum then they should be temporarily suspended or permanently banned. H-Net is a valuable resource, but you know that something is wrong when you begin to think of their emails as SPAM.