History Arguments as Distractions

Flaming and trolling are common vocabulary these days, but they denote different things (see Wikipedia) and may even mean different things in and of themselves.  Flaming generally occurs as a hostile and insulting interaction between persons over the internet, often involving the use of profanityFlamers, who are specifically motivated to incite flaming, specialize in target specific aspects of controversial conversation.  Flaming has been almost entirely superseded by trolling.

The traditional definition of trolling includes intent.  Media attention in recent years has equated trolling with online harassment, especially bullying on social media.  Generally speaking, trolling is divided into two categories, intentional (targeted) and unintentional (controversial).   In any case, the best way to discourage flaming is to ignore those individuals.  The worst way is to change want you post and who you are.

Many public and online conversations since Charlottesville seek to change the conversation from domestic terrorism, violence, hate, racism and bigotry to patriotism, preserving history, art, free speech and good intentions.  That is distraction.  That is propaganda.  Hate speech and free speech are not the same thing.  More importantly, history is not necessary written by the winners.  Revisionism can be subtle and can occur slowly over time.  Making “heroes” out of the leaders of the Confederacy, erecting statues and memorials, and openly displaying Confederate symbols began and remains as cover for racists and white supremacists.  Removing those reminders from public spaces is NOT rewriting history … we won the civil war and remained one country.  The Confederate States of America were  fighting for slavery and against freedom … think Benedict Arnold and John Wilkes Booth.

German children learn about World War II.  They learn to feel guilty and ashamed of the Holocaust and the atrocities committed by Nazis.  Some American textbooks now call slaves “immigrants” or “workers” and treat the civil war as being all about states’ rights.  Americans should feel equally guilty about Native American genocide, internment of the Japanese during WWII, and slavery.  We all need to feel guilty about Western colonialism.  We all need to ask ourselves if teaching different versions of history is okay and we need to carefully monitor subversive textbook rewrites like the ones authorized in Texas.  Using history as an excuse to display racist symbols is a specious argument and should be treated as such.  Every post or comment that tries to turn discourse that way should be answered with a direct reference to what those symbols actually meant and continue to mean for many of “our fellow citizens.”