January 19, 2008
noose that's fit to print?
I'm getting tired of what can only be called noose hysteria. I think reactions to images of nooses are leading people to lose all sense of perspective, and allow themselves to be manipulated by what is, after all, only an image. I've complained about "imageism" before, and I think that's precisely what is going on here. It's profoundly illogical, and makes about as much sense as punishing children for drawing stick figures with guns. What's next?
Suspending children for playing "HANGMAN" in school?
(Maybe I shouldn't give educrats any ideas. Fortunately, they don't read libertarianish blogs, so I need not worry.)
A recent example of noose hysteria is the uproar over the cover of Golfweek Magazine:
The editor of Golfweek magazine said he was overwhelmed by negative reaction to the photo of a noose on the cover of this week's issue, illustrating a story about the suspension of a Golf Channel anchor for using the word "lynch" in an on-air discussion about how to beat Tiger Woods.The mere image of a noose is outrageous and irresponsible? Even when the picture was trying to illustrate a story?
It doesn't matter what the reason is. Depiction is the offense, and the policy is one of zero tolerance.
That's because in the argument which seems to be emerging (according to Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center), the noose has replaced the burning cross as a symbol of racial intimidation:
Potok says the noose, which is seen as an icon of racially-based lynching, has replaced the burning cross as the dominant symbol of racial intimidation in the nation.Even the ACLU seems to be getting reeducated:
Cynthia Boersma, the legislative director of ACLU, compared hanging a noose to terrorism.I'm 100% with the Marine.
Perhaps it's a sign of my age, but I vividly remember when the ACLU defended the right of uniformed Nazis to march in Skokie, Illinois, a community largely populated by elderly Jews (many of whom had survived the Holocaust). I see a serious free speech issue involved here, and not a whole lot of people daring to speak up. It's one thing to specifically target and harass someone, but the idea of a image alone being harassment just strikes me as ridiculous.
If a noose image is harassment, then why not handcuffs? Pistol targets? The latter is a good example, actually; if someone posted a target on someone's door, that could well be a threat of some sort which should be investigated as harassment. But the point is not the target as an image; it's what is being done with it. If an image itself is considered to be harassment of a group of people then why is image of the swastika or the hammer and sickle not banned? Because we have a thing called the First Amendment. This allows us to put toothbrush mustaches on Bush, and swastikas of hammers and sickles on covers of magazines. So why the sudden upheaval over a piece of rope tied in a particular knot?
And I do mean sudden. It is only quite recently that I have seen the noose transformed into a specific symbol of lynching directed only against blacks. True, it was always a dark and morbid symbol, because it meant hanging, gallows, capitol punishment. Yes, it certainly conjured up images of lynching, but even that was never a phenomenon exclusively targeting black people -- especially during the pre-Reconstruction era. Some statistics:
....According to the Tuskegee Institute figures, between the years 1882 and 1951, 4,730 people were lynched in the United States: 3,437 Negro and 1,293 white.3 The largest number of lynchings occurred in 1892. Of the 230 persons lynched that year, 161 were Negroes and sixty-nine whites.What I find most annoying about the current lynching meme is the way it fits in with rhetorical campaign to label racism as "right wing" and thus "Republican."
I kid you not. The Republican Party is described in posts like this as the "Party of Lynching."
What is being forgotten is history. One of the founding goals of the Ku Klux Klan was literally to terrorize Republicans. It worked too!
Most Klan action was designed to intimidate black voters and white supporters of the Republican Party. Klansmen might parade on horseback at night dressed in outlandish costumes, or they might threaten specific Republican leaders with violence. Increasingly during 1868 these actions became violent, ranging from whippings of black women perceived as insolent to the assassination of Republican leaders. It is impossible to untangle local vigilante violence from political terrorism by the organized Klan, but it is clear that attacks on blacks became common during 1868. Freedmen's Bureau agents reported 336 cases of murder or assault with intent to kill on freedmen across the state from January 1 through November 15 of 1868.I don't know whether anyone has looked into the voter registration of lynching victims (black and white) in the South, but common sense would suggest that to the extent they were registered to vote, Republican lynching victims would have outnumbered Democrats.
Moreover, the vast majority of lynching perpetrators (as well as defenders of the practice) were Southern whites whose voting registration would have been overwhelmingly Democratic.
Lest anyone think that only Southern Democrats were soft on lynching, here's a historical tidbit that might surprise many: a Democratic president still hailed as a hero today actually opposed anti-lynching legislation:
Robert F. Wagner and Edward Costigan agreed to draft an anti-lynching bill. The legislation proposed federal trials for any law enforcement officers who failed to exercise their responsibilities during a lynching incident.What is often forgotten is that the worst aspects of racism in our history were associated not with Republicans, but with Democrats. From Eric Foner's A Short History of Reconstruction.
In effect, the Klan was a military force serving the interests of the Democratic party, the planter class, and all those who desired the restoration of white supremacy. It aimed to destroy the Republican party's infrastructure, undermine the Reconstruction state, reestablish control of the black labor force, and restore racial subordination in every aspect of Southern life.The book details the killings of Republicans by Democrats.
The historical connections between the Democratic Party and the Klan were by no means limited to the Reconstruction period. As recently as 1924, the Democratic National Convention was so full of Klan sympathizers that it was referred to as the "Klanbake convention":
the 1924 election indicates the extent to which the Klan was entangled with the progressives. For that was the year of the Democrats' infamous "klanbake" convention, when Klansmen participated heavily as delegates and blocked a platform plank that would have condemned their order. They also entered the presidential race, mostly to oppose the candidacy of Al Smith, who as an anti-prohibitionist and a Catholic was anathema to the group, but also to back a candidate of their own. There was a southern conservative in the race, Sen. Oscar Underwood of Alabama, but he was a critic of the Klan. Instead they endorsed the Californian William McAdoo, son-in-law to the late President Wilson. The convention was deadlocked, and the Democrats wound up picking a compromise candidate, John Davis, whose other claim to fame would be to argue the segregationist side in Brown v. Board of Education three decades later.I realize that lynchings and close Democratic Party ties to the Klan are all in the past, but today's game of "noose association" is of recent origin, and calling the GOP the "Party of Lynching" is a typical example.
Recently David Neiwert wrote a whale of a piece titled "Jonah and the Klan." (My apologies for any unwanted appearance of an insinuating nature...) As part of a very determined effort to attack Goldberg's bestseller "Liberal Fascism," Neiwert takes Goldberg to task for neglecting to mention Jewish Klan lynching victim Leo Frank and for failing to call the Klan right wing:
...just as [Goldberg] has managed to trivialize a genuinely destructive and monstrous ideology such as fascism, so does he whitewash and minimize the horrendously poisonous history of real American fascists like the Ku Klux Klan. Indeed, it seems as if Goldberg is almost poised to declare the Klan "liberal" or yet another "progressive" offspring; but surely even that must give a pseudo-thinker like Goldberg pause. If the Klan is just another "phenomenon of the Left," then the word no longer has any meaning.I don't mean to pick nits with someone who knows more about the Klan than I do, but since we're complaining about omissions here, why didn't Neiwert mention Woodrow Wilson and the important role he played in encouraging the rebirth of the Klan?
Wilson's sympathies for the Klan were so well known that they made it into Birth of a Nation (the major silent film of its day, which did much for the rise of the Klan). From the Wiki Entry:
The Birth of a Nation includes extensive quotations from Woodrow Wilson's History of the American People, for example, "The white men were roused by a mere instinct of self-preservation ... until at last there had sprung into existence a great Ku Klux Klan, a veritable empire of the South, to protect the Southern country." Wilson, on seeing the film in a special White House screening on February 18, 1915, exclaimed, "It is like writing history with lightning, and my only regret is that it is all so terribly true."And here's how the quote looked in the film:
The recruiting power of a statement like that from the president of the United States cannot be underestimated. (And how about Hollywood? Any responsibility there?) The revived Klan grew by leaps and bounds. Neiwert calls the Klan a form of American fascism, and I'm inclined to agree with that. But it's hardly fair to call it Republican fascism, and I think overall, Goldberg's point is well taken, even if he didn't mention one of the Klan's famous white victims.
But what about the image of the noose?
Are ordinary nooses and gallows humor no longer allowed? Even if in a non-racial context?
I'm wondering what the current status would be of images like the following:
From The Ox-Bow Incident, a book on my 7th grade summer reading list and the subject of the famous film starring Henry Fonda:
From the film "Goin South" starring Jack Nicholson:
In Placerville, California a hanging man recalls the town's historic name of "Hangtown"
A local group features this noose on their patch:
Should it be banned as "racially insensitive"? Why?
Apparently, you can even get your pennies flattened there too!
"Hangtown California" At one time, Placerville was called "Hangtown." On the main street, there's still a gallows with a dummy hanging from it. It's nice.
How can the image of a noose ever be nice????
Maybe the "HANGMAN" game should be banned. I mean, we can't have children thinking about images like this, can we?
And for sickos who really want to make, um, "light" of this whole issue, there's even a Hanging Harry Light pull!
People forget that a noose can be used for good or bad purposes. Used legally, nooses have executed some very evil people. The Nazis tried and condemned at Nuremburg were (with the exception of Goering, who committed suicide) executed by hanging, and the nooses were left on their necks for the world to see.
Here's Arthur Seyss-Inquart
And Julius Streicher:
And who could forget this image of Saddam Hussein?
Well, I suppose it could be argued the evil Bush was ultimately the force behind that hanging, that Saddam Hussein had "brown skin" and was the legitimate ruler of Iraq, so this was in fact a Republican racist lynching. If so, I'll just have to face my complicity in the crime, as I think Saddam Hussein's execution was overall a good thing.
There's an interesting history of hanging here, and I think it is worth noting parenthetically that the purpose of the long knot is to break the neck of the condemned to cause death as quickly as possible. Many lynching victims were simply strung up by haphazardly knotted ropes and strangled while alive, so the hangman's noose is not even a 100% accurate depiction of the Klan's terror lynchings. Few people alive today have ever seen an actual lynching, and the image is largely a media-fueled one, driven on by popular hysteria.
What about the noose as a form of satire or political protest? Let's return to Goldberg's book. As Glenn Reynolds noted yesterday, leftist attacks on it like Neiwert's did a lot to catapult it to #1 on Amazon:
JONAH GOLDBERG IS CURRENTLY #1 on Amazon. I hope he sends a nice thank-you note to all the lefty bloggers who have been savaging him. I don't think he could have done it without them!
Whether Goldberg has thanked Neiwert, I do not know. However, I think the way they've been treating the book resembles a sort of left-wing lynch mob. (Well, maybe just a pseudo lynch mob. For now!)
They don't like Liberal Fascism, so they are lynching it. (Today Glenn links this report indicating that the booksellers may be in sympathy with the mob and engaging in an eliminationist strategy. If they are, shame on them! But their loss is Amazon's gain.)
Anyway, while Neiwert and the gang may not agree with my spin on the image, I'm seeing a liberal noose!
Having a go at auto-asphyxiation, eh?
If that's too inflammatory, how about "nooses for peace"?
Why not nooses into peaces?
posted by Eric on 01.19.08 at 02:51 PM
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