I have been seriously catching up on my Civil War blog reading lately after spending the better part of July-November 2010 getting married. Imagine my anger when I read the following comments about TOCWOC in the first comment following Andy Hall’s post taking Jim Durney to task for his Black Confederates blog entry awhile back. They come from anonymous internet tough guy “The Raven”, whose ridiculously slanted political views I refuse to link to. (I want to also take a brief moment to say I have nothing against Andy Hall or what he does at his blog. I agree with Andy’s views on Black Confederates, for what little that is worth.)
Do these folks ever read the texts they’re so good at citing as proof of their case?
The pathology over at TOCWOC is detail fetishism. Half the contributors are miniature wargamers. Most are amateur “historians”, if alleged expertise in “black powder history” counts as a relevant body of knowledge. Half of TOCWOC’s 10-ten ACW blog list covers obscure, narrow aspects of the war, such as an entire blog devoted to Gettysburg monuments. Obsession with minutiae is the first sign of Lost Causeism.
The TOCWOC Black Confederate essay is an admirable example of misdirection. I normally dismiss people like Durney out of hand but his essay is, from the standpoint of inventive construction and obfuscation, nicely done. He makes plenty of seductive references to historic truths, authors and books that will resonate with educated people. Blacks in the military were ignored by history (check), the negro leagues were also ignored (check) Glaathaar wrote a great book on the USCT (check), etc. Durney uses plenty of numbers to build the illusion of a case. The seams show when broad leaps in logic are jammed inside all that detail.
Durney plies the credulity market. People who lack critical thinking skills can be duped while those that seek support for their personal prejudices will see what suits them. Durney is an example of someone who most certainly reads his cited sources, it’s just that he reads them in order to misstate what they say. In fact, cited sources are a key part of his charade. For Lost Causers, the mere existence of a citation is enough. For the rest of us, his density-of-detail strategy is designed to make refutation more difficult.
So, great post and thanks for the alert to another black hole in the Internet. Your blog and Levin’s, which I perused the other night, are big antidotes for credulity memes.
Wow. Where to begin? Well, I left the following comment on the blog entry, for starters:
I was busy getting married late last year and missed this blog entry by Andy mentioning TOCWOC, a blog I founded and participate in. With that said, there are three main contributors: me, James Durney, and Fred Ray. We are VERY different people with different thoughts, beliefs, etc.
My own personal belief is that while thousands of slaves probably accompanied Confederate armies, almost all did so against their will and did not actively participate in the fighting. Fred Ray is a published author, an expert in “black powder history”, as The Raven (who I’ll get to in a moment) so sneeringly and condescendingly calls him.
Jim has done quite a few book reviews at TOCWOC, and I appreciate his enthusiasm if I don’t always agree with his beliefs.
I allow both men to post whatever they want as long as it pertains to the Civil War in some way. Personally, I think it adds to the diversity of the blog voice and attracts more readers.
Therefore, I take GREAT exception to The Raven’s sneering, condescending dismissal of all who disagree with him/her. The Black Confederate deal almost always involves a heavy tinge of modern day politics, a major reason I steer clear of it. It’s nonsense anyway, and most people familiar with the primary source documents realize this. Therefore, I’ll leave this to the rest of you with the parting though that Andy, like Kevin Levin, who is also mentioned, does a good job of discrediting this stuff.
Raven apparently can’t count either, since I’m the only (semi) wargamer of the group and I’m one of three. “Detail fetishism” huh? I am willing to bet a heck of a lot more people find that top-10 Civil War blogs list I did a better overall representation of the Civil War blogosphere I did at the time than the other one put out on the same day. Believe it or not guys, a lot of people enjoy studying military history for the sake of military history. I went back and forth with Kevin Levin on this for years before we just decided to ignore each other, leaving each of us free to pursue what we each enjoy studying and both being better off for it, IMHO. The “Gettysburg Monument” blog is Draw the Sword by Jenny Goellnitz, who also runs a great web site on A.P. Hill. I know Jenny through some brief correspondence only, but I can safely say she would greatly object to being called a “Lost Causer”.
I’ve written hundreds of blog posts on the Civil War at American Civil War Gaming and Reading and then TOCWOC, including many book reviews, Top-10 lists of books for several battles, numerous posts pointing to interesting and thought provoking blog entries on other Civil War blogs, Civil War magazine summaries, and posts on various other Civil War related topics. I like to believe I’ve added in my own admittedly amateur historian way to my readers’ knowledge of the Civil War, albeit admittedly very little in the overall scheme of things.
On to the Raven. Let’s play his/her game by looking at its blog for two seconds: The Raven Spoke is clearly a far left blog hell bent on telling everyone else how stupid they are and what they should do with their lives. I’m slightly left of center on the political spectrum, but this guy’s views would be laughed at as radical by the vast majority of the American voting public. Is that condescending and generalizing enough for you Raven? No need to thank me for returning the favor.
In conclusion for those of you who think TOCWOC is some kind of Black Confederate web site:
1) TOCWOC is and freely admits to being a GROUP of amateur historians, not just one person. People like The Raven who want to look down on us are free to do so. I have little time for people who think they’re better than everyone else and only respond when attacked with ridiculous falsehoods. I take my history seriously, and though I have no advanced history degree, I am very interested in getting things right and citing my sources. See my Siege of Petersburg site Beyond the Crater for instance.
2) James Durney made ONE post on this, and Andy rightly had some serious questions about this. I agree with Andy on this topic rather than Jim. Note that out of thousands of blog posts at TOCWOC, one touches on this topic. While I disagree with Jim on this topic, it does not mean I do not value many of his other opinions. Jim has done a TON of good book reviews here, and for that I sincerely thank him. He is welcome to continue to post his views here at TOCWOC, and people are welcome to challenge him in the comments section.
3) I am an Illinoisan by birth and I fully believe that slavery was the main cause of the Civil War, that the tariff reason cited by so many Lost Causers does not hold up under scrutiny, and that any Blacks accompanying Confederate armies were slaves, designed to free up white men for armed fighting roles.
4) I again take GREAT exception to being called a “Lost Causer”, and if the genius who made that comment had spent more than two minutes at TOCWOC, they would have figured this out.
5) I encourage anyone reading this to look over the archives of TOCWOC in the last 6 years and come to their own conclusions rather than assuming TOCWOC is a Black Confederate site. Nothing could be further from the truth. My “black hole on the internet” does quite nicely for the niche topic it covers, which is NOT Black Confederates.
PS I encourage The Raven (you anonymous coward!) to email me so I can tell you offline what I really think of you and what you can do with your sweeping generalization of me and the blog I founded.
The comments I left were a LOT more explicit when I started writing. As many of you who have read this blog know, nothing pisses me off more than people who think, act, and write like they are better than everyone else. The far, far left are better at this apparently than the rest of us. See, the debate on Black Confederates is a modern day political issue, much more than it is an kind of historical issue. As I stated above, if you spend time with primary sources (or in this case the damning LACK of primary sources) you’ll quickly see this idea of thousands upon thousands of Black men willingly fighting for the Confederacy is a fabrication of major proportions.
I HATE our current two party system, with 5% of people on the far right and left of the spectrum arguing past each other all day long on “black holes of the internet” like The Raven’s blog while the rest of us wish you would just go move somewhere else and let the rest of us go on with our lives without either (far left) telling us all we’re stupid rednecks and should do things your way because you’re SOOO much smarter than we are or (far right) telling us we’re all going to hell because <insert your particular brand of Christianity or other religion here> is the one true way. For these reasons, I stay as far away from this crap as possible. I enjoy studying the military history of the Civil War, and Beyond the Crater has me getting more interested in the experiences of the common soldier, a topic I haven’t always been interested in. I never post on modern day political issues, and with the exception of responding to disrespectful, ignorant comments made by others about my site, it will remain that way.
Thank you for letting me get this off my chest. I feel better and we’ll go back to your regularly scheduled posts on the Civil War. The Raven can go back to calling 95% of the country rednecks and argue with far right nutjobs until the cows come home. I know where I’d like to see his far left friends and their counterparts on the far right go, and though it’s warm, it sure isn’t near the equator!