The Goldberg Variations

by Michael Bérubé on December 19, 2007

The landmark publication of Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism: A Sourcebook for Blog Snark has set me to wondering: where have I seen this kind of thing before? And then it hit me . . . it’s The End of Racism for the post-9/11 world!

It’s making me kinda nostalgic. You see, back in the 90s, before I became pen pals with David Horowitz, my very favorite wingnut and BFF was Dinesh D’Souza. And with good reason: he was a crossover phenomenon, breaking out of his obscurity in the middle of the Regnery list (in 1984, they published his first book, a praise song for Jerry Falwell) and placing a 10,000-word excerpt from Illiberal Education in the March 1991 issue of the Atlantic Monthly. He followed up the monster success of that book with The End of Racism, a 750-page tome I called, in my review of the book, “the D’Souza Ulysses.” (I can’t believe he never used that as a pull quote. Ingrate.) And the reason The End of Racism leaps to mind as a Goldberg variation, even though there is no clear evidence that Cheetos were involved in the composition of D’Souza’s magnum opus, is that both books rely on precisely the same gambit: just as Hitler and McCarthy have lately emerged as men of the left, their influence on contemporary liberalism descried at last, so too, twelve years ago, did D’Souza show that Franz Boas and W. E. B. DuBois were the real racists. Having established that much, he exposed contemporary liberals for what they really are:

Increasingly it appears that it is liberal antiracism that is based on ignorance and fear: ignorance of the true nature of racism, and fear that the racist point of view better explains the world than its liberal counterpart.

The End of Racism was chock full of clever formulations like this—which reminds me of yet another parallel with Goldberg: just as Jonah has had some well-publicized trouble coming up with a subtitle, D’Souza reportedly wrote the first draft of his masterwork under the working title, I Know You Are But What Am I: No Backsies Infinity. For one goal of D’Souza’s book, obviously, was to defend the right from charges of racism by rendering the term all but meaningless. The Reaganite Right, as David Brooks has recently reminded us, really really hated being called “racist” just for doing things like kicking off a presidential campaign by going to Philadelphia, Mississippi and invoking “states’ rights”; so, in The End of Racism, D’Souza the Rising Star of the Reaganite Right was going to turn the tables on those nasty, ignorant, and fearful liberals. Henceforth, liberalism would be the new racism!

D’Souza’s book was published in 1995 by the Free Press, one year after that good house graced us with The Bell Curve. It turned out to be exceptionally handy, especially for people who wanted to promote Pioneer Fund-quality studies of race, genetics and intelligence in major American journals of opinion, to have someone like D’Souza covering the right flank: while Murray and Herrnstein were trotting out the hoariest racist bromides in the Social Darwinist book, D’Souza was chirpily manning the perimeter, asking “If America as a nation owes blacks as a group reparations for slavery, what do blacks as a group owe America for the abolition of slavery?” and pointing out that “The American slave was treated like property, which is to say, pretty well.” The tag-team approach to racism worked quite well, and both aspects of it are alive and well today: those hoary old bromides were recently revisited in this fine publication, and the slavery-revisionism has found fertile soil in these somewhat more humid climes.

So if Jonah Goldberg’s project is to show that liberalism is the new fascism, it probably makes sense to ask whether there’s any old-time fascism running around somewhere while the doughty Mr. Goldberg mans the perimeter. Nothing precisely like the classic stream-lined models from the 1930s, mind you, but maybe something borrowed and something blue, involving chanted loyalty oaths at campaign rallies*, or maybe imprisoning people without showing cause and denying them legal representation, or, I dunno, domestic spying and secret torture sites and bold new theories of the unitary executive. It couldn’t hurt to look!

Oh, and if you’re in the market for a new book on American liberalism that’s every bit as smart as Goldberg’s is stupid, my friend John McGowan has just published this wonderful book, available at an Internet near you.

  • And check out the truly delicious Mark Foley (R. – Fla.) flashback in that link, courtesy of Chris Suellentrop. Those were good times!

{ 2 trackbacks }

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{ 148 comments }

1

The Modesto Kid 12.19.07 at 9:08 pm

D’Souza’s book was published in 1995 by the Free Press, one year after that good house graced us with The Bell Curve.

Thanks — I have always had trouble keeping straight which is Dinesh D’Souza and which is Charles Murray. Should be able to keep this sentence in mind to help me puzzle out references to one or the other.

2

Bloix 12.19.07 at 9:09 pm

As long as we’re looking for precedents, let’s not forget The Party of Death – no. 2 in the series.

3

Adam Kotsko 12.19.07 at 9:18 pm

The quote about slaves being treated as “property” is exactly wrong — American slaves were treated as means of production, meaning that they were used up. That’s what makes American slavery the most brutal and inhuman form of slavery in human history. (I know this is obvious to most Crooked Timber readers, but I’ve seen that quote one too many times.)

4

Michael Bérubé 12.19.07 at 9:21 pm

let’s not forget The Party of Death – no. 2 in the series.

I dunno, bloix. Ponnuru’s book came out in 2006, and demonstrated that the Democrats were objectively pro-death — are you suggesting there was any killing and stuff going on somewhere else around then?

5

Grand Moff Texan 12.19.07 at 9:24 pm

fear that the racist point of view better explains the world than its liberal counterpart

This from the man who claims that Osama so hated Hollywood that he blew up NYC and DC.

If Dinesh is looking for a good argument against affirmative action for his next book, I suggest he start with himself. He could call it ‘Yowza Massah!’ Masala: How a Man with Nothing to Offer Made Himself Useful to His Betters, with a forward by Thomas Sowell.
.

6

Michael Bérubé 12.19.07 at 9:25 pm

That’s what makes American slavery the most brutal and inhuman form of slavery in human history.

Begging your pardon, Adam, but that ain’t it. Other forms of slavery were extremely brutal too, in this hemisphere and in the other one. The salient difference between American slavery and other forms of slavery is that ours took place in a country that held it to be self-evidently true that all men are created equal. That’s what your D’Souzas and your Medveds and your Buchanans and your assorted wingnut slavery apologists are overlooking, partly because (a) they never liked that part of the Declaration anyway and (b) they think “hypocrisy” means “OMG John Edwards claims to care about the poor, but he himself is rich!1!!”

7

Rickm 12.19.07 at 9:26 pm

Don’t forget about the Isalmofascists! See, liberals are fascist, and so are Islamists. They are all on the same side–that is, the side doesn’t work at National Review.

8

Michael Bérubé 12.19.07 at 9:28 pm

I promise I will never forget about the Islamofascists. But who’s up for Islamoracism Awareness Week? I’m trying to put together some consciousness-raising events for next semester.

9

Drake 12.19.07 at 9:29 pm

“If America as a nation owes blacks as a group reparations for slavery, what do blacks as a group owe America for the abolition of slavery?”

Is that quotation for real? [Checks the internets.] My goodness, it appears so — and it’s followed by an even deeper observation: “After all, slavery was not distinctively a American practice but the campaign to end slavery was distinctively American.” (“Distinctively American,” I take it, as in, late to the party?)

Well, D’Souza is energetic, you have to give him that.

10

Grand Moff Texan 12.19.07 at 9:34 pm

what do blacks as a group owe America for the abolition of slavery?

A lien for 40 acres and a mule.
.

11

Rickm 12.19.07 at 9:34 pm

Also, just to demonstrate Goldberg’s ignorance, he writes that Carl Schmitt, an near-fascist (literally) is “hugely popular among leftist academics.”

But Schmitt is more popular among conservative academics!

my brainy hurty

12

dsquared 12.19.07 at 9:37 pm

6: No, I think Adam has a point. The transatlantic slave trade was very unusual historically in a number of ways; slaves were certainly treated a lot worse than they had been in the Arabic/African slave trade of the preceding centuries.

13

ignoblus 12.19.07 at 9:38 pm

CT is giving Goldberg an awful lot of attention. You prepared to argue that he deserves it?

14

bob mcmanus 12.19.07 at 9:39 pm

This is better. Maybe the useful stuff will need to wait until the book is in hand. And since Goldberg’s book apparently uses economic arguments, say anti-Keynesian (although Hayek & Friedman have written their laugh-riots already) maybe some economic analysis of why the merging of industry, finance, and gov’t in service of imperialistic militarism has neither any relation to liberalism or fascism will get posted.

No Goldberg is no Hayek. Goldberg will sell more books.

15

Michael Bérubé 12.19.07 at 9:40 pm

The transatlantic slave trade was very unusual historically in a number of ways

I hear you, Daniel, but the usual retort from the apologists is something like “but slavery in the Caribbean and South America was worse” — when, of course, it was all part of the transatlantic slave trade. They think, though, that this argument gets the US off the hook.

16

Michael Bérubé 12.19.07 at 9:44 pm

CT is giving Goldberg an awful lot of attention. You prepared to argue that he deserves it?

Um, do you mean “do I want to argue,” or literally “am I prepared to argue”? If the latter, no; I’m actually in the middle of grading fifty-something final essays and exams. If the former, why, yes! See Horowitz, David, mockery and delegitimation of.

17

Total 12.19.07 at 9:45 pm

See, now that’s how to write a blog post on Goldberg’s book, rather than, say, triumphantly announcing that Swarthmore doesn’t have an education major.

18

Matt 12.19.07 at 9:51 pm

The Free Press is a funny bunch- the publish some really terrible stuff, as noted, but they also publish some pretty good books like Cass Sunstein’s _Democracy and the Problem of Free Speech_. Are they an ideological outfit or just commerical?

19

Uncle Kvetch 12.19.07 at 9:55 pm

OK, who wants to make this interesting?

$100 says the Sunday NY Times Book Review assigns Goldberg’s magnum dopus* to Andrew Sullivan, and that the latter will conclude that while Jonah’s work is sloppy and hyperbolic, he does raise some very interesting questions, questions that only the non-serious and ideologically blinkered will shy away from discussing, much as they refuse to engage Andrew when he wants to have another go-round on “Why Are Colored People So Dumb”? And that while Hillary Clinton may or not be a fascist, she definitely has cooties, and these cooties demand addressing.

Who’s in?

*I can’t take credit for this felicitous turn of phrase–I encountered it in a thread on some other blog.

20

Grand Moff Texan 12.19.07 at 9:55 pm

See, now that’s how to write a blog post on Goldberg’s book, rather than, say, triumphantly announcing that Swarthmore doesn’t have an education major.

What? “Guilt by association” instead of “the universe to which Mr. Goldberg refers does not exist?”

Um, … OK?
.

21

Walt 12.19.07 at 10:01 pm

Is total a concern-troll? It’s so close to the line that I think we’re going to have to get a ruling from the judges…

22

Michael Bérubé 12.19.07 at 10:01 pm

Yeah, I liked Kieran’s post better myself. If he hadn’t written it, we’d never have unearthed the subliminable message in the jacket copy.

23

Gavin M. 12.19.07 at 10:11 pm

Re: the Carl Schmitt passage:

http://www.sadlyno.com/archives/8274.html

24

Rickm 12.19.07 at 10:12 pm

Uncle Kvetch-

Actually, Andrew Sullivan already mentioned Goldberg’s book on his blog. Here is what he had to say:

“Jonah Goldberg’s party might be dragging citizens off the street, incarcerating them without charges for four years and torturing them (if you haven’t heard of Jose Padilla, you’ve been reading too much NRO), they might have suspended habeas corpus indefinitely, they might be wire-tapping your phone without warrants, they may be claiming presidential authority to ignore laws and treaties … but the real fascism can be found in:

‘a female grade school teacher with an education degree from Brown or Swarthmore.’

Be afraid.”

25

Grand Moff Texan 12.19.07 at 10:16 pm

Is total a concern-troll?

More of an “argument-from-silence bot.”

You know, the kind you don’t want on your committee ’cause they’ll never let you finish until you write the thesis that is the book they wish they had the time to write?

Yeah, that.
.

26

Uncle Kvetch 12.19.07 at 10:18 pm

Rickm, that’s heartening. Not heartening enough to change my overall opinion of Sully, but enough to make me retract my prediction.

So who will the Times turn to? Is Mickey Kaus up to the task?

27

Total 12.19.07 at 10:27 pm

Is total a concern-troll? It’s so close to the line that I think we’re going to have to get a ruling from the judges…

Actually, I’m Jonah Goldberg.

28

Adam Kotsko 12.19.07 at 10:32 pm

By “American slavery,” I meant “modern slavery driven by Western capitalist development” — if you’re going to argue that somehow the US version of slavery really was qualitatively better than the South American or Cuban versions, then let’s hear it, but I feel like that would actually constitute rhetorically playing into the hands of the enemy.

(I guess that one point might be that slaves in South America didn’t have the benefit of 3/5 of a vote being exercised on their behalf by the whites of their state.)

29

Michael Bérubé 12.19.07 at 10:46 pm

I feel like that would actually constitute rhetorically playing into the hands of the enemy.

Exactly. The important thing to remember here is that the sentence, “the American slave was treated like property, which is to say, pretty well” set a standard for Deliberate Attempts to Provoke Liberal Outrage that wingnuttia has measured itself by ever since. One notes, in passing, that the sentence (and plenty more like it!) did not prevent CNN from hiring D’Souza as a commentator in 2004, nor did it prevent the American Enterprise Institute or the Hoover Institution from retaining him as a Jolly Good Fellow. His most recent book, however, seems to have given some of his comrades second thoughts. Apparently, it’s one thing to argue that there are “civilizational differences” (D’Souza’s term) between blacks and whites; it’s quite another to argue that bin Laden was right to be outraged by no-fault divorce and the MTV Video Music Awards. That kind of thing is really unacceptable.

30

roger 12.19.07 at 10:53 pm

I was laughin’ away at this thread until the dreadful suggestion of a Micky Kaus/Golberg fest was floated. Oh No! The very thought causes a number of symptoms: headache, nauseau, cramps, sweating, heart palpitations. If that happens, I am blaming this thread! Imagine some slo mo sexploitation horror flick involving the Blob and Alien mating after an hour of excrutiating foreplay, under the benign supervision of Good Doctor Helen. We are talking bad, people, very very bad.
I think this thread will have to be destroyed, so that mankind does not have to confront this curse.

31

jcasey 12.19.07 at 10:57 pm

That Swarthmore business was precisely on point: Goldberg can’t even get his insults factually correct. But the entire book is one huge fallacy of the excluded middle: Some Nazis liked veggies, some libs like veggies, therefore etc.

32

John Protevi 12.19.07 at 11:08 pm

Adam, actually North American slavery was better in terms of life expectancy and other biological measures. The Chesapeake region had a positive population growth, especially after the Am Rev. This really had little to do with the kindness of the masters, but rather with climate (the winter provided an off season for recuperation from field work). This excess population helps explain why Jefferson would go along with the Brits in stopping the (official) Atlantic slave trade in 1804-1808: the internal slave market would benefit the Chesapeake planters, and stopping the Atlantic trade would protect the price they could get for them. I don’t have page numbers to hand, but I’m relying on Ira Berlin, Generations of Captivity; Robin Blackburn, Making of New World Slavery; and Garry Wills, “Negro President” (the last on Jefferson) for this argument.

33

Anderson 12.19.07 at 11:10 pm

the usual retort from the apologists is something like “but slavery in the Caribbean and South America was worse”

Well, it was, at least in the Caribbean. The sugar plantations went through slaves like crazy — terrible, terrible conditions, leading to some really stunning revolts (Toussaint L’Ouverture, anyone?).

That doesn’t make U.S. slavery okay — the word “slavery” is the tip-off — but if we’re the reality-based party, let’s stay based in reality, not avoiding reality b/c it might be rhetorically useful to stupid conservatives.

34

abb1 12.19.07 at 11:19 pm

Incidentally, “slaves were treated like property, which is to say, pretty well” is also a pretty standard anti-capitalist rhetoric. I heard it from Chomsky (your own car vs. a rental) and I’m pretty sure it was in Mark Ames’ Going Postal.

35

Milo Busbecq 12.19.07 at 11:28 pm

Where have you gone, Michael Berube?
Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.
What’s that you say, Mrs. Robinson?
Danger Mike has left and gone away
(Hey hey hey, hey hey hey).

36

JP Stormcrow 12.19.07 at 11:36 pm

CT is giving Goldberg an awful lot of attention. You prepared to argue that he deserves it?

…did not prevent CNN from hiring D’Souza as a commentator in 2004, nor did it prevent the American Enterprise Institute or the Hoover Institution from retaining him as a Jolly Good Fellow

This is one of the most sobering things about these imbéciles provocateurs – the position they are accorded in the mainstream political commentariat. I do understand that the Hoovers ≠ Stanford, but now that the Invisible Hand has taken Milton Friedman to the Big Market in the Sky, I am thinking that D’Souza is the most recognizable “Stanford-credentialed” individual for the average TV viewer. Does preemptive mockery help or hurt? I’m not sure.

37

Gary Ruppert 12.19.07 at 11:56 pm

The fact is, liberals hate this book because they hate the truth. They hate reality itself. And liberals are the real racists.

38

Rob 12.20.07 at 12:45 am

Yes, the “ignore Goldberg because he’s a buffoon” camp tries to pretend that Goldberg is so minor he’ll go away. He isn’t. He’s a nationally syndicated columnist. He’s going to be published on Op-ed pages for the next 30-40 years all across the nation.

39

Doug Watts 12.20.07 at 12:54 am

Mr. Berube, thanks for pointing out that the core of Jonah’s core-less apple is an apologia for all the Fuzzy Zoellers out there who resent being deprived of a hard-on from watching Nelson Mandela and Muhammad Ali dragged like Hectors in the dust around the walls of White America like they actually did in Texas to the otherwise anonymous James Byrd. This is truly hateful tome-er.

40

Hattie 12.20.07 at 1:02 am

I’m blissing out! (swoon).

41

Hattie 12.20.07 at 1:06 am

Oh, yes. And when will the graphic novel be published?

42

MikeJ 12.20.07 at 1:10 am

$100 says the Sunday NY Times Book Review assigns Goldberg’s magnum dopus*

Bazzzzt. The correct answer is Michiko Kakutani.

43

Bruce Baugh 12.20.07 at 1:15 am

There’s a question I’d really like to see someone put to Goldberg in an interview, and I’m not trying to be snarky about this or anything: But why is fascism bad, anyway? I’d back it up with a sampling of American conservative enthusiasm for fascist regimes and leaders, from Prescott Bush and the many others who happily did business with the Nazis to National Review’s editorial commitments to Peron and Franco. It’s one thing to say that liberals think fascism is bad, but in practice, real fascism is obviously important and on the side of the good guys for the overall conservative culture-struggle. It’s not that he’d give any answer worth speaking of, but his effort to produce one would likely be highly quotable.

44

Ted 12.20.07 at 1:18 am

Yeah, yeah, but will the Rangers make the playoffs?

45

Adam Kotsko 12.20.07 at 1:25 am

32: That makes sense. I don’t think that the North American wing of modern slavery deserves any kind of moral credit for facing weather-based limits on the exploitation of slaves, however.

46

Dave Maier 12.20.07 at 1:27 am

Michael, that’s not D’Souza’s most recent book. Where have you been?? His most recent book is the one where he proves the truth of Cartesian dualism by introspection (we have free will, you see).

47

John Protevi 12.20.07 at 1:55 am

@44: I completely agree.

48

Luther Blissett 12.20.07 at 2:08 am

” . . . so too, twelve years ago, did D’Souza show that Franz Boas and W. E. B. DuBois were the real racists.”

Not to equivocate here, but didn’t lefty scholars like Anthony Appiah and Walter Benn Michaels make this argument about the progressive complicity with racialism? If I remember correctly, the opening essay in *In My Father’s House* criticizes Du Bois’s racialist thinking.

49

Phill Hallam-Baker 12.20.07 at 2:15 am

Is the point of the book to convince people that liberals are fascists or devalue the term to the point that Goldberg and his ilk can fend off rather more substantial charges that they are advocating fascism-lite?

If you consider the distinctive features of fascism it certainly was not their ideology. Hitler’s ‘ideology’ such as it was consisted of rehashed excerpts from the Weimar equivalent of ‘a dummies edition’.

What was distinctive in fascism was their mindless militarism and aggression, their fondness for flags and symbols, their cynical exploitation of xenophobia, their fondness for torture and their sophisticated media manipulation. Now what party does that sound more like, Republican or Democrat?

The right is not exactly arguing that the US needs to establish Lebensraum in the Middle East (although it would not be much of a stretch to accuse Krautheimer, Derhowitz and other Likudnicks of viewing the West Bank in similar terms), all the Neo-cons are proposing is to control Iraq’s oil. Oh and the code name for the invasion of Iran is apparently Operation Barbarossa.

The biggest area of comparison between the Bush administration and the Third Reich is their almost total incompetence. They can achieve their means but not their ends. Far from demonstrating the unchallenged supremacy of the US, they have taken the illusion of US hegemony and smashed it up into little pieces and the US military along with it.

Ahmedinijad probably sees himself as Stalin to Bush’s Hitler, neither is an appealing leader but the end result of Hitler’s attack on Russia was fifty years of unchallenged Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. The mullahs clearly hope for a similar outcome, establishing a pan-Shia Soviet.

50

anon 12.20.07 at 2:42 am

“Also, just to demonstrate Goldberg’s ignorance, he writes that Carl Schmitt, an near-fascist (literally) is “hugely popular among leftist academics.”

But Schmitt is more popular among conservative academics!”

You can’t really be serious. At least in the American case, Schmidt is just rarely discussed. Who actually pays the attention to Schmidt? Not too many folks. Ellen Kennedy, a left-leaning academic at Penn or Paul Gottfried, a right-leaning academic from Elizabethtown or the folks at Telos, semi-heirs of the Frankfurt school.

51

JP Stormcrow 12.20.07 at 2:48 am

[D'Souza's] most recent book*, however, seems to have given some of his comrades second thoughts.

Don’t go fucking with my Grand Unifying Theory of Wingnut Mixed Political Metaphors dude! It requires Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism, D’Souza’s Enemy at Home and your BFF’s “Discover the Network” to retain sufficient nutter street cred to support the emerging understanding of 9/11 as collateral damage from a doctrinal squabble between the Liberal Fascist Mensheviks and the Islamofascist Bolsheviks over how to best achieve the Fascist Internationale.

So don’t start. I swear I’ll go over to that uppity little blog of yours and retroactively shut it down like a year ago and make comment threads begin to disappear one at a time.

*As Dave Meier points out, MB is actually referring to his book before last. His latest is might as well be titled Atheistic Creedism.

52

Delicious Pundit 12.20.07 at 2:50 am

Berube sightings are good news. I propose that he takes a shot at writing the NHL Closer at Deadspin.

53

DB 12.20.07 at 2:53 am

Good to see Michael, but he didn’t mention Goldberg’s working title, which I’m told was “I’m rubber, you’re glue, bounce off me, stick to you”

I’m looking forward to David Brooks’ mid January column on lib-fasc, filled with cryptic dialectics and hobos in Hoboken, etc

54

P O'Neill 12.20.07 at 2:58 am

We hoped Jonah would go away back when was selling Linda Tripp tapes out of Lucianne’s attic on e-Bay.

Mickey Kaus is an excellent guess to do the NYT review, especially now that bloggingheads has that NYT tie-in. And Kaus once said that Jonah is incredibly talented.

55

Uncle Kvetch 12.20.07 at 3:06 am

Is the point of the book to convince people that liberals are fascists or devalue the term to the point that Goldberg and his ilk can fend off rather more substantial charges that they are advocating fascism-lite?

The point of the book is to make Jonah Goldberg money and pad out his CV. But to answer your question: Both.

56

Josh in Philly 12.20.07 at 3:09 am

Matt#18: When they published Dinesh, Charles Murray, and The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of (which accuses Ursula Le Guin of fascist tendencies), The Free Press was Adam Bellow’s baby: not so more recently, IINM.

57

Ragout 12.20.07 at 3:10 am

A big reason for the lower mortality of slaves in the US than in South America and the Caribbean was the ban on the slave trade (nationally in 1808, but soon after the Revolution in many states). Since they couldn’t easily replace their slaves, slaveowners were motivated to keep them alive.

58

Hattie 12.20.07 at 3:21 am

Ursula Le Guin, fascist tool! I should have known.

59

Thers 12.20.07 at 3:31 am

Is the point of the book to convince people that liberals are fascists or devalue the term to the point that Goldberg and his ilk can fend off rather more substantial charges that they are advocating fascism-lite?

Both? They aren’t mutually exclusive aims.

60

John Protevi 12.20.07 at 4:19 am

@56: I don’t really buy that argument. Who makes it? References please.

61

lemuel pitkin 12.20.07 at 4:50 am

I don’t buy 56 either. North American slave mortality was already much lower than in other parts of the New World well before the slave trade was banned.

Oh the other hand, there does seem to have been something uniquely horrible about Caribbean slavery, with punishments like “Derby’s Dose, in which a slave defecated into the mouth of another slave, which was then wired shut.” That kind of insane sadism doesn’t seem to have been as common in North America. I woudn’t specualte why, but certainly it’s not becasue of capitalist rationality was more developed in the US, as D’Souza and ragout suggest. The opposite, if anything.

62

CaseyL 12.20.07 at 4:50 am

@59: I’ve never heard that the end of importing slaves made plantation owners treat the slaves better.

What I do remember hearing is that the end of importing slaves resulted in ramped-up breeding programs, which probably meant more destroyed families as they were separated and sold as “breeding stock.”

IIRC, the end of importing slaves also spurred the “one drop of blood” racial classification which held that anyone with as little as 1/16 African ancestry (one great-grandparent) was black and therefore a slave.

63

Michael Bérubé 12.20.07 at 5:02 am

Yeah, yeah, but will the Rangers make the playoffs?

This is a fascist question.

64

dsquared 12.20.07 at 7:23 am

Yes, the “ignore Goldberg because he’s a buffoon” camp tries to pretend that Goldberg is so minor he’ll go away. He isn’t. He’s a nationally syndicated columnist. He’s going to be published on Op-ed pages for the next 30-40 years all across the nation.

I know, brilliant isn’t it? He’ll be published for 30-40 years, and (unless he comes up with new material, which I suppose is theoretically possible), he’ll spend that entire time trying to make the visibly ridiculous claim that modern liberals are the heirs of the Nazis. Not only will this take up op-ed space that might be used for actually arguing for right-wing policies, but Goldberg’s book is sort of like a herpes virus unleashed into the wingnut editorialist community, attacking the credibility of anyone it touches. I see from The Corner that it’s already now safe to ignore and mock anything Tom Wolfe says ever again – previously, Wolfe’s occasional ventures into right wing drivel had to be taken with a modicum of seriousness because of Bonfire of the Vanities, but now we can just point to the blurb he wrote for “Liberal Fascism” and yuk him off.

65

Doug Watts 12.20.07 at 8:39 am

Yes, the “ignore Goldberg because he’s a buffoon” camp tries to pretend that Goldberg is so minor he’ll go away. He isn’t. He’s a nationally syndicated columnist. He’s going to be published on Op-ed pages for the next 30-40 years all across the nation.

Ermm …. I don’t think so. Any more than Ted Nugent is now blasting across your airwaves at this moment.

Blind Lemon Jefferson and Ali Farka Toure, on the other hand, will be on peoples’ radios forever.

66

ken p 12.20.07 at 9:24 am

I apologize for not wanting to get involved in the “our slavery was better/worse than anyone else’s” argument. I’ve stood in both the dungeon and the death room at the slave castle in Cape Coast, Ghana. I don’t think the men and women who were held there, died there, or were transported from there particularly cared about the moral ranking of their tormentors. Neither should we. Evil is evil.

67

Matt Weiner 12.20.07 at 9:36 am

I bet you Ted Nugent is getting a hell of a lot more airplay on for-profit radio in the US than Ali Farka Toure and Blind Lemon Jefferson put together. Not sure whether this has any bearing on Goldberg’s future.

68

brooksfoe 12.20.07 at 10:10 am

30-40 years from now, claiming that liberals are fascists will be like claiming that beatniks are right-deviationists today. You’d be arguing in a superannuated style about ancient entities. No one will even know what you’re talking about, or care.

69

Mrs Tilton 12.20.07 at 10:54 am

Gary @37,

the fact is, you’re trolling the wrong blog. G’wan now, off with you, before you make the Sadlynauts all jealous!

70

a very public sociologist 12.20.07 at 11:10 am

dsquared @64

Well if you’re unfortunate enough to come across Yahoo’s version of ‘answers to questions’, most of the rightwing trolls on there seem to think Hitler was a socialist anyway. So why should liberals miss out from their scattergun smears?

71

MR. Bill 12.20.07 at 12:01 pm

30-40 years from now, claiming that liberals are fascists will be like claiming that beatniks are right-deviationists today. You’d be arguing in a superannuated style about ancient entities. No one will even know what you’re talking about, or care.The Bell Curve.

72

Matt 12.20.07 at 12:05 pm

Thanks for the info on the Free Press, Josh.

73

MR. Bill 12.20.07 at 12:06 pm

30-40 years from now, claiming that liberals are fascists will be like claiming that beatniks are right-deviationists today. You’d be arguing in a superannuated style about ancient entities. No one will even know what you’re talking about, or care.
I wish this were true, but the American Right clings to it’s targets and talking points like a drowning man to flotsam. Example: a some Jane Fonda hating (she’s a traitor in the Viet Nam war, you know) from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution from this week.
http://tinyurl.com/2c5ckq

I mean, after debunking and mockery, look at the currency of The Bell Curve.

74

rea 12.20.07 at 12:10 pm

Blind Lemon Jefferson and Ali Farka Toure, on the other hand, will be on peoples’ radios forever.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard either of those guys on the radio. Me neither.

75

abb1 12.20.07 at 12:19 pm

MR. Bill is right, of course. The media-industrial complex can turn any non-sense into common-sense is they choose to. It’s easy.

76

Doug M. 12.20.07 at 12:48 pm

Caribbean slavery tended to be nastier than North American slavery because Caribbean slavery was about sugar.

Cutting sugar cane is godawful work: much worse than picking cotton or planting coffee. The sugar cane likes heat and humidity, so cutting it means standing ankle deep in mud at 40 degrees C and 100% humidity, swinging a machete over and over again in a malarial swamp full of snakes, rats, spiders, stinging flies and mosquitoes.

From the time sugar got firmly established in the Caribbean (~1660) to the Napoleonic Wars, the average lifespan of a new slave fresh off the boat was around a decade. About 10% died in the first six months.

Also, until the 1780s, most of the small sugar islands were disproportionately male — there wasn’t much economic sense in bringing female slaves, because they died nearly as fast without doing as much work. In the US, the slave population was self-sustaining from pretty early on; in the Caribbean, this didn’t happen until the late 18th century.

Caribbean slaves were treated much worse than American slaves because (1) they were mostly going to die anyway, and (2) they were more of a threat — they all had machetes, and whites were usually a minority. Note that the only successful slave revolt was on Haiti, the largest of the sugar islands.

As a result, the Caribbean *consumed* several million African slaves — that is, it used them up and killed them, without allowing them to reproduce.

Anyway. I don’t think it minimizes the horrors of US slavery to note that there were places that were even worse.

Doug M.

77

Ragout 12.20.07 at 1:01 pm

The “obscure” fact that the ban on the importation of slaves reduced slave mortality in the US is something I was taught in econ history class, and is a commonplace of encyclopedias and other surveys.

For example, from a PBS TV special:

One of the most curious facts of US slavery is that slaves in the US South reproduced themselves in numbers equal to the white birth rate. In almost all other nations in the Americas, slave mortality rates were so high that the slave population required massive importation of slaves in order for the institution to survive. In the American South, on the other hand, slaves tended to live in strong family environments, especially on the large plantations, with extended kinship networks that enabled the slaves to reproduce themselves naturally. Planters well understood that a family environment helped control slaves in the sense that the threat of breaking up the slave family worked to undermine slave rebellions and disobedience.

Equally important, because of the ban on the importation of slaves into the United States after 1808, planters understood that good medical care and tolerable working conditions enabled their slaves to live longer lives. This meant that slaves were considered not only a source of labor but also a capital investment that might actually increase in value, especially in the case of enslaved women. With no new slaves allowed to enter the nation legally after 1808, the enslaved African Americans on hand were bound to increase in value in proportion to the increase in demand for the cotton they produced. As the western states opened up to cotton production, a great new market for slaves increased the value of slaves even more in the upper-South.

78

Ragout 12.20.07 at 1:15 pm

insane sadism doesn’t seem to have been as common in North America. I woudn’t specualte why, but certainly it’s not becasue of capitalist rationality was more developed in the US, as D’Souza and ragout suggest.

I’m certainly not suggesting that slaveowners exhibited “capitalist rationality.” Under what definition of capitalism could it possibly make sense to call slaveowners capitalist? Marx must be turning over in his grave.

Anyway, a lot of bizarre tortures were removed from the Virginia slave code (by Jefferson) after the American Revolution. Of course, around the same time, slavery was ended (or phased out) in the North, banned from new territories, and the importation of slaves was banned in much of the US. So one reason why slavery wasn’t as bad in the US as in South America and the Caribbean was revolutionary idealism and the virtues of the founding fathers.

79

Ragout 12.20.07 at 1:18 pm

I hope it’s clear that both paragraphs in (75) are quotes from the PBS TV special web site, not just the indented one.

80

dsquared 12.20.07 at 1:47 pm

Under what definition of capitalism could it possibly make sense to call slaveowners capitalist?

Under the definition used in “Theories of Surplus Value”, among others, viz:

“where commercial speculations figure from the start and production is intended for the world market, the capitalist mode of production exists, although only in a formal sense, since the slavery of Negroes precludes free wage-labor, which is the basis of capitalist production. But the business in which slaves are used is conducted by capitalists. The method of production which they introduce has not arisen out of slavery but is grafted on to it. In this case the same person is capitalist and landowner.” “

81

Michael Bérubé 12.20.07 at 2:28 pm

So, Daniel, you’re saying that Marx is not actually turning over in his grave? Hmm. How about Oliver Cromwell Cox? Is he turning over?

82

julia 12.20.07 at 3:01 pm

The salient difference between American slavery and other forms of slavery is that ours took place in a country that held it to be self-evidently true that all men are created equal.

and, funnily enough, all the examples you mention are mightily chuffed about the whole “creator” mention in the very next sentence and string ornate and glittery webs of theory from it but appear not to have noticed what it actually says.

83

ignoblus 12.20.07 at 3:06 pm

Yes, the “ignore Goldberg because he’s a buffoon” camp tries to pretend that Goldberg is so minor he’ll go away. He isn’t. He’s a nationally syndicated columnist. He’s going to be published on Op-ed pages for the next 30-40 years all across the nation.

As the instigator of a (very) few comment regarding the amount of attention Goldberg has been receiving, let me point out that I’m not arguing for ignoring him completely or that the proper way to deal with him isn’t mockery. But three posts regarding his book in one day? That’s not just because he’s a nationally syndicated columnist, is it? Doesn’t referring to him as a wingnut imply that he’s not part of some mass movement? Or, if he is part of some mass movement, is he really the best that movement has to offer?

There are plenty of other ideas equally worth mocking, some of them coming from the Monty Python Left that are superficially similar to this here mocking. John Pilger is a journalist of some repute involved in denying the Serbian Genocide. (I’m aware Michael has had run-ins with this section of the left.) Or, if I simply google Jonah Goldberg’s name, the first post that comes up after his own works and a wikipedia entry is a rather ugly site, antiwar.com, which tends to hide it’s orientation rather well on the web. (WorldNetDaily describes it as a left-wing site and I’ve seen fairly moderate individuals take it that way. It reposts stuff from Paul Buchanan and Alexander Cockburn, which should give an idea what I think about them.) I’ll admit to never having thought deeply about how we choose our favorite wingnuts, but I’m pretty sure there’s a problem there that’s worth addressing.

84

John Protevi 12.20.07 at 3:09 pm

Ragout, the PBS quote is okay for a TV special, but it’s a generalization (“the American South”); the three books I cite in 32 would give you a better understanding of the geographical and historical differences crucial to understanding the point we’re arguing (i.e., Chesapeake vs. deep south, tobacco vs. rice and sugar [early on the coasts] and vs. cotton [later in the inland], and so on). Besides, the quote you bring out seems to imply positive slave population growth before the 1808 ban. And besides all that, citing “revolutionary idealism and the virtues of the founding fathers” as even partial reasons for the difference in mortality rates of N Am vs Caribbean it doesn’t seem to (1) be very persuasive in the face of the climate and labor conditions arguments above nor (2) fit very well with your own economic rationality argument. If you can only read one of the books above in 32, you should try Wills on Jefferson in re “revolutionary idealism and the virtues of the founding fathers” regarding US slavery.

85

Stephen Frug 12.20.07 at 3:10 pm

My fear is that 30-40 years from now the question of liberal fascism will be like the question of Iraq’s 9-11 ties, i.e. not taken seriously by anyone worth taking seriously, but believed by a wide spectrum of the populace and treated with “opinions on the shape of the earth differ” respect by the national media. Which is why I think it’s worth taking Goldberg seriously now — not seriously as in his work is serious, but serious as in the patent stupidity of his ideas are no guarantee against their spreading.

86

John Protevi 12.20.07 at 3:15 pm

Ignoblus, don’t be such a stick in the mud. Part of our glee with Goldberg is our relief at being able to find a good laugh in these dismal times. Besides, it seems WorldNetDaily keeps you well-informed enough on the Monty Python Left that you don’t need CT to pile on.

87

roger 12.20.07 at 3:20 pm

Ah, something there is that likes to burn an effigy. Goldberg has long begged for that honor, and publishing a book that strives to be as cheaply odious as anything ever exuded by Ann Coulter, but trips over its shoelaces at the starting line, has won him the CT Guy Fawkes award. And why not? It is Christmas, and we all need something to cheer us up.

88

elbujo 12.20.07 at 3:32 pm

Are people in this thread actually debating whether slavery was just plain old bad rather than really, really bad? And this matters why?

89

Michael Bérubé 12.20.07 at 3:42 pm

It is Christmas, and we all need something to cheer us up.

Except for those of us for whom it is Molochmas, and who need to find children to steal. That always cheers me up!

90

lemuel pitkin 12.20.07 at 3:46 pm

Are people in this thread actually debating whether slavery was just plain old bad rather than really, really bad?

No, we’re debating if there was a difference between the conditions for slaves in North America and the Caribbean, and what the reasons for that might have been.

And this matters why?

First, because of the claim made by D’Souza and repeated here by ragout, that if you hold another human being as property you’ll treat them well out of your own self-interest. This is a really pernicious idea and it’s important to show that history does not bear it out. And second, because as members of “the reality-based community” we just prefer having accurate views of reality. I think it’s perfectly possible to believe both US slavery was one of the most immoral and destructive social arrangements of modern times, and has profoundly warped American society down to the present, and that Caribbean slavery was even more brutal than in North America.

91

franck 12.20.07 at 4:12 pm

What people haven’t mentioned yet, but is in fact fairly relevant here, is that the US is a big country, and there was serious cultivation of sugarcane in the US as well, say in Louisiana. And there, you did have insane death rates more similar to the Caribbean than to more northern regions.

My understanding always was that the upper South supplied the lower South with surplus slaves and that explains why a ban on the slave trade was possible in the US, because it split the slave states and prevented a uniform bloc, thus allowing the passage of the measure. The lower South, which is more subtropical and had far worse diseases and conditions, always needed surplus slaves from the upper South.

92

abb1 12.20.07 at 4:26 pm

Lemuel, “treat them well” – compare to what? Maybe it’s a pernicious idea, but it’s not at all obvious to me that, say, the canuts in 1830s Lyon were treated better.

93

John Protevi 12.20.07 at 4:26 pm

Franck, we are in fact insisting on geographical differences within the US (e.g., #85). But even Louisiana sugar (S. Carolina rice and indigo were very harsh too) never had Caribbean death rates because you can only get one sugar growing season in Louisiana, as opposed to virtually year round in the Caribbean. Side note: Louisiana sugar production never really got going until 1795, that is, during the St. Domingue / Haitian Revolution that shut down sugar production there. Other books to read here are of course CLR James, Black Jacobins, and a great but underappreciated work, Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, Africans in Colonial Louisiana.

94

ignoblus 12.20.07 at 4:40 pm

Ignoblus, don’t be such a stick in the mud. Part of our glee with Goldberg is our relief at being able to find a good laugh in these dismal times. Besides, it seems WorldNetDaily keeps you well-informed enough on the Monty Python Left that you don’t need CT to pile on.

Well, no, I don’t read WorldNetDaily. Ever. And the term “Monty Python Left” is taken from Rhetorical Ox. But what I’m concerned about has a lot to do with how people make such blanket judgements, how they lump people or ideas in with others based on superficial similarities, even when one person should be taken more seriously than the other. (And, please, do allow me the chance to think through something I haven’t thought about before.) I promise not to lump you in with Alexander Cockburn if you don’t lump me in with Jonah Goldberg. But how do we encourage others to make such disctinctions? Does giving him this much attention encourage others to make smarter disctinctions, to not go Goldberg on us? What responsibility, if any – and I’m open to but not quite comfortable with the possibility that we have none – do we have to encourage such behavior?

95

Uncle Kvetch 12.20.07 at 4:43 pm

Doesn’t referring to him as a wingnut imply that he’s not part of some mass movement?

No; don’t know where you got that idea. Wingnuts have been pretty much running the show in this country for a number of years now.

There are plenty of other ideas equally worth mocking, some of them coming from the Monty Python Left

Oh, so that’s where you were going with this. I guess it should have been obvious.

96

abb1 12.20.07 at 4:52 pm

Ignoblus, Alexander Cockburn sure has been a bit eccentric recently, but can you suggest anything comparable with Liberal Fascism in his body of work? Please, I’ll order it right away.

97

Barry 12.20.07 at 5:01 pm

Ignoblus, the obvious reason that there’s a surge in Goldberg mockery now is the release of his new crock of sh*t. Mockery is a dish best served with fresh sh*t, as the Klingons say.

When a new crock of sh*t is produced by another wingnut, then there will be a surge of mockery of that one.

To each his day.

98

Michael Bérubé 12.20.07 at 5:12 pm

Actually, the term “Monty Python Left” derives from this humble blog post, which deals with (among other things) Ward Churchill’s clarification as to whether cheese-makers and dairy producers in general can be said to be “little Eichmanns,” and a rewritten version of the relevant paragraph made its way into What’s Liberal? But hey, if it’s time for another repudiation of Churchill, sign me up! What did he do this time, host a family reunion for the Contras?

Besides, Uncle Kvetch has already admitted that Goldberg’s book proves that the left needs to clean up its act. We’ve got our left flank well covered here.

99

franck 12.20.07 at 5:12 pm

Fair enough, John. It just seemed to me like many of the commenters were ignoring the very different climates of the Southern US and their influence on slavery practices in those areas. There was not one “slavery system” in the US like you would find on a Caribbean island, even one as large as Hispanola.

100

ignoblus 12.20.07 at 6:28 pm

Personally, this sort of thing keeps me up at night, which is why I prefer to distance myself from those who distance themselves from those whose distance themselves from those who claim that those who claim that independent lefties like you and me are moles are moles.

Thanks, Michael. Something for me to think about.

And, Barry, of course a worthwhile point.

abb1, well, I do think Cockburn has said and published things far worse than “a bit eccentric” lately. If you really want examples, let me know. I’ve used up enough electrons here already.

101

Dave 12.20.07 at 6:29 pm

Just to run out the whole ‘slave systems’ thing, bear in mind that in the 1780s over 5% of the African-origin population of Saint-Domingue [French Hispaniola] were ‘free persons of colour’, many of whom owned slaves… And that amongst the slave population, abominably treated as the majority was, were overseers, clerks, coachmen, cooks, ladies’ maids, an entire educated or semi-educated stratum that provided much of the leadership for the 1791 revolt. Compare *that* to Mississippi or Alabama half a century later, and the pattern of US-bad, others-worse gets even more complicated.

102

Hattie 12.20.07 at 6:29 pm

(music)
Steal the Chillllldren!!

103

Steve 12.20.07 at 6:40 pm

Ignoblus, just to correct something, antiwar.com is a sort of catch-all site antinterventionist site, but it’s run by Justin Raimondo, a former member of Young Americans for Freedom and a student of Murray Rothbard’s. I’d say it skews paleocon or libertarian if anything.

104

lemuel pitkin 12.20.07 at 7:02 pm

On Cockburn, there’s not just the bizarre climate change denialism. His newsletter Counterpunch recently published an article explaining that the “blessed peaceful period in Palestine only changed with the ascendancy of the Jews in the 19th c, who all this time had been nurturing their tribal Yahweh and their dream of concretising the metaphorical promises he supposedly made millennia ago,” and then adds:

Then there’s the notorious Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which sets out just such a programme in albeit an overtly grotesque form and is solemnly disowned by Zionists as a forgery, though a forgery of what is never made clear.

Cockburn didn’t write, just published it, but in my book suggesting that the Protocols might have been onto something is well out of bounds. So maybe Cockburn does deserve to get beaten up a bit more than he does.

On the other hand, this stuff comes at the end of a mostly admirable 40-year career and he still is a brilliant stylist when he makes an effort so it’s probably not fair to compare him to Goldberg, who as far as I can tell has no redeeming features at all.

105

lemuel pitkin 12.20.07 at 7:06 pm

(I’m suddenly regretting posting that. My apologies in advance if the quality of this thread goes down as a result.)

106

JP Stormcrow 12.20.07 at 7:24 pm

I used to like making fun of Wingnuts, but thanks to Ward Churchill, I’m outraged by Margaret Sanger.

107

KH 12.20.07 at 8:22 pm

Goldberg’s thesis goes back to A James Gregor, whose own relation to historical fascism was fraught.

108

abb1 12.20.07 at 8:49 pm

So, this Walberg guy has a conspiracy theory about Zionists and he mentions the Protocols in a stupid paragraph. Anathema, make him a non-person.

Bernard Lewis has a conspiracy theory about Iranian mullahs (‘the 12th imam’ or something) and he, nevertheless, is the most respected expert in the world and Glenn Beck is pushing that stuff on CNN.

So, yeah, OK, Counterpunch is as crazy as CNN.

109

nick s 12.20.07 at 9:46 pm

antiwar.com, which tends to hide it’s orientation rather well on the web. (WorldNetDaily describes it as a left-wing site…

Justin Raimondo would find that rather amusing, but WingNutDaily is like that.

The Doughpus Magnum is a 400-page troll. 400-word trolls are easier to ignore, but they don’t get book tours.

Alas, the writers’ strike may deprive us of the glorious trainwreck of Jonah trying to shill his book on The Daily Show or (better still) The Colbert Report.

110

nxinxa 12.21.07 at 12:49 am

In comment 12 dsquared said
“The transatlantic slave trade was very unusual historically in a number of ways; slaves were certainly treated a lot worse than they had been in the Arabic/African slave trade of the preceding centuries.”

If so, where are the descendants today of the Arab slave trade? There is a smidgeon of African mtDNA (i.e. from women) in Arabia, little else. Much of East and Central Africa was essentially a slave farm for centuries yet nothing remains of all those people. The word “genocide” comes to mind.

111

SEK 12.21.07 at 2:34 am

My trackback was declared spam? I’m hurt, Michael, hurt. (SEK sulks into the corner of a corner, wipes away tears he’s too manly to actually be crying)

112

Ragout 12.21.07 at 2:48 am

if you hold another human being as property you’ll treat them well out of your own self-interest.

I made no such claim. I said, “Since they couldn’t easily replace their slaves, slaveowners were motivated to keep them alive.” Keeping them alive certainly isn’t the same as treating them well!

Note also that this is not an “economic rationality” argument, nor is it a “capitalist rationality” argument, unless these terms are identical to simple rationality. For example, slaveowners had to be concerned with slave revolts and escape attempts. These are rather different from the problems faced by the typical employer of wage laborers. From the point of view of slaveowners, the ban on the importation of slaves presumably made violence and torture less attractive strategies for dealing with these difficulties.

As to Marx, we can see from D^2’s quote, and still more from the article he links to, that Marx wasn’t one to make facile equations of slavery and capitalism. Marx called slavery an “anomaly,” a precapitalist institution (the plantation) embedded in a capitalist world order (the world trade in cotton and sugar). I have no doubt that Marx’s lit-crit “followers” are preventing him from resting easy in his grave.

113

Michael Bérubé 12.21.07 at 3:04 am

My trackback was declared spam?

What is a “trackback”? What is “spam”?

I’d blame this here Crooked Timber blog, but I had all kinds of trackback trouble at my old place, so clearly this is my fault. I think I broke the internets with bad links in my first couple of posts here, too.

114

SEK 12.21.07 at 3:36 am

Oh, but AWB gets to party? (AWB, are you mocking me with your trackback prowess?) Alright then, I see how it’s going to be. I’ll do this all manual like: Here is the post I wrote, but more importantly, here is the Wallace Stevens poem about Goldberg. (That’s the whole reason I tracked your back in the first place.)

115

John Protevi 12.21.07 at 3:42 am

I have no doubt that Marx’s lit-crit “followers” are preventing him from resting easy in his grave.

Ragout, as long as we’re debating what makes Marx spin, let’s see what happens when you give him your line about the salutary effects the “revolutionary idealism and virtues of the founding fathers” had on slave mortality rates. I’m thinking a 720 at least.

But seriously, if you’re at all interested, what you’re groping towards is an understanding of the “Williams thesis” concerning the relation of New World slavery and capitalism. The best treatment I know of this is in Blackburn’s Making of New World Slavery, but I’d be happy to hear about other treatments.

116

Ragout 12.21.07 at 4:26 am

John Protevi,

I keep denying that I’m making arguments about “economic rationality,” and yet you keep criticizing me by pointing out my arguments (“revolutionary idealism”) aren’t based on economic rationality. Well, duh!

You lecture me about which Jefferson book to read, but make ridiculous arguments like “This excess [slave] population helps explain why Jefferson would go along with the Brits in stopping the (official) Atlantic slave trade in 1804-1808: the internal slave market would benefit the Chesapeake planters, and stopping the Atlantic trade would protect the price they could get for them.”

Actually, Virginia banned the importation of slaves in 1778, without waiting for the national ban. Stopping the importation of slaves to Virginia in no way helped Virginia to sell slaves to the deep south states (the “internal slave market”). By banning the importation of slaves to their state, but not to their competitors, Virginian planters caused themselves some economic harm.

117

nony 12.21.07 at 5:19 am

If so, where are the descendants today of the Arab slave trade? There is a smidgeon of African mtDNA (i.e. from women) in Arabia, little else. Much of East and Central Africa was essentially a slave farm for centuries yet nothing remains of all those people. The word “genocide” comes to mind.

It only comes to mind if you’ve got a political axe to grind.

According to Henry Louis Gates’ “Africana”, the “most compelling thesis seems to be that no large community exists because most slaves were concubines or eunuchs, and as a result the black population could not replenish itself. With high rates of manumission and subsequent intermarraige with Arab poulations, children of freed slaves often became indistinquishable members of society.”

Also, from the same source, “(m)ost African slaves brought to the Middle East were females sold for domestic use or concubinage. According to Islamic law, when a concubine had a child by her master, the child was a free person who took on his father’s name and status; the mother could not be sold by her master and would be manumitted upon his death. “

Slavery, yes, but considerably less brutal than the Atlantic slave trade, and with much much higher rates of manumission and integration into the dominant culture.

118

Ragout 12.21.07 at 6:43 am

most [Middle Eastern] slaves were concubines or eunuchs…considerably less brutal than the Atlantic slave trade

Routine castration sounds pretty brutal to me.

119

nxinxa 12.21.07 at 7:29 am

In post 119 nony said
“Slavery, yes, but considerably less brutal than the Atlantic slave trade, and with much much higher rates of manumission and integration into the dominant culture.”

If there was really “integration into the dominant culture” then we would see their DNA in Arabia. We don’t. They were castrated else killed. We don’t even see more than a trace of mtDNA from African females. I have no political axe to grind (that I know of), but I do know something about DNA. If Gates’ “intermarriage” ever happened we would see the DNA today. This was big time horrific genocide.

Look for example at Brazil. Once you leave the cities it is essentially an African country. Plenty of African DNA in North America. Zilch in Arabia, Persia, India.

120

abb1 12.21.07 at 12:32 pm

…then we would see their DNA in Arabia.

Is it possible that most of the slaves there were north-east Africans of semitic origin to begin with?

121

John Protevi 12.21.07 at 2:57 pm

Ragout, you really should quit while you’re behind. First of all, simply repeating over and over that you’re not making economic rationality arguments doesn’t make it so. As for ridiculous arguments, you really do need some basic remedial work. While “revolutionary idealism and the virtues of the founding fathers” has a certain charm to it, others might say that Virginia banned the importation of slavery in 1778 because the Revolution had severely curtailed economic activity, especially on plantations. Many slave owners at the time were lending their slaves out for wage work, but even then there wasn’t a lot of work for them to do. Bringing even more slaves in at that time would have severely devalued the returns owners could get on the current slave labor system. (They did cover supply and demand in your econ history course, didn’t they?) As for allegedly hurting themselves by not being able to funnel slaves through Virginia to the “deep south” like their “competitors,” there’s only one problem with that argument: it makes no sense at all, since there there was no “deep south” market in 1778, because the cotton gin wasn’t invented until 1793 (a small detail you’d do well to remember). And even then, the deep south doesn’t really take off as a slave market until — wait for it — the 1804-1808 period. This argument comes from Ira Berlin’s Generations of Captivity. I know relying on the work of the past president of the Organization of American Historians doesn’t stack up against the PBS specials, encyclopedias, and “econ history courses” you remember, but it’s the best I can do.

Now I’m sorry for the waspish and condescending tone of my remarks, but really, there’s only so much a person can take and still remain civil. Slavery is a really important and complicated topic, and you really need to get back to basics on it before you say something *really* silly.

122

Laleh 12.21.07 at 3:20 pm

nxinxa, where exactly do you get this stuff about the DNA in Arab peninsualr population not having any AFrican DNA? Has someone done a test of the DNA of “Arab people” and compared to the DNA of “African people”? WHat are those categories? How do you determine history on the basis of DNA testing?

This is all lovely scientific cover for some really dodgy thinking.

123

abb1 12.21.07 at 4:19 pm

nxinxa, where exactly do you get this stuff about the DNA in Arab peninsualr population…

Perhaps s/he is making a casual observation based on what s/he perceives is a typical skin color of the population in the Arabian peninsula.

124

nxinxa 12.21.07 at 5:55 pm

‘Has someone done a test of the DNA of “Arab people” and compared to the DNA of “African people”’

Have a look at:

http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/298/5602/2381

And we have “This is all lovely scientific cover for some really dodgy thinking.” as well as “It only comes to mind if you’ve got a political axe to grind.”

This reminds me of the old joke about a psychiatrist walking down the street, someone says “good morning” to him, he thinks to himself “I wonder what he meant by that.”

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abb1 12.21.07 at 6:22 pm

Nxinxa, I’m afraid your link is not specific enough. Could you link the page dealing with “Arabia” and the “African DNA” you mentioned, please.

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nxinxa 12.21.07 at 6:26 pm

“I’m afraid your link is not specific enough. Could you link the page dealing with “Arabia” and the “African DNA” you mentioned, please.”

Stare at figure 1, either the last line of the graphic or next to the last one. The only population they call “Middle Eastern” with any African DNA is the Mozabites, who live in Algeria.

This BTW is not the best reference, it is the first thing that popped into my head.

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abb1 12.21.07 at 7:43 pm

There’s no figure 1 on the page you linked, and I can’t get to other pages. I’m just curious what the “African DNA” is.

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Ralph Hitchens 12.21.07 at 7:52 pm

“Other forms of slavery were extremely brutal too, in this hemisphere and in the other one. The salient difference between American slavery and other forms of slavery is that ours took place in a country that held it to be self-evidently true that all men are created equal.”

Michael, it’s a fact that American negro slavery was not nearly as brutal as slavery elsewhere in the western hemisphere. Robert Fogel, the Nobel Prize winning economic historian, has documented the significant difference in “natural increase” between the relatively small percentage of African slaves brought into the US versus those consigned to Brazil and the Caribbean, where a much more brutal plantation system existed. See his “Time on the Cross.” I pray that an even-handed approach to historical facts (for which we liberal Democrats are justly renowned) doesn’t make people think that I’m one with the D’Souzas of this world.

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Kevin Donoghue 12.21.07 at 7:58 pm

abb1,

Unsurprisingly, that paper contains no reference at all to “African DNA” (all human DNA is of African origin). This PDF file is a freebie version of the paper.

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lemuel pitkin 12.21.07 at 8:07 pm

See his “Time on the Cross.”

An utterly misguided and often outright fraudulent book.

He analyzed the frequency of whippings by counting the number of times a plantation owner’s diary described whipping individual slaves, ignoring the many mentions of whipping all field hands, whipping a dozen unidentified slaves, etc.

He estimated the frequency of families being broken up in the slave trade by assuming that only children sold alone indicated broken families and that all groups of children and adults sold together represented intact families.

He greatly exaggerated the proportion of slaves working in skilled occupations.

And so on.

See Herbert Gutman, “Slavery and the Numbers Game.”

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nxinxa 12.21.07 at 8:10 pm

“I’m just curious what the “African DNA” is.”

That particular paper is a modern classic but it is a little hard to explain. About 1000 people from about 50 populations around the world were typed at about 400 genetic marker loci. Now imagine that we make a scatter plot of the people only the scatterplot is in 400 dimensions. If two people are very similar at the 400 loci they will be near each other on the scatterplot. Now we look for “clumps” in the scatter. Turns out that there are 5 clear clumps: sub-Saharan Africans, Europeans, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Amerindians. In other words the old-timey human races pop right out.

Now we can go back and look at individuals. If someone has a European mom and and African dad we can pick this right out. If we look at, for example, Mozabites they look to be overall about 1/8 or so sS African in their DNA. The Bedouin and Druze and whoever else is on there have hardly any sS African DNA at all.

Problem is that the paper is copyrighted by SCIENCE and one needs a subscription to get at it I guess. If you are at a University you probably have access.

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lemuel pitkin 12.21.07 at 8:33 pm

Turns out that there are 5 clear clumps: sub-Saharan Africans, Europeans, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Amerindians. In other words the old-timey human races pop right out.

OK, I’m reading the paper now, and this claim is flatly false, but in an interesting way.

As with any factor analysis, you can identify as many clusters as you like. The paper does this with K=2,3, etc. First you have a cluster with Europe and Africa on one side, East Asia, Oceania and the Americas on the other side, and South Asia in the middle. At K=3 the Americas split off. And so on up to K=6, where the Kalash of northern Pakistan get their own cluster, along with the “canoncial” races. Only at K=5 do the clusters correspond to conventional racial groups. So of course that’s the level that “popped out” to nxinxa. But there’s nothing special about K=5 unless you already beleive that these are the races.

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abb1 12.21.07 at 9:05 pm

I seem to remember (from some Jared Diamond’s book) that there’s a whole bunch of mostly unrelated ethnic groups in Africa. Pygmies, for example, are nothing like other Africans, and Koisans (?) are something else altogether.

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nxinxa 12.21.07 at 9:29 pm

“But there’s nothing special about K=5 unless you already beleive that these are the races.”

Not quite: after 5 then individual groups. like tribes, pop out one by one. And anything from 2 to 5 gives old-timey races by someone’s definition. Maybe not 2 since it splits the world east-west while skin color splits it north south and most people think skin color when they think race.

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lemuel pitkin 12.21.07 at 11:39 pm

I seem to remember (from some Jared Diamond’s book) that there’s a whole bunch of mostly unrelated ethnic groups in Africa. Pygmies, for example, are nothing like other Africans, and Koisans (?) are something else altogether.

I’ve read this too. It’s not clear if their African sample was big enough and hit the right groups to pick this up.

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Kevin Donoghue 12.21.07 at 11:56 pm

abb1: I seem to remember (from some Jared Diamond’s book) that there’s a whole bunch of mostly unrelated ethnic groups in Africa.

Or, to quote one of the authors nxinxa cites as an authority:

“On a global basis we are finding that the majority of alleles for nuclear DNA polymorphisms are present in most populations around the world, though sub-Saharan African populations have more genetic variation (alleles), in general, than indigenous populations in any other part of the world. We interpret the data to mean that there was a major founder effect and loss of variation associated with the expansion of modern humans out of Africa.”

Which means it is utter nonsense to talk of “African DNA” – it would make more sense to speak of non-African DNA, i.e., if you really needed to divide humanity into five races you might as well regard the non-African chunk of the world’s population as a single race. But I’ve never seen anyone produce a decent reason for dragging race back into genetics.

Needless to say there’s plenty of people living in what used to be the Ottoman empire who may have inherited DNA from African slaves. Some have dark skin, some don’t.

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Kevin Donoghue 12.21.07 at 11:58 pm

There wasn’t supposed to be any strike-through in that comment. My HTML isn’t the best.

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dsquared 12.22.07 at 12:48 pm

If so, where are the descendants today of the Arab slave trade?

there is this whole country called “Dar al-Sudan” (land of the black people) which is substantially populated by Arabic-speaking black people and part of the Arab League, for example.

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JP Stormcrow 12.22.07 at 7:02 pm

I’m just someone Googling, but this article certainly seems relevant:


Extensive female-mediated gene flow from sub-Saharan Africa into near eastern Arab populations.

We have analyzed and compared mitochondrial DNA variation of populations from the Near East and Africa and found a very high frequency of African lineages present in the Yemen Hadramawt: more than a third were of clear sub-Saharan origin. Other Arab populations carried approximately 10% lineages of sub-Saharan origin, whereas non-Arab Near Eastern populations, by contrast, carried few or no such lineages, suggesting that gene flow has been preferentially into Arab populations. Several lines of evidence suggest that most of this gene flow probably occurred within the past approximately 2,500 years. In contrast, there is little evidence for male-mediated gene flow from sub-Saharan Africa in Y-chromosome haplotypes in Arab populations, including the Hadramawt. Taken together, these results are consistent with substantial migration from eastern Africa into Arabia, at least in part as a result of the Arab slave trade, and mainly female assimilation into the Arabian population as a result of miscegenation and manumission.

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Kevin Donoghue 12.22.07 at 7:45 pm

JP Stormcrow,

Thanks, that does look interesting. I found a PDF version of the full paper:

http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/pdf/10.1086/374384

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John Protevi 12.22.07 at 8:16 pm

You and your “facts,” your “science,” your “reason,” JP Stormcrow: they are powerless before nxixna’s determination to show that the Arabs are History’s Greatest Monster.™

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nony 12.23.07 at 4:51 am

The word “genocide” comes to mind. …..This was big time horrific genocide.

This is exactly what I meant by having a political axe to grind. You cite ONE study (with what the study itself admits is a smaller than needed sample of “Middle Eastern” populations for accurate genetic clustering) that really doesn’t directly address your point. The study only deals with the question of whether genetically determined ancestry is superior to self-reported ancestry in assessing epidemiological risks. But it is your only cite to back up your claim that, contrary to all historical record, there must have been some secret “horrific genocide” of African slaves in Arabia. If you throw around the word “genocide” so casually, with no evidence to back it up, that’s a sure sign of an agenda other than scientific inquiry.

Thanks JP and Kevin for the links to the study on African MtDNA gene flow to Arab populations.

From the cited study:

“In summary, these results are consistent with mainly female migration from eastern Africa into Arab communities within the last few thousand years. There have been many opportunities for such migrations between eastern Africa and southern Arabia during this period. However, the most likely explanation for the presence of predominantly female lineages of African origin in other parts of the Arab world is that these may trace back to women brought from Africa as part of the Arab slave trade, assimilated into the Arabian population as a result of miscegenation and manumission.”

… which correlates exactly to historian Gates’ point that I cited. You dismissed this in favor of a “horrific genocide” theory, which has no backing in either history or genetics. It was, in essence, pulled out of your ass. Axe, meet grinder.

Of course, John said all this much more succinctly!

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nxinxa 12.23.07 at 5:32 am

” You dismissed this in favor of a “horrific genocide” theory, which has no backing in either history or genetics.”

Nice paper, and it says precisely what I said: there is evidence of African mtDNA in the Middle East, nothing from the Y. The men were either castrated or killed.

What possible political axe is there here?? This is interesting history. Like Freud said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. What on earth is generating all the snipes and vulgarity here??

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nony 12.23.07 at 8:45 am

Nice paper, and it says precisely what I said: there is evidence of African mtDNA in the Middle East, nothing from the Y. The men were either castrated or killed.

No, it doesn’t. You originally said, “If so, where are the descendants today of the Arab slave trade? There is a smidgeon of African mtDNA (i.e. from women) in Arabia, little else….The word “genocide” comes to mind.” And you also said,
“We don’t even see more than a trace of mtDNA from African females…If Gates’ “intermarriage” ever happened we would see the DNA today. This was big time horrific genocide.”

The “nice paper” called the female-mediated gene flow “extensive”. If you are looking for a synonym for “smidgeon” or “trace”, well, “extensive” is not it. So to now claim that it “says precisely what I said” is precisely a lie.

Neither slave trade history nor population genetics supported your point so now you have changed your argument to, well, there is evidence of female DNA but no male, so therefore it must mean that “all the men were either castrated or killed.” In fact you imply that the study said as much, when it clearly said no such thing.

The genetic study only supports a finding that there is little recent male-mediated African gene flow in current Arab populations, but much greater mtDNA gene flow. From that you have made a broad leap from the lack of the male flow to an imputed reason–genocide: one that is not supported by history. Is genocide the only possible reason for the lack of a significant male-mediated gene flow from Africa? No, all the genetic analysis does is indicate that the African male-mediated genes DID NOT REPRODUCE IN SUFFICIENT NUMBERS to influence the genetic makeup of the larger Arab population. Is being killed the only way that one can fail to reproduce? Of course not. Given that most of the African slaves in the Arabian peninsula were females, used as concubines or domestic help, and that the smaller number of male African slaves included eunuchs, as well as soldiers, thus reducing the likelihold of significant male reproduction, the differences in the gene flow is entirely predictable without resorting to wild theories of “bigtime horrific genocide” as you described it. If one also factors in the historically high Arab birthrates, it is entirely predictable that African male-mediated gene flow would be out reproduced in Arab populations.

And as for the enunuchs, they were usually bought as such, not castrated after purchase, and the eunuchs were not exclusively black. There were many white eunuchs as well. Eunuchs were utilized to fulfull specific social functions They were used as guardians for the harems, and also as protectors and advisers to the elites. Many of them, in return for the early horror of castration, were able to attain high positions of power. As much as we find the whole thing quite abhorrent today, intentional castration to fill societal functions has a long history throughout the world, and genocide was not the engine propelling the existence and use of eunuchs.

The original blog entry deals with Jonah Goldberg’s attempt to wield the word “fascism” around so wildly and recklessly that it loses all meaning. You are doing the same thing with the word “genocide”, and then you claim to wonder what all the fuss is. Are you really so obtuse, or merely playing at it?

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nxinxa 12.23.07 at 2:10 pm

‘The “nice paper” called the female-mediated gene flow “extensive”. If you are looking for a synonym for “smidgeon” or “trace”, well, “extensive” is not it. ‘

This is the highest estimate of African mtDNA anywhere in the region–it is a smidge elsewhere.

‘ No, all the genetic analysis does is indicate that the African male-mediated genes DID NOT REPRODUCE IN SUFFICIENT NUMBERS to influence the genetic makeup of the larger Arab population. ‘

Yes, that is exactly what I started out wondering about.

‘The original blog entry deals with Jonah Goldberg’s attempt to wield the word “fascism” around so wildly and recklessly that it loses all meaning. You are doing the same thing with the word “genocide”, and then you claim to wonder what all the fuss is. Are you really so obtuse, or merely playing at it?’

OK, I get it. I am not accustomed to treating words as having magic qualities but I do see what you mean.

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John Protevi 12.23.07 at 2:41 pm

Shorter nxinxa: what’s all this fuss about my ill-founded accusations of genocide? Lighten up. It’s just a word.

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John Protevi 12.23.07 at 2:46 pm

Alternate shorter nxinxa: see this? It’s butter not melting in my mouth.

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Jonathan Edelstein 12.23.07 at 6:28 pm

Anecdotally, there are distinct “black” subgroups (regarded as such by themselves and their neighbors) in several Arab populations, including Iraqis, Palestinians and Bedouin Israelis.

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