The Dream Café

Steven Brust: “A masterful storyteller of contagious glee and self-deprecating badassery” —Skyler White

Selections from an Historian’s Diary

| 14 Comments

Nov 22: Talked to Bob today, and, wouldn’t you know it, he brought up that goddamn 1619 thing again. It’s all anyone wants to talk about. No, I will NOT commit career suicide. Let the rest of them fight it out.

Nov 30: Christmas party at Christine’s. Guess what EVERYONE WANTS ME TO WRITE ABOUT????  Maybe I’ll move to Tibet and become a monk.

Dec 2: Talked to my mother today. Guess what SHE had on her mind? Et Tu, mater? You’d think she, at least, would understand. If I attack the 1619 Project, the internet falls on my head, we probably lose funding, and the University puts me on the Volleyball Recruitment Committee forever.  If I defend the project, I lose all credibility as an historian.

Dec 5: Okay, no, I can do this. I’m the editor of a renowned historical journal. I’ve got mad skills.  I just need a kind of flippant, “what’s all the fuss about?” attitude, shade a few things, make a few implications.  I mean, it isn’t ignoring history, right? It’s emphasizing other things in history. Like, I’m not denying the Abolition movement existed, I just don’t happen to be talking about it in this case. Yeah.  And, oh!  I’ll make it all about me.  I’ll talk about my feelings!  The neolibs love it when people talk about their feelings, and the Trotskyists are going to hate me anyway.

Dec 8: I need to hit just the right tone on the title.  It has to be dismissive, like, “Oh, here’s this big kerfuffle about nothing,” but I can’t actually, you know, say that.

Dec 10: Started on the editorial, and it’s going all right. I gotta kinda pat myself on the back for the New York memorial bit. The neolibs will take it as saying, “see, no one in the North cared about slavery!” and people who know history can’t argue, because, hey, all I’m doing is stating what’s on the memorial. Damn I’m good.

Dec 13: Back to the editorial again. Ugh. I wonder if I can get away with pretending that the Project is saying things everyone already knew? Can I count on no one examining that too closely? Because that would make everything easier. Gonna take a shot at it.  Worst case, well, hey, I got tenure.

Jan 3: Brainstorm! If I just ignore Reed, I can say the WSWS only interviewed white people!  Now if that isn’t scoring points, what is? I just need to find a respected black historian—a black woman would be best—who they haven’t interviewed, and I can imply they didn’t ask her.  Fields will work.

Jan 4: This business of sounding like you’re saying something without actually saying anything isn’t easy at first, but it’s coming along.  Phrases like, “central to the experience of” are really useful, because what does that actually mean, right?

Jan 5: Trying to the do the summary of the WSWS position, and it’s a pain the you-know-what. If I get it wrong, I discredit myself, but if I don’t hit the right condescending tone, I’ll piss off the neolibs. And all the world knows what happens to an academic who pisses off the neolibs.

Jan 6: I have to admit I feel kinda bad about taking that cheap shot at Woods. But omelet, eggs.

Jan 7: OH! I’m going to say I’m befuddled.  Wait,  baffled?  Something like that.  Anyway, gonna say I don’t understand why there’s all the hostility to the Project! Ha ha! That way I can say it’s reasonable history without actually lying! Well, only lying a little bit.

Jan 8: Almost done.  All I need is a quote from Fredrick Douglass that implies Lincoln was a racist, and I’m there. Should be easy enough to find.

Jan 9: Dammit.

Jan 10: Dammit.

Jan 11:Well God DAMMIT.

Jan 12: What the?

Jan 13: Jesus, Fred. Help a guy out, will you?

Jan 14: BINGO.  Snip away the context, and I’ve got it! Ready for press!

Jan 16: Dammit, they interviewed another black historian. Why are they doing this to me? Well, never mind.  What’s done is done.

Jan 23: Welp, here we go.

Jan 31: WSWS responded. Currently, tickets to Tibet are running around around $1200.  I can do that.

skzb

Author: skzb

I play the drum.

14 Comments

  1. The first problem, as Bob well knows, is that journalists aren’t historians and their attempts to impersonate historians may be less than satisfactory. Kind of like the NYT opinion section as of late.

  2. This hostility toward volleyball is concerning. I am struggling to figure out how it’s racist, but we can just all agree it is while I suss the mechanics, right?

    Is there coffee in Tibet?

  3. skzb

    Gonna take some work, Rafael. But I have confidence in you. And no coffee, but there’s plenty of yak butter tea.

  4. Wait, did a historian really just say that the American Civil War was “the bloodiest conflict of the nineteenth century”? Did he really just admit to never having heard of the Taiping Rebellion?

  5. Gotta love Professor Fields’s dismissal of the 1619 project. Now I want to try to get her to give a talk in my town.

    “A substantial number of white southerners fought to insure the Confederacy’s defeat.” Wow. Did not know that. Mind blown. Where can I go to read about those courageous guys and gals?

  6. Kragar, let me recommend the book “Bitterly Divided: The South’s Inner Civil War” by historian David Williams.

    A superb review of the book can be found at this link:

    https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/07/26/civi-j26.html

  7. skzb

    And, you know, by all means watch (or, well, read) The Free State of Jones. Magnificent.

  8. We remember the past the way rulers want us to remember the past. The Roman Empire comes to mind.

  9. skzb

    As long as there has been a study of history, there have been sycophants with the agenda of pleasing the powerful, and there have also been those who were determined to look for and reveal the truth wherever it took them. We ought to know the difference and give what support we can to the latter.

  10. The professor you lambaste here is for me the most disappointing character of our moment.

  11. skzb

    Yeah, I can understand that.

  12. You got me curious, so I googled:

    “Over 100,000 Southern Unionists served in the Union Army during the Civil War, and every Southern state except South Carolina raised at least a battalion.”
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_Unionist

  13. And it appears that a big part of the reason the Confederacy lost was desertion in truly massive numbers.

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