Today’s History Lesson: Nope, pulling statues down is not ‘Stalinist’

In the continuing exercise of those adjacent to the Alt-Right trying to simply not see what the Alt-Right are, may I present Sarah Hoyt, titular leader of Sad Puppies 5 https://accordingtohoyt.com/2017/08/14/fools-to-the-left-of-me-clowns-to-the-right/

There is far too much there that is wrong and wrong-headed and just plain enabling of authoritarianism to document. However, I’ll pick on one snippet:

“This idiotic changing of names, removing of statues and erasing people from history is NOT the work of a free society. It is wholly Stalinist and is letting the rest of the world know you by your fruits as it were. “

stalin_budapest_1956_1

An addiction to shallow thinking leads one into absurdities. In this case Hoyt’s truism implies that opposing Stalinism is Stalinism.

The photo is from this site: http://rarehistoricalphotos.com/stalin-monument-budapest-1956/ and was taken in 1956 during the short lived Hungarian October Revolution.

No, tearing down monuments is not ‘Stalinist’ in itself – that is an absurd claim. What Hoyt is trying to grasp at is Stalin’s frequent attempts to rewrite hsitory. The people campaigning to pull down Confederate monuments do not want to erase the Confederacy *from history* quite the opposite – they want people to remember the US Civil War and who fought in it AND WHY. Precisely because HISTORY matters and understanding the fault lines and ingrained inequalities in the US is impossible without knowing about the history of slavery and racism in America – a history that is particular to America in its details but not unique to America in its impact.

36 thoughts on “Today’s History Lesson: Nope, pulling statues down is not ‘Stalinist’

  1. OMG, she’s back to hallucinating Stalin everywhere. Reds under the bed!

    Funny how these types were so excited about pulling down Saddam’s statue, innit?

    The statues were the things erasing history — putting a noble face on treason and ownership of other human beings. The humans who actually were erased from history by these monuments. (Many of which went up only during the Civil Rights Movement).

    NPR says many towns are just quietly taking theirs down. One in Florida (the batshit capitol of the nation) was removed with absolutely no fuss whatsoever. Workmen took it down and hauled it off to a private cemetery.

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  2. Her comments here and others like them reflect a poor understanding of both the discipline and practice of history, and the sweep of actual historical events itself. It’s sad and worrisome that an adult would have such a weak grasp of facts and the inability to think of the logical extension of one’s position. Does she think things can’t or shouldn’t ever be renamed or restructured to reflect evolving conditions? For example, Bill Clinton changed the name of Washington National Airport to Ronald Reagan National Airport, and Houston’s city council did same thing with its Intercontinental Airport (now George Bush Intercontinental). The Berlin Wall was torn town as an important physical and symbolic gesture that reflected the evolving state of things at the end of the Cold War. The maps of the 19th centuries are littered with countries being formed, deformed, reformed, unformed — all with new names and borders. Any kid who had a stamp collection knows that (speaking as one herself 🙂 ). And things get removed all the time — heck, there was an entire Cherokee Removal. History is not static. As Faulkner famously said “the past is not even dead, it’s not even past.”

    History is founded on a skeleton of documented, factual events, but it is the interpretive flesh that gives history its beauty and meaning and perpetual power as contested terrain. Naturally, the meaning of historical events can be debated and interpretations change over time with new methodologies and in response to evolving social, political and technological concerns. History is not a statue. History is the environment acting on the statue. Change over time. Cause and effect. Real people and an honest effort to be aware of nuance and context.

    Which reminds me that I had elsewhere forgotten to say that the overwhelming historical message I took away from the film Dunkirk (even allowing for the long run-up production time for a film of that scale and cost) — is that no one is coming to save us. We have to save ourselves. The heroes of that film were the fisherman and pleasure-yachtsmen regular folk who said “F*ck it, I’ll do it. I’m going in” when the authorities would or could not. That’s the message it had for our 21st-century, super-sh!tty authoritarian patrician corrupt Trompian era. No one is coming to save us, we have to save ourselves. But also that, in the end, decency and love prevails. The other thing I liked about that film was that it was a war story that did not emphasize the glory of war (band of brothers, martyrdom, good vs evil etc). The violence and suffering ultimately had no real point and things went back to how they were in the beginning.

    Sorry for the verbosity. I’m trying to break myself of the habit of commenting so often. This is a subject that matters to me and I’ve really been thinking a lot about it lately.

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    1. I see comments in a long line of comments that cleary shows, that she does not know what “Marxism” or “Stalism” is, just that its “bad”.
      TBS: Her current comments are an actual kick in the groin to those people who fought oppression in the former Eastern Bloc states.

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  3. I am at least encouraged that several more cities have announced plans to remove Confederate statues in the wake of Charlottesville. It appears that Nashville (I’m a Tennessean) may finally get rid of the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust currently located in our State Capitol; there was a big protest about it yesterday, and even our Republican governor has announced that he’s in favor of removing it. And both Lexington and Louisville have announced plans to remove statues.

    It looks like this protest may end up backfiring on the alt-right in a big way.

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      1. And naturally they will continue to insist they are winning as they swirl down the drain. Witness the pups’ continued blathering about supposedly destroying the Hugos and so on, despite the fact that the number of Hugo voters nearly doubled between 2013 and 2017.

        They are nearly immune to facts and reality.

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      2. Contrarius: And naturally they will continue to insist they are winning as they swirl down the drain. Witness the pups’ continued blathering about supposedly destroying the Hugos and so on, despite the fact that the number of Hugo voters nearly doubled between 2013 and 2017.

        But, but, but… you are forgetting that the Puppies are responsible for doubling the number of voters! So really they are the saviors of the Hugo Awards, which would have been completely defunct by now without all the members they recruited!!! 😀

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      3. Some of them seem to be cottoning to the fact that It’s Not Going Well. Beale is sublimely declaring that he naturally had nothing to do with this. Despite having been an early promoter. And some people are bitter about that…

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  4. Every state is allowed to send two statues to the National Statuary Collection in Washington DC. Virginia’s two are of George Washington and Robert E. Lee. I’ve started sending messages to the governor of Virginia asking why Lee is one of the two people chosen by Virginia for this honor. This is the state that gave the U.S. Thomas Jefferson, George Mason, James Madison, George H. Thomas, Patrick Henry, James Monroe, and a myriad of other people who weren’t traitors to the Republic, but Lee is the one the state honors. This needs to change.

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    1. The worst part is Lee is greatly overrated as a general and bears a great deal of blame for the Confederacy’s rather dismal military record. (And yes, despite what people constantly say and hear, it was dismal.) So they aren’t just memorializing a traitor–they’re memorializing a traitor who wasn’t that good at it.

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    2. Look, it they insist on honoring people who participated in slavery, get Jefferson in there instead of Lee.
      Patrick Henry would be more awesome, though.

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      1. @Lurkertype

        They are already coming for Jefferson. Local Democrat organizations used to sponsor a Jefferson/Jackson Day dinners as annual fund raisers. They have begun renaming them to remove the association with Jefferson and Jackson.

        In some other spot, there is a group that wants to pull Theodore Roosevelt’s name off of some public building for his racial insensitivity.

        Regards,
        Dann

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      2. And golly how dare the modern Democratic party drop the names of its horrific founder and the problematic founder of the party that preceded it from a party dinner. It’s like they’re suggesting times have changed.

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  5. This is exactly why ATBITS edged its way into first place on my ballot. The underlying theme of listening to people that are different is important.

    Ms. Hoyt’s essay may not be an unassailable pillar of rhetoric. But she has a couple valid points. (In particular, the heavy Stalinist influence in the Antifa movement ought to be a cause for concern for any civilized person.)

    Instead of blithely dismissing her, it might be better to engage her to either identify some common ground or to at least better understand her perspective.

    YMMV as always.

    Regards,
    Dann

    P.S. I meant to post something about this the other day, Camestros. Apparently, you and I are best friends….or close friends…or something. It was meant to be critical, but it gave me a chuckle knowing that we have quite a few areas where we disagree. I guess I was insufficiently enthusiastic during their 2 minutes of hate or something.

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      1. Agreed. If they have any politics other than “let’s mess shit up”, it’s strictly anarchist. Not at all Stalinist (who by golly believed in a strong central state and a cult of personality… hmm… who does that sound like?), nor even Leninist, Marxist, Maoist, Communist, or Socialist.

        Just anarchists.

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      2. The one Stalinist Antifa group I’ve seen (Austin Antifa) is almost self-parody. Same goes for the Portland Maoist Group, a failed joke of an anti-fascist group. Most Antifa and Antifa-sympathetic people I know are either anarchists or Marxists of some sort, but not so much Stalinists.

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      3. If you want to attack antifa for being short-sighted assholes who mostly punch things, make the situation worse and pretend that they’re helping, you might have a case. Declaring them any sort of structured serious threat is ‘whatabout’ism at its worst.

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    1. Instead of blithely dismissing her, it might be better to engage her to either identify some common ground or to at least better understand her perspective.

      Hoyt’s post, like all of her online writing, is meaningless gibberish. There is no reason to ever bother engaging her.

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    2. For me to have common ground with Hoyt, she’d first need to admit that the ground to her left is there and not a pit of death and despair full of demons. It’s extremely difficult to have a meaningful conversation with someone who would scream and run in terror from her own shadow if the sun was on her right.

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  6. The thing about the various Confederate memorials that the Nazis are hyperventilating about is that they are essentially entirely devoid of historic value. Most of these monuments were erected either in the 1910s and 1920s or in the 1950s and 1960s. In most cases, they were created specifically to support the “Lost Cause” revisionist history and prop up the idea of Jim Crow. The later bunch were built to hearten those who were opposed to the civil rights movement. The Lee statue in Charlottesville that the Nazis used as a pretext for their rally was built in 1924 to coincide with the passage of Virginia’s “one drop” racial classification law.

    These memorials aren’t about honoring Civil War veterans or illuminating history. They are about propaganda and distorting or obscuring history. Look at Kentucky, for example: In Kentucky there are 3 memorials to Union soldiers from the state who fought in the war and 58 memorials for Confederate soldiers. Kentucky never seceded, never left the Union, and never joined the Confederacy. Kentucky did implement Jim Crow laws and segregation, and erection of most of the Kentucky Confederate memorials coincide with those events.

    If the memorials were about history, there would be a Virginia memorial to George H. Thomas, an officer from the state who stayed true to his oath and fought for the Union, becoming the Rock of Chickamauga. There is no such memorial. If the memorials were about history, there would be monuments in states like Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee commemorating the men from those states who served honorably in the Union army. There are no such memorials. There are dozens of pro-Confederate memorials in West Virginia, a state that only exists because it broke away from Virginia in order to avoid becoming part of the Confederacy. There are only a handful of pro-Union memorials in the state.

    But not only do these statues not have any real historic or artistic value, many of them are cheap junk. Putting up literally hundreds of memorials over the space of a couple of decades is expensive, and those putting these statues up often went for the cheap option. Many of the memorials have mass-produced statues that were made of very thin bronze or even a cheaper metal with a patina of bronze covering it. If a courthouse or a town hall in the South has a Confederate memorial in front of it, there is a good chance that there are dozens of identical statues to be found in front of other courthouses or town halls.

    The people saying “put them in museums” generally don’t realize that because these statues are cheaply made historic nonentities, no museum would take them. Museums curate their collections to ensure that they are using their valuable space to preserve and display items of historic significance that add to our understanding of the past. The vast majority of Confederate memorial statues simply fail that test.

    They are historically and artistically insignificant, and in many cases actually detract from an understanding of history, and are often shoddily made crap that might not even be worth melting down for scrap. There is no reason for keeping them that isn’t rooted in racism.

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      1. That statue is less than a mile from my parents’ house. I see it every time I go visit!

        It can’t be removed because it’s on private property, unfortunately!

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      2. And it’s HUGE. And it’s right by an interstate, with clear view from the highway. And it’s surrounded by something like 13 Confederate flags. Sigh.

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      3. If I remember correctly, that is Nathan Bedford Forrest, Confederate general and founder of the KKK. No one can say that isn’t a monument to racism with a straight face.

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      4. Yes, that’s Forrest. There’s a slight twist in condemning him as racist, however, as in later years he publicly repudiated both the KKK and racism. OTOH, there’s some debate about how sincere his repudiation was, so….

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  7. it’s certainly been entertaining to see what stupid hills people are willing to die on in their drive to justify these celebrations of slavery.

    i saw some decrying the announcement that New York would be removing a plaque commemorating Philippe Pétain, which has somehow survived that whole collaborating with the Nazis thing. “actually, i think you’ll find that more or less every major figure in our country was a racist, slave-owning white supremacist” is a stunningly bold argument too.

    (it certainly says a lot about our culture that this is such a depressingly ubiquitous tendency among our great thinkers and public figures…)

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