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Friday, May 16, 2003  

How to be a bad blogger

Since becoming a blogger, I have learned to be more mellow than I sometimes was as a commenter and contributor. That is because I want to provide as little fodder as possible for people who want to misinterpret what I say for their own purposes. However, sometimes I come across entries on other blogs so ludicrous that I have no choice but to call them ludicrous.

Victor, who is good at leading me to interesting blog entries, found this one, too. The blogger, Dustin, is part of the trio at The Legal Guy, a blog whose stated purpose is to explain legal issues to laypersons.

Who Gets to Decide What the Confederate Battle Flag Signifies?

In other contexts, the answers seem somewhat easier. For example, if we wanted to know what the Catholic church believed or what it stood for we would ask the Church itself. We would not ask an athiest or a Baptist, although they could and might give a correct answer, but we generally assume that an organization itself best can describe its mission.

This assumption leads to crediting the Sons of Confederate Veterans' interpretation of the Confederate Battle Flag's symbolism over the NAACP's. [Emphasis mine.] This assumption further allows for change within an organization, maybe the Confederate Battle Flag once represented slavery but now has taken on a new meaning (southern heritage?) and thus shouldn't be denounced based on its past. Case in point, the Mormon church used to practice polygamy, for which it got reprimanded by Congress (and the Supreme Court). The Mormons then changed their policies to completely disallow polygamy and have remained such since roughly the turn of the century. Should the Mormons still be considered polygamists or should they be able to change one of the symbols of their organization? Again, this favors allowing an organization to define its own symbols.

I wish Dustin wasn't a law school graduate because he makes some serious blunders here. A clever freshlaw would handle the topic better. First, let's dispense with the Mormoms. Polygamy was and is an activity, not a symbol so there is no reason to compare it to displaying the Confederate flag. One doesn't display polygamy, one participates in it.

Nor is the issue whether the NAACP's perspective in regard to the Confederate flag should be adopted as 'the truth,' though it is quite accurate. What a reasonable person would want to know is what the flag means from an objective as possible perspective.

Another objectional aspect of Dustin's treatment of the Confederate flag issue is he engages in poor, surprisingly labor free, analysis. My response in the comments on his blog explains how and why.

This is ludicrous. If you were discussing a topic other than racism, you would do what I or in any other person with a legal education would: look at the legislative history of the issue. That has been done thoroughly, even exhaustively, and is not at all hard to find on the Internet. In addition, the cultural history of the times when some Southern states adopted the Confederate symbol is also well-known and oft published. They did so during the 1950s and 1960s to show their opposition to racial integration. The 'just about heritage' pretext of the racist Sons of Confederate Veterans is so flimsy anyone who examines the matter should see right through it. My conclusion is that you must be either an apologist for the SCV and what it stands for or too lazy to blog.

As you may know, I sharpened by blog teeth on the neo-Confederates and their antics. There has been no shortage of coverage in the media, mainstream and advocacy, or in the blogosphere about the topic. Atrios and Josh Marshall are among the Higher Beings who have the neo-Confederate on their beats. Orcinus and Silver Rights are on those Rebels like white on rice. Yet, somehow, all of this has escaped Dustin. Apparently, it did not even cross his mind to look and see what other bloggers had said about the topic.

There is some indication he means his entry as an attack on the NAACP, as much as a bear hug for the SCV.

The thing with symbols is that they can take on whatever meaning we ascribe to them. Even if the South created an initially meaningless symbol for a flag (say, a blade of grass), groups who dislike the South could immediately barrage the airways with their interpretation of the symbol, which could brand it in the eyes of those of us who had not decided what it symbolized. If we had a policy of getting rid of things that offend certain groups (as is politically correct), and if groups outside an organization or a symbol can define what that organization or symbol signifies, then we are essentially giving groups veto votes, regardless of the veracity of their claims. This doesn't seem like a good outcome either.

Notice how the above passage casts the NAACP, African-Americans, and others who oppose continuing the use of the Confederate emblem, as villians attacking the South. Hello? How can Dustin be unaware that most of the people who oppose the display of the symbol on the state flag or atop the capitol building in a given state are just as much Southerners as the SCV? Or that the state's flag and buildings are as much theirs as neo-Confederates'? This 'reasoning' defies common sense.

Then there is the matter of Justin's ignorance regarding the SCV. Any question about where the group is coming from was answered when the secessionist and segregationist League of the South took it over, about two years ago. Southern papers have chronicled the takeover and some national media have picked the stories up. In addition, the process has often led to litigation, including cases about the SCV forcing out non-segregationist leaders and dual members of the LofS and the SCV trying to take over Southern churches and convert them to their purposes. One leading neo-Confederate, neo-Nazi sympathizer Kirk Lyons, has even been linked to terrorism.

Former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes, who was driven from office by neo-Confederates because he repudiated the Confederate flag, tells Justin and anyone else not convinced of who is right about the issue what most needs to be known.

“The debate you hear in the South today is not about whether segregation is right, or whether African-Americans should vote. That would be impolite. No, the discussion across the South—from South Carolina to Mississippi to Georgia—is whether the Confederate battle flag, the St. Andrew’s cross, is the only acceptable symbol to honor an era when our ancestors fought with valor—even though they fought for a cause that was wrong. “It was wrong to rebel against the United States. It was wrong to defend the horrible institution of slavery. It was wrong to take up arms, brother against brother, to solve our differences as Americans.

Don’t misunderstand me. I believe we have a right, and even a duty, to honor our ancestors who made the ultimate sacrifice. But we don’t really honor them by flaunting a symbol that inflames and injures. That doesn’t honor their valor—it perpetuates their tragic mistake."

Well said by a son of the South.

I firmly believe a person who apparently knows so little about the neo-Confederate movement as The Legal Guy should not be writing about an issue inextricably linked to it. (If Dustin is a neo-Confederate sympathizer, and therefore ignoring the facts about the movement, he should have said so in his entry.) It is reprehensible that this entry appeared on a blog that claims it is explaining legal issues to laypersons. Dustin's reportage, rife with misinformation and disinformation, does no such thing.

Note: There's another entry on how to be a bad blogger, with another fellow in the leading role, at Silver Rights.

1:52 AM