Friday, January 12, 2007

Losing it

Melanie Morgan evidently lost it today on her radio special discussing Spocko's effort to stand up to her hatemongering.

Best of all, she engaged in the classic right-wing projection strategy: She accused Media Matters of induling in "hate" and "thuggish tactics" -- and later (being the paragon of civility that she is) told David Brock to "stick it":
Morgan then attacked "the hate from David Brock at Media Matters" and warned that she and her co-hosts "would not be intimidated by your thuggish tactics." One of Morgan's co-hosts, known as Officer Vic, also accused Media Matters of extortion: "[H]ere we have people using the First Amendment ... as a tool or a club. ... [W]hen you start taking financial action, you start going after people's jobs, taking money away from them, using, ostensibly, the First Amendment as the excuse and a tool, then you get into what could be called extortion." Later, when Morgan asserted that Media Matters was "clearly monitoring and taping us right now and will be regurgitating in a slanted and biased manner," co-host Lee Rodgers replied, "Dave, baby, stick it!" -- presumably referring to David Brock. Rodgers also claimed that Brock's letter was part of an "orchestrated ... left-wing-financed campaign to try to silence any opposing voices" and promised that "this will be taken out of context too, you know."

Best of all, Morgan, as the piece notes, is engaging in another right-wing classic -- raging hypocrisy:
During the same segment, Rodgers claimed: "I don't believe we've tried to silence anybody." But earlier in the program, Morgan had read from an email that called her "pathetic" because of a protest Morgan led in 2004 against Michael Moore's documentary Fahrenheit 9/11. At the time, Morgan said on CNN: "We're not asking anybody to boycott. We're asking them to communicate with the theater owners to tell them that it's not appreciated."

There's even more, of course. She also claimed the campaign is intended to get her fired, and whining that she's "getting all the e-mails." Awwwwww. Call the Waaaaambulance!

Well, I dunno about you, but I'm just stunned. After all, a lot of folks on the right have been extolling themselves as models of civility recently. Is this what they have in mind?

Bloggers in Wonderland

[Melanie Morgan and her Disney attorneys out hunting for bloggers.]

Environmental activists have long been familiar with the concept of SLAPPs: Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation. Basically, the idea is to hit citizen activists with lawsuits that, even if they have a solid case, would bankrupt them to fight, especially against the deep corporate pockets of the plaintiffs. It's a way of shutting down those annoying citizens who have enough chutzpah to stand up to moneyed interests.

Now it looks like Big Media is about to fight back against citizen bloggers with the same tactic.

No doubt you've read by now of the travails of Spocko, the little blogger down in the Bay Area who >decided to fight back against the hatemongering being spewed over the public airwaves from the Disney-owned AM station KSFO. He did this primarily by posting excerpts of their spew on his blog, and then writing to the shows' sponsors and asking if they wanted to be associated with that kind of "entertainment."

It was working; at least one major account, from Visa, withdrew from sponsoring programs at KSFO. So just before Christmas, Disney attorneys threatened his ISP with a lawsuit, claiming his excerpts violated their copyright.

As Media Matters notes:
This letter-writing campaign apparently got results, as major advertisers such as MasterCard, Bank of America, and Visa reportedly pulled their ads from the station. But as numerous blogs have noted in recent days, on December 21, ABC Inc., a subsidiary of the Disney-ABC Television Group, apparently issued a cease-and-desist letter targeting Spocko and his blog for copyright violation. Specifically, ABC alleged that by posting brief audio clips of various talk radio hosts on KSFO, the site was "in clear violation" of the station's copyright. The letter demanded that the owner of the site "remove the content immediately." Soon after, according to Spocko, his Internet service provider shut down his blog.

Spocko, fortunately, was able to find another ISP and has his blog back up, though not all the sound files have been restored yet.

Interestingly, Morgan and Co. went back on the air today, claiming that it is they whose free-speech rights are being attacked here:
"We have been under attack here at KSFO radio," Morgan stated on January 11, in response to the increased coverage of the controversy. "It is something that has been quite disturbing to us at a number of levels but we are prepared to fight back against people who are trying to get us fired here at KSFO radio and who are trying to deprive us of a livelihood and who are trying to deprive us of our free speech rights."

Let's be clear: Getting to use the public airwaves to broadcast your opinions is not a right -- in fact, it's a privilege extended to very few people in this country. The rest of us are relegated to such means of exercising those rights the usual way -- writing letters to the editor, making streetcorner speeches, publishing a blog, whatever.

If Melanie Morgan's sponsors decide they don't want to underwrite her hatemongering, that isn't taking away her rights, only her extraordinary privileges. If she wants to continue speaking, she still can, just as the rest of us do. She could, say, start a blog.

But that, you see, is exactly the kind of speech she and her cohorts are trying to silence.

There are all kinds of free-speech issues at stake here -- but nearly every one of them involves Disney's attempts to quash Spocko's free-speech rights. The excerpts he posted clearly fall under classic "fair use" clauses regarding copyright law. More significantly, the posts represent classic political speech, and as such enjoy the fullest constitutional protection the law affords.
Declining to offer any specifics, she claimed Spocko had highlighted "these audio clips which are out of context, old, or in some cases just outright lies."

Can someone explain to me how an audio clip could be "an outright lie"? I understand the whole context issue, but if you say something on air, and it's recorded, then it's incontestable that you said it.
Morgan went on to assert that Spocko "has been joined by some very dangerous and frightening fringe-left groups in this country" and specifically singled out Media Matters. "This is all going through Media Matters," she said.

Morgan further announced that KSFO would be pre-empting its regularly scheduled programming on January 12 to air a live special intended to "hit back against those people who are trying to silence us and take away our free speech rights, get us fired, thrown off the air, because they don't like what we have to say." She explained that she and the other KSFO hosts targeted by Spocko -- Brian Sussman and Morgan's Morning Show co-hosts, Lee Rodgers and Officer Vic -- would host the special program, which she said would last "three hours or however long it takes to answer all the questions." Morgan invited "the public as well as the media as well as bloggers to participate in this."

Morgan's bizarre paranoia no doubt will be onstage for this broadcast. Note what she says about Spocko:
But he thinks that he is a very powerful individual now, and he's had his stalker friends on the Internet join with him, including a man named by the name of Mike Stark, who actually stalked Senator Allen -- Senator George Allen's campaign. This is all going through Media Matters, being coordinated as a strike against us through Media Matters, and by us I mean Lee Rodgers, I mean myself, I mean Officer Vic, and I mean Brian Sussman. I'm not going to get into any more details about this, other than to say that tomorrow morn -- tomorrow at noon [Pacific time], we're going to do something we have never done before here at KSFO.

Of course, we've witnessed Disney's gradual transformation into a right-wing propaganda organ this past year, embodied by their faux "docudrama" blaming Bill Clinton for Sept. 11 and painting the Bush administration as essentially blameless in the matter -- a film created by a right-woing religious organization. When called on it, the network worked hard to cover its tracks.

It's worth remembering just what it was that Morgan and her fellow KSFO talk jocks said on the air that drew the attention of Spocko and sent her sponsors fleeing. As I noted previously, what they've specialized in is vile eliminationist rhetoric that creates a mindset in which violence against liberals and anyone else they disagree with is acceptable:
-- Laughing with Coulter about executing New York Times editor Bill Keller.

-- Agreeing with guest Peter Mulhern as he says, "A great deal of good could be done by arresting Bill Keller having him lined up against the wall and shot."

-- Joking with "Officer Vic" as he imitates Keller being electrocuted.

-- Joking about killing a black man after torturing him. (This clip features co-host Lee Rogers talking about shooting a black man between the eyes and torturing him by attaching electrodes to his testicles while Morgan laughs.)

-- At the end of a shared rant describing their utter loathing for all liberals, her co-host, Rogers, warning that "the day will come when unpleasant things are going to happen to a bunch of stupid liberals and it's going to be very amusing to watch."

It's one thing for these things to be spewed on-air with no consequences whatever. Thanks to Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage, we've grown accustomed to that.

Rhetoric like this is offered as mere "entertainment" and "hyperbole," but it has a much more serious and broader effect. It essentially lodges in the public mind the notion that the solution to their problems is to eliminate liberals violently. It's more than just about encouraging others to act -- when it's broadcast on the public airwaves, it amounts to giving permission for this kind of behavior.

And when a corporate entity seeks, under the color of law, to silence anyone who would stand up against this kind of talk, it amounts to broad, semi-official support for it.

But in Melanie Morgan's own little upside-down Wonderland -- in which she has made herself the Queen, demanding "off with their heads!" -- she is the one being persecuted. And Disney is just her noble protector.

Maybe we bloggers should just stick to singing "It's a Bush Bush World". Or will Disney sue us for that?

TRex at Firedoglake has some suggestions about how you can fight back.

Coming shortly: An interview with Spocko himself.

The GI Bill Returns

Sara Robinson

This morning, Senator Jim Webb (D-Virginia) introduced a fully-restored version of the original GI Bill, which will guarantee tuition, books, fees, and a $1,000/month stipend to soldiers who have completed their service with an honorable discharge. It's about time.

My father and stepfather were both the first men in their families to attend college, thanks to the GI Bill. Both of them were lifted out of families that did farm and factory work into the professions by this opportunity. The difference in their fortunes -- and mine -- as a result of this is hard to overstate.

That's a story that can be told probably 40 million times over. The great rising middle class of the postwar era -- and most of the preposterous wealth of the Boomer generation -- was created, almost entirely, by this one act.

My only concern about it is that, as long as the military culture remains so hostile and dangerous to women, this is going to be a huge social benefit that will be allocated almost entirely to men. If we were a truly functional social democracy, everyone who had the chops to go to college would get a free or subsidized education (as happens in many other, poorer countries: if Costa Rica can manage this, why can't we?). Making college help contingent on military service -- and then creating a military environment that subjects up to 80% of its female service members to harassment, violence, and rape -- means that the men of this generation now have access to a huge financial benefit that will not be accessible to most women unless they consent to endure criminal behavior without complaint.

As a result, we're going to end up twenty years from now with a lot more educated men than women -- and growing gender wage and career disparities as a result. If we don't want to perpetuate gender inequality this way, we need to make damn sure to protect our female soldiers' rights to this perk by accompanying it with a thoroughgoing cleanup of the military's bad attitude about women.

Senator Webb, can we count on you to make sure our servicewomen get a fair shot at their educations, too?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Overloading the Memory Hole

Sara Robinson

As Harper's predicted in an excellent article way back last summer, the conservative "stab in the back" crowd is rushing forward to paint Democratic opposition to the "surge" as the One And Only Reason We Lost The War.

They're reaching for this, of course, because it worked so well for them after Vietnam. (Damn dirty peacenik hippies -- and my plan would've worked, if it hadn't been for you meddling kids!) And they got away with it then because Vietnam was, in large measure, a war that could be credibly hung around the neck of the Democratic party. It was started by JFK, escalated by LBJ, ratified by a decade of Democratic Congresses, and finally ended by a Republican president. For the 30 years since, the conservative story, repeated endlessly, is that the Democrats don't have the guts or the brains for war -- and Exhibit A is the fiasco of Vietnam.

(World War II, a Democratic triumph well-remembered by most of the people who started this storyline, evidently didn't count any more. Which is interesting, considering that the Harper's article also notes the Nazi origins of this rhetorical tactic. It appears to be a fascist favorite.)

Remembering these warnings, it was sickening to listen to the pundits -- as I did last night on MSNBC -- holding forth on how the Dems in Congress are now terrified of being put in the same position again; and how the Republicans have them tied in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't position when it comes to standing up for de-escalation and phased withdrawal. It'll be Vietnam all over again, the talking heads insisted. There's no step the Democrats can take on Iraq that won't leave this one tied around their necks for the next three decades, too. If they force Bush to leave now, Republicans will accuse them of undermining The Plan. (There was a plan? Do tell.) If they don't, a Democratic president will be stuck cleaning up the mess in 2009. (Guess what: cleaning up GOP messes is nothing new for Democratic administrations.)

If our new Congressional Dems really are falling for this piece of GOP bullshit, we need to rush to our phones and keyboards and set them straight, today. Iraq may be terrifyingly like Vietnam in some very critical ways -- but this is one place the analogy does not hold. And the only way the GOP is going to sell that back-stabbing myth again this time is if they manage -- if we allow them -- to stuff some very big facts down the memory hole.

The fact is that this war, from its ill-conceived beginning to its ignominious end, is a 100% pure GOP production. From the mad utopians at PNAC to the planners at the Bush Administration (who were largely the same people); from the House to the Senate; from 2000 to 2006; you're looking at wall-to-wall Republicans. There were more than a few Republicans in the mix during Vietnam; but virtually no Democrats (with the sorry exception of Joe Lieberman) have been involved in creating this noxious disaster.

The fact is that they lost the war the day the White House stopped listening to the intelligence agencies, and started listening to the echo chamber in their own empty heads.

They lost the war the day Colin Powell stood up and lied to the world about Saddam's threat.

They lost the war, even before it started, every time an administration official got on TV and told the American people vast whoppers about the plans and purposes of the war -- lies that were being told on pretty much a weekly basis throughout 2002 and into 2003, as this Mother Jones website clearly shows.

They lost the war the day they sent Eric Shinseki and his requested 400,000 troops packing, and tore up longstanding Pentagon plans for how to invade, occupy, and rebuild a country.

They lost the war the day they secured the Oil Ministry instead of the streets, public buildings, and national monuments -- and the weapons depots from which the materials for IEDs are still coming.

They lost the war the day Donald Rumsfeld said "Free people are free to commit crimes and make mistakes and do bad things" -- essentially giving carte blanche to a regime of anarchy.

They lost the war, big time, the day they disbanded the Iraqi Army; and the day (right about that same week) that they decreed that the rebuilding jobs would go to overpaid Americans instead of the millions of desperate Iraqis who needed good jobs and intact cities to maintain the cultural, economic, and physical infrastructure of civilization.

They lost the war when they failed to give American troops effective cultural training, including basic language training and sufficient translator support. This resulted in countless Iraqi deaths based on nothing more than miscommunication; and ensured that American soldiers and Iraqis would come to despise each other. It did not have to be this way.

They lost the war when the Republican Congress swallowed its own doubts -- and even the growing fears about its own incumbency -- to continue to ratify this war.

They have lost the war a hundred other ways in the four years since -- because, as I am by no means the first to point out, this was intended from the start to be a generation-long war, which would rage from India to Israel, from Turkey to Tehran. There was never a plan for victory. There was only the plan to create as much chaos as it would take, for as long as it would take, to ensure that in the end the US energy companies would control the taps on the Middle East's oil supply, and thus ensure American control over a rising China for several decades to come.

The only way the "stabbed in the back" myth is going to work this time is if the GOP manages to make everybody forget every little bit of the above history. And Lord knows they’re working overtime to make that happen: it's why they sneer at "blaming Democrats," and insist that we only talk about what's happening now, instead of how we got here. What's done is done. We must look ahead.

We know the Memory Hole is pretty damned big -- but this needs to be the flush that finally breaks the pipes. When Democratic leaders buy into this alleged need to forget, and promote deliberate amnesia as the route to bipartisan harmony, they're setting the stage that will, very soon, enable the GOP to make the old story stick. They must not do this. EVER. Every Democrat from Nancy Pelosi on down needs to remind America and the GOP, day in and day out, that this is their war, a war held at a time and place of their choosing, a war that their Decider decided on, a war that they supported for four miserable years, a war that they mismanaged into disaster with absolutely no help from anyone -- mainly because there was no one they were willing to listen to anyway.

Of course they'd like to stick us with the blame. While Dad was sleeping, the six-year-olds have had the full run of the house. Now Mom's back -- and is being forced to deal with the stopped-up potties and the empty fridge and the fire in the garage and the holes in the sheetrock. Yes, she's angry. Yes, she's demanding accountability (blaming), and doling out consequences (accountability). Yes, she is a mean mommy. And no, you do not get to blame her for behaving like a responsible adult, cleaning up the mess and calling the plumber and paying the bills and patching things up with the neighbors after you've gone and destroyed the entire house.

Any woman with a mother-of-five voice should instantly recognize -- and instinctively know how to deal with -- a pack of whining, petulant, irresponsible children who attempt to duck the blame for a fantasy game of army men gone horribly out of control. And the last thing she should accept from them is, "And it's all YOUR fault." A Real Mom would simply roll her eyes derisively, laugh out loud at the sheer audacity of the claim -- and tack another decade onto the time they're set to be grounded for even trying such a ridiculous dodge.

You can bet she's not going to forget this one for a long, long time. And she'll make damn sure you can't help but remember it, too.


Some items of note ...

-- Orcinus had its fourth blogiversary on Monday. I'm still wondering how I've managed to keep people reading it all these years, let alone how I still manage to keep writing ...

-- I'm quoted in this excellent piece by Bill Berkowitz in Media Transparency about Rick Santorum's new gig exposing "America's enemies".

-- Meanwhile, if you're in the post-holiday giving mood, go give Gary at Amygdala some love. He desperately needs it.

-- Speaking of fundraisers, I'll be having one here later this month, after I finish up the current series on eliminationism.

-- And speaking of that (hint hint) nominations are open for this year's Koufax Awards. People have been extraordinarily kind to me in the past in these awards, so anything that comes my way now is just gravy.

However, before the year has buried it permanently, I'd like to direct at least some of you to this post, which I think a lot of people missed because it looks, at first glance, like a "ruminations from my summer vacation" post. If you take the time to read it, you'll see it is that ... and a lot more. In fact, I poured my guts into that one.

UPDATE: Arrrrgh. Because I'm an obtuse fellow who's used to doing this as a solo gig, I of course completely forgot to mention that Sara, my co-blogger, has also written not just one but two Koufax-worthy series, both of which are listed on the sidebar. But just for the sake of helping y'all out, remember these at nomination time: Cracks in the Wall: Parts I, II, and III, and Tunnels and Bridges: Parts I, II, III, and IV, plus a Short Detour.
Sara's also written some standalone posts that have been great as well.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Eliminationism in America: VI

[Continuing a ten-part series.]

Parts I, II, III and IV, and V.

Part VI: Strange Fruit

[The lynching of Jessie Washington, May 16, 1916: Waco, Texas.]

Southern trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees

Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

-- Lewis Allen, "Strange Fruit" (popularized by Billie Holiday)

Slavery and war were the human institutions most closely related to eliminationism as it was practiced historically, proceeding as they did from the same dark, violent corner of the human psyche -- the one in which resides the impulse to dominate our fellow humans, along with its cornermate, the impulse to reduce our fellow humans to mere objecthood.

Thus the lion's share of the eliminationism practiced by the European colonists in the Americas had gone hand in hand with warmaking and enslavement. Most of the violent eradication of the native population -- particularly the extermination of the straggling remnant of Indians in North America after 1800 -- had occurred under the pretense of waging war, which itself was merely a pretext for taking land. And in the early years, at least, when the Spanish took many hundreds of thousands of Mesoamericans as forced labor for their mines -- which was itself a death sentence -- slavery played a significant role in the natives' extermination, both physically and culturally; even those slaves kept alive were usually forced conversos for whom observing any of their traditional rites or ceremonies was punishable by death.

The natives, however, were seen in quite distinct terms from the Africans captured as slaves and brought to American shores by the colonists. The former were identified with the wilderness and were the equivalent of untameable beasts, which played a large role in the white settlers' inclination toward rubbing them out. But African slaves were seen as completely subservient and thus a negligible threat.

This may explain why, during the years leading up to the Civil War, blacks in the South were rarely the victims of lynchings -- since they were viewed as property, it was considered an act of theft to kill someone else's slave. The main exception to this was directly related to those occasions in which the slaves were perceived as actual threats -- namely, putting down slave revolts.

The fear of black insurrection (and there were a handful of real slave revolts, notably Nat Turner's 1831 Virginia rebellion, in which some sixty whites were killed) was so pervasive among Southerners that any rumor that one might occur could bring swift death to the alleged conspirators, even if, as was often the case, it later turned out there were no such plans. In any event, when lynching did occur in the years before the Civil War, the victims predominantly were whites. Many of these were in the antebellum South, where lynch-mob treatment was often administered to abolitionists and other "meddlers."

If blacks' slave status largely protected them from racial violence before the Civil War, then its abolition also left them remarkably vulnerable to such assaults upon the South's defeat. Certainly, once emancipated, they became seen as a real threat to whites, and particularly to their dominant status; much of this perception, particularly regarding the violent nature of the newly freed blacks, as we shall see, was more an illusion produced by psychological projection than real in any meaningful way.

This became immediately manifest, during Reconstruction, when black freedmen were subjected to a litany of attacks at the hands of their former owners that went utterly unpunished. As documented by Philip Dray in his definitive study, At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America, these crimes turned up in hospital records and field reports from the federal Freedmen's Bureau, all of which described a variety of clubbings, scalpings, mutilations, hangings and even immolations of former slaves, all within the first year after Appomattox.

In 1866, the violence became discernibly more organized with the emergence of the Ku Klux Klan, which originated with a clique of Confederate veterans in Pulaski, Tennessee, and spread like wildfire throughout the South. Initially much of the Klan night riders’ activities were relegated to whippings, a punishment intended to remind the ex-slaves of their former status. But as the assaults on blacks increased, so did the intensity of the violence visited on them, culminating in a steady stream of Klan lynchings between 1868 and 1871 (when the Klan was officially outlawed by the Grant Administration); at least one study puts the number at 20,000 blacks killed by the Klan in that period. In the ensuing years, the violence did little to decline, and in fact worsened, despite the Klan's official banishment.

David M. Chalmers in Hooded Americanism: The History of the Ku Klux Klan, describes the early Klansmen was drawing from both the upper and lower strata of society, but unquenchably violent [p. 10]:
The method of the Klan was violence. It threatened, exiled, flogged, mutilated, shot, stabbed, and hanged. It disposed of Negroes who were no respectful, or committed crimes, or belonged to military or political organizations such as the Loyal and Union Leagues. It drove out Northern schoolteachers and Yankee storekeepers and politicians, and "took care" of Negroes who gained land and prospered, or made inflammatory speeches or talked about equal rights. It assaulted carpetbag judges, intimidated juries, and spirited away prisoners. It attacked officials who registered Negroes, who did not give whites priority, or who foreclosed property.

The Klan's violence, however, was not broadly eliminationist, but rather carefully channeled. Its clear intent was not to drive out blacks generally -- they were, after all, a valuable source of labor -- but to keep them under the thumb of their white "superiors." The chief means of doing this, however, entailed eliminating anyone who might pose even the slightest hint of a threat to the status of whites, particularly "interlopers" and "outsiders" who arrived after the war to help the freed slaves get on their feet:
Although Klansmen occasionally sortied out across the moonlit countryside to punish criminal behavior, they most frequently called upon Radicals, Union and Loyal Leaguers, Republican candidates, and Northern schoolteachers. The purposes were clearly to destroy the basis of Negro political effectiveness by driving out its leaders, white and black. The particular opposition to schoolteachers seems based on the reasoning that the Negro was not capable of learning anything other than polticial insurrection and insolence toward whites, and in the years before the war, teaching a Negro to read had been a serious crime. In eastern Mississippi the new institution of public schooling had to face the added problem of economic depression. During a period when times were hard and Reconstruction had made labor uncertain and elevated livestock theft to a common profession, the farmers were called upon to pay taxes for a new school system which they feared might eventually mingle white and Negro schoolchildren. The response was a veritable reign of terror which saw schools burned and teachers whipped, tortured, murdered, and driven out of the state.

Francis Simkins' study of the South Carolina Klan observed that the Klan's campaign was "against the Negro as a citizen -- one attempting to be a voter and at times, the social equal of other men -- rather than against the Negro as a violator of law or the infringer upon the rights of other men." So to rationalize away their own wanton criminality, the Klan and its supporters relied on rhetoric aimed to convince the public of the criminality of the black population.

The chief purpose of the Klan, as Exalted Cyclops Ryland Randolph of South Carolina put it, was to stop what they saw as an insidious Northern plan "to degrade the white man by the establishment of Negro supremacy" -- though, of course, their actual purpose was to degrade the black man by the establishment of white supremacy. This kind of precisely mirrored projection was present in nearly every aspect of white racial hatred toward blacks, particularly regarding the most common defense for the wave of lynching that was to follow -- namely, that it was a natural community defense against savagely lascivious black men and their wanton desire to rape white women.

Sexual paranoia, rooted in long-held Christian European notions about sexuality that associated it with sinfulness, with the "muck" of nature and the wilderness, was central to the lynching phenomenon. In the years following black emancipation -- during which time a previously tiny class of black criminals became swelled by the ranks of impoverished former slaves -- a vast mythology arose surrounding black men's supposed voracious lust for white women.

"The Negro race," after all, was still closely associated with the jungles of Africa, the "heart of darkness" in the European mind; and sexual voraciousness was assumed in such folk, for though tame they might be, they still were scarcely a step removed from wild men of the jungle themselves; still scarcely human. Yet this was a legend for which in truth there was scant evidence, and one that stands in stark contrast to (and perhaps has its psychological roots in) the reality of white men's longtime sexual domination of black women, particularly during the slavery era.

In any event, the omnipresence of the threat of rape of white women by black men came to be almost universally believed by American whites. Likewise, conventional wisdom held that lynchings were a natural response to this threat: "The mob stands today as the most potent bulwark between the women of the South and such a carnival of crime as would infuriate the world and precipitate the annihilation of the Negro race," warned John Temple Graves, editor of the Atlanta Constitution. Such views were common not merely in the South, but among Northerners as well. The New York Herald, for instance, lectured its readers: "[T]he difference between bad citizens who believe in lynch law, and good citizens who abhor lynch law, is largely in the fact that the good citizens live where their wives and daughters are perfectly safe."

The cries of rape, for many whites in both South and North, raised fears not merely of sexual violence but of racial mixing, known commonly as "miscegenation," which was specifically outlawed in some 30 states. White supremacy was not only commonplace, it was in fact the dominant worldview of Americans in the 19th and early 20th centuries; most Caucasians believed they represented Nature's premier creation (having been informed this by a broad range of social scientists of the period, whose views eventually coalesced into the pseudo-science known as eugenics), and that any "dilution" of those strains represented a gross violation of the natural order. Thus it was not surprising that a number of lynching incidents actually resulted from the discovery of consensual relations between a black man and a white woman.

Underlying the stated fear of black rape, moreover, was a broad fear of economic and cultural domination of white Americans by blacks and various other "outsiders," including Jews. These fears were acute in the South, where blacks became a convenient scapegoat for the mesh of poverty that lingered in the decades following the Civil War. Lynching in fact was frequently inspired not by criminality, but by any signs of economic and social advancement by blacks who, in the view of whites, had become too "uppity."

There were, of course, other components of black suppression: segregation in the schools, disenfranchisement of the black vote, and the attendant Jim Crow laws that were common throughout the South. But lynching was the linchpin in the system, so to speak, because it was in effect state-supported terrorism whose stated intent was to suppress blacks and other minorities, in no small part by eliminating non-whites as competitors for economic gain. These combined to give lynching a symbolic value as a manifestation of white supremacy. The lynch mob was not merely condoned but in fact celebrated as an expression of the white community’s will to keep African-Americans in their thrall. As a phrase voiced commonly in the South expressed it, lynching was a highly effective means of "keeping the niggers down."

As Chalmers describes the early Klan violence:
[I]n addition to lynching for rape ... the Klan whipped for sass, insolence or theft. Here and elsewhere, industrious Negroes who improved their farms also received attention from the Klan.

Other suffered because they violated the racial mores. The Klan punished Negroes who associated with poor white women. White prostitutes in South Carolina accused of receiving Negroes were tarred and driven away. A Negro was killed and his daughter was whipped because she had "caused some embarrassment" to a white family by beating the child of one of its members. Another Negro girl was beaten for "breaking the peace" between a wife and her husband.

Many of the poor, ignorant, illiterate South Carolina men, who later confessed in open court, pleaded that they had only joined the Klan to avoid becoming its victims. Their night riding had been crudely conceived and carried out, with none of the dash and the disciplined planning that marked much of the Klan activity elsewhere. Generally speaking, however, the leadership, if not the rank and file, represented some of the best elements of society, with the younger men usually the most venturesome. Acts of violence were usually applauded by the conservative press and justified then, and afterward, by the always allegedly bad reputation of the victims.

Moreover, in addition to the night-riding type of terrorist attacks, mass spectacle lynchings soon appeared. These were ritualistic mob scenes in which prisoners or even men merely suspected of crimes were often torn from the hands of authorities (if not captured beforehand) by large crowds and treated to beatings and torture before being put to death, frequently in the most horrifying fashion possible: people were flayed alive, had their eyes gouged out with corkscrews, and had their bodies mutilated before being doused in oil and burned at the stake. Black men were sometimes forced to eat their own hacked-off genitals. No atrocity was considered too horrible to visit on a black person, and no pain too unimaginable to inflict in the killing. (When whites, by contrast, were lynched, the act almost always was restricted to simple hanging.)

A classic instance of this occurred in the little East Texas town of Center, about sixty miles due north of Jasper, in 1920. The victim was a black teenager named Lige Daniels, who was accused of killing an elderly white woman who lived in Center. When word reached the governor that mob violence was imminent, he wired the captain of the Seventh Cavalry stationed nearby to protect the prisoner. The cavalry, however, never showed. The captain later explained that he had been unable to "find any members of his company in time for mobilization."

So at about noon on August 3, 1920, a mob of about one thousand men stormed the Center jail, knocked down the steel doors, and dragged Daniels outside, where they proceeded to beat him severely. A rope was thrown over a nearby oak tree, and Daniels was then hung.

A photo postcard that was available for many years afterward, mostly in the backwaters of trinket shops, recorded the event. It is a remarkable photo, and not only for the warm glow of the sun peering through the oak tree and bathing Lige Daniels' corpse, hanging from the bough, in an almost angelic light. What makes the portrait unforgettable instead is the crowd gathered below—stern-faced fathers and laborers, all looking quite proud of themselves; and a handful of children. One young boy (he appears to be about ten), dressed in his Sunday shirt and tie, is beaming beatifically. He probably remembered that day till he died.

There were many such postcards. Perhaps the most notorious were those from the lynching of another black teenager, Jessie Washington, by a mob of several thousand residents of Waco, Texas, on May 16, 1916. Washington, who was retarded, had confessed to the murder of an elderly Waco resident. At the moment his conviction (with four minutes' deliberation by a white jury) was announced, the mob surged forward into the courtroom and dragged Washington outside, where he was stripped, beaten, stabbed, and wrapped with a chain, which was draped over a tree limb, just above a pyre of wooden crates. Washington was then jerked twice into the air, and his body lowered onto the pyre, where he was sprinkled with coal oil and set alight.

Afterward, mob members proudly strung the charred corpse back up for a brief public display, after which Washington's body was lassoed by a horseman and dragged around the town until the skull bounced loose. Some motorists then tossed his remains into a black bag, tied it to the back bumper of their car, and tooled around the countryside with it in tow. A constable finally retrieved the bag from a nearby town, where it was left hanging.

The lynchings of Daniels and Washington were mere drops in an ocean of bloodshed. Between 1882 and 1942, according to statistics compiled by the Tuskegee Institute, there were 4,713 lynchings in the United States, of which 3,420 involved black victims. Mississippi topped the list, with 520 blacks lynched during that time period, while Georgia was a close second with 480; Texas' 339 ranked third. And most scholars acknowledge that these numbers probably are well short of the actual total, since many lynchings (particularly in the early years of the phenomenon) were often backwoods affairs that went utterly unrecorded. In that era, it was not at all uncommon for a black man to simply disappear; sometimes his body might wash up in one of the local rivers, and sometimes not.

The violence reached a fever pitch in the years 1890-1902, when 1,322 lynchings of blacks (out of 1,785 total lynchings) were recorded at Tuskegee, which translates into an average of over 110 lynchings a year. The trend began to decline afterward, but continued well into the 1930s, leading some historians to refer to the years 1880-1930 as the "lynching period" of American culture.

There are many postcards that recorded these lynchings, because the participants were rather proud of their involvement. This is clear from the postcards themselves -- many of which can be seen at the Without Sanctuary site -- as they frequently showed not merely the corpse of the victim but many of the mob members, whose visages ranged from grim to grinning. Sometimes, as in the Lige Daniels case, children were intentionally given front-row views. A lynching postcard from Florida in 1935, of a migrant worker named Rubin Stacy who had allegedly "threatened and frightened a white woman," shows a cluster of young girls gathered round the tree trunk, the oldest of them about 12, with a beatific expression as she gazes on his distorted features and limp body, a few feet away.

Indeed, lynchings seemed to be cause for outright celebration in the community. Residents would dress up to come watch the proceedings, and the crowds of spectators frequently grew into the thousands. Afterwards, memento-seekers would take home parts of the corpse or the rope with which the victim was hung. Sometimes body parts -- knuckles, or genitals, or the like -- would be preserved and put on public display as a warning to would-be black criminals.

That was the purported moral purpose of these demonstrations, at least in the South: Not only to utterly wipe out any black person merely accused of a crimes against whites, but to do it in a fashion intended to warn off future perpetrators. This was reflected in contemporary press accounts, which described the lynchings in almost uniformly laudatory terms, with the victim's guilt unquestioned, and the mob identified only as "determined men." Not surprisingly, local officials (especially local police forces) not only were complicit in many cases, but they acted in concert to keep the mob leaders anonymous; thousands of coroners’ reports from lynchings merely described the victims’ deaths occurring "at the hands of persons unknown." Lynchings were broadly viewed as simply a crude, but understandable and even necessary, expression of community will. This was particularly true in the South, where blacks were viewed as symbolic of the region's continuing economic and cultural oppression by the North. As an 1899 editorial in the Newnan, Georgia, Herald and Advertiser explained it: "It would be as easy to check the rise and fall of the ocean's tide as to stem the wrath of Southern men when the sacredness of our firesides and the virtue of our women are ruthlessly trodden under foot."

Thus the numbers of deaths produced by the lynching phenomenon only hint at their impact, which broadly affected literally millions of more Americans, effectively keeping them in the thrall of terror that their white neighbors might, with the least provocation, murder them horribly.

Of course, the threat of the rape of white women and other pretenses for lynching presented handy pretexts for these horrors. As always, the violence was predicated on a fear of future violence; lynching was excused as a preemptive act.

Yet in reality a black person could be lynched for literally no reason at all -- in some cases, simply for defending himself from physical assault, or for just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Lynching laughed at the notion of blacks advancing through hard work; moderately prosperous blacks who managed to do so were often the first targets of angry lynch mobs intent on dealing with "uppity" blacks.

Lynchings unquestionably had the short-term desired effect of suppressing blacks' civil rights; the majority of African Americans in the South during that era led lives of quiet submission in the hope of escaping that horrific fate, and relatively few aspired beyond their established station in life. Those who did often migrated northward, where lynchings were hardly unknown (some of the most notorious occurred in places like Indiana and Minnesota, and they in fact were recorded in nearly every state in the Union), but were not as endemic. However, the awfulness of the mobs' brutality, often reported and photographed in gruesome detail, ultimately also inspired a reaction that gave birth to the Civil Rights movement and eventually the demise of the racial caste system lynching was intended to enforce.

The first voices raised against lynching were heard in the 1890s, even as the bloodbath was cresting. Civil-rights pioneer Ida B. Wells, a well-educated black woman who had risen to the editorship of a leading black newspaper in Memphis, began questioning the myths underlying the popular rationale for condoning the killings. As she gathered statistics about lynching, she noted, for instance, that even though the threat of black rape was the foremost excuse for the phenomenon, in fewer than one-third of the lynchings was rape even alleged. (Later, more complete statistics particularly bore this out; congressional testimony in 1922 indicated that only 28.4 percent of the blacks lynched between 1889 and 1918 had been accused of raping or attempting to assault a white woman. This remained the case over time as well; the Tuskegee Institute's lynching data for 1882 to 1951 indicate that lynching victims were accused 41 percent of the time of felonious assault, 19.2 percent of rape, 6.1 percent of attempted rape, 4.9 percent of robbery and theft, 1.8 percent of insulting white people, and 27 percent for miscellaneous offenses. Moreover, among the lynching victims between 1882 and 1927 were 76 black women.) Often the accusations of rape were completely spurious.

Indeed, in two-thirds of the cases, Wells found, lynchings were for incredibly petty crimes such as stealing hogs and quarreling with neighbors. A black person could easily face an agonizing death at the hands of a mob merely for trying to vote, or for testifying against a white man or getting into a fight with him, or asking a white woman to marry -- and sometimes for no offense at all.

Wells also attacked the myth of black men's sexual voraciousness. She adroitly observed that during the Civil War, many slave owners willingly left their wives and daughters in the care of their black manservants, who were frequently entrusted with the defense of the home during those years. And if black men were prone to sexual assault, there was little evidence of it before the war as well; contemporary historian Ulrich B. Phillips, for instance, examined Virginia's court and criminal records from 1783 to 1863, and found only 105 blacks convicted of sexual assault over the eighty-year span.

Wells (who became Ida Wells-Barnett in 1895 after her marriage to Chicago attorney Ferdinand Barnett) ultimately published her findings in a widely distributed 1901 book titled Lynching and the Excuse. She was soon joined in her crusade by other leading African Americans, including W. E. B. DuBois, Frederick Douglass and William Monroe Trotter. It was their view that the systematic oppression of black Americans needed to be confronted directly, and lynching was the system's most egregious component. In 1905, DuBois, Wells-Barnett, and other black leaders organized the Niagara Movement to demand full citizenship rights for African Americans: freedom of speech, an "unfettered and unsubsidized" press, full voting rights, full civil liberties, and recognition of the principle of human brotherhood. The Niagara Movement's manifesto, written mostly by DuBois, did not address lynching directly, but observed: "The Negro race in America -- stolen, ravished, and degraded, struggling up through difficulties and oppression -- needs sympathy and receives criticism, needs help and is given hindrance, needs protection and is given mob-violence, needs justice and is given charity, needs leadership and is given cowardice and apology, needs bread and is given a stone. This nation will never stand justified before God until these things are changed."

However, the leading black figure of the time in the minds of most Americans was Booker T. Washington of Alabama's Tuskegee Institute, acclaimed for its pioneering work in education young black people. His famed 1895 speech (which came to be known as the "Atlanta Compromise") before a mostly white audience at the Atlanta Exposition had counseled black Americans to give up agitation for political rights and social equality in exchange for the opportunity to work and prove themselves, suggesting that racial segregation was an acceptable and perhaps even desirable state. Washington urged blacks to steer away from dreams of returning to Africa: "Cast down your bucket where you are," he counseled. Instead, he admonished them to focus their efforts on their own resourcefulness and hard work, and to emphasize the honor of common labor. For these sentiments, Washington was widely praised by white politicians across the American spectrum, but other black leaders were unconvinced. The Niagara Movement, with its emphasis on open agitation for blacks' civil rights, represented a direct challenge to Washington's compromise.

Though this nascent organization mostly foundered, its underlying principles came fully to life in 1909, when DuBois, Wells-Barnett, and other Niagara leaders joined forces with white civil-rights reformers to create the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The NAACP's principles were broad-ranging, but within the first year of its existence it became clear that the primary challenge it faced was in organizing a national campaign to combat the practice of lynching -- and for the ensuing three decades, leading the fight against lynching and mob violence was the organization's major preoccupation.

It was clear to the NAACP's leadership that Booker T. Washington's "compromise" was not only counterproductive, but his prescription for black Americans -- steady forward progress by embracing the all-American values of hard work, integrity and individual enterprise -- was in fact a recipe almost certain to invite vicious repercussions in the form of a lynch mob. As the NAACP began systematically compiling information about lynchings, it became clear that blacks who succeeded economically and socially (particularly those who became landowners) were the frequent targets of lynching, and any indications of civic advancement by blacks often met violent opposition. Among the many victims of lynchings were black postal clerks, grocery owners, farmers, and white-collar professionals, such as doctors. Black veterans returning from action in World War I were sometimes lynched merely for wearing their uniforms in public.

Likewise, it was becoming increasingly clear, even to the public, that the rationales proffered for decades to justify the lynch mobs' actions -- particularly the threat of black rape -- were not merely flimsy but entirely hollow, a cover for the real motivation for lynching, which was to terrorize and subjugate the black community. A 1918 lynching case drove this point home in horrific fashion.

It began on May 16 when a white landowner in rural Valdosta, Georgia, was shot to death at his home. His wife accused a black man named Sidney Johnson, and a lynch mob soon formed with the purpose of carrying out summary justice for the farmer's murder. However, when it was unable to locate Johnson, the mob turned its wrath on five black men who'd had the misfortune of being in the vicinity at the time and lynched them instead. Among the five was Haynes Turner, a former employee of the murdered farmer.

Turner's wife, Mary, was eight months pregnant, and when she heard of the murder, she vowed publicly to find the men responsible, swear out warrants against them, and ensure they were punished in the courts. Not surprisingly, her vow to seek justice doomed her; as an Associated Press report of the affair put it, Mary Turner had made "unwise remarks" about the execution of her husband, "and the people, in their indignant mood, took exceptions to her remarks, as well as her attitude." The local sheriff placed her under arrest, reportedly for her protection, but then surrendered her to a mob of several hundred white men and women -- as well as a number of children -- determined to "teach her a lesson."

At a place outside town called Folsom's Bridge, they stripped her, tied her ankles together, and hung her upside down from a tree. Dousing her with gasoline, they slowly roasted her to death. While she was still alive, a man using a knife ordinarily reserved for splitting hogs walked up and cut open the woman's abdomen. "Out tumbled the prematurely born child," wrote a news reporter covering the event. "Two feeble cries it gave -- and received for the answer the heel of a stalwart man, as life was ground out of the tiny form." Hundreds of bullets were then fired into Mary Turner's body. Sated, the mob left her body by the roadside. She and her child were buried in a shallow grave near the bridge.

Mary Turner's murder -- which made clear irrevocably that lynching more often than not had nothing to do with black rape -- made national headlines. On its heels came the "Red Summer" of 1919; there were seventy-six blacks lynched that year, but even more horrifying were the "race riots" that broke out in twenty-six cities, including Chicago; Washington, D.C.; Omaha, Nebraska; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Charleston, North Carolina; and Knoxville, Tennessee. These insurrections in fact were massive assaults by whites upon local black populations, often sparked by an imagined offense. In Tulsa, where a prosperous black population was literally bombed out of existence over two days of complete lawlessness, the rioting was set off by a black youth's alleged assault on a local white girl that later turned out to be harmless consensual contact. Nonetheless, a Tulsa newspaper had publicly called for the young man's lynching, and when a group of local blacks attempted to ward off a lynch mob, the fighting broke out. By the time the violence had subsided, as many as three hundred black people were believed killed, many of them buried in a mass grave, and thirty-five city blocks lay charred.

Such horrors, and many others of similar brutality, lent real credence to the NAACP's anti-lynching campaign. Its black-white coalition made steady gains in attaining widespread respect for its cause, both with public officials and the public at large, in the decade after its founding. A 1915 nationwide boycott of D. W. Griffith's film The Birth of a Nation (an overtly racist paean to the Ku Klux Klan and the virtues of the lynch mob), was reasonably successful and helped attract a broad range of supporters. Moreover, the fledgling organization worked tirelessly to lobby local and state officials about the pernicious nature of lynching and to act to correct the injustices.

Over the succeeding years, the NAACP's anti-lynching campaign gathered momentum, particularly during the fight in Congress over the Dyer Bill, the anti-lynching law passed by the House in 1922 but killed by Southern Democrats in the Senate. There were subsequent attempts to pass anti-lynching legislation. The Dyer Bill was resurrected in 1926, but again did not survive the Senate. In 1934, a pair of Democratic senators -- Colorado's Edward Costigan and New York's Robert Wagner -- offered a measure that would have punished law-enforcement officials who by neglect allowed their charges to be taken by a mob. Again the legislation had the NAACP's full-fledged backing, and again the public support was overwhelmingly in its favor (indeed, one poll found even that 65 percent of Southerners supported a federal law outlawing lynching). Ultimately, however, it met the same fate as the Dyer Bill; it passed handily in the House, only to succumb to a fatal filibuster by Southerners in the Senate. Two later efforts in the 1940s to pass anti-lynching legislation met similar fates.

These failures, however, were anything but. What no one expected was that even though the effort to enact federal anti-lynching laws did not succeed, the broad national debate it had inspired achieved nearly spectacular results in undermining the lynching phenomenon. By the 1930s lynching was no longer celebrated in the public view, but widely condemned as barbarous and unjust by nearly every responsible segment of society. Even in the South, the views of such Caucasian organizations as the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching had come to hold sway.

Over the course of the succeeding decade, from 1922 to 1932, lynching deaths -- which had somewhat steadily declined in frequency after 1904 anyway -- dropped dramatically, from fifty-nine black lynchings in 1922 to only six in 1932. The trend continued during the 1930s; only ninety-three black lynchings were recorded during the entire decade.

The nature of lynchings changed dramatically during this period -- driven, almost certainly, by the stigma that had become attached to mob justice, and the clear withdrawal of public sanction for such murders. The mass spectacle lynchings, which had seemingly reached their apex in the bloody "Red Summer" of 1919, virtually disappeared over the course of the 1920s. By the 1930s, lynchings had largely reverted back to the form in which they first manifested themselves during the early Reconstruction period: furtive affairs involving midnight riders, arsonists and shooters, usually involving only a handful of perpetrators. By 1952, when there were no black lynchings recorded at Tuskegee (though it must be noted that, even then, this did not necessarily none had occurred), the era of the lynch mob seemed to have become a thing of the past.

This watershed change in the American cultural landscape occurred with virtually no official or legal support from Washington, D.C. Congress, of course, never enacted an anti-lynching law. And the Supreme Court, for most of the lynching era, had declined to involve itself in lynching cases, preferring to leave them to the jurisdiction of state courts. A handful of decisions, however, gradually turned the tide in the courts, and simultaneously left a permanent impression on the larger body of criminal law: Moore v. Dempsey in 1923, which overruled the death sentences of six black men convicted (in a lynch-mob atmosphere) of insurrection following a rural Arkansas "race riot," for the first time stipulated that in light of the requirements of the Fourteenth Amendment, any denial of due process was the concern of the federal government; Powell v. Alabama in 1932, which overturned the verdict in the infamous case of the "Scottsboro Boys," nine itinerant black workers who were convicted on flimsy evidence of raping two white women, and which further stipulated that the right to an attorney was an indispensable part of due process; Norris v. Alabama in 1935, which overturned the third conviction delivered against the Scottsboro boys, on grounds that the exclusion of blacks from the jury violated the equal-protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; and finally Brown v. Mississippi in 1936, which found that a Southern sheriff’s extraction of a murder confession from a black suspect by torturing him was likewise a violation of a defendant’s constitutional rights. However, most of these rulings came well after the lynching era had begun its decline, and only Moore v. Dempsey -- delivered at a crucial juncture in the national debate -- could be said to have had any appreciable role in the sea change of public attitudes about mob justice.

Where the legal system failed, though, it is clear in retrospect that the moral suasion underlying the campaign to combat lynching succeeded. While the NAACP's campaign to pass a federal anti-lynching law fell short, its broader campaign to debunk the myths that had been used to defend lynching, and to permanently stigmatize the practice as inimical to basic American values of justice and fair play, were remarkably effective. It could be argued that this tends to support the position of Caucasian anti-lynching organizations like the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching, which had opposed federal anti-lynching laws as an unnecessary intrusion on a natural process of incremental change in cultural attitudes wrought by moral persuasion and not the law. But the historical record is also clear that when anti-lynching statutes were properly enforced -- as they were, for example, in Illinois after 1911 -- the laws were remarkably effective tools for changing social mores regarding lynching.

Although lynchings declined, they did not disappear altogether, by any means. Certainly, the deep racial animus that had always inspired them was still alive and well, particularly in the South. They continued to occur periodically, but instead of being treated as commonplace, they became the subject of intensive international news coverage. The 1955 lynching of a Chicago teenager named Emmett Till, on vacation in Mississippi, for being "fresh" with a white woman, became a national cause célèbre, playing a prominent role in the claims of civil-rights advocates that justice for black people did not exist in the South.

For those Southerners still dedicated to the tenets of white supremacy, and who permanently opposed the substantial gains made during the 1950s and '60s for African Americans' civil rights -- in particular the desegregation of schools and other facilities that began with the Supreme Court's landmark Brown v Board of Education ruling in 1950 -- lynching continued to hold its longtime value as a tool for terrorizing the black community and reaffirming the dominance of white supremacy. But without the cover of public sanction, lynching and racial violence became a surreptitious crime that was strategically deployed in a vain attempt to stem the tide of the Civil Rights movement. As such, lynchers frequently targeted the persons they saw as the source of the agitation. The 1964 slayings of three civil-rights workers in Mississippi, which became a landmark in rising national attitudes supporting the movement, was in most respects a classic lynching. But now the lynchers also turned to other kinds of violence: burning and bombing African American churches, attacking civil-rights marchers, and assassinating the leaders in the movement.

All these events, of course, were largely playing out in the South, which had its own special history as the place where the Klan and lynching had largely originated. Yet that focus obscured a broader reality: Just as the Klan, by the 1920s, had become a genuinely national phenomenon (with national headquarters located in Indiana) so too was the lynching of black Americans widely practiced throughout America. In fact, a quick look at the Tuskegee Institute's state-by-state numbers for the so-called "Lynching Era" (1882-1968) reveals that they in fact occurred in nearly every state in the Union, particularly in the Midwest -- though not as prolifically as they occurred in the South. Likewise, a survey of "race riots" in the same period reveals they occurred in a number of places well outside the South.

The raw numbers of lynched blacks outside the South, however, were smaller for a simple reason: their purpose was different. Lynchings in the Midwest, Northeast, and the West occurred for an explicitly, and broadly, eliminationist purpose. Unlike their Southern brethren, whites elsewhere simply chose not even to let blacks live among them, and so they violently drove them out of their communities en masse and forbade them to return thereafter.

Thus the fight over Brown v. Board of Education and school desegregation took place largely in the South for a very simple reason: school districts outside the South largely did not have to desegregate because blacks had not been permitted to live within their borders for generations. They had just been driven out.

In the South, whites chose to deal with blacks by oppressing them; in much of the rest of the country, white communities simply eliminated their presence altogether. And by making the South the nation's racial scapegoat, it allowed those communities to smugly pretend that since they had no such strife to face, they were not part of the problem.

As a result, the unsettled legacy of racism in the South continues to be a wound in the national psyche that refuses to heal -- and the hidden legacy of eliminationist racism in the rest of the country continues to fester like a long-silent cancer.

Next: After Sundown

[Note: This text includes some previously published material.]

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Unreal ID

Sara Robinson

People waiting last week at a Montreal passport office for service. (photo CP / Peter McCabe)

Up here in the great frozen north, the news headlines for the past few days have dominated by stories of people queueing up at Canadian government offices at six in the morning to apply for passports. The reason for this sudden rush? On January 23, a new Homeland Security rule will require all Canadians boarding flights going through US airspace to show a passport. (They'll also be required at land border crossings starting later this year.) Which means that Canadians who've long been used to coming and going throughout North America on the strength of a birth certificate alone are suddenly going to be grounded if they don't get that little blue book. This has created (polite, Canadian-style) mass panic at passport offices from Victoria to Halifax, and is threatening to stall the migration of quite a few of the snowbirds who would otherwise be heading off to Florida or Arizona this time of year.

The American media, on the other hand, have been almost completely silent about the draconian new ID requirements that have come creeping upon US citizens over the past five years -- and especially since the passage of the 2005 Real ID Act. This morning, -- a government research group funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts -- released a new report that summarizes the ways in which dozens of states have gone completely over the top in their ID requirements for drivers licenses, voting, and other services.
When Colorado state Sen. Andy McElhany (R) championed adoption of the strictest identification requirements in the country, his aim was to keep illegal immigrants off state welfare rolls. He didn’t anticipate making it harder for his 15-year-old daughter to get a learner’s permit.

But that’s what happened when his wife and daughter showed up at the Division of Motor Vehicles office in Colorado Springs in September. They brought the teen’s passport, only to discover DMV had changed the rules and a passport was no longer a sufficient form of identification. “There's no reason to believe a 15-year-old girl is going to be running around with a fake passport just to get a driver's permit," a chagrined McElhany said.

Americans by the tens of millions will have to dig out documents such as Social Security cards and birth certificates, or go to the expense of getting new ones, to renew their driver’s licenses. Fears of terrorism and the uproar over illegal immigration are behind the new rules. The Real ID Act is a response to the fact that four of the 19 foreign hijackers on Sept. 11 had obtained valid U.S. driver’s licenses.
Did you know about this? Did any paper in America report on this while it was happening? But here we are -- in Colorado, at least, a U.S. passport is no longer considered the ID gold standard, and state legislatures across the rest of the country are, even now, out there making up fun new ID rules of their own. Colorado's overenthusiastic implementation of the Real ID Act may just be a preview of coming distractions for the rest of the country.
Most of the 245 million driver’s license holders in the United States aren’t aware yet that the Real ID Act’s document dragnet for terrorists, illegal aliens and imposters is about to entangle them, too. But state officials are aware and are set to bang on the doors of the new Congress demanding more time and money to comply.

States are throwing up their hands at the requirement that each driver come in person to motor vehicle offices to renew driver’s licenses starting in May 2008. Everyone will have to bring a set of documents proving his identity and residency, although the exact documents haven't been spelled out yet. The papers will have to be verified by government databases that do not yet exist. States also have to create new IDs with anti-counterfeiting security features.

By curbing renewals by mail and online, Real ID will force DMVs to handle 686 million customer transactions face-to-face over five years, instead of the 295 million they would handle anyway, a study by the National Governors Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators concluded. DMV staffs would have to be doubled at a cost of more than $11 billion to take on the extra duties, state officials estimate.

…Colorado ran into legal trouble within months of enacting the nation's toughest ID standards. New rules requiring proof of both identity and legal U.S. residency left some unable to get a driver’s license or state ID card. Without ID, they also were left without access to everything from welfare to winter heating assistance to fishing licenses.

According to the Pew report, the new federal ID standards are also wreaking havoc at social service agencies, as people who apply for public assistance are going for weeks without heat and food -- or losing their homes entirely -- while they order newly-required birth certificates and wait for them to arrive in the mail.
Caseworkers are overwhelmed with families needing social services that need help tracking down certified birth certificates. The Denver Department of Human Services, which helps poor people order and pay for duplicates of their birth certificates, had about twice as many folks seeking help a month after the law took effect and expects a doubling again by 2007, according to spokeswoman Sue Cobb.
Small wonder that this has already ended up in the Colorado state courts, where a judge froze the new rules last month; and that legislators are taking a second look at fine-tuning the law:
One of the plaintiffs, 70-year-old Leon Hill, became homeless after he was robbed of his identification and money shortly after moving to Denver in 2006. He was denied a new ID when he could produce only his original California birth certificate and a photocopy his driving record. Diana Galliano, 42, was denied a driver’s license when she presented her valid New York driver’s license and U.S. passport. Michael Sullivan, 49, had a birth certificate and photocopies of his stolen New Mexico driver’s license and stolen Social Security card.

“In Colorado they’ve made it so hard to get an ID, it’s truly a Catch-22 where citizens can’t get an identity card unless they’ve already got one,” said Denver attorney Tim MacDonald, whose law firm is working pro bono on the case with the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.
While Canadians acqire passports, Americans will be making permanent space in their wallets for certified birth certificates, Social Security cards, passports, and copies of their latest bank statements and utility bills Under Real ID, it appears, you'll soon have to produce some unknown combination of these for almost any interaction you have with the government.

The burden will fall hardest on the 46 million poor, elderly, and disabled who rely on state-run Medicare programs, who will also have to present far more documentation in order to receive services. While the Congressional Budget office estimates that weeding out illegal immigrants could save $735 million over the next decade -- to put that in perspective, that's less than we're spending in Iraq on any given day -- it's creating untold hardships that could have other repercussions down the road:
The new law creates problems for Americans without birth certificates or those who can’t find them easily. Even parents with a child's birth certificate in hand – including for babies born in U.S. hospitals, making them automatic citizens – must provide separate documentation proving legal state residency, such as school or health records. Advocates and state Medicaid administrators worry the nuisance and cost of securing the right documents could discourage parents from getting their child vaccinated or treated.

The elderly and mentally ill in nursing homes or state institutions are especially liable to slip through the cracks, advocates warn. It's common for senior citizens to let driver's licenses lapse or for Alzheimer's patients to lose track of personal identification, noted Elizabeth Priaulx of the National Disability Rights Network.

And, of course, all this provides a fine new infrastructure for those looking to cut "undesirables" out of the voting pool. Twenty-six states, including Indiana, Georgia, Missouri, and Arizona, have passed laws requiring some form of ID (the number and type of documents are subject to the weather and moon phase, of course) in order to vote. In South Carolina last November, the Republican governor was turned away from the polls when he couldn’t produce the right kind of ID. The Georgia courts recognized that mandating $20 ID cards is a form of poll tax, and struck the requirement down; the Missouri courts ruled that the new ID regulations unduly infringed on people's voting rights. But the other states' bills have passed judicial muster so far; and Arizona's was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

It's only a matter of time before the crazy-quilt patchwork of various state ID requirements prompted by the Real ID act results in exasperated bureaucrats at all levels openly demanding a universal national ID card, which we'll need to present to drive, vote, apply for any kind of license, of get any kind of services. And that, quite likely, is exactly what the proponents of this bill had in mind when they wrote it: to force us into a Kafkaesque hell requiring us to produce a zillion different kinds of documentation; and then "save" us by offering us the blessed relief of an otherwise unacceptable solution.

The suspicious Nazi officer demanding to see your papers has been an American caricature for 70 years. We could laugh at him because the idea that an open society in America would ever empower a petty fascist like that seemed so implausible. It turns out, though, that it only took five years of Bush-era fearmongering to bring us to the point where Americans would not only accept, but embrace, government agents demanding to see our papers.

Our open society is vanishing behind a wall of data, as we fill our increasingly empty wallets with growing piles of official paper documenting our existence -- all in the name of proving that we are neither terrorists nor illegals. In effect, it's putting the burden on us to prove our right to claim the benefits of being an American citizen -- instead of requiring the government to bear the burden of proof when it seeks to deny them. And that, at its core, is why this is wrong.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Kill the libs

-- by Dave

I'm not sure I can say a lot more about the recent surge in right-wing eliminationist rhetoric than I've said previously, aside from the context of my ongoing series.

But for the sake of simply cataloging the talk as it occurs, herewith are the latest entries in the "kill the liberals" meme that we keep hearing.

First, there's CNN's Glenn Beck, wishing for a hurricane to come "clean" the streets of New York City with a massive tidal surge:
LANDSEA: New York is extremely vulnerable, too, if a hurricane strikes just west of them and funnels all that water just north along Long Island into the city itself. They could have 20 to 25 feet of storm surge.

BECK: Actually, that would clean the streets out. It might not be bad.

Aren't folks on the right all worked up what Barney Frank said the other day regarding Hurricane Katrina and Republican attitudes about responding to it, calling it "ethnic cleansing by inaction"?

Didn't Glenn Beck actually just substantiate his point?

Then there's Ann Coulter, pumping up the Dolchstosslegende in a column calling Democrats a "sleeper cell," but harkening of course to the last stab in the back, the ol' Vietnam War:
Liberals spent the Vietnam War rooting for the enemy and clamoring for America's defeat, a tradition they have brought back for the Iraq war.

... Democrats haven't admitted error in rejecting Ford's pleas on behalf of South Vietnam because there are still dangerous foreigners trying to kill Americans. Nixon is safely interred in the ground, but the enemies of America continue to need the Democrats' help.

Unsurprisingly, this inspired the Usual Suspects, most notably the Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler (who is, of course, a regular repeat offender on the eliminationist front). Rotty holds forth thus, equating Democrats with socialists:
Remember how the late President Ford, may G-d rest his soul, pleaded with the freshly elected Dhimmicrat Congress to at least provide our South Vietnamese allies with the monetary support necessary for them to defend themselves against the genocidal communist hordes of Ho Chi Minh, support that we, the United States, had promised them in return for their acceptance of one of the rottenest “peace deals” in history?

Remember how the Dhimmicrats, fueled by bloodlust and communist fervor, steadfastly refused to do so, rendering the word of the United States forever suspect, if not indeed meaningless?

Remember how the starved South Vietnamese forces, after a heroic and hopeless fight, were defeated by the Dhimmicrats' faithful communist allies of Hanoi?

Remember the millions of innocent people that were brutally murdered as a result of the Dhimmicrats' betrayal?

All of those innocents were murdered by the Democrat Party.

And now, just as we're involved in another war that they desperately want us to lose, they're back in power.

Actually, if liberals had in fact "desperately wanted to lose" the Iraq war, they'd have proceeded precisely as G.W. Bush has: half-assedly, with no exit strategy, and then incompetently at every turn thereafter.

But for some reason, wingnuts keep pretending that it's the left that wants to lose, when it's quite clear that the problem is that the right has no idea how to win.

Anyway, back to the show:
That is bad news for us, and it is seriously bad news for millions of Iraqis.

You know what was seriously bad news for some hundreds of thousands of Iraqis already? Our decision to invade their country under false pretenses. Because they're all dead as a result of that decision.
Deja vu all over again.

And that is why this world will never be a better place until every last socialist on the surface of it has been exterminated. Just as any other disease, they need to be purged from the body of mankind. Because if they’re not, they'll keep popping back up, and every time the Socialist death toll will rise.

It is time for the vile, hateful, diseased religion of Karl Marx and all of its pathological mutations to be laid to rest permanently.

Because if we don't get rid of it, we'll keep seeing history repeating itself.

100 million murdered by socialism ought to be enough.

Hoo boy. And this guy still resides on the blogroll of Michelle "the right polices its own extremists" Malkin.