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False Flags. Fox News, The Confederacy and Che Guevara

July 5, 2015


Fox New has (of course) weighed into the confederate flag debate in a fashion that manages to be both tediously predictable and hilariously insane.  They play the “double standards” card.  Getting away from the whole public building debate (Free Bree by the way – free her now), they have discovered that some commercial concerns have decided to pull some of their Confederate stamped belt buckles etc. from their stores.  This purely commercial decision based on a reading of the current public mood, becomes interpreted by Fox News as a form of censorship – which is all the more iniquitous because it’s still possible to buy Che Guevara posters – and Che was a communist and communism was far worse than the Confederacy.  They then discover that if you really want to – you can buy images on Stalin on the internet.  So – anyone concerned about Confederate imagery should stop what they’re doing and instead police the internet to check the trade in communist memorabilia – otherwise they are a hypocrite.  A hypocrite we say!

Now are there people with a rather dewy-eyed ill-informed view of Che Guevara who buy into the iconography?
Assuredly there are.  When I think of Che, I recall Margot Asquith’s judgement on Lord Kitchener.

“Not a great man.  But a very great poster.”


The most important difference is that Che Guevara posters have never been flown as flags from public buildings in South Carolina and other southern states.  Nowhere in the United States have the emblems of the Cuban revolution been used to oppress people.  And it’s the public flag waving that is at issue.  Basic first amendment rights mean that anyone who wants to can look at any dodgy political flag they want to in the privacy of their own homes.  The day Che or a Hammer and Sickle flies over Charleston, then there’s the beginning of a debate.

There was of course no one Confederate Flag.  Flags were confusingly tried out and revised and superseded.  The familiar diagonal cross is the Flag no so much of the Confederacy but of decades of post bellum “Lost Cause” nostalgia.  This nostalgia consists of declaring that the South was not, after all, fighting for slavery or white supremacy but for states rights.

This is not only wrong, but it is an insult to the beliefs of those who built the Confederacy.  These people applauded themselves on having built a nation in which racial hierarchies were properly acknowledged from the outset.  They were proud of being racists.  If you had suggested to the secessionists of 1860-61 that they were anything other than racist white supremacists they would have been very insulted and you might have had to fight a duel with some of them.  Nor were they, before 1860, particularly wedded to “states rights” in any sort of consistent sense.  They had spent the previous decades securing and enforcing a tough new fugitive slave legislation that demanded Federal recognition for slavery – which demanded that a black man or woman was as much of a slave in Boston as s/he was in Birmingham Alabama.  Their aim was not just the defense of their “peculiar institution”.  Many of them wanted a growing empire of slavery.  Because (in their minds and the minds of others) if slavery is not going forward it’s going backwards.

By rewriting history, the post-Bellum South was able to abandon a formal definition of slavery (claiming that had never been their real concern) in return for securing white supremacy.  Having rewritten a more “honorable” narrative for themselves, they then managed to govern their own affairs on systematically racist lines for many decades.

The Confederate Flag is associated with a military campaign of defiance against the authority of the United Sates which cost the lives of about 700,000 Americans.  This campaign killed more Americans than communism ever did or ever will.  The flag was claimed by Dylann Roof, not because he believed in states’s rights, but because he hated black people and wanted to kill them.  There would have been no flag without the Confederacy and no Confederacy without slavery and no slavery without the long standing belief in white supremacy.

The “Heritage not Hate” crowd who claim the flag as a proud variant of American freedom may invoke history but they refuse to read it.  They may love guns, but they fear books.


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