The Virginia Flaggers’ Lost Cause

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that the Virginia Flaggers would not be pleased with my recent piece in The Daily Beast. They huffed and puffed on their Facebook page and blog, but failed to use the opportunity to do some serious soul searching. 🙂

Susan Hathaway accused me of engaging “in old, tired ‘7 degrees of separation’ theories to try and link us (and me, especially) to anyone and anything they think will FINALLY turn the public against us. Every example, including the owners of the property on which two of their flags fly, is linked directly to Hathaway and the Flaggers. Their association is based on a decision to partner and be seen publicly.[fn id=”1″]

More confusing, however, is Hathaway’s insistence that every Confederate flag flying along a Virginia highway constitutes a victory.

In fact, we have experienced quite the contrary. Since the first flag was raised on I-95 a little over a month after his failed prediction, we have raised 25 MORE flags in the Commonwealth. We have several flag sites currently under construction, and if everything goes according to schedule, hope to have at least 30 roadside Memorial Flags flying in the Commonwealth before the end of the year.

I mistakenly predicted a few years back that the Flaggers would be unable to organize even a single flag, but to see these flag raisings as a success ignores their very purpose and intention. Every flag was put up following a defeat. In fact, Hathaway is on record in city council meetings threatening that a decision to remove Confederate iconography from public spaces would be followed by a flag raising.

Let’s review these defeats one more time:

  • Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (Confederate Memorial Chapel)
  • Museum of the Confederacy – Appomattox
  • City of Lexington, Virginia
  • Washington & Lee University in Lexington
  • Virginia Sesquicentennial Commission (trailer exhibit)
  • The National Park Service and the entire Civil War 150th commemoration
  • City of Danville, Virginia
  • Commonwealth of Virginia (SCV license plates/Confederate History Month)

Of course there will be more flags, because there is no sign that communities across Virginia and the rest of the South have finished re-evaluating the appropriateness of Confederate iconography. Even though Hathaway attended its public hearings, the Flaggers have had no impact on the city of Charlottesville’s ongoing discussion about its monuments. And just last week the city of Alexandria voted to change the name of Jefferson Davis Highway and possibly move a Confederate monument.

What Hathaway and the Virginia Flaggers fail to understand is that not all Confederate battle flags are equal. The Flaggers have always had the right to raise Confederate flags on private property, but no amount of enthusiasm or number can offset the fact that communities and private institutions across Virginia and the rest of the South are declaring, in no uncertain terms, that these symbols do not reflect their values.

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20 comments… add one
  • Shoshana Bee Sep 26, 2016 @ 23:18

    I was going to give it all a rest and just enjoy the reverie of my recent Gettysburg trip, but the mail keeps piling up. My ADL connection is sending more and more intense dispatches on a daily basis – most disturbing is the seemingly abrupt shift into mainstream by yesterday’s “radical right” groups. My other connection to ‘Ol Miss is sending me rabidly racist connections between the Delta Flaggers and local KKK members — photos included. I cannot keep up with it, and in the back of my mind, I wonder: Is it because I am now interested in the “family business” of fighting racism that I now seem to be drowning in it, or is there really an escalation taking place? It seems that it is not just my private crusade that envelopes me, rather, even the Washington Post recognizes a shift in the paradigm of white supremacy groups in this most recent article . It seems that there is an emboldening taking place, and the Flaggers are just one of many groups taking advantage of the “mainstreaming” of racism.

    • Andy Hall Sep 27, 2016 @ 6:09

      It’s due in part to having a high-profile candidate for president who has made many of the views of the alt.right central to his campaign rhetoric, on a range of issues from immigration to Islam to isolationism to his characterization of the lives of African Americans as being trapped in a violent, inner-city hell-world. They see in him someone who is sympathetic to their causes, if not directly allied with it, and feel that finally they’re getting a seat at the table of power. Donald Trump is the best thing that’s happened to them since George Wallace.

      • bob carey Sep 28, 2016 @ 5:54

        They vilify Nikki Haley for removing the CBF in Columbia and yet say nothing about Trump agreeing with her. To me this is proof that their precious flags mean little to them and their whole movement is about right wing beliefs and reactionary politics.

        • Andy Hall Sep 28, 2016 @ 6:26

          Nikki Haley has been an easy target for them. She’s a woman, she is the daughter of immigrants, and her family’s religious tradition is not Christian, although she herself is. Any governor of South Carolina that supported removing the flag from the monument would be the target of criticism, but it is especially vitriolic and unhinged because of those other factors. You don’t have to poke the heritage folks very hard before it all comes vomiting out.

        • Andy Hall Sep 28, 2016 @ 6:52

          Also, keep in mind that Nikki Haley has always been considered suspect by some of these folks, apparently for reasons that have nothing to do with her staunchly-conservative policy positions. See:

          • Jimmy Dick Sep 28, 2016 @ 8:41

            I think the SCV is a little upset that their views are no longer the dominant ones in the state. They are now aligning themselves with the far more radical alt-right types in their desperation to regain relevancy, but in doing so they’ve exposed themselves for their support of white supremacy.

    • Forester Sep 28, 2016 @ 12:23

      Shoshana, that Washington Post article was a head trip. I’ve literally never heard some of this stuff before. I’m not disagreeing, I just don’t see it in my daily life. The alt-right hates Jews? As far as I knew, Conservatives were radical in their support of Israel. Has that changed recently? I’m confused.

      Sometimes neo-Nazis pop up on Facebook, derailing a discussion of U-Boat warfare into a political diatribe, but moderators shut them down quickly. I always took them as an insignificant minority in the WW2 history community.

  • Jimmy Dick Sep 23, 2016 @ 13:48

    I was chatting with a few people on FB who are strong conservatives and even they said the flaggers were missing a few bricks and dragging the CBF down.

    I am not surprised to see the flaggers whine so much. They’ve consistently failed for five straight years. They have accomplished the exact opposite of their goals. By flying all those CBFs and making fools of themselves in public, they’ve caused people to ask questions. The flaggers can’t answer the questions without lying. A quick fact check shows people that the flaggers are lying. At that point they’ve managed to turn people against themselves, yet the flaggers keep insisting they are gaining support.

    What support is that? It is not the majority of Americans. It is instead the racists, white supremacists, and alt-right fringe. The evidence from film, photos, and social media have revealed the flaggers to be composed of those people so it’s no surprise they associate with them. That to the flaggers is winning.

    Is the CBF up at the chapel? No. Is the CBF up at the South Carolina State House? No. Is the CBF flying from city property in Lexington? No. Is it flying from city property in Danville? No. Is it flying at the University of Mississippi? No. Were Confederate monuments removed from the University of Texas? Yes.

    The only way the flaggers are winning is by attracting racists, white supremacists, and the alt-right lunatic fringe. That’s not winning. That is absolute desperation.

  • Forester Sep 23, 2016 @ 8:38

    The Flaggers harm their own cause more than they realize. I’ve been involved with attempting to preserve the Confederate monuments in Norfolk and Portsmouth, and we have a bunch of crazies who talk stupid nonsense online and make fools of themselves.

    The Flagger types are fanatics who will never engage in ANY kind of public discussion. They are so far down the rabbit hole that they live in an alternate universe. One time on Facebook, I posted a video of Shelby Foote and I got a comment saying, “that damyankee libtard, im glad he’s dead.” Let that one sink in. If Foote was too liberal, than who the heck IS conservative enough for them? Flaggers don’t exist in reality as we know it.

    Every time they put up one of these flags, their public image plummets further, and that’s one more step towards getting the monuments removed. >_<

    • Kevin Levin Sep 23, 2016 @ 8:43

      Every time they put up one of these flags, their public image plummets further, and that’s one more step towards getting the monuments removed.

      You are probably right with this assessment of their tactics. There is plenty of room for a very reasonable and even convincing position to retain Confederate monuments. One of my former students in Charlottesville is leading such an effort and I thought he did a pretty good job speaking in favor of preservation at a recent meeting.

      The Flaggers, however, only seem to manage to alienate with their stupidity and ignorance.

  • Andy Hall Sep 23, 2016 @ 5:59

    Not surprising that Susan Hathaway is unhappy with more exposure of the Flaggers’ tightly-interwoven relationships with white supremacists and open racial bigots. But it’s still kind of amazing that she cites as her leading character witnesses (1) a man who bragged about using his credentials as a CPA fraudulently to obtain tax returns for a state NAACP chapter, solely because he wanted to dig up some dirt on them, and (2) another man who has posed online as a teenage girl to try and intimidate bloggers he dislikes.

    That’s who the Flaggers are, fnckups and misfits, every one.

  • Patrick Jennings Sep 23, 2016 @ 5:27

    As a resident of Alexandria I was on hand at the city meeting last week. I applauded the hard work of the commission, as did most others, and agreed with their decisions – rename Jeff Davis Highway, create a process for renaming Confederate named streets, and keep the statue “Appomattox.” (I think it the most lovely Civil War statue almost anywhere) The city council, as it has a long history of doing, ignored the committee and went their own way by recommending the statue be moved all of 30 feet – hardly a major issue. The city already eliminate the flying of the Confederate flag on specific and to their credit, the “Daughter’s” kept quiet and do not display any flags outside their small museum.

    As an Alexandrian I understand the last measure is little more than yelling at the wind. The city must ask the state (the House, not the governor) for permission to move the monument and the state is in no mood to honor the request at this time. It might come in the future, as the statue is sitting in the center of a busy, bust street and it is odd to realize that moving it might actually improve it and will certainly allow more people to actually look at it.

    All of this is to say that reason prevailed. Certainly there were some voices in opposition, but they were few and far between and most had no real argument against the changes. In the end, it remains an excellent example of civic action.

    • Kevin Levin Sep 23, 2016 @ 5:48

      All of this is to say that reason prevailed.

      I agree. This is how community discussions should work. What the Virginia Flaggers will now do is find a piece of private property and throw up one of their flags. It will do nothing to counter the will of the people and a public statement that the public display of Confederate iconography does not reflect their collective values.

  • Vincent Caviglia Sep 23, 2016 @ 5:22

    Just read your piece in The Daily Beast. I clicked on the link provided for Hubert Wayne Cash, because I have to drive by his property twice a day; it saddens and angers me every time.

    His actual quote is “…most but by no means all blacks are a worthless bunch of freeloading, dangerous animals that should be put down like the dogs that they are.” This strikes me as significantly racist, but by no means the same, as the quote included in your piece.

    • Kevin Levin Sep 23, 2016 @ 5:32

      Hi Vincent,

      Thanks for the comment. I have seen a couple of versions of this quote. They all point to the same general point. Of course, what is relevant here is that the Virginia Flaggers have chosen to partner with this individual.

      • Vincent Caviglia Sep 23, 2016 @ 6:38

        Thanks Kevin,

        I come across these sort of abbreviated quotations quite often. My assumption is usually that the writer is either sloppy or unethical. I think enough of your work that this was not my assumption in this case, which is why I posted the comment. I hadn’t considered the alternative quote explanation. My concern would be in making sure that whoever provided that version of the quote did not fit into one of the two aforementioned categories. If not, I would consider instead linking the alternative quote.

        You don’t need to reach me, and you will never reach the flaggers. I grew up in rural Virginia around a lot of white people who were not necessarily racist (or at least not prejudiced) but nevertheless swallowed the flag-as-symbol-of-heritage garbage. They strike me as the sort of readers who might benefit most from your piece.

        I absolutely agree with you on the overall point. And using the version of the quote I provided would not change that.

        • Kevin Levin Sep 23, 2016 @ 6:42

          Thanks for the follow-up, Vincent. Just to be clear, I am not trying to reach the Flaggers. My hope is that the piece adds some context for those who have to deal directly with this group and travelers passing through Virginia.

          What is important is the fact that these flags don’t represent the communities in which they are located.

          • Vincent Caviglia Sep 23, 2016 @ 7:00

            I realize that you aren’t trying to reach flaggers, as I was trying to say, I don’t think there’s any point in that.

            Every time I see that flag on 95 I think of the persons of color who must view it as a symbol of hate, fear, and oppression. And those from all over the Eastern seaboard who may view it as representative of Virginians. I appreciate that you’re working to change that. Every day when I come home, I pass Mr. Cash’s odious symbol. Thankfully when I finally arrive I see the US flag over Marye’s Heights, and silently thank the men buried up there, for making sure it’s not that other flag flying atop Fredericksburg.

            • Kevin Levin Sep 23, 2016 @ 7:30

              Every American should be thankful that the soldiers who fought under the Confederate battle flag failed.

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