Politics & Media
Jun 25, 2015, 09:38AM

Conservative Hates Southerners, Liberals, Everybody

Kevin D. Williamson has issues.

Redneckistan.jpg?ixlib=rails 2.1

The angriest man at National Review is a fellow named Kevin D. Williamson. He has a shaved head and a tightly trimmed beard, and once he grabbed a lady's cell phone and gave it a heave because she was using the thing during a theater production. You can see that impulse control isn't his strong point. If he had any he might not be a writer, or at least not about politics. His method is to seethe and fume until the lid pops off, at which point a couple thousand words come bubbling out. Apparently readers at National Review like the results: he's a regular over there.

What's he mad about now? The fuss over the Confederate flag, or the battle flag of the army of northern Virginia, as it's properly known. A battle flag-waving racist lunatic killed nine innocent black Americans, and now most of the country wants the thing out of sight. This makes Williamson furious. In his latest column he asserts that “the Left” (his grandly capitalized name for America's dowdy collection of non-centrists and non-conservatives) brutally requires that “Southern identity as such must be anathematized.”

Of course, he also asserts, “I bear no brief for the peckerwood-trash cultural tendencies that led Fritz Hollings, then governor, and the rest of the loyal Democrats who ran segregation-era South Carolina to hoist the Confederate flag in 1962.” That's in the very same piece. Peckerwood trash! I'm no Southerner, but that sure sounds like—how does one say—some healthy anathematizing right there. In fact it sounds like hate speech. No, wait—it is hate speech. From the man who says those leftists (sorry, I mean Leftists) want to turn the South into a national pariah.

Republicans are in a bind. They've done well off racist voters for the past 50 years, but now the breed is dwindling. Meanwhile, the nation as a whole is even less enthusiastic about racism than it was back when Lee Atwater won elections while keeping “the segs” out of camera view. Now Dylann Roof and a few bullets have reminded the general public about the meaning behind Lynyrd Skynyrd's favorite stage prop. The Williamson response is to attack “the Left and its creature, the Democratic party” for being against the flag, and also to attack Democrats for being in favor of the flag—as they were back when racists voted Democrat and not Republican.

Williamson mentions many things: campaign finance reform, Firefly, Wendy Davis, Joan Baez singing “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” Debbie Stabenow and how she would milk a meteor crisis if such a crisis ever happened. He even mentions that Jenner person. But the piece doesn't mention the Civil Rights Act or Voting Rights Act, and how they were engineered by a Democratic president and opposed by Ronald Reagan. It doesn't mention how Strom Thurmond, the Senate's marquee segregationist, left the Democrats for the Republicans just two and a half months after the Civil Rights Act was passed. It doesn't mention Richard Nixon and the Southern Strategy.

Come to think of it, the piece also leaves out WalMart and Amazon and the way they decided to dump Confederate-themed merchandise. No mention of the pressure by big business on South Carolina to take down the Stars and Bars if the state wanted its share of new factories. And no mention that the flag was created expressly to celebrate the idea and actuality of white men fighting to keep their foot on the black man's throat (if feminists will forgive this gendered language). Instead, Williamson tells a story about “the Left” and how it wants to push us around because it can't win enough elections. There's a “progressive panic attack,” he says, and the “unmistakable stink of desperation,” plus “hysterical shrieking,” and thus the radical haters of the established order turn their sights on the battle flag because it's beloved in the region where Republicans now hold power. The evidence for this argument is... well, I mentioned Jenner and Firefly.

Here's a simpler story. One morning Americans looked at their TVs and computer screens and saw that nine people had been killed by a man who hated blacks, and that the state where this massacre took place wouldn't even take down the flag that the man used to celebrate his racism. Nine citizens killed for being black, and the flag of the slaveholders flew from a pole that the victims' taxes had helped pay for. Across millions of American minds there struggled a thought that wasn't especially elaborate or noble, but one that was right on the money. It went something like this: That's really a bit much. That can't be right. And then: That's really wrong. Everyone knew that flag stood for racism, and that black Americans had to live with it anyway, and then Middle America found out what living with that thing entails. And millions of people said, No more. Soon enough the big retailers and employers were scrambling to keep up.

Or maybe it's all because of Debbie Stabenow and the meteor. Kevin Williamson has his story and I have mine. But I do know this: he's a hater and the crowd at National Review likes him just fine. Make of that what you will.

—Follow C.T. May on Twitter: @CTMay3 

  • Excellent summary of Williamson's rant. I'm surprised (not not shocked) that the National Review let this be published, but that organ's fall from (a modicum of) honor has been swift since 2008. It's now just a step away from Breitbart and the other right wing nutteries. Williamson is not a conservative. The only proper term for him is regressive. From what I can see, his persona can be fully captured in the words "hateful regressive". I still have hope that a genuine conservative party will rise in this nation, perhaps from the ashes of the GOP, because we need a balance and check to every tendency, even progressivism. People like Williamson will have no part in that future, nor any future in which the United States is whole.

    Responses to this comment
  • I hope you're correct about that, because his point of view can be pretty scary.

    Responses to this comment
  • Sure hope his mentioning Joan Baez' cover of The Band song doesn't mean he thinks it's the definitive version of the song, as that would be ludicrous.

    Responses to this comment
  • Even her voice doesn't sound so great on that song.

    Responses to this comment
  • Baez has ruined so many songs. She had (has) a technically great voice, I suppose, but her renditions of traditional folk songs (and her many Dylan covers) are so emotionless. An awful songwriter herself, probably her best original was "Diamonds and Rust," if only because of the topic.

    Responses to this comment
  • Yes, Diamonds and Rust was about Dylan. Agree,she ruins songs. Never listen to her willingly.

    Responses to this comment
  • The reactions to Dolezal and Jenner demonstrate that we are to allow anybody to define their own reality. Nobody can say them nay.Besides, these days, everything is supposed to be nuanced to within an inch of its life, OTOH until it's dizzy, and none-of-anybody's-business is the order of the day. So, to say that everybody knows the flag stands for racism is judgmental and mean, plus the Rhine Institute never demonstrated telepathy. Now, it may be beloved in the areas where the republicans hold power, but it was put there by dems. Just thought a bit of actual, you know, history would be useful. DISTRACTION ATTEMPT: FAIL Whatever it once meant to people, it means a good deal different to people now. Mostly, it means, "I'm a rebel. I'm free. Don't tell me how to live my life." It is the most obviously rebel symbol in the country but not hardly anybody waving it around wants to return to slavery and Jim Crow. You may assign that feeling to them but you don't have that right. So what does living with that thing entail? How many of them are flying in Chicago, Baltimore, Pittsburgh? Roof himself lamented he couldn't get any real racists or skin heads to help him out. He's one in many millions, not a representative of a group. Also, he's a nutcase loser with a deep-fried brain. Making him a representative of the group it's okay to hate is...lame. Some people, with no talent, no distinction, no accomplishments beyond passing out of third grade, at least can boast of being born north of the Ohio River, or apologize for being born south of it. You should see what that looks like from the outside. BTW, saw Baez in concert in 67. She had the volume, for sure. Blew a black male quartet off the stage.

    Responses to this comment
  • Oh, I didn't make Dylann a scapegoat for anyone, and I drew on some, you know, history. Here's your self-improvement program: don't sound so defensive, and don't mix alcohol with your heart medication.

    Responses to this comment
  • Hit too close, huh? 'specially that bit about north or south of the Ohio. No, not a scapegoat. That's completely different, almost the opposite, of insisting he's representative. WRT history, I just filled in the important part--it was the dems' flag for a couple of generations. Mostly with the beginnings of civil right after WW II. You probably figured everybody knew that--we do--and so you could leave it out. But the note about republicans made me wonder if you weren't, you know, interfering with the pooch on this thing. Sort of a reflex. Happens often enough. Anyway, point still stands, not having been addressed, that nobody gets to tell anybody what anybody is supposed to think about anything and that includes the flag. And if the self-rebel view is what somebody has...it's what they have and you have no right to assign any other meaning to it. It's not my rule. But I thought I'd point it out. Liberal principles to be universally applied are frequently inconvenient when universally applied.

    Responses to this comment
  • From my piece: "The Williamson response is to attack ... Democrats for being in favor of the flag—as they were back when racists voted Democrat and not Republican." So I didn't leave it out. You're just confused.

    Responses to this comment
  • And you say: "nobody gets to tell anybody what anybody is supposed to think about anything." The flag has a historical meaning that can't be ignored. Somebody could believe that the swastika is just a Hindu sign for good luck. They can go on believing that, but the rest of us don't have to go along.

    Responses to this comment
  • The flag has a democratic racist past. Everybody knows that. Now that republicans are in charge in the south, it seems there's a net in-migration by blacks to the south. Family, climate, jobs.... But, after knowing the flag has a democratic racist past, the fact is that anybody is free to see it as something else and any criticism of such is invalid, not to mention a really lame attempt at moral superiority. Never works. Every so often, it is reported, one may see a black guy on a bike or a pickup truck with the battle flag on it. What then? He's a self-rebel and all that democratic racist past stuff is irrelevant. But, FYI, the lame attempt at ginning up some, any, moral superiority isn't doing any good.

    Responses to this comment

Register or Login to leave a comment