15 May 2009


Advance Notice:

I intend to post some lengthy commentary here in response to Tim Lacy's comments on a recent blog post of Kevin Levin's. Specifically, I'll be commenting on Mr. Lacy's suggestion that those who interpret (or deny) certain historical facts in ways in which he would disagree should be prosecuted criminally. And he's quite serious.

For example:

"I’m not advocating jail time—at least not for most cases. It depends on the present-day goal for which one is abusing an essential historical truth." (Emphasis mine.)

And . . .

"If that means issuing citations (outlawing can mean misdemeanors), then so be it." (By the way, in Virginia a Class 1 misdemeanor is punishable by up to 12 months in jail, a Class 2, 6 months.)

And this comment from Kevin about Tim's suggestion for criminalizing thought and opinion about history:

"I am not so concerned about his view on this."

Stay tuned. I probably won't post until sometime Saturday, but you won't want to miss it.

**Update: someone on another blog (I won't dignify it by linking to it) has described my response to Lacy's suggestion of criminalizing thought as "knee-jerk libertarianism." Actually, defending freedom of speech and academic freedom would be better described as classical liberalism. I suggest this person take political science 101.

And Mr. Lacy responds to my defense of free speech and academic freedom on this other blog by saying: "Welcome to the hyper-active, pseudo-intellectual world of the 'Lost Cause" and 'Moonlight and Magnolias.'"

Welcome to the world of elitists who can't defend their positions.

I really did my best to keep my criticisms on point, non-personal, no name-calling and about the idea proposed. But, alas, it did no good. The last refuge of those who know their arguments are without merit are ad hominem attacks. And Mr. Lacy suggests it is I who "flamed" him?! I'm sorry, but if one is so bold as to suggest the outrageous notion that certain ideas, thoughts, and historical interpretation should be policed by government agents and that those persons found "guilty" of unapproved thoughts and ideas should be fined and put in jail (!) then he should expect a strong opposing argument. I vigorously disagreed with Mr. Lacy's idea, but in no way attacked or "flamed" him personally. That's a straw man. But I did attack his suggestion of making criminals out of those who may have thoughts and ideas regarding historical interpretation that differ from his - or anyone else's for that matter.

Here we have a textbook example of what's rampant in much of modern academia. Take note of how *few of Kevin's academic readers came to the defense of free speech and freedom of thought and expression. How very disappointing.

*Thanks to Ken Noe, Greg Rowe, and Robert Moore for standing against Mr. Lacy's suggestion. Mr. Noe and Robert are both academics and Greg teaches history in a public school setting.

**Update #2: Fellow CW blogger and school teacher Greg Rowe weighs in here. I was unable to complete my detailed post on this subject, but it's coming soon. Hopefully by tomorrow. Stay tuned . . .


James F. Epperson said...

I thought Mr. Lacy's idea was confused and absurd. His analogy to Holocaust Denial in some European countries seems more reasonable than it is, if only because denying the Holocaust is a much more clear "bright line" to cross over, as opposed to simply holding to a different interpretation of the evidence.

You might note that Mr. Lacy was a lonely voice on Kevin's blog; I didn't see anyone agree with him.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Thank you James. I'm quite relieved there are academics that are willing to offer a strong rebuke to Mr. Lacy's suggestion.

I agree, the Holocaust is not really a very good comparison, though I'm seeing it more often. The Nazi's goal was to exterminate a whole race of people. Slaveowners, though abhorrent and evil, saw slaves as property and economically beneficial. Quite different.

I'm not sure I came away with the same take as you did regarding Lacy's lack of support on KL's blog. Kevin's rebuttal was, in my opinion, late in coming and a little weak. I was quite shocked at the fact that though many academics read KL's blog, only 3 readers (other than myself) offered any objection. What does that say about those same readers who are so quick to agree with any perceived distortion they see about history and freedom and who are quick to impugn and mock those on the Southern Heritage side of things when they perceive gross error? Lacy's suggestion is, in my view, much more dangerous. And the lack of opposition to his notion among KL's readers is very troubling.

Thanks for your input. As the cliche goes, though I often disagree with you, I would defend to the death your right to say it.

James F. Epperson said...

I don't think we can or should draw conclusions from the lack of comment. Lots of people I know would simply prefer to walk away from arguments rather than indulge their typing fingers. I confess I wouldn't have said anything except for you posting about it here.

Johnsims said...

Mr. Lacy scares me. This seems to be the view of so many CW bloggers though. Keep up the good work.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...


Silence is often due to complicity.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...


If you'll read all of Mr. Lacy's comments, you'll see that fear is an intended element of his suggestion.

James F. Epperson said...

"Silence is often due to complicity." --- True, but silence is also often due to having better things to do with one's time. It's a mistake, IMO, to draw too broad a conclusion from silence in this case.