09 June 2009
Are "Lost Causers" Funding America's Civil War?
Apparently so - at least indirectly. Let me explain.
I subscribe to America's Civil War. Great publication. I look forward to the magazine each month. I recommend it. So no problem with the magazine - I just want to make that clear. But as I was thumbing through the most recent issue ((July 2009), I could not help but notice the full page color ads which, as anyone familiar with advertising rates knows, are very pricey. In this particular issue there were 9 full page color ads directly related to some aspect of the Civil War.
The first one (inside front cover) featured a history of the Battle of Vicksburg by Winston Groom, titled appropriately, Vicksburg 1863. The second one was for the Civil War Museum in Wisconsin. The third, a Bradford exchange sculptured holster featuring the artwork of Paul Strain (a favorite target of Confederate heritage bashers), which includes images of the Confederate battle flag and General Lee. The fourth was from the New York Mint hawking Lincoln wheat pennies (BTW, I have an extensive collection of Lincoln wheat pennies). The fifth was an ad for a Dale Gallon print of General Lee on Traveller. The sixth was an ad for all 16 volumes of Confederate Military History. Number 7 was from The Teaching Company advertising 24 lectures on DVD and/or CD titled, Robert E. Lee and His High Command. 8th in the lineup was "Pride of the South" another product of The Bradford Exchange. This is a ring featuring a Confederate flag display under which there is a banner which reads: 1861 C.S.A. 1865 and "Pride of the South" inscribed on the inside of the ring - a real bargain for just 3 monthly installments of $33 each. ;o) And the the last full page color about related to the WBTS is on the back inside cover and features the Cyclorama at Gettysburg.
Now, for some observations. First of all, 5 of the 9 ads were specifically Confederate oriented. Of those 5, it could be said that 3 were targeting those customers who some would consider "Lost Causers" or "Southern Heritage" types - the holster sculpture, the Gallon print, and the CSA ring. The other two were educational, but, again, CSA focused.
The remaining 4, with the exception of the Lincoln penny, were "neutral" ads - not really focused on either side of the conflict. So, why the inordinate focus on the CSA? This isn't an isolated incident; you'll see this focus often in the various CW publications. We also see it in most CW artists' focus. I'm not the first to note this as quite a few other CW bloggers have made this observation - with the requisite mocking as well.
Regarding the economics of this publication and its readership, what does this tell us? Who and what segment of the marketplace are the advertisers targeting? (Based on total advertising dollars spent.) Who do the publications' sales reps target? Who make up most of the readership of the major CW magazines? Of those readers, which ones are most likely to purchase something because of an ad they saw in the magazine? Would these companies consistently spend this kind of money if they weren't seeing results from the readership of these magazines?
We know that both casual students of the war, as well as academics, read the publication and other ones like it. A number of academics also write for ACW and similar magazines. I enjoy most of those pieces and learn quite a bit from them. However, it strikes me as rather ironic that many (not all) academics/contributors like to make fun of and impugn the segment of the marketplace being targeted by these ads - those considered "Lost-Causers, Confederate Heritage types," etc., etc. It's also becoming more common to hear and read disparaging comments about reenactors; as one Lexington academic/politician type was overheard saying during discussion over locating the Museum of the Confederacy in Lexington a couple of years ago. Regarding reenactors, this person said they didn't want anything in Lexington which would "attract any more redneck reenactor types." How inclusive. But I digress.
Though he's not featured in this issue, another of the favorite targets of the scorners is Mort Kunstler. His ads have been featured quite often in past issues. Some of the rather juvenile comments made about his artwork that I've read would really make you laugh - that is if you're 14 and enjoy watching Beavis & Butthead.
Yet it is quite obvious that this publication is (through its advertising), targeting and capitalizing on that very "segment" of the marketplace (the CW Reenactor, Southern Heritage segment, not the Beavis and Butthead segment) which are so often the target of barbs and scorns coming from some academics and CW writers. Who would the mockers say are buying the ring, the holster - even the Gallon print? We know the answer. Even James "Don't Honor The Confederate Dead" McPherson has weighed in on the subject before. (I wonder if American Heritage returned the ad money, seeing they felt so "uncomfortable" about that ad?)
Even the majority of the other full page ads in this issue of ACW focus primarily on the Confederacy. I'm sure this isn't true in every issue, but I've observed this to be the case more often than not in ACW, as well as other CW magazines.
Isn't this ironic? All this focus on the bad boys. What's up with this? A love/hate relationship? Curiosity? The Union Army is boring? A secret love that must be disguised with criticism? Secretly rooting for the underdog?
My oh my, what would the critics, the CW publications, publishers, and bloggers do if it weren't for the bad boys of the Confederacy and those who study them and also those who wish to honor their ancestors who fought for the Confederacy? What if there were no good ole boys in SCV camps, Civil War Roundtables, Reeanctor Units, no rednecks with CSA flag bumper-stickers? No one to poke and prod under the academic microscope, no one to poke fun at, no one to put down in order to elevate themselves, no one to target advertising to and a lot less fellows from which to extrapolate money. For the Confederate heritage folks to be so "irrelevant", there sure is a lot of bandwidth being used up to impugn them. Are these good ole boys helping to pay the academics who write for ACW? Shouldn't they thank them? Or, should they voice their protests about the ads?
Am I over-stating my case? Perhaps (a little). But how boring life would be without those "redneck reenactor types."