During family gatherings, one of my sons often retells the story of a long-ago visit to the Rice Museum in Georgetown, South Carolina, and an accompanying tour guide/docent’s  description of a couple of the displays. (Docent may be an overly grand title; the museum is tiny and its displays are, shall we say, homegrown).Georgetown was the rice capital of the world back in the 1700s, and as we viewed a painting of Black folks working in a rice field, she explained that one of the most egregious injustices of the Civil War was the fact that, when the slaves were freed, plantation owners weren’t compensated for the loss of their property.

In her view, if the government was going to deprive them of the use of their “property,” it had an obligation to reimburse them…

At the time–well over twenty years ago– it was all I could do to keep my son from delivering  some very non-genteel observations about the definition of property. The incident clearly made an impression on him, because every so often he still marvels at the culture that led this otherwise pleasant-seeming woman to view other human beings as the equivalent of cattle and their “appropriation” as tantamount to theft.

I thought about that incident when I read a Talking Points Memo report on a recent Fox “News” segment. Here’s the lede:

Today’s little Fox News gem was a segment on what a huge bummer it is to visit Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello these days, what with all the focus on slavery and what not at what was built as a slave plantation.

A bow-tied, bespectacled guest for the segment was billed hilariously in one chyron as a “recent Monticello visitor.” Turns out there’s a little more to the story.

The bow-tied visitor–one Jeffrey Tucker– complained that even Monticello hadn’t been protected from “this disease of wokeism.” It turned out that Tucker had some history of his own–and that history was illuminating.

One thing about the internet–once something is posted, it is there forever…(I hope that’s true of those deleted Secret Service texts. But I digress.)

A 20-year-old report by the Southern Poverty Law Center about the Neo-Confederate movement had identified Tucker as a founding member of something called the League of the South–a proudly racist organization. He denied being a founder, but he was listed on the League’s Web page as a “founding member,” and he has written for League publications. Furthermore, several League members have lectured at events held by Tucker’s Ludwig von Mises Institute.

As the story from Talking Points Memo concluded,

Tucker’s star turn on today’s Fox segment came just a few days after he served as a named source for a New York Post story headlined “Monticello is going woke — and trashing Thomas Jefferson’s legacy in the process.”

It’s usually a little more difficult to pinpoint the origins of the newest right wing hobbyhorse. Tucker’s presence makes this one easy.

On the right, “going woke” is a current, favorite slur. (A recent, contending meme floating around defines “woke” individuals as people “who didn’t sleep through science and history classes.”)

We all occupy informational and value bubbles. In my bubble, where conversations tend (mostly but admittedly not always) to be based on credible, verifiable evidence,  a recurring discussion revolves around the question “how can any sane person believe [fill in the blank].

It’s one thing to recognize the political lens through which MSNBC and CNN, among others, view events. It is exceedingly misleading to equate that perspective with the out and proud dishonesty of outlets like Fox and OAN. There is a significant difference between a point of view and the constant dissemination of intentional propaganda carefully crafted for, and aimed at, a constituency desperate to confirm belief in a patently false narrative.

Apparently, it would take something like cult deprogramming to dislodge the profoundly racist paradigms through which far too many Americans continue to view the world. We can only hope that most of the Americans who continue to embrace that worldview are elderly and will eventually die off–leaving Fox and its clones with a significantly smaller audience for their deliberate disinformation.

I’m a member of that older cohort, but I’m convinced it’s past time to turn the levers of government over to a younger generation. If my former students were representative, they were far more inclusive, far less credulous, and far more concerned with the common good than my cranky and curmudgeonly generation.


  1. I keep hoping that something can help before the older folks die. When I look at the Trump mob on Jan 6, they were NOT old people. Lots of young misinformed angry folks. Folks who feed on a steady diet of bull shit. Maybe, just maybe, the corporations will STOP FUNDING the bull shit. If the money goes away, so does the bull shit.

  2. Perspectives these days are pregnant with possibility of poetic punditry, if not a lame alliteration.

  3. “Perspective” is merely any and everyone’s personal point of view on any given situation. My perspective on Thomas Jefferson and other founding fathers is that their slave-holding was accepted at the time until it was no longer acceptable by the “woke” of that generation. Abolishionists raised their voices and the divisive era of this country began in earnest. Eunice Brewer-Trotter’s book, “Black in Indiana” gives a good picture of the history in this state in the early 1800s with our elected lawmakers passing laws against slavery while owning slaves and selling some, including freed slaves, into indentured servitude. My perspective of the entire state of Indiana is that it is a living museum of those days when our elected officials ruled by “do as I say, not as I do” politics. The term regarding blacks as being “a credit to their race” sickens me; people such as Rosa Parks, John Lewis, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and countless others who gave their lives to fighting for basic rights for everyone were a credit to humanity as are those who continue that fight today.

    My local Kroger is an excellent example of hiring practices based on ability rather than race; their employees are equally black and white as are their customers. Not so at my local CVS; it is rare to see a black employee working while the customers are black and white. I do know from a close contact that CVS formerly hired numerous illegal immigrants for their warehouse work. Shortly before Trump’s ICE Roundups began they were called together and fired en masse, effective immediately. I was only in the local Walgreens one time during the Pandemic, all white employees. Another friend took time out with other divinity students somewhere in new York state to march, sit-in, and be arrested at a southern Walgreens and jailed with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    When you think about it; all life is based on perspective and we chose the perspective we live by. When my kids were young and would come in from play to ask, “When do we eat, Mom?”; my answer was that it was about 10 minutes. They would ask “Is that a long time?”; my stock answer was “That depend on whether you are eating ice cream or an elephant is standing on your foot.” That elephant is has been standing on our foot too long to be endured any longer; it is past time to vote them out on November 8th.

  4. On a trip through Union County, SC last fall, I visited a museum similar to the one Prof Kennedy referenced. I was researching my Quaker roots and had discovered why the four families in my ancestral lineage had left SC for Knox County, Indiana.
    The Quakers held that slavery was an abomination and shortly after settling in SC, they began to see how it wasn’t going away.
    Indiana had just been granted statehood (1816) as a free state, so my relatives packed up and headed to a place where their views would be accepted and valued.
    Imagine my surprise when I heard the ‘docent’ claim how the Quakers left the state because they wouldn’t fight in the coming war- a mere 40 years in the future!

    I did not sleep through my US History classes, either.

  5. Once I believed spending a hitch in the US military would open up the eyes of young sheltered Americans. It certainly worked that way for me. My home town had 4000 residents. My first ship had 4300 sailors on it. I met and worked with people from around the world which in turn educated me to the fact they all want essentially the same thing, a better future for their offspring. Now with the extremist influence in the military I doubt if that would happen today.

  6. While I don’t want to whitewash our history, neither do I want to erase it. I can appreciate what Jefferson did, but abhor his ownership and treatment of human beings. These are not mutually exclusive. All people who have lived have done something they are not proud of, so why are we surprised when we discover that our heroes have clay feet? Maybe the Jack Nicholson character in “A Few Good Men” was right. Maybe we can’t handle the truth.

    BTW Indiana should send a thank you note to South Carolina for sending the Quakers. It gave us Jessamyn West.

  7. It is definitely not just elderly white people. Check out the national organization . Having their national “Action Summit” right now with guess who as the keynoter. The list of speakers is hairy scary. Here is a map of their chapters, all college kids

    Really know your enemy…this is a key and fast growing part of the MAGA Ecosystem.

  8. If you believe that “all young people” have been educated correctly and clamor with self-awareness, then you’re suffering from magical thinking. The hate mentality that breeds racism has been handed from one illiterate generation to another. I still see it in many white people in Indiana, so I can only imagine it is still very prevalent in the South.

    If you think about it in terms of ego formation, who else can the lower white class look down upon? What props up their fragile egos? They make excuses and love those who oppress them (the oligarchs), but at least they are not colored or Mexicans.

    How will that ever go away?

    Especially when you have oligarchs who will use that to manipulate those people?

  9. The scene at the “Action Summit” as reported in the Boston Globe this morning:

    Young attendees dressed in sparkly heels and candy-colored cowboy boots danced under laser lights to a DJ before the program began. Speakers were introduced with WWE-style videos, elaborate pyrotechnics and smoke displays. Throughout the venue, ring lights were placed strategically in front of logoed backdrops for flattering photo ops.

    “Entertaining ourselves to death” in a new light…

  10. Well, the key word in today’s blog is “sane”. Right wing ideologues have created a reality that only their confirmation bias actions can validate. They simply ignore the entire picture and look through the keyhole of their own hate, bigotry and ignorance. They revel in those things. From a societal perspective, I think that qualifies as INSANE. Heck, these morons can’t even use the transformation of a verb into a noun correctly.

  11. while i be 67,im all for the next gen to take the wheel. ive prodded,pushed,discussed,thought,and made physical attempts to face to face those who,dont know. saying dont know is a matter of subject and,a list of questions that get overshadowed by ones ear buds,rappin away. anyway,im amazed how minorities seem to have a better grasp at the situation over the general caucaision. living in NoDak is a walk down white painted streets and cafes,and, if you can call propaganda knowlege. recent conversation with the FNG,on a plant site had its rewards, hes from a southern tier,mid 20s,,clean cut and nice to know. best of all, he votes Bernie. though his family trumps away their lives. music,liesure and just being human is his main life style. most i encounter here relocated from elsewhere in this field. few seem to care about any political issue,and would rather ignore it.(most do not read and most rely on fox headlines over content. ) ,they still lean on the right. the so called libertarians/independants,run with the whos they feel is making their mind happy. the christian right and the NDRL are just giddy biden and his liberals got a kick in their ass from the courts. they are looking for more. id rather look away,but my fighting time just increased. im not walkin away from that fight, its best served face to face…Best wishes yall..

  12. “Perspective,” we each have our own, like our own parallax view of an object.
    Given the photo I saw, of the TPAS, that sad view, which included youngsters with a huge
    banner proclaiming, after all the evidence to the contrary, that DT won the election, I am
    not optimistic. These young folks will take their twisted perspective into their futures.

    Regarding museums: Thos. Jefferson a living, breathing, most probably farting, human living in his era,
    had just helped the young country we live in break from a monarchy, one that eventually became
    even more imperialistic than it was at the time. That he, and the other founders, could proclaim
    what they did, about “inalienable” rights, is amazing. (They may have been influenced by the
    pushback of the perspective of Native Americans witnessing the abuses of power in the Europe of
    the time-see “The Dawn of Everything, A New History of Humanity,” by David Wengrow, and David Graeber).
    When I have read the itineraries of tours of the South, and the stops at the “wondrous, and beautiful”
    old plantation buildings, I shudder at the recognition that these were built by slave labor! Building began
    in 1768, at Monticello, virtually 2 universes away from us…with vastly different perspectives.

  13. Some 30 years ago, I was doing a tour of a place in Natchez MS and one of the things that struck me at the time, was the tour guide, maybe 20 years old was convinced and made it sound like the Civil War had just happened and that the South was the aggrieved party. I remember the phrase “the war of Northern Aggression”.

    Because I still remember it, I know rubbed me the wrong way then, but it was not until recently that this person that did stay awake in science and history classes, but learned most of my American history in a Virginia (southern state) classroom, found out this whole myth had a name and purpose. It is the story of the southern lost cause. It is just that, a nice story. This propaganda is alive and well with many people and it has been used to manipulate people for more than 100 years.

    I am sure there are politicians and pundits fighting tooth and nail to keep people from being “woke” if it means that lies that have ben told for the last 100+ years might be exposed. Lying by omission is still lying, so ignoring parts of history because it is uncomfortable is still a lie.

  14. I’m glad to know about Jeffrey Tucker to help me ‘consider the source’ of his comments.

    I’ve been to Monticello 3 or 4 times, and consider it a monumental tribute to Thomas Jefferson’s innovations, his constant devotion to industry and self-improvement, his love of letters and the arts, his agricultural and horticultural research and achievements, his eye for architectural and functional design and creativity, his scientific discoveries, his constant inventions, his amazing attention to hospitality and cuisine, AND the more recent commitment of the Monticello historians to share much more about the slaves who contributed immensely to the beauty and productivity of that magnificent property. The newer attention to the many contributions of Jefferson’s slaves began years before the term ‘woke’ came into our national conversation.

    Jefferson never ceases to amaze me – his exceptional intellectual power and energy seemed never to rest. Despite his ownership of slaves, he put in writing a national commitment to independence and self-government – both were courageous and new concepts to colonists steeped in subjugation to a monarchy of hundreds of years. Yes, political compromises on language were made, but we forget today that independence and self-government were astounding concepts at that time which carried the immense risks of financial ruin and death for treason.

    If the Monticello historians deserve any complaints, it is that their focus on this amazing man’s industry and creativity were given less and less exposure and credit with each of my visits there, including in the years BEFORE attention was given to slaves’ contributions to Jefferson’s plantation successes.

    Like all of us, Jefferson had his failings, one of which was his ownership of slaves. I want to know more of that history, but I don’t want his many outstanding attributes and accomplishments to go unacknowledged in the process.

  15. I really dislike the tired meme of “if only old white men would get out of the way and let ‘….’ take over” – You want a Black man instead? How’s Clarence Thomas? His wife for your “woman”? I am certain I could find equally “interesting” choices among Latinos, LGBTQ, etc., and I have seen plenty of “young” people in the crowd at Trump rallies.

    Old white men? Some like Bernie, and some here like Chomsky – some like Biden and some like Wyden – Sherrod Brown is no spring chicken – all “old white men” – and If someone wanted to put me in the Senate, I’d be pretty good, and I am old — and look white.

    I have always hated the term “woke” as this smug, “I am with it and you aren’t if you don’t agree with me” kind of term — but — “who didn’t sleep through science and history classes” — now I’m having second thoughts, and as a “rational liberal”, I allow myself to be swayed by the evidence, or strong arguments.

  16. Nancy Chism posed the question “can we work on the advertisers”? which prompted me to search for websites that advertise on Fox News and more prominently on Hannity.

    I found the website

    which claims to have success against Steve Bannon and Glen Beck. I intend to look more closely at this avenue of engagement with Fox. Any suggestions on other websites which can target Fox News money sources?

  17. My white father worked for Civil Rights in the 1960s. His father-in-law was bigoted against blacks and Mexicans. I remember Dad saying things would improve “after that generation dies off.” He would be disheartened to learn we are still saying that, still with no results. “That generation” keeps teaching racism to its next generation. We have to try something else.

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