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definitions of wickedness
December 30, 2005 6:39 AM   Subscribe

10 Worst Americans? Hot on the heels of BBC's list of the 10 worst Britons of the past 1000 years, people are calling for nominations for the 10 worst Americans. (a nice? change from all the "best" lists floating around the end of each year)
posted by amberglow (209 comments total)

 
Bill Brasky. I hear he drives an ice cream truck covered in human skulls.
posted by rolypolyman at 6:43 AM on December 30, 2005


Captain's Quarters thinks J Edgar Hoover should be #1 -- I'd go with him too, i think, with McCarthy, Nixon, Bush, Roy Cohn, Father Coughlin, Henry Ford, the head of Walmart, the head of the Salem Witch Trials, and Robert E. Lee (or some other civil war guy like him)
posted by amberglow at 6:48 AM on December 30, 2005


Well, I'd put Bush Jr. and McCarthy on there straight away. Those seem like no-brainers; literally in the case of Bush, ha ha.

I'd want some representative of the "Ugly American" stereotype, but we're a bit spoilt for choice there. Ted Nugent? Michael Savage? Ann Coulter? tkchrist? So many possibilities...

I don't think much of the British list. I mean, where the hell are Jeremys Beadle and Clarkson?
posted by Decani at 6:49 AM on December 30, 2005


and maybe Gov. Wallace
posted by amberglow at 6:49 AM on December 30, 2005


Lots of colors, where's the friggin list?
posted by HTuttle at 6:55 AM on December 30, 2005


I agree J. Edgar Hoover would be a good choice for 1900-2000. McCarthy was bad, but he was just another Hoover puppet.
posted by nkyad at 6:58 AM on December 30, 2005


I'll nominate the man "who had more impact on the atmosphere than any other single organism in earth history" Thomas Midgley Jr.
posted by Popular Ethics at 6:59 AM on December 30, 2005


I'll go you one better on Wallace: Curtis Lemay. A war criminal and racist.
posted by raaka at 7:10 AM on December 30, 2005


Dwight Moody and William Riley, for their contributions to the rise of fundamentalism and the anti-evolutionist movement.
posted by callmejay at 7:11 AM on December 30, 2005


amberglow, I'm curious why you would nominate Robert E. Lee -- I'd suggest Nathan Bedford Forrest as an alternative.
posted by alumshubby at 7:12 AM on December 30, 2005


Yes, Robert E. Lee "or some other civil war guy like him" suggests that you're not exactly up on your Civil War figures.
posted by raysmj at 7:16 AM on December 30, 2005


J. Edgar Hoover and Bush Jr. definitely. Joseph McCarthy, too. George Lincoln Rockwell and Ted Bundy as well. Lucky Luciano for turning organized crime into an industry.

and maybe Gov. Wallace

I'm not defending a damned thing Wallace did, but he's the only figure from that era that ever apologized publicly for his racist positions. That earns him a few points.
posted by jonmc at 7:19 AM on December 30, 2005


I'd probably say not Bush Jr. Not because he isn't awful, but because I think you probably shouldn't put your contemporaries on a list like this. You can only really dispassionately look at and appreciate someone's awfulness in retrospect. In terms of negative impact, I have to say that I'd go for Booth, for pretty much the same reason as the folks in Captain's Quarters said. By killing Lincoln, he altered the whole course of reconstruction, leading to Southern poverty, the societal impact of which helped to spur segregation, and in the long term the conservatism we see today.
posted by unreason at 7:21 AM on December 30, 2005


The page behind that first link sure is hard to read and follow. I like Decani's list.
posted by terrapin at 7:22 AM on December 30, 2005


Ronald Reagan.
posted by ND¢ at 7:25 AM on December 30, 2005


I'll say Robert E. Lee--a military genius who used his skills to prolong a terrible war and prop up a "government" dedicated to the proposition that it was perfectly normal and just that men should own other men as property. Regardless of his ambivalence toward the Southern cause, Lee's leadership caused far more damage (not only in lives lost, but also in fostering the Myth of Southern Victimhood) than any other Civil war figure. That he and Jefferson Davis were not summarily hung for treason is one of the great injustices of American history.
posted by Chrischris at 7:27 AM on December 30, 2005


Jimmy Carter ranks as #10 on the CQ list -- and I'm hard-pressed to disagree. It's just weird to see an American president on such a list.
posted by davidmsc at 7:28 AM on December 30, 2005


Margaret Sanger? The worst American ever?
posted by Dr-Baa at 7:30 AM on December 30, 2005


Jimmy Carter ranks as #10 on the CQ list

Yeah, I found their reasoning interesting. They're not listing people who are necessarily evil, but those that have had a negative effect. Carter's a nice guy, he just keeps doing the wrong things for really good reasons.
posted by unreason at 7:33 AM on December 30, 2005


Jimmy Carter ranks as #10 on the CQ list -- and I'm hard-pressed to disagree.

davidmsc, whatever you want to say about Carter as a president (and like all politicians, there's plenty of room for criticism), many people, including many Republicans I know, consider the man a fine human being for his philanthropic work.
posted by jonmc at 7:33 AM on December 30, 2005


It amazes me how many put Jimmy Carter on the list I mean COME ON? CARTER? WTF?
so he wasn't a great prez, he atleast wasn't just plain evil. He IS a great humanitarian, but I guess since he focuses on the poor and some non-usians, he is a bad thing.
posted by Elim at 7:33 AM on December 30, 2005


Not sure how humanitarian it is to support policies--some policies, not all those he supports--that perpetuate corruption and evil and various places. I dont' think he should be on this list.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:36 AM on December 30, 2005


and I would like to heartily agree with amber's choice of Roy Cohn. A truly despicable man.
posted by jonmc at 7:36 AM on December 30, 2005


including many Republicans I know, consider the man a fine human being for his philanthropic work.
posted by jonmc at 10:33 AM EST on December 30 [!]


jonmc, I think the CQ people think he's a fine human being too, just one that has a negative effect without meaning too. They're saying that he's a disaster in his foreign policy initiatives, even though he always means well.
posted by unreason at 7:37 AM on December 30, 2005


(President Carter, that is)
posted by ParisParamus at 7:38 AM on December 30, 2005


I'm always reluctant to include jefferson davis and robert e. lee in these lists. While neither of them was any moral hero, they were more accessories after the fact when it came to starting the civil war rather than the main culprits behind the secession and rebellion. Nathan Bedford Forrest makes a better civil-war (and post-civil war) villain. Unfortunately, I'm not up on the details of the secession to know who the main minds behind it were.

Also, when it comes to nominating politicians within our living memory, I think there's a difference between choosing a "worst person" because he's genuinely bad and a "worst person" simply because everyone was disappointed/upset at him. My other problem is that too many of these figures are too complex to peg them as "worst." I mean, sure, I'm tempted to name Woodrow Wilson for turning back the last vestige of Reconstruction when he resegregated the civil service, but other than that, I think he was a fairly visionary president.

Nevertheless, Strom Thurmond belongs on that list. He wasn't aleader in favor of segregationism and oppression of blacks all of his life, but when it counted he chose to take the wrong path. That's probably the important thing to consider-- not all of the complexities of their overall biography but how they acted when it counted.
posted by deanc at 7:40 AM on December 30, 2005


unreason, I'm under the impression that this list is supposed to be of the truly despicable, not just party whipping boys, which is why I reject the choices of both Carter and Wallace. There are public figures who deserve enmity far more than them.
posted by jonmc at 7:41 AM on December 30, 2005


Huh. I agree with most of Captain Quarters's list. But Carter? And where's King George W?
posted by orthogonality at 7:41 AM on December 30, 2005




Of course, the real challenge is to work up a completely bi-partisan List of Worst Americans, citing more than just "I disagree with his politics."
posted by Spatch at 7:43 AM on December 30, 2005


Robert Welch

Dick Cheney

Reagan

Dick Cheney

Henry Kissinger

Dick Cheney

Boss Tweed

Dick Cheney

Robert McNamara
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:45 AM on December 30, 2005


The first list that I randomly picked was this one that, while not causing a head exploding event generated genuine ... never mind head just exploded.
posted by mss at 7:46 AM on December 30, 2005


Nobody has ironically mentioned a blogger yet.
posted by fire&wings at 7:48 AM on December 30, 2005


I'm under the impression that this list is supposed to be of the truly despicable, not just party whipping boys, which is why I reject the choices of both Carter and Wallace

But they chose Booth as opposed to any of the other presidental assassins, based on aftereffects that he could never have forseen. And with Carter, they don't portray him as a bad person, so much as they treat him as a guy who inadvertantly screws stuff up. And I second Strom Thurmond being on the list somewhere.
posted by unreason at 7:51 AM on December 30, 2005


Decani : I don't think much of the British list. I mean, where the hell are Jeremys Beadle and Clarkson?

They chose one rogue from each century of the last millennium to compile the list for the BBC History Magazine.

I think choosing Mosley over Beadle and Clarkson, an infamous fascist politician over irritating television presenters, was probably the right choice.
posted by kaemaril at 7:52 AM on December 30, 2005


And with Carter, they don't portray him as a bad person, so much as they treat him as a guy who inadvertantly screws stuff up.

And being a mediocre politician is a long way from being one of the "Worst Americans." It's a blatantly partisan choice, and kind of a lame one, IMHO.
posted by jonmc at 7:54 AM on December 30, 2005


It's a blatantly partisan choice

It's a blatantly partisan (and unfair) choice, but I found their reasoning interesting.
posted by unreason at 7:55 AM on December 30, 2005


Kissinger for sure.

Matthew Barney

Boss Hogg
posted by isopraxis at 7:56 AM on December 30, 2005


Kissinger for sure.


Definitely.
posted by unreason at 7:57 AM on December 30, 2005


I think choosing Mosley over Beadle and Clarkson, an infamous fascist politician over irritating television presenters, was probably the right choice.

Woah. Dude. I think you need to switch back to caffeinated, you know?
posted by Decani at 7:58 AM on December 30, 2005


Dr-Baa writes "Margaret Sanger? The worst American ever?"

She was a eugenicist and racist, who advocated stuff that Hitler actually did. Which is why all the eugenicist nonsense was swept under the rug after WWII.
posted by orthogonality at 8:02 AM on December 30, 2005


Come on people, Carter?? Alright, he may not have been a genius while in office, but where is permanent evil he caused? Insisting that Human Rights were a valid foreign policy variable? Supervising and certifying elections in poor countries around the world? The only real evil thing I can blame him for is Ronald Reagan.
posted by nkyad at 8:02 AM on December 30, 2005


Rush Limbaugh. He changed the face of political discourse in America. There were muckrakers, rabble-rousers, and yellow dog journalists before him, but Limbaugh proved that pandering to the basest instincts of the white middle class could be extremely profitable and thereby gave rise to a whole generation Limbaugh-wannabes. Above all he made it seem patriotic to be sexist, racist, and xenophobic.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:04 AM on December 30, 2005


Decani : I'm already on caffeinated. I'm British, ergo I drink tea. Decaffeinated tea is an abomination unto the Lord :)

And, like I said, when I think back to some of Beadle's stuff ... it's only probably the right choice :)
posted by kaemaril at 8:08 AM on December 30, 2005


Jimmy Carter ranks as #10 on the CQ list -- and I'm hard-pressed to disagree.

Yeah, that basing foreign policy on human rights thing was a real loser idea. And actually expecting to encourage free and fair elections across the world, what was he thinking? And worst of all, supporting things like Habitat For Humanity is just so communist of him! What a horrible traitotious person, going and denouncing the Southern Baptists and all too!

Good thing we got all that fixed by President Cheney, huh?
posted by nofundy at 8:08 AM on December 30, 2005


Saint Raygun (10 times)
posted by nofundy at 8:08 AM on December 30, 2005


Lex Luthor
posted by blue_beetle at 8:10 AM on December 30, 2005


And being a mediocre politician is a long way from being one of the "Worst Americans." It's a blatantly partisan choice, and kind of a lame one, IMHO.

On Planet Conservative, the rise of the new bogeyman begins with the Iranian revolution. Basically, the reason that we now face a worldwide Islamofascist Threat To Our Very Way Of Life is because Jimmy Carter was too much of a pussy to nuke Tehran if they didn't release the hostages. And nothing makes conservatives angrier than looking like a pussy.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 8:11 AM on December 30, 2005


nofundy, like you I disagree with them, but if you read their reasoning, they aren't against his Habitat For Humanity or electoral and human rights work, and they don't even mention the Baptists.
posted by unreason at 8:11 AM on December 30, 2005


uh... warren anderson?
posted by specialk420 at 8:14 AM on December 30, 2005


Andrew Jackson definitely belongs on any list of America's 10 worst.
posted by ursus_comiter at 8:16 AM on December 30, 2005


Of course, I'm also amazed that nobody's mentioned George Steinbrenner, yet.
posted by jonmc at 8:17 AM on December 30, 2005


Yeah, definitely Kissinger. I'm not so sure about GWB being Bad so much as an Ignorant Rube. Cheney is a merciless fascist, but I think of that whole cabal, it'd be Rove who gets the nod for not only his shameless support of (IMHO) wrongheaded policies, but his total willingness to advance them primarily by hoodwinking the working poor.

I agree that Davis and Lee don't belong there. I disagree with their politics, but they were generally honorable people on the wrong side of a significant issue.
posted by mkultra at 8:20 AM on December 30, 2005


I don't think you can get a good list using just "truly despicable" as a marker, because any one of us knows at least ten people we'd regard as more "truly despicable" than anybody famous. And there have doubtless been truly horrific folks that could bump Ted Bundy or Wayne Gacey.

I think you have to look at effects. And using that metric, you'll get some good people on the list. Because good people can have disproportionately bad effects. Lee is a good example: He and his very capable fellows, like Forrest, enabled the Confederate cause. But just as certainly, they were abetted by Northerners like McClellan.

That said, putting Margaret Sanger at number one on such a list is kind of a giveaway of political leaning, especially when you read the justification. And it exposes the problem with this kind of effort: Some people don't like some effects that I like. Some people will damn the son for the sins of the father.
posted by lodurr at 8:21 AM on December 30, 2005


But the important thing is that we all agree that Paris Hilton is a good choice.
posted by jonmc at 8:23 AM on December 30, 2005


Yeah, definitely Kissinger, McCarthey, and Forrest.

I'm not so sure about GWB being Bad so much as an Ignorant Rube. Cheney is a merciless fascist, but I think of that whole cabal, it'd be Rove who gets the nod for not only his shameless support of (IMHO) wrongheaded policies, but his total willingness to advance them primarily by hoodwinking the working poor. History will certainly judge them all unkindly.

I agree that Davis and Lee don't belong there. I disagree with their politics, but they were generally honorable people on the wrong side of a significant issue.

What about someone like Ted Bundy? Or Michael Bay?
posted by mkultra at 8:23 AM on December 30, 2005


that basing foreign policy on human rights thing

*coughs* Sure would've been nice of him to apply that thing to Indonesia during his time as President. But yeah, his inclusion on that kind of list is lame.
posted by mediareport at 8:24 AM on December 30, 2005


Good point mediareport. But he at least got things headed in the correct direction, with exceptions.

You are correct unreason but one has to consider the whole person in such judgments (in my opinion.)
And I feel dirty just visiting that bastion of nonpartisanship called Captain's Quarters*cough*
posted by nofundy at 8:35 AM on December 30, 2005


McCarthy, Hoover, Nixon, Bush the Younger and Rove are all good choices. I'll throw in Tom DeLay. Louis Farrakhan too. And Fred Phelps. Matt Hale gets a nod. One of the lists had H.H. Holmes and I'd agree with that.
posted by SisterHavana at 8:38 AM on December 30, 2005


I agree that Davis and Lee don't belong there. I disagree with their politics, but they were generally honorable people on the wrong side of a significant issue.

Yeah yeah yeah, except that issue happened to be Slavery and whether it was A-OK to keep people as personal fucking property. Other than that, you know, I'm sure they were stand up guys.

This is the problem with these sorts of lists: we have people defending the inclusion of Jimmy Carter (a minor president whose policy decisions have led to some fairly unfortunate but--let's be truthful here--historically minor troubles for the US) while they discount the inclusion of men who, regardless of their "good intentions" and "honor", actually made war against this nation in pursuit of an ideology whose festering remnants are responsible for a pretty large number of the social pathologies we face today.

But hey, they were nice guys caught in a bad situation, so no harm no foul...

Outcomes matter, and the refusal to see that places one (in my opinion) outside of the reality-based community many of us here so proudly trumpet.
posted by Chrischris at 8:39 AM on December 30, 2005


Aaron Spelling.
posted by maxsparber at 8:41 AM on December 30, 2005


A vote of agreement with Chrischris. Lee and Davis were scum. They were fighting for the right to own people, and to work them until they dropped. The right to torture them whenever you felt like it. The right to separate children from their mothers. The right to rape any slave woman they wanted, then to own their own bastard children as slaves. Contrary to the P.C. line, the Civil War was not about states' rights. It was about the right to freedom versus the right to enslave. And Lee and his friends were fighting to enslave.
posted by unreason at 8:48 AM on December 30, 2005


1. George W. Bush
2. Andrew Jackson
3. David Duke
4. Jim Jones
5. Father Coughlin
6. Jerry Falwell
7. Charlton Heston
8. Pat Sajak
9. Roger Ailes
10. Rush Limbaugh
posted by moonbird at 8:49 AM on December 30, 2005


This is futile, there's no definition of "worst". I mean Fred Phelps is a bad guy but he's a kook, there's an extremely small minority following him. And come on, Nixon was a bad guy but Johnson was worse.

He was a genuinely bad person. He ate off people's plates, made people talk to him on the can, would show off his large penis, would drink and drive with impugnity and a multitude of other just bad things.

No one has mentioned Van Buren? Opposed to universal suffrage, trail of tears?

Don't forget the robber-barons for mercilessly exploiting workers and nearly taking this country into an aristocracy.
posted by geoff. at 8:51 AM on December 30, 2005


My top two: Robert McNamara and Oprah Winfrey.

McNamara because he's the closest thing to a Pol Pot or Josef Stalin as we've got.

And Oprah Winfrey because, more than anyone else, I think she is to blame for single-handedly selling the idea that there is no difference between sentimentality and genuine emotion. This has had many horrible effects, not the least of which is the attainment of a level of celebrity voyeurism/worship that was previously unfathomable. This has, I think, sealed the fate of our doomed, venal and shallow culture to the dustbin of history.
posted by Tommy Gnosis at 8:52 AM on December 30, 2005


Needs more Newt.
posted by machaus at 8:57 AM on December 30, 2005


While we are engaging in some much-needed rethinking of history, I'd throw Kit Carson up there for his extremely bloody Navajo campaign. But there are so many bad guys of the 19th century.

And if we expand beyond individuals to groups, what about the City of New York's 1712 slave rebellion that resulted in a higher body count, and more brutal torture and execution methods than the Salem Witch trials?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:57 AM on December 30, 2005


Jerky O'Jerkwad, leader of the Bastard's Union in the 30s. He's the one that created the Bloated Plutocrats Banquets, where rich, well-to-do white captains if industry dined on a seven course meal infront of a closed soup kitchen in Harlem.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:58 AM on December 30, 2005


Tommy Gnosis: And Oprah Winfrey because, more than anyone else, I think she is to blame for single-handedly selling the idea that there is no difference between sentimentality and genuine emotion. ...
If threads like this are good for anything, it's because they produce gems like this. (To be fair, though, we should probably lay at least as much blame for this at the feet of Stephen Spielberg and Walt Disney.)
posted by lodurr at 8:58 AM on December 30, 2005


Allen Merrill Gottlieb
posted by warbaby at 9:07 AM on December 30, 2005


>>> Lex Luthor

In your case, BB, wouldn't that be Max Lord?
posted by grabbingsand at 9:07 AM on December 30, 2005


Some random nominees....

George Armstrong Custer, for being brave and stupid enough to inspire one side to an orgy of revenge, and the other to seek refuge in backslapping over nailing Custer.

FDR, for having the termerity to think he could actually make anything better.

Herbert Hoover, for having foolish faith in the market.

Woodrow Wilson, for being foolishly idealistic.

Pat Buchanan, for single-handedly creating the modern pit-bull pundit persona.

Ronald Reagan, for massively inflating the size of the federal government.

Ronald Reagan again, for single-handedly selling the idea that there is no difference between style and substance in governance.

William Jefferson Clinton, for failing to be as good a man as he was a President.

That asshole I used to know at RPI whose rich Republican parents were putting him through his PhD program in Nuke-E and who got to sleep with all the hot chicks.

The HR director who railroaded me out of my small college job in the mid-90s so I had to go and take a contract job for more money doing dotcom stuff...wait, sorry, scratch that, the witch did me a favor.

... and where do we stop? We could all go on all day.
posted by lodurr at 9:08 AM on December 30, 2005


I'd want some representative of the "Ugly American" stereotype, but we're a bit spoilt for choice there. Ted Nugent? Michael Savage? Ann Coulter?

HEEEEY! I'll have you know I am quite fetching. Or so I have been told by ladies such as your self, Decani.

My list:

1. William Randolph Hearst
2. Joeseph McCarthy
3. William Joseph Simmons
4. Jerry Falwell
5. Roy Cohn
6. General George Armstrong Custer
7. Paul Wolfowitz
8. Who ever came up with the show Entertainment Tonight
9. John Wilkes Booth
10. Phillis Schafley
posted by tkchrist at 9:14 AM on December 30, 2005


Nathan Bedford Forrest, Henry Ford, Henry Kissinger, J. Edgar Hoover, Walt Disney, Ronald Reagan, James Dobson, George Lucas, Ted Turner, Jack Valenti and Thomas Kinkade.

I could do this all day.
posted by box at 9:28 AM on December 30, 2005


But the important thing is that we all agree that Paris Hilton is a good choice.

What the hell did I ever do?
posted by Paris Hilton at 9:29 AM on December 30, 2005


Woodrow Wilson, for being foolishly idealistic.

Not to mention a member of the Klan who re-segrigated the civil service.
posted by delmoi at 9:35 AM on December 30, 2005


What the hell did I ever do?

I think that's the point.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 9:42 AM on December 30, 2005


I almost put Phyllis Schlafley on my list, but she's just not in the same league as Dick Cheney.

Rove is a gifted turd, but I don't know if he cares what the policies he enables are. I'm sure he's right-wing, but it's not clear to me that he thinks about specific policies. Unlike, say, Dick Cheney.

I can see Oprah there, but Disney did soften us up for her.

I know some of you are saying "We get it already - you don't like Dick Cheney! Give it a rest." The reason I really want him on the list is that he's both emblematic of so much that's gone wrong with the U.S. (it's as though the Ferengi were in charge) and personally responsible for so much death and suffering. If there were a Hell and a Just God, Cheney would definitely be looking at an eternity of suffering. the fact that he has managed so much nasty crap argues to me that there is no J.G., unfortunately.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:42 AM on December 30, 2005


...it's as though the Ferengi were in charge

This really made me laugh. It's funny. Because it's true.

I think your giving Cheney too much in the way of historical weight. I think Bush et al are simply the (il)logical extensions of a half century of crazy-ass ideology from the Trotskyites on... the "blow it up and something better will arise" gang. That "The Bureau of Sabotage" kind of thing.

Not to mention a member of the Klan who re-segrigated the civil service.

I do believe I included him - William Joseph Simmons.
posted by tkchrist at 9:51 AM on December 30, 2005


Sure would've been nice of him to apply that thing to Indonesia during his [Carter's] time as President.

I don't know if there's a specific event you're thinking of, but the big incident of the 70s was Indonesia's invasion of East Timor in 1975, which was during the Ford Administration. Granted, though, that awful persecutions occured in east timor during Carter's presidency, and all accounts I've read of his presidency don't mention his taking any public stand against them.

"Wost person" really has to count as people who did lasting damage. That's why people like John Wilkes Booth probably deserve the position more than, say, Fred Phelps.

I think you['re] giving Cheney too much in the way of historical weight

Actually, Cheney is one of the few living politicians I think deserves the nomination. When Congress demanded that Nixon release the tapes, who in the adminstration claimed that Nixon should just tell Congress to go screw itself, legal authority be damned? Dick Cheney. When Ford planned on proposing a an alternative energy strategy in the midst of the first oil embargo, who nixed the idea? Dick Cheney. When the first gulf war was being waged cautiously, softening up the Iraqi troops before the ground invasion, who criticized Schwartzkopf as "another McClellan"? Dick Cheney. The man's like mirror universe Forrest Gump.
posted by deanc at 10:00 AM on December 30, 2005


Yeah yeah yeah, except that issue happened to be Slavery and whether it was A-OK to keep people as personal fucking property. Other than that, you know, I'm sure they were stand up guys.


I'm not going to get up and defend the Confederacy, but that's a GROSS over-simplification. Lee was, based on our best interpretation of documents, not a fan of slavery. He wasn't even for secession, but took arms out of loyalty to his state (Virginia). Davis was also against secession, but for slavery. His political stance, however, was one of State's Rights. Again, not a personal fan, but there were plenty of far more despicable Southerners more directly involved in the slave trade who would have gladly taken his place.
posted by mkultra at 10:06 AM on December 30, 2005


deanc, I've always seen Cheney as our Lavrenty Beria. The parallel is inexact but he seems to fulfill the same role.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:06 AM on December 30, 2005


I'd go with Timothy McVeigh as a sure-winner, although he does destroy the "all terrorists are Muslims" meme that the Islamofascist crowd loves so much.
posted by wah at 10:14 AM on December 30, 2005


Actually, Cheney is one of the few living politicians I think deserves the nomination. When Congress demanded that Nixon release the tapes, who in the adminstration claimed that Nixon should just tell Congress to go screw itself, legal authority be damned? Dick Cheney. When Ford planned on proposing a an alternative energy strategy in the midst of the first oil embargo, who nixed the idea? Dick Cheney.

Goddamn. Good points. I forgot that bastard has been around that long. Ok, then. HE IS ON THE LIST!
posted by tkchrist at 10:15 AM on December 30, 2005


I think i wouldn't add Kissinger--his special brand of wickedness was more foreign-based, and didn't hurt us or the country, i don't think. I'd put him on a list of bad humans on Earth tho, with Pinochet, and many others.

I wanted to put an anti-native person but couldn't think of a representative one--who broke the most treaties? Jackson?
posted by amberglow at 10:19 AM on December 30, 2005


didn't hurt us or the country, i don't think.
I'd argue that his "Peace is at hand" crapola cetainly did hurt us and the country. You could measure it in dead people, if you were of a mind to. That he went on and on for years after that being a Statesman and getting interviewed as though he weren't really a lizard never ceases to amaze me.

And Cheney has real staying power. He's not just a flash in the pan, like McVeigh or McCarthy.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:38 AM on December 30, 2005


Jackson not only broke treaties but mounted his horse and killed many with his own hand (especially my own nation Muscogee/Creek). F'n bastard.
posted by Lola_G at 10:38 AM on December 30, 2005


In no particular order:

Lucky Luciano
H. H. Holmes
J Edgar Hoover
George W Bush
Nathan Bedford Forrest
Father Coughlin
Jefferson Davis
Brigham Young
John D. Rockefeller
Bill Gates
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:38 AM on December 30, 2005


I wanted to put an anti-native person but couldn't think of a representative one--who broke the most treaties? Jackson?

Then include just about every US president except maybe Teddy Roosevelt and Nixon (yes, Nixon - oddly he gave a great number of concessions to us Natives).
posted by tkchrist at 10:40 AM on December 30, 2005


Lee was, based on our best interpretation of documents, not a fan of slavery.

And yet, he seemed to have no problem profitting from it most of his adult life. Nor did he hesitate, when given the opportunity, to deny some of his slaves their freedom (a few escaped his Father-in-Law's plantation. He took pains to have them captured, returned, and punished). Actions, not deeds.

He wasn't even for secession, but took arms out of loyalty to his state (Virginia). Davis was also against secession, but for slavery. His political stance, however, was one of State's Rights.

Please. State's Rights was merely a sophistic argument put forth by the Plantation Owners Class (let's just come out and call them what they were: oligarchs) as a method for disguising their attempt to usurp governmental authority and use it to legitimize the economic framework (slave-based agricultural production) that had made them rich and powerful in the first place. Without slaves to fuel the economy, the South could not compete economically. So... The successionists took it upon themselves to seize political power (States Rights) to maintain their economic advantage.

Apparently, it was merely a historical coincidence that the vast majority of CSA members were former slave-states or territories where slavery was tolerated. It was also merely a coincidence that the overwhelming majority of CSA elected officials were slave-owning members of the economic aristocracy. State's Rights was merely a means to an end--the devolution of power to a local level to prop up a landed oligarchy (basically the CSA was like Afghanistan. Replace "warlords" with "plantation owners" and you have a pretty good fit...) in contravention of the Founding Fathers' original vision.
posted by Chrischris at 10:41 AM on December 30, 2005


gee, some of the worst american bloggers compile lists of the worst americans. that's going to end well.
posted by 3.2.3 at 10:41 AM on December 30, 2005


Nathan Bedford Forrest

Wow. Good one. But he WAS one helluva horseman.
posted by tkchrist at 10:42 AM on December 30, 2005


Actions, not deeds.
You set a tough standard there, man.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:43 AM on December 30, 2005


hmm... Actions, not words. (the fingers outrun the brain sometimes...)
posted by Chrischris at 10:45 AM on December 30, 2005


Incidentally, with regards to "states' rights", remember that the same folks who supposedly were so interested in limiting federal power had previously used that same power to force Northern states to return runaway slaves, and to limit the number of non-slave states. They only became for "states' rights" when the right in question was the right to own slaves.
posted by unreason at 10:48 AM on December 30, 2005


L. R@n Hubbard (runs and hides from crazy $cientologists)!
posted by Lola_G at 10:48 AM on December 30, 2005


The goatse.cx guy. Bastard's been responsible for more grief linkage and scarred brains than a lot of people.
posted by Zack_Replica at 10:50 AM on December 30, 2005


Oh and Charles Manson, David Koresh, Jim Jones, John Wayne Gacy :: (runs back to hiding place to think of 5 more).
posted by Lola_G at 10:52 AM on December 30, 2005


But are we sure goatse is American?
posted by maxsparber at 10:53 AM on December 30, 2005


Oh, I know KATHIE LEE GIFFORD!
posted by Lola_G at 10:54 AM on December 30, 2005


It's interesting that no one's mentioned any of the Robber Barons, like Carnegie and others--i guess they did enough good afterwards to make up for all the bad? or that it wasn't that what they did was bad in itself but it was how they did it?
posted by amberglow at 10:57 AM on December 30, 2005


So my list... in no order
Joe McCarthy
G. Gordon Liddy
Bill O'Reilly
J Edgar Hoover
William Randolph Hearst
Sam Walton
Robert McNamara
Dick Cheney
Dr. Laura/Dr. Phil
Bob Jones/Oral Roberts/Pat Robertson

Really it's hard to limit yourself to only ten. And although she's not an American I feel that Ayn Rand needs a mention. As does Mark Burnett for all his reality show evil.
posted by teleri025 at 11:01 AM on December 30, 2005


Phil Burress. Raging hypocrite anti-porn crusader who is doing his best to take away your right to privacy.

Oh, and Bush & Cheney. Far more evil than old unsophisticated George Wallace ever was. The consequences of their evil acts will last longer, too.
posted by tizzie at 11:04 AM on December 30, 2005


Woodrow Wilson, for being foolishly idealistic.

Not to mention a member of the Klan who re-segrigated the civil service.


I wasn't aware that Wilson was a member of the Klan. Could you be thinking of Warren G. Harding?

Also, I'm kinda surprised that nobody included Harry S. Truman on their list. Hiroshima and Nagasaki anyone?
posted by Afroblanco at 11:06 AM on December 30, 2005


I'd argue that his "Peace is at hand" crapola cetainly did hurt us and the country.
But was he the only architect of that policy and of the other policies? I think you'd have to go with the presidents he served, no?

That's why i didn't include Cheney on my list but did include Bush and Nixon. The buck stops with them, and while the jury's still out on who makes the decisions in the Bush WH, he bears responsibility.
posted by amberglow at 11:16 AM on December 30, 2005


maxsparber: I think it may have been mentioned on Wikipedia, though I'm not sure, and I'm at work and I can't check. American or British or whatever, he's still evil, I tell you, evil!
posted by Zack_Replica at 11:20 AM on December 30, 2005


President Bush is at least a good, if not great President. To put him on such a list trivialises the very notion of bad. And strongly suggests you aren't serious.
posted by ParisParamus at 11:40 AM on December 30, 2005


What about someone like Bernie Ebbers? Ken Lay? I mean, look at the damage those guys oversaw. How do you measure the depravity of that vs. a serial killer?

On the Civil War thing- I agree with pretty much all your points, which are conveniently seen with 20/20 hindsight. The point I'm trying (apparently badly) to make is that they weren't really Architects of Evil (c.f. Dick Cheney, Kissinger, Bernie Ebbers), nor were they personally Rallying the Troops behind hate (David Duke, Jerry Falwell). For better or for worse, they were very misguided men of their time. Not good role models, but nowhere near the top of my list.
posted by mkultra at 11:44 AM on December 30, 2005


don't feed the ParisParamus, don't feed the ParisParamus

/talking to myself
posted by Afroblanco at 11:44 AM on December 30, 2005


was he the only architect of that policy and of the other policies?
He was getting all the credit then. Why stop giving it to him now?

And W is only going to be there for 8 years total, if our luck is bad. Cheney has been right there fucking things up for almost 40. (Not counting breaks during Dem administrations.)
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:45 AM on December 30, 2005


ParisParamus: President Bush is at least a good, if not great President. To put him on such a list trivialises the very notion of bad. And strongly suggests you aren't serious.
The fact that you can say that and expect us to imagine you having a straight face trivialises the very notion of taking anyone seriously.
posted by lodurr at 12:07 PM on December 30, 2005


Michael Fucking Jackson.

No, he's not responsible for a great deal of pain and suffering in the world, but honestly, is there any human who is more fucked up, who has a more warped value system than him?
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 12:21 PM on December 30, 2005


What about someone like Bernie Ebbers? Ken Lay? I mean, look at the damage those guys oversaw. How do you measure the depravity of that vs. a serial killer?

I'd even go back just a bit farther, to "Chainsaw Al" Dunlap. He didn't invent the practice of screwing a company for short-term profit, but he sure helped make it fashionable.
posted by MrBadExample at 12:21 PM on December 30, 2005


The point I'm trying (apparently badly) to make is that they weren't really Architects of Evil (c.f. Dick Cheney, Kissinger, Bernie Ebbers), nor were they personally Rallying the Troops behind hate (David Duke, Jerry Falwell). For better or for worse, they were very misguided men of their time. Not good role models, but nowhere near the top of my list.

Who knowingly is an Architect of Evil? With the exception of Bernie Ebbers, what makes you think that these people don't believe what they're doing is right?

Robert E Lee singlehandedly made the Civil War last years longer that it would have otherwise, and personally directed the slaughter of tens of thousands of hapless soldiers on both sides.
posted by me & my monkey at 12:22 PM on December 30, 2005


Rove is a gifted turd,

I thought he was a turdblossom. I'm so confused.
posted by jonmc at 12:27 PM on December 30, 2005


Harry Truman was good man over-all. A man who had seen first hand the horrors of WWI. With that in mind he was faced with an almost imposible choice in WWII. No way I'd compare that guy with a chicken-hawk coward opportunist like Cheney.

I'm shocked no one else said Hearst.
posted by tkchrist at 12:35 PM on December 30, 2005


President Bush is at least a good, if not great President.

In related news it appears that very high potency rock can be obtained in Park Slope.
posted by clevershark at 12:58 PM on December 30, 2005


Michael Fucking Jackson.

No, he's not responsible for a great deal of pain and suffering in the world, but honestly, is there any human who is more fucked up, who has a more warped value system than him?
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 3:21 PM EST on December 30 [!]


Prosecutor: So, you don't think Michael Jackson is guilty?
Dave Chappelle: No, man. He made "Thriller".
[pause]
Dave Chappelle: Thriller.
posted by ND¢ at 1:08 PM on December 30, 2005


HEEEEY! I'll have you know I am quite fetching. Or so I have been told by ladies such as your self, Decani.

Mmm, mmm; casual, almost embarrassingly lazy jibe against masculinity. An exemplary refutation of my suggestion that tkchrist might be held up as an example of the Ugly American.
posted by Decani at 1:13 PM on December 30, 2005


1) Tom Cruise
2) The woman at Blockbuster who walks around reading movie titles into her cell phone
3) The last girl I dated
4) The second to last girl I dated
5) ParisParamus
6) The fourth to last girl I dated
7) That guy I dated that one time
8) The kid in 3rd grade who knocked out one of my teeth during recess
9) That white guy who won't stop quoting Chappelle's Show
10) Conservative bloggers, for almost universally using exactly the same criteria I did on their "10 worst Americans" lists.

posted by queen zixi at 1:16 PM on December 30, 2005


The first list that I randomly picked was this one that, while not causing a head exploding event generated genuine ... never mind head just exploded.

Atlas's Jugs is undoubtedly deserving of being on some 10-Worst-Bloggers list, if only because her Objectivism comes in a close second to her Narcissism. You'll enjoy James Wolcott savaging her.

I also would exonerate Lee, certainly from this list, but Davis is a trickier proposition. (Note that Congress, at the urging of somebody named Trent Lott, gave them both posthumous exceptions from the Fourteenth Amendment's prohibition on holding office in the United States.) The problem I have with holding one person responsible for slavery is that it wasn't one person, it was many, and many were directly complicit in perpetuating the peculiar institution. Davis had actually opposed secession and promoted compromise -- which some may see as wicked in itself -- and only reluctantly took the CSA Presidency. The leaders of the secession movement, on the other hand, were people like Thomas Overtoon Moore, the Governor of Lousiana, who called for the Convention of Seceded States that elected Davis, and Roger Pryor, a Virginia secessionist blowhard, who traveled to Fort Sumter but hesitated to fire the first shot when invited to do so.
posted by dhartung at 1:33 PM on December 30, 2005


President Bush is at least a good, if not great President.

I believe that President Bush is a rigid, dull, unexceptional man who has profited enormously from his family's social and economic position. I think the invasion of Iraq was immoral and wrong-headed and that his domestic policies are ill-informed, haphazardly executed, misguided and are driving the country into financial ruin.

Having said all of that, it is far too early to say whether he's great or evil. Not that I believe the following is likely to happen, but in a hundred years, if there has developed a rich tradition of democratic self-rule in the middle east, somehow catalyzed by "Operation Iraqi Freedom" history may take a far kinder view of Mr. Bush than any of us here.

I grant you, that's about as likely to happen as monkeys are to fly out of my butt, but this list should probably stick to those whose legacies are sealed. Like Oprah. And Carrot Top.
posted by Tommy Gnosis at 1:33 PM on December 30, 2005


You know, just repeating talking points, like Bush being a great president, in no way makes it true.

But, compared to Carrot Top, Bush is a great, great man.
posted by maxsparber at 1:39 PM on December 30, 2005


But, compared to Carrot Top, Bush is a great, great man.

Nah. Carrot Top's more of an intellectual.
posted by unreason at 1:43 PM on December 30, 2005


But, compared to Carrot Top, Bush is a great, great man.

He's also funnier, without trying.
posted by jonmc at 1:48 PM on December 30, 2005


Has Anthony Comstock been forgotten already?
posted by dilettante at 2:15 PM on December 30, 2005


I think you're right about Comstock, but there probably have been worse than him, i think. We have so many bookburners and antisex and antigay people in our history--from the puritans on.
posted by amberglow at 2:33 PM on December 30, 2005


Bob Sagat
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 2:37 PM on December 30, 2005


An exemplary refutation of my suggestion that tkchrist might be held up as an example of the Ugly American.

Aw. Your no lady. A REAL lady, after posting a needless insult, would have let the expected retort slide as only being fair.

And you're an examplar of a budding internet troll and stalker. 'Cause your frigg'n obsessed with me. I'm not certain but this is like the third thread you have brought me up out of the blue in a post just to insult me for shits and giggles.

Where as I forget you exist ten seconds after I hit the "Post Comment" button.
posted by tkchrist at 2:44 PM on December 30, 2005


And: Why does everybody hate Oprah?
posted by tkchrist at 2:46 PM on December 30, 2005


I'm indirectly related to John Wilkes Booth. It pleases me to see him acknowledged here, especially as I've been reading more of late about, and by, Abraham Lincoln. My god, that man could write with pithy eloquence, in a truly native idiom. Given just a few more years, Lincoln might have singlehandedly destroyed the 19th Cen.'s appalling predilection for obfuscatory prose.

Fuck you, John Wilkes Booth!

My own estimation of W. Bush is that he will be seen, long-term, as a sort of American Domitian, e.g., unimaginative, hopelessly incapable, and primarily useful as a tool for economic/military interests. Bush's own capacity for evil seems limited; great evil is only possible given his role as the leader of a great — if troubled and perhaps now hopelessly compromised — nation.
posted by Haruspex at 2:46 PM on December 30, 2005


Oprah is the Antitkchrist.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:19 PM on December 30, 2005


For those attempting to indict Lee on the slavery issue, you'd better include Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, et al., because they had the opportunity to stop slavery at the nation's birth and failed to do so.

Some of my nominations:

William Quantrill (Lawrence Massacre)
Henry Wirz (commandant of Andersonville prison camp)
Nathan Bedford Forrest (slave trader, part-owner of a slave ship, Ft. Pillow massacre, other Civil War atrocities. My username is not a coincidence here.)
Al Capone (no introduction necessary)
John Chivington (Sand Creek Massacre)
John D. Lee and Isaac C. Haight (Mountain Meadows Massacre)
Isaac Cline (Galveston hurricane. If you blame Carter for bumbling, Cline was far deadlier in his effects.)
James Forsyth (Wounded Knee)
Benedict Arnold (maybe not technically an American since the US was still unborn)
Sanford Wallace
posted by forrest at 3:23 PM on December 30, 2005


Oprah is the Antitkchrist.
LOL. Then, according to some, she would be on The Very Good List.

Seriously though. I like her. Best billionaire lesbian philanthropist media mogul on the planet in my opinion.
posted by tkchrist at 3:48 PM on December 30, 2005


For those attempting to indict Lee on the slavery issue, you'd better include Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, et al., because they had the opportunity to stop slavery at the nation's birth and failed to do so.

We're (at least not me) not indicting him for the slavery issue--if that were the case, he would be only one of several thousand equally guilty individuals whose livlihoods depended on the buying and selling and forced labor of fellow humans. No, Lee was much much worse; he was a traitor who actually took up arms and directed a rebel army against the very nation to which he once swore an oath of loyalty. He then proceeded to direct a military campaign which added years and several hundred thousand deaths to the war. How many boys--on both sides--were sent to their graves or sent home limbless or crippled because Ole Bobby Lee thought his Virginia lifestyle--his "honorable way of life"-- was more important than loyalty to his nation? That there are people here and elsewhere that continue to defend him and portray him as some sort of hero is sickening.
posted by Chrischris at 3:52 PM on December 30, 2005


Someone else would have taken Lee's place, for gosh sakes. And that someone else might have encouraged guerilla warfare after the war, which Lee did not. He instead advocated north-south reconciliation, and continued to do so while serving as the president of Washington College (now Washington and Lee). He falls far short of Great Man status, but anyone who'd put him on a Worst Americans list would be at least three-fourths as stupid as the people who put Carter on one.

As for the loyalty oath thing, he did so while a U.S. military officer. He had been decommissioned before the Civil War. He did, however, sign a loyalty statement later, and partially for this reason his citizenship and right to run for public office were restored in the 1970s. I think, meanwhile, that you're projecting current ideas about nationhood and patriotism onto the past. The U.S. was more of a nation, in the way we think of America now, after the Civil War than before it.

For the record, Horace Greeley wanted Robert E. Lee to run for president against Grant. This was due to his utter contempt for the corrupt Grant, but he was half-serious.
posted by raysmj at 4:30 PM on December 30, 2005


Chrischris: And you don't make yourself a hero by reminding everyone of how appalled you are by slavery. You're living in 2005. Easy for you to say.
posted by raysmj at 4:32 PM on December 30, 2005


Ole Bobby Lee thought his Virginia [...] was more important than loyalty to his nation

For Lee, and many Americans North and South at that time, loyalty to their State was a higher virtue that loyalty to the Union. It's difficult to understand this today. We're used to the idea of "one Nation, indivisible." But it was a very real state of mind back then.
posted by SPrintF at 4:32 PM on December 30, 2005


Chrischris writes "No, Lee was much much worse; he was a traitor who actually took up arms and directed a rebel army against the very nation to which he once swore an oath of loyalty."


Er, but that describes Col. George Washington of His Britannic Majesty's Virginia Militia too, no?
posted by orthogonality at 4:51 PM on December 30, 2005


Joseph Smith, Jerry Falwell, L Ron Hubbard, Pat Robertson, etc. etc.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:54 PM on December 30, 2005


Aw. Your no lady.

That'd be "you're". I guess that education you joined the military for wasn't all it was cracked up on the "Be everything you can be" ads, eh?

A REAL lady, after posting a needless insult, would have let the expected retort slide as only being fair.

Fascinating. At least they taught you about modern sexual politics, so all is not lost.

And you're an examplar of a budding internet troll and stalker. 'Cause your frigg'n obsessed with me. I'm not certain but this is like the third thread you have brought me up out of the blue in a post just to insult me for shits and giggles.

That'd be about right. But I'm not stalking you, mate, just occasionally taking the piss out of a hysterical jerk who thought an acceptable response to a opinion he found distasteful was to issue a thinly-veiled threat. Being a knuckle-headed thug is your problem; mine is a somewhat juvenile unwillingness to let shit like you pulled go too soon. Let's both continue to work on our respective personal failings, but personally I plan to have fun with mine until I crack the bastard.
posted by Decani at 5:03 PM on December 30, 2005


Chrischris, I don't see anyone here calling Lee a hero.

For that matter, though, I'm curious why so many people include Benedict Arnold. But it's not like he was some kind of freedom-hating fascist- he actually had a brilliant military career in the Revolution before committing treason. Which, by the way, was largely motivated by the relatively urbane reason of personal debt. Again- bad, bad choices? Yep. Evilest of Evil? Probably not.
posted by mkultra at 5:13 PM on December 30, 2005


"Actually, Cheney is one of the few living politicians I think deserves the nomination."

And don't forget that Cheney voted against a congressional resolution calling for the release of Nelson Mandela, against MLK Day and against Head Start. You've got to believe this guy eats little babies for breakfast.
posted by JackFlash at 5:24 PM on December 30, 2005


It's because Arnold's the first (and often only) traitor we learn about in school. If you ask most Americans to name a traitor, his name pops up.
posted by amberglow at 5:28 PM on December 30, 2005


I don't know that anyone's arguing that Cheney isn't evil, but is he the "worst American" or in the top 10?
posted by amberglow at 5:30 PM on December 30, 2005


L Ron Hubbard,

Hubbard was a huckster to be sure, but he just preyed on people's stupidity. Not a good thing, but far short of top of the evil heap status.
posted by jonmc at 5:37 PM on December 30, 2005


Ray Kroc.
Comstock.
posted by fet at 5:48 PM on December 30, 2005


Well, somebody has to say it...

First of all the Civil War wasn't just about slavery. Slavery was the tipping point issue, but the problem is that the South was on the losing end of a decades-long struggle for economic dominance. The Southern states rebelled because they saw the slavery issue as the last element of a strategy that was successfully draining Southern wealth and influence into Northern hands.

Slavery itself was a dead issue and would have been gone in another 20 years even without the Civil War. The cotton gin combined with the overall public distaste ensured this more completely than any war ever could.

Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee are heroes, but they are not American heroes. Each of them had serious issues with the whole secession business, which others have mentioned. But in the end, they were not fighting for slavery, or for Southern economic dominance, or for any other abstraction. They were fighting for their families, their communities, and their homes. This is how most people in pre-1860 America felt; the Union was a distant, abstract, and largely unseen thing in daily affairs. Your State was what we would think of today as your country. And if your home community was attacked, no matter by whom, no matter what their sins, you would stand with them. This is why a significant number of black people, including recently freed slaves, fought for the Confederacy.

Davis and Lee are great men precisely because they managed to hold out for so long and damn near win against a force that was better funded, had all the manufacturing and generally higher technology, and largely did not get the war taken home to their own territory. And they did it on the whole without massacres of innocents and guerrilla terror techniques. If you want to put someone on a Worst Americans Ever list, how about William Sherman? I don't believe any Confederate military men systematically burned and looted Union civilian population centers.

Of course, the winners write the history books. But even after 160 years, people down here see it a bit differently, and it's not just because of racism. Sometimes it's because every time you tour a building of a certain age the first thing that has to be explained is why it is still standing after the Civil War.
posted by localroger at 5:50 PM on December 30, 2005


Hitler just preyed on peoples' stupidity too, jon. Hitler!
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:51 PM on December 30, 2005


yeah, crash, but Hitler got them to commit genocide, Ronnie boy just took their money and his minions merely crowd up subway stations with their stupid tin can stress tests. I'm tempted to take one just for the hell of it, but the Jews For Jesus keep interrupting me (I'm not kidding) and the Falun Gong are usually in the way as well. The NYC mass trasit system is like a shopping mall of weird.
posted by jonmc at 5:58 PM on December 30, 2005


That'd be about right.

STALKER ALERT!!! Is there a moderator in this place?

Decani: ...mine is a somewhat juvenile...

SOMEWHAT?
Jesus KEEERIIIST. Move on buddy. For all our sakes, just move on.
posted by tkchrist at 6:07 PM on December 30, 2005


I don't know that anyone's arguing that Cheney isn't evil

I'd argue that he isn't evil. Bad. Misguided. Greedy. Cowardly. But Eeeeevil?

Look if Bush and Cheney were evil... E-V-I-L.. the absolute of the spectrum of bad... then what the fuck are you guys doing sitting around in front of computers for? You should be part of a Resistance at Any and All Cost Movement to drive a stake through the heart of Cheney (not sure that would kill'm)

Hell. If these guys are evil then Bin Laden would be right, wouldn't he? We actually SHOULD being trying to kill them. If'n they be Evil with a capital "E."

Y'all talked me into putting him on the Worst list, can we leave it there?
posted by tkchrist at 6:14 PM on December 30, 2005


And: Why does everybody hate Oprah?

I direct my right honorable friend to the answer I gave some moments ago.
posted by Tommy Gnosis at 6:26 PM on December 30, 2005


Oops. Not that answer, this one.
posted by Tommy Gnosis at 6:28 PM on December 30, 2005


In regards to whether or not confederate leaders should be considered "Worst Americans," I think that we first need to decide what we mean by "Worst Americans." The way I see it, the phrase could mean two things:

1) Worst people who happened to be Americans.
For this, we would have to choose people like Dahmer, Gacy, Ebbers, etc. We could probably leave out the confederate leaders, as well as many of the other political figures.

2) People who did the worst things TO America
Here, we could go wild with the political choices, including the confederate leaders. Sorry localroger, even if the confederate leaders were OK people, leading a civil war is one of the worst things that you can do to a country. We typically associate civil wars with collapsed states such as Afghanistan and Sudan. We almost became that. Food for thought.
posted by Afroblanco at 6:28 PM on December 30, 2005


Afroblanco, leading a "civil war" is what happens when you fail. When you succeed, you lead the "war for independence" one of which happened to create the United States of America, a state which does not quite resemble Afghanistan or Sudan last time I looked.
posted by localroger at 6:39 PM on December 30, 2005


*looks around at the New Orleans-scape*

Actually it's looking more like Afghanistan or Sudan all the time, but that's not the Founding Fathers' fault.
posted by localroger at 6:42 PM on December 30, 2005


People who did the worst things TO America

This is what I thought "Worst" to mean, as well.

Who ever PR hack invented infotainment and Celebrity news should be on the list. Slavery may be America's colon cancer, but the Media Cult of Celebrity is our skin cancer.

BTW, I still think Oprah is kinda cool. When YOU adopt an entire destitute South African township and send thier kids to college then you can criticize.
posted by tkchrist at 6:44 PM on December 30, 2005


localroger, you're absolutely wrong. Slavery would have disappeared in 20 years? Ever heard of Reconstruction? The legacy of cruelty and murder to blacks in the south was matched by another hundred years of cruelty and murder that was assuaged, but hardly finished off, by civil rights legislation in the 1960's.

You're wrong about the cotton gin as well. Eli Whitney thought the thing would improve the lives of cotton pickers, but in fact, it just fueled a desire to grow more of the stuff, which requires planting and tending, things which the gin couldn't do.

I'd agree that the life of a wage-earner in the north during the 1840's-1860's wasn't rosy, but at least they weren't treated like animals. The south was, in the truest sense of the term, an evil empire morally and an untenable mess logistically--it was basically a military state living in constant fear of slave revolt, and Lincoln, despite his flaws, realized there could be no negotiating with a thuggish, regressive group of southern elites who had to be destroyed before they could be rebuilt.
posted by bardic at 6:53 PM on December 30, 2005


Afroblanco, leading a "civil war" is what happens when you fail.

Maybe so. But if we're talking about "People who did the worst things TO America," then the America that we are talking about is the America That Was and the America That Is, not the America That Could Have Been.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:09 PM on December 30, 2005


First of all the Civil War wasn't just about slavery.
True, but we've already established that point. The war was primarily about rich agricultural landowners wishing to seize political power in defense of their slave-based economic system.

Slavery itself was a dead issue and would have been gone in another 20 years even without the Civil War.
I don't belive this. It took a hundred years just to get Southern blacks a consistent right to vote. The truth of the matter is that slaves were a tool of production which, if properly maintained, perpetuated themsleves ad infinatum. Were they not used in the cotton fields, some other use for them (cotton mills, factories, what have you) would have been found for them. Given the economic realities of the South, I think public "distaste" for the idea of slavery would have had about as much influence on its demise as my "distaste" for child labor has on the laws and customs of rural India. Free labor, even if compelled, was an exceedingly valuable resource, and one which I doubt men such as ran the plantation system (moral paragons they were...)would have easily given up. on preview, what Bardic said.

They were fighting for their families, their communities, and their homes.
Could you please explain (and I'm being serious here--I really want to understand) how, exactly, were they defending "their communities, familes and homes"? Was there some vast (but apparently secret) army of Northern fanatics amassed on their border, ready to swoop in and "destroy their way of life" ? Were all those scary, scary Quaker abolitionists really bloodthirsty scoundrels in disguise? How was the South "threatened" except economically?

And they did it on the whole without massacres of innocents and guerrilla terror techniques.

William Quantrell


posted by Chrischris at 7:13 PM on December 30, 2005


Exactly Chrischris. The argument that the Civil War wasn't about slavery is complete bunk. It was about money and two competing economic infrastructures, and one cannot separate slavery from the backbone of the southern economy.

As for the "defending a way of life" argument, I see a parallel to the fact that many Americans today working hourly jobs absolutely loathe unions, in the same way that many landless southerners were willing to fight for a bill of goods sold to them by the minority landholders--it was brainwashing in the extreme. During Reconstruction most poor whites remained exactly that, and if they'd managed to hold off the Union for some sort of settlement, they'd have been just as bad off. They were, sadly, fighting to maintain a status quo that had little regard for them, but to this day has a strange hold in parts of the south. I have no patience for it--a society based on slavery needs to be stomped out, and it was. The cost in lives and national unity was horrendous, but as necessary and just as any war gets.
posted by bardic at 7:28 PM on December 30, 2005


Last first. Um, William, the South didn't attack the North. It was the other way around. The South attempted to peacefully separate itself from the Union, which many people thought was an implicit right the states had via the Constitution itself. The Union then attacked the states that had seceded. The people who lived here then defended themselves as best they could.

Afroblanco, if you want to complain about the Civil War you should complain about the people who caused it. Which were largely the wealthy northern industrial interests and the wealthy southern agricultural interests. Everybody else, including all the soldiers, Davis, and Lee, were pretty much pawns of the dynamic that was playing out.

Bardic, reconstruction was so hellish precisely because there was a Civil War. I'm not gonna say the Confederacy would have been paradise on Earth for black people, but without the war and the reparations and the carpetbaggers I doubt if the ultimate resolution would have been any worse than what really happened.

The cotton gin was just the leading edge of a wave of mechanisation that made slavery completely obsolete. There were people who saw that even in 1860 and today it's blazingly obvious. I would guess that in the alternate history where the big north/south power grab never happened at all that the whole institution would have quietly disappeared by 1880. Had the secession succeeded, it would have probably disappeared even in the Confederacy by 1900. While it's true it would have probably been followed by a period of discrimination and wage slavery, that's what happened anyway so it's no loss.

Also, while we are making heroes of villains and vice-versa, let us not forget that Lincoln didn't free the Northern slaves with the Emancipation Proclamation; he only freed the slaves in the states that had seceded already. The delay in issuing the EP and that particular limitation put the lie to the whole idea that the war was about slavery at all.
posted by localroger at 7:31 PM on December 30, 2005


It never would have disappeared at all. Household slaves would still be all over the South, along with factory workers (lots of clothes manufacturers were there until just recently, and more would have moved South just to take advantage of the free labor), and probably hired out as migrant workers and stuff too. All counter help would be slaves, and restaurant and hotel workers, etc...the list is endless. Absolutely endless.
posted by amberglow at 7:37 PM on December 30, 2005


When YOU adopt an entire destitute South African township and send thier kids to college then you can criticize.

Don't believe the hype bro, that's just PR. Her REAL business is draining the heart and soul of America of actual feeling... leaving us with nothing but the tacky residue of feigned despair.
posted by psmealey at 7:44 PM on December 30, 2005


Fort Sumter bombed itself?

Blacks in the south would have magically gained their freedom if the Civil War hadn't been fought? It took the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments and even then their right to vote was often tragically violated.

As for the northern industrialists, they certainly are to blame--as industrialists do, they made a lot of money off of the war. No one is claiming the Union had lilly white motives, but the south deserved what it got.

Reconstruction certainly wasn't a pretty time for anyone but you know what didn't help? The continued murders of blacks by whites, up to and through the 20th century.

Sherman was a real bastard, but there's a reason Lincoln wanted him to carry out the endgame--there were enough die-hard southerners convinced of their sick cause that any factory or farm would have provided sustenance and equipment for a resolved enemy. He wasn't snarking when he said "War is all hell." The Confederacy needed cold, hard proof that their game was up, and that's exactly what they got.

An evil empire that got what it deserved from a far superior, albeit conflicted and hardly perfect one.
posted by bardic at 7:46 PM on December 30, 2005


amberglow, the sense I have from our history is that you are wrong. Of course nobody knows, but note that Lincoln didn't bother freeing the north's slaves until it was politically necessary. A lot of people even in the South didn't like it. Slavery wasn't being kept on for household slaves, it was being kept on for the big plantations. As even today it was industry driving things and since it was soon to be unnecessary, and was otherwise a major problem, my conclusion is that it was on its way out.

Also, reviewing the history of Fort Sumter to make sure I'm not making an idiot of myself, I hereby nominate Major Robert Anderson of the US Army for the list. He violated orders, precipitating an act of war, and more or less directly caused the Civil War.
posted by localroger at 7:46 PM on December 30, 2005


bardic, you got there while I was posting, but Ft. Sumter was an act of war caused by an army major's spontaneous act and pursuant failure to follow orders. This was perceived as an act of war which blew up the tentative agreement that the State and Union had to attempt to peacably settle their differences.
posted by localroger at 7:51 PM on December 30, 2005


Oh BTW bardic...

The Confederacy needed cold, hard proof that their game was up, and that's exactly what they got. An evil empire that got what it deserved from a far superior, albeit conflicted and hardly perfect one.

Substitute "US" for "Confederacy" and you sound exactly like Osama talking about 9/11.
posted by localroger at 7:53 PM on December 30, 2005


localroger, you're wrong once again. Lincoln was no idiot--he knew the EP (1862) wouldn't free slaves, but he was, like a good gambler, raising the stakes. Yes, his primary motivation was to preserve the Union, even if it included slavery in the south, but after the bloodshed at Antietam (or Sharpsburg if you prefer), he knew that the Civil War was going to be an all or nothing affair--a union of the north and south could no longer exist if the two areas had economic systems that were diametically opposed to one another. Go ahead and bash Lincoln--I think he was easily America's greatest president, but there's plenty to fault him for. He came to realize slavery was an evil that had to be done away with after realizing that it was a moral rot that would stain any attempt at reconcilliation between north and south (read Frederick Douglass for more on the moral and psychological ramifications of slavery, how, like all absolute power, it corrupts absolutely).

Anyways, please clarify what you mean by "northern" slaves--states like Maryland? The EP was a gesture, I'll grant you that, but one that applied to the entire Union as conceived of by Lincoln.
posted by bardic at 7:54 PM on December 30, 2005


Actually bardic I wasn't bashing Lincoln; I was merely pointing out that if you read the goddamn document the EP did not apply to the north. There was obviously a reason for that, and I suspect that reason is pissed-off slaveholders in the north, because there isn't any other reason for that limitation that makes sense.

I have always felt the Civil War was a tragedy that should have been avoided, but then I feel that way about a lot of things. It's a cold hard world. My original point was that to group people like Jeff Davis and Robert E. Lee, the reluctant leaders of the Confederate cause, with total self-serving asshats like Aaron Burr is libel.

Slavery was on its way out by 1860. There were ways to make it go away that didn't require killing 500,000 people. We didn't find any of those ways, though, and that is a stain on our entire country, north and south, that hasn't gone away even after 140 years.
posted by localroger at 8:02 PM on December 30, 2005


Ahh terrorism, the last refuge of moral and intellectual cowards.

Please feel free to cite some references on this here intarweb thingy to back up your dodgy arguments--northern slaves? Fort Sumter?

From wikipedia: On December 26, 1860, six days after South Carolina seceded, U.S. Army Major Robert Anderson abandoned the indefensible Fort Moultrie and secretly relocated his two companies (85 men) of the 1st U.S. Artillery to Fort Sumter. Over the next few months, repeated calls for Union surrender from Confederate Brigadier General P.G.T. Beauregard were ignored, and Union attempts to resupply and reinforce the garrison were rebuffed. On April 12, 1861, at 4:30 a.m., Confederate batteries opened fire, which lasted for 36 hours, on the fort.

Anderson failed to obey an unlawful command from an enemy officer! He's to be faulted for not abandoning his post?

Anyways, I need to go to bed soon, so you should get to the "Pickaninnies were happier under massa and his wife" and get this trolling over with. I've read and appreciated a number of recent histories of the mid to late 19th century which have shown that the Union had very mixed and impure motives--I've bent over backwards to make this clear to you. But you've laid your cards down for all to see. Nice job.
posted by bardic at 8:02 PM on December 30, 2005


From the EP: And be it further enacted, That all slaves of persons who shall hereafter be engaged in rebellion against the government of the United States, or who shall in any way give aid or comfort thereto, escaping from such persons and taking refuge within the lines of the army; and all slaves captured from such persons or deserted by them and coming under the control of the government of the United States; and all slaves of such person found or being within any place occupied by rebel forces and afterwards occupied by the forces of the United States, shall be deemed captives of war, and shall be forever free of their servitude, and not again held as slaves.

I'm still not sure what you mean by northern slaves.
posted by bardic at 8:05 PM on December 30, 2005


William, the South didn't attack the North. It was the other way around.
Absolutely incorrect. The Southern states, in anticipation of restrictions on the expansion of slavery they supposed would be the result of Lincoln's election, seceded. The Civil War began at Fort Sumter, where Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard opened fire on a federal garrison. These are the absolute facts of the situation. The South was the agressor party. They intiated armed hostilities.

you should complain about the people who caused it. Which were largely the wealthy northern industrial interests and the wealthy southern agricultural interests. Everybody else, including all the soldiers, Davis, and Lee, were pretty much pawns of the dynamic that was playing out.

Both Davis and Lee were members of the "wealthy southern agricultural interests" you acknowledge as the initiators of the war. Please explain exactly how "wealthy northern industrial interests" initiated the war. Who were these "interests" exactly? This sounds like crazy conspiracy talk to me, and, in the absence of compelling evidence, I call bullshit.

The delay in issuing the EP and that particular limitation put the lie to the whole idea that the war was about slavery at all.

Absolutely incorrect. Were this the case, the Thirteenth Amendement, ratified 8 months after the South had surrendered, would have never been drafted in the first place. Were this war merely about "States Rights", the rebels would have been allowed to rejoin the Union with their slaveholding system intact. This was not the case.
posted by Chrischris at 8:07 PM on December 30, 2005


Fort Sumter from the Confederate side.

It's easy to be comfortable that your stance isn't partisan when you're on the winning side 140 years in the future. Were the war about slavery, the EP would not have been issued more than a year after the start of hostilities, and it would not have contained language referring specifically to the seceded states.

Having seen my city destroyed only four months ago I'm a bit touchy about the whole thing. I suspect we both misunderestimate each other. In any case, I too am about to turn off the computer and try to sleep. I hope your sleep isn't ruined by images of your heroes' ancestral homes being washed away by a tidal surge.
posted by localroger at 8:16 PM on December 30, 2005


Slavery itself was a dead issue and would have been gone in another 20 years even without the Civil War. The cotton gin combined with the overall public distaste ensured this more completely than any war ever could.

I think you have your history backwards. The invention of the cotton gin in 1793 is credited by virtually every historian as leading to the vast expansion of slavery in the US. The cotton gin increased the profitability of cotton cultivation leading to an increased demand for field labor.
posted by JackFlash at 8:25 PM on December 30, 2005


I'm still not sure what you mean by northern slaves.

The Emancipation Proclamation didn't apply in Delaware, Kentucky, Missouri, and Maryland, because they remained in the Union.
posted by dilettante at 8:36 PM on December 30, 2005


dilettante: No. If you read the excerpt above, it applied to the slaves of all in "rebellion." Slaves in DE, KY, MO, and MD were fair game to be seized if their owners supported secession.

Again, I've already admitted that the EP was little more than words on a page, and Lincoln knew this--what it indicates is that the slavery issue, in 1862, could not be separated and considered apart from the secession issue. Lincoln came around to the morally correct viewpoint (slavery is wrong and has no place in a democratic nation) a bit later than I would have liked, but came around he did. This doesn't make him a hypocrite as it does a product of his times who wanted a Union at all costs, and by 1862 realized the cost (moral bankruptcy) was too much. "A house divided cannot stand," not "a house divided can get along just fine if we ignore the treatment of a large portion of the southern population" i.e., slaves.

localroger: read links before you post them. From your version: his order was speedily put into execution by Maj. P. F. Stevens, superintendent of the South Carolina military academy, with a detachment of the cadets, supported by the Vigilant Rifles, Captain Tupper. This battery was destined soon to fire the first gun of the war.
posted by bardic at 8:52 PM on December 30, 2005


Nola was a tragedy, but I can assure you Lincoln and/or Sherman had nothing to do with it.
posted by bardic at 8:57 PM on December 30, 2005


That bitch Katrina.
posted by rob511 at 9:11 PM on December 30, 2005


localroger, it seems like you are trying to defend the indefensible.

My question is this - why do so many people in the South feel like they need to rationalize the past in order to be proud of their culture? The American South has a rich cultural tradition outside of slavery and the civil war. Isn't it possible to be proud of your heritage and at the same time say, "Look, we made some mistakes."
posted by Afroblanco at 9:12 PM on December 30, 2005


The actual text of the Emancipation Proclamation as issued is far more specific than the excerpt, and lists the areas affected. Slaves were not freed in the loyalist states until the Thirteenth amendment, in 1865.

I'm not sure what that excerpt is from, but it's not showing up in the National Archives version of the Emancipation Proclamation. There is a Wikipedia article on the E.P. that cites a confiscation act that gave the President the authority to issue the proclamation - is that what you're quoting?
posted by dilettante at 9:24 PM on December 30, 2005


isn't it more whitewashing than rationalizing?
posted by amberglow at 9:32 PM on December 30, 2005


amberglow - i think slavery would have given way to cheap wage labor. why keep slaves that you need to feed and house for those jobs when you can pay someone $5.25 and not have to worry about them?
posted by solobrus at 9:55 PM on December 30, 2005


Jesus Christ (for encouraging the terrorists)
Mickey Mouse (harbinger of rampant corporate despotism)
Simon Cowell ("You're fired!")
Papa Smurf (for inventing Rap Music)
Al Gore (for inventing internet porn)
Angelina Jolie/Nicole Kidman (you know why)
Mom (for not buying me that plasma TV)
Winky (for inventing the Gay Agenda™)
Janet Jackson (the nipple that destroyed America)

I'm actually shocked no one mentioned any of them earlier. You might disagree with some because they're too contemporary but I don't think a list of Worst Americans Evar is complete without them. Our hatred must be comprehensive and precise.
posted by effwerd at 10:26 PM on December 30, 2005


The Smurfs are Belgian, dude.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:54 PM on December 30, 2005


solobrus, i bet that there wouldn't be a minimum wage at all if slavery had endured (nor any wage laws). There would be a massive population of slaves, and a small middle class and no working class at all. Immigration policy would have been radically different as well, without the massive influx of the late 1800s-1920s.
posted by amberglow at 10:58 PM on December 30, 2005


Wait a second, slavery ended, right? Right?!
posted by Afroblanco at 11:29 PM on December 30, 2005


My question is this - why do so many people in the South feel like they need to rationalize the past in order to be proud of their culture? The American South has a rich cultural tradition outside of slavery and the civil war. Isn't it possible to be proud of your heritage and at the same time say, "Look, we made some mistakes."

Because many people believe the south to still be the south of the civil war days. If you're reminded of something constantly, you fight back.

It's wrong to forget. It's important to learn from history.

isn't it more whitewashing than rationalizing?

It's also wrong never let it go. Some people, and some members here, will never regard the south as anything but the slavery south. And despite often proving themselves ignorant of southern history often tend to be quite loud.
posted by justgary at 11:50 PM on December 30, 2005


Well, you think there wouldn't have been a minimum wage because wage labor would never have overtaken slavery. I disagree - the North had no use for slavery, and factory owners would have had no use for slaves either, since hired labor was so cheap. The south would have had to stay a cotton based agrarian region in order for slavery to persist. We wouldn't have seen large-scale slavery in urban areas and factories even if the south stayed slaveowning.
posted by solobrus at 12:18 AM on December 31, 2005


Bill Janklow (unapologetic hypoglycemic speeder and credit-card-interest-cap destroyer)

Linda Tripp (bad friend)

dishonorable mention: Barbara Bush's uterus

(the south: there are pockets of severely hateful yesteryear that drove me west when i was old enough to know better, but i generally feel the south has benefited from being forced to confront issues of racism, compared to other regions where it has festered more silently and underexamined)
posted by troybob at 12:24 AM on December 31, 2005


General John L. DeWitt. Probably my #1.

Tough to say though. Most people are tools of the meme pools in which they swim.

DeWitt's enthusiasm is what puts him over for me though.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:56 AM on December 31, 2005


The Smurfs are Belgian, dude.
So, you're saying the Emancipation Proclamation didn't free the Smurfs? How can you possibly come to that conclusion, when the records of the Supreme Council (of Ancient and Accepted Scottish Freemasons, Marrett Rd., Lexington, MA) so clearly state otherwise?

I'm reminded of the words of Nathan Thurm: "Did I read it? Why should I read it? I don't have to read it. You read it."
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:15 AM on December 31, 2005


Isn't Rupert Murdoch one of your guys now? He should be pretty high on anyones shitlist.
posted by dodgygeezer at 5:19 AM on December 31, 2005


localroger, you're not only mistaken about Fort Sumter but you're also pretty much on your own with your cotton gin argument, as JackFlash has already pointed out. According to the Eli Whitney Museum site:

Whitney (who died in 1825) could not have foreseen the ways in which his invention would change society for the worse. The most significant of these was the growth of slavery. While it was true that the cotton gin reduced the labor of removing seeds, it did not reduce the need for slaves to grow and pick the cotton. In fact, the opposite occurred. Cotton growing became so profitable for the planters that it greatly increased their demand for both land and slave labor. In 1790 there were six slave states; in 1860 there were 15. From 1790 until Congress banned the importation of slaves from Africa in 1808, Southerners imported 80,000 Africans. By 1860 approximately one in three Southerners was a slave.

That's the historical consensus, which doesn't automatically make you wrong, of course--but it does mean you need to come up with some evidence besides your unsupported say-so if you want to be taken seriously.

(Just to continue the derail: a fair amount of the U.S. cotton crop was picked by hand well into the 1950s. It's brutal work: you're hunched over all day, it's hot as hell with no shade, and the bolls have to be pulled out of pods with three hellacious, skin-lacerating spines. Two interlocking factors led to the mechanization of the cotton harvest: corporate agribusiness's consolidation of cropland, which made using expensive combines economically feasible, and the development of cheap chemical defoliants, which are sprayed on before each harvest so the brittle dead leaves can be ginned out of the cotton.)
posted by vetiver at 7:44 AM on December 31, 2005


Well, I kind of expected this, but whatever...

1. I am not defending slavery. Slavery was reprehensible and needed to end. The powerful forces working to that end in the 1850's would have eventually worked even in the South, even if the Civil War had been avoided. Most likely the result would have been years of an alternate form of servitude based on sharecropping and low wages, but that's what happened anyway and we didn't need to kill half a million people to move to the next stage.

2. North Carolina had a provisional agreement with the Union to leave all fortifications where they were standing and maintain a truce while terms were worked out. The occupation of Ft. Sumpter was perceived as a violation of this agreement and therefore a hostile act. Since the fort was half completed you could also make the case that the Union honestly thought they were entitled to it under the same terms, but the situation is not cut and dried. Nobody is denying that SC fired the first shot, but they did it because they thought the Union troops were maneuvering to blockade or invade them.

3. In any case, very little of the Civil War was fought on Union territory, Union civilian populations were not terrorized, and Union cities were not deliberately burned to the ground. That doesn't sound like a Confederate invasion of the Union to me.

4. As far as I am concerned anybody who justifies Sherman's march to the sea is no better than somebody who justifies slavery. For the record I also think that's true of anyone who tries to deny the Holocaust or justify Pearl Harbor, Nanking, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, My Lai, suicide bombings, or 9/11. And our invasion of Iraq is rapidly climbing onto that list.

5. Speaking of which, there is absolutely no better example anywhere of why "shock and awe" is a terrible policy than the southern United States. We probably would not be arguing about this 140 years later if certain atrocities had been avoided, even had the war gone to the same final conclusion.
posted by localroger at 8:43 AM on December 31, 2005


Lincoln authorized Sherman's march because, as I've mentioned, he knew the south couldn't simply be checked, it had to be humiliated and its military infrastructure destroyed (just like other evil empires such as Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan). It's called "total war," the idea that the military calculations are no longer seperable from economic, political, and social ones. It's never pretty and leads to excesses on both sides, but it's necessary when confronting a determined enemy. Many northerners took far too much joy in the destruction, but that's what you do to an enemy that won't surrender. Rail-lines west of Atlanta that weren't destroyed would likely have been used to carry Confederate troops to battle. Farms not destroyed would have fed said Confederate troops. Factories not blown up would have continued to produce equipment for the enemy. The Confederacy, seeing this happen, could have offered a surrender, but they didn't. Again, your notion that the Civil War was unnecessary is completely wrong--the south wanted to fight it, moreso than the north (there's a reason many draft riots occurred in the north, and why Lincoln almost lost his re-election bid in 1864. It wasn't a very popular war in the north).

And again you mention atrocities--Sherman's march was nothing compared to centuries of systematic brutality inflicted on slaves. Even after 1865, the terror continued. If the Civil War hadn't been fought, it's assinine to say slavery would have disappeared. If anything, the south's moral turpitude in condoning slavery was matched only by the untenable logistical situation--the south was a military occupation of itself, where many counties had more slaves than whites. There would have been no peaceful transition into a non-slave based economy, it would have been a further succession of Nat Turner rebellions ending in further deaths and paranoia all around. Economically, the writing was on the wall by 1861--the south only had a few more decades left of viability as an agrarian, slave-based economy dwarfed by the factories of the north. The southern land-owners didn't want to admit this to themselves. But propriety tends to trump logic--the south didn't want to give up such a horrible system because, well, it was their system.

As for "Ft. Sumpter" [sic], just admit your mistake and stop trying to move the goalposts. Both the Union and Confederacy engaged in provocative behavior, but the Confederacy fired the first shot. End of story.

As for terrorism, I've already mentioned that it's an accusation made by cowards when they've realized their ideas are empty. But I'll leave you with this: the American south under slavery was the location of a genocide that lasted much longer than the Holocaust. As for actual numbers, we'll never know for sure. Yes the north profitted handsomely from slavery and the slave trade, but ultimately it was a cancer that needed to be stamped out by bullet and sword. Again, you've provided no evidence for the south "giving up" slavery without the Civil War being waged--it's always tough to disprove a hypothetical, but the burden of proof is on you. Please feel free to mention some books or authors on the subject. Lincoln gave the south plenty of wiggle room, even after the CW started, for some sort of settlement that would have allowed slavery to continue. The south was having none of it.
posted by bardic at 9:21 AM on December 31, 2005


solobrus, the factories would have definitely moved down south to take advantage of the slave labor (or they would have changed the laws to allow the hiring out of slaves, and just brought them up)
posted by amberglow at 9:50 AM on December 31, 2005


why? slaves are expensive and inefficient compared to free labor in a factory environment.
posted by solobrus at 10:34 AM on December 31, 2005


why pay anything at all when you can chain people to their machines, work them to death, and just replace them? why bother with demands for fair pay, or benefits, or safe working conditions, or anything humane, etc? You can have farm and cooking slaves producing food to feed factory slaves, and then other slaves to pack and send goods on their way. And slaves keep creating their replacements forever.
posted by amberglow at 11:42 AM on December 31, 2005


C'mon, you're joking, right? Short version: Slavery requires an explicit machinery of oppression. Wage-slavery can function on an implicit machinery of oppression. The cost of maintaining their own state of oppression can be shunted off onto the workers.

The best way to keep slaves is to make people enslave themselves. That's how the capitalist system works. Works great, too.

And don't forget that industrial capitalism was created by people who believed in a system that didn't include slaves. It would have taken a major change in society and culture to support enslavement of european workers into industrial production. And if they'd brought in non-europeans, the europeans would have rioted -- the Swing Gangs and Breaker Gangs would have looked like amateurs.
posted by lodurr at 11:53 AM on December 31, 2005


History doesn't support what you're saying, amberglow. Slaves do not keep creating replacements forever, usually. US slavery was pretty unique in history in that it was self sustaining - 600,000 imported, eventual population of over 4 million. This was due to the unusually high birth rate among US slaves, which can probably be attributed to the fact that slaves generally lived in smaller groups and were looked after as an investment by their owners. Look at Latin American slavery for contrast, where Colonial powers imported over 10 million slaves because the death rate of slaves was so much higher than the birth rate.

Now, in an agrarian situation where everyone has an interest in keeping the slave population under control and working, and where the slaves have a high birth rate, slavery can thrive. The typical slaveowner had 25 or 50 slaves in the American south, while in South America plantations had hundreds or thousands of slaves. One system led to a sustainable slave economy, the other did not. I see parallels between American southern slavery and the imaginary situation you envision.
posted by solobrus at 12:06 PM on December 31, 2005


er, that should be parallels between South American plantation slavery and your hypothetical.
posted by solobrus at 12:09 PM on December 31, 2005


On April 12, 1861...
Nitpick here. This was not the first shot of the American Civil War. Three months earlier, South Carolinians on Morris Island fired on the Star of the West as it tried to resupply Ft. Sumter. President Buchanan had sent the ship from New York, but failed to inform Major Anderson (the Ft. Sumter commander) of its impending arrival. Since no support was forthcoming from Sumter, the ship's captain returned to New York. Anderson and the South Carolina governor exchanged accusations of committing acts of war, and the governor began preparing to attack the fort.

Since the Confederacy was formed in February of 1861, this attack cannot be said to have been committed by "the South". South Carolina had seceded the previous month and this incident was South Carolinians attempting to evict what they considered to be a foreign army from their soil.
posted by forrest at 5:25 PM on December 31, 2005


Since my own worst 10 list would be wildly unpopular, and spin this thread out to 300 something, I will just say, that this has been one of the most depressing things I have ever read here for some reason.

We are all pretty similar people here. If not American, of similar education. Why can't we get along? I know my disagreements are not partisan, but they might as well be. I actually do not mind that we disagree, so much as the hostility that honest differences bring out in so many of us.

A better 06 to all of you.
posted by thirteen at 8:44 PM on December 31, 2005


my quick list, most not evil, instead some on there for just being
intolerant,uncreative, annoying, hacks (or all 4 traits):

D Cheney
Reagan
Bill ORiley
MAriah Caray
Joe Lieberman
Dr Laura
McVeigh
Gene Simmons
Nancy Grace
Janet Jackson


lucky most will be forgotten soon enough
posted by celerystick at 9:12 PM on December 31, 2005


why mariah?

solobrus, i'm hypothesizing, based on what was happening here and what did happen here. Anyone who had any kind of labor-intensive business would have moved south--and we had a massive shortage of workers in the late 1800s, so they would have been slaves imported and not immigrants encouraged, i bet.
posted by amberglow at 9:32 PM on December 31, 2005


Why do you bet that? It seems nonsensical.
posted by solobrus at 10:04 PM on December 31, 2005


...And if the slaves were imported and put to work in hellish factories like you presume, they would probably not have had a comprable reproduction rate to southern agricultural slaves. They wouldn't "keep creating their replacements forever." Like lodurr said, industrial capitalism was driven by people who didn't believe in slavery. America would have been left dismally behind if they went forth with anything like you suggest.
posted by solobrus at 10:09 PM on December 31, 2005


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