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.