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Book Review: A Renegade History of the United States by Thaddeus Russell

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“In the summer of 1957, a Baptist preacher in the segregated South issued a series of fiery sermons denouncing the laziness, promiscuity, criminality,  drunkenness, slovenliness, and ignorance of Negroes,” says Thaddeus Russell; from the book A Renegade History of the United States. “He suggested that blacks were ‘thinking about sex’ every time they walked down the street.  They were too violent.  They didn’t bathe properly. And their music, which was invading homes all over America, ‘plunges men’s minds into degrading and immoral depths.’”

In the introduction his book, Russell informs the reader that his book is “about the fight that political philosophers have always identified as the central conflict in human history; that between the individual and society.”  He goes on to say that the founding of the United States “simply began the war [between pleasure and discipline] that continues today.”

We recently reviewed a book about the Founding Fathers and the weeks leading up to July 2, 1776.  What struck this reviewer was that the founders were the rich elite of the times.  Can you imagine the outcry if Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Ross Perot, and the other richest people of today overtly attempted to change our government? [I know they do, but it appears they don’t want it on the front page headlines.]  What was going on in 1776 with the common “man-on-the-street”?  What kind of life did that person enjoy?  Russell agrees with John Adams that “probably most inhabitants of early American cities were corrupt and depraved.”  And it’s Russell’s conclusion that we owe much of our individual personal liberties to the drunkards, laggards, prostitutes, pirates, slaves, and other renegades of the past.

 A Renegade History of the United States is filled with ironies and none more significant than the fact that the thing that would make men give up their own freedom and still believe they were free was self-rule.  The Founding Fathers took advantage of the knowledge that democracy is the enemy of personal freedom and once free of British rule, began a concerted effort to swing the pendulum back towards a severe, Victorian moral code.  They got laws passed to support their efforts such as divorce laws in Georgia in 1802.  According to the great state of Georgia, “…the republic is deeply interested in the private business of it’s citizens.”  This was America? No wonder renegades revolted!

After an introductory chapter, the second and third chapters are, “The Freedom of Slavery” and “The Slavery of Freedom”.  Old research is presented pointing out how many of the slaves missed the plantation and didn’t enjoy freedom after the Civil War. Evidence is presented to show how many of the efforts of the government and civil leaders were ineffective against the renegades.  Oh, and that preacher in 1957?  None other than Martin Luther King, Jr.  According to Russell, “the immoral black people [King] denounced did more to destroy segregation than did the civil rights movement.”

In addition to all the irony that Russell exposes, another important aspect explored is that of connections.  Specifically, Russell credits slaves with many of our freedoms such as dancing and music, whores with women’s rights, working class women with the creation of the weekend,
consumerism, and FUN.  Russell also credits jazz, legal alcohol, gay and lesbian liberation, and much of the entertainment business to organized crime (which was so much better than the dis-organized crime we have today).

Rather than avoid the politically incorrect topics as do many of his peers, Dr. Russell, the renegade historian, boldly addresses taboos, stereotypes, and prejudices against minorities and immigrants (especially Jews and Italians).  He discusses their origins and how they influenced the renegades and helped them succeed in giving us many of our “personal liberty” freedoms we enjoy today.  Should the government care what you do alone at home in the dark?  If you think not, then thank a renegade!

A Renegade History of the United States is set for a September 28, 2010 release by Free Press, an affiliate of Simon and Schuster, Inc.

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  • truthmonger

    Yet another graduate of the Tom Wolfe school of journalism attempts to rewrite and debase American history. The degree to which this latest volume distorts, misrepresents and in a few cases totally fabricates facts and events is hardly groundbreaking. We’ve seen it done before – and better – through a more subtle use of selective reporting and the linking of known information with hand-picked bits of totally unrelated data. However, the over-the-top nature of the propagandizing in “Renegade” is just plain laughable. The one place in which this book excels is obfuscating the sources in the many footnotes. Fact-checking a random selection of them results in a circular journey that never *quite* matches up with Russel’s version of the facts..but in some cases leaves just enough room for doubt that you could interpret them his way. That fact alone casts serious doubt on the author’s credibility. Little surprise, really: a good look at the author’s credentials and background tell you all you need to know. Ah, well, there’s always more room in the bargain bin.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Yeah, slavery was a blast!

    Russell’s version of “freedom” appears to be primarily sexual in nature, which is why he has the audacity to suggest that slaves were “more free” than the “Victorian elites.” He completely discards the notion of slavery on its own, focusing only on what he seems to think are wild after-hours parties among the slaves. That he decides on those grounds that this part of history was essentially a “good time” is too silly to be offensive.

    His argument, that history was made by humans and not saints, is hardly anything new.

    It’s the structure that annoys me about Russell though (or the lack of it). He seems unable to separate facts from assumptions and revels in presenting things, even if their truth is shaky at best, for pure shock value as though nobody’s considered it before.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    One of the best things about Blogcritics comments is that they sometimes direct a visitor to articles missed the first time around. When it was published more than a month ago, I overlooked Chip’s review. Yet today, in noticing that Jordan had commented (presumably after having read the book himself), I was so intrigued by the review and comments that I opened my wallet (moths flew out) and ordered this from Amazon.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    Now that I’ve finished this book, I must take issue with comments #1 and #2.

    According to “truthmonger” (#1), “The one place in which this book excels is obfuscating the sources in the many footnotes.” How strange then to discover that there are no footnotes. The author lists his Sources in a bibliographic compendium at the back of his book, but there aren’t any individual citations. Which makes it impossible to credit “truthmonger” when he charges, “Fact-checking a random selection of them results in a circular journey that never *quite* matches up with Russel’s [sic] version of the facts.” How can you randomly select from something that does not exist?

    Similarly, Jordan Richardson (#2) unfairly misrepresents the author’s thesis, writing, “Yeah, slavery was a blast!” Of course the author makes no such absurd claim, contending rather that African Americans “created a culture of freedom out of slavery, segregation, and compulsory labor.” The author makes a compelling case for this argument.

    A Renegade History of the United States is not an academic tome intended for the curriculum of college history departments. It’s a readable and stimulating introduction for a general audience to a point of view meant to supplement, not replace, traditional accounts of American history. As such, it succeeds admirably.

  • Jordan Richardson

    I don’t argue with the core thesis of the book, Alan, in that “renegades” shaped the United States as we know it. That’s a hardly unique distinction, though. Howard Zinn covered this extensively in his indispensable A People’s History of the United States, for instance.

    I do, however, argue with the inference that slaves somehow “preferred” being on the plantation to conditions post-Civil War.

    Of course the author doesn’t suggest that slavery was a blast. He does, however, equate slavery with being a relatively “good time” for many with respect to cultural freedoms and, as I said in my comment, tends to ignore the real nature of slavery. His focus on the “freedoms” of the slaves is almost entirely carnal in nature.

    The argument he makes is that the slaves enjoyed more carnal liberty in the face of the Victorian norm, which is short-sighted and entirely relative to one’s definition of freedom. It seems like Russell is goading for effect, actually.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Part of this goading is when Russell claims that whites “envied” the enslaved blacks. Backing this up, Russell states that white farmers worked “longer, harder” hours than black slaves. Slaves wore bright colours; whites did not. Slaves danced and enjoyed music; whites did not. And so on. Then there’s the bit about the minstrel shows, which were apparently created as an expression of the jealousy whites felt for black culture at the time.

    Again, Russell stumbles by equating freedom with mere fun. In the process, he suggests indirectly that “slavery was a blast” and his contention ignores the basic nature of slavery in favour of singing, dancing, drinking, and fucking with reckless abandon.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Sounds like an on-target comment, Alan. The evolution of a culture of freedom out of culture of slavery does make sense. Of course we shouldn’t ever entertain the possibility in today’s PC climate.

    As an aside, Jordan will love you for it, and me, too, for pointing out his rather erratic tendency of late to be jumping to conclusions.

    Let’s face it, liberalism is a religion, and it has many practitioners.

  • Jordan Richardson

    What the hell does this have to do with liberalism, Roger?

    And you’ve read the book, have you?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Your thinking, Jordan, your thinking.

  • zingzing

    “singing, dancing, drinking, and fucking with reckless abandon.”


    except the whole slavery thing.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Your interpretation of my thinking has always been off-base by a considerable margin, Roger. Not surprising in the least, considering that your goal around here lately appears to be to get as many things wrong as humanly possible.

    I take it you haven’t read the book and, as such, literally have no idea what you’re talking about here. Is it fair to say you butted in because you saw another opportunity to prove your wrongness about a person you don’t know? Or do you really have a point to make about the subject of Russell’s view of slavery?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Jordan, I only responded to your off-the-cuff remark that slavery was a blast.

    No, I haven’t read the book, but I did read the article which does make a lot of sense and presents a rather novel point of view, a view which you, with your typical broad stroke, happened to dismiss off hand. As to why, I can only guess, but wouldn’t it be reasonable to assume because it didn’t fit your conception of things?

    Anyway, stop being so hasty with your judgments and I might change my opinion of you. Such the other day, for example you accused my of picking on liberalism as though a vogue, until the winds change. No, my virtual friend, I’ve come to the conclusion that both liberalism and conservatism deadly foes and that both hold our thinking captive. If anything, I’m anti-capitalist and an anarchist; so liberalism, as I’ve come to see it, is as deadly as conservatism is. Worse yet, both lead to a dead end. No thank you.

    Perhaps I shouldn’t have posted the original comment, but see – we had this here business still unsettled. Now it’s done!

  • Jordan Richardson

    So Roger, you agree with the contention that slavery is generally a good time? Or that freedom is equal to fun?

    How do you know I’m dismissing something “off hand” when you haven’t read the text?

    And what a laugh to suggest that I stop being “hasty with my judgements.” What judgement was I hasty with?

    I agree with you, by the way, that liberalism and conservatism hold our thinking captive. What’s funny is that I always have and I’ve always argued that the terms themselves are useless guideposts. For some reason, though, you refuse to acknowledge this and my admittedly fluid stance when it comes to these matters. You keep rushing around trying to tag me with a a liberal button (and a Christian button, bizarrely) for reasons unknown to me.

    My remark wasn’t off the cuff, either. It was a suitable hyperbole based on my reading of Russell’s book. I think I’ve proven this with my above comments elaborating on it, but maybe you’ve glossed over those too.

    I don’t doubt that slaves developed a culture, but they developed a culture under duress and Russell’s book seems to coyly dismiss this in favour of goading the reader with a “controversial view.” The title of the chapter is called “The Freedom of Slavery,” an intentionally provocative entrance point that is only linked together by rather loose strands of logic.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    Without saying that Jordan is a liberal–which, honestly, I have no way of knowing–I can nevertheless see how liberalism might cloud a reader’s judgment of this book. Liberals naturally condemn slavery and have long supported the struggle of African Americans as an oppressed minority. Liberals accordingly cling to the view that slavery was an unrelieved series of cruelties inflicted upon blacks by whites. The problem is that this makes African Americans hapless victims, with no control over their everyday lives for an astounding 350 years–250 years of slavery ending in 1865 and another century of Jim Crow segregation.

    Russell argues convincingly to the contrary that African Americans were resourceful and independent-minded from Day One, never for a moment buying into the white work ethic. For liberals to accept Russell’s thesis would require them to abandon the notion of unmitigated black victimhood, which is intrinsic to the liberal mindset as regards American history. That’s asking a lot.

  • zingzing

    jordan, i think roger’s (or alan’s) general point, and he’ll (they’ll) correct me if i’m wrong, because i don’t want to really assume anything, is that the slaves created their own sort of “freedom” that existed beyond the reality of their slavery. it’s not that they were truly free. it’s that they made up a freedom of their own, even if the reality around them made it just a dream they could live out at certain times. i do kinda like the idea that they got off when they could. what a life if they couldn’t.

  • zingzing

    hrm. well, i was busy writing that when you wrote the “under duress” comment, jordan. so… yeah, i guess that’s not the part you were contesting.

  • Jordan Richardson

    I’d love to know what flight of fancy it takes to suggest that slaves weren’t victims, Alan, or that freedom is equivalent to fun. Again, the very nature of slavery is a lack of freedom.

    I’ll side with the historical narrative, whatever rabbit hole it leads me down. I don’t subscribe to these useless terms of right/left, liberal/conservative, etc. and I never have. I side with the facts and am more than willing to change my tune should the facts reveal something that challenges my worldview. I’m not clinging to anything here, but I’m still struggling to identify Russell’s perspective with something that actually relates to the notion of slavery.

    It is true that Russell argues that the slaves never bought into the work ethic of the whites, but this far from suggests that slaves “had it good.” In fact, it only suggests a reason to whip those slaves harder – and that was all the justification most owners needed.

    Same goes for the minstrel shows. The racists of the time used them to play up the perceived laziness of the blacks, lampooning them for not “working as hard as the white man.” This neglects to mention the very notion of slavery again, of course, and is used as justification for all sorts of cruelty.

  • zingzing

    “Liberals naturally condemn slavery…”

    yay! we’re awesome.

    “African Americans were resourceful and independent-minded from Day One, never for a moment buying into the white work ethic.”

    if “the white work ethic” included whipping your ass if you didn’t work for free, would you either? really, “white work ethic” is a rather strange phrase in this context.

    “For liberals to accept Russell’s thesis would require them to abandon the notion of unmitigated black victimhood…”

    during slavery? yeah, that’s victimhood.

    i can see what you’re getting at, but you could put it in some better terms. i think you’d have to think long and hard about how to do that, but it’s possible that it could be done. possible. although it would be a struggle. that’d be some rhetorical magic, which you haven’t quite hit upon so far.

  • Jordan Richardson

    The problem with playing the sort of rhetorical trick Russell attempts here is that he just as easily gives racists a foothold in excusing slavery as he does give rational people some historical insight.

    But the very nature of slavery, again, confirms that these men and women were not free in any meaningful sense of the word. They lacked basic rights, so they made up for it in other ways. And they paid dearly for it, too.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    So here we are, two different moments to the narrative. One, humans are resourceful even under the most adverse of circumstances (even those who have survived Auschwitz). Two, their resourcefulness can and often is used for propaganda purposes to whitewash the cruel institution (Jordan’s point).

    So what’s wrong with being able to hold on to those two moments without thinking them contradictory?

  • Jordan Richardson

    The point isn’t that they can or can’t be “contradictory.” I haven’t even mentioned that, actually, and I think it’s irrelevant to the subject because it basically goes without saying that you can :hold on to those two moments.” Of course, anything can be used for propaganda purposes.

    The point is that the author makes a case for the FREEDOM of the slaves, so the problem I have is with his definition of the term “freedom.” It has nothing to do with whether or not slaves could be resourceful or could have a good time.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    Jordan (#17), now I’m certain that you’ve misread this book. You claim slaves’ refusal to adopt the white work ethic “only suggests a reason to whip those slaves harder – and that was all the justification most owners needed.” Yet Russell goes to some lengths to document that slaveholders themselves rejected this idea, finding that in actual practice whipping was counterproductive, making slaves determined to work even less than before they were whipped, or to run away entirely.

    Russell’s narrative especially elevates enslaved African Americans in our understanding by showing that they individually and collectively outwitted slaveholders, such as by working at their own pace (which sometimes meant hardly at all), widely malingering, and taking days off in whole or in part as the mood struck.

    African Americans were also exempt from military service during centuries in which whites died in combat by the hundreds of thousands.

    And with respect to minstrels, Russell makes the salient point that entertainers lampooned blacks for not working hard before white audiences who got the joke, namely that blacks had again outsmarted whites by finding ways to avoid work.

    Mr. Russell’s book, Jordan, is much more nuanced than you imply.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Well, I can’t speak to the intent of the author or whether there is an underlying attempt to redefine freedom. I also see how this kind of work, whatever the intention, may be construed as apologia. So I suppose this set of questions would call for significant research. Here I plead ignorant.

    On the other hand, I can’t be concerned with giving bigots their ammunition, If not here, they’re going to find it elsewhere. Which brings us perhaps to the comment zing had made, that when one’s handling such matters, one had better do it with extreme care.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    zingzing (#18), now you’re making the same mistake that Jordan called Roger on, namely commenting on complex ideas carefully presented in a book that you haven’t read.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    This review is nothing short of nauseating. It reminds me of the song-and-dance I’ve heard from many of my friends and family when I was growing up in the Delta – “It was never a war against slavery – it was all about the economy, and how the North was treating the South economically” (or words to that effect).

    So that was what I was always told…until I read Mississippi’s Declaration of Secession:

    In the momentous step, which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.

    Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery – the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product, which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Alan, I haven’t misread the book. I’ve simply brought additional context to the material. I may be oversimplifying somewhat, but I do think Russell is largely guilty of glossing over the conception of true freedom in favour of fun.

    Some slaveowners did reject the idea of whipping slaves, but its occurrence is hardly the stuff of legends. Are you suggesting that slaveowners did not whip slaves to get them to work harder at all? Or that the majority of slaveowners didn’t whip their slaves?

    Russell does try to elevate the African American narrative, I don’t doubt it, but I think his rhetorical tricks go about it the wrong way. His suggestion, as I’ve already hit on here, could just as easily be taken the other way to suggest that slaves didn’t have it too bad. Hence my hyperbolic response that started this exchange.

    What Russell does is pick through the historical narrative with a fine tooth comb. He proceeds to then draw a brush around his findings and claims them as the norm, concluding that slaves were “free” because they could have fun.

    My basic problem, again, is with this contention. If you’d like to continue picking apart the externals, we can do that too. I’m sure I’m wrong about some of the details, but I don’t think I’m wrong about the central thrust of what I’m saying.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    I prefaced my comments by saying I haven’t read the book. Even so, I do appreciate the complex ideas at work. And you do make a good point about minstrels. The controversy surrounding The Amos and Andy show is just one example: lampooning works both ways.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    Roger, your use of the term “apologia” is totally off the mark. This book is nothing of the sort, no matter what falsehoods Jordan seeks to perpetuate about it.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Wasn’t taking about this book, Alan, get a grip, was talking only about different perceptions which accrue when dealing with such double-edged topics.

  • zingzing

    no, alan, i haven’t read it. but you haven’t presented the ideas in a way that i can agree with. i stated that they could be presented in a way that was palatable, but i don’t think you’ve done that. i did, however, concede that, i’m guessing, it’s possible to be done. maybe it would take far more effort than a blog comment deserves, which is why the guy wrote a book.

    hopefully, he made a larger point beyond the “freedom of slavery,” which i think might have been better expressed as “freedom within slavery,” but i don’t know, having not read the book.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    And now we have yet another commenter (#25) who hasn’t read the book but cannot resist telling us, “This review is nothing short of nauseating.”

    Sorry, Chip, for stirring up this hornet’s nest. Please be assured, your review is fine.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    #25, that’s shocking, Glenn. I would have never believed it.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    … which is why the guy wrote a book.

    BOING! Give that man a kewpie doll! #30 rang the bell, ladies and gentlemen!

  • Jordan Richardson

    This whole thing reminds me of Barbara Bush’s “observations” in the Astrodome after Katrina when she said “And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them.”

    Is that a fundamentally true observation in some cases? Yes. But what of the circumstances that led the people to the situation that is “working very well for them?”

    In the case of slavery, is it fundamentally true that life may have been better for some Africans under ownership? It’s possible. But what about the nature of slavery?

    Russell’s book leaves that question behind to cherrypick facts that make slavery look better than we thought and this, as I’ve said, leaves the door wide open for justification.

    As to the “outsmarted” bit, Alan, I’m not sure this is a Looney Tunes cartoon we’re thinking of. The African American narrative doesn’t need Russell’s support to speak to the “cleverness” of the slaves. It’s a condescending notion in light of the argument he’s building around it, akin to throwing a bone while starving the dog.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Well, Alan, how do we decide then on where the truth lies? Is it the case here that it’s all in the eye of the beholder or is there some other, more “objective” way to decide the matter. Do the author’s intent carry any weight here or does the text stands at the mercy of the reader?

    Since you and Jordan, and presumably the reviewer herself, and the only ones who have read the book, you should continue the discussion. It’s too interesting to let go.

  • zingzing

    alan: “BOING! Give that man a kewpie doll!”

    i’ll happily admit it. but your words did it no good. but i get the general idea, even if you did it no favors.

  • Jordan Richardson

    As to the minstrel shows, Alan, I’d love to hear your take on “Jump Jim Crow” and how that relates to blacks having “outsmarted whites.”

    Mel Watkins’ 1999 book On the Real Side: A History of African American Comedy from Slavery to Chris Rock confirms the idea that minstrel shows were less than flattering. The goal was either to convince the Northerners that the slaves were doing fine by sending them up as dancing and singing folks just happy to be alive or to make fun of them as uneducated horny freaks. It was a win-win and until Harriet Beecher Stowe knocked some sense into people with Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

    This sort of gloss is common when the dominant class wants to reinforce their narrative. Why you, or anybody else for that matter, would be content to drink the water is beyond me.

  • Jordan Richardson

    I wasn’t suggesting to Roger that he excuse himself from the conversation by any means, just to confirm. My problem came because he suggested that I was jumping to conclusions and that I had a “broad stoke” view on the subject.

    In that context, it helps to know what I’m specifically taking issue with before suggesting that I’m merely taking potshots for shits and giggles.

    And, as usual, when asked for examples of my “hasty judgements” he provides none.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Interestingly, when I brought up the idiom “Uncle Tom” to a middle-schooler during tutoring, I was promptly dismissed by the Board of Education for violating whatever policy they had with respect to political correctness. But that was Kentucky.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Fine, Jordan, you made your point. My evaluation was only in terms of your comment vis-a-vis the book review and Alan’s remark, but I had a bone to pick and as I said, it’s done. As to my commenting any further on the subject, I must disqualify myself for not having read the book. But I still think you and Alan should continue this discussion, if only as exercise in literary criticism. It’s amazing, ain’t it, how one and the same text can evoke such radically different readings.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    Blackface minstrelsy, which dealt in stereotypes, cannot itself be easily reduced to stereotypical understanding. While this sham openly ridiculed blacks, it also transformed show business. As social historian Eric Lott points out in Love & Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class (1993), blackface represented “the first formal public acknowledgement by whites of black culture” and “the first appearance in U.S. history of black culture as property.” That was an immensely important development in the eventual empowerment of African Americans as professional entertainers.

  • zingzing

    that’s fine, alan, but it doesn’t mean there wasn’t a lot of racism involved. then again, you could point to rap’s current audience (mostly white) as evidence that shit don’t change that much.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Blackface minstrelsy, which dealt in stereotypes, cannot itself be easily reduced to stereotypical understanding.

    Precisely. In this context, though, I think it’s useful to remember its genesis because it’s instrumental to Russell’s “whitewashing” of the subject. And that genesis, Alan, is very clear in its intent.

    That blackface constitutes the “first formal public acknowledgement by white of black culture” is a sad commentary all its own, in my opinion.

    The notion of it being used as a development to the “eventual empowerment of African Americans as professional entertainers” furthers the disappointing narrative with the inference that African Americans would only be “empowered” in an entertaining capacity thanks to the jarring reflection of their culture by their masters.

  • Jordan Richardson

    you could point to rap’s current audience (mostly white) as evidence that shit don’t change that much.

    Russell does this in the book in large part to prove that the “envy” of black culture on behalf of whites still occurs. My problem isn’t so much with that inference, as it’s pretty common among culture critics, but where he believes it leads in terms of slavery and his conclusions about it.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    There may be two different issues here. Alan speaks of the transformative elements within the culture of oppression, zing of the culture itself. Two different emphases, two different purposes.

  • zingzing

    well, on the other hand, modern r&b is pretty much the territory of african americans. and white girls. other than this and a lot of other examples that disprove the rule.

    listen to the end for the roving elephants and monkeys. it gets crazy awesome.

  • zingzing

    i’m trying to acknowledge both roger. i understand what alan has been saying, even if he puts it poorly.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    The question then is – does the text tend to prioritize one aspect of the narrative in order to overshadow the other, or are both given fair play?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    Jordan Richardson (#34), you state that “Russell’s book … cherrypicks facts that make slavery look better than we thought and this, as I’ve said, leaves the door wide open for justification.”

    Hopefully at this point we could agree that the author Thaddeus Russell, in his book A Renegade History of the United States, does not attempt to justify slavery. I take it you mean, then, that unnamed bigots might, as Roger Nowosielski (#23) surmises, find in Russell’s work “ammunition” (Roger’s word) to justify slavery.

    If that’s your stance, it’s quite unfair. Bigots who at this late date still try to justify slavery are in no need of ammunition, since they don’t make rational arguments anyway. They merely appeal to prejudice. Condemning Thaddeus Russell’s book because it might be misused by ignorant jackasses is like condemning fine wine because it might be drunk by a member of the Ku Klux Klan. The vintner has no control over who buys his product, and neither does a book author.

  • Jordan Richardson

    In my view, the text is too fixated on culture as its defining aspect of freedom. In other words, because the blacks were active musically and sexually they were “freer” than the whites who did not partake in those activities.

    That’s the basic crux, although I’m simplifying again for brevity’s sake.

    I don’t think that Russell is trying to suggest that slavery was okay or permissible or not that bad, but I do think his view runs the risk of opening that door and could be articulated more carefully. As such, the way he presents it in the book is more along the lines of goading, as I’ve said. The chapter titles and the use of language backs this up, I think.

    You can have both narratives in that you can suggest that the blacks managed a degree of innovation and culture that the whites didn’t due to their creativity, but Russell’s equating of these innovations with “freedom” is erroneous.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    I’ll check out for tonight but I do hope this discussion will continue.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Well no, Alan, I don’t think it is unfair.

    As I’ve just finished saying in #50, Russell is being intentionally provocative. He reinforces many of the myths the Southerners spread at the time: that blacks had it good, that life wasn’t so bad on the plantation, etc. He needlessly goads the reader.

    A book author doesn’t have control over who purchases his books, but he does have a responsibility to how he constructs his thesis. One struggles with the conception of freedom after reading through Russell’s piece and for good reason. I think the struggle is a good thing and I never suggested that the book was bad for that reason, nor did I suggest that the book was bad period.

    I do, however, disagree with the inference that slaves were “freer” than the master class on the basis of social mores.

  • Jordan Richardson

    I’m going to check out too so that I don’t jinx it. I’ve managed to go on for a while without resorting to personal attacks, so I’m pretty proud of that.

    Cheers all.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    You can suggest that the blacks managed a degree of innovation and culture that the whites didn’t due to their creativity, but Russell’s equating of these innovations with “freedom” is erroneous.

    Not at all, Jordan (#50). How can you talk of a people that, while enslaved, nevertheless expressed their creativity and implemented cultural innovations that eventually transformed American society, without equating that with freedom? Through defiance, ingenuity and incredible determination, African Americans found their own freedom within slavery long before the Emancipation Proclamation. We whites take too much credit for our own race in liberally “freeing the slaves,” when as Thaddeus Russell makes clear, the slaves in many ways freed us!

  • Jordan Richardson

    That’s like saying you have freedom because you’re allowed to hum a tune to yourself while you’re strapped in to a torture device.

    There’s no question that a great deal of all art comes out of oppression and adverse circumstances, but that doesn’t justify the adverse circumstances nor excuse them. And it certainly doesn’t render their existence null and void.

    Again, Russell is intentionally poking at a controversial subject. Of course blacks enjoyed a degree of freedom, but they were not free men and women in terms of the society in which they were slaves.

    What Russell does is equate freedom with fun and that, in my view, is far too simplistic a lens with which to view slavery. The notion that whites were “jealous” of black slaves flows from there.

    Were they really jealous of the slave experience? I doubt it. Were they envious of some of their cultural mores? Sure. Were they free to practice those if they chose to? Yes!

    The whites of the time were “less free” culturally because they thought more of themselves than to roll around in the muck and mire of drink, whores and dancing. Their Victorian values held them up on a higher level of existence and of human value, Alan. Any “envy” they had directed towards the slave experience was purely cultural.

  • zingzing

    they certainly did know how to have a better time! (except for being enslaved!)

    2nd time.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    The whites of the time were “less free” culturally because they thought more of themselves than to roll around in the muck and mire of drink, whores and dancing. Their Victorian values held them up on a higher level of existence and of human value.

    You would’ve made a good Victorian, Jordan. I’ll bet you’re sorry those values didn’t survive and that most people nowadays would rather roll around in the muck and mire of drink, whores and dancing. Had African Americans been better behaved slaves, your utopia might be at hand.

  • Jordan Richardson

    And that’s that. See you guys later. It was fun while it lasted.

  • Ruvy

    I’d love to buy this book. But if I open my wallet, not only do moths fly out, but I find barely enough money to put dinner on the table this Sabbath. Given that my future daughter-in-law is coming over, putting a nice Sabbath meal out is of more importance to me than reading a book on the carnal habits of Americans and how they might or might not create “freedom”.

    So I freely admit to NOT having read the book being discussed above, and in ITS details, I must be guided by those who have read the work. I am most convinced by Alan Kurtz’ remarks, the first comments on the thread.

    But from the descriptions and the quotes, I get the feeling that the author was inspired at some level by the E. L. Doctorow novel, “Ragtime”, which I did read. The novel deals with, among other things, mass entertainment from the poor coming from deprived minorities. There is Colehouse Walker Jr., the black ragtime player who seizes the house of a rich man to preserve his honor – which had been besmirched by some bigots in suburban Westchester. There is the immigrant “schneider”, sick of living in poverty who sketches drawings for his daughter – and discovers a way to make a fortune. The novel ends with this Jewish immigrant coming up with the idea for a movie series of poor ragamuffins of all races who love to just play, and are always in conflict with the stuffy authority figures modeled on Victorian America.

    And the novel reeks of repressed sex played against an atmosphere of stuffy morality. All this sounds a lot like what this Renegade’s History seems to deal with as well.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Ruvy, I wonder how free you’d consider the Jews in the concentration camps.

    Would you consider them to be free because they could periodically get together and have sex? Or sing a song? Or maybe dance a little? Or influence some literature down the road? Really, Roberto Benigni kind of made it look fun in Life is Beautiful.

    Were those victims objects of envy for those “stuffy types” among society because they didn’t have to go to work that day?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    A heck of a book review. Now you’ve convinced me to read a Doctorow novel, and since I haven’t read one yet, it will be Ragtime.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Um too, was wondering about Alan’s stretching the concept of freedom to include such extreme cases. A movie of Auschwitz, based on real events, comes to mind: they were all forgers, forging the British Pound and the US Dollar for the Nazis; which accorded them special treatment. Will provide link tomorrow.

    Also, Soltzenitzen’s writings might throw some light.

  • Ruvy

    I see your point, Jordan – but one needs to draw a distinction here.

    That distinction is that the Nazi concentration camps existed for the express purpose of killing off the Jews and others sent there. Slavery existed for the express purpose of exploiting “free” labor – AND breeding more slaves so the slave-owner might profit by his purchase of “breed cows”. So, the goal of the slave owner was to exploit the slave for his labor, and keep him/her alive, that they might breed. Sexual exploitation of the slaves was a mere side-benefit for the owners – or perhaps the sex hungry wives of the owners.

    So, if the slave worked hard, and swallowed the humiliations stuffed down his or her throat (or other orifices), he could look forward to LIVING – at least as long as he was able to work. And if he/she worked hard, and was careful, his or her back would be free of whip scars. So, bad as slavery was, there was at least some HOPE – of living, having sex with somebody, and maybe even escaping to freedom.

    None of this was true for the inmates of the concentration camps. You got the idea after a week or so, that the goal was there was death – your death, and a whole different mentality took over.

  • Ruvy

    My point is this. Hope, even under the oppressive conditions of slavery, produces entertainment. Hopelessness produces art – but not entertainment. You just can’t dance with the dysentery infected corpse next to you in a concentration camp barracks.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Roger, are you talking about the 2007 film The Counterfeiters?

    The core question I have is: can you be really be considered free if you’re being held against your will to do the bidding of someone else?

    Slavery wasn’t voluntary, obviously, so to me that precludes any other notions of freedom. If a man or woman is not free to make his or her own choices and mistakes with respect to his or her own destiny, he or she is not free.

    That may be a touch too broad, but I highly doubt you’re a free person if you’re “free” to smoke a cigarette on your way to the gallows. Prisoners aren’t free either, even though they get more TV channels than I do.

  • Jordan Richardson

    So, bad as slavery was, there was at least some HOPE – of living, having sex with somebody, and maybe even escaping to freedom.

    I agree with your comments on hope, Ruvy, but the quoted portion of what you said is of most importance to what I’m saying.

    You wouldn’t consider the concentration camp victims to be free at all because they were being held against their will and marched to their deaths, but it’s not that they were going to die (many had no idea what the hell was happening until it was too late, of course) that made then un-free. It was their capture and their confinement that stole freedom from their lives.

    The tragic outcome is irrelevant in defining the conception of freedom. If I’m kidnapped by somebody and I think I might be able to escape, I’m not “free” because of the potential end of my adventure. Nor am I free because my captor has beer.

  • Ruvy

    Jordan, you missed my point. Neither the slave nor the concentration camp inmate was free. Both were held against their will in a cruel system of exploitation. But the slave (at least in the States and the Caribbean) had hope of living – and this hope produced entertainment. And if I understand correctly, it was this entertainment that you North Americans benefited from.

    As to freedom, that is another issue entirely. Having not read the book reviewed, I cannot intelligently comment on the author’s view of it.

    However entertainment does provide pleasure. It is a dangerous thing to confuse freedom with pleasure – something that many Americans have been doing for too long.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Freedom is the issue. Entertainment isn’t.

    And it is a dangerous thing to confuse freedom with pleasure. That’s what I’ve been saying this entire time.

    Believe it or not, I didn’t miss your point at all. In fact, you, like it or not, seem to agree with mine almost entirely.

  • Ruvy

    I suspect it is getting late in BC – a bit after 01:30 in the morning, if my guess is right. It’s been a pleasure talking with you for once – a rare pleasure indeed. If it turns out that I’ve agreed with you, that is fine with me – even if it wasn’t my intent. ;o))

  • Jordan Richardson

    Haha. I guess one of these days we were bound to agree, even accidentally.

  • http://etierphotography.blogspot.com fcetier

    RE: #31 – Thanks Alan. The fact that I wrote an article that inspired someone to buy the product reviewed is a significant and appreciated compliment.

    It seems as though #25 confirms the point made in # 14.

    It’s hard to imagine that a quote from MLK would make anyone nauseated. Take a Phenergan and get over it.

  • Tommy Boy

    You’re all nuts. Especially #35–have you looked at the photo of the author of this review? “Herself” doesn’t seem to apply.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Interestingly, ‘slave’ as used by all here = male slave.

    Just pointing out the male as the default gender. Try considering what was happening to female slaves, sexually. Takes on a whole different tone, for me.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Er, not that males were not harmed by ‘breeding’ programs. I don’t mean to say that at all. Just referring context as I read the comments, that could not have stood up if considering women and their experiences of rape and sadomasochistic sexualized brutality at the hands of their ‘owners’.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Yes, Jordan. I’d have to re-watch it again with a different eye.

    Stick around, Cindy, it’s a fascinating discussion. Jordan is employing some of F’s techniques of analysis.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Tommy Boy, “herself” is a literary form.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    74 – Correction: ‘sadomasochistic’ should have better been ‘sadistic’

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    Cindy, thanks for introducing the female perspective into this thread. I earnestly wish there were also an African-American perspective, but alas BC seems to attract few black commenters, and the ones it does get are so fiercely individualistic (Baronius, Heloise) that their voices represent no one other than themselves.

    Be assured that the author, Thaddeus Russell, does indeed address the questions you raise, quoting historians Robert Fogel and Stanley Engerman: “The main thrust of the economic incentives generated by the American slave system operated against against sexual abuse. Those who engaged in such acts did so, not because of their economic interests, but despite them.” Accordingly, says Russell, “Statistics suggest that rapes were rare on plantations.” Besides the economic disincentives relating to sexual abuse, there were also dire personal consequences. “Such attacks almost inevitably brought reprisals from the victims, their mates, the attacker’s wife, or the surrounding community. The rape of a slave woman disrupted the workings of the entire plantation, since angry slaves were not hard-working slaves.” Plus, recall that slaves were in intimate daily contact with the families of their slaveholders. In particular, Russell mentions instances in which reprisals took the grisly form of slave nannies smothering white infants in their care, or of slave cooks inserting bits of ground glass into the food prepared for the slaveholder and his family. You get the idea. None of this is meant to deny that some slave women were sexually abused. It’s just that this is a far more complex matter than we are normally led to believe.

    On a larger point, this thread’s single-issue focus on slavery is extremely misleading. It results solely from Jordan’s understandable, thoughtful and well-placed concern with Russell’s treatment of slavery. However, A Renegade History of the United States covers way more than slavery. There are 16 chapters in this book, only 2 of which deal with slavery.

    You as a feminist, Cindy, would be particularly interested in the chapters titled “Drunkards, Laggards, Prostitutes, Pirates, and other Heroes of the American Revolution” and “Whores and the Origins of Women’s Liberation.” Don’t let the colorful titles fool you. Mr. Russell quite seriously documents the affirmative role of prostitutes in transforming American culture from the late 18th century through the early 20th century.

  • zingzing


  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Looks like a book worth getting, Alan. BTW, has it been extensively reviewed and by whom? Have you read some of the reviews.

    Another thought comes to mind: Are there some parallel accounts of the times by reputable black historians (reputable so as to avoid the label of “uncle Tom”)?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    #79, am I mistaken? I somehow formed the impression that Baronius is African American. If not, my apologies to all concerned, although of course there’d be nothing wrong with his being African American if he actually were. Right, zingzing?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Here’s one, in favor of Jordan’s POV.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    I too was flabbergasted but decided to keep silent.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    Maybe I’m wrong about Heloise as well. She may not accept that description of herself.

    So, tell me, does Blogcritics have any African American regular commenters?

    In a way, a bunch of white people sounding off about slavery is about as authentic as a goyim coffee klatsch devoted to “How It Feels to be a Jew.”

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    quoting historians Robert Fogel and Stanley Engerman: “The main thrust of the economic incentives generated by the American slave system operated against against sexual abuse. Those who engaged in such acts did so, not because of their economic interests, but despite them.” Accordingly, says Russell, “Statistics suggest that rapes were rare on plantations.”

    I do not have much faith in the ability of privileged people to ascertain what actually happens historically as it effects other than themselves. I think we are generally blinded by our indoctrination and thus the eyes through which we see are, without insight, mostly irreconcilably, biased. Show me some of these men who have taken this into consideration and I may be interested in what they say. I often am when privileged people have done so.

    Analysis and theories by white males about what happened to black women on plantations as justified by their belief in economics as having much influence on preventing such from happening–and the statistics* they employ to advance their biases are of limited value in getting at the truth.

    I prefer to hear slave narratives on such matters. Thomas Jefferson likely fathered (off the top of my head) 8-11 children? Something like that. It was the vogue to have sex with female slaves.

    Please show me a few white historians who were asleep in the dark beneath the beds of women as they were raped (or not) on plantations–I am not much for devised historical explanations by people who have not examined their self-fulfilling historical biases. In other words, I take seriously the admonition to–“never trust white men”.

    *Really–is this a joke???–statistics on black female slaves who were raped? The belief in statistics here is grounds for immediate dismissal of credibility.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Alan, we’re going to have a civil discussion, promise!

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    OK, Cindy, that’s what I expected you’d say. Statistics are lies. White men are liars. Only women can be believed. You are, if nothing else, consistent.

  • zingzing

    i’m pretty sure baronius is white. he hasn’t said anything that would suggest otherwise, at least.

    “although of course there’d be nothing wrong with his being African American if he actually were. Right, zingzing?”


  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    Roger Nowosielski (#86), you needn’t remind me to be civil. All I did was politely welcome Cindy to this discussion and try to involve her further with additional aspects of the book. And you see how she responded. With the same old Cindy shit. I realize she’s one of your groupies, Roger, and can therefore do no wrong. But for me at least, her one-dimensionality is tiresome.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy


    I will try to explain to you what I mean.

    Simplistically: The dominating culture (like all cultures and all individuals and all ‘groups’) has a fuzzy bordered pov (for lack of a better description) through which it analyzes the world. This is taught to its members from childhood during socialization. There are other povs held by members of the culture (or peoples whom the culture has affected) that are not promoted/noticed/legitimated/considered valid by members of the privileged group. Example: History according to US children’s text books vs history according to American Indians.

    Social reality is a construction of culture. As social beings we see this social construction as objective reality–unless we somehow learn not to. Even when we learn not to and even when we understand this, we make huge errors in trying to see from the perspective of non-privileged. White males are the most privileged in the world. Their construction of reality misses much of what is reality for other people.

    Privileged people generally STUDY other people and analyze them (as opposed to asking those other people what they think).

    White men (and then generally men) have been responsible for the engineering of our dominant (accepted by most) social and economic and political reality based on their own biases and based on maintaining their power.

    There is not one history, but there are histories. White men think their history is the object and correct one. It is merely their version. Having your version of history promoted to objective truth is…well, it’s good to be the king.

    Men who do not acknowledge this are at a loss, in my book, for being personally handicapped in the insight area.

    I do not believe that females are intrinsically ‘better’ or more believable than males. Males and females begin as infants who are equally capable of becoming people who can be trusted (or not). It is the normative socialization of men in the dominant culture that I find problematic. Subject a female to the same or similar socialization and I would find her beliefs and behaviors equally problematic. I could list pretty much ever female politician (as well as other females who have both accepted and adopted the masculine role to achieve power) here as an example of whom not to trust.

    It is women, as a marginalized group, to whom I am referring, when I speak. It is not women as a biological category. I could speak about Hispanic/black males as a marginalized group vs white males. I can do this even though Hispanic and black males are in some instances privileged. If I imagined an entire culture of women who were socialized the same way men are socialized, in privileged cultures, I might be talking about how women cannot be trusted–and some of them (those who have adopted the masculine power scheme) cannot, in my book.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    Cindy, at this point, I really don’t care what you think. Of course you’re free to load this or any other BC thread with your deep insights, but be assured I’ll not read anything you write here or anywhere else.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Good deal.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Alan, Cindy is not a groupie type. For as long as I know her, she always thinks for herself, ofttimes even to the point of extremity. We’ve had many volatile disagreements before, and no doubt we shall have them again. It’s only recently that we’ve come to see eye-to-eye on certain things.

    What she’s saying in the post above is not as outrageous as it may seem and it merits consideration. Jordan himself alluded to the notion of narrative. Well, there are competing narratives, and we should be grateful for that. It does add spice to life, doesn’t it?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Another review along with a video.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    ofttimes even to the point of extremity

    Thank you Roger. And I would add, hopefully, always to the point of what is considered extremity. If I have learned nothing else, it is that change must come from a radical perspective.

    Some people claim they are centrists–able to be more objective, as they can see ‘both sides’. Rehashing the old liberal, conservative,dichotomy or being centrist in relation to it is not getting anywhere, imo. We must see from a perspective that is new. And that position, in itself, is radical, and therefore extreme. May there be more of that–as the world needs it.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Cindy, Alan

    The following is an eye-opener, the author’s own account of his dismissal from the faculty at Bernard.

    Whatever your opinion of Russell’s thesis, Cindy, you’ve got to grant Alan his point – the idea of academic freedom to express even unpopular ideas. We definitely live in a climate of excessive political correctness whereby the liberal dogma – and I’m not speaking of Jordan here – dictates what may or may not be said. All dogmas are oppressive. So yes, we should resume this discussion.

  • Tommy Boy

    #76 (35) Really? A literary form of what? A mistake? Please cite sources.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy


    Just a clarification. I was not addressing Russell, as I really haven’t examined his work. I was merely responding to the white male statistics and argument regarding the commonality of rape of black female slaves.

    So, my opinion is not regarding Russell’s thesis, it merely explains the skeptical attitude with which I meet the white male interpretation as a primary valid source of information regarding the female slave experience, and not the female slave experience as told by female slaves.

    Why, in other words, why should I believe a white male as an expert as opposed to believing or seeking out info from female slaves themselves?

    We can discuss this more later. But, I am becoming strongly opposed to many fields of study as they are construed to the beliefs of the privileged.

    The fields of study which people think they become advanced by understanding are becoming, to me, nothing but polluted wells of dominator thought. This is so with literature as well as the social sciences.

  • doug m.

    So the only rapes that occurred were the ones reported? Are you really dumb enough to believe that?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Well, the liberals are privileged, too, aren’t they? I would make an exception, though, for literary giants. Often they pave the way.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Yes, liberals are privileged too. I am not so sure on literary giants. A few, yes, many not so much, imo. Some of the ‘wonderful’ greats I have been assigned to read in school, promote the dominant culture in various ways. As a pretty new feminist, I have been reintroduced to some of the ‘greats’ from a new perspective.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Balzac, Dickens, Jane Austen, Emile Zola, D. H. Lawrence, Jonathan Swift . . .

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Cindy, here’s a link to Russell’s own website, featuring a number of articles and scholarly publications. Whether one agrees with some of his points or not, he does present a refreshing POV.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy


    Have a look for feminist criticisms of Dickens, Mailer, D.H. Lawrence, etc. You can find an example using Balzac here.

    The male gaze and the world construed according to it applies to even Gandhi and Tolstoy, Roger.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    But I wasn’t talking about the strictly feminist perspective, Cindy. For that you have to turn to Jane Austen, George Elliot, Virginia Wolff, Gertrude Stein, etcetera.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Indeed, even Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bowary.

  • zingzing

    madame bovary.

    and that’s not balzac… it’s balzac and the little chinese seamstress by diu sijie. good book, although it’s been a few years since i read it. i do remember that it’s through the eyes of a teenage boy experiencing his first sexual awakenings during the great leap forward (or one of those backward moments in chinese history).

  • zingzing

    and a feminist reading of norman mailer would be interesting… although kinda like shooting ducks in a pond with a bazooka and heat-seeking missiles.

  • zingzing

    oi… the “criticism” of die sijie includes “There is no name for the Little Seamstress, other than her nickname.” i dunno if i’m reading too much into that statement, but only one character in the book has a name other than their nickname. so it’s kind of a thing. but maybe i’m reading too much into it.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Interestingly, ‘slave’ as used by all here = male slave.

    Not true.

    See #65: “If a man or woman is not free…”

    Or #55: “Of course blacks enjoyed a degree of freedom, but they were not free men and women in terms of the society in which they were slaves.”

    Or #19: “But the very nature of slavery, again, confirms that these men and women were not free in any meaningful sense of the word.”

    And so on.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Well, we instinctively correlate slavery with economic gain, no? I think Cindy just overreacted.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    The subject of Flaubert’s magnum opus was a woman, no?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Yes, Mailer presented a worthy target, though I’m certain he was sympathetic to the feminist cause.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    link to zing.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    110 – Thanks Jordan. I should have written:

    “Interestingly, ‘slave’ as used by all here [when referring to sexual freedom] = male slave.”

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    109 zing,

    I have never read The Little Seamstress, nor could I say whether or not I agree with the criticism espoused in that example I linked to for Roger. It was merely a quick example that feminist criticism has been aimed even at Roger’s ‘greats’.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    As for Russell’s claims that prostitutes have aided women’s liberation, I don’t find his examples that women who were once forbidden (by men) from wearing make-up, can now (because men let them, presumably because men liked this decor on prostitutes) wear lipstick and red dresses as examples I typically consider when thinking about the liberation of women.

    This sort of thinking seems superficial and analytically shallow and does not make me impressed with Russell.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Mr. Russell quite seriously documents the affirmative role of prostitutes in transforming American culture from the late 18th century through the early 20th century.

    So, men who are using women like commodities create a world were prostitution makes sense. Eventually women who do not have to prostitute themselves can [legally, by men’s laws] dress and act like the objects men desire without getting paid. That is certainly one big step for feminism.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Well, we instinctively correlate slavery with economic gain, no? I think Cindy just overreacted.

    I am not suggesting that slavery is economically irrelevant. I am opposing the defense of positions based on economic presumptions. One such premise is that ‘if it was not economically efficient’ then it was not done (breeding and raping women who were slaves).

    This, to me, smacks of libertarian capitalist market religion. Here we have two white man saying, it would not be economically beneficial to have raped slave women or to have bred them, so therefore they conclude that this was rare.

    Time on the cross: the economics of American Negro slavery By Robert William Fogel, Stanley L. Engerman

    Slave narratives tell a different story. I think the matter deserves more investigation.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Cindy, I honestly don’t consider what you’re suggesting in #115 with respect to sexual freedom to be a gender issue. I think you’re reading quite a bit between the lines to come up with that interpretation from any of the context in this thread.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy
  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy


    The discussion for a time was about the sexual freedom of the negro slaves. I was pointing out that the women might see this differently.

    It was not a reading, but a response as I read the exchange regarding sexual freedom.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Well, okay, it was a reading, what isn’t? But, the point is, while reading the comments it was a response and that response was distinctly to the conversation that could only take place by not considering the sexual experience of female slaves.

  • zingzing

    roger: “The subject of Flaubert’s magnum opus was a woman, no?”

    yes. but that’s not what i was saying… you just spelled it wrong is all. meh. i like woolf’s mrs. dalloway a lot. such a complex character and you really get in her head… as it were. haven’t read that one since college though. jesus, that was freshman year… more than a decade ago…

    “I have never read The Little Seamstress, nor could I say whether or not I agree with the criticism espoused in that example I linked to for Roger. It was merely a quick example that feminist criticism has been aimed even at Roger’s ‘greats’.”

    well, i dunno if he’s a “great” by any means. dai sijie is certainly a good writer, but i think it was more the setting than anything else that distinguished the novel. it’s just a coming of age story, you know, set in a reeducation camp. the reading they gave it over at that website was really reductive, and i hope that’s not what all feminist criticism is like. (well, i know it’s not.) of course, it’s only a few sentences long and it’s more of an example. now that i read it again, i’m pretty sure that they actually gave that one as an example because it suggests you can read anything from a feminist perspective, not because they felt it was worthy of negative criticism. still, by focusing on the patriarchal and feminist bits, they’re ignoring the whole point of the novel. so… i think a feminist perspective on this book would reveal more about the writer of the critique than it would about the author’s intentions.

    it was a bit of breezy novel, nostalgic in it’s own strange way, about friendship and regret. in the end, the girl actually holds all the power, and she outgrows the boys. but it’s not really a story about her. she’s a symbol, i suppose. part of the reason for her anonymity (and everyone’s anonymity) is to focus on the narrator (also nameless, other than a chinese character in a french-language novel,) and his relationship to his childhood friend (who does have a name).

  • zingzing

    cindy, that article was awesome. music as a peaceful weapon. i’m liking this guy more and more right now. might have to give his book a shot…

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    thanks zing, i’d best pay attention to the quality of my links. i thought it was balzac they were using as an example in the first place. it seems they have the wrong author.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    it’s only ‘music’ if you can ignore the woman who is humping the stationary male. i’m sure you can zing. seeing that you can’t seem to tell the difference between sadomasochism and domination and subjugation.

  • zingzing

    heh. well, in just the music, you can’t see anything. unless it’s colors. there is no man. there is music. i understand that people like to connect an image with music, but don’t blame music for that. i think they (including the women) are more likely to be reveling in their freedoms than they are brooding on how this will affect male and female relations.

    baby steps, cindy, baby steps. they’re living under a patriarchy much more oppressive and violent than we are, and this might shift them (all of them, not just the women,) a little bit towards something different and less oppressive. that said, it’s been 4 years since the article was written. but hey, it took 50 years with the soviets. and music wasn’t the thing that did it. or at least it wasn’t the only thing.

    and isn’t sadomasochism domination and subjugation? we were having a nice conversation. why with the insults and anger, cindy, why?

  • zingzing

    also, look up plastic people of the universe. they were a czech band that, just by playing (rather out-there) rock music, helped to bring about the velvet revolution. so-named, i believe, because several of the most important minds behind the revolution (some of whom were in the band, and the rest of whom supported them) were so into the velvet underground.

    music! our most powerful weapon!

  • Jordan Richardson

    Cindy, I’m still not convinced that it’s overly relevant in terms of this discussion.

    The “sexual freedom” aspect was merely an example of the sorts of “freedoms” Russell is fixated on as an author in terms of making his point.

    The discussion also involved drinking, dancing and singing. More examples of how “free” slaves were, male or female. And again, these are Russell’s examples we were discussing. The book is not a treatise on sexual freedoms among slaves.

    Russell’s article about Beyonce, by the way, doesn’t have much to do with gender and more to do with hip hop culture as transformation. It’s not about women gyrating in videos. It’s about why “black music get so little praise from the would-be evangelists of democracy.” Works for me.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    129 – zing,

    the title of the article says it is not all about music, but is about visual (my presumption is the video)

    not sure that i ever saw ‘booty poppin’ as a musical term.

  • Jordan Richardson

    I think you’re taking “booty poppin” too literally, Cindy.

    Anyways, I can see where this is going and I’m not interested in heading down this road again. Too twisted for me.


  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy


    What you see is what you see. moving on…

    Russell’s article about Beyonce, by the way, doesn’t have much to do with gender and more to do with hip hop culture as transformation. It’s not about women gyrating in videos. It’s about why “black music get so little praise from the would-be evangelists of democracy.” Works for me.

    Booty poppin is not about women gyrating in videos? Okay. Again, what you see is what you see.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Excuse everybody if I’ll abstain. Perhaps tomorrow we can resume the discussion in terms other than sex wars.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    But you haven’t abstained. Your participation is clear.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Had you wished to have abstained you understand you would have said nothing. And it is hard to imagine who you are validating from such a claim of abstinence.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Civil Rights and Black Sexuality.

    Only a short note. If we suspend for a moment the feminist issue, one way of reading Russell as celebration of multiculturalism (as opposed to trying to homogenize different cultures to make them fit one uniform mold as given by the dominant white culture. The cited article makes that kind of argument.

    Sorry, no energy left for sex fights.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Why do I need to validate anybody?


  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Whatever. I am wasting my time talking to no one about nothing on the internet. I think I will mostly contribute through articles. Hope your flu is better soon.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Yes, almost out of the woods. That’s why I need to regroup. I think we should revisit the subject later. It is loaded.


  • zingzing

    cindy: “the title of the article says it is not all about music, but is about visual (my presumption is the video).”

    i didn’t watch the video… never saw that there was a video to watch. the article as about the music, and somewhat about the image. but it’s about the power of music and pop culture overall.

    yes, you could get upset because the culture being driven is one where women are viewed sexually… and free to be sexual if they want to.

    sex sells. that’s the truth of the matter. if it degrades women, then it’s not good. but if that woman is perfectly happy to be viewed as a sexual being, and she does so running the risk of pissing off the patriarchy, well, more power to her.

    do you think of madonna as being a victim or simply a woman taking advantage?

  • zingzing

    hrm. “simply a woman taking advantage” of the patriarchy. i should say. don’t want to get that confused.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy


    the problem i am seeing is not about sex, in and of itself–sex could be many things. i am seeing one ‘cartoonish’ (to borrow ariel levy’s apt description) version of sex replayed, as if in an echo-chamber, throughout the culture. that version has very little to do with female sexuality and everything to do with using females (sans their desire) to stimulate male arousal.

    the very limited version of sex that is replicated is superficial, encourages sexual usage of others as if they were things, removes love and intimacy from sex, etc, etc… that this is often referred to by men as ‘sex’ (as you do) is troublesome. it is as if this one dehumanized view that makes people into the sum of their body parts is considered objectively–sex.

    for teen girls, sexualuality is a performance, often having little or nothing to do with their desire for sex. it likely has to do with power and feeling attractive. i believe it is about wanting to be admireded, in the way the celebrity–like madonna, britney spears, etc–is admired. at it’s root, i think it is a desire for love. sadly, it promotes competition and female misogyny. it is a dead end street, this admiration turns out to be hollow and not personal, it encourages young women to allow the use of their bodies without feeling. boys may want to have sex with you, but it isn’t really about you, it is discovered too late, to be about conquest. in a absurd flip of power, it seems that the conquesting is now often a goal of the female–again via performance, sans sexual feeling.

    i have a niece, i was a teen girl, i can see how the choices (girls of 16 feeling they need breast implants and liposuction) have changed, but the theme remains the same.

    hypersexualized teen girls feel free to talk about blow jobs, lap dances, and male satisfaction, and snap photos for public consumption. ask them if they can broach the subject of oral sex for themselves and you may hear that that is ‘weird’. it is not about their sexuality. it is about their performance as sex objects. this ‘out-of-touch with self’ state is confirmed by both my own experience as a female and my experiences of males (who were equally out-of-touch with female desires, yet very in touch with their own), sexually, as a teen.

    do you think of madonna as being a victim or simply a woman taking advantage [of the patriarchy]?

    i think we are all of us–males and females–victims of (and often promoters of, though perhaps not in such flagrant ways as madonna) the patriarchy. i think it takes as much from men as it does from women. albeit as has been said, in a different way.

    so, i guess i think of madonna as both victim and promoter of patriarchy. that is close to what i think of many young women. after all, we are brought up inside this ‘reality’ and we act according to that. i myself have been both victim and promoter of patriarchy.

    i will eventually write some articles that i hope will offer more explanation.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy


    i do have a sense of humor and i think this guy represents what i think the problem is–in an amusing way.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    and isn’t sadomasochism domination and subjugation? we were having a nice conversation.

    yes it is, i think i wrote that wrongly. i’ll explain what i mean. i am delineating domination/submission (not sadomasochism) from domination/subjugation. so that, the former is a sexual practice and can be categorized under the latter. but also, so that domination/subjugation takes on a broader meaning one that applies to more than sex, but also includes sex, and is useful when explaining how the culture sexualizes women according to male desire. that is, sexuality is sold as a display by women for men that largely ignores female desire. (so, when i say pornography is about domination and subjugation, i mean that women are used in pornography as props whose purpose is to stimulate the male to orgasm) thus, the culture becomes dominated by the socialized masculine sexuality and subjugates females to achieve that commodification. this pattern, which makes it convenient for capitalists to market sex as a commodity, is socialized through media and then reproduced everywhere.

    why with the insults and anger, cindy, why?

    i thought you saw the video and were being sarcastic. sorry, i was wrong.

  • zingzing

    “the very limited version of sex that is replicated is superficial…”

    well, the problem with recreating intimacy is that it loses its intimacy. you can attempt to get some semblance of it across to your audience, but in doing so, you create something of a lie. mass intimacy, i suppose. i wouldn’t quite say it’s impossible to pull off convincingly, but it certainly is difficult.

    on the other hand, you can communicate sex appeal. very, very easily.

    maybe people are just lazy, but asking our less talented artists to create something intimate and truly meaningful might be a bit much. and, barring the odd truly special song or pop culture product, people just don’t buy the difficult or the insular. pop has never been discerning. it’s lowest common denominator type stuff. it’s often hyper-sexualized not because it necessarily wants to put that image across but because that’s what the pop audience demands, and it will do anything for them.

    “for teen girls, sexualuality is a performance, often having little or nothing to do with their desire for sex.”

    teenagers have always been confused about sexuality. if it’s not too little info, it’s too much. maybe right now, we’re swinging a little far to the too much side of that line, but in all likelihood, we’ll probably look back upon this day as some land of innocence, just like your parents were shocked at the sexuality on display in your youth, just like their parents were shocked at the sexuality on display in your parents’ youth.

    you’re trying to buck both human laziness (i’m trying to think of a better word,) and the march of time itself, cindy. but we’ve also progressed in women’s rights at the same time as we’ve become more sexually open (or, if you want to put it negatively, explicit). is this coincidental?

  • zingzing

    “i thought you saw the video and were being sarcastic. sorry, i was wrong.”

    still not sure what video you are talking about. but you ain’t going to drag me into another discussion on porn. no sirreeee, madam. (and apology accepted.)

  • zingzing

    alright, i watched the “this guy” video. it is a nice parody on how certain types of music present sex. but… how much does that extend into real life? do you know anybody who really approaches male-female relations like that? sure, everyone’s had the one night stand or dozen, and that can be a purely sexual, “let’s just fuck” kind of thing. but if it develops into an actual relationship, it rarely, if ever stays that way. i think people have more brains than to base their life-view on a song. or on 100 songs, or on a barrage of such songs coming out of pop culture.

    it’s possible that some people don’t have enough brains to escape pop’s influence. but, you know, they’re dumb mother fuckers and they were doomed anyway.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy


    i was reading two articles at the same time. the thaddeus russell article and a review of the thaddeus russell article. i posted a link to the former. it turns out the video was in the latter. deja vu.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    148 – perhaps you might look closer at everything, everywhere. even PETA uses women’s bodies to sell. this is nothing new. commodification of women and sex is embedded in the culture.

    you don’t see that? you aren’t aware that using ‘tits and ass’ gets more click-through on the internet? i am surprised that you don’t see that.

    do you understand what effect this has on young female teens? can you dismiss this as some dumb people?

    is there even an equal word for ‘tits and ass’ regarding men? does that tell you anything? is this so normal that, perhaps you don’t even notice?

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    well, i won’t argue. if you cannot see it, then you cannot see it. it is there. i see it, other people see it.

    perhaps one day more people will recognize that when we grow up in a culture it influences us. and not because we are dumb, but because we are human and social.

  • zingzing

    “you don’t see that?”

    of course i see it, cindy. i just don’t think it means the same thing that you do. and purposefully underestimating someone wins no battles.

    “is there even an equal word for ‘tits and ass’ regarding men?”

    not as such, i suppose. but it’s not like women don’t lust after men and sexualize them as well.

    “can you dismiss this as some dumb people?”

    well, don’t take my words out of context. i was referring to something very specific. and yes, teenagers (both boys and girls, mind you,) are young and impressionable. but they do grow up.

    “when we grow up in a culture it influences us. and not because we are dumb, but because we are human and social.”

    yep. but there are limits as to how much it should influence you. if pop culture accurately reflects your life, you’ve made a serious mistake. even miley cyrus isn’t hannah montana.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    as i see it, this is an effect of patriarchy. it has influence on the emerging adults. saying the problem is just dumb people is sort of like saying only dumb people are indoctrinated by patriarchal culture.

    if so, then there are a fuckload of dumb people. maybe 99% of people world wide.

    largely, with fuzziness and variation: muslim cultures produce muslim people, catholic cultures produce catholic people, misogynist cultures produce misogynist people, imperialist cultures produce people who accept war as normal, etc. would you not agree with that? i mean does rural west virginia generally produce muslims or christians?

    arepeople genetically predisposed for development of these things, or do they get them from their culture? do you think you are not dumb and have escaped cultural conditioning and socialization? do you think your idea of what is beautiful, say, or tasty, does not come from what you have grown up with? do you think eating huge white grubs vs spaghetti is something people are genetically predisposed to do?

    just some things to think about.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    but it’s not like women don’t lust after men and sexualize them as well.

    and? so that makes it okay to objectify people?

    this is not a girls are genetically superior to boys and incapable of fault discussion. but saying this reminds me of where there was listed a handful of female warriors (over the 10,000 years of human history) as proof that women do wage war.

    i saw a 3-legged dog once, so if i say dogs have 4 legs is pointing out the 3-legged dogs proof that there are exceptions? women can and do do anything men can do. women are socialized and men are socialized. i make no case that women are superior genetically and therefore incapable of being brutes, users, or rapists. still, there is something informative to look at gender socialization in light of which sex is socialized with toughness and brutality as positive qualities. there is something informative about noticing which sex is generally involved in particular behaviors and analyzing why that is so.

  • zingzing

    #153 takes the “dumb” thing out of context again.

    “do you think you are not dumb and have escaped cultural conditioning and socialization?”

    do you? i grew up in the south and i’m not a christian. nor am i a racist. nor am i a misogynist. yet, if what you’re saying is to be believed, i should be all of those things. i just don’t think that the culture produces exact replicas of its reflection. if it did, we’d all be the same. but we’re not.

    how can two people grow up in the same culture and be different, if it’s simply their culture that defines them?

    the fuzziness and variation you mention is more pervasive than you think, i think.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    yep. but there are limits as to how much it should influence you

    most people i know or have ever met have not risen above the influence of their culture to the degree that the world can be a healthy, sane place (including me).

    that is the reason for my analysis of these things in the first place.

  • zingzing

    “and? so that makes it okay to objectify people?”

    in some cases no, in some cases it’s innocuous. not everything is black or white.

    “but saying this reminds me of where there was listed a handful of female warriors (over the 10,000 years of human history) as proof that women do wage war.”

    well, it was more than a handful, and it was less than 10,000 years. but you did ask something along the lines of “has there ever been a woman who waged war” and the answer was yes.

    “…brutality as positive qualities.”

    i’m not sure that’s such a “positive” quality.

    “there is something informative about noticing which sex is generally involved in particular behaviors and analyzing why that is so.”

    true, but don’t just go for the simple answers. a lot of things went into the current state of gender roles, both negative and positive.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    the fuzziness and variation you mention is more pervasive than you think, i think.

    i realize that. that is what i used to think too. having spent some time looking, now i do not think that.

  • zingzing

    “most people i know or have ever met have not risen above the influence of their culture to the degree that the world can be a healthy, sane place (including me).”

    well, you have to admit that you’ve got some pretty high standards. remember, when people gather in numbers, they get noticeably less intelligent and discerning.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    157 – yes i did say that, and i presumed that my meaning would be understood. rather than wrung for the needle in the haystack. because even the female warriors were produced by male centric cultures.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    but, it was my wording that was at fault. still, it seems a convenient way for my meaning to be discounted–a simple mistake in wording should not have made my point lost.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    159 – i do not take this culture to be the sole example of what is ‘natural’ for humans to be or do. i’d argue that suggesting what humans do is overstepping. we do not know what humans do outside what they are socialized to do.

    we can look at humans in different times and places and see that many who do not act like you suggest have been marginalized. so, the stupidity you speak of is, imo, a product socialization.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    i was recently reading an article by an indigenous scholar who describes this marginalization. she related an example of a particular indigenous desire to tell if the western social scientist has a ‘good heart’ as a perspective that western social science marginalizes as not relevant, unscientific, etc.

    this perspective is dismissed as important to the western researcher. however, it is important to that indigenous culture. perhaps westerners are not, after all, superior or more advanced forms of humans. perhaps we westerners have gone astray and have lost sight of important and really relevant things–things that we will have to relearn to value if we are to aid our survival..

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    do you? i grew up in the south and i’m not a christian. nor am i a racist. nor am i a misogynist. yet, if what you’re saying is to be believed, i should be all of those things. i just don’t think that the culture produces exact replicas of its reflection. if it did, we’d all be the same. but we’re not.

    okay, but how many muslims has the south produced. you are going out of your way to misunderstand me. these are generalizations i am making and generally they hold up. they are meant to show that culture influences us. that you are not christian or misogynist or whatever merely shows that there are other influences in culture as well.

    words are limited, there is no way i can use them to satisfy such a precise definition that you are expecting. that is why legal contracts are a zillion pages long. i am trying to make a point. it would benefit us both if you would try to see what i am saying rather than merely limit yourself to pointing out the exceptions to what i am saying.

    i know there are exceptions. i agree there are exceptions.

    if i say, “america loved the beatles”, to make a point, bringing up 3 people who did not love the beatles does not make that point irrelevant or wrong. surely you can see this.

    there are exceptions to everything. using them to discredit the point gets us nowhere.

    girls just wanna have fun (yeah, i know there are some who don’t) pshawwww!!!!

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Time out, guys. A short note on “politics of terror”:

    … The dialectic of the particular and the universal, which Hegel gives the title of absolute freedom, can, he claims, end only in terror. For the ideal of absolute freedom, which is empty, any given reality must be suspected of being an obstacle to freedom…. So it judges any particular act, even when it is prescribed by law and executed according to rules, as failing to match up to the ideal. Terror acts on the suspicion that nothing is emancipated enough – and makes it into a politics. Every particular reality is a plot against the pure, universal will. Even the individual who occupies the position of the normative instance is contingent in the light of this ideal, and therefore suspect. Robespierre could have no objection to his own execution, unless it was that his judges were no less suspect than he was. ” ‘In whose name’ is the army being called in against the Assembly?” he asks Couthon on the eve of his death. The suppression of reality through the death of suspects satisfies a logic that sees reality as a plot against the Idea. And terror in this way plunges the real community into despair about its identity. The French no longer deserve the name of citizens when they recoil in fear before the enormity of the crime by which they sought to institute republican legitimacy. But in wanting to be only French, the French renounce deliberation and universal history, and renounce the ideal of freedom. . . .

    Jean-Francois Lyotard,
    The Postmodern Explained, pp.54-5

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    I don’t understand that, Roger. Can you give me an example?

  • zingzing

    “okay, but how many muslims has the south produced?”

    first of all, i think that religion is produced mostly by the family, not by the outside culture. if a person is born in the south, but to a muslim family, chances are that person will grow up a muslim. it’s just possible that they’ll look at the larger culture and become a christian. it’s also possible that a christian child will become a muslim. also, converting to islam has been somewhat popular amongst african americans for decades. so no, the south doesn’t produce a whole lot of muslims. but i don’t think the culture of the south is ultimately responsible for that.

    “it would benefit us both if you would try to see what i am saying rather than merely limit yourself to pointing out the exceptions to what i am saying.”

    i’m not merely trying to point out exceptions. i’m pointing out exceptions that reveal gaping holes in your generalizations, at least to me. culture certainly does influence us, but not to the degree that i think you are trying to suggest. culture reveals us at our best and at our worst, but i don’t think it reveals the individual at their core.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    no input from zing?

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy


    i don’t know what to say…

    does the family produce religion in a vacuum? if i put a family on an island will they produce muslims if they have never heard of muslims?

    families are vessels of culture. they transmit culture. i never said the culture walks up to people and directly puts things in their brains, how could this be???? families are a means of transmitting culture.


    zing….you are frustrating me to no end…

    come on now…you MUST be pulling my leg! you are doing backflips to try to NOT see what I mean.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    okay zing…what can i say…you don’t see it (won’t even step outside your comfy space and look). no problema…neither will most of the rest of the world. personally i think that is why we are doomed as a species. i am beginning to think that consciousness is an evolutionary idea that will not be sustained. good luck to oil-eating bacteria…

    holy clamoli…i had better run…cyas later.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Oh, one more thing…


    There is criticism of multiculturalism along these lines…

    multiculturalism does little more than facilitate assimilation within the dominant ideology (Stephen Linstead)

    …that is, it simply reproduces the dominant culture. I don’t have time to find you a piece on this. Just thought you’d like to know about the criticism.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    This is a double-edged sword, Cindy. I will look at your link. However, I would also think that you should be celebrating different cultures rather than a process whereby these cultures are being homogenized, absorbed and assimilated into a dominant culture. We all should celebrate different cultures and different narrative.

    Perhaps “multiculturalism” has acquired modern connotations which lend it suspect and subject to feminist critique. But I’m using it as an antinomy to the old idea of “melting pot.”

    Anyway, it’s one of the major sub-themes in Russell’s writings, apart from how we decide on the gender question. The citation from Lyotard was meant to somehow alter the general tone of the discourse.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski
  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    I’m using it as an antinomy to the old idea of “melting pot.”

    Yes, of course, that is the given. According to it’s critics, it has fallen short.

    It is not hard to imagine how a dominating capitalist culture (geared toward exploitation, as its foundation) turns everything to its own benefit. Perhaps, in the hands of the dominant culture multiculturalism has not served the ideal end.

    I can’t for example, imagine the acceptance of anti-capitalist cultures within multiculturalism. It seems absurd. The dominant culture in its typically blind arrogant way, analyzes other cultures and then explains them to itself.

    That is not acceptance of others any more than, for example, allowing women to be the same as men is accepting women.

    Anyway, those are just my own ideas. I have yet to find a good criticism to read. I am only letting you know that I am aware that criticism exists and is likely important.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    173 – Can’t download it there. I was trying to get that article. I only find it for sale.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Dominant culture will do what it will. That’s expected. But don’t you think that celebrating the difference is, to say the least, one means of resisting the dominant narrative?

    Anyway, all I could find was the abstract of the article (as per link above).

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Of course, yes.

    Here, Roger…maybe you could read some of these pages and see if there is anything on it there. I don’t have time as, I really have to run now.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Yes, I read one, Roger. Those pages will provide good explanation. Have fun…cheerio!

  • zingzing

    “families are vessels of culture. they transmit culture.”

    yet you place a muslim family in the christian south, they will most often produce a muslim child. you place them in any culture, they will most often produce a muslim child. because there are two different cultures at work, and one is more powerful than the other, i suppose. but still, the culture that surrounds you is not the only force at work, it’s often not even the major force at work. maybe religion wasn’t the best way to make your point.

    i grew up in the south to two fairly religiously “meh” parents. my dad’s a lapsed catholic and my mom is a lutheran (lazy catholic). they grew up in very religious, small town midwest. so both my parents and i grew up in different, highly religious cultures. yet not a one of us is religious.

    “you are doing backflips to try to NOT see what I mean.”

    i see what you mean. but i just don’t agree with it. teenagers are more susceptible to its charms, but they grow up and out of it.

    you say “commodification of women and sex is embedded in the culture,” but i say “sure, but it’s not embedded in US.” then you put up that video (the comedian) and say something to the point of “this is the problem (expressed as comedy),” and i say, “sure, but those things are just entertainment, and very few people take them seriously.”

    that said, i’ll rent “9 1/2 weeks” to watch kim bassinger getting screwed in the rain with her white shirt on. and i’ll damn well enjoy it. i just won’t think it’s reality. it’s entertainment.

  • zingzing

    “you say “commodification of women and sex is embedded in the culture,” but i say “sure, but it’s not embedded in US.””

    hrm. well, i should say “it’s not embedded in us on more than a superficial level.” most people are smart enough to figure out the difference between entertainment or commercialism and what’s reality. of course, there are those that own ak-47s and call women “bitches.” invariably, however, you’ll find that those people are either dumb and/or criminals. but i think you lay the responsibility for that mostly upon the individual. and so will the law in the case of the latter.

    do you think violent video games should be banned*? what of gangsta rap? booty-poppin? sure, they can be criticized, but where do you stop? reality tv? beer advertisements? twilight? family guy? snooki?

    our culture is full of stuff that pushes boundaries, be it profane or sexual or the bottom-most limits of our depravity and stupidity. it glorifies in extremes.

    but it’s full of beauty and art and all sorts of other things that could not exist without being able to push these same boundaries. i think your view of our culture is intensely negative and overly-focused on one subject. not everyone pays so much attention to the misogyny or the patriarchy, and not everyone attaches that much importance to it.

    i don’t think eminem’s supposed views on women, as expressed in his music, are going to change my views on women. i don’t think a billboard or a victoria’s secret catalog are going to completely warp my sexual appetites. i, and most people, can see through things. i don’t think my girlfriend is a bitch because eminem says so, and i don’t think she should have cleavage up to her neck.

    i’m not some vast exception. many, probably most, and probably a vast majority, gather information from the culture in the same way i do. you do it as well. i think you don’t have enough faith in people.

    *i know you say you’re against banning stuff, but you do seem to want to be rid of it. sadly, there’s no way to do that, except to let these various things run their course or to ban it.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy


    we are from two different planets. i came in peace and i will go in peace.

    (p.s. not to begin this subject, but just to note my view, for the record–since you brought up entertainment and fantasy–pornography is not fantasy, it is real, happens to real people and is viewed by real people. movies, granted are not reality. so when you are busy discerning the difference between reality and fantasy, i hope you realize that.)

    and on that note, i give up, as i am not much liking arguing with people on the internet for no seeming beneficial reason, these days…

  • zingzing


    “we are from two different planets.”

    sorry, but we’re not. actually, you’re in nj or ny somewhere, right? so we’re prolly in spitting distance. if you’re a champion spitter.

    “pornography is not fantasy, it is real”

    it’s also staged, most of the time. it’s not exactly reality. it’s a performance. there’s a layer there that you’re not acknowledging.

    “and on that note, i give up…”

    such is the end of most intractable positions in arguments. you won’t even answer my arguments because they don’t conform to yours.

    but at least do me the favor of answering me this: how do two people who grew up in the same culture end up so different? take you and i as an example, or take you and the most misogynistic person you know (assuming that’s not me). how do we get such different points of view out of the same culture?

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    you won’t even answer my arguments because they don’t conform to yours

    zing, if i thought it would make any difference, i would gladly answer your arguments. but i think what i would have to say would inspire just more argument with no real meeting of the minds on anything. there is always hope for the future. i read your arguments and they are your opinions, they don’t really require answers, do they? if you think they do, and would like me to address a specific point, i will do my best.

    but, instead of these types of discussions, i would like to try to write an article at some point, with more preparation.

    how do two people who grew up in the same culture end up so different?

    there is a great deal of variety within a culture, particularly a culture that allows for some freedoms as ours does. nothing i have said discounts that. people in the same family can grow up very different. i am not proposing some black and white, recipe that creates a person with such and thus features. the culture is not monolithic, but there is a dominating culture that can be regarded and analyzed. i am analyzing how patriarchy functions in order to expose its workings. if i can not, according to you, recognize general cultural imperatives because there are exceptions, then i cannot make any statements about my culture that are illuminating. i would also have to discount my own experience as a female growing up in this culture in sexual relation to men.

    example: there may be plenty or room for all kinds of political beliefs in the US, still most people are liberal or conservative, not anarchists or communists. why? because the people in the US are not influenced by anarchist or communist culture, generally. that there are some is irrelevant when i am discussing the dominant culture.

    there are also a multitude of cultures within the culture that carry themes that promote the dominant one. you can see this in the behavior of those on a football team, those in a police force, those who make and watch television shows, etc–these are group cultures. there are ways one is expected to behave think and act. there are behaviors that if engaged in are ostracized. there will always be participants who reject some of these imperatives or merely follow the out of fear, that does not mean they are not operating.

    it’s also staged. there’s a layer there that you’re not acknowledging.

    pornography is a form of sexual prostitution. staged or not, a daredevil who jumps through a flaming hoop, a nazcar driver, etc is doing something that effects him/her in reality. a film that stages a pretend sex scene is not real. having two penises in your vagina or anus is very real. getting aids and STDs is real, taking drugs to kill the pain it puts you through is real, being used like toilet paper by men in the industry is very real. having men all over–from the one who is your pimp (agent) to the ones who fuck you and ejaculate on you, to the networks–making big money on the use of your body as a sex object on TV– all these things are happening to a real person. as linda lovelace said (to paraphrase)–when you watch deep throat you are watching my rape.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    a good rule of thumb: if you don’t want your daughter or your mother or your girlfriend to do it, don’t accept it for someone else’s child /mother/gf

  • zingzing

    on radical politics… i like the idea, but the execution is usually fucked. in order for radical politics to work, it quite often requires violence, which i will not support. radical change in a society as often as not involves violence and repression, whether from the right or the left. it’s a chance you take. i’d rather not take that chance. if radical politics had a popular following, it would not require violence, but it so rarely does. change from within takes more time, but it involves less death, torture, repression and oppression. the world is changing gradually, despite any attempt to stop it. in order to change, without killing one another, take the slow route. it’ll happen. humanity is moving in the right direction. radical politics tries to speed this process, but usually only backfires upon itself, producing an effect it doesn’t want.

    on the general culture–you say that our culture is a misogynist, patriarchal society. i say so what (not trying to be flippant here, follow me for a bit), it’s the one we have. you can say that that’s all there is, but i know for a fact that the culture is much wider than that. you can be dismayed, but i’m going to enjoy the culture i live in. it’s not all misogyny and patriarchy, it produces art and beauty and music and food and displays creativity in so many other ways. i’m not going to discount the entire culture based upon its crimes, and i guarantee you that i’ll find more pleasure in life than you will if you continue to dwell on the negative aspects. we live in a vast world, more connected all the time, and i can’t imagine getting so carried up in the negative when there’s so much positive to devour. i don’t care for the misogyny any more than you do, but if it’s got a good beat behind it, i’ll listen to the beat, but i’ll ignore the message.

    “being used like toilet paper by men in the industry is very real.”

    in its worst circumstances. responsible people making responsible decisions won’t introduce those circumstances. not all porn is the same. i’m sure you can agree to that.

    and i’ve had several girlfriends that were nude models, if not porn actresses. i’m not a boob man, i’m a full body proportion man. i like sexually aggressive women. sex is great. this culture, with its hypersexuality, has worked out for me. i like it, it likes me. it’s not misogyny. i don’t talk about “bitches,” i lust after women. and all types, really. although i do have my proclivities.

  • The herbal-infusion party

    I find it of huge interest – and possibly of huge significance if anyone’s prepared to make what is not exactly a quantum leap – that the push to revolution in America really sped up after the Court of King’s Bench ruling in London that resulted in the freeing of James Somersett, a black slave “owned” by a Boston customs officer. Somersett was imprisoned on a ship bound for the Americas and freed and brought before the court on a writ of habeas corpus.

    The judge, Lord Mansfield, who wasn’t known for his radical decisions, found slavery so “odious an institution” that he ordered Somersett’s immediate release, which granted him the rights of an Englishmen there and then.

    It led to the emancipation of many slaves in Britain, especially following a similarv ruling in Edinburgh, but not an end to the institition within the empire. The most dire rumblings of the results of these cases were to be heard in the American colonies, where slavery propped up the businesses of many of the native-born rich, powerful and influential – indeed, the businesses and financial wellbeing of some of the most influential figures in the revolution depended on slavery.

    This was in 1772, remember, a few years before the revolution and Lord Mansfield’s wording contained a warning: that no matter WHAT MIGHT RESULT from his decision (in other words, the impact it might have across the empire, and especially in the Americas), it was a decision that had to be made.

    It certainly laid more groundwork for abolition and became a rallying cry for the anti-slavery movement and by 1808, the Royal Navy was enforcing on the high seas to the letter an Act of Parliament that made slave trafficking illegal and punishable by death, and had banned slavery throughout the empire by the early 1830s. They were so serious about doing it, it cost them the equivalent of many billions of dollars in today’s money in compensation paid by London to slave “owners”, mostly in the West Indies.

    They also legislated to ensure the freed slaves had paid jobs or land to work. Some US slaves who joined the British side in the War of 1812 were later given land in the West Indies are still known today as “Merikans”.

    Despite the fact that I admire America and Americans generally, and believe the US to be a force for good in the world, I also find this a signal failing and quite pathetic that some still bang on so long and loud about liberty, equality and freedom for all when the truth of the matter is, the nation was founded on one of history’s more gross lies.

    It’s also a worry that many in the US can’t abide any constructive criticism on this issue. Truth is, there is no defending the indefensible.

    Those in America who shouted loudest and longest about freedom and liberty conveniently forgot to tell the shackled and unpaid black fellas in the shed down the back while they were going about it.

    It’s a disgrace that people like Thomas Jefferson are still revered in the US for their role in the revolution (which is always touted as being about freedom rather than the propping up of power and influence), despite the disgusting double standards they engaged in.

    It’s also illustrative that despite a civil war and changes to the Bill of Rights that supposedly ended discrimination (yeah, right), real and legislative prejudice against blacks continued in much of the South until the mid 1960s. Not being able to use the same shithouse, diner or bus seat as a white shows just how gross the lie was, and how long the mmyth of freedom, liberty and justice for all perpetuated itself in America: just another part of the myth of American exceptionalism that needs genuine re-examination if it’s ever to die away properly.

    Anyone who doubts the veracity of this should remember that blacks were not able to serve in mixed outfits with whites in the US armed forces right up to the Korean War.

    The original intent of the founding fathers sounds pretty good, but it loses all its lustre in the cold light of day when you understand that those who claimed to champion the cause of liberty for nothing but its own sake not only kept slaves themselves, but encouraged it as a “normal” institution.

    What they really meant was liberty and freedom for rich white guys who owned property and who would become the ruling elite in the new United States. (Most Americans who didn’t own property couldn’t even vote in the US until the mid 1800s, and equal suffrage for ALL MEN wasn’t legislated for until about 1870). That didn’t stop some of the southern states from orchestrating ways of making sure black people couldn’t vote.

    The problem is, too many Americans believe their own bullsh.it about being the beacon of hope and the light on the hill, and all that other exceptionalism stuff.

    It’s always been pure hypocrisy. Even today, white Americans will talk about blacks and other minorities having the same opportunities as whites, and in theory they do. Except they really don’t.

    But entrenched racism in the US means that people trapped in cycles of crime and poverty and who grow up in places like South LA have buckley’s chance in most cases of breaking the mould … and anyone who thinks they have the same opportunities in real life as a white child of rich parents from Bel Air is kidding themselves.

    To found a nation on a myth is one thing … that’s easily repairable provided that it’s addressed properly.

    To perpetuate it for another 200 years, even if not legislatively or officially, through the attitudes of many of its people is another.

    Liberals in the US should forget about such self-indulgent crap as gay marriage, especially if those in same-sex unions have the same rights under the law; the real issue of human rights in the US is still about how modern America treats those whose only difference is that their skin is a darker colour.

    Renegade history? Just look at the real history for that.

  • The herbal-infusion party

    In other words, the revolution wasn’t really about a three-penny tax on a pound of tea at all. It was about the rich, powerful and influential moving to prop up their own positions. Americans weren’t even an oppressed people at the time, and anyone who thinks they were hasn’t done their history lessons; the people in the colonies had more freedoms and liberties than just about anyone else, anywhere, PRIOR to the revolution.

    It’s also well documented that the majority in the colonies weren’t even interested in revolution until they were fired up by the prime movers.

    I realise this viewpoint won’t make me popular on these threads, but a more honest examination of history is always worthwhile.

    Unfortunately, it tends not to happen that much in America. And when it’s about one of the great lies of modern history, it really is worth re-examining.

  • zingzing

    hi stm. no, that wasn’t a quantum leap. it’s certainly one view of history, and it’s certainly a blathering on racial inequality in the usa, but it’s no big leap. it’s funny how “quantum” has come to mean what it does, what with meaning what it does. i wonder why it came to be that something meaning that went on to mean that.

    i’d actually agree with most of that (and a lot of other people would as well) but…

    “Americans weren’t even an oppressed people at the time.”

    but we were just thrilled to have british soldiers in our cities! and to be lorded over by the parliament that was three weeks travel away! oh, mercy. i’m getting hot in my pants. it was impudent of us. but we were always bad. we just wanted us a spanking from the king. and glory to that king. and all glory to the british isles, that land of ultimate freedom, truth and the great unerring center of historical learning, which is to be believed as gospel.

    honestly, stan. look in your own yard. the dog poop is there as well. britain (and australia) are also full of evil histories only barely being uncovered at this point. there’s enough racism and class warfare to take up all your day, yet you harp on “american exceptionalism” as if anyone around here except you ever used the fucking phrase. what is this? an inferiority complex?

    “I realise this viewpoint won’t make me popular on these threads, but a more honest examination of history is always worthwhile.”

    you just pretty much ran off a leftist view of american history. congrats, mr. zinn.

    “Unfortunately, it tends not to happen that much in America.”

    you’ll be happy to know that the book that most clearly mirrors your thoughts has been in the top 10 for history books for more than a decade, is used in high school and college history classes and has been read by millions.

    i’m sure there’s someone in america who’s pulling off macaulay culkin as kevin mccallister doing edvard munch’s “the scream” in “home alone” or “home alone 2,” but you really haven’t shocked anyone with this retelling of history. what next, you going to post the script to “e.t.?”

    you’ve got a view of history that is just as repellent and one-sided as an american-centric view of history, even if i happen to agree with 80+% of it this time. but you think it’s fair and honest, don’t you? why? why is the history you were taught true, and all others (particularly america’s) false? when you see all other histories as false, does that not clue you in that there may be something wrong with yours?

  • zingzing

    also, some math for you to do: out of all of the british empire’s historical holdings, how many have wished for self-determination? how many rebelled?

    now why on earth would they do that?

  • The herbal-infusion party

    Zing: “how many rebelled?”

    Not as many as you might think, actually.

    Also, I could write the same kind of stuff about Australia, Britain, New Zealand, aned Canada, too, probably. I’m well aware of the litany of wrongs foisted on people in the name of “civilising them”. It’s a blanket view I hold about racism, not one confined to the US.

    But that’s not what we’re talking about today. We’re talking about a renegade history of the US. I’m whacking in my two-bob’s worth on that, for what it’s worth (not much, I’d think will be the prevailing view).

    And I believe exceptionalism has had a role to play in that.

    Geez, for a bloke who likes to pull his own country apart, you aren’t that keen when someone else does.

    Luckily, we live in free countries, zing: my bollocks is as valid a viewpoint as yours.

    And I still don’t believe Americans were oppressed prior to the revolution. Nothing will shift me from that position, because it’s the truth.

    Nothing wrong with self-determination; it’s the lying about the motives and the real reasons that’s wromg, and then perpetuating that myth.

    I think you give your countrymen too much credit sometimes on some of this stuff … the learned ones are few and far between, in my experience.

    Just sayin’ …

  • The herbal-infusion party

    I don’t see all other histories as false, either. But geez zing, you’ve got to admit, some Americans do have an unusual world view. Sarah Palin’s a classic example. Could’ve been president of the US, thought Africa was a country and South Africa a part of it. Hollywood hasn’t helped over your side of the divide, either, on that score.

    The bullsh.t factory creates more crap and hot-air than alleged global warmening.

    Them warmenists … almost as bad as them history distorters.

  • Jordan Richardson

    alleged global warmening

    Oh please.

  • The herbal-infusion party

    As for those rebels, I can think of three off the top of my head: America, Ireland and India. Mostly, the rest have been peaceful transitions to democracy over different timespans and the links with Britain remain. The Fijians are most upset right now that they’re suspended from the commonwealth.

    You can’t really count South Africa’s transition to a republic post-world war II because that was a takeover by racists who believed in “separateness”. Apartheid. Such a quaint term.

    But you had it there too! Big time! And it lives on big time! Don’t tell me it doesn’t. And yes, I’m aware that the British profited from slavery more than anyone. Nothing excuses what they did around the world in relation to supposedly civilisng people (whilst ripping them off royally).

    I could get into that too anytime it’s raised here. But like I said, we’re discussing something else.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Excellent posts, Stan!

    Just to repeat my favorite bit:

    What they really meant was liberty and freedom for rich white guys who owned property and who would become the ruling elite in the new United States. (Most Americans who didn’t own property couldn’t even vote in the US until the mid 1800s, and equal suffrage for ALL MEN wasn’t legislated for until about 1870). That didn’t stop some of the southern states from orchestrating ways of making sure black people couldn’t vote.

    The problem is, too many Americans believe their own bullsh.it about being the beacon of hope and the light on the hill, and all that other exceptionalism stuff.

    It’s always been pure hypocrisy. Even today, white Americans will talk about blacks and other minorities having the same opportunities as whites, and in theory they do. Except they really don’t.

  • The herbal-infusion party

    Jordan: “Oh please.”

    I’m a sceptic, not a denier. Show me the money – something different to Al’s inconvenient conveniences – and I’ll believe, and especially when Al reduces his own carbon footprint to that of a normal person, or sells off his beachfront mansion because of his fears that sea levels might be rising at a rate of knots.

    He’s just bet millions that they’re not.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Fuck Al Gore, pal. The politics don’t matter, the science does. It’s not an opinion, it’s not a belief, it’s not an agenda.

  • The herbal-infusion party

    Thanks Cindy. Nice to have one supporter. Even Jordan went straight for what he thought was most important … a throwaway line about global warming (which I think is really an excuse for governments and big business to make a huge buck off carbon … trading in stuff no one wants, which is the complete opposite of any trading that in the history of this planet. Well, no one except for the smartest guys in the room in Washington and Wall St, and all their elitist cronies around the world).

  • The herbal-infusion party

    Jordan: “Fuck Al Gore, pal. The politics don’t matter, the science does. It’s not an opinion, it’s not a belief, it’s not an agenda.”

    Is there anything you do like about global warming?

  • Jordan Richardson

    Yeah, Stan, I do think that’s the most important part. I think people who fuck about and politicize science should be confronted, whether they’re on the left or the right or whether they’re governments looking for carbon credits or businesses green-washing consumers. But whether it’s an “excuse” for big business or governments is honestly beside the point and it has nothing to do with the actual science on the issue.

    You’ve been duped if you think that’s the case and you’re just like the other “sceptics” who pick and choose the facts that make them more comfortable.

    The money:

    Pew Center on Global Climate Change – that page starts with the basic science of climate change. No politics, no bullshit, no money, no nothing.

    Skeptical Science – this is an interesting site that talks about all of the different “criticisms” over climate change and introduces actual science to the equation. It includes an article on the “fake scandal of Climategate” and it also includes an article, if you look a little, about the meaning of the word “consensus” in terms of the scientific community. Hint: a scientific consensus is not the same as a political one.

    I care about this planet, Stan. I don’t give a crap what “side” a person is on, but climate change is not a belief or an opinion that you can just toss off to the side. There is a scientific consensus, whether you like it or not.

  • The herbal-infusion party

    OK, then, I’ll have a proper read of it since you went to the trouble of whacking it all together.

  • Jordan Richardson

    One more piece from Science/AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science). This says, in part: “The question of what to do about climate change is also still open. But there is a scientific consensus on the reality of anthropogenic climate change. Climate scientists have repeatedly tried to make this clear. It is time for the rest of us to listen.”

    Oh, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was established in 1988 to address issues of climate change. Al Gore’s “movie” didn’t step into it until nearly 20 years later and the “debate” that followed in subsequent years was prompted not by WHAT climate change is but WHO “represented it.”

  • The herbal tincture party

    Doesn’t it take something of an exceptional group to perpetrate such an exceptional fraud?

    Surfer dude, do you have a theory as to why such exceptional exceptionalism and historical ignorance has taken hold in the US to accompany your expose?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Why is is such a great crime to politicize science? Everything else is being politicized, so why not science? Is it because science is a sacred cow?

  • http://www.RoseDigitalMarketing.com Christopher Rose

    I would have thought it wrong to politicize science because scientific work ought not to be carried out to further political or social theories and/or that politicizing things in general is a barrier to honesty and creative thought…

  • Jordan Richardson

    What Chris said. In that respect, Roger, it sure as hell is a “sacred cow.”

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    You’ve found a supporter from unexpected quarters, Cindy. All he’s got to do now is pronounce on the gender question.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    That’s one topic I shall not be drawn into, Jordan.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    BTW, I didn’t even see Chris’ entry when I posted.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    I think the crux of the matter is that a hot topic such as global warming or climate change can’t help but be politicized. Heck, it’s been politicized from the very start. There’s just too many hands in the pot.

  • zingzing

    stm: “Geez, for a bloke who likes to pull his own country apart, you aren’t that keen when someone else does.”

    well, i had a cold, but i’m beginning to believe i might have allergies, as it’s been going on for a while and now i’ve got a full blown sinus headache that’s making me fucking irritable. it wasn’t so much what you had to say… it’s how i heard it in my head. came off to me then as preachy and supposedly enlightened, but it’s nothing new. anyway, that’s how i read it at 7 fucking am when i woke up feeling like shit for the 5th day in a row. so my apologies.

    as for rebellions, count the unsuccessful ones as well. i also wonder how many territories britain sucked dry and then slunk away from. like a sneaky, toothy blowjob or something.

  • Jordan Richardson

    It’s interesting to think back on scientific issues and politics. Richard Nixon’s administration was talking about this stuff, for God’s sake, and it didn’t quite seem to be such a matter of “faith.” The data was there even then, right out in the open.

    A September 1969 memo from Daniel Patrick Moynihan says (PDF), in part: “The C02 content is normally in a stable cycle, but recently man has begun to introduce instability through the burning of fossil fuels.”

    It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when climate change became a left/right issue or a matter of “belief,” though. I think you can use politics to mobilize to a certain degree, but the social and cultural climate is so noxious that it’s impossible to get people to agree on anything. It’s pretty scary.

  • The Caffeine-Free Herbal Infusion Party

    HTP asks: “Doesn’t it take something of an exceptional group to perpetrate such an exceptional fraud?”

    America won the revolution. History is written (or re-written) by the winners from that point on. Nothing exceptional there.

  • The Caffeine-Free Herbal Infusion Party

    Mind you, in discussing this stuff, it’s always worth being mindful in regard to what was accepted practise and belief at the time. In general, white European colonisers thought they had a right to do what they wanted with anyone who didn’t quite measure up to that white European standard. Some misguidedly believed they were doing these peoples a favour by treating them like children, “civilising” them and holding them in bondage.

    20/20 hindsight’s a wonderful thing but the lines were a bit more blurred at the time.

    However, to perpetuate the myth without a careful re-examination is the wrong. All I believe in in regard to this is the re-examination of that myth. Publicly, and in schools …

    Not the victim industry’s black-armband view of history, but an honest re-appraisal and one that might have as its aim moving forward in a genuinely inclusive fashion, rather than a constant looking backwards.

    That would be the same view I’d take for such a thing in this country, too, BTW, where the history of racism is not that different to that of the US.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz/ Alan Kurtz

    CAUTION: Blowhards At Work.

    Over the past three days, this thread has generated 157 posts by commenters who have not read A Renegade History of the United States. Combined, they’ve contributed a staggering 14,734 words.

    These are of course the usual suspects: Cindy (52), Roger Nowosielski (47), zingzing (36), STM (12 posted under three separate pseudonyms), Ruvy (5), Tommy Boy (2), Glenn Contrarian (1), doug m. (1) and Christopher Rose (1).

    [Personal attack deleted by Comments Editor] Since I seem to be responsible for having triggered this tautologous tsunami with comment #4, I apologize to FCEtier, whose review deserved a better fate, and to unsuspecting readers who might find themselves fruitlessly plowing through 14,734 words in search of at least one thought by someone who’d read Thaddeus Russell’s book, which also deserves a better fate.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/an roger nowosielski

    Seems like you’re being envious, Alan. I may not have read the book but provided links to a number of the author’s articles and more serious, scholarship papers, so I do have a feel for the material. Besides, the topic generated a heated discussion on a number of interesting issues. That you choose not to participate is your own business but your complaint is petty and without merit. Now you’re acting as a censor and the devil’s advocate, an unlikely position for you to adopt since you’re been quite vocal against those very things when it suited you.

    Is this just a way for you to get some action?

  • Oh look, it’s already November 20

    Kurtz: “CAUTION: Blowhards At Work.”

    He says, without even a hint of irony.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    Here is another perspective in case anyone is interested. Some of us grew up being reminded that Puritans partied with the native Americans at “the first Thanksgiving,” and generally got along quite well with them. People like Nathaniel Hawthorne and Thaddeus Russell, who described the bleaker side of race relations in America, weren’t writing totally renegade history—they just might not have been writing the whole truth.

    Disclaimer: I do comment on book reviews I’ve read, about books I haven’t.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/irene-athena/ Irene Athena

    And to Mr. Cuppa Melaleuca up there and his “quite pathetic that some still bang on so long and loud about liberty, equality and freedom for all when the truth of the matter is, the nation was founded on one of history’s more gross lies.”

    Benjamin Rush, who was a signatory of the American Declaration of Independence, was one of the early American abolitionists, publishing a pamphlet entitled: “An Address to the Inhabitants of the British Settlements in America, upon Slave-Keeping.” The birth of the nation was accompanied by hot debates among the founders on slavery. There were free states from the very beginning of the US, and by 1804, slavery had officially ended in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Vermont, with six of those states having officially abolished slavery by 1784. That’s just a little under half of the original colonies.

    Still tons of work to do after 1804 in the US, and after 1806 in the UK, of course, but there was also tons of work being done before that as well.