Update: Check out Andy Hall’s follow up post at Dead Confederates in which he calls out one of the SHPG officers for some recent comments. It’s the officers of this group that sets the tone and acceptable language for its members.
In my five plus years of blogging I’ve had my share of disgruntled readers, who believe that my place of birth assumed political convictions, and tendency to read academic history will forever prevent me from truly understanding and appreciating the history of the South and the Civil War. Some of these people have been incredibly mean spirited, but I’ve never taken them too seriously. In fact, I usually just shrug with just a slight hint of pity.
One of the sites that has maintained close watch of my blog over the past few months is a Facebook page called the Southern Heritage Preservation Group. I’ve commented a couple of times about these folks without actually linking to the page. A screenshot of a specific post was enough for my purposes. I don’t know much about the group beyond what you can discern on their home page since I am not a member and I am not “friends” with any of the members. Once in a while a member will comment on my posts and a few of them spend a great deal of time on this site, which I find kind of odd. In fact, a few of them are officers in this group, which suggests the kind of atmosphere they hope to promote. The insults and accusations hurled in my direction run the spectrum. Late last year one of their officers actually suggested that a group should pay me a visit at my school. You get the idea. These are not nice people.
I’ve never felt a need to discuss historical content because there doesn’t seem to be much evidence that members have even a cursory understanding of the Civil War or the history of the South. And I don’t try to defend myself against accusations of being “Anti-South” because that is not their real problem with me. The real problem is that I do not subscribe to their preferred narrative of the war. Personal facts about me are largely irrelevant. The group is just as likely to go after a fellow southerner who happens not to agree with them and they will go after them with a vengeance.
All that aside, here is my real question. What exactly is this group attempting to preserve and how are they going about it? In other words, what do they do? Facebook is an incredibly powerful social media tool in its ability to bring people from far away places together around a common interest or cause. It’s not just a place to talk, but a place to organize and make things happen. But apart from organizing complaints over the city of Lexington’s decision to ban the flying of the Confederate flag on its streets what has this group accomplished? These people regularly complain about teachers they believe are harming their children. Here is a recent example:
The Northern Carpetbagger Liberals come here for a purpose, and it’s the same intent that many go into Journalism or History. They want to Make a Difference, but the Difference is to “Revise” our History of Southern Conservative Constutionalists of our Southern Leaders to more current methodology of Socialist – Marxist government, and an All Powerful Government, which takes the rights of Individuals away. Kevin Levin is an example of one of those Northern “Carpetbaggers”, who migrated South, and made every effort with his “History Classes” to change the Thinking and Re Program the Minds of Southern Youth.
Those are some powerful words that were no doubt written with a great deal of emotion (even if it is completely incoherent), but what exactly is this group doing for education? Where are the teachers in this group? Where are the suggestions for lesson plans and other ideas. My published work is constantly berated on this site, but I have yet to read a thorough analysis of anything that I’ve written beyond this blog. Regardless of that, where is the scholarship in this group? Has anyone published anything substantial in the field? What is this group doing for the Civil War Sesquicentennial? Where are the committees? Do they have any reason to exist apart from the constant whining and complaining about current politics and perceived enemies?
Funny, but the only exception to this is Royal Diadem better known as Ann DeWitt. She is the one person in the group who is trying to get something done with her Black Confederate website [my review] and while I maintain that she is ill-equipped to sift through and understand the documentation being collected for her site, you will not see her go on the attack as others routinely do. I actually believe that she is the one person in that group who has a sincere interest in history.
I taught, published, worked with fellow history teachers, and lectured long before I ever started blogging and if my access to all of the social media tools that I currently use were for some reason discontinued I would continue to do all those things. Social media has enhanced my public presence in numerous ways, but it is not a substitute. The work that makes a difference are those things that involve real people and involve organizing and getting things done.
Why do I have a feeling that if the folks in the SHPG lost their access to Facebook and other sites they would simply be barking at the moon. Is this really what the preservation of Southern Heritage is all about?