I had high hopes for Dixie Dawn.  I’ve been following this blog for a few weeks and while it has attracted a large number of comments on the standard issues that energize the neo-Confederate base it looks like it has run its course.  I was holding out on the possibility that Dixie would actually read one of the books cited in a recent post.  Unfortunately, it looks like its not going to happen.  Instead we continue to get emotional rants about a besieged South, silly stories about black Confederates, and vague references to the Confederate flag.  Given the number of posts about the flag perhaps she could have read John Coski’s The Confederate Battle Flag: America’s Most Embattled Emblem (Harvard University Press, 2006) or she could have read Bruce Levine’s Confederate Emancipation: Southern Plans to Free and Arm Slaves During the Civil War (Oxford University Press, 2006) in connection with the stories of black Confederates.  And why is it that every post and internet site on this topic utilizes the very same images? 

Honestly, I was holding out for the best.

21 comments add yours

  1. “why does every post and internet site on this topic utilize the very same images?”

    Why does every 9/11 conspiracy site? Why does every creationist/intelligent design site? Why does every holocaust denial site? They are very different groups, but they have an agenda, and evidence ain’t getting in the way. If one piece of argument is crushed, they pull out something else, or whine that you’re anti South. It’s like whack a mole. And in a little while, the previously crushed argument is dusted off, and used on someone else.

    The temptation to engage with someone so obviously wrong is nearly irresistable, especially when the beliefs are often so distasteful. In the latest issue of North and South, Levine wearily knocks over a couple of houses of cards about black Confederates. The editor is gleeful: controversy sells! Probably we can expect more of the same type of article, and the bushel of letters to the editor they elicit. But for a real historian like Levine, its a distraction.

  2. Matthew,
    I agree completely with your comments. The wack-a-mole analogy has also occurred to me.

    Marc

  3. I have to admit that I am surprised David Woodbury has lasted this long, but as I said before it’s a lost cause. I am also struck by how emotional some of these people are, especially Anonymous. They really believe that the best explanation for arguments they disagree with is to refer to some vague political alignment or that they are “anti-South”. It is beyond the realm of absurdity. I just attended that annual meeting of the Southern Historical Association which includes large numbers of white southerners that no doubt write the kind of history that some of these people conclude are anti-South.
    And most of the people that I read on the history of the South/Civil War are white southerners themselves. The idea that there are northern and southern histories is ridiculous; there are good and bad histories and the best way to mark the difference is by considering the arguments head-on. The problem is that most of the pieces that Dixie posts on her blog and even some of the commenters don’t really understand historical methodology. Unfortunately, their arguments as cited above are the best they can muster.

  4. RE: “I have to admit that I am surprised David Woodbury has lasted this long, but as I said before it’s a lost cause.”

    Kevin, you’ve wondered this aloud a few times now, so I guess I should weigh in. One reason I’ve participated to this point is simply that Dawn allows diametrically opposed commentary to be attached to her blog entries. I think it’s well and good that any Lost Cause apologists who are attracted to the site, or find it through web searches on keywords like “black Confederates” — should they also read the comments — may partake of counter-arguments, including the considered opinions of people like Marc and Cash.

    Not that that is a mission of mine. I also find those kinds of exchanges invigorating once in awhile, even if a waste of time. Simple as that. I don’t have any illusions about changing the minds of people like Anonymous Jim, who have such an emotional investment they are impervious even to incontrovertible evidence if it fails to support the story they have embraced.

    But I don’t think Dawn is in that category, even if she continues to post things that I think have been long-discredited. Just the fact that she is apparently receptive to sometimes stinging counter-arguments, and the fact that she is generally respectful of both sides, sets her apart from bitter revisionists like Anonymous Jim.

    I would add, though, that if you’re waiting for some kind of public transformation, it’s probably not going to come as long as you keep poking fun at her with overtly contemptuous blog entries. I would expect her, at least publicly, to take an opposite view from any that you are encouraging her to adopt.

    I guess we all have triggers, or pet subjects we’re happy to pursue past the point of fruitful dialogue. Kind of like your regular, exasperated deconstructions of one of Dimitri’s posts. I have sometimes wondered why you continue to spend time on those distinctions, to no effect.

    David

  5. Thanks for the comment David. I have to disagree with your characterization of my posts as “overtly contemptuous.” It also seems extreme to suggest that I would keep her from considering a more sophisicated view of the past.

    I agree that Dawn should not be placed in the same category as Jim, but I wonder how far off she actually is. Yes, she allows comments from all sides, but I don’t really get the feeling that she is listening and that is not a slight at Dawn. The problem is that neither Dawn nor Jim really understands historical methodology. They seem to think that it begins and ends with an emotional connection to some conclusion. Now maybe I am wrong and that is why I am waiting to hear what she has to say about one of those books that was recently cited. Anyone can set up a blog and cut and paste silly newsletter items. Thanks again David.

  6. I wasn’t trying to say that the things you post here would keep her from considering a more sophisticated view of the past (though I can see how it reads that way). Rather, that if a transformation began to take place, she would be loathe to admit it publicly in the face of other bloggers referring to her as if she were a learning disabled child, but one with potential.

    “Overtly contemptuous” was probably too strong — you’re right — but I see Eric has claimed that mantle today (g). I was trying to think of a word other than condescending, which is also wide of the mark. But publicly reporting on someone’s intellectual progress (comments someone pointed out to her), will make a person defensive. In other words, I was saying that in this small world of us-vs.-them Civil War blogging (as many perceive it), she was not going to give you the satisfaction of a conversion, validating your diagnosis.

    You know I’m not defending the stuff I just spent several weeks deriding, and I’d wager that our two blogs among the present crowd have devoted the most words to debunking the notion of black Confederates. And I normally have little interest in engaging the one-book-wonders who recycle this stuff on the internet. But because of initial correspondence Dawn struck me as someone who, in the end, would be more interested in digging deeper, and being taken seriously on this subject. I still think that’s true, though like you, was dismayed by subsequent blog entries.

    It’s only been a couple months. You’ve carved the dates on the tombstone already, and maybe your instincts are right on the money. But I didn’t expect anyone to read many books in that time. That said, the discussions at Dawn’s blog have come full circle, and I don’t think anyone cares to drag it out even longer. My last proposal will be that we take one issue, such as the centrality of slavery to secession, and each read a chosen text. I’ve asked Dawn, et. al. to read Dew’s “Apostles of Disunion,” a short, readable text. And I will read whatever they assign (I have likely read it already). Then we’ll compare notes.

    Idealistic and a waste of time on my part? Probably. But after two years of blogging I feel funny complaining about that.

    David

  7. Thanks for clarifying David. I appreciate it. You are probably correct that comments such as mine can be perceived as obnoxious. I applaud you for taking the time to engage Dawn and I do hope that she takes an opportunity to step back to think a bit more critically about some of these issues.

    Unfortunately, I am skeptical. I’ve commented on the history v. heritage dichotomy before so I won’t rehash it here. It seems to me that Dawn is deeply embedded and attached to certain conclusions about the past that conform to some kind of world view. As you know historians need to be neutral about the past to whatever extent possible. The past doesn’t have to and usually does not conform to our preconceived notions. I noticed that Dawn has a MySpace page which you should check out. There is a video on it that sums it all up. I don’t mean this in an insulting way, but it seems to me that people like Dawn really do think of the past as a song. Check it out.

    Finally, I do acknowledge that at times I come off as a jackass. Part of the problem is form of communication involved. It’s easy to forget that there are people behind these machines. That said, I don’t subscribe to the “community of bloggers” view. In other words, I don’t feel as if I am part of some larger voice simply because I have a link to some site. I enjoy the blogging format, including its limits and possibilities. Now go back to sleep; it is much too early for you to be writing blog comments (LOL).

  8. Dave,

    Actually, for once, I am proud to claim the title of “openly contemptuous”. I happen to find the hysterical pseudo-justifications of the neo-Confederate crowd to be one of the most serious threats out there. That’s why I’m happy to grab that mantle.

    I am openly contemptuous of (a) all pseudo-science (social or otherwise), (b) pedagoguery of any form and (c) those who are unwilling to see anything but their own viewpoint, irrespective of whether that viewpoint is right, wrong, or indifferent.

    Sadly, that’s precisely who and what I find Dixie Dawn to be. So, yes, I am openly contemptuous of her and her ilk.

    Eric

  9. Kevin:

    I checked out the MySpace page, as you suggested. It occurs to me, now that I’ve had a few hours sleep, that some Confederate boosterism – don’t know what else to call it – is rooted more in upbringing than in education. It is similar in that respect to religion, in my opinion. One can be conditioned from childhood to have strong convictions about a supernatural afterlife, even citing the Bible as the source without doing more than reading bits and pieces of it. Likewise, one can be raised with an understanding of a people’s or a region’s heritage – complete with ironclad sense of conviction – without ever availing oneself of the literature on the subject. Certain “bible” verses are selected to make the case, and these snippets are collected together into a kind of gospel (one verse for Dr. Steiner, one verse for Professor Smith of American University, one chapter on Confederate pensions, one chapter on Lincoln’s racism).

    I don’t wish to offend anyone here for their personal beliefs, but culturally we pick and choose what kind of outrageous beliefs are tolerable in “civilized society.” We demand a certain purity in sorting out the truths of history, but far more outlandish constructs in the realm of religion get a pass.

    We are aghast when someone like Anonymous Jim insists on denying the cumulative weight of primary source material with respect to armies of black Confederates, but when our neighbor expresses an apparently hard and fast belief in the talking snake of Genesis, or in other wholly unsubstantiated supernatural events from the Bible, we don’t demand that they provide evidence, or insist that they read “The Origin of the Species” (well, sometimes we do). Either we share these or another set of beliefs in the supernatural, or else we simply accept the fact that our otherwise rational neighbors, friends, and co-workers (and elected officials), like most of society, are only marginally less superstitious than the most primitive aborigine. It’s just a question of degree, or imagination.

    In this respect, if beliefs in a certain kind of history (family, regional, national) are inculcated in us in the same fashion as religious beliefs, then I suppose it’s pointless to try to get someone to change their views merely by pointing to some part of the historical record. If one can casually and whole-heartedly believe in the supernatural – in miracles like a man being raised from the dead – it’s a much shorter leap to believe that 90,000 slaves fought alongside their masters to protect the South from armies of abolitionists. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the most fervent neo-Confederates are often the most outwardly religious as well (ironically matching the religious fervor of the abolitionists themselves?). These are probably beliefs that one cannot be talked out of. Because it is an article of faith, they must get their on their own.

    In other words, sigh, I’ve been wasting my time again.

    Eric: you and I are not so dissimilar when it comes to the 3 items you listed. I agree that it’s insidious the way certain neo-Confederate mythology persists, which is why I sometimes post counterarguments at places like Dixie Dawn’s site. But then when I read ostensibly authoritative editorials like the one Dimitri linked to today (http://www.tribstar.com/business/local_story_309164131.html), I think ‘what’s the point?’ For whatever reasons, there is a deep-seated need in some people to disassociate slavery from the secession crisis, and so this stuff is here to stay.

    This has gotten so long, I may cross-post it as a blog entry.

    David

  10. David, — I couldn’t agree with you more. Thanks for taking the time to lay it all out so clearly. In the end a defense of Stonewall Jackson as a saint, the idea of 90,000 black Confederates, and the distancing of slavery from secession and the war ultimately tells us more about the writer than the relevant subject. These ideas are not about facts, but about personal opinion or a need to believe a certain conclusion. Thanks for that.

  11. Kevin,

    I think you’ve erred a bit here. Miss Dawn strikes me as someone with a particular set of beliefs who is willing to entertain the notion that she may be mistaken in those beliefs. I don’t think we should expect her to read suggested books on our timetable but rather on her own timetable. That she has agreed to do so is, to me, highly encouraging. Miss Dawn hasn’t been doing much participation in the conversation lately, which I think is regretful because I for one am interested in what she thinks of the various items of evidence that have been posted thus far, so I think it’s unfair to implicitly attribute “emotional rants” to her rather than making it clear that these were comments of others.

    I hope I don’t come across as condescending to Miss Dawn, because I don’t mean to be, but she does appear to me to be someone who is relatively new to serious Civil War study. So I think she needs to expand her reading to the best scholarly work, and I think it’s incumbent on those who are more experienced in their Civil War study to help show the way. I think she’s a pretty smart woman who will see the truth at some point.

    Regards,
    Cash

  12. Cash, — Thanks for the comment. My comment about “emotional rants” was not directed at Dixie, but to the various authors of her posts; I guess it wasn’t clear. I read her response and perhaps my comment was a bit mean-sprited, though I think that is a bit exxagerated. She responded, which is fine. Let’s move on. I am not going to lose any sleep over it. In the end it’s just a blog. The only reason she said anything is Anonymous Jim tipped her off. Other than that I assume she has no reason to read my blog. Let’s not get carried away with this.

  13. Thanks Eric, — Much to do about nothing in the end. I loved Aubrecht’s comment. He read your post which goes much further than me and yet he only directs his anger in my direction. My post includes a few vague references to her blog. This guy is a real piece of work and you gotta love his self-righteous attitude. What is even stranger is that he spends so much time on my blog. On the one hand Aubrecht can’t stand what I have to say and yet the guy spends an inordinate amount of time here. It gives me the creeps.

    I hope Michael Aubrecht eventually comes to terms with the fact that I am happily married.

  14. My goodness, I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw your comment Kevin…lol…I wasn’t expecting it but it is greatly appreciated and apology accepted. I have no ill feelings in fact I have to agree with you that the title was great!! I have recently discovered that Life is too short to dwell on these things, Its best to learn all we can while we have the time. However I am still a redhead woman and have to have my say, so I hope you too, can accept my apology.

    I am fairly new to my studies, I truly have not tried to hide it, I have had a lot of time on my hands due, to an early retirement, to read and the civil war is my passion. My fight is for the common man, not the ruling cast or big wigs, and its so easy to get distracted from one’s goal with all that is posted and printed, I admit I need to stay more focused. Though my reason for being unfocused is great, its no excuse…I am a teacher as well and hard on myself and I am in check now thanks to the good news from my doctors.

    I also feel its so very important for a true historian to be neutral, I was hoping to find that with my blog page. This is not an admittance of course I still favor the CSA; But because David saw enough to speak to me and you thought enough to write about it, I am getting what I was searching for, information from both sides. I have also thought, Therefore, I say, thank you for your time and attention whether it be North or South, it is a great honor to be visited by such as yourselves.

    Can I add another note here, On one of your comrade’s pages I was “slammed” for lack of a better word, for not using my real name…I just thought “Dixie Dawn” was catching, I posted my name here on the comment to show that I am not trying to hide, I am not a “neo confederate”, I’m just “Dixie Dawn” although I was kind of liking the heroine role.

    Thank you Kevin for allowing me to comment.

    Most sincerely and respectfully,
    Dixie Dawn

  15. Dawn, — Thanks for taking the time to respond to my comment. You are welcome to comment on anything on this site. Again, best of luck to you.

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