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Comment count is 38
Bort - 2015-07-02

The Civil War started because the otherwise adorable attempt at secession turned violent at Fort Sumter and the Union had had enough of the South's shit.

Secession was completely about slavery, though. No two ways about it.

Gmork - 2015-07-02

I have this acquaintance on facebook who recently attempted to tell me that the same crock story about the secession being entirely about states' rights.

Yeah, the right for you to dehumanize, which is contraindicated by human decency and the notion of equality.

Bort - 2015-07-02

Ask them why the slaveholding states got mad about the non-slave states failing to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act -- which according to "states rights" would be up to each individual state to respect as they saw fit, or not.

Old_Zircon - 2015-07-02

You guys are giving the north to much credit. The textile industry in the north had massive political clout and was an absolutely integral part of the slavery industry. It's true that public sentiment was more sympathetic toward abolitionist causes in the North but the Civil war was about a lot of different things, and economics were a big part of it. It's doubtful that the slaves would have been freed if it were possible for the Union to win the war without freeing them. This joke is pretty on point.

The revisionist bullshit about it being a "state's rights" war is, well, bullshit but that doesn't mean that the historical picture of it being entirely about the North fighting to free the slaves isn't also revisionist bullshit conceived to shift the full burden of guilt for slavery onto the losing side when, in fact, government and industry throughout the US was to blame for slavery.

Massachusetts was the first colony to legalize chattel slavery.

Old_Zircon - 2015-07-02

I mean, the federal government would have abolished slavery EVENTUALLY no doubt, but it waited as long as possible.

Anaxagoras - 2015-07-02

Pointing out that the North wasn't committed to abolition (which is true) is completely beside the point. Rather, the war about slavery because the South was afraid that they'd take away slavery.

Basically, the war really was about slavery precisely because the Southerners' fears made it so. The North's ambivalence on the issue is important to note so that Northerners don't get too smug, but it's not really relevant when looking at the causes.

Quad9Damage - 2015-07-03

Also: an economy based that was almost pure profit because it was laid across the backs of a free labor source. Life was easier when you didn't have to pay the help or take 'no' for an answer when it was time to rape them and breed kitchen staff.

Binro the Heretic - 2015-07-02

No. Slavery was the cause. Slavery. Slavery. Slavery.

States rights, you say? What "right" were they defending?

Economic reasons, you say? What was their economy based on?

The Confederacy was established to defend the institution of slavery, plain and simple.

As I said in the description, I don't know what variety of asshole the writer who came up with this joke was. I don't know if they were a confederate apologist asshole,t a pot-stirring asshole or an asshole who wanted to sound all intellectual by arguing with accepted wisdom. Maybe I'm a little overly-sensitive having grown up around bigoted assholes in the South, but I'm sick of hearing people try to claim the Civil war, "wasn't really about slavery."

Anaxagoras - 2015-07-02

I doubt the joke writer was an asshole of any stripe. (Not based on this joke, anyways.) Back when this aired in 1996, "It's complicated" was the accepted explanation for the Civil War, while "It was about slavery" was considered the lazy and/or smartass explanation. It has only been in the last 5-10 years that Slavery has been accepted as the main explanation for the War.

Bort - 2015-07-02

What Anax said. When I was in high school (Cleveland in the 1980s), they taught us that "slavery, period" was a gross oversimplification of the whole issue. I'm guessing that had everything to do with the general character of the Reagan years, when shitheadedness was unironically in vogue.

That said, I say it's important to differentiate between secession and the Civil War, since they had different causes, and the one did not inevitably lead to the other. Secession was about slavery; Civil War was about putting down a South that had moved from secession to violence.

Potrod - 2015-07-02

The writer even accepts that slavery is the "obvious" reason and the joke says nothing to imply it "wasn't really about slavery." It's Apu overthinking it, just like you're overthinking the joke. And what Anaxagoras said.

Bort - 2015-07-02

Also, Ken Burns is complicit in the confusion about the causes of the Civil War. While he does of course connect it to slavery -- there's no way to bury that completely -- he also goes out of his way to portray the South as having understandable grievances. One thing he does in episode 1 is quote Sam Watkins talking about states rights ... only thing is, that's Sam Watkins' writings from long after the war, when they were trying to rewrite history in their favor. But damn if Burns didn't imply that "states rights" was a concept right out of the gate.

Another Burns "accidental" oversight: he described the Confederate Constitution as a near duplicate of the US Constitution, with a couple minor changes like the president having the line-item veto. What he somehow neglected to mention is there are at least a half dozen additions to the Confederate Constitution guaranteeing that slavery would be protected forever. That's a VERY interesting omission, Ken Burns; now why would you leave that out?

Bort - 2015-07-02

What I'm saying is, FUCK KEN BURNS. Nobody else has ever said that, but it's about time someone did.

memedumpster - 2015-07-02

That's why I prefer Crow T. Robot's "The War Civil."

Oscar Wildcat - 2015-07-02

Jesus Bort, we flip Ken Burns "the bird" fairly regularly here at haus Wildcat. Fucker comes on the PBS, all tinkly piano music and sepia toned maudlin, and one or the other will start spouting "I'M SO FUCKING GLAD WE CAN WATCH ANOTHER DOCUMENTARY BY KEN BURNS! BECAUSE KEN BURNS IS THE ONLY DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER IN ALL OF THE WORLD! I MEAN, COULD THERE BE ANY OTHER LEGITIMATE OPINION BUT KEN'S?" and so on.

Don't even get me started on the meatheads at the Newshour. Fuck Judy Woodruf in her fucking neoprene diving suits with the giant buttons. Last night she looked like a tortoise.

Bort - 2015-07-02

You were dead right about the RS desoldering iron, BTW. Thanks for the tip! Gonna break into Ken Burns's house, steal his tinkly piano machine, and harvest it for resistors.

Anaxagoras - 2015-07-02

Huh. I thought I was alone in seeing red when Ken Burns is playing.

His documentary about jazz is almost as problematic; he's neglects or diminishes a lot of the more experimental, avant garde, or "bluesy" threads in jazz in favor of more classically-oriented jazz.

Fuck Ken Burns.

(I really liked his documentary about Mark Twain, though. So at least he's done *something* good.)

EvilHomer - 2015-07-02

When has history EVER had an easily-reducible, singular Cause?

Slavery was certainly an issue, and I think everyone - from Ken Burns to Apu to that dorky kid who was burning Confederate flags in his backyard - would concede that point. Saying that an issue was complicated and depended upon a number of factors is simply an admission of historical reality, and in no way is it a *refutation* of any of those stated factors.

Hell, Apu himself talks about "the schism between abolitionists and anti-abolitionists" right off the bat, so Mr the Heretic, where you're getting the idea that Apu's writers were "trying to claim the Civil war, 'wasn't really about slavery'" is beyond me!

Yes, the Civil War was about slavery. Yes, the Civil War was about states rights. Whether the Southern cause's grievances were "legitimate" - or more specifically, whether they were legitimate enough to excuse their stance on slavery - is of course an issue that you and your pro-Confederate friends can argue out together. But getting angry at people (Simpsons writers, no less!) for simply making the observation that history was more than just a politically-convenient myth, is silly, maybe even a little creepy.

FOR EXAMPLE, we are probably going to be involved in a second Civil War in the near future. When that happens, I have little doubt that the Federalist historians will set about claiming that the root cause of Civil War 2.0 was "gay rights" or "the separation of Church and State". Meanwhile, historians of the Christian Confederacy will claim that the Civil War 2.0 was caused by factors like "moral degeneracy" or "the creep of the American police state". --Both sides would be correct.-- Each ideological camp will admit to seeing part of the whole, that part which most flatters itself, and the question for the rest of us - you and I, and Bort, and even memdumpster to a degree, being that we are intelligent, thinking, rational human beings, and not polarized talking heads - is to determine which positions, if any, ultimately carry the most weight.

We cannot do that if we refuse to acknowledge that history is as nuanced as the human experience, or worse, if in our moral fervor we decide to memory-hole the truth.

EvilHomer - 2015-07-02

I can understand, to some degree, what you might be going thorugh: as a Southerner, I am sure your life expeirnce has been profoundly different from my own, and you must have encountered many people over the years who take the rather extreme (and historically untenable) position that the Civil War had ONE cause, and that cause NOT slavery. Such an upbringing would doubtlessly make anyone upset.

However, you have to remember that this monocausual/slaveryless version of history is not the position which Apu, nor even Ken Burns for that matter, actually endorses. (at least in public; for all we know, Apu might be a secret Klansman) Furthermore, you must bear in mind that it is equally as absurd to swing to the opposite extreme: to agree with your fellow Dixielanders that the Civil War had ONE cause, but that it was ONLY slavery.

Bort - 2015-07-02

"Yes, the Civil War was about slavery."

Secession was, anyway. Continue.

"Yes, the Civil War was about states rights."

Not at all true -- if states rights were an issue, the Southern states wouldn't have bitched about the non-slave states fumbling the Fugitive Slave Law. States rights would say "while I disagree with the non-slave states I respect their right to reject a federal law they disagree with".

Read memedumpster's link where several Confederate states, in their own words, say that it is about slavery. They mention some diddly-shit side issues but take a drink every time they bring up slavery, and I guarantee you won't be in any condition to respond for 24 hours.

Rafiki - 2015-07-02

Are you guys saying "boo" or "Boo-urns?"

Binro the Heretic - 2015-07-02

Riddle me this, Evil Homer:

If slavery had not existed in the South, would there have been any other cause strong enough to cause the civil war?

EvilHomer - 2015-07-02

>> They mention some diddly-shit side issues

Ah, see, herein lies the rub, Mr Bort, by your own admission.

Remember, neither Apu, nor Ken Burns, nor even I, said that slavery was not the main issue. Whether slavery was the m̲a̲i̲n̲ issue is a separate matter entirely from whether slavery was the o̲n̲l̲y̲ issue.

A minute ago, Mr Heretic said, and I quote: "The Confederacy was established to defend the institution of slavery, plain and simple." Shortly thereafter, you said "they taught us that "slavery, period" was a gross oversimplification of the whole issue {and they were wrong}". But yet now here you are, conceding that there were, in fact. what you call "diddly-shit side issues", side issues which even the Declaration of Causes (which I think we both agree is a critical primary source) took pains to spell out! Read it again. The Confederates use the -word- slavery many times, but yet the entire thing, from start to finish, casts slavery *as a matter of states rights*. Now this may be absurd, you may argue that the Confederates were opportunistic hypocrites (what government hasn't been?), and you may even go a step further and argue that states have no right to enslave huge swathes of their population to begin with... and I would agree with you on all of it. It was, they were, and they didn't. But your central thesis - as well as the central thesis of most of the people in this nested thread so far - namely that post-9/11 revision is correct and slavery was in fact the only issue, is by your own admission, inarguably false.

EvilHomer - 2015-07-02

>> If slavery had not existed in the South, would there have been any other cause strong enough to cause the civil war?

Two things here, Mr Binro. First, would there have been any cause strong enough to set the interests of the Federal government and interests of the Southern states so at odds that the South would risk war to preserve their own tyranny? No, probably not, at least not at that particular point in time. Why, can you think of one?

Second, here again, whether slavery was the m̲a̲i̲n̲ issue is a separate matter entirely from whether slavery was the o̲n̲l̲y̲ issue. As I mentioned to Mr Bort, neither Apu nor Ken Burns have ever (to my knowledge, feel free to cite evidence to the contrary) disputed that slavery was the main issue. It doesn't matter how often or how strongly you plead the case that slavery was the main issue; Apu will keep agreeing with you ("slavery it is, sir!"), and you'll still be no closer to supporting your thesis: "The Confederacy was established to defend the institution of slavery, plain and simple"

EvilHomer - 2015-07-02

I mean, both of you do understand that human society, being nothing more than a product of millions of fickle individuals, is, and always has been, a very complex and nuanced machine, yes? And that there is never just ONE narrative which explains ALL things, but that it is all shades of morally-relative gray? You agree with that, yes, surely.

I would think that this observation would be self-evident, particularly in a free, liberal society such as our own!

EvilHomer - 2015-07-02

Furthermore, and I normally wouldn't descend to the level of semantic hairsplitting unless ponies are involved, but just for the sake of argument here...

BORT! Earlier, you pointed out that there was a difference between *Secession* and *the Civil War*. This is technically correct. You were also perfectly correct in pointing out that the final cause of the Civil War was not, in fact, slavery! It was about "preserving the Union" (which, ironically enough, is an issue that relates back to states rights and the balance of power between federal authority and local democracy; it could even be said that - contrary to what propagandists on both sides of the historical divide want us to believe - the Civil War was primarily motivated by slavery in the South, but states rights in the North).

So, how you can admit the truth of this, and yet still disagree with me that slavery was not the sole cause of the Civil War, is frankly puzzling.

Bort - 2015-07-02

Fine, even I sometimes get sloppy and forget to differentiate between the causes of secession and of the Civil War. I stand by what I said initially, that the only cause of secession was slavery, and any place where it is reasonable to infer that I was accidentally conflating secession and the later Civil War, please go with that inference.

The thing about those diddly-shit side issues is, they WERE diddly-shit side issues. The South may have mentioned them in their lists of grievances, but the only grievance that mattered -- the one big enough to spark secession, where all the others together were not -- was slavery. They were so scared of Lincoln attacking slavery that they seceded even before he took office. Tell me, what other characteristics of Lincoln might have scared them so, beyond his abolitionist beliefs? Were they terrified of his tariff recommendations, or perhaps they believed he was a giant stick insect?

Sexy Duck Cop - 2015-07-02


It's a golden age Simpsons writer. There is a 100% chance he was a Harvard-educated liberal who had heard both the "well, it's complicated..." argument and the "just say slavery" argument and decided that the correct one was "just say slavery."

Which is 100% true. I could go on but jesus dude, the subtext isn't that hard to catch.

memedumpster - 2015-07-02

>When has history EVER had an easily-reducible, singular Cause?


Everything else you said is schizophasia.

cognitivedissonance - 2015-07-02

Yes, dear. *pats head and offers a Werther's Original*

ashtar. - 2015-07-03

I just wanted to say that this thread was very long and I'm not going to read it.

Nominal - 2015-07-03

Hey! I was saying, "Fuck Ken Burns!" over a decade ago! In a film class no less, which immediately drew the shocked indignity of all the artsy fartsy students there.


Bort - 2017-02-15

I just learned that "The Ashokan Farewell" was composed in 1982 for a folk festival in Upstate New York. How apropos that the very theme music to "The Civil War" was a modern invention designed to be pleasant and soothing to modern audiences.

GravidWithHate - 2015-07-02

The trick that lost-cause loving fools try to pull is that the North really had no particular interest in ending slavery. So they use this to claim that the civil war wasn't about slavery. The initial objection is that people don't fight wars by sitting down and agreeing what it's all about beforehand, they can fight for different reasons. However the deeper point that they don't seem able to think through is this: If the North really wasn't about to end slavery, and all the articles of secession mention their fear of the north ending slavery as a cause, then the Civil War was the result of the south being run by a group of delusional bloodthirsty fools who, totally unnecessarily, got the south burned down and a generation of it's men slaughtered over a paranoid fantasy.

chumbucket - 2015-07-02

This and 2012 wildfire of petitioners who thought signing a website begging to leave the union would allow them to leave a nation that had just re-elected a black man.

memedumpster - 2015-07-02

*rides up on thoroughly beaten dead horse*

Required reading for Southerners.

http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/primarysources/decla rationofcauses.html

Jerm - 2015-07-02

According to the commentary track, a friend of David Cohen had this exchange during her citizenship test, and he just cut and pasted it in.

Quad9Damage - 2015-07-03

I was born and raised in South Carolina. I tell you I love being spawned from the breeding stock notorious for starting shit whenever the rest of the country wants things to be fairer for everybody. Sorry for ranting, but this video has been my Facebook feed for a fucking week and a half - the same week I closed on a house and moved out of a neighborhood where the guy down the street raised a Confederate Flag to show his 'SOUTHERN HERITAGE' in a neighborhood that was mostly made up of black people.

"Gone With the Wind" would have probably sailed across the room if I didn't quit reading it halfway through.

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