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April 13, 2008 1:16 PM   Subscribe

Aryan Outfitters - a photo and audio essay from Mother Jones magazine about a day in the life of a 58-year old seamstress who caters to the Ku Klux Klan.
posted by ooga_booga (105 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
She uses the earnings to help care for her 40-year-old quadriplegic daughter, "Lilbit," who was injured in a car accident 10 years ago.

Well at least she's using her evil for good.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:21 PM on April 13, 2008 [6 favorites]


58-year-old "Ms. Ruth" sews hoods and robes for Klan members seven days a week, blessing each one when it's done. A red satin outfit for an Exalted Cyclops, the head of a local chapter, costs about $140. She uses the earnings to help care for her 40-year-old quadriplegic daughter, "Lilbit," who was injured in a car accident 10 years ago.

There's a novel sitting right here in front of us. Ah, Ms. Ruth! Ah, humanity!

"People think the Klan are mean, violent, wanna beat people, wanna hang people . . ."

Do they, now.
posted by Countess Elena at 1:23 PM on April 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


This is so interesting. Great post.
posted by nevercalm at 1:25 PM on April 13, 2008


I posted before I finished the essay. I'm fascinated to hear her say that her grandfather told her that the KKK's mission was originally that they "took care of" anyone, white or black, who "didn't take care of his family." Was he lying to her, or to himself, or had he been lied to in his turn? How widespread is this interpretation amongst Klan members today?
posted by Countess Elena at 1:31 PM on April 13, 2008


I remember an old John Callahan cartoon showing two enrobed klansman going out for the evening where one turns to the other and says 'Don't you love it when they're still warm from the dryer?'

I also seem to recall a similar story about an elderly seamstress who sews colors for the Hell's Angels.
posted by jonmc at 1:33 PM on April 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


Countess Elena - the KKK wikipedia entry states that the Klan was active in resisting reconstruction by going after "carpetbaggers, scalawags, and freed slaves", but it suggests that it was violence perpetrated upon white northeners and those who were perceived to be representatives of Northern Oppression. I haven't really found anything which corroborates Ms. Ruth's statement that the Klan were more of a moral police force on the local community, though.
posted by ooga_booga at 1:39 PM on April 13, 2008


I posted before I finished the essay. I'm fascinated to hear her say that her grandfather told her that the KKK's mission was originally that they "took care of" anyone, white or black, who "didn't take care of his family." Was he lying to her, or to himself, or had he been lied to in his turn? How widespread is this interpretation amongst Klan members today?

Actually, I don't really doubt that they did this, as it's fairly common for local gangs and mafias to take on the role of resolving conflicts and enforcing community and social standards; they're almost like proto-governments, and they exist in a kind of (unhealthy) symbiosis with their communities, rather than pure parasitism. In extremely insular communities, appealing to the local strongmen is more efficient than going through the police and courts.

And speaking of, she should expand her business to outfit other mafias. The red klan hood, the red Nation of Islam bowtie, biker kerchiefs, and red zoots and fedoras can all be cut from the same cloth.
posted by kid ichorous at 1:41 PM on April 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'm fascinated to hear her say that her grandfather told her that the KKK's mission was originally that they "took care of" anyone, white or black, who "didn't take care of his family."

Yeah, so they were kind of like the Rotarians, only with more beatings...

This kind of makes sense though:

"They original uniforms had no stripes or colours so if someone was out in the woods wanted to shoot them they wouldn't know who the officers were."
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:42 PM on April 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


Aww, that's so cute.
posted by jayder at 1:43 PM on April 13, 2008


Countess Elena,
In the earliest days of the KKK, there was virtually no agreement on platform or mission between the various local, state, and national groups. The local group Ms. Ruth speaks of could very well have had that focus.

"Lifting the Klan mask revealed a chaotic multitude of antiblack vigilante groups, disgruntled poor white farmers, wartime guerrilla bands, displaced Democratic politicians, illegal whiskey distillers, coercive moral reformers, bored young men, sadists, rapists, white workmen fearful of black competition, employers trying to enforce labor discipline, common thieves, neighbors with decades-old grudges, and even a few freedmen and white Republicans who allied with Democratic whites or had criminal agendas of their own. Indeed, all they had in common, besides being overwhelmingly white, southern, and Democratic, was that they called themselves, or were called, Klansmen." via
posted by andythebean at 1:46 PM on April 13, 2008


I ran across an old history of the Klan in an archive where I used to work. If I recall correctly, the book explained that the Klan was formed to protect the widows and daughters of dead Confederate soldiers against the freed black men who, it was feared, would be marauding across the South.
posted by jayder at 1:47 PM on April 13, 2008


Exalted cyclops? Huh.
posted by sneakin at 1:56 PM on April 13, 2008


Interesting post on a subject I know nothing about. Anything I've ever heard about the Klan I've heard from an outsider's point of view, and while I have a gut reaction that is negative (I would think rightly so) I relish a chance to hear people out, and to get their perspective on who they believe they are. Thanks for posting.
posted by nola at 1:57 PM on April 13, 2008


the book explained that the Klan was formed to protect the widows and daughters of dead Confederate soldiers against the freed black men who, it was feared, would be marauding across the South.

Well, that's a perfectly reasonable fear! Everyone knows that black men are sex-crazed rape machines.

[/obvious, overwhelming sarcasm]
posted by Saxon Kane at 1:58 PM on April 13, 2008


That text andythebean quotes is from Elaine Frantz Parsons' "Midnight Rangers: Costume and Performance in the Reconstruction-Era Ku Klux Klan," whose focus is on "Klansmen's mobilization of popular cultural traditions and popular cultural institutions' simultaneous appropriation of the image of the Klansman." Which is all very interesting, but it can lead to a skewed perspective unless you bear in mind the basic truth summed up in another quote from the Wikipedia article:
Gordon supposedly told former slave trader and Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest in Memphis, Tennessee, about the Klan. Forrest allegedly responded, "That's a good thing; that's a damn good thing. We can use that to keep the niggers in their place." A few weeks later, Forrest was selected as Imperial Wizard, the Klan's national leader.
All that self-justifying crap about the "KKK's original mission" is even more disingenuous than the pretense that the South's rebellion was about states' rights. It was about keeping the niggers in their place. End of story.
posted by languagehat at 1:59 PM on April 13, 2008 [17 favorites]


It was about keeping the niggers in their place.

Actually it was about states' rights to keep the niggers in their place. Remember they wanted an official way to do this.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:10 PM on April 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


Well, that's a perfectly reasonable fear! Everyone knows that black men are sex-crazed rape machines.

Did my comment make it sound as though I thought the fear was reasonable?
posted by jayder at 2:18 PM on April 13, 2008


"We're the members of the Master Race, we got no style and we got no taste..."
posted by jonmc at 2:23 PM on April 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


Did my comment make it sound as though I thought the fear was reasonable?

No, but Saxon Kane's comment seems to be more directed at the people who had this fear rather than your comment. Chill.
posted by WalterMitty at 2:26 PM on April 13, 2008


Aww, that's so cute.

The Klan has a Triforce badge?
posted by CKmtl at 2:40 PM on April 13, 2008


Although keeping the black man down is certainly a core belief of the klan, they have plenty of hate to go around. Many people don't realize that at least in their incarnation in the 1920's they were virulently anti-Catholic. My grandmother was from a Catholic family in rural Oklahoma (Bartlesville, I believe) and along with her sisters attended a Catholic girls school. One day the klan picketed them, chanting slogans about "catlickers" and "papists". My great-grandfather was unhappy about this and wrote a letter to the local paper denouncing the klan as a bunch of cowards who hid under hoods trying to frighten schoolgirls and nuns. The paper printed the letter; that night his barn burned down. So yeah, fuck the KKK.
posted by TedW at 2:46 PM on April 13, 2008 [11 favorites]


"catlickers" ?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:53 PM on April 13, 2008


Catholic --> Cat'lic --> Catlick(ers), I presume.
posted by CKmtl at 2:54 PM on April 13, 2008


even more disingenuous than the pretense that the South's rebellion was about states' rights. It was about keeping the niggers in their place. End of story.

Wow, at yr level of ignorance on the subject.
posted by Jesus Malverde at 3:02 PM on April 13, 2008


The paper printed the letter; that night his barn burned down. So yeah, fuck the KKK.


Until about 20 years ago the valley my parents live in here in Tennessee was a place where people's homes would mysteriously burn down. I don't think the clan had anything to do with it, but it was a fact of life that if you crossed the wrong people there would be hell to pay. I think in the old days much of the "burning out" had to do with moonshine. Strange country no doubt.
posted by nola at 3:02 PM on April 13, 2008


Catholic --> Cat'lic --> Catlick(ers), I presume.
"It had been decided, in the middle of the semester, that all Catholic children in the one-room schools were to attend parochial schools in the towns. There was now school-bus service to Fayetteville and we wouldn't have to walk as the older girls had, but I still hated to leave Quinn's.

My throat felt tight as the derisive farewell shouts followed us down the road, 'So long, Catlickers!' and 'There go the stuck-up crossbacks!' They were the friends that had shared my lunch and crayons, my good times and bad, the very same ones, I told Mother.

'It's just because they don't understand,' she said."

-- The Lark's on the Wing, by Mary Carlier, 1955 *
posted by ericb at 3:03 PM on April 13, 2008


Metafilter: sex-crazed rape machines.
posted by britain at 3:12 PM on April 13, 2008 [4 favorites]


Until about 20 years ago the valley my parents live in here in Tennessee was a place where people's homes would mysteriously burn down.

I did part of my residency with a couple of guys from Johnson City who had relatives in the corn squeezin' business; they had all sorts of tales. Burning down houses sounds like a completely plausible risk in that business.
posted by TedW at 3:19 PM on April 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


"catlickers" ?

Lesbians.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:22 PM on April 13, 2008 [5 favorites]


Wow, at yr level of ignorance on the subject.

Wow, at the fact that you feel so passionate about the subject that you signed up as a member to make that comment.
posted by jayder at 3:25 PM on April 13, 2008 [6 favorites]


I hate Louisiana nazis.
posted by cmyk at 3:37 PM on April 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Actually it was about states' rights to keep the niggers in their place. Remember they wanted an official way to do this.

Oh, absolutely. But we hear an awful lot about the "states' rights" figleaf, so it's good to keep the real goal in mind.

Wow, at yr level of ignorance on the subject.

Case in point. Tell me, Sr. Malverde, what exactly is your background in the subject (other than what appears to be a passionate commitment to the Southron Cause) that entitles you to look down from such a lofty height at mine? Because I've got a fair library of books on the Civil War (and have actually edited one) and have thought a great deal about it (partly from having ancestors on both sides of the war and grown up with relatives who still cursed General Sherman). I mean, I'm willing to defer to you if you're a Pulitzer-winning historian or something, but if you're just another internet blowhard, I have to say that I'm not going to be impressed by your unsupported insistence that I'm wrong.
posted by languagehat at 3:43 PM on April 13, 2008 [28 favorites]


I'm as opposed to hate-mongering as the next person. And I believe that the primary purpose of (or at least the primary effect of) the Klan -- despite their tortured claims to the contrary -- is hate-mongering.

That said, my opinion of them was been slightly skewed for the past 15 years or so ago.

Back in the '90s, my boss, editor of a liberal political magazine in Austin (which is probably enough info to figure out the name of the mag), went to East Texas interview the then-Grand Dragon of Texas. He came back from the interview in stitches, and he played the tape for us to illustrate what was so funny.

The Grand Dragon had a bit of a Napoleon complex, as you might imagine any Grand Dragon would. This led him to refer to himself often, and in the third person. He also had a bit of an Elmer Fudd speech impediment.

In his lengthy explanation of his role, and of the Klan's, and of how they were bettering East Texas and ridding it of many of its ills, he repeatedly and beatifically referred to himself as the "Gwand Dwagon."

I know they cause problems. But honestly, it's hard to take them all that seriously after listening to the Gwand Dwagon.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:55 PM on April 13, 2008 [20 favorites]


Fascinating. I'm trying to imagine being this photojournalist, and I don't think I could have possibly detached myself/views in order to chronicle this woman in such an evenhanded manner, like he did. I give him a lot of credit. I doubt I'd ever be able to do such an photoessay on the KKK.

(and also because I'm not-White.)
posted by NikitaNikita at 3:55 PM on April 13, 2008



That said, my opinion of them was has been slightly skewed for the past 15 years or so ago.

I is gud editor.


posted by mudpuppie at 3:56 PM on April 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


All that self-justifying crap about the "KKK's original mission" is even more disingenuous than the pretense that the South's rebellion was about states' rights. It was about keeping the niggers in their place. End of story.

The Klan was founded with the stated intent of squelching, by any means necessary, the newly freed black population. If you can, check out Dorothy Sterling's book, "The Trouble They Seen" which quotes extensively from documents of the time, including newspapers and letters, about the Klan and its goals. And, not incidentally, it's a book worth reading for its account of the freed slaves trying to find their lost relatives who had been sold off. It's absolutely heartbreaking. You can read parts of her book at amazon.com if you've bought something on that site recently. Otherwise, it's a wonderful roundup of post-Civil War history.
posted by etaoin at 3:58 PM on April 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


If I recall correctly, the book explained that the Klan was formed to protect the widows and daughters of dead Confederate soldiers against the freed black men who, it was feared, would be marauding across the South.

Yeah, this is pretty much the plot to Birth of a Nation which is simultaneously one of the greatest works ever put to film and despicable racist claptrap. (And also the first movie screened at the White House.)

The point is that this version of the Klan's history and raison d'être is largely 20th century revisionist.
posted by wfrgms at 3:59 PM on April 13, 2008 [4 favorites]


I want to hate this woman, blah blah blah, but I'd love to see her on Project Runway.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:00 PM on April 13, 2008 [10 favorites]


For the record.

Myself, I rarely see anything as cut and dried and I'm going to argue for mixed motives for some, many, though no doubt not all of the original joinees and point out that Forrest himself quit pretty early on in disgust. (NB as well that his quote is under some dispute- though the Fort Pillow massacre pretty much makes that quibble moot, if we're talking about general attitudes.)
posted by IndigoJones at 4:03 PM on April 13, 2008


I know the commenters have moved on, but my mother just came over and in the interest of accuracy she informed me that it was Ardmore, not Bartlesville, where the klan burned down my great-grandfather's barn.
posted by TedW at 4:07 PM on April 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


god, that was sickening. I just feel kind of ill and depressed that people can be so blind and poorly guided. She has some skills and some good intentions, and yet she devotes the better portion of her life to spreading hate.

Well, I guess it's a good reminder that we all may "know not what we do" if we aren't sufficiently careful to examine what we support or go along with. Never just vote for the guy your dad voted for, or join the church your mom baptised you in, or sew clothes for the club your family belongs to, without really understanding what you've chosen...
posted by mdn at 4:08 PM on April 13, 2008


A picture of Nathan Bedford Forrest, one of the founders of the KKK, is displayed in the living room just outside the kitchen.

Fun fact: According to the book Lies Across America, in Tennessee, there are more historical markers and monuments dedicated to Nathan Bedford Forrest than any other person.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:59 PM on April 13, 2008


Did my comment make it sound as though I thought the fear was reasonable?

No.

No, but Saxon Kane's comment seems to be more directed at the people who had this fear rather than your comment.

Yes.

posted by Saxon Kane at 5:03 PM on April 13, 2008


Exalted cyclops is watching you masturbate.
posted by fire&wings at 5:25 PM on April 13, 2008 [4 favorites]



I want to hate this woman, blah blah blah, but I'd love to see her on Project Runway.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:00 PM on April 13 [1 favorite +] [!]


The first thing that popped into my head after reading this was, "Make it work, people." in a Gunnian tone as I imagined all of the designers creating KKK outfits out of leftover denim and remaindered Bedazzler kits.
posted by sleepy pete at 5:28 PM on April 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


Wow. Abject ignorance and seamstress skills galore! But do they vote?
posted by humannaire at 5:30 PM on April 13, 2008


languagehat :
I'm not just an internet blowhard, nor is this a war of words.
My background in the subject closely mirrors yr own it seems. I have read, over many years, 100ths of books and articles, scholarly and popular on the subject. I have also met people who remember there immediate ancestors as slaves. My ancestors respected Sherman, as a warrior. You might be impressed, since scholarship seems to wow you, with books by Pulitzer-winning historians or something that mitigate your broad claim that "the pretense that the South's rebellion was about states' rights. It was about keeping the niggers in their place. End of story" Please not I did not talk down to you or assume I am superior. I said the statement showed ignorance on the subject. Study, for example, the break-up of the Baptist Church into the Northern and Southern denominations (I authored a paper on the subject in 1994, so I point to that as an interesting microcosm of the 'states rights' issue at large.)
That is an anti-historical, simplistic non-academic view that I was actually unaware intellectuals like yourself adhered to. Nothing I say or link to here will change your mind, of course. But as a mere starting point for some who may have wondered, here are a few articles on the subject.
My position:
"The causes of The Civil War are by no means simple, and saying slavery caused the Civil War is somewhat akin to saying the invention of the printing press caused the Enlightenment."
posted by Jesus Malverde at 5:35 PM on April 13, 2008 [2 favorites]


100ths-100's, there=their and so forth and so on...
posted by Jesus Malverde at 5:38 PM on April 13, 2008


I posted before I finished the essay. I'm fascinated to hear her say that her grandfather told her that the KKK's mission was originally that they "took care of" anyone, white or black, who "didn't take care of his family."


Incidentally, in the area my parents come from in Appalachia mining country, where there were no black residents (it was also a Sundown town), my father said that the Klan that existed would go after men who beat their wives and other such things. Course, I don't think that doesn't mean they wouldn't have harassed any black residents if there were any. A legend my great-uncle told me of the area went back before my parents' time and concerned how a black man, accused of raping a school teacher, was tied to the school house and burned down with it. And in a county over, there was a documented lynching at some point. So I think it was more of a "work with what you got at hand" situation.
posted by Atreides at 6:24 PM on April 13, 2008


Four out of the five points in your About.com link touch on slavery. Not a great piece of evidence against the "it was about slavery" position.
posted by CKmtl at 6:26 PM on April 13, 2008


Welcome to Metafilter, Jesus Malverde.

Only fair to warn you: languagehat is indeed one of the most argumentatively formidable members of this formidably argumentative site.
The last time (to my recollection) this was argued at length, empath contributed significant arguments you may wish to read and anticipate. Specifically, South Carolina's declaration of secession, which, it was noted, makes significant and extensive references to slavery.

My own position on the matter can be read in my summary of that thread. If nothing else, it should give you some awareness of your audience.
posted by Richard Daly at 6:39 PM on April 13, 2008 [5 favorites]


Incidentally, in the area my parents come from in Appalachia mining country, where there were no black residents (it was also a Sundown town), my father said that the Klan that existed would go after men who beat their wives and other such things. Course, I don't think that doesn't mean they wouldn't have harassed any black residents if there were any.

It's fascinating to hear that the Klan had an actual role in the community. But I should have thought so. It reminds me of that early scene in The Godfather, with the poor man whose daughter had been raped.

I am always proud to remember that in Washington County, MS, where I'm from, the local powers-that-be (essentially one family) just refused to have the KKK in town, and the county was safe from the Klan so long as their economic power lasted. But then, my family is really from Webster County anyway. My great-grandfather said he saw a lynching where a man got cut apart with an acetylene torch.

Nowhere was safe, really. Check out this day at the fair in Canon City, Colorado. (I've been there -- claustrophobic little place. Must have been frightening times.)
posted by Countess Elena at 6:50 PM on April 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't think anyone is saying that the Civil War was not largely about slavery, but just that saying it was pro-slavery vs. anti-slavery is far too reductive and ignores a lot. Slavery was the obvious flash-point for a conflict that also dealt with issues of political and economic power and a broad cultural divide.

The KKK, though, yeah, they are basically racist thugs (although, apparently in some areas, just mostly thugs).
posted by Saxon Kane at 6:52 PM on April 13, 2008


thank you gentlemen, I shall refrain from 'discussion' on the subject then. Interestingly I have studied this (though I hold no degree in the filed) with some 'heavyweights' among the students of the whole issue. The slave issue was seen by them as non-academic and silly, a ghost of reconstruction. But I choose my battles and so I withdraw. If he keeps using the 'N word' to try to make his point, however, I will not take it so kindly. I will forbear ignorance but so far. I found that personally offensive which is why I replied to began with. I did not wish to take this thread off course.
posted by Jesus Malverde at 6:52 PM on April 13, 2008


I'm fascinated to hear her say that her grandfather told her that the KKK's mission was originally that they "took care of" anyone, white or black, who "didn't take care of his family."

The Klan were big on "family values" (as was Rudolf Höss, but that's neither here nor there). My understanding is that the last guy lynched in a county I have some familiarity with, was a white man who dished out a lot of domestic abuse. Details are hard to come by, but I would guess sexual abuse of the children, although I bet slapping around his wife if she came from the right (wrong) family might do the trick too. That they would care what happened in a black family sounds like nonsense to me. Hard to imagine that it would mean anything to them except as a tool to whip up a crowd.

NB as well that his quote is under some dispute- though the Fort Pillow massacre pretty much makes that quibble moot, if we're talking about general attitudes.

No doubt, the rebellious attitudes of the blacks at Ft. Pillow must have raised the former slave trader's ire. I believe he also beat a black man to death in New Orleans a few years after the war. Even if that quote is falsely attributed to him, it does sound consistent with the man.
posted by BigSky at 7:01 PM on April 13, 2008


Mr. Malverde, I have to ask: is English your first language?
posted by TedW at 7:05 PM on April 13, 2008


Mr. Malverde, I have to ask: is English your first language?

Nope, sorry if it gives you headaches my friends.
posted by Jesus Malverde at 7:10 PM on April 13, 2008


I'm sorry if I implied that you shouldn't make your case or have a discussion on this issue. You are, of course, welcome to speak your mind, and I hope you're heard with interest and tolerance. Metafilter "does" this debate reasonably well, though there is probably a predominant "pro-union" bias (I say this from Connecticut).

With regards to languagehat's use of the word "nigger", I can only let him speak for himself. I myself find it unobjectionable in this context. We're talking about the Klan. Their opinions of racial minorities are a matter of terrible record. While 'hat is "putting the slur in their mouths", I doubt it's one to which they'd object.

Whether it's fair to equate the Klan to the American secessionists seems to be the point of argument, though. Are you saying you think it's unfair to characterize the prevailing attitude of secessionists as racist?
posted by Richard Daly at 7:10 PM on April 13, 2008


As a point of clarification, "I doubt it's a slur to which the Klan would object."
posted by Richard Daly at 7:13 PM on April 13, 2008


Bedazzler

A rhinestone swastika is usually a total faux pas with fashion nazis everywhere, but if she can get it past Michael Kors, she might still have a future in haberdashery.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:15 PM on April 13, 2008 [4 favorites]


Where I am from, the klan was organized because Catholic emigration from poor southern European countries worried local protestant civic leadership. bonus klan ferris wheel .
posted by hortense at 7:19 PM on April 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


...in Tennessee, there are more historical markers and monuments dedicated to Nathan Bedford Forrest than any other person...

I really enjoy Loewen's work and had noticed that statement as well. Since I live in the south and in particular about 500 feet from South Carolina, I have had a front row seat to all of the confederate flag battles and have watched a variety of "southern heritage" shops spring up around the area. Their common refrain is "heritage not hate" yet one of the most ubiquitous items is a cryptic bumper sticker reading "I Ride With Forrest".
posted by TedW at 7:22 PM on April 13, 2008


Quite the photo essay. I am always startled by how pedestrian evil can be.
posted by madamjujujive at 7:22 PM on April 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


thanks Richard Daly,
it has been my limited experience that actual discussion is almost impossible on the WWW, so no great loss there. If the gentleman meant the ugly n word as some way to make his highly debatable point I accept that he may be non-racist but that is a repulsive, cheap shot way to have a discussion. I think it absolutely unnecessary, some think it edgy...but already I have spoken too much. no importa.
I appreciate the original posting here!
posted by Jesus Malverde at 7:29 PM on April 13, 2008


Slight derail, but too interesting not to post
posted by IndigoJones at 7:33 PM on April 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Welcome, Sr. Malverde, and just as an aside ... Metafilter is indeed one site where good discussion can often be found. Not always, but more often that not. So please join in at any point. Your English is excellent.
posted by madamjujujive at 7:33 PM on April 13, 2008 [4 favorites]


Fascinating. I'm trying to imagine being this photojournalist, and I don't think I could have possibly detached myself/views in order to chronicle this woman in such an evenhanded manner, like he did. I give him a lot of credit. I doubt I'd ever be able to do such an photoessay on the KKK.

Some of the most fascinating television I've seen in recent years has been Louis Theroux's documentaries (Note: bonus link there to an interview with Louis by MeFi's own Jesse Thorne). One of the most interesting (and repellent) was his visit with some American white supremacists neo-Nazi types. Chilling, but well worth your time.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:42 PM on April 13, 2008 [3 favorites]


Yes, welcome Sr. Malverde. Please do continue to contribute. We're not all rude and combative here, I assure you.
posted by stinkycheese at 11:58 PM on April 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


A Jew tries to join the KKK.

Fascinating post, thanks.
posted by goo at 12:29 AM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Jesus Malverde: You seem to be attacking people for claiming that the Civil War was about slavery. Do you have an alternate interpretation? Is it the Marxist one ("The Civil War was America's second bourgeois revolution," confrontation between landed and industrial/finance capital, etc)? Is it the Lost Cause of the Confederacy? You can't dismiss your opponents as long as you don't place yourself anywhere on the historiographic field.
posted by nasreddin at 1:45 AM on April 14, 2008


I'm a mite puzzled as to how Jesus Malverde got to the causes of the Civil War from languagehat's comments. Not that I'm objecting to the topic drift per se, but it seems rather strange.

Arguing that the KKK has purposes other than racism, or that it was founded for purposes other than racism seems purely foolish. Yes, the klan also includes an anti-Cathoic and anti-Jewish component, but the primary focus was on blacks and keeping them "in their place".
posted by sotonohito at 5:02 AM on April 14, 2008


Please not I did not talk down to you or assume I am superior. I said the statement showed ignorance on the subject.

I leave those two statements to argue with each other on their own while I await an actual argument from you.

Study, for example, the break-up of the Baptist Church into the Northern and Southern denominations (I authored a paper on the subject in 1994, so I point to that as an interesting microcosm of the 'states rights' issue at large.)

I am aware of that breakup (though not, I'm afraid, of your paper). It is indeed an interesting microcosm of the states' rights issue at large. I am at a loss to know what it has to do with the topic under discussion.

That is an anti-historical, simplistic non-academic view that I was actually unaware intellectuals like yourself adhered to.

1) My, once again you're dismissing my point with insults but without supporting evidence or any actual argument. But don't worry, I know you're not talking down to me or assuming you're superior.

2) What do you mean, "intellectuals like yourself"? We're two guys talking on the internet, both of whom have read a lot about history. And I might point out that you've published at least one more scholarly paper than I have. What makes me as opposed to you an "intellectual"?

If he keeps using the 'N word' to try to make his point, however, I will not take it so kindly. I will forbear ignorance but so far. I found that personally offensive which is why I replied to began with.
If the gentleman meant the ugly n word as some way to make his highly debatable point I accept that he may be non-racist but that is a repulsive, cheap shot way to have a discussion. I think it absolutely unnecessary, some think it edgy


I'm strongly tempted to be edgy and say "go fuck yourself," but that would be wrong, as a president who was not a crook once said. Instead, I will point out that anyone who can actually, you know, read would see that I was quoting Nathan Bedford Forrest. See that blockquote in my earlier comment, where Forrest is quoted as saying "That's a good thing; that's a damn good thing. We can use that to keep the niggers in their place"? Then see two sentences later, where I say "It was about keeping the niggers in their place"? Are you implying that there's no connection, that I just decided to toss the "N-word" around 'cause I love the sound of it? I actually did hesitate before hitting "Post," thinking "Ooh, somebody could accuse me of using the N-word," but then I thought "Naw, this isn't Fark, people around here can read and use their brains, and it's obvious I'm quoting Forrest. Anyone who makes a point of it is outing themself as either a moron or an asshole."

But wait, I've found a fellow villain! Look at this quote from one Jesus Malverde: "It was about keeping the niggers in their place." How dare you throw around the N-word like that! I cannot take seriously anything you say from here on out.

Oh, wait, you were quoting someone, so that makes it OK? Hmm, I'll have to think about that. No, wait, you'll have to think about that.


As for the actual topic, that thread linked by Richard Daly is an excellent discussion (and makes me miss both EB and davy). As I said in this comment: "I pretty much agree with LarryC and davy that in the way that meant most to the lords and masters of the South (the ability to stay in charge of things and keep the black folks in their place) the South won the war; their ability to hold on to a disproportionate degree of clout in Washington right through the 20th century is telling."

And as I said here:
I just want to add this quote to the record (from page 14 of Jeff Hummel's intriguing reanalysis of the Civil War and the period leading up to it, Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men):
Southerners furthermore became advocates of inviolate states' rights. What particularly disturbed them was that Tallmadge's amendment would have imposed antislavery upon a full-fledged state, and not just a territory. Previously states' rights had been an ideological issue with support and opposition in all parts of the country. But once the Missouri controversy exposed the South's vulnerability as a minority, states' rights increasingly turned into a sectional issue. Southerners came to realize that only strict limits upon national authority could protect their existing slave system from hostile interference.
Seriously, folks, it was all about slavery, from beginning to end.
I stand by both quotes.
posted by languagehat at 5:52 AM on April 14, 2008 [7 favorites]


Also, Jesus Malverde, how can you claim the Civil War was about states' rights when the constitution of the Confederacy didn't recognize a right to secession?
posted by nasreddin at 5:59 AM on April 14, 2008


Excellent photojournalism, promising troll... ah yes: the stars are aligned for a pleasant afternoon.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:13 AM on April 14, 2008


I don't think Jesus is a troll; he's a crank who thinks the fact that he's read more than most people he meets at the local bar means he's a world authority who doesn't have to actually listen to anyone else—he just has to announce his opinion and anyone who doesn't automatically believe him is ignorant.

The only way to have an intellectually respectable mental life is to constantly acknowledge the limitations of your knowledge and be willing to learn from others who know more or have different perspectives. I used to be much more sympathetic to the states-rights position (being the anti-central-authority type that I am), but years of reading and paying attention convinced me that in this case it was a figleaf for plain old racism. I'm happy to discuss these complicated and interesting subjects with anyone, but it's frustrating when all they do is make unsupported pronouncements and insult anyone who differs.
posted by languagehat at 6:59 AM on April 14, 2008 [5 favorites]


Jesus Malverde=manipulative shit stirrer.

Nothing personal, just calling it like I see it.
posted by humannaire at 7:41 AM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


doesn't have to actually listen to anyone else—he just has to announce his opinion and anyone who doesn't automatically believe him is ignorant.

I'm a little confused: how is this different from a troll? Still, it wasn't my intention to derail the conversation, though on reviewing the last thread, I do suspect that this conversation has been better worked-out before than it will be today.
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:03 AM on April 14, 2008


Additionally, the states' rights argument falls a little flat when you realize that the Southern states were all about the federal government stepping in and overriding the laws of an individual state when it came to the Fugitive Slave Law.

The concern over states' rights and the protection of the white folk from evil freedmen and carpetbaggers only became the standard party line in the post-Reconstruction years. A vast amount of work and effort went into establishing an alternate view of the Civil War that was decidely pro-South. Specifically, the United Daughters of the Confederacy spent an enormous amount of time and money building monuments and working to change textbooks to create a new generation of Southerners that could ignore the race issue and claim the Confederates as heroes, striving only to protect the Constitution.

According to the players of the game at the time, yes, it was about slavery. But there was probably a lot more going on there that they didn't acknowledge or realize.
posted by teleri025 at 9:43 AM on April 14, 2008


I'm a little confused: how is this different from a troll?

In my understanding, a troll is someone who doesn't believe what they're saying or have any personal stake in the subject but is simply tossing incendiary remarks into a discussion to derail it and stir up the kind of pointless yelling match they love. If this guy were a troll, he'd have dropped a dozen fragmentation grenades into the thread by now. I think he sincerely believes... whatever it is he believes (I'm not clear on that, because he hasn't done much but call other people ignorant) and is upset to find himself argued with. I'm sorry he hasn't come back to argue or clarify, because I'd like to understand where he's coming from, but we may have scared him off. (You can't scare off a troll—ignoring them is the only thing that works, and it's almost impossible for an entire group to ignore a troll.)

Additionally, the states' rights argument falls a little flat when you realize that the Southern states were all about the federal government stepping in and overriding the laws of an individual state when it came to the Fugitive Slave Law.


Exactly, and this is the kind of thing I'd like Jesus to respond to.
posted by languagehat at 10:19 AM on April 14, 2008


Sorry...to me, a gentler, kinder, KKK would need a name change just as as would the IRS.

There's just too much distortion in their mission, as it has evolved over time (eg. having strong ties with neo-Nazism, racial based hatred and violence, etc) and yes I'm talking about the KKK not the IRS.
posted by samsara at 10:39 AM on April 14, 2008


a troll is someone who doesn't believe what they're saying or have any personal stake in the subject

Hmm... since I think we've lost him, I'm going to respond to this here. In my view, someone who 'announces his opinion' and labels 'anyone who doesn't agree with him ignorant ' is a troll. Not being willing to listen to counter-arguments is evidence that one doesn't care whether or not one is right, that one either doesn't have a stake or doesn't believe what one is saying.

I'll give you an example: remember the thread about the Verizon customer service reps who couldn't tell the difference between .02$ and .02 cents? Remember how hard the guy worked, and how hard we all worked, to come up with a language that would persuade them? This was a thread about a mathematical fact, not a historical one: we all knew we were right, we had no reason to doubt ourselves. Yet the right way to proceed in those situations is still to work hard to come to terms, to give arguments, to listen to objections, and to try to make sense of the disagreement, as we did, as you seem willing to do here.

To label an interlocutor ignorant (which the Verizon reps willfully were,) to throw up our hands at their failure to appreciate our expertise, to call the matter self-evident.... That's a troll's act: it says that our interlocutors couldn't possibly have anything to add. It suggests that no reasons would sway us, no matter how good. Am I willing to be swayed regarding the South and secession? Yes! But only if someone is willing and able to hear my objections and respond to them; not for someone who merely asserts that they're holding on to reasons that they won't release, that they have the truth but it's too complicated, too difficult, too esoteric for me to hear.
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:39 PM on April 14, 2008


Tell me, Sr. Malverde, what exactly is your background in the subject (other than what appears to be a passionate commitment to the Southron Cause) that entitles you to look down from such a lofty height at mine? Because I've got a fair library of books on the Civil War (and have actually edited one) and have thought a great deal about it (partly from having ancestors on both sides of the war and grown up with relatives who still cursed General Sherman). I mean, I'm willing to defer to you if you're a Pulitzer-winning historian or something, but if you're just another internet blowhard, I have to say that I'm not going to be impressed by your unsupported insistence that I'm wrong.
posted by languagehat at 6:43 PM on April 13

The only way to have an intellectually respectable mental life is to constantly acknowledge the limitations of your knowledge and be willing to learn from others who know more or have different perspectives.
posted by languagehat at 1:19 PM on April 14
posted by stinkycheese at 5:32 PM on April 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Seriously, folks, it was all about slavery, from beginning to end.

Respectfully, even seriously, disagree. Slavery was not the primary, or even secondary or tertiary issue that inspired the boys signing up to fight for the Union, as any number of contemporary letters will attest, often in fairly alarming language. Even James McPherson, who agrees that it was all about the slaves, concedes that it wasn't until after the Emancipation Proclamation that the better cause really caught on with the troops, and even then, it was not universal. Read their mail - good deal of it not exactly PC. Then there's Lincoln letter to Horace Greeley, the one where he says how he'd save the union while retaining slavery if he could. Sure, he's playing politics, but to what audience?

As to the confederates, there's the classic story of the union soldiers asking the beaten, emaciated southern private what he was fighting for, to which the unanswerable response was, well, you're here, aren't you? Given how Sherman and Sheridan and Ben Butler and David Hunter prosecuted the war, I imagine I would have been right beside him, had I been a southerner.

(I also note that attitudes and opinions varied widely on both sides depending on where you were from. Union Maryland (slave owning) and Union Vermont (first to outlaw slavery) were miles apart on this issue.)

the states' rights argument falls a little flat when you realize that the Southern states were all about the federal government stepping in and overriding the laws of an individual state when it came to the Fugitive Slave Law.

The Fugitive Slave Act was a Federal law, therefore the responsibility of the Federal Government to enforce, surely? Once state lines had been crossed, who else had the authority? Not southern sheriffs.

I reiterate- from my eye, the motives on both sides were very mixed, especially at the beginning. And if by the end of the war it became about slavery, well, I damn well hope so, because that much blood and horror for anything less would be pretty grotesque.
posted by IndigoJones at 6:40 PM on April 14, 2008


Stinkycheese, I don't see any contradiction in languagehat's comments, if that's what you're implying. Saying that one should acknowledge the limitations of one's own knowledge does not mean one should reflexively welcome the obnoxious rantings of an obvious troll. (One whose very first comment on the site is to call one of our more respected members ignorant!)

But hey, keep trying, I guess.
posted by jayder at 7:35 PM on April 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Ouch.
posted by stinkycheese at 7:41 PM on April 14, 2008


jayder, no offense, but I'm pretty sure that's explicitly -not- what the search option is for. In fact, Matt said as much.
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:52 PM on April 14, 2008


Which in no way justifies stinkycheese's bringing an entirely irrelevant past conflict and the resulting chip on his shoulder into this thread. Very passive-aggressive.
posted by nasreddin at 10:13 PM on April 14, 2008


jayder! nasreddin! Did I upset you? Jeepers, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset anyone. I just thought those two entries in the same thread, made within one day of each other, juxtaposed so nicely. I just wanted to see them next to each other, side by side like chalk and cheese. Please do carry on discussing the links.
posted by stinkycheese at 11:33 PM on April 14, 2008


I suspect stinkycheese is shitting in threads because he's been warned by the mods not to send me any more obscene, threatening, borderline psychotic e-mails. I guess I'd rather he confine himself to thread-shitting, but frankly what I'd really like is for him to get over whatever grudge he has against me. (I've never been able to figure out what exactly it is, since all he does is hurl abuse or drop passive-aggressive turds like this one.)
posted by languagehat at 10:21 AM on April 15, 2008


Respectfully, even seriously, disagree. Slavery was not the primary, or even secondary or tertiary issue that inspired the boys signing up to fight for the Union

You're misunderstanding me. I never said or believed that slavery was all that was on anyone's mind, or that everyone who signed up on either side was hollering either "I'm gonna free the slaves!" or "I'm gonna preserve the slave system!" My point was that the war itself (as opposed to the motives of the people who fought in it) was all about slavery, in the sense that it came about solely because of the South's insistence on preserving its "peculiar institution" even to the point of secession. The reasons people have for enlisting in any war tend to have more to do with passions stirred up by politicians and orators than with what's actually (in a historical sense) going on. Compare (if you will allow me) the current invasion and occupation of Iraq War on Terror.

I hope this formulation meets with your approval, because I agree with your points and general take on things.
posted by languagehat at 1:22 PM on April 15, 2008


I suspect stinkycheese is shitting in threads because he's been warned by the mods not to send me any more obscene, threatening, borderline psychotic e-mails.

Boy languagehat, that's well beyond any boundaries I've ever seen you employ here on Metafilter. You know full well that that statement is not only completely false, but totally out of line for the blue regardless of whether it were true or not. I seriously think an apology is in order (although such an act would call on qualities you have shown time and time again that you're lacking).

For the record, we have sent each other emails exactly once each. You wrote me January 11th of this year to ask me why I had appointed myself your online enemy. I wrote you back the same day and what follows is my response in full:

I've stated my reasons before. I agree with the majority of MeFites that you add a great deal of positive value to the site, but I also find your condescending tone, hypocritical approach to snark, and overall demeanor to be almost impossible to ignore.

I realise it's tilting at windmills, and I am trying to resist the urge, but every once in awhile it's just too much. I'm basically trying to wean myself off Metafilter altogether now, so I wouldn't lose any sleep over it.


I guess folks can decide for themselves whether that qualifies as being remotely like any of the absurd bullshit you're spouting.

The fact is that you're an overwhelmingly rude, belligerent asshole, languagehat. Do you make good posts here? Yes. Good comments? Sure. But you're also the flipside of the coin IMHO; you also represent the very worst of Matt's noble experiment. This thread is a great example of your going off half-cocked, full of dumb ego, hypocrisy, and self-righteous bluster. It generates lots of favourites yes, but it's gross and boring and makes me see red, personally.

Anybody who wants to go through jayder's list of my attacks or whatever will quickly see I've laid off you for a long time now, and I tried hard to just ignore the garbage - I even limited myself to putting your own words back at you when I couldn't keep silent anymore, and adding no comment of my own. But if you're going to engage in base libel here then fuck you asshole, 24 hours a day, all year long.

No, the mods have never contacted me regarding you or email. I never sent any such an email as you describe. The only email I've sent you is quoted here in full.

I am going to spend some time away from Metafilter, I guess. This is all rather wearying.
posted by stinkycheese at 2:31 PM on April 15, 2008


Even if I thought your ridiculous calumnies to be in any way warranted, it's sure rich to hear them coming from someone who apparently has nothing better to do than pick fights with people constantly in multiple threads, especially in such a passive-aggressive way. This would have been a good time to be the bigger man.

Also, please, both of you, keep private correspondence out of this.

Anybody who wants to go through jayder's list of my attacks or whatever will quickly see I've laid off you for a long time now, and I tried hard to just ignore the garbage - I even limited myself to putting your own words back at you when I couldn't keep silent anymore, and adding no comment of my own.


I don't know if you've noticed, but MeFi has approximately 78,000 users who have managed to successfully resist being total dicks to languagehat without provocation.
posted by nasreddin at 2:42 PM on April 15, 2008


For the record, stinkycheese is lying. He has sent me a number of e-mails of the sort I have described, and I know for a fact the mods have contacted him about them.

Also, please, both of you, keep private correspondence out of this.

This is, of course, wise advice, and I'm certainly not going to quote his e-mails without his permission (which it seems is unlikely to be forthcoming), but I think the fact that he's sent them is relevant to his persistent blackguarding of me on the site.

I am going to spend some time away from Metafilter, I guess. This is all rather wearying.


Excellent. Frankly, I think you should have been banned long ago, and I don't advocate banning lightly. Enjoy your time away. I certainly will.
posted by languagehat at 3:21 PM on April 15, 2008


I hope this formulation meets with your approval, because I agree with your points and general take on things.

Works for me! As does the comparison.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:07 PM on April 15, 2008


Yowsers. We really killed this thread.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:37 PM on April 15, 2008


Sherman for teh win!!!
posted by Busithoth at 1:01 PM on April 16, 2008


"Respectfully, even seriously, disagree. Slavery was not the primary, or even secondary or tertiary issue that inspired the boys signing up to fight for the Union, as any number of contemporary letters will attest, often in fairly alarming language."

Actually, no. A fear of black uprising and maintenance of the paternalistically-conceived slave systems were a primary motivating factor based on letters written by Southern soldiers.

And now I have to find the article which examined and categorized discussions of motivations for joining the fight, as it's been a couple years since I wrote a paper on this (mostly to piss off my Randian History of American Journalism prof.). I remember it was a broader study than the Ashworth book, and that it was written by a woman, but without digging up my notes, my searching is coming up empty.
posted by klangklangston at 1:16 PM on April 16, 2008


I would definitely like to see that article.
posted by languagehat at 1:28 PM on April 16, 2008


(and have actually edited one) posted by languagehat

How impressive. And your point is...?
posted by wafaa at 1:46 PM on April 16, 2008


The north did not fight the war to end slavery. The south DID start the war to protect slavery, as set forth rather straightforwardly in the articles of secession of most states, particularly South Carolina. These are not contradictory statements.
posted by empath at 2:19 PM on April 16, 2008



"the article which examined and categorized discussions of motivations for joining the fight"


Maybe The Ideology of Slavery: Proslavery Thought in the Antebellum South, 1830–1860 by Drew Gilpin Faust, the President of Harvard?
posted by psyche7 at 2:33 PM on April 16, 2008


For the record, I was wrong about stinkycheese sending those e-mails, and I apologize.
posted by languagehat at 2:34 PM on April 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


For the record, I was wrong about stinkycheese sending those e-mails, and I apologize.

Your cavalier use of events which required little trouble for you to verify or not sort of diminishes the authority with which you purport to speak on other topics in this thread, don't you think?
posted by Neiltupper at 8:28 PM on April 16, 2008


A review of What This Cruel War Was Over:
The straightforward argument of What This Cruel War Was Over is that soldiers themselves—far from being ignorant patriots or naïve dupes—knew that the war was about slavery. Confederate soldiers understood this from the first. In the wake of Fort Sumter, for example, a group of Louisiana men who were studying at the University of North Carolina gathered to declare their commitment to defending "that Institution at once our pride and the source of all our wealth and prosperity." Most Union soldiers recognized the centrality of slavery to the conflict only slightly later, somewhat before much of the northern public accepted emancipation as a war aim. Indeed, it was often Union soldiers' contact with white Confederates and black slaves that got them thinking about slavery. They heard from white civilians that the Confederacy had gone to war because Lincoln's election had threatened slavery, and their interactions with slaves persuaded previously indifferent Billy Yanks, many of whom had never met a black person before the war, of the necessity of emancipation. One soldier from Iowa witnessed a slaveowner trying to sell off a slave who was also his daughter, and declared, "By G-d I'll fight till hell freezes over and then I'll cut the ice and fight on." Of course, this didn't mean that Union soldiers ceased to be racists. Like their president, many a man in blue was able to hold together a strong commitment to ending slavery with a strong distaste for the idea of black equality.
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:04 AM on April 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yes, that's the book, by Chandra Manning. The article I read was essentially a summation of her book.
posted by klangklangston at 11:30 AM on April 17, 2008


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