Tag Archives: cultural purges

From The “I Told You So Files”: First They Came For General Lee…[UPDATED]

UPDATE: Because the first two news sources I had were in error, I originally posted that the event described occurred this week. It did not: it occurred in October of last year.

Just a few hours ago, I was explaining to a usually wise and rational commenter why her willingness to allow periodic purges of statues and memorials honoring those individuals who past members of our society determined were worthy of continuing honor. The figure in question was Robert E. Lee, not one of my personal favorites, but a generally recognized military genius and easily a man whose life and accomplishments included several justifications for permanent memorials. My favorite: Lee personally vetoed the Confederacy’s fallback plan of taking the war to a guerilla stage, extending the conflict indefinitely. It might well have worked, but Lee refused. I’ll happily grant him some perpetual statuary for that. But the self-righteously intolerant practitioners of presentism want Lee cast as a an irredeemable villain, and his statues toppled.  There are many reasons why this kind of self-imposed cultural amnesia is offensive, harmful and stupid, but in my exchange with that usually wise and rational commenter, I focused on the slippery slope, writing,

You cannot articulate what the stop is on that slippery slope that doesn’t end with blowing up Mount Rushmore.

Imagine my surprise, not to be proven right, for that occurs often, but to be proven right so quickly by a news report I just read concerning a protest  by more than 200 political correctness  maniacs inside the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Their goal: take down the statue of former of Theodore Roosevelt—historian, author, scholar, orator,  political philosopher, war hero, patriot, cowboy, explorer, public servant, the father of conservationism, the creator of the National Parks system, President and one of progressivism’s founding pioneers—and, of course, one of the Mount Rushmore Four. The protest’s organizers, NYC Stands with Standing Rock and Decolonize This Place, called the statue of the former New York City police commissioner and former New York governor  a “stark embodiment of the white supremacy that Roosevelt himself espoused and promoted,” adding in a statement that “The statue is seen as an affront to all who pass it on entering the museum, but especially to African and Native Americans.” The protesters carried signs that read “BLACK LIVES MATTER,” “DECOLONIZE THIS MUSEUM,” and “ABOLISH WHITE SUPREMACY.”

Of course they did.

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Filed under Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, History, U.S. Society

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/12/17

Good morning, all!

1. I can’t keep writing the same post repeatedly as the politically correct, the historical censors, the Soviet-style Left and the gallactically stupid continue to tear down statues and eliminate honors to significant Americans who are predecessors deemed worthy.  Just hunt for the “airbrushing history” tag here and you’ll find too many already. We should note, however, how the cognitive dissonance scale is coming into play to the benefit of the unethical airbrushers.

In Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia, this weekend will witness thousands of white nationalists and neo-Nazis demonstrating to protest a plan to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee  from a city park, because, Lee’s sub-21, infinitely wise undergrads insist, erasing Lee from history will undo the legacy of racism, or something. Of course, for the Racist Right to be the ones protesting makes this position look reasonable. White supremacists organizing the protests unjustly associates Lee with their cause, making his statue mean something it never did, and attaching him to  cause that was not his. The protests against tearing down Lee’s statue–UVA’s founder, Thomas Jefferson, will be next on the non-person list, or close to it—should be coming from historians, scholars, liberals, believers in fairness, nuance, and integrity, and those who are literate enough to understand that the life of Robert E. Lee has much to teach every child and American about loyalty, hubris, hard choices, tragic choices, hypocrisy, courage and more. Why aren’t they protesting? Two reasons, now: they don’t want to be shoulder to shoulder with the scum of the earth, and they are too timid to stand up for crucial ethical principles, unlike the censors of Charlottesville, who don’t understand them, and the Neo-Nazis and white supremacists, who don’t have them.

2. And speaking of historical airbrushing and censorship: Last year, I designated the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C as an Ethics Dunce for omitting the second African American SCOTUS justice, Clarence Thomas from mention while devoting an exhibit to his unsubstantiated accuser, Anita Hill.  Now the museum has announced plans to honor Jim Vance.

Come on, you all know who Jim Vance is, don’t you? (D.C. area residents: shut up!) Jim Vance, who transformed America for blacks? Give up? Vance was a long-time popular local D.C. television news broadcaster, with a nice screen presence and a casual delivery.  He just died, and he was black. The museum’s founding director, Lonnie Bunch, said the broadcaster “symbolized that it was really important that America was changing and his presence was a symbol of that change.” Right, sort of….although Vance was hardly the first or the most prominent black newscaster in D.C. Clarence Thomas, however, was the first conservative black justice…which is, of course, why is being shown such disrespect by the “Nation’s Attic.”

I haven’t visited the huge, striking new museum on the mall yet, and I won’t until its shows signs of being am objective chronicler of history rather than a tool of interest group propaganda. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, History, Law & Law Enforcement, Race

Comment Of The Day: “New Orleans’ Historical Air-Brushing Orgy”

I confess: I’m behind in posting Comments of the Day. There are at least two that are on the runway. This one, Steve-O-in-NJ’s discussion of statue-toppling and historical airbrushing in other nations, is the most recent. It also doesn’t involve virulent anti-Trump hysteria, which I am becoming extremely weary of even as I have to chronicle it, since it, and not its target, is one of the major ethical crises of our time. (It also is really, really interesting.)

Here is Steve-O-in-NJ’s Comment of the Day on the post, “New Orleans’ Historical Air-Brushing Orgy”:

There IS some historical precedent for something like this. I don’t know how well-traveled you are, but if you visit Ireland and India you will still see plinths that once held statues of individuals associated with the British Empire that were removed in the aftermath of independence. You will also see relatively new statues of folks associated with the new regime, some of whom, in life, might have been considered criminals or terrorists. Two obvious examples are:

Michael Collins, national hero to the Irish, magnificent bastard to the Brits, and, any way you slice it, terrorist, who achieved his goals by shooting police and soldiers in the back, sniping, and bombing. His bust stands in Dublin and his statue marks the place where he was assassinated after mistakenly thinking he could just turn off the tap of the passions he had stirred up

Tatya Topi, Indian rebel ruler who it is believed gave the order for the massacre of women and children at Cawnpore, later captured and executed by the British. At least three statues in India now honor him as a freedom fighter, and one of them was in fact placed where a memorial to the victims of the massacre once stood.

Some of the monuments that represented the old ways were treated like scrap metal, like a statue of Queen Victoria that once stood in Dublin, dumped in a grass field until a deal was struck to ship it to Sydney, Australia, where it stands now. Five other statues of kings of kings and viceroys were moved to an abandoned area of Coronation Park in New Delhi following independence, where they stand forlorn and poorly maintained, partially because no one wants to pay to have them destroyed or shipped somewhere else in the world that might want them. Ironically, the one of George V, which came from India Gate, was to have been replaced by one of Gandhi, but to this day the canopy is vacant, because the Indian Parliament could not agree on details.

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Filed under Around the World, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, History, U.S. Society, War and the Military

New Orleans’ Historical Air-Brushing Orgy

New Orleans is in the midst of completing a plan to remove four Confederate monuments from public spaces in the city. In April, city workers removed a monument to a Reconstruction-era insurrection, and last week, they dismantled a statue of Jefferson Davis. Statues of the Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and P. G. T. Beauregard will be coming down soon.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu exploited the murder of nine black churchgoers  in Charleston, South Carolina to push for historical censoring, a long-time goal of civil rights groups and progressives.  Now the city says it is weighing a new location for  the monuments so they could be “placed in their proper historical context from a dark period of American history.” The favored new location is rumored to be Hell.

There are protests, of course, and most objections are coming from the perfect advocates from perspective of the historical amnesia fans: Confederacy fans, “Lost Cause” adherents, white supremacists, and other deplorables.  Seldom has George Orwell’s quote been more relevant:

“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”

I’ve written so much about the efforts from the left to purge America of any memory of or honor to historical figures who do not meet its 2o17 lock-step mandate for politically correct views and statements that I hesitate to repeat myself. You can review the record here.

Still, some things bear repeating. The last time I wrote about this issue was in February, when Yale capitulated to student thought-control advocates and eliminated the name of John C. Calhoun from a residential hall.  For it isn’t just leaders of the Confederacy who are targets of this cultural self-cannibalism: it is all past leaders who were proven wrong in some respects by subsequent wisdom, experience and events, including American icons like Jefferson and Jackson.  That last post listed the rationalizations  employed by the statue-topplers and the spineless officials who capitulate to their purges , including

 The Revolutionary’s Excuse: “These are not ordinary times” 

The Troublesome Luxury: “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now.” 

The Ironic Rationalization, or “It’s The Right Thing To Do.”

Ethics Surrender, or “We can’t stop it.”

The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause”

The Futility Illusion:  “If we don’t do it, somebody else will.”

The Comparative Virtue Excuse: “There are worse things.”

The Coercion Myth: “We have no choice!”

The Desperation Dodge or “I’ll do anything!”

The Unethical Precedent, or “It’s not the first time”

The Abuser’s License:  “It’s Complicated”

 The Apathy Defense, or “Nobody Cares.”

When you can throw up twelve rationalizations, that’s more than enough to convince the average, ethically-deficient citizen, not to mention social justice warriors.

That  post concluded,

A friend, lawyer, and Democrat had chided me on Facebook for suggesting that the frenzy to make America a safe place for anyone troubled by the opinions and actions of American patriots of the past could reach as far as Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, and accused me of engaging in wild hyperbole. Soon thereafter, the Connecticut Democratic Party purged the names and images of Presidents Jackson and Jefferson from its annual dinner, in order to kowtow to progressive activists. In November of last year, hundreds of University of Virginia students and faculty members demanded that President Teresa Sullivan stop quoting Thomas Jefferson, because doing so “undermines the message of unity, equality and civility that you are attempting to convey.”…I believe it is fair to say that I was right to be alarmed, and my friend was wrong. (I’m still going to let the statue of him in my backyard stay there, though.)

The cultural ethics alarms are sounding, as the toxic combination of the ignorant, the cultural bullies and the cowardly brings the United States closer to an Orwellian society where the past is remade to suit the perceived needs of the present.  Yale’s treatment of Calhoun redoubles my conviction that I expressed last year more than once. We have to honor what deserved and deserves to be honored. If we do not, history becomes political propaganda, useful only to support current political agendas. A nation that does not  honor and respect its history has no history.

And a nation that has no history is lost.

The New York Times published separate interviews with a leading critic and a prominent supporter of the historical airbrushing in New Orleans. Continue reading

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Willful Amnesia And The Great Cat And Dog Massacre

Did you know that animal-loving British families killed an estimated 400,000 household pets—cats and dogs—in the first week after Great Britain declared war on Germany in September, 1939? Neither did I, and now a new book by Hilda Kean, “The Great Dog and Cat Massacre,” sets out to remind us of that ugly episode.

As the New York Times review of the book notes and Kean explains, the mass euthanasia was “publicly lamented at the time,” but has since been erased from memory.  But why has it been erased from memory, and how? This is a disturbing cultural phenomenon that Ethics Alarms has covered before, notably in the post about dance marathons in the U.S. during the Depression. One of the definitions of culture is what we choose to remember and what we choose to forget. Forgetting, however, while often psychically soothing and an easy way to avoid guilt and accountability, is a pre-unethical condition. That which has been forgotten can no longer teach us, and a society that collectively decides to pretend something cruel, horrible or traumatic didn’t happen risks allowing it to happen again.

This, of course, is one more reason why the recent progressive mania for historical airbrushing is dangerous, irresponsible and unethical. Keep that statue of “Joe Pa” on the Penn State campus. Leave  King Andy on the twenty dollar bill.  Don’t take down that bust of Bill Cosby in the TV Hall of Fame. All civilizations have fallen heroes, moments of panic, times when they forget their values and betray their aspirations. Of course it is painful and embarrassing to remember these things, but also essential if human ethics are going to progress instead of stagnating, or even going backwards. We associate the elimination of cultural memories with totalitarian regimes, and for good reason, for they are blatant and shameless about it.

No nation is immune from the process’s appeal, however. When I was going to grade school and studying the Presidents of the United States, Jackson and Woodrow Wilson were routinely hailed by (mostly Democratic) historians as among the greatest of the great. The first Jackson biography I read barely mentioned the Trail of Tears. I read four well-regarded biographies of Wilson that ignored his support for Jim Crow, and the degree to which he deliberated reversed advances in civil rights, being an unapologetic white supremacist. The influenza epidemic that killed millions was excised from my school’s history books. Thomas Jefferson’s concubine, Sally Hemmings? Who? Continue reading

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Down The Slippery Slope: Yale Embraces Historical Airbrushing

john-c-calhounFrom The New York Times:

After a swelling tide of protests, the president of Yale announced on Saturday that the university would change the name of a residential college commemorating John C. Calhoun, the 19th-century white supremacist statesman from South Carolina. The college will be renamed for Grace Murray Hopper, a trailblazing computer scientist and Navy rear admiral who received a master’s degree and a doctorate from Yale.

The decision was a stark reversal of the university’s decision last spring to maintain the name despite broad opposition. Though the president, Peter Salovey, said that he was still “concerned about erasing history,” he said that “these are exceptional circumstances.”

“I made this decision because I think it is the right thing to do on principle,” Mr. Salovey said on a conference call with reporters. “John C. Calhoun’s principles, his legacy as an ardent supporter of slavery as a positive good, are at odds with this university.”

And there we go!

How cowardly and equivocating  Salovey is! If he’s concerned about erasing history, and he should be as an educator, then he should have the principles and fortitude not to engage in it. But “these are exceptional circumstances,” he says. This is right out of the Rationalizations list: The Revolutionary’s Excuse: “These are not ordinary times” and The Troublesome Luxury: “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now.”  For good measure, he adds a third rationalization, The Ironic Rationalization, or “It’s The Right Thing To Do.”

Of course it’s not the right thing to do. The right thing to do would be to teach the smug protesting young ignoramuses, who only know that Senator Calhoun was a slavery supporter as if that is the reason he is regarded as one of the great Senators in U.S. history (it’s not), any more than Andrew Jackson is defined solely by “The Trail of Tears,” that history is complex, cultures evolve, leadership is hard and even the most accomplished human beings are flawed gaspachos of greatness and sin. That would be the right thing because Yale is allegedly an institute of higher learning. This is the act of an institute of political correctness, intellectual laziness and stereotyping.

There were other rationalizations embedded in Salovey’s betrayal of history and culture, such as..

1A. Ethics Surrender, or “We can’t stop it.”

Sure you can, if you have any integrity and care about your obligation to educate rather than capitulate.

13. The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause”

And what cause would that be, sir? Your sophomoric students are demanding that important historical figures be airbrushed out of existence like Soviet Politburo figures out of favor, and Yale’s cause is supposed to be teaching  young minds to be more tolerant of the complexities of the real world. Now Yale’s cause is “Find the path of least resistance, and maybe they’ll calm down!”

15. The Futility Illusion:  “If I don’t do it, somebody else will.”

This is only true if Yale is unable to articulate why it is important not to banish historical figures from the nation’s past as soon as activists get wind of a weakness they can exploit to bring themselves power. Continue reading

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Ethical Quote of the Month: Hollywood Chamber of Commerce President Leron Gubler

cosby-star

“The answer is no. Once a star has been added to the Walk, it is considered a part of the historic fabric of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Because of this, we have never removed a star from the Walk.”

Leron Gubler, Hollywood Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, answering a question about whether Bill Cosby’s star would be removed from the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Cosby was formally charged with sexual assault today in Pennsylvania, the first time allegations of any of his nearly 50 accusers have resulted in a court appearance. The Cos is out on a million dollar bond.

Exactly.

Variety also quotes the late Johnny Grant, a former chairman of the Hollywood Walk of Fame Committee, who once addressed the status of another fallen star’s place on the walk, saying:

“Stars are awarded for professional achievement to the world of entertainment and contributions to the community. A celebrity’s politics, philosophy, irrational behavior, outrageous remarks or anything like that have never been cause to remove a Walk of Fame star.”

On this matter of ethics, at least, Hollywood gets it, unlike Disney World, Harvard Law School, Princeton, the University of Kentucky, the World Fantasy Award, Connecticut Democrats, the National Park Service, Saltzburg University…and many others.

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Quotes, History