The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Essie Mae: my very first personal attack!

Moseying over to Backcountry Conservative - who has a collection of links to various pieces on the matter from the grownup media and blogosphere, I find that, amongst others, I have been criticised in a piece on Blogcritics, under the head
Bigots defend Thurmond, dis' daughter

After referring to a piece at Dean Esmay's which I noted on December 17, the writer goes on:
John Smith at Lincoln Plawg genuflects to Esmay and goes on to prove himself an insensitive and ignorant clod.

Insensitive? Moi? The notion that adults have some kind of right not to be offended by what they read and hear I find, as a general principle, utterly loathsome, as regular readers will be aware: its purpose is to chill speech, and there's quite enough of that going on worldwide.

There's then a quote of the bit of the December 17 piece that's unimpressed by an intervention by Andrew Sullivan on the subject, followed by the comparator I offered of a wealthy Northern young man getting a white maid pregnant in 1925.

After which the floodgates open:
Have you ever? Short of a brain and heart transplant, Smith is hopeless.

[One might comment that the idiom is either Did you ever? or Have you ever heard the like? But that would be a trifle heartless, perhaps.]

It goes on
Still, I will answer some of his foolishness, the 'Nawthunners do it, too' evasion Southern bigots often use to evade responsibility for their actions.

[Ridiculing one's opponents' speech patterns is a trifle hopeless itself, surely? Not to mention, bigoted. Heigh ho...]

And suggests that
Thurmond was responsible for the stifling of millions of African-American lives and helped create the climate in which some were killed. But for his actions in the 1940s, it would not have taken until the 1960s for civil rights legislation to pass.

Those are very big claims for which no evidence is adduced.

How, exactly, was Thurmond
responsible for the stifling of millions of African-American lives
for instance? He didn't invent the system of Jim Crow - which was well on the way towards being perfected when he was born in 1902.

And what
actions in the 1940s
might have held up the passage of civil rights legislation?

If the writer is referring to his abortive Presidential campaign, I'd suggest that that was symptomatic of a sharpening in racial feeling amongst Southern whites, rather than much of a cause of it. Thurmond only won four Confederate states, after all (AL, LA, MS, SC); in six more (AR, FL, NC, TN, TX, VA), he ran behind that carpetbagger Dewey [1]!

I'm lacking the information to make any definite statement on the point: but my hypothesis, based on what I do have, is that Strom's presidential bid was viewed unfavourably amongst Southern Democrats generally, as being good only for demonstrating Southern un-regularity and signalling to the GOP that the Al Smith bolt in 1928 was not necessarily a one-off; and that, whatever his standing as a leader in the Democratic party before 1948 [2], it was pretty much trashed after it.

As I mentioned on December 14, the good people of the Palmetto State showed their gratitude for his 1948 actions by defeating him in the US Senate primary in 1950.

Insofar as there was a political leadership of the South, it was, I suspect, to be found in Congress, particularly in the Senate. Strom's continuous term there only started on November 7 1956.

(The most notable achievement attributed to Thurmond in his early years in and out of the Senate is the Southern Manifesto of March 12 1956 - the South's reply to the Brown schools segregation case and its feared sequelae. The Keith Finley thesis (p4ff of Chapter 4) shows Thurmond as a force for hardening up, rather than toning down, the Manifesto; but, as a very junior freshman, his voice is only one of several - many much more senior - that shaped the text.

My impression from the thesis, and also from my recollections of Robert Caro's Master of the Senate, is that Thurmond was not high in the leadership of the Southern Caucus in his early years, at least: his 24 hour filibuster against the Civil Rights Bill on August 28/29 1957, which casual observers might have thought would have been lauded as a second Pickett's Charge, succeeded mostly in getting up the noses of his colleagues:
...Thurmond's actions produced some criticism against other Southern senators from their southern constituents who questioned their decision not to join the South Carolinian.

There's no pleasing some people...)

So, Thurmond's leadership of Jim Crow forces seems, on the evidence I have, mythical.

There's not much more of the Blogcritics screed:
The impregnation of, let's say, an Irish maid in Boston, would not be remotely equivalent because there is no similar history of slavery, segregation and continuing discrimination for a politician to have built his career on. This a no-brainer, in my opinion.

Surely a no-brainer is a question not open to differing opinions!

The comparison was precisely that: a means of bringing out differences, of testing how Jim Crow-specific the complaint really was - in particular, from the point of view of the mother.

And finally:
I suppose, Smith, a Brit, might use his nationality as an excuse. But, he states this nonsense authoritatively, as if he knows what he is talking about. He doesn't.

Anyone who takes as fact anything he reads here on the strength of the brand-name wants his head examining! I assume - the main reason for the links and references included in the pieces - that those interested will want to check the material here for themselves. Isn't that part of the fun? And if it's not fun, why bother reading?

Only this year, we have the example of the New York Times - an infinitely more authoritative brand than this - to prove the point that only suckers take what they read on trust, no matter what the source.

Which is not to say that I don't strive to eliminate error and ground opinion in fact. But if the Gray Lady with all her editors can screw up so right royally and so often - goodnight Katharine Sergava, wherever you are! - this humble blogger is lucky to do as well as he does.

  1. In Georgia, he got 20.3% of the votes as against Dewey's 18.3%.

  2. He rates one mention in John Gunther's 1947 Inside USA (p726) - a distinct liberal - with no indication of any national profile at all. The page also reminds us that, in 1944, Senator Harry Byrd (D-VA) had been a candidate for the presidential nomination. He got 89 votes in the Convention (p708) - and Gunther calls him
    the obvious hero and candidate of the Bourbon South

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