The Civil War’s Statler and Waldorf

This morning I came across this video of the Kennedy boys doing their little schtick on why the “South was Right” about everything concerning those timeless American values of freedom and liberty.

After a few minutes of watching this silliness I couldn’t help but think of another dynamic duo.

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The difference is… it’s a lot easier to listen to the Muppets than the Kennedy brothers… a better alternative, no matter how it’s sliced.

Absolutely. I only listened to half of the Kennedy interview, but I couldn’t get enough of the Muppets.

Richard McMurry did a devastating review of their _The South Was Right_ in CW News back in 1994. I don’t think it is online, but I have a scanned copy I will be glad to send anyone. Here are a couple of excerpts:
“Like most angry books, this one contains a few facts onto which the authors pile false and misleading statements, invalid assumptions, weak logic, poor history and selected quotations in order to arrive at their predetermined conclusions. ….
“Certain things are clearly true and need to be said. Many white Northerners were (and are) racists; many were (and are) hypocrites. Most Federal soldiers did not bathe often enough to suit modern olfactory nerves. Lots of Northerners spoke (and speak) with an accent that grates painfully upon the ears.
“Some Yankee soldiers were war criminals. Northern politicians were (and are) slimeoids and just as frequently inconsistent and nefarious as they pursue the interest of those they represent. (Do Southern voters ever elect similar rascals to public office?)….
“The current fad for political correctness is idiotic and exists only because most college administrators have the backbone of a bowl of Jello and the brains of flies.
“None of these truths, however, alters that fact that on both of the two big issues of the mid-19th century the South was basically wrong and the North was basically right. Slavery was certainly legal and secession arguably so, but both were so wrong and so stupid that there are no sound grounds on which either can be defended.”

Dang, Kevin, the similarity just in the still images is uncanny. There is no way I am going to play the videos, I don’t want to ruin my mood.

You at least need to watch the Muppets video. That will make your day.

There IS an amazing resemblance, except for the fact that Statler and Waldorf quite frequently had a point.

Listening to the Kennedys’ — I did, I admit it (I had to stop listening to S&W because controlling the volume was driving me nuts) — had at least one salutary effect: I’d never realized that the term ‘chattel slavery’ was a code for a neo-Confederate states-rights discourse. Also I’d never heard of St. George Tucker before — their favorite founding father!

Unfortunately, these clowns don’t understand a damn thing about St. George Tucker.

Yeah, I went and looked him up, and he sounds pretty interesting — the kind of second-tier leader whose bio makes a very interesting discussion — and it also sounds like they’re cherry-picking from his writings pretty blatantly.

I have to admit that “The South Was Right!” is my guilty pleasure. Often when I’m particularly depressed I read it because it always makes me laugh. The Kennedys use arguments again and again that are not just so illogical, but so hilariously bizarre that they might as well have come from a Mel Brooks movie!

Perhaps the weirdest part of the entire book is when they argue that slaves in the South were better off than free blacks in the North because, according to the 1850 census (why just this one particular census?), the proportion of slaves who were “deaf, dumb, blind, insane, or idiotic” was 1 in 1464, compared to 1 in 506 free Northern blacks. My goodness! One wonders why there wasn’t an Underground Railroad going from the North to the South, rather than the other way around. And at the same time, the Kennedys say that the proportion of white Americans (northerners and southerners) who were “deaf, dumb, blind, insane, or idiotic” was 1 in 1,000. So if one accepts their reasoning, southern slaves were not only better off than free blacks, they were better off than white Americans as well!!! You’d have to be insane yourself to choose to be a slave instead of a white person before and during the Civil War.

By this kind of “logic,” who knows…the Jews in Germany in 1939 might well have been better off than those of the United States that year. Until we check to see what proportions of Jews in both nations had serious physical or mental problems, we can’t be too sure, can we?

The Kennedys spend a great part of the book telling readers about how much African-Americans (slave and free) in the South loved their southern homeland, were loved and accepted by almost all whites, and hated the “Yankee invader.” At one point (p. 94), they say: “It may prove a little embarrassing to those who claim the North was fighting for the blacks to note that no less than two African-Americans were taken prisoner from the Southern army at the battle of Gettysburg, one from Virginia and one from Louisiana.” The part of this quotation that immediately jumps out is “no less than two.” The last time I checked, two isn’t exactly a big number! There were thousands of Confederate troops taken prisoner at Gettysburg. And blacks were no tiny minority in the South–they were perhaps 40% of the total southern population. So why were there, according to the Kennedys, only two black Confederate prisoners taken at Gettysburg out of a total of thousands? There’s clearly something major the Kennedys aren’t telling us (obviously, to acknowledge that the Confederate government formally banned blacks from serving in the Confederate army as combat soldiers until March 1865 wouldn’t exactly help convince the reader of the Confederacy’s racial inclusiveness!). Furthermore, they go on to say that one of these two blacks could “easily pass for either a creole of color or a white man”! They seem not to realize that acknowledging this only further weakens, rather than strengthens, their case.

Another favorite talking point of the Kennedys is the idea that there’s no meaningful difference between the South seceding from the United States and the Baltic and other Soviet republics declaring their independence from the Soviet Union or the Eastern European countries becoming independent of Soviet domination. On page 196, they write: “Why is it that the government in Washington will applaud Vaclav Havel of Czechoslovakia for withdrawing his country from the Soviet Union’s orbit, but continue its attack upon Jefferson Davis and his fellow Southerners for doing the same thing for the South?” The Kennedys seem not to have pondered the basic meaning of the term “The South.” “The South” is not a proper name, like Czechoslovakia. The phrase “The South” indicates that the region is “the South” of a larger entity–in this case, of the United States. There is a fundamental difference between this and the countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Czechoslovakia existed as a sovereign, independent nation before coming under Soviet domination. Moreover, it did not ask to be dominated by Soviet Communism, the Soviets controlled it by force because of their victory in World War II. Czechoslovakia clearly has (or rather, had, since it has since broken up by mutual consent into two separate nations, the Czech Republic and Slovakia) a much greater prima facie claim to national independence than the South does.

On the jacket of the book, it actually says “…the Confederacy still exists…”!!! This, of course, sweeps away at the outset any molecule of credibility the book might have had.

I’ve touched on only a few of the problems with “The South Was Right!” here. A whole book could easily be written pointing out every inaccuracy, half truth, and logical fallacy in what the Kennedys say. While “The South Was Right!” fails miserably as history, if you’re acquainted with the actual history it can make wonderful comic relief.

Lee,

A few years ago I tried to make my way through it, but for the reasons shared in your comment was unsuccessful.

The jacket of the book also says that the Kennedys like reenacting Civil War battles in their spare time. Given their infernal hatred for “Yankees” I wouldn’t want to be a Union soldier “captured” by them, that’s for sure!

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