By: Joseph R. Stromberg
General Uncivil Background
Blessed as we are — so the economists say (they never lie) -– with relentless, inescapable digital bother and cyber-mania, any one of us might occasionally visit news sites and blogs. The ever hopeful soul, seeking its bliss, foolishly expects to find wisdom of some kind on the Internet. Well, there’s not much of it there and finding it is a lot of work.
One thing you do learn on worldwide web is that there are certain forbidden areas into which no one should tread:
1) You must never doubt Mr. Darwin in the slightest. If you do, you will learn that we are all extremely close kin with the anthropoid apes — which is a good thing, except when it’s you, who obviously are descended much too recently from them. A thousand other vituperative posts later, the whole thing is cleared up, and rightly so.
2) Say something suggesting agreement with the “God hypothesis,” and you shall be handed your head, bloody and broken. This may take 2,000 posts, but “anti-science” has no rights (Feyerabend notwithstanding) and must take its just punishment.
3) There may be a dozen or so such flammable topics, but here we are interested in #3: the South. Let anyone say anything kind about anyone or anything in the South (unless it be some federal facility), and vituperation will come a-pouring down, yea, unto the thousandth post or beyond. Then again, let anyone say something bad about the South (and doubtless it is only right to do so), and we see the same result. You could see this as a form of over-determination. Only Freud and Marx together could sort it out.
So South-bashing is right up there with Darwin-defending and God-bashing, as far as many of our internet fellow countrymen are concerned. They seem both angry and a bit dim. Far be it from me to take up Internet criticism, but this syndrome hits close to home and may (worse luck) illustrate some permanent fractures in the Yankee (New England) mind.
Life Sketch of a Typical Outburst of South Hating
The typical case begins when some poor fool says something nice, hateful, or even neutral about the South. You might think that important, busy folk could just leave it alone. No.
Instead, the first comments following up on a favorable or neutral reference to the South will counter the original statement with minimal insult. Around the twentieth comment, we hear from some fellow who wishes he had shelled Charleston, burned Atlanta, and burned and looted Columbia. Soon enough we hear about dysentery, boll weevils, screw worms, soil erosion, pellagra, the Scottsboro Boys, racism, hatred, Nathan Bedford Forrest, Alexander H. Stephens’ Cornerstone Speech, slavery (sole cause of whatever it caused), “treason,” Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings, inbreeding, stupidity, genetic inferiority, and many other evils. These horrific evils have no parallel in any Northern state, and indeed have seldom occurred in all of human history anywhere outside the South.
You begin to think they don’t much like us.
Normally, comments following upon an originally hostile statement hit critical mass a bit sooner.
Somewhere down the thread, maybe at the twenty-fifth item or so, someone will make a polite response in defense of the South, or at least of something having to do with the South. These brave souls will soldier on a while longer, politely. They will quit somewhere after the hundred and seventeenth insult or so, and good for them. Life is short. Any apparent Southerners remaining in the fray will take on the tone of the other side and will do little good.
Finally, having the field largely to themselves, our fellow citizens of the North, East, and West will carry on for many more hundreds of posts. They do not tire early. There are so many insults they can fling from their Treasury of Virtue – so many wrath-borne grapes, rotten though they may be. No science known to man, or at least to Southerners, can predict when they will finally tire out. (The phases of the moon may be involved, but Critical Lycanthropic Studies are neglected down here. We are so backward.)
They are without sin and will cast the first stone, and the second, and the third, and indeed the thousandth, if they have come prepared.
I have seen numerous such exercises, since I first encountered this art form perhaps twelve or more years ago. (The Internet seemed new then.) But those cases seemed to flare up rather randomly – at all sorts of websites — perhaps under the moral supervision of the laws of physics. In another form, arising more recently, the management and writers of a particular website set the tone and stir up the rabble. These are generally left-of-center venues, although the center isn’t much good, and at times some neo-conservatives and libertarians feel a need to bash the South for their own purposes.
In this newer pattern, a bout of South-bashing encouraged at a particular website often turns into a full-scale Hate-the-South Week. Additional sponsored articles may follow over the week, along with extended hate-bursts in the comment sections as already described. Other blogs will join in and a good time is had by all.
Sometimes political events set these outbursts off. There may be one or more repetitions of Hate-the-South Week in a given year.
The phenomenon reached Peak Hate in mid-2015. This outbreak began on June 17, 2015, when a murderous no-hoper went into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. and shot nine of our fellow citizens dead. Quickly breaking free of reasonable shock and horror, the Internet response called forth Hate-South-Carolina Week and that in turn (and rather inevitably) morphed into Hate-the-South Month. In that form, it was perhaps the longest-running meltdown so far. The usual suspects stepped up their campaign against Confederate flags and statues.
Even without General Sherman, we knew the fire would spread. The arsonists were both many and busy.
A Note on Charlottesville
The march in Charlottesville, Va., in mid-August, ostensibly in defense of a statue of Robert E. Lee, simply did not seem organically Southern. It looked more like a gathering of Internet ideologues descended from Free Soilers and other Northern nationalists and dressed (for some reason) in foreign gear or Klan regalia. Despite its potential for setting off another Hate-the-South Week or Month, this event bore other offspring, when leftists on the scene, seconded by almost the entire press corps, subordinated it to the needs of Trump Derangement Syndrome, Clintonite Election Revanchism, and “anti-fascism.” The South as such was off the hook, but white people as such fell under universal denunciation and the neo-Puritan iconoclasts’ crusade against offensive statues even crossed the Mason Dixon Line.
Some grim theological undertones were becoming clear.
The Prospects for Sanity
It is hard to predict the coming of any particular Hate-the-South Week. The thing is protean and shape-shifting. What is astounding when first encountering one of these celebrations of anti-Southern malice, is the sheer level of vituperation, stupidity, raw hatred, and lack of charity displayed – nearly all of it found on the side of the Good and the Just.
This suggests that we are not living in “Weimar America.” What faces us now is much more like a rerun of the 1850s – with yet another Great Awakening of the kind traceable to New England. This helps us to establish just who – Northerners or Southerners – are actually suffering from misdirected “nostalgia.”
It is even easier to see who is ahead on “hate” – just read the comment sections in question. If there is ever an official War on Hate, one hopes that the Northern blogging classes are not unjustly neglected by the authorities.
For those who value their sanity, less time on the Internet is indicated.