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Mar 19, 2005 8:14 pm

Well, Aren't We Having Fun Here? ...

Frankly, it's been a difficult week at Cliopatria. I should feel reasonably good about it, however, so long as the attacks come from both the Left and the Right. The little blogwar on the Left need not have occurred at all. Michael Berube is ordinarily an ally in larger battles, but I'm hard pressed to understand his presumption to declare one of us at Cliopatria"a genuine scoundrel" and suggest that he be shunned. Having grown used to having colleagues and allies regardless of whether they bore Berube's imprimatur, I have no intention of shunning anyone. Shunning is a quaint form of social control. So far as I know, in the twenty-first century, it is practiced only by some fundamentalist religious sects and ultra branches of the academic Left. Maybe David Horowitz is onto something in insisting on the affinities between those two otherwise dissimilar communities.

Except that I hate to concede anything to David Horowitz and he is keeping score in that regard. This past week, he demanded that Jonathan Dresner and I retract our criticism of his use of a story out of the University of Northern Colorado. Professor Dresner and I have corrected details in our reading of that story as they became available, but there's been and, I suspect, there will be no retraction of our criticism of Horowitz's propagandistic abuse of Colorado's academic communities. Actually, when I rejected his demand for a retraction, David called me an"insufferable snot" and I'm wearing the label with pride. At their huffiest, some of my other colleagues at Cliopatria are every bit as insufferable as I am, but I'm claiming the label. Henceforth, you may refer to me as His Grace, the Cliopatriarch of Insufferable Snottery.

The brethren on the Right seem to live by threats and demands for retractions these days. From Moscow, Idaho, the latest is a demand from one Aaron Rench. It is addressed to HNN's Rick Shenkman, who passed it on to me. Brother Rench writes:

Dear Richard,
I just came across an article on your History News Network, and I thought you should be aware of its content. I happen to know personally about the subject matter, and Ralph E. Luker, the one who posted it, made some very inappropriate comments to say the absolute least. The article is not on the verge of slander and libel, its [sic] past that.
Doug Wilson is labeled a racist, Aryan, white supremacist. He is none of these. And Eugene Genovese has written a positive blurb for Wilson's book. I know personally that Eugene Genovese has at least read the book, something Ralph E. Luker has not done, but still had the confidence to declare so authoritatively about. Luker, if he is an historian, is exactly the kind of historian that Dr. Genovese wholeheartedly discounts as cited in the blurb he wrote for Wilson. Luker is an embarassment [sic] to HNN.
As an editor, I know that you cannot be aware of every last detail that takes place at HNN, but I wanted to let you know about this egregious instance of"scholarship" and hope that you might take appropriate measures.
Here is the link to Luker's post
Here also for your convenience is Dr. Genovese's book blurb for Wilson:
The Reverend Douglas Wilson may not be a professional historian, as his detractors say, but he has a strong grasp of the essentials of the history of slavery and its relation to Christian doctrine. Indeed, sad to say, his grasp is a great deal stronger than that of most professors of American history, whose distortions and trivializations disgrace our college classrooms. And the Reverend Mr. Wilson is a fighter, especially effective in defense of Christianity against those who try to turn Jesus' way of salvation into pseudo-moralistic drivel.
I have made Mr. Wilson aware of Ralph Luker's post. Look forward to hearing from you.
Aaron Rench
Rick Shenkman forwarded the e-mail to me for a reply and I responded as follows:
Dear Mr. French, [oops, I got his name wrong. That never helps.]
History News Network's Rick Shenkman forwarded your e-mail to him on to me. I have to tell you, frankly, that I don't see much that is new here. I quoted the blurb that you cite by Dr. Genovese, who I know reasonably well, in the post at Cliopatria that you cite.
Reverend Wilson may be, as Gene Genovese says, a"fighter" but he also labors under the handicap of having to withdraw his earlier book because he committed plagiarism. More importantly, he knows that American slavery was defined racially and yet he persists in the 21st century to publish apologias for it. How one can do that and, at the same time, expect not to be recognized as a racist or a white supremacist just somehow escapes me.
Sincerely yours,
Ralph E. Luker
So, there you have it. Unnecessarily harsh accusations from the ultra Left and demands for retractions from the ultra Right. I'm fine with that. And, Brother Rench, if you and Brother Wilson want to make this my Deborah Lipstadt moment, bring it on.
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William L Ramsey - 3/20/2005

Mr. French's letter to the HNN Editor is very much in keeping with the Wilsonite approach. There is never any effort to engage in substantive debate, only behind-the-scenes intimidation. For the amusement of casual observers, here is a copy of the threats Wilson himself communicated to the Provost of the University of Idaho concerning my review of his work and a copy of the letter he wrote to the Governor of Idaho:

History News Network