The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

‘White Nationalist Propaganda’?

Posted on | December 30, 2010 | 15 Comments

Here is the complete text of a news article I wrote that was published Dec. 3, 2002, in The Washington Times:

Vanderbilt professor outrages Confederate progeny
Says Rebel soldiers deserved gallows
By Robert Stacy McCain
A Vanderbilt University professor has stirred outrage in Dixie by declaring that Confederates were “cowards masquerading as civilized men” who should have been executed at the end of the Civil War.
“Every Confederate soldier … deserved not a hallowed resting place at the end of his days but a reservation at the end of the gallows,” Jonathan David Farley, an assistant professor of mathematics, wrote in a commentary in the Tennessean, Nashville’s largest newspaper. The United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), the professor wrote, is an organization that “honors traitors.”
Vanderbilt sparked conflict over Southern heritage this year when the university said it would strip the word “Confederate” from a dormitory, Confederate Memorial Hall, built in the 1930s with donations raised by the UDC.
Mr. Farley’s Nov. 20 column in the Tennessean increased the furor. Mr. Farley has complained of threatening e-mails and phone calls, while the newspaper has received letters from across the country.
“The majority of the letters have been from out of state, because it became an Internet thing,” said John Gibson, the reader editor of the Tennessean, adding that out-of-state letters “rarely” are published in the paper.
Tim Chavez, a columnist for the Tennessean, described one 66-year-old reader’s frustration over Mr. Farley’s views: “This just burns me because I don’t know what to do about it,” the man said. “If someone compared your ancestors to mass murderers, what would you do?”
Mr. Farley called Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest “a 19th century Hitler,” called Confederate heritage groups “the new holocaust revisionists,” and said that “the race problems that wrack America to this day are due largely to the fact that the Confederacy was not thoroughly destroyed, its leaders and soldiers executed, and their lands given to the landless freed slaves.”
Allen Sullivant, chief of heritage defense for the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), said Mr. Farley is “entitled to his opinion, even one that’s based on misinformation, ignorance and bigotry.”
In response to complaints from SCV members, Mr. Farley has posted e-mail replies that “drip venom,” Mr. Sullivant said. Replying to one SCV member, Mr. Farley vowed to “form our own armies to expose and smash you. … Very simply, we represent good and you represent evil.”
Mr. Sullivant said such “blatantly, openly hateful” messages show that Mr. Farley is “just one of these people who’s got a real chip on his shoulders.”
A native of Rochester, N.Y., Mr. Farley, 32, is a graduate of Harvard and Oxford universities. His parents are both academics. His father, an immigrant from Jamaica, holds a Ph.D. in economics, while his mother, an immigrant from Guyana, holds a Ph.D. in history.
On his university Web page ( Mr. Farley poses beside a large poster of Marxist revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara, whom he calls a hero.
Mr. Farley has been politically active since moving to Nashville from Berkeley, Calif., in 1997, mounting a Green Party campaign for Congress this year, describing the two major party candidates as “two old white men with identical views.”
He challenged Rep. Jim Cooper, Tennessee Democrat, in the Nov. 5 election, placing a distant fourth with 1,205 votes. Last year, Mr. Farley wrote an article criticizing Chelsea Clinton for supporting the U.S. anti-terrorism effort.
“One of Bill Clinton’s redeeming traits is the fact that, when he studied at Oxford, he opposed America’s war,” Mr. Farley, then a visiting scholar at England’s Oxford University, wrote in a British newspaper, the Guardian. “Maybe sometime, Chelsea, you will too.”
A Vanderbilt spokesman said that Mr. Farley, who is not tenured, is protected by the university’s academic-freedom policy.
“Professor Farley is speaking as an individual, he does not represent Vanderbilt University’s policy, and his statements are neither supported nor endorsed by the university,” said Michael Schoenfeld, Vanderbilt’s vice chancellor for public affairs.

Now that you’ve read the entirety of that 632-word article, how would you characterize it?

  1. A detailed news account of a campus controvery; or
  2. “White nationalist propaganda.”

I’ll leave you to guess who chose No. 2.


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