The Lost Cause Isn't Lost At WND
Both before and after Charlottesville, WorldNetDaily has been sad that Confederate statues are being taken down just because they represent institutionalized racism and an opponent that lost a war against the United States.
By Terry Krepel
WorldNetDaily's concern with Confederate monuments predates the white supremacist events in Charlottesville, Va., in August 2017. A few months earlier, an article by an anonymous WND writer was upset that Confederate statues were being taken down in New Orleans:
Under cover of darkness and with construction crews wearing masks, they drove Old Dixie down in New Orleans.
The anonymous writer then called on dubious historian David Barton, who claimed that "the Democrats cheering the statues being taken down would be shocked if they knew the history of their own party":
“The city plans to pull down four statues, those of Jefferson Davis, PGT Beauregard, the Crescent City White League and Robert E. Lee,” he noted. “I hope they tell the folks in New Orleans that all of these monuments honor Democrats, and that the Confederacy was led solely by Southern leaders of the Democrat Party. In a Democrat city like New Orleans, I can’t understand why Democrat leaders want old venerated Democrat heroes taken down!”
Not only did Barton fail to get the name of the Democratic Party correct -- which tells us he's been listening to too much right-wing radio and doesn't care enough about history to get basic names right -- he apparently failed to realize that the Democratic Party of 150 years ago is not the Democratic Party of today, which again tells us he cares nothing about actual history.
He was followed by Scott Greer, onetime secret white nationalist and author of the WND-published book with the vaguely race-baiting title "No Campus for White Men," who went for ridiculous generalization and absurd extrapolation:
“It’s an attempt to wipe out any pride Southerners should have in their heritage,” said Greer. “It’s the same kind of process we see on college campuses, where anything white people did in the past tends to be demonized. The left is driven by a desire to interpret all of history through the eyes of 21st century progressive dogma. In their eyes, everything about the American past is bad and shameful and must be driven into the dirt.”
Actually, the opposite is true: Society has moved toward judging heroes as real people and not one-dimensional caricatures. While Lee and Beauregard were undoubtedly complex individuals, their statues did not honor that complexity; they honored their roles in a war in which they were on the side of perpetuating slavery -- a one-dimensional caricature.
Greer doesn't explain why Southerners should have "pride" in a "heritage" that is based on losing a war and perpetuating racial discrimination, something it can be argued that the Confederate statues were celebrating and something the Battle of Liberty Place monument -- marking an 1874 insurrection in which the Crescent City White League attacked a racially mixed New Orleans police force and actually carrying an inscription stating that following the insurrection, the 1876 election "recognized white supremacy in the South and gave us our state" -- most definitely did.
Then again, Greer has been exposed as trafficking in white nationalism and anti-Semitism, so perhaps he's not the best source.
WND was not done misunderstanding why monuments to the Confederacy are being removed. Brent Smith first used a May 2017 column to throw out the distraction of Robert Byrd:
When I heard that these and many other monuments were being taken down for the same reason, the first thing that came to mind was the late Democrat icon Robert “Sheets” Byrd (hat tip Rush). He was, of course, a long time U.S. senator from West Virginia, but also a member of the Ku Klux Klan. And not just any member he was a recruiter, a Kleagle.
Smith conveniently omitted that Byrd repeatedly apologized for his KKK affiliation, to the point that even the NAACP praised him for supporting a civil rights agenda. Smith offers no evidence that Lee, Beauregard, et al, ever apologized for their Confederate affiliation.
After unfairly maligning Byrd, Smith then complained that Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard was being unfairly maligned:
In fact Beauregard was not a racist. A native of New Orleans, he fought for the Confederacy because they were the home team, for want of a better term. It was well-known that he hated Confederate President Jefferson Davis so much so that he refused to lead Davis’ funeral procession.
But as the article to which Smith linked to support his claims about Beauregard admits, the statue of Beauregard that was taken down in New Orleans did not honor his post-Civil War work; it honored his stint as a Confederate general.
Meanwhile, editor Joseph Farah did what he does in one column -- portray the removal of Confederate statues as some sort of liberal conspiracy:
First, you will notice that Democrats are nearly always at the forefront of this kind of activity.
As ConWebWatch pointed out when Farah previously made the claim, the KKK was not the "military arm of the Democratic Party"; while many angry Southern whites during the 1860s and 1870s were Democrats and a smaller number of them joined the KKK, that doesn't make the KKK a Democratic creation.
This time around, though, Farah surprisingly conceded that today's Democratic Party is not the one of 150 years ago. Of course, that's a conspiracy too, he writes: "It was President Lyndon Baines Johnson who got the idea of the Democrat [sic] Party becoming the 'champion' of black Americans by enticing them into dependency through welfare-style programs."
Farah didn't explain why no conservatives hike him are endorsing removal of Confederate monuments and, to the contrary, seem to be opposing it. As others have pointed out, the South has always been conservative; many Southerners started abandoning the Democratic Party starting in the 1960s after it supported integration and other equal-rights laws and shifted their allegiance over a generation from Democrats to Republicans.
WND reacted in several different ways to the 2017 unrest in Charlottesville, in which a protester was killed by a white supremacists -- hot takes, conspiracy theories, stolen glory (in the form of editor Joseph Farah trying to take credit for inventing the term "alt-left") and, of course, the "Charlottesville lie" lie, which falsely denied that Donald Trump was defending white supremacists. WND embraced another reaction as well: defending the Confederacy and its memorials.
WND let discredited adulterer Dinesh D'Souza rant in an anonymously written August 2017 article:
“Let’s start with the fact this whole thing was kicked off because of an attempt to take down a monument to Robert E. Lee,” D’Souza told WND. “Here’s the irony: Robert E. Lee was the most decorated soldier in the U.S. Army. He was a man of unimpeachable integrity. Lincoln offered him command of the Union Army, but Lee refused only because his loyalty was to Virginia. Lee opposed both secession and slavery.
Columnist Jerry Newcombe similarly defended Lee:
Gen. Lee is an ironic lightning rod for such violence. He was such a statesman that had he been born a few miles north, that is, north of the boundary of Virginia, he likely would have gone on to become a winning general for the Union, and possibly on from there to the presidency.
Actually, the fact that Lee was fighting on behalf of the Confederacy meant that he was, by definition, fighting to preserve slavery. Also, removing prominently placed statues of people who fought against the United States seems like a reasonable stopping point.
Speaking of monuments, an Aug. 15 article served up a "big list of the nation’s endangered Confederate monuments and symbols" and approvingly quoted a right-wing radio host likening taking down Confederate statues to "the Taliban, pulling down Christian historical sites." The more accurate analogy, of course, would be to newly liberated Eastern Europeans tearing down statues of Lenin.
And because WND must make everything about scary, swarthy Muslims, an Aug. 15 article by Art Moore complains that the Council on American-Islamic Relations is "providing a template resolution to be introduced by public bodies such as state legislatures, city councils and school districts" asking for Confederate monuments to be removed.
In an Aug. 18 article, Alicia Powe complained not only that Nancy Pelosi is asking that Confederate-related statues be removed from the Capitol rotunda, but also that she waited so long to do so:
Over the last 100 years, Democrats have controlled Congress almost twice as long as Republicans and there have been 35 years during which they controlled both houses and the presidency. But only in 2017 did the Confederate statues in the Capitol become an issue for them.
Powe didn't mention the inconvenient fact that the post-Civil War Democratic Party is not the Democratic Party of today, and that it is conservatives like her and her fellow WND employees who are now rushing to the defense of the Confederacy.
Marisa Martin -- the nom de wingnut of artist April Kiessling -- spent an August 2018 WND column trying to defend to defend the idea of Confederate statues as art, likening activists tearing down the "Silent Sam" statue at the University of North Carolina to Roman conquerors destroying things that reminded them of the conquered:
Sam was a monument to Civil War veterans from UNC, most of whom served in the Confederacy, a body many would like to forget now. That may be understandable, although it is unalterable history. It’s also an awfully long time to carry a 158-year grudge. Other than pettiness, the real problem is insisting on erasing knowledge of the Confederacy or anything else from our collective unconscious.
Martin did at least concede why folks are upset enough to tear down Confederate statues:
But Silent Sam is a symbol of the Confederacy and a tortuous, evil time. It recalls division, slavery, racism and death. Complicating everything is a stream of valor and high-mindedness over it all. Men from both armies were often brave, patriotic, zealous, cultured, religious and even chivalrous. There are at least 1700 or more symbols to the Confederacy in America, and 110 have been removed already. Will obliterating all memory of the past make the core issues better or heal us of the past?
"Who really knows"? A lot of people do, actually. We can infer a lot from the fact that the statue was erected in 1913, at the height of Jim Crow, as this Forbes article detailed:
"Silent Sam and other Confederate monuments erected during Jim Crow represent white Southerners’ efforts -- and specifically efforts by white Southern women in groups such as the United Daughters of the Confederacy -- to revise Civil War history," UNC history graduate student and Silent Sam sit-in member Jennifer Standish tells me. Nearly 50 years after the end of the Civil War, dozens of Confederate statues were erected around the U.S., but particularly in the South.
Forbes also pointed out that blacks were forbidden from attending UNC until 1955.
(Martin's column included a promotion for her then-new ebook, titled “Bitter Rainbows: Pederasts, Politics, and Hate Speech,” which purports to detail "the odious history and current aggression of gay militants, as well as how to defend yourself from them." Portraying all gays as actual or potential "pedaraists" is in line with someone who freaked out over an Archie Comics storyline in which Archie died taking a bullet intended for his gay best friend. No wonder "Martin" tries to hide behind a fake name.)
The sadness continues
WND columnist Ilana Mercer, in addition to having a soft spot for apartheid, apparently has a soft spot for the Confederacy as well. She wrote in a June 2020 column lamenting the removal of Confederate statues:
Steve Hilton is a Briton who anchors a current-affairs show on Fox News.
Mercer went on to cheer a man named Thomas J. DiLorenzo as "the country's chief Lincoln slayer" and dismissing historian Doris Kearns Goodwin as "a pseudo-intellectual." Turns out DiLorenzo is a fan of the Confederacy as well; he tried to disassociate himself from the right-wing, white nationalist League of the South despite admitting to speaking before the group and endorsing its social and political views.
WND's Bob Unruh was very sad about a Confederate statue being "canceled" in a Dec. 22 article:
Gen. Robert E. Lee, a descendant of signers of the Declaration of Independence, a graduate of the United States Military Academy and a hero of the war with Mexico who married a great-granddaughter of Martha Washington, has been canceled at the U.S. Capitol.
Note that Unruh made no mention so far of the thing Lee is best known for: leader of the Confederate army, which fought against the United States in the Civil War. Nor did Unruh explain who Barbara Johns is (a civil rights leader who, as a high school student, helped create an anti-segregation lawsuit that was consolidated into the Brown v. Board of Education that ruled segregated public schools to be unconstitutional).
Also, the headline is wrong: The statue was not "torn down," it was removed and relocated.
It wasn't until the seventh paragraph of his article that Unruh got around to mentioning the defining fact of not only Lee's life but the removal of Lee's statue:
The removal of the statue is part of a movement accelerated by the protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd calling for a reassessment of major figures in American history.
That's an incredibly simplistic -- and inaccurate -- reading of what happened to Lee. While Lee submitted an amnesty oath to President Andrew Johnson in June 1865, he was not granted parole at that time; Lee's rights of citizenship were not restored until 1975, more than a century after his death in 1870. Further, Lee could not return to his home in Virginia because it had been turned into a burial ground for Union soldiers, known today as Arlington National Cemetery.
Which led to a complaint from anonymous WND writer in a Sept. 14 article:
A commission set up to evaluate the political correctness of the names of military bases and other sites around the nation says a memorial in Arlington National Cemetery has to go.
Because this anonymous WND writer is ignorant of history (or perhaps it's just laziness since the Washington Examiner article this story is lifted from is also ignorant of it), he or she omits the relevant history of Arlington National Cemetery -- namely, that it originally the estate of Lee's wife and was occupied by the U.S. government during the Civil War -- you know, the one that Lee fought on the losing side of -- and used to bury Union war dead. A descendant of the memorial's sculptor has denounced it, saying its suggestion of enslaved people as complicit in the Confederacy is offensive.
The anonymous WND writer went on to complain about the effort to remove vestiges of enemies of the United States from military installations:
The instruction is just part of a report from the commission which wants new names for military bases including Fort Bragg in North Carolina; Fort Benning and Fort Gordon in Georgia; Fort A.P. Hill, Fort Lee, and Fort Pickett in Virginia; Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Polk in Louisiana, and Fort Rucker in Alabama.
The anonymous WND writer did not any cite specific "military official" making that argument, nor was it explained why the U.S. should continue to honor losers and traitors -- or why ceasing to do so makes one "woke," as the article's headline claims.