Rhetoric vs. Reality on the 4th

Yesterday HCR wrote a short (for her — I typically think her Letters From an American are too long) 4th of July post, reminding us of the most famous words of the Declaration. She immediately recognized that the claim that it was “self-evident” that ”all men are created equal” was a sentiment that only applied to white men and not to the large numbers of blacks, Indians, or women that together formed most of American society at the time. Notwithstanding that contrast with reality, Heather echoed the belief of many historians that the founders were reaching for an ideal and that “America was founded on the radical idea that all men are created equal.”

I’m willing to accept the claim that there was an awareness in the Continental Congress that equality (at least in terms of equal status at birth for white men) was a goal the new nation should claim (especially to distinguish itself from Great Britain)
and should maybe strive towards. The primary sources I have my students read suggest they were already well aware of the problem of slavery in this early convention and the “sectional” positions for and against it in the North and South were beginning to form before the US was even a nation. But so far, the first three paragraphs of the post are similar enough to what one might have seen in history books or 4th of July memorials that I wouldn’t have bothered to comment.

It’s in the fourth paragraph that it goes off the rails a bit, in my opinion. Heather makes a turn and announces, "What the founders declared self-evident was not so clear eighty-seven years later, when southern white men went to war to reshape America into a nation in which African Americans, Indigenous Americans, Chinese, and Irish were locked into a lower status than whites. In that era, equality had become a 'proposition,' rather than 'self-evident.'”

This allows her to claim that the leaders of the Confederacy were trying to change a settled, self-evident truth into a proposition that could be argued. I’m sorry, but this seems to stand in direct contradiction of the reality of the situation in 1861 America, where “African Americans, Indigenous Americans, Chinese, and Irish”
were ”locked into a lower status” than white men. In the South, the North, the East, and the West. Even if we give the Founders the benefit of the doubt and say they held equality as an ideal they wanted the new nation to strive towards, America had not yet become that. Lincoln did not ask in the Gettysburg Address passage Heather quotes whether a nation could be broken by people who disagreed, but whether “any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.” I think the key to his question is, “conceived and dedicated” but not yet achieved.

I’m not going to defend the Confederates at all, but I don’t think they were trying to break away from a nation of freedom and equality to create a new hellscape of slavery and “reshape America into a nation in which certain people are better than others”, as Heather claims. So I don’t think she succeeds in drawing an analogy between then and now: that the “idea of human equality” is an American achievement rather than an ideal and that there’s a new group of evil Confederates who want to undo that reality. While I agree with Lincoln that we should “highly resolve” that the sacrifices of those Americans who fought for union and democracy should not be in vain, I think Heather misses the point. Lincoln’s sentiment is laudable but his history is aspirational, not accurate. I understand why Americans mistake the rhetoric of the past for reality, but why do historians?

Public Debate Today

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Reading Substacks and watching YouTube and Rumble videos lately, it seems there are a new batch of “public intellectuals” who a few years ago would probably have just been moderately popular and influential. However, due to cancel culture and the polarization of the past decade (beginning with Clinton/Trump 2016, and continuing through Russiagate, COVID, Hunter Biden, the Ukraine War, etc.), these people have been declared threats to democracy and censored. This seems to be fairly conclusively documented in the Twitter Files, whatever you think of Elon Musk or Matt Taibbi. As a result, these people‘s voices and messages have become amplified and are arguably more influential than they ever would have been without this backlash.

Some of these people are extremely political, on purpose. RFK Jr. of course, is running for President. But others such as Bret Weinstein, Joe Rogan, Aaron Mate, and Glenn Greenwald are for the most part just presenting alternate takes on what’s happening in the world today, most often backed by solid reporting. That doesn’t necessarily mean that everything they say is accurate or equally important. But the market for attention would probably produce different outcomes, if there wasn’t such a continued effort to censor.

Is there a precedent for this in our history? I’m curious whether the “yellow journalism” of the late 19th and early 20th century deserves more attention? Not to mention the Sedition and Espionage Acts of the “Progressive” Wilson administration. I wonder whether there are histories of propagandistic contagions? According to
The New England Psychologist, “‘Mass formation psychosis’ is a term that was used on the Joe Rogan podcast by a formerly respected medical researcher, Robert Malone, M.D.” Does this description suggest they are seriously considering Malone’s observations? But even if the terminology is new, the concept might be traceable to other contagious ideas like the Red Scare in America or Fascism in 1930s Europe. Has anyone written about this yet?

According to reports, 70% of Tony Fauci’s income (the highest-paid government worker) came from his military work. RFK Jr. mentions this in a long interview with Bret Weinstein. He goes on to say that it’s illegal to create bio-weapons,
unless you are also developing vaccines. Gain of function bio-hacking claims to be “dual-use”, but is it really?

The prolific author Uptown Sinclair (
The Jungle was one of over 100 things he published) said “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.“ Beyond self-interest, cognitive dissonance and emotional reactions rather than reason would also obviously be valuable to people who want to get away with stuff. Confusion can lead people to say, “I’m not sure, but to be on the safe side, I’m going to comply.” Add these to the folks who fall in line and obey for the sake of supporting their team, and we may see a lot of smart, well-meaning people doing things like taking the three “vaccines” for flu, COVID, and RSV that are apparently planned for this coming winter. The NIH is calling this combination of respiratory ailments a “tridemic”.

Last year, flu killed 58,000, COVID killed 50,000, and RSV killed 10,000 in America, according to info being repeated in social media. In contrast, the opioid epidemic killed 106,000 Americans in 2021. CDC records suggest that the vast majority of “flu” deaths are actually caused by (bacterial) pneumonia which people become unable to resist after contracting (viral) influenza. So the “flu” situation alone is already more complicated than it is portrayed in public health and media. Maybe we would be better served by understanding the actual situation at a slightly deeper level of complexity? How likely are we to get that, when more than half of TV news is sponsored by big Pharma? Our only hope for trustworthy information may now be the people mainstream media warns us against. I guess we can thank CNN and MSNBC for pointing them out to us.