Ten worst Britons (and Americans)

by Chris Bertram on December 29, 2005

Following the publication of a “BBC list of the 10 worst Britons of all time”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4560716.stm , there’s now a meme going round “listing nominations for the 10 worst Americans of all time”:http://www.allthingsbeautiful.com/all_things_beautiful/2005/12/a_challenge_to_.html . The propensity of “conservative” blog commenters to include Jane Fonda, MLK, or Paul Robeson on their lists is somewhat worrying … Still, nominations for either Britons or Americans are welcome in comments below. My own personal nomination for the worst American of all time would be the person most responsible for the TV series Friends. There should be a special place in hell reserved for that individual. (via “Lawyers, Guns and Money”:http://lefarkins.blogspot.com/2005/12/10-worst-americans.html , where Robert Farley has a sensible list ).

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12.29.05 at 6:24 pm



brendan 12.29.05 at 7:07 am

Oh come on. Where’s the spirit of Christmas cheer? Friends was quite good (even hard hearted misanthrope Charlie Brooker admits that) although it did jump the shark in a big way when Monica got it together with Chandler.

The person responsible for Different Strokes on the other hand….


Alexandra 12.29.05 at 7:40 am

All Things Beautiful TrackBack ‘A Challenge To The Blogosphere:’The Ten Worst Americans’ List

“As a post Christmas/Hannukah Challenge, I invited the Blogosphere to name ‘The Ten Worst Americans’…Chris Bertram @ Crooked Timber gives the thumbs down to the Producer of Friends, and lets his readers decide the rest.”


Barry 12.29.05 at 7:55 am

The inclusion of MLK serves a useful purpose, to mark the lister as evil – not just a political opponent, not as somebody with some ideas that I don’t like, but evil. Worthy of no respect whatsoever.


Semanticleo 12.29.05 at 10:16 am

It was encouraging to find Captain Ed list
J. Edgar Hoover as his #1. It is interesting
to note Hoover saw himself as chief protector
of US sovereignty and, no doubt saw his illegal
wiretapping as necessary and therefore right.


Joel 12.29.05 at 10:31 am

My brief survey of the lists so far seems to indicate that the conservative bloggers seem to think that Jimmy Carter is without doubt one of the worst Americans of all time. While it’s fun to see life imitating the Simpsons (“Jimmy Carter?! He’s history’s greatest monster!”) I have to confess I find this perplexing. What is it about Jimmy Carter that conservatives loathe so?


John Emerson 12.29.05 at 10:43 am

For the twentieth century it’s a tossup between Elton John and Paul McCartney. For the earlier period, Harold Godwinson and Thomas Carlyle.


ProfWombat 12.29.05 at 10:44 am

J. Edgar Hoover.
Roger Taney.
Joe McCarthy.
Theodore Bilbo.
Nathan Bedford Forrest.
James Buchanan.
Curtis LeMay.
Ty Cobb.
(Do they have to be dead? If not:)
(tied) Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.
George Bush.


jacob 12.29.05 at 10:51 am

The fixation with Carter is quite peculiar. So is the absence of John C. Calhoun. Indeed, on Captain’s Quarters”>this list, Calhoun is not only ommitted from a list of worst Americans but also from the list of vice-presidents who resigned!


jacob 12.29.05 at 10:52 am

Sorry, the link above to the list at Captain’s Quarters didn’t work as intended. It’s at http://www.captainsquartersblog.com/mt/archives/006028.php


bergo 12.29.05 at 10:52 am

If putting MLK on their list marks a person as evil, what does putting FDR on their list say about them?


"Q" the Enchanter 12.29.05 at 11:05 am

Those who put MLK in their 10WA list are tied for first place on my 10WA list, so listing any ten in particular would be arbitrary.


bergo 12.29.05 at 11:08 am

I guess for some people winning World War II and getting America out of the Depression is nothing compared to the unmitigated communism that was the New Deal


jlw 12.29.05 at 11:13 am

Any list that includes Jimmy Carter and excludes Henry Wirz–superintendent of the dreaded Andersonville Prison Camp–can’t be taken seriously.

Also, in some brief scannings, I haven’t seen Gover Norquist or L. Ron Hubbard come up. Strange.


robert the red 12.29.05 at 11:17 am

“It is very interesting how a few names are emerging as a constant. On everyone’s lips is Benedict Arnorld, very closely followed by Jimmy Carter, Joseph McArthy, Richard Nixon, George Soros, Aaron Burr, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (no particular order). Jane Fonda has appeared on quite a few lists, and so has John Kerry, Lyndon Johnson and Alger Hiss.”

This consensus list is kind of stupid, to be extremely charitable. What about men that directly tried to destroy the American nation, and nearly did so? Robert E Lee, for example.


jet 12.29.05 at 11:18 am

The real hatred of Carter comes not from his Presidency of nanny-statism and middle-eastern terrorism appeasement, but what he has done after his Presidency.

Didn’t he help Clinton make sure N. Korea had a decade to develop their nuclear weapons? Didn’t he argue in 2002 any President who didn’t have a military background had no moral authority to wage war, which undermines the basic premise of civilian authority (See George Wallace for a military-politician who made some horrible decisions)? And who did Carter sit next to at the 2004 DNC Primary? Mr. Iraqi-terrorists-are-really-just-US-Minutemen aka Michael Moore. Which is telling about the modern politics of Carter.

Oh, and he made sure US nuclear energy would never be viable in the US.


jet 12.29.05 at 11:23 am

FDR is simple. His programs in the 30’s worsened the Depression and extended human suffering. Every modern economy recovered faster than the US, including the most iron fisted socialist/communist ones. And even if you could argue that making the economy as inflexible as possible had some merit, his capping food production to raise grain prices at a time when millions of Americans were starving to death, not only killed untold amounts, but left a generation of American kids to grow up malnorished.

And if you think Bush lied to get us into the Iraqi war, perhaps you should study the lies and mis-directions of FDR to get us into WWII.


Omri 12.29.05 at 11:34 am

How about Robert Moses, for immiserating so many American cities, especially New York, where he bulldozed communities to prep the city for a vehicle 90% of New Yorkers don’t use?


dave heasman 12.29.05 at 11:34 am

“What is it about Jimmy Carter that conservatives loathe so?”

He’s indubitably a Christian, even by their lights. Which means their type of conservatism isn’t a unique path to salvation.


bergo 12.29.05 at 11:44 am

Ten Worst Americans (Dead)

1. Jefferson Davis
2. Robert E. Lee
3. J. Edgar Hoover
4. Joseph McCarthy
5. Richard M. Nixon
6. George Wallace
7. Andrew Jackson
8. Benedict Arnold
9. Nathan Bedford Forrest
10. Strom Thurmond


grackel 12.29.05 at 11:53 am

Reading this, my first thought was that to take part must indicate a kind of moral failure in and of itself, but the sheer silliness has won out and I can only ask, where is Henry Kissinger?


Chris Bertram 12.29.05 at 11:54 am

Jet’s comments in this thread really are living up to the standards I’ve come to expect from him.


Locutor 12.29.05 at 11:55 am

When it comes to comic relief, there really is no one quite like Jet:

“The real hatred of Carter comes not from his Presidency of nanny-statism and middle-eastern terrorism appeasement, but what he has done after his Presidency.”

Yeah, that Carter: acting on his Christian beliefs by building homes for the homeless and going on multiple missions to negotiate peace in hotspots around the world. What an evil bastard!


BigMacAttack 12.29.05 at 11:58 am

Japanese internment camps and attempting to pack the Supreme Court.

And while I might like much of the spirit of the New Deal, some of the actual policies were at best a bit questionable. (I think another poster has just pointed this out.)

Yea defeating facism and preventing a revolution kind of tip the scale, but there is plenty to hate/dislike about FDR and his strong arm tactics.

I thought a lot of lists where a combination of great and just plain silly.

A lot interesting nominations.

I would say the consensus list contains a traitor or two or three, Arnold, Burr, Hiss, Rosenbergs, etc, someone who massacared native Americans, Chivington, Jackson, etc., one or two segergationists/racists/secessionists, Bedford Forest, Calhoun, Wilkes, Booth etc., an over the edge cold warrior or two, Hoover or McCarthy, some kind of mass murderer like Bundy, one or two disliked Ameican presidents, LBJ, WW, Nixon, Carter, and or two sillier nominations like Fonda, and probably just missing the cut would be a disliked supreme court justice, generally Blackmun or Warren, and Jesse Jackson.

Most of the lists I read seemed to be of a general conservative bent.

If this is the general state of grass roots conservative thought in America, in general I can happily live with it.


Sean 12.29.05 at 12:04 pm

Don’t you guys remember when FDR lied about the link between Pearl Harbor and Japan, just so he could start a preventative war of choice in the Pacific? That was just as bad as anything GWB has done.


joel turnipseed 12.29.05 at 12:08 pm

Jet –

Your remarks on FDR are amazingly uninformed (or worse): we had farm surpluses that we couldn’t “afford to distribute”–funny, that efficient capitalism for making things work out the best.

As for inclusion on Worst Ever list, I’d have to add General George Van Horn Moseley to the list, along with Nathan Bedford Forrest, Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, et. al.


bergo 12.29.05 at 12:08 pm

And Saddam Hussein was easily as big a threat as Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan…


harry b 12.29.05 at 12:32 pm

Can’t Joe Kennedy get a look-in?

Interesting to note that the left and right in the UK, despite being much further apart than the left and right in the US, probably will come up with a consensus candidate for the 20th century (Mosley). But in the US there isn’t any consensus at all as far as I can see. Even on Hoover. Coughlin?

FDR was less than forthright with the truth in his efforts to get the US into WWII? That speaks very badly for the US public of the time, imho.


KCinDC 12.29.05 at 12:34 pm

Apparently Michael Moore is a being of such unspeakable evil that merely sitting next to him can raise your position on the list of worst Americans.


Barry 12.29.05 at 12:35 pm

Good points about Carter and FDR – even those who disliked them a lot, 10 worst Americans?


joe o 12.29.05 at 12:36 pm

J. Edgar Hoover was against japanese internment camps so he fails to be completely evil.


Mr. Bill 12.29.05 at 12:41 pm

Would Edward Teller count, as a naturalized American?


a cornellian 12.29.05 at 12:49 pm

What is so awful about bennedict arnold? Yes he turned traitor, but he failed at it. Before he turned he was a scessful general who won a string of vaugely important victories in northen new york.


KCinDC 12.29.05 at 12:51 pm

Is this supposed to be the worst people who happen to be Americans, or the people who are worst at being Americans?


derek 12.29.05 at 1:02 pm

We know that Michael Moore is one of history’s worst Americans because he sat next to Jimmy Carter. And we can therefore show that Jimmy Carter is one of history’s worst Americans because he sat next to Michael Moore, who we have already established in the previous sentence to be one of history’s worst Americans. So.

Also, it says so in the Bible.


tofubo 12.29.05 at 1:07 pm

And who did Carter sit next to at the 2004 DNC Primary? Mr. Iraqi-terrorists-are-really-just-US-Minutemen aka Michael Moore. Which is telling about the modern politics of Carter.

Oh, and he made sure US nuclear energy would never be viable in the US.

Posted by jet · December 29th, 2005 at 11:18 am”>
and who sat near pickles @ the state.of.those.16.words.union.address ??

mr ahmed “i’m from a country that tried and convicted me for theft and at that time you were paying me $240,000/month while i was a spy for iran and i just got .89% of the iraqi vote because the people like me so” chalabi


jet 12.29.05 at 1:20 pm

BigMackAttack was spot on with John Wilkes Booth. He easily deserves to be at the top of the list. If Lincoln’s plan to sooth the damage of the Civil War, centuries of slavery and start a real process of giving African Americans equal rights had survived, what would the US look like today? Imagine if 1965 had happened in 1865.


Uncle Kvetch 12.29.05 at 1:26 pm

Two words: Roy Cohn.


flyte 12.29.05 at 1:27 pm

What a fun list! Problem: current administration is taking up more than its fair share (as usual) of room on the planet, so unitary privileges would indicate that I should have more than 10, but I can’t disclose why, because that could impair foreign relations (any would be good!), national security and my deliberative processes or performance (that’s how this crazy act termed it) of my duties and stuff.

Please. Anyway, these are my first thoughts. They change regularly (depending on the polls). There is also a slight possibility that I may have read way too many political blogs today. Ya think?

Joe McCarthy
Edgar J. Hoover
Charles E. Coughlin
Donald Rumsfeld
Dick Cheney
George W. Bush
John Bolton
John Ashcraft
John Yoo
Lynn Cheney


Constantine 12.29.05 at 1:36 pm

I don’t have a big background in Civil War history, but I’m always reluctant to include Robert E. Lee in these lists of “worst americans,” since he wasn’t one of the agitators of secession. He certainly makes a good case study in moral abdication– he’d have fought for the south regardless of what the confederacy stood for — but the “worst americans” with respect to the civil war were those who spearheaded secession. Refusing to make a moral judgment in favor of defense of one’s “team” is never admirable, but they’re only accessories to the crime.


Shelby 12.29.05 at 1:49 pm

Maybe we should have separate lists for those picked by Americans and those picked by everyone else.


Gary Sugar 12.29.05 at 1:50 pm

The ten worst Americans, ever? Whatever their names, their crimes were plantation slavery and genocide of an entire continent. But revival of torture in the 21st century is close.


Joel 12.29.05 at 1:55 pm

“Maybe we should have separate lists for those picked by Americans and those picked by everyone else.”

I’d be very curious as to the results of such an endeavor.


Wrye 12.29.05 at 2:12 pm

Benedict Arnold would probably rank as more of a sadly unsuccessful British (or even Canadian) patriot than a villain, for instance.


nick s 12.29.05 at 2:16 pm

Which is telling about the modern politics of Carter.

I’m surprised that you didn’t call Carter evil for having his daughter offer skybox seats to Tom Tomorrow and Duncan Black. Since you’re that ignorant a fuck.

Anyway, Andrew Jackson.


Another Damned Medievalist 12.29.05 at 2:24 pm

Michelle Malkin, Anne Coulter


Buce 12.29.05 at 2:32 pm

Does Julie Andrews qualify as American or English? Anyone responsible for ‘The Sound of Music’ has a lot to answer for.


Walt Pohl 12.29.05 at 2:36 pm

Barry Goldwater
Ronald Reagan
Rupert Murdoch (now an American citizen)
Bill O’Reilly


Buce 12.29.05 at 2:36 pm

The thing about Carter is that he’s a sissy, a man Not to be Feared. The screamers have a certain and affection for Lyndon Johnson because he frightened people, and a lot of admiration for John Kennedy because he had almost as much sex as Wilt Chamberlain. But any schoolyard bully will tell you that pantywaists are fair game.


Hedley Lamarr 12.29.05 at 2:45 pm

“What is it about Jimmy Carter that conservatives loathe so?”

That he was successful in a life devoted to service rather than profits. This of course defines a Christian, which embarrasses them.


David W. 12.29.05 at 2:45 pm

Andrew Jackson is on my Top 10 list of Americans, both for expanding the voting franchise to all men (no, not to women nor to blacks, but it was a big step nevertheless) and for standing up to those in the South who thought they could get away with nullifying federal law. Without Andy Jackson, the nation would have fallen apart long before Lincoln saved the Union.


Uncle Kvetch 12.29.05 at 2:47 pm

The thing about Carter is that he’s a sissy, a man Not to be Feared.

That’s certainly the image he’s acquired over the years, bizarrely enough. It’s even more amazing when you compare his military service record with that of the current occupant of the White House. Carter served seven years in the Navy, rising to the rank of lieutenant. As Hendrik Hertzberg has pointed out, “Except for his fellow service-academy graduate Dwight Eisenhower, no President of the twentieth century spent more years in uniform than Carter.”

Meanwhile, George “TANG” Bush buys a Potemkin “ranch” a year before he runs for President for the sole purpose of generating Reaganesque brush-clearing photo ops–and it’s like his years at Andover and Yale never happened.

What a weird world we live in.


Anderson 12.29.05 at 2:47 pm

I’m sorry this thread has gone so off-topic, as it should really be seeing an impassioned defense of Friends.

I still have a bit of a crush on Phoebe …


fifi 12.29.05 at 2:55 pm

Henry Ford, for his enduring legacy.


Uncle Kvetch 12.29.05 at 2:57 pm

Oh, what the hell; I’ll bite. I didn’t understand Chris’ harshing on “Friends” either. It overstayed its welcome, sure. It worked a little too hard at getting everybody hooked up with everybody else. And like all New Yorkers, I spent the first season hating Monica and Rachel’s guts for that sprawling apartment in the West Village. But it passed.

All that aside, for a number of years it was consistently funny and well acted. So why the hatin’?


Nicholas Mycroft 12.29.05 at 3:05 pm

10. John C. Calhoun
9. Donald Rumsfeld
8. Arnold Rothstein
7. Henry Wirz
6. William J. Simmons
5. Karl Rove
4. Roy Cohn
3. Curtis LeMay
2. Jacob H. Smith
1. Dick Cheney

No contest for #1. My primary criterion was how quickly “—-ing bastard” came to mind.

I would also nominate Paul Robeson for the person showing up on the wingnuts’ lists that is least defensible.


Jonas 12.29.05 at 3:16 pm

(in no particular order)
1. Joseph McCarthy
2. G. Gordon Liddy
3. Richard Nixon
4. Oliver North
5. J. Edgar Hoover
6. Roger B. Taney
7. Andrew Jackson
8. Nathan Bedford Forrest
9. John Wilkes Booth
10. George Wallace


harry b 12.29.05 at 3:18 pm

INcluding Paul Robeson on one’s list is much, much, worse than including MLK. Whoever does it is at best an inconsiderate igoramous, at worst a complete bastard.


Sebastian Holsclaw 12.29.05 at 3:30 pm

Robeson certainly is a strange choice. Even if you believed all the crap that McCarthy spread about Robeson, you would think that actual traitors like Rosenberg, Hiss or even Ames might fill that slot.

By the way, how often is Philby showing up on the Briton’s list?


Rob Breymaier 12.29.05 at 4:03 pm

10 is not enough to do justice. The Confedrates have 10 all by themselves.

On Benedict Arnold. Is he really a worst American? Maybe this is blasphemy but I’m not so sure the War for Independence was a good versus evil affair. So he switched sides or acted as a spy. Whoopadeedoo! He had little to no effect on the outcome of the nation’s history.


MoXmas 12.29.05 at 4:08 pm

It seems odd to me to include a mixed bag like Andrew Jackson on a “worst” list, and not include Thos. Jefferson. Guy like them should appear on both lists, mostly. Whereas, someone like Thos. Paine (or Walter Reuther) would be only on the “best” list. John C. Calhoun (or the sour-faced apostle of repression, Wm. Rehnquist) could only be on the “worst” list.

I wonder who would appear on a “most embarrasingly awful Americans” list. People like Andrew Johnson, and Ayn Rand.


Bob B 12.29.05 at 4:27 pm

I am amazed to learn from here that America is so well endowed with bad people whereas little ol’ Britain seems able to muster only one exemplary bad person from all the 20th century, the undoubtedly odious Sir Oswald Mosley. With the passing of decades perhaps few now recall much biographical detail for Mosley. He certainly has a strong claim to his status. He founded the British Union of Fascists in 1932 and used that as vehicle for parading his antisemitism through to the outbreak of WW2.

Curiously, it seems to escape the recall of many nowadays that before founding a fascist movement in Britain, Mosley had been a cabinet minister in Ramsay Macdonald’s Labour government of 1929-31 until he resigned in 1930 complaining that the government was doing too little to address the mounting problem of unemployment. He certainly regarded himself as a “leftist”. Indeed, he wrote to The [London] Times in April 1968: “I am not, and never have been, a man of the right. My position was on the left and is now in the centre of politics.”

We have from an entirely independent source some supporting testimony for Mosley’s startling claim. George Orwell kept a diary of notes in 1936 while researching for the book that was to become: The Road to Wigan Pier (1937). The diary was not published until after Orwell’s death and there is no reference in the book to the public meeting described in the diary entry for 16 March 1936. It is worth quoting the entry for the insights it provides into fascist rhetoric at the time and public reactions to it and because, importantly, it makes indisputably clear that the existence of “concentration camps” in Germany was already public knowledge in 1936. As Orwell reports: ” . . the (mainly) working class audience was easily bamboozled by M speaking as it were from a Socialist angle . . “:

“Last night to hear Mosley speak at the Public Hall [in Barnsley, Yorkshire], which is in structure a theatre. It was quite full – about 700 people I should say. About 100 Blackshirts on duty, with two or three exceptions weedy looking specimens, and girls selling Action etc. Mosley spoke for an hour and a half and to my dismay seemed to have the meeting mainly with him. He was booed at the start but loudly clapped at the end. Several men who tried to interject with questions were thrown out . . . one with quite unnecessary violence. . . . M. is a very good speaker. His speech was the usual clap-trap – Empire free trade, down with the Jew and the foreigner, higher wages and shorter hours all round etc. After the preliminary booing the (mainly) working class audience was easily bamboozled by M speaking as it were from a Socialist angle, condemning the treachery of successive governments towards the workers. The blame for everything was put upon mysterious international gangs of Jews who were said to be financing, among other things the British Labour Party and the Soviet. . . . M. kept extolling Italy and Germany but when questioned about concentration camps etc always replied ‘We have no foreign models; what happens in Germany need not happen here.’ . . . ”
[George Orwell: The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters, Vol. 1 An Age Like This 1920-1940 (Penguin Books) p.230]


jlw 12.29.05 at 4:33 pm


My list–hastily drawn up this morning–runs in no particular order:

* George A. Custer — Indian fighter (though mostly as a stand-in for the whole native-clearing project)

* Nathan Bedford Forrest — traitor and Klansman

* Benedict Arnold — the first American villain

* Henry Wirz — superintendant of the evil Andersonville Prison Camp

* Aaron Burr — willing to sunder the American Republic for his own self-aggrandizement

* Gerald MacGuire — leader of the Business plot to overthrow FDR

* Robert Hanssen/Philip Agee — sold out patriotic Americans out of piggishness

* Edward Teller — he loved his weapons more than life itself

* J. Edgar Hoover — his use of unchecked power is exactly what we rebelled against to begin with

* Grover Norquist/Robert Mellon Scaife — in order to gain power, they are willing to poison the idea of government in the eyes of millions

I have to say that I ought to have made room for someone from the Nixon administration and the present one, but 10 is a pretty small number.


Funky Boss 12.29.05 at 4:59 pm

-R. M. Nixon: Tha Tricksta is the archetype for executive malfeasance.
-Lee Atwater: Without him Karl Rove might have ended up a gas station attendant.
-Joe McCarthy: The fact that this guy is gaining traction as a heroic figure with the current crop of right wingers tells you all you need to know.
-George Wallace: On the list as a representative bigot.
-Timothy McViegh: EVIL.
-Charles Manson: Evil, with a cult following.
-Dick Cheney: Just one more heart attack, please.
-Lee Harvey Oswald/John Wilkes Booth: Killing good presidents get you on the list.
-Nathan Bedford Forrest: Evil, with troops.
-James Earl Ray: Kill Martin Luther King, go straight to hell.


yabonn 12.29.05 at 5:00 pm

How about Lawson? Gretna police chief who blocked the fleeing Katrina victims? Because it would mean waaay to many poor, black, dirty, disgustingly victims in his racist fucking shithole of a city?

How do they live, these people anyways? Do they sleep at night?


Complete Stinker 12.29.05 at 5:20 pm

In no particular order, Woody Allen, Newt Gingrich, Ronald Reagan, Sprio Agnew, Dick Cheney, Jim and Tammy Baker, Jerry Falwell, and Leonard and Felicia Bernstein (for their Radical Chic cocktail party).


nick s 12.29.05 at 5:53 pm

Without Andy Jackson, the nation would have fallen apart long before Lincoln saved the Union.

For all values of ‘nation’ not including Native Americans. Funny how a bit of ethnic cleansing means that people get to spend money with your portrait in reservation casinos you helped create.


fyreflye 12.29.05 at 6:16 pm

Yes, of course, Leonard Berstein! Why didn’t I think of him right away?


Keith 12.29.05 at 6:23 pm

Not to nitpick but Bennedict Arnold was British, not American. Technically.

I agree that the Confederates get their own ten worst list. W.T. Sherman goes right up there in the top five. His march to the sea resulted in the eternal gridlock that is Atlanta. Clearly the man was evil.


Jim Hu 12.29.05 at 7:04 pm


“I agree that the Confederates get their own ten worst list. W.T. Sherman goes right up there in the top five.”

As long as we’re nitpicking…. Was this a nonsequitur or by “Confederates get their own” did you mean to list the worst 10 from the POV of Confederates? ;^)


MJ Memphis 12.29.05 at 8:06 pm

>As long as we’re nitpicking…. Was this a nonsequitur or by “Confederates get their own” did you mean to list the worst 10 from the POV of Confederates? ;^)

If so, we’ll have to include Gen. Benjamin Butler, who was so widely despised in the occupied city of New Orleans that his picture was a popular adornment for the bottom of local chamber pots. (Butler, incidentally, was later governor of MA.)


radek 12.29.05 at 9:07 pm

Hmm, the British list is a bit strange, I mean Thomas Becket for the twelth? Also, what jumps out is the obscurity of a lot of these personas (what did the Lord of Cumberland ever do that most military leaders of his time didn’t?) – whereas the Americans pick the predictable, obvious, politically motivated choices; “I’ll see your Jane Fonda and raise you a Dick Chaney!” (though some like Nixon or Wallace definetly belong up there). Part of that is undoubtedly becasue Britain has history and US doesn’t. For 19th century Calhoun should be up there too, Andrew Jackson probably as well (much better representation of US Indian policy than Custer).


Gene O'Grady 12.29.05 at 9:11 pm

I’m puzzled at the animus at Bedford Forrest, unless it may be a reaction to the puffing of the guy in the Ken Burns TV series. If you’re looking for a Klansman, didn’t General Gordon have as much to do with starting while not making the ambiguous repentance that Forrest did?

In any event, Forrest (and Robert E Lee) ought to get some good points for their efforts to ensure that the Civil War did not peter out into long running large scale guerilla war. Of course it was nice that the victorious generals were Grant, Sherman, and Halleck and not hacks like Tommy Franks.


radek 12.29.05 at 9:25 pm

“The propensity of “conservative” blog commenters to include Jane Fonda, MLK, or Paul Robeson on their lists is somewhat worrying”

Uh, I hate to ruin everyone’s self-rightousness party here but having followed the links I don’t see any “conservative” blogs putting MLK on the list. All I see is one nutjob in one comments section. So am I just missing the conservative blogs that did so? I guess it could be true since I usually don’t read them. Or is this just a smear by innuendo (if they’re there I apologize in advance)(and we’re not talking the web page of the American Nazi Party or whatever)?


trey 12.29.05 at 9:33 pm

Let’s see. The meme started/is hosted by All Things Beautiful. I count 47 (mostly conservative) blogs participating, plus 9 more lists in the comments. Okay, are you ready for the number of people who named MLK to their list? … Exactly two. One commenter, unknown to me. One blogger. I don’t suppose Chris Bertram bothered to look at the blogger (http://hiddengenius.blogspot.com/2005/12/ten-worst-americans-definitive-list.html)in question. Sorry, Chris, he is a flaming liberal, and if you bothered to read his list, you would “get it.”The blogger is alos a proud member of “Big Brass Alliance” and “censurebush.org.’ And take a look at his blogroll and other posts. By Chris Bertrams’ so-called standards, I can say that “Liberal bloggers have a propensity to name MLK as one of the Ten Worst Americans.” — commissar @ http://acepilots.com


Rob Breymaier 12.29.05 at 9:40 pm

Let’s not forget Gen. Amherst and his smallpox blankets. The fact that there are cities named for him is a crime. They should all renamed with traditional Native American toponyms.


Down and Out in Saigon 12.29.05 at 9:59 pm

The BBC’s list of worst Britons is just a disgrace. There’s no mention of Edward III, the man who started the Hundred Years’ War. Neither is there any sign of Oliver Cromwell, religious bigot and despoiler of Ireland. As for Oswald Mosley: he sounds repellent, but he never killed as many civilians as “Bomber” Harris. Or Lord Kitchener.


Elizabeth 12.29.05 at 10:47 pm

They selected Jimmy Carter because of his term in office as president, not because of his post-presidential choices. Nobody named Carter because of Habitats for Humanity. I will point out that in his re-election bid he carried only 4 states, including Georgia (his home state) and Wisconsin (his running mate’s home state). There was a reason for that. I would call that reason “incompetence.”


mikez 12.29.05 at 11:04 pm


In defense of Chris, whatever his reasoning, he couldn’t have taken my purely button-pushing entry into account, since it was posted nearly seven hours after his post.

And, for the record, I didn’t get what I wrote in my (decidedly fake) MLK entry from any other person’s list. My memory is kinda fuzzy, but I think it’s a distillation of an argument made by Pat Buchanan.


trey 12.29.05 at 11:22 pm

Understood. And if I would have known your use of MLKJr was a rip on Buchanan, I probably would have laughed in the first place. But now, the plot thickens; Chris — who is saying MLKJr is one of the worst Americans?


John Quiggin 12.29.05 at 11:28 pm

According to Wikipedia, Forrest was the first Grand Wizard of the KKK, which along with his war crimes (such as the Fort Pillow massacre) qualifies him well ahead of common traitors like Lee.


melissa spore 12.29.05 at 11:41 pm

As for Carter:

Most in the US are unaware that Carter served as a honourary pallbearer at the funeral of Pierre Trudeau. His fellow pallbearers included Leonard Cohen & Fidel Castro. (Carter & Trudeau had become friends following their retirments).

This always made me like Carter. I have wondered what the US right would due with this information.


Backword Dave 12.30.05 at 4:06 am

The obvious difference between the BBC Britons list and any possible American list is that the British have more than ten centuries of history to choose from. To change the topic slightly, does anyone think that the BBC list says anything interesting (or true) about our system of government?

The first eight “worst Britons” are chief counsellor to the king, Archbishop of Canterbury (when we were a theocracy), king, aristocrat, Archbishop of Canterbury, aristocrat, journalist (odd one out), younger son of the king. The last two are: some bloke, and a demagogue who failed to get far in either main political party. Or am I reading too much into this?

On the Worst American question: why do so many people include Jane Fonda, when no one mentions Ezra Pound?


Chris Bertram 12.30.05 at 4:24 am

On the Worst American question: why do so many people include Jane Fonda, when no one mentions Ezra Pound?

That’s an easy one Dave. Fonda is regularly excoriated on the ultra-right hate sites (like FrontPageMag) from which the wingnuts take their cue. They probably never heard of Pound.


Peter 12.30.05 at 7:10 am

Surely Philby, the Rosenbergs and Hiss should not be on any lists of Worst Citizens. By passing nuclear technologies to the USSR, they ensured the US could not initiate global nuclear war without suffering possible retaliation. If the US during the Cold War had not been restrained by the threat of Soviet retaliation or pre-emption, our history would have been written by the lunatics in the Pentagon (Le May, Macarthur, et al). What an unrestrained and militaristic US administration would have been capable of unleashing is amply demonstrated by recent events. The Rosenbergs deserve a Nobel Peace Prize.


john m. 12.30.05 at 8:08 am

I’m surprised that nobody has suggested Robert McNamara for the US list – I’m not qualified to say whether he should be or not, it’s just interesting his name has not come up. Also I fully agree that Mosley was a cop out for the British 20th Century – Kitchener was my vote for sheer stupidity leading to the most pointless deaths. And (as pointed out earlier) Cromwell would make any Irish persons list for worst Britons.


Dan Hardie 12.30.05 at 8:13 am

Ten (sort of) worst Britons of the twentieth century:

1) Reginald Maudling and/or Ted Heath: one was as incompetent as any Home2 Secretary ever, but was hugely corrupt into the bargain- beats David Blunkett by the value of one Bloody Sunday; Heath has the most consistently appalling record of any Prime Minister ever: from local government via industrial relations to macroeconomic management, there was nothing he couldn’t screw up. Balliol man.

2) Ian Paisley: religious fascist who has spent well over forty years prophesying a bloodbath in Northern Ireland and doing his damnedest to make his predictions come true. Honourable mentions to far too many ‘Democratic Unionist’ and ‘Official Unionist’ leaders- possibly Brookeborough was the very worst.

3) Gerry Adams and/or Martin McGuinness: ‘but we’re not British!’ Well don’t claim British state benefits for thirty years in order to support yourselves in the mass murder business, and we’ll withdraw the nomination. Ooops, too late. American CT readers: ‘But Adams and McGuinness are freedom fighters, struggling against Black and Tans in the streets of Manchester etc’…

4) Canon Collins, founder of the Peace Pledge Union: exactly what the world needed in the 1920s and 1930s, a disarmed Britain promising to love its enemies, etc. Honourable mentions to all the cretins who supported interwar disarmament, including Aneurin Bevan (‘Hitler has won and we have lost’ he said, in 1938, when the British government reintroduced conscription) and the fools who proposed the ‘King and Country’ motion at the Oxford Union.

5) Lord Halifax and/or Neville Chamberlain: see above, with knobs on. Halfwits writing ‘oh, but Chamberlain was never fooled by Hitler’ are asked to read Chamberlain’s private correspondence *after* Munich, with particular reference to letters written in March 1939.

6) Any damn fool who whines about Bomber Command attacking German cities- and, of course, David Irving, the most determined liar in this regard, whose grotesquely dishonest book on Dresden has convinced some Germans that ‘ve ze victims of var-crimes also vere’. Irving apparently also has views on something which didn’t happen to the Jews in the 1940s, but which should have happened, or happened but not as much as everyone says, or something.

7) Oswald Mosely, supporter of Hitler. Although it has to be mentioned that he never signed a remembrance book for the late Fuhrer, and never managed to do the UK serious harm in the Battle of the Atlantic: those are distinctions due Mr Eamon de Valera, and one mentions them for the benefit of those halfwits (cough: ‘Henry Farrell’) who imagine that Ireland played some kind of benevolent role in the Second World War.

8) H. H. Asquith: took us into the First World War without a moment’s thought for the likely consequences, and without the capacity to build up the necessary army; probably the worst British Prime Minister with regard to Ireland of anybody since Palmerston (worse even than Heath); hopeless drunk, had grotesque passions for young girls, and so perfectly entitled to use Roger Casement’s homosexuality as a means of smearing his reputation and denying him clemency. Balliol man.

9) Jim Callaghan: blocked Barbara Castle’s much-needed reforms of the unions, and then presided over the predictable sequel; key figure in screwing up the more-or-less social democratic Britain left by Attlee.

10) Lord Goldsmith, Her Majesty’s Attorney General: brown-nosing hack unqualified for his post, who came to the conclusion that there was no legal basis for an attack on Iraq, changed his mind under political pressure from Mr Tony, lied about the fact, and his since assuaged his conscience and regained his standing among his peers by insisting on a series of ridiculous prosecutions of British soldiers, thrown out by increasingly contemptuous judges.


PersonFromPorlock 12.30.05 at 8:15 am

I think the problem with this ‘worst’ list is that it doesn’t distinguish between those who were bad as people and those whose actions merely had a bad effect. FDR or GWB or MLK may have done ‘bad’ things from various commenters points of view, but no one imagines they leaped out of bed every day with a cry of “evil, I take thee for my good.”

The sort of ‘worst person’ I have in mind is George Joseph Smith, who was hanged in England in 1915, ostensibly for murder but really on general principles as an embarrassment to the Human race.

General comments aside, I do wonder why several posters included Curtis LeMay. The only thing I can think of is civilian deaths in Japan, but LeMay wasn’t especially worse at causing civilian deaths than many other WW2 generals.


john m. 12.30.05 at 8:23 am

#87 Dan, we should clearly extend this to suggesting the ten worst Irish as you snuck in DeValera’s shameful behaviour in WW2. That said, tens of thousands of Irishmen fought and died in both WW’s and given the proximty of WW2 to Irish independence I think it is at least explicable. Which is not my main comment – I’m gutted that I did not think to nominate Gerry Adams. That will drive anyone who shares their sympathies completely mental – excellent!


Backword Dave 12.30.05 at 8:24 am

Dan, you may like number 8 on this list. I mean, who knew?


Dan Hardie 12.30.05 at 8:29 am

John, I know about the Irishmen who fought in WW2, as my great-uncle was one of them. All we needed were bases on the Irish coast, not full Irish belligerence, and Dev didn’t even give us them.
I’m a little annoyed with myself for leaving out the repulsive Enoch Powell, and Horatio Bottomley and other leading First World War demagogues. A ‘top twenty’ list might be more interesting


Chris Bertram 12.30.05 at 8:34 am

Confusion about nationality is all over these lists … I’m proud to say that one neocon wingnut has now nominated _me_ as one of the worst Americans of all time!


Chris Bertram 12.30.05 at 8:36 am

Dan Hardie … does Churchill’s “The destruction of Dresden remains a serious query against the conduct of Allied bombing.” count as an instance of “Any damn fool who whines about Bomber Command attacking German cities.” or not?


Chris Bertram 12.30.05 at 8:37 am

Oh, and I’m surprised to that Margaret Hilda Thatcher isn’t on many lists of worst Britons. She certainly gets on mine.


Tom T. 12.30.05 at 9:10 am

Chris, the inclusion of MLK on any such list is disturbing. How about you list for us all of the blogs who included him, so that they can be publicly criticized with specificity?


Dan Hardie 12.30.05 at 9:21 am

Chris Bertram- given that Churchill ordered the expansion of Bomber Command, authorised Harris’s ‘barn door’ strategy and personally endorsed the targeting of Dresden, I’d say that amounts to Churchll having rather belated qualms about one particular attack on one particular city- belated, since the attacks had by that stage been in progress for nearly five years and had been authorised and indeed demanded by Churchill himself.

In 1943, he witnessed footage of the bombing raids and asked ‘are we beasts, that we do such things?’- but he still supported the continuation of the raids, when his opposition would have killed the policy stone dead, in view of the resources it required. No Churchill, no Strategic Bombing.

You will, unsurprisingly, search Churchill’s memoirs and private papers in vain for endorsements of the ‘RAF as war criminals’ rubbish currently in vogue among the historically ignorant. You might care to read Frederick Taylor’s excellent book on the Dresden raid- rather than just a brief interview with him- should you be stricken by an unwonted desire for some facts.


Mr. Bill 12.30.05 at 9:37 am

In terms of culture, I was going to nominate Malcolm Mclaren as a “worst Briton” with Gilbert and George getting (single) runner-up.


Chris Bertram 12.30.05 at 9:39 am

Dan, Taylor’s book is on a long list of works I mean to get round to. I’ll take the “unwonted desire for some facts” comment as being a merely gratuitous swipe. Surely the important dispute here is not between people who disagree about the facts but between people who disagree about what is permissible in war?


Dan Hardie 12.30.05 at 9:57 am

Chris, how on earth can you not see, in re Second World War bombing, that there are disputes both about ‘what is permissible in war’ and ‘about the facts’ of the Dresden bombing and the wider Strategic Bombing campaign- and that the former debate will in large part be shaped by the conclusions reached in the latter debate?

As for the swipe, it wasn’t all that gratuitous. I really wouldn’t have the brass neck to write a blog post on, say, the bombing of Dresden without having read at a bare minimum the recently published history of that event.


Keith M Ellis 12.30.05 at 10:05 am

“General comments aside, I do wonder why several posters included Curtis LeMay. The only thing I can think of is civilian deaths in Japan, but LeMay wasn’t especially worse at causing civilian deaths than many other WW2 generals.”

“Civilian deaths in Japan” is not a minor crime. Putting that aside, however, there is the fact that LeMay was a dangerous–perhaps ultimately dangerous–renegade. Believing that the President would be unable to make the decision in a timely manner, he took upon himself the ability to unleash the US’s nuclear arsenal on his authority alone by secretely negotiating an agreement with the relevant military personnel in charge of the weapons. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, he secretely ordered SAC overflights of Cuba, unknown to Kennedy and with the intention of starting a war. He ardently believed that the US must first-strike the USSR while it still had the numerical advantage in weapons.

Oddly, however, given that I’m aware of all these charges against LeMay, I don’t think I would include him on my list of 10 worst Americans. The same character traits that led him to his crimes also led him to successfully create and manage the Berlin Airlift. He was an intensely practical man, deeply arrogant but never in service to his own ambitions. He was a misguided patriot. Ultimately dangerous? Perhaps. Evil? I’m not so sure.

But the same sorts of things could be said about Teller, and I would include him on my list. But I have a real hatred of Teller, so perhaps I’m not the best judge.


Chris Bertram 12.30.05 at 10:19 am


(1) I’m sure there are disagreements about the facts, I didn’t mean to suggest otherwise, just to say that it is possible to agree on the facts and disagree about the principles.

(2) I think you are quite wrong to say that our view about what is permissible in war should be shaped by our view of the facts about a particular case. Or, at least, I think that’s true for any fundamental principles about conduct in war for reasons discussed in an early CT post:


(3) I really wouldn’t have the brass neck to write a blog post on, say, the bombing of Dresden without having read at a bare minimum the recently published history of that event.

Well I wouldn’t have the brass neck to write an academic paper on the subject, but if reading all the recently published literature on topic X were a requirement for writing a _blog post_ on topic X then we’d have very little blogging. (Maybe that would be no bad thing!) I take it that the threshold of knowledge required for blogging about a subject is not that different from that required for participating in an intelligent discussion in the pub.


Constantine 12.30.05 at 10:47 am

Oddly, however, given that I’m aware of all these charges against LeMay, I don’t think I would include him on my list of 10 worst Americans.

Perhaps, and perhaps not. But LeMay deserves at least a few bonus points towards his inclusion for being on the ticket with George Wallace in 1968.


KCinDC 12.30.05 at 11:14 am

PersonFromPorlock, I’m not sure about your distinction. Would Hitler be eligible as a worst German (or worst Austrian) under your rules? Surely few people plan and carry out actions they themselves consider evil. Most evil is not done by people dressed in black cackling about how evil they are.


Erika 12.30.05 at 11:49 am

Chris, why have you not responded to comments about your original assertion that conservative bloggers have included MLK in their lists? Since I have seen at least 50+ lists, with none including MLK, I would say you are a liar or just take any opportunity to paint opposing view points in a negative light. Some sites did switch and ask for best 10 Americans, and those lists included MLK, so your basis for implying that conservatives are racist falls a bit flat. As far as you being on this list, it was sarcasm, something I thought you Brits excelled at.


jet 12.30.05 at 11:56 am

It would be hard to ascribe generous motivations to LeMay for the WWII carpet bombings if he ran with Wallace. But even if he was an evil racists who didn’t care about killing Japanese civilians in all contraventions to modern war, Japan lost 350,000 civilians during WWII, which for Japan and China ran about 14 years. During those years Japan averaged ~100,000 Korean, Chinese, and Indo-Chinese civilian deaths per month. Anything at all that brought the Japanese death machine to a halt was forgivable. A choice to not firebomb Japanese civilians was a choice to lengthen the amount of time Japanese officers would hold their beheading contests, rape camps, and slaughter Chinese civilians.


PersonFromPorlock 12.30.05 at 12:10 pm

Re #100:

Believing that the President would be unable to make the decision in a timely manner, he took upon himself the ability to unleash the US’s nuclear arsenal on his authority alone by secretely negotiating an agreement with the relevant military personnel in charge of the weapons.

First I’ve heard of it. Any cites?


Peter 12.30.05 at 12:17 pm

And (adding to Jet’s post), and deciding not to kill Japanese civilians in WW II would also have been tantamount to allowing Allied POWs in Japanese camps to die, since many of these prisoners were deliberately starved in the last months before Japan’s surrender.


Dan Hardie 12.30.05 at 12:24 pm

Oh, and a happy New Year, Chris.

We could agree to disagree about whether, and to what extent, the ethical debate about general questions of what is permissible in war should be informed by historical fact. I’d be strongly in favour of letting lots of history in; perhaps you wouldn’t.

But I don’t even see that there’s an argument to be had over whether or not an assessment of a specific act of war (eg the wider Strategic Bombing campaign, or the attack on Dresden) needs historical perspectives. Of course it does- for anybody – except perhaps some weirdly extreme non-intentionalist-and-non-consequentialist- it’s necessary to know why an act was undertaken, what the actors were likely to know or perceive at the time and what the consequences of their actions were.

All these matters, in the cases of strategic bombing and of Dresden, are topics of considerable historical debate. You could write a book about it, and Frederick Taylor did. A cheery Christmas topic this is, to be sure.


Jimmy Doyle 12.30.05 at 12:59 pm

Dan Hardie: I presume there’s no dispute about the fact that Bomber Command deliberately targeted German population concentrations and deliberately killed very many thousands of noncombatants, including children, the elderly and the infirm.

If that is so, no further inquiry into the facts is necessary to consider, from a certain point of view, the question: was this justified? The natural basis for a negative answer would be a deontological account of morality, of the sort that has been unquestioned among Western moralists (most of whom gave it a non-theistic justification) from roughly two thousand year ago until about two hundred years ago, and is still widespread today. On that account, certain things are not to be done, no matter what consequences we may hope for or fear. One of those things, on this way of thinking, is the deliberate murder of innocent people (“innocent” here meaning not harming). The idea is that if you know that an action counts as the deliberate murder of innocent people, you don’t need to know anything more about it to know that it’s not to be done. Furthermore, this was the explicitly-professed moral doctrine of the majority of those involved in the bombing, on the assumption that the majority were Christians.

My point is not that consequentialism is incorrect (although I think it is), or that deontology is correct (although I think it is). Surely these are matters upon which reasonable people can disagree. To characterise subscribers to a tradition that includes Maimonides, Aquinas and Kant as “whiners” and “damn fools” who belong at sixth place on a list of the ten worst Britons of the twentieth century is multiply ludicrous.

This is not, by the way, an illegitimate appeal to authority. The issue is not whether deontology is true, but whether it should be thought of as a live, defensible option. The views of our best thinkers should not determine what we take to be the true view, but they are perfectly relevant to the question of which views count as “foolish.”


Dan Hardie 12.30.05 at 1:09 pm

Shorter Jimmy Doyle: since I am apparently unaware that there is a serious historical debate about whether Strategic Bombing contributed to the defeat of Hitler, and since it has not occurred to me that such a debate will have obvious implications the moral status of the Strategic Bombing campaign, I can bloviate to my heart’s content about how history has no bearing on the moral debate about Strategic Bombing.


Dan Hardie 12.30.05 at 1:19 pm

Btw Jimmy, I won’t be posting here over the weekend (I can’t think why), so feel free to exhibit your Tourette’s syndrome, confident that there will be no reply. Learned any new terms for the male genitalia? Or you could make another childish remark about how the Lancaster bombers flown- with horrific casualties- by the crews who bombed Germany are the precise equivalent of the pangas wielded by the genocidal criminals of Rwanda.

Gosh, isn’t it marvellous what you can say when you’re really, really ignorant?


Jimmy Doyle 12.30.05 at 2:12 pm

Dan Hardie: You have misunderstood my position with a completeness that elicits a strange kind of awe. On the assumption, which you do not dispute, that Bomber Command’s policy counted as the intentional killing of noncombatants, whether the bombing campaign contributed to the defeat of Hitler is only so much as relevant to its justification on the further assumption that deontology is false. My claim was that this cannot be treated as an unargued assumption. The consequentialist can only maintain that additional circumstances are relevant if he has already established the truth of consequentialism. Consequentialism may be true (I concede for the sake of argument), but it is not uncontroversial, and among those who deny it are people we are not in a position to condescend to on matters of moral philosophy, such as Kant.

I certainly would not maintain that the RAF bomber crews were as culpable as the perpetrators of Rwandan genocide; that cannot be true, for obvious reasons, all of which are consistent with deontology. The wrongness of an act is one thing; the culpability of the agent another. Deontology is as much at home with the idea of mitigating circumstances as any other view.


dp 12.30.05 at 6:18 pm

It’s good to see that I’m not the first to put Reagan on the list, althought is disheartening to see that he’s only mentioned twice.

The concept of Worst Americans strikes me as odd, in that a democracy should be free of worsts – and bests. America, where we’re all free to be alike, also means that standards should vary.

Other than Reagan (and by extension Ollie, Casey, et al), the worst Americans would be the people who betray American ideals: assassins, robber barons, slavers, lynch mobs, you know, _them_.


Tina 12.30.05 at 7:06 pm

I can’t believe I’m only the second to mention Roy Cohn. Did he get rehabilitated by Angels in America?


roger 12.30.05 at 7:44 pm

A more interesting list would be — what abysmal brits do abysmal americans remind you of, and vice versa. I’ll start with Bush — whose every insane blink reminds me of Anthony Eden.


Kenny Easwaran 12.30.05 at 10:04 pm

Why hasn’t Lyndon LaRouche made the list yet? I don’t know enough about his actual politics, but his cult is a pretty devastating one on some college campuses. And besides, I saw his followers on a bridge in Melbourne complaining about Dick Cheney! Just like the guy Al Franken tackled at the Howard Dean rally, who was a LaRouchie claiming Dean was a puppet of Cheney.


Anna 12.30.05 at 11:21 pm

CLEARLY I am aware that this a politically-motivated blog and therefore many of the ideas will be political in nature (or, alternatively, sitcom-based). But I don’t undestand how, in the same breath, you can call Reagan one of the worst in people in American without mentioning that there are millions of people who have killed people in cold blood/raped/molested children. (hey, who invited debbie downer?) Maybe it’s perspective, or something.

That being said, put Rumsfeld on the list.


radek 12.31.05 at 2:26 am

“In defense of Chris…” (re: MLK)

Um, that ain’t much of a defense, since it makes a mistaken 2, into a correct 1, out of 50+ and not even that since that 1 was a comment by some shmuck, not a blog.

And all I hear is crickets.


Demogenes Aristophanes 12.31.05 at 3:08 am

Toss Jack the Ripper from the Brit 19th century list and insert Cardigan. Or Raglan. Or perhaps Elphinstone (though the last two are more incompetent than terrible).

For Americans (in no particular order, first stab):

1. Joe McCarthy
2. Henry Ford
3. Richard Nixon
4. George Wallace
5. J. Edgar Hoover
6. William J. Simmons
7. Father Coughlin/Rush Limbaugh
8. Dick Cheney
9. Elias M. Ammons/Lieutenant Karl Linderfelt/the Rockefeller family
10. Jack Chick


KCinDC 12.31.05 at 10:07 am

Since Chris said “‘conservative’ blog commenters”, I don’t see why the fact that it wasn’t a blog post is relevant (though there being only one is still a reasonable objection).


Brett Bellmore 12.31.05 at 10:25 am

I tend to think the whole concept silly, since the ten worst Americans are probably unknown save to the guards in penal institutions. None the less…

LaRouche? Don’t be silly, if we’re talking cult founders, L Ron Hubbard winds hands down. If the average person thinks Scientology silly rather than malevolent, it’s only because the media are too scared to talk openly about the cult’s record of murder and blackmail. LaRouche is small change next to Lron.

Carter? More a figure of pathos than true evil, IMO, but his record of defending the legitimacy of dictators’ rigged “elections”, and befriending killers like Castro makes his inclusion on such a list not totally absurd.

Robeson? Fine singing voice, but how does that excuse being a Stalinist? Of course, I understand the left still has problems admitting just how evil communism was and is, or their own complicity in defending it…


SamChevre 12.31.05 at 1:01 pm

I would limit my list of “10 worst Americans” to those who acted as Americans (people fighting for another country, even if the US tried to claim them as citizens, don’t count (so no Confederates)–same principle for Brits (no American Founders or Irish Home Rulers)).

With that definition in place, my number one is:

1) William Tecumseh Sherman, war criminal extraordinaire. He started his brutal career by destroying the South’s ability to feed and sustain itself by destroying crops and buildings and brutalizing civilians, and continued it by doing the same to the Indians. His goal was always to wipe out the entire civilization he was fighting, and he was quite successful. Honorable mentions to Lincoln (who endorsed his tactics in both cases) and to Sheridan (who imitated him on a smaller scale).


ponte 12.31.05 at 2:32 pm


Uncle Kvetch 12.31.05 at 3:55 pm

Carter? More a figure of pathos than true evil, IMO, but his record of defending the legitimacy of dictators’ rigged “elections”, and befriending killers like Castro makes his inclusion on such a list not totally absurd.

But not his successor, right, Brett?

In 1982 an Amnesty International report estimated that over 10,000 indigenous Guatemalans and peasant farmers were killed during the March to July period, and that 100,000 were made homeless. According to more recent estimates, tens of thousands were killed by regime death squads in the subsequent eighteen months.

Given Ríos Montt’s staunch anticommunism and ties to the United States, the Reagan administration continued to support the general and his regime, paying a visit to Guatemala City in December 1982. During a meeting with Ríos Montt on December 4, Reagan declared: “President Ríos Montt is a man of great personal integrity and commitment. … I know he wants to improve the quality of life for all Guatemalans and to promote social justice.”

Reading this and other stuff about the good ol’ days of “morning in America” has dredged up another delightful blast from the past, one who inexplicably hasn’t been mentioned yet: Jesse Helms. Lord knows he deserves it.


Barry 12.31.05 at 6:33 pm

Which shows that Brett isn’t mistaken, but deliberately dishonest.


Mark 12.31.05 at 7:06 pm

This is truly sad. No wonder America is doomed. That ‘divide and conquer’ thing works after all.
That said, here’s my list of top ten worst Americans of ALL TIME:
1. Dick Cheney
2. Karl Rove
3. George W. Bush
4. Donald Rumsfeld
5. Richard Perle
6. Paul Wolfowitz
7. Condoleeza Rice
8. Antonin Scalia
9. Colin Powell
10.Ken Lay
Each one represents a particular species of snivelling bottom-dweller that feed off of fear, power, lies, and money.
And, to the people who nominated Martin Luther King, F*** You!


Kevin 01.01.06 at 1:31 am

Have you ever heard that “the devil mixes the truth with lies” to make the lie more believable? Erroneously adding MLK to this list is a perfect example of that.


Gray 01.01.06 at 10:03 am

The issue, I think, with Curtis Lemay is not necessarily with his conduct in WW2, which some criticize but was consistent with all the powers in intention, if not ability to execute, but his conduct in nearly every war the USA was involved with after WW2, he always lobbied to use nuclear weapons. In his position of considerable inlfuence he wanted to escalate Korea, Vietnam to who knows what. He would make my list of most evil Americans easily.


Fargo North, Decoder 01.01.06 at 7:54 pm

What a great way to open the new year! Having taken my sweet time making up my little list, I’m glad to find this thread still open. In the spirit of Hannah Arendt, then–and if evil isn’t necessarily banal, there still seems to be a quintessentially American strain of evil that’s banal down to its roots:

1. Walt Disney
2. Ray Kroc
3. Ronald Reagan
4. Rupert Murdoch
5. Milton Friedman
6. Sam Walton
7. Norman Vincent Peale
8. Hugh Hefner
9. Martha Stewart
10. Robin Williams


Ragout 01.02.06 at 2:08 am

Interesting that nobody can come up with a clear winner among the indian killers. Andrew Jackson and Sherman seem like decent choices, but they did a lot of good things too.

Also, I don’t see anybody to represent imperialism. Sam Houston is the best I can come up with, but maybe William Walker, freelance invader of Nicaragua?

Finally, what about Woodrow Wilson, a vicious racist, who got us into a pointless war, and botched the peace treaty. Not to mention invading various countries in Latin America and intervening in the Russian Civil War. He set the stage for pretty much evey horror of the 20th century.


abb1 01.02.06 at 8:59 am

For “the worst Britons of all time” list, can I nominate any Briton who thinks of any Briton “who whines about Bomber Command attacking German cities” as the worst Briton?


harry b 01.02.06 at 10:56 am


Robeson was, indeed, a Stalinist. So were many tens of thousands of Americans. And many tens of thousands were fascists. And lots were serial killers. And, over the years, lots of truly wicked people who actually did wicked things because they had money and power. And Robeson, what exactly did he do that would put him even in the frame for a top ten? He was a great black singer, who also happened to be a Stalinist. His life was also, in fact, tragic, partly (though only partly) because he was hounded by wicked people who had real power not because he had done anything wrong or bad but simply because he was a Stalinist; well, because he was a great black singer who was a Stalinist. He just doesn’t get anywhere near the list. People who think he does are either ignorant or wicked. I’m sure you don’t, do you? (this is a bit of an echo of anna’s comment (117) — the worst Americans, like the best Americans, are for the most part people none of us have ever heard of.


Brett Bellmore 01.02.06 at 12:10 pm

I don’t object to people claiming that Robeson doesn’t deserve to be on such a list because there were more than nine worse people around. Didn’t I say that the problem with these lists is that nobody outside of the penal system actually has heard of the very worst people in the country? You see these lists compiled, and people are put on them who don’t even BEGIN to plumb the depths of human depravity, just because the compiler doesn’t like their politics, which politics are right in the mainstream.

What I object to most vehemently, is any suggestion that being a Stalinist wasn’t wicked. Robeson remained an unrepentant Stalinist long after even the most committed sort of willful blindness could have left him ignorant of Stalin’s evil. Like the guy who remained an admirer of Hitler right through the liberation of the death camps, Robeson had to KNOW what he defended.

And we shouldn’t whitewash that, just because he sang well.


Donald Johnson 01.02.06 at 7:16 pm

I haven’t read the Taylor book, but I did read Freeman Dyson’s autobiography “Disturbing the Universe”. Dyson was a physicist who worked as an analyst for the RAF during WWII. According to him, the British were impressed by the slaughter at Hamburg and tried to create a firestorm with every bombing raid they conducted afterwards. They were unsuccessful until Dresden. To me this sounds like numerous successive attempts to slaughter civilians. I read some of the reviews at Amazon.com, and apparently the Taylor book mentions this repeated attempt at creating firestorms. Which again leaves me perplexed–if Taylor himself says that Bomber Command wanted to create Hamburg-like firestorms over and over again, how is that a moral defense of what happened at Dresden, when they finally succeeded?


Barry 01.02.06 at 8:25 pm

Brett: “Didn’t I say that the problem with these lists is that nobody outside of the penal system actually has heard of the very worst people in the country? You see these lists compiled, and people are put on them who don’t even BEGIN to plumb the depths of human depravity, just because the compiler doesn’t like their politics, which politics are right in the mainstream.”

Brett, Brett, Brett. Do you actually think that the worst, most depraved people are in the prison system? Many, I’m sure, but Bush and Cheney have killed more people than anybody in the US prison system, possibly more than all prisoners put together. They did it for power, and are totally unrepentant.


EWI 01.02.06 at 9:04 pm

#91 Dan: John, I know about the Irishmen who fought in WW2, as my great-uncle was one of them. All we needed were bases on the Irish coast, not full Irish belligerence, and Dev didn’t even give us them.

I think a dose of reality is needed here. Chamberlain had already handed back the Treaty Ports before the outbreak of WWII: if we – as a supposed neutral – had voluntarily given the British war facilities, then that would’ve been quite reasonably taken as a belligerent act against the Axis, bringing us into the war.

This also leaves the extreme sensitivity of allowing British troops back onto the territory of the South. This is a taboo subject even now: barely a generation after the War of Independence, it would’ve been tinder for renewed civil war.

(note: with the benefit of historical hindsight, I think we should’ve voluntarily joined the war against Nazi Germany. But we chose to remain neutral unless/until attacked, just like so many other democracies such as the US.)


Doctor Slack 01.02.06 at 9:09 pm

And we shouldn’t whitewash that, just because he sang well.

Nor should we lose perspective about it. It’s worth noting that despite his credulity about the USSR, Robeson had some genuine good to show for his activism and supported causes that are morally unimpeachable today, such as the battles against lynching and South African apartheid. Your average Hitler-apologist on the right can’t say the same.

(In the larger sense, I’ve always found it ironic that C20 history found anti-communists on the wrong side of so many major cultural and political issues despite their having been substantially right about the Soviets. I can see why this drives the right wing so batty, but it’s probably time to let it go.)


nolo commentre 01.03.06 at 4:57 am

Andrew Johnson
Larry Flynt
WR Hearst
Jack Kevorkian
Gore Vidal
Joseph McCarthy
Nelson Bunker Hunt
Pete Rose
Aaron Spelling
MLC (Ciccone)

Note: the actual explanation of why The Right hates Jimmy Carter so would be “liberal sanctimony.”


Shinobi 01.03.06 at 8:18 am

While Rupert Murdoch is a US citizen, he became such as a way of expanding his business empire. For the majority of his life, he has been Australian. I don’t really think it’s fair on the USA to blame them for him.


Christian 01.03.06 at 9:15 am

regarding Dresden and Taylor, I haven’t read his book either, but the impression I got from the interview he gave the spiegel was that he himself has quite a nuanced view.
The leading paragraphs:
“SPIEGEL ONLINE: Some critics have accused you of writing a justification of the bombing of the city of Dresden. Is this accusation misplaced?

Taylor: Yes it is. Some people mistake the attempt at rational analysis of a historical event for a celebration of it. My book attempts to be distanced and rational and where possible I try to separate the myths and legends from the realities. I personally find the attack on Dresden horrific. It was overdone, it was excessive and is to be regretted enormously. But there is no reason to pretend that it was completely irrational on the part of the Allies. Dresden had war industries and was a major transportation hub. As soon as you start explaining the reasons for the attack, though, people think you are justifying it.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Was it a war crime?

Taylor: I really don’t know. From a practical point of view, rules of war are something of a gray area.”
…I suggest to read the rest, too.

Of course it’s entirely possible that the impressions and conclusions one can draw from his book are different, e.g. that the idea it could have been a warcrime (whatever that exactly is supposed to be) is totally absurd or whatever.


harry b 01.03.06 at 10:28 am


how much do you know about Robeson’s life and wickedness? There is at least one of those things that you don’t know much about if you think Robeson was wicked.


Donald Johnson 01.03.06 at 11:42 am

Thanks for the tip, Christian. Some of the Amazon reviewers seem to have read Taylor as justifying Dresden, along with one or two other people I’ve seen. I suppose nuance is easily misinterpreted, no matter which side of the issue you fall on.


Brett Bellmore 01.03.06 at 8:00 pm

To be a Stalinist is to be wicked on the level of principle, even if you never have the occasion/nerve to put those principles into effect.

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