Monday, February 25, 2013

Django Unchained: A white revenge fantasy



I don't intend to branch out into movie reviews, but Django Unchained struck me as a pretty politically important film, so I wanted to say a few words about it.

I loved the movie. Not for the cartoonish violence (which was OK, nothing special) or for Tarantino's trademark witty banter (which was a bit subdued). I loved Django for the politics.

First of all, I'm pretty sure that for all its elements of blaxploitation, Django's politics are all about white people. It's not a black revenge fantasy; it's a white revenge fantasy.

Anyone who grew up in the American South, as I did, knows how equivocal the region still feels toward its past. My history teachers went to great pains to emphasize that the Civil War wasn't fought over slavery, but because the North wanted to protect its economic interests (this is bullshit, by the way; of course it was about slavery, and everyone knows it). The "positive" impacts of slavery were mentioned - slaves were well-cared-for, many slavers had close relationships with their slaves, and yada yada. The fact that slavery was "more acceptable" in the world of the 1800s is always mentioned.

Having been defeated in battle, Southern whites made denial of their past atrocities a central pillar of their group pride - much the same way that Japanese right-wing nationalists defend Imperial Japan's occupation of Korea and brutalization of China, or Turkey denies the Armenian Genocide of Ottoman times.

In recent decades, though, as non-Southern America became more racially diverse, the South has become sort of the standard-bearer for Real White America. From New York to California, rural and working-class whites identify with the South. George Packer describes this process well:
[From the 70s onward], the Southern way of life began to be embraced around the country until, in a sense, it came to stand for the “real America”: country music and Lynyrd Skynyrd, barbecue and nascar, political conservatism, God and guns, the code of masculinity, militarization, hostility to unions, and suspicion of government authority, especially in Washington, D.C. (despite its largesse). In 1978, the Dallas Cowboys laid claim to the title of “America’s team”—something the San Francisco 49ers never would have attempted. In Palo Alto, of all places, the cool way to express rebellion in your high-school yearbook was with a Confederate flag. That same year, the tax revolt began, in California.
Racial homogeneity (ignoring those pesky Southern blacks, of course) is one of the South's selling points. The other is its fabled military prowess. Southerners are supposed to make the best soldiers. This is certainly the South's image of itself; the aforementioned history teachers wasted no time in describing all the battles that Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson won before the North ground them down under the weight of superior numbers and superior industry. The idea of Southern men as a "warrior race" even gave birth to the "Southern race" mythology, in which some Southerners contended that they were descended from the chivalrous Norman warriors of old England, while the Northern whites were descended from cowardly, wimpy, Saxon shopkeepers.

But there is another white racial mythology, with even more power than the old Southern supremacy. This is pan-Nordicism, or the idea of the Germans/Nordics/Anglo-Saxons as the Real White People, which grew popular only in the late 1800s and remains fresher in our collective unconscious. If the Southerners are supposed to be good soldiers, they don't hold a candle to the fabled Prussians.

Which brings us to Django Unchained.

As some critics of the film have pointed out, the protagonist for the first two-thirds of the film is not Django himself, but his German mentor and benefactor, King Schultz:
This film follows a brave, cunning and fearless lead character whose name starts with a "D." Viewers of the film's trailer would think that character is Django, played by Jamie Foxx. In fact, his name is Dr. King Schultz, a German portrayed by Christoph Waltz, (spoiler alert) who sacrifices his life in the pursuit of freedom and justice for the black man. It is the white Dr. King, who after sharing a motivational tale about a man reaching a mountaintop, nobly gives his life for "black justice."
Schultz' attitude toward slavery is one of barely concealed disgust. He doesn't shoot slavers in cold blood, but obviously enjoys killing them when he has an excuse to do so. He dismisses slavery itself as "malarkey," waving his hand as if hundreds of years of history and atrocity were a passing annoyance. This is bound to annoy many black people, whose history is the one being trivialized. But Django is a movie about white people.

King Schultz, you see, is a German. Whatever claim Southerners have to be the Real White People, Schultz' claim is deeper and more credible. He's got Siegfried and Brunhilde. And slavery - the institution on which the South built its civilization - is beneath him. He is contemptuous of it and the degenerate human beings who practice it. He does not view slavery as "normal" for the 1800s. He does not shed a tear when he guns slavers down.

And gun them down he does - in droves. The supposedly mighty Southern warriors are no match for Schultz' Prussian gunnery. I see this as Tarantino giving a big fat middle finger to Southern pretensions of military manhood; one diminutive middle-aged German dude makes them look like amateurs. King Schultz, you see, is the Real Real White Guy, and one such man is worth a thousand of the chickenshit slavers who tried to usurp the mantle of the white race.

It almost seems as if Schultz' character came to the South just to serve this notice.

And here's the amazing part; it really, really worked. The theater where I saw Django was packed mostly with working-class-type white folks, more men than women. Exactly the kind of people who have felt such an affinity with the South in the last three decades. And every time Schultz gunned down another white Southern slaver, these people laughed and whooped and cheered. No moral equivalence was in evidence. There was no dismay at the easy defeat of Southern manhood.

Think about that. With a bit of cartoonish violence, Quentin Tarantino was able to do what a thousand reasonable op-eds and preachy biopics have been unable to do: reverse white people's affinity for the South. I see Django as a white revenge fantasy - whites, whose ancestors (like Tarantino's) had no part in the institution of slavery, saying "No. The South does not get to represent my racial group. If I was alive in the 1800s, I would have shot those assholes right in the head!"

Which, if you think about it, is probably exactly what they would have done. After all, the North did fight a very bloody war to end slavery, and many people in the North - for example, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and the folks who wrote "Battle Hymn of the Republic" - were quite clear that they thought violence was a perfectly legitimate way to cleanse the stain on their civilization. (Update: a commenter points out that German immigrants to the South in fact often bucked the local power structure and fought for the Union.)

Django is not black people's story of slavery, it's white people's. White Americans will never understand or share black Americans' historical experience of suffering and escaping from slavery, but they can remember, and be proud of, their own historical experience of fighting and defeating the slavers.

For almost forty years now, Americans have had to live with the creeping Southernization of our culture. The Confederate flags on the pickup trucks right next to the American flags. The country music playing at the car mechanic's shop. The pundits gushing about the folksy charm of Southern good-ole-boys like George W. Bush. The trumpeting of the South's superior economic model. The ambivalent portrayals of Confederate history. The notion that only a Southerner can win the Presidency. The very real domination of Congress by a heavily Southern Republican caucus. Etc. etc.

But in the last few years, a real pushback has begun. Obama's election is obviously part of it, but I think it's much more result than cause. The rest of white America is starting to realize (or to remember) that in many ways, the South don't really represent them that much. I see Django as part of that realization. And for that reason I love the film, despite its historical insensitivity and over-the-top blaxploitation.

Just like Turkey and Japan, the American South is going to have to realize that yes, they really were the bad guys back in The War. That doesn't mean they have to be the bad guys going forward. But admitting one's mistakes is the first step toward reform.

148 comments:

  1. Totally agree with this view. But to correct one assumption, The Civil War did not start over slavery and, for the most part, it wasn't fought over slavery. It was about economic tension, secession, and differing visions for the political and social future of the United States. Up until very late in the war, the Union army were still trying to return escaped slaves to the south and only grudgingly began accepting them into the military force. Lincoln was not an abolitionist; he was a fantastic political strategist who used the freeing of the slaves as a way to destroy confederate morale quite late on in the war.

    "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union." Lincoln.

    But yes, great article otherwise.

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    1. Lincoln may not have been an abolitionist, or say publicly that he wasn't one, but clearly the abolitionst movement made it impossible to preserve slvery as an institution and the union at the same time. So, while Lincoln's actions may have been about preserving the union, the issue was slavery all along!

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    2. Read the South Carolina Secession Declaration: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/csa_scarsec.asp
      It's explicit in saying that it's all about slavery:

      "The General Government, as the common agent, passed laws to carry into effect these stipulations of the States. For many years these laws were executed. But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution. The States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, have enacted laws which either nullify the Acts of Congress or render useless any attempt to execute them. In many of these States the fugitive is discharged from service or labor claimed, and in none of them has the State Government complied with the stipulation made in the Constitution. The State of New Jersey, at an early day, passed a law in conformity with her constitutional obligation; but the current of anti-slavery feeling has led her more recently to enact laws which render inoperative the remedies provided by her own law and by the laws of Congress. In the State of New York even the right of transit for a slave has been denied by her tribunals; and the States of Ohio and Iowa have refused to surrender to justice fugitives charged with murder, and with inciting servile insurrection in the State of Virginia. Thus the constituted compact has been deliberately broken and disregarded by the non-slaveholding States, and the consequence follows that South Carolina is released from her obligation. "

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    3. Also note the South Carolinian's complete disrespect of the state rights of the northern states

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    4. It's the same with the other states' declarations of secession. Slavery and the perceived threat to it from Lincoln was paramount, as well as the "oppression" involved with the northern states refusing to allow the southern states to walk over them with the Fugitive Slave Act.

      As for Lincoln, preserving the Union probably was his first concern, at the beginning of the war. But it didn't stay that way (same with the North in general), and Lincoln himself rejected the Crittendom Compromise (which would have preserved slavery south of the Mason-Dixon Line in the Constitution).

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    5. And here are the initial paragraphs of Mississippi's secession declaration. It's all about the slavery:

      "In the momentous step which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.

      "Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.

      "That we do not overstate the dangers to our institution, a reference to a few facts will sufficiently prove.

      "The hostility to this institution commenced before the adoption of the Constitution, and was manifested in the well-known Ordinance of 1787, in regard to the Northwestern Territory.

      "The feeling increased, until, in 1819-20, it deprived the South of more than half the vast territory acquired from France.

      "The same hostility dismembered Texas and seized upon all the territory acquired from Mexico.

      "It has grown until it denies the right of property in slaves, and refuses protection to that right on the high seas, in the Territories, and wherever the government of the United States had jurisdiction.

      "It refuses the admission of new slave States into the Union, and seeks to extinguish it by confining it within its present limits, denying the power of expansion.

      "It tramples the original equality of the South under foot.

      "It has nullified the Fugitive Slave Law in almost every free State in the Union, and has utterly broken the compact which our fathers pledged their faith to maintain.

      "It advocates negro equality, socially and politically, and promotes insurrection and incendiarism in our midst.

      "It has enlisted its press, its pulpit and its schools against us, until the whole popular mind of the North is excited and inflamed with prejudice.

      "It has made combinations and formed associations to carry out its schemes of emancipation in the States and wherever else slavery exists.

      "It seeks not to elevate or to support the slave, but to destroy his present condition without providing a better."

      ....

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    6. Anonymous3:35 PM

      Naoh, why do you suffer trolls like Nina? The South left the Union to preserve Slavery. The Union fought the South leaving to preserve the Union.

      "Stephens denounced the northern claims (which he incorrectly
      attributed to Thomas Jefferson) that the “enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically.”

      He unabashedly asserted: “Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea.” Stephens argued that it was “insanity” to believe “that the negro is equal” or that slavery was wrong. He proudly predicted that the Confederate
      Constitution “has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution—African slavery as it exists amongst us—the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization.” Stephens only echoed South Carolina’s declaration, explaining that it was leaving the Union because A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of
      the common Government, because he has declared that that
      “Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,” and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.

      States' Rights, Southern Hypocrisy, and the Crisis of the Union

      http://scholarship.law.duke.edu/faculty_scholarship/2641/

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    7. We know for sure that the South seceded from the North because the South feared the North was not sufficiently pro-slavery, and was gradually ceding ground to increasingly influential abolitionists like Frederick Douglas and Lysander Spooner, while continuing to heavily tax the South's slaving. We know for sure that the South wanted to exist as a bastion of slavery and white supremacy, and feared (correctly) that the North was gathering momentum to end slavery.

      Unfortunately, we also know that while the South's secession was out of a desire to perpetuate and expand slavery, the North's attempts to keep the South in the Union (i.e. the Civil War) seem to have been at best ambiguous toward slavery as per the Lincoln quotes.

      So while we can see the political motivations of the South as unambiguously bad, we cannot really see the political motivations of the North as unambiguously good. (And that is why my feelings toward Lincoln are pretty mixed, while my feelings toward Spooner and Douglas are unambiguously positive).

      What is totally baffling to me, though, are attempts to portray the South as the good guy, or the real America, and to see Civil War as the "War of Northern Aggression" and ultimately justify slavery. Just because the North was not unambiguously good does not make the South any less bad. For if we are to assume that the North wasn't fighting to end slavery but to save the Union, then we must accept that at very least the South seceded for paranoid pro-slavery reasons.

      So I really wish that defenders of the South would stop doing it. They seceded for pro-slavery reasons. End of story.

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    8. Yep.

      I suspect that the North's immediate reason for war was to prevent the emergence of a great-power rival on the North
      American continent (if the South had broken away, a North-South war for the West was only a matter of time).

      But the longer-term reason that the North couldn't tolerate the South was slavery. And the South knew the North didn't tolerate slavery, and broke away for that reason.

      So, yeah. It was all about slavery. Duh.

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    9. Anonymous5:44 PM

      The South would not have prevailed in a battle for the West for Lincoln was far far ahead in building the Union Pacific.

      The steamboat people from St. Louis south would not permit railroad bridges to the West. Davis, as Secretary of War in the 1850s tried to block the Rock Island bridge

      http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2004/summer/bridge.html

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    10. Go read Ta-Nesi Coates' posts and article over at The Atlantic.

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    11. (sorry, this was to NinaJameson)

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    12. Honestly, an independent confederacy would have been a basket case. The vast majority of their wealth was tied up in slaves and land, both of which would become much less valuable as soon as Indian and Egyptian cotton came on line (slower than in real life, but eventually). The only way they'd get out of it would be through going into incredible debt to try and match the industrialization of the North, which would likely fail since the antebellum plantation owners had been blocking a bunch of vital improvements and reforms that might have jeopardized the power of plantation owners (Anon pointed part of this out two posts up).

      I suspect that after going bankrupt, you'd see the individual Confederate states break off and petition to re-join the Union, starting with Texas. That's assuming that the Union doesn't reconquer it at some point.

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    13. Anonymous4:44 PM

      Most of the early battles of the Civil War were fought in the West. Bull Run is about it for the Eastern theatre in 1861, The Union forces pushed the Confederates and Robert E Lee out of Western Virginia to secure the B&O Railroad.
      Confederates invaded Kentucky and set off a build up of troops along the Ohio River.

      The vast majority of the 1861 battles were fought in Missouri. Those battles involved smaller numbers of troops than later in the war, but a lot of attacks on civilians. The most important part of the Union war effort was control of the Mississippi Rivers and tributaries. These battles were fought over control of the Rivers, important transportation corridors to the Midwestern States.

      Some Union officers were anti-slavery, (such as Fremont), but many, such as Sherman were simply pro-Union and looked at secession as a step toward becoming "like Mexico".

      The Civil War ended when Sherman demonstrated that the South would lose slavery anyway by fighting the war. His march across Georgia destroyed a lot of "property" including property that left on its own two feet. Four months after Sherman arrived in Savannah, with thousands of former slaves en route to "40 acres and a mule" on the confiscated sea islands the war was over. Why fight over slavery when slavery was done?

      -jonny bakho

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    14. Claiming the independent Confederacy would have been a basket case is incorrect. Read Without Consent or Contract by 1993 Nobel Laureate Robert Fogel to see why. Simply by charging a 5% tax on cotton, the confederacy could have maintained a budget greater than the Union - and this tax would have been almost entirely passed on to the purchasers of southern cotton. Had Lincoln allowed the Confederate States to secede, the correct counter-factual would not have been whether the war would have been worth the blood and treasure but whether the war would have been postponed a generation and fought under conditions much more favorable to the South.

      Ben Wheeler
      Sensational Sonnets
      From Now Until Muhammad Mahdi's War

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    15. Anonymous9:13 PM

      Had Lincoln allowed the Confederate States to secede, the correct counter-factual would not have been whether the war would have been worth the blood and treasure but whether the war would have been postponed a generation and fought under conditions much more favorable to the South.

      If the South had been permitted to secede, why would there have been a need to fight a war?

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    16. Slave labor could accomplish in 35 minutes what it took free labor a full hour to do, according to Fogel. This only applied for crops that could allow a fair amount of division of labor (sugar, cotton, rice, tobacco, indigo). To expand these profitable plantation/factories, the slave states needed land where such crops could be grown. Antebellum, this probably meant annexation of Mexico and much of the Caribbean. Twenty years later, though, the industrial revolution would have made slave labor profitable in factories in the North. While war may not have been inevitable, it is not simply a question of fight the war or not fight the war. Notice how willing South Carolina was to fight for slavery. Allowing the Confederate States to secede would have been very risky.

      Ben Wheeler
      Sensational Sonnets
      From Now Until Muhammad Mahdi's War

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    17. When it comes to the economics of the South, Fogel has it pouring out of his ears. Brett is on to something, but the truth is even sharper than he realizes. The great bubble in the price of cotton (and hence the price of slaves) broke **while the Civil War was still on.** People didn't notice because the removal of Southern cotton from world markets temporarily held up the price of the stuff. But even in the early 1860s, Egyptian production was growing by leaps and bounds. The reason that the Southern economy was so bad during the rest of the 19th century was that cotton prices were in the cellar and there wasn't anything else the South could more profitably produce in its place. So much for Fogel's 5% tax on cotton. So much for the efficiency of slave labor. (See Gavin Wright, The Political Economy of the Cotton South.)

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  2. Noah, did you watch the movie in NY? I wonder what the reaction would have been in Texas! :)

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    1. I watched it in Texas. The theater I was in was mostly populated by Blacks and Latinos. All in all it was an entertaining experience for everyone.

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  3. Great essay Noah.

    However, as a non-German Nordic I am uncomfortable with the presentation of a Prussian as the real, and superior, White man. The idea of German superiority led to a lot of unpleasantness for some of my relatives, and the world in general, in the 20th Century.

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    1. Anonymous3:24 PM

      My take is that Dr. Schultz is the first German man in a major film to stand up for liberty and freedom in a looong time. What is harmful about that?

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    2. Anonymous4:42 PM

      It may be uncomfortable, but it's also quite historically accurate: German immigrants were generally anti-slavery. The practical reason was that slaves were competition for their hired labor. The ideological reason was that many of them arrived in 1948-9 in the aftermath of failed peasant revolts against the nobility, and took the idea that "All men are created equal" very seriously. Germans made up a significant portion of Union forces.

      So it's not a "German superiority" thing, it's a "revolutionaries tend to stay that way" thing.

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    3. Yeah, in real life, no group is more inherently good or bad than any other group. But I think the mythology of Prussians as "badass white people" helped Tarantino use the character of Schultz to get fantasy vengeance on the South...

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    4. 1948-9

      I expect you meant "1848-9".

      In fairness to the Germans: Johann Friedrich Struensee. a German, tried very hard, and at the ultimate cost of his own life, to improve the circumstances of most of my ancestors.

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    5. It wasn't just german immigrants who opposed slavery. The US was way, way behind the curve on abolishing slavery. Though most Europeans of the 19th century did not have kind views of black people, they thought the South was backwards and that the institution of slavery was morally repugnant.

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    6. Anonymous8:18 PM

      It wasn't just german immigrants who opposed slavery.

      I doubt immigrants from Germany really cared one way or the other.

      Oh, and Lincoln was in favor of sending the blacks back to Africa.

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    7. Anonymous9:22 PM

      @MatthewMartin

      The US was way, way behind the curve on abolishing slavery. Though most Europeans of the 19th century did not have kind views of black people, they thought the South was backwards and that the institution of slavery was morally repugnant.

      The US can only be considered "behind the curve" (if at all) in comparison to other Europeans. Let us not forget that it was the White Man who led the worldwide campaign to abolish slavery. Slavery continued to be practiced in Africa, South America and among other non-European peoples even after it ceased in the United States.

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    8. "I doubt immigrants from Germany really cared one way or the other."

      Anonymous idiot.

      Germany had a long tradition of being on the right side of Enlightenment and Democracy. Goethe, Beethoven, Marx. That tradition was extinguished by WWI, the Great Depression and the rise of fascism. That's why it's such an irony when Jews push public policies that could bring on another Great Depression. Forget history much?

      My take wasn't that Tarantino was holding up the ideal of Prussian military prowess. He painted Germans as evil in Inglorious Bastards and just was saying, look, they're not all bad.

      The way Shultz had bad flashbacks of the dogs attacking the runaway slave reminded me of Nietzsche's breakdown when he witnessed a horse being beaten. And also of the great British abolitionist William Wilberforce who had a similar breakdown.

      The biggest performance for me was Sam Jackson's Uncle Tom. Old White Men are America's Uncle Tom's today.

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  4. Noah: Thanks for this. Still haven't seen the movie. But: As a German immigrant to the US (I came to NY in 2002, now live in the Mountain West), I know what you're talking about! The revisionist Nazis were everywhere in Germany in the 50s and 60s. The 60s student revolt was as well an attempt to force the Nazis out of the elites, finally. It's most curious and troubling that US racists and slavers have never fully reflected upon their history, and that excuses and explanations persists until today.

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    1. Anonymous9:23 PM

      Enjoy becoming a minority in your own homeland.

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    2. @ Anonyous-Well, if you are familiar with the term "for every action, there is a reaction", you might be a minority in your own land, but your ancestors made the decision to bring Africans here against their will. The upside is though, you will never be oppressed or abused like the Africans were. You may become a minority, but not a bad deal considering what was done to "minorities" back then.

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  5. Anonymous2:48 PM

    I think rather than a shift away from identifying with Southern culture, there is an increasing split between those that identify as cosmopolitan and liberal-ish and those that do not. Even in places like CA there is a substantial sub culture in Universities that identify with they south, even if they are driven from the mainstream

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  6. Anonymous3:02 PM

    Hi Noah. As somebody who dislikes on-screen violence and can't stand Tarantino's immature male aesthetic, and in spite of all the positive reviews I have read making a case for the movie's politically complicated portrayal of slavery, I have had no desire to see Django. BUT, reading your review, I find myself wondering if I've been too hasty in dismissing it. If it is indeed a revenge fantasy from the perspective of non-slave-holding whites (and not from the perspective of slaves), perhaps it might be worth watching...

    Well, probably not. But if I do end up watching it, it will be entirely because of your review. (Consider this as praise of your writing abilities.)

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  7. Anonymous3:06 PM

    I'm sure Noah is familiar with John Quiggan's musings on treating Southern White as an ethnicity but here's the link anyway:

    http://crookedtimber.org/2012/11/16/southern-white-as-an-ethnicity/

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    1. Yep, a truly excellent article...

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  8. Aidan3:23 PM

    The conflicts between pro-Union German/other European immigrants and pro-Confederacy American southerners in the run-up to the Civil War are a really fascinating part of history: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/05/11/how-st-louis-was-won/

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    1. Cool, thanks!! Never even knew about that.

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  9. Anonymous3:26 PM

    And as if to prove every point you make, the very first commenter denies that the Civil War was about slavery.

    As I always say, if my great-grandfather had fought a war to keep human beings in chains, I too would probably make up some story about how it was really all about State's Rights and Northern Aggression and other bullshit.

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    1. Anonymous3:42 PM

      yes, cognitive dissonance

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    2. Anonymous3:45 PM

      I am a direct descendant of a very strong pro-slavery and politically active family--co-conspirators with Jefferson from 1850, Civil War Officers and soldiers, etc.

      When I tell people that my ancestors were dark and evil, people as astonished and don't know how to react.

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    3. my ancestors were dark and evil

      We all have some ancestors who were dark and evil (some of mine used to sail over to England for bit of looting and pillaging). Biology is not destiny and neither guilt nor virtue nor victimization are hereditary.

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    4. I don't even know what my ancestors did. Probably something horrible at some point. They were apparently poor peasants in Russia or something.

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    5. That's why seeing some sort of non-southern white guy revenge fantasy would have little appeal to me. Your ancestors were evil, but most of history is a parade of horrors. If anyone thinks his ancestors were the good guys, he probably just doesn't know enough about his ancestors. 19th century industrialists who supported the abolition of slavery were probably at the same time defending industrial era wage labor conditions of the kind described by Engels.

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    6. Anonymous6:00 PM

      The Civil War produced Great Good Men, one of whom was Joshua L. Chamberlain, who reported about July 2, 1863, as follows:

      It did not seem possible to withstand another shock like this now coming on. Our loss had been severe. One-half of my left wing had fallen, and a third of my regiment lay just behind us, dead or badly wounded. At this moment my anxiety was increased by a great roar of musketry in my rear, on the farther or northerly slope of Little Round Top, apparently on the flank of the regular brigade, which was in support of Hazlett's battery on the crest behind us. The bullets from this attack struck into my left rear, and I feared that the enemy might have nearly surrounded the Little Round Top, and only a desperate chance was left for us. My ammunition was soon exhausted. My men were firing their last shot and getting ready to club their muskets.:

      It was imperative to strike before we were struck by this overwhelming force in a hand-to-hand fight, which we could not probably have withstood or survived. At that crisis, I ordered the bayonet. The word was enough. It ran like fire along the line, from man to man, and rose into a shout, with which they sprang forward upon the enemy, now not 30 yards away. The effect was surprising; many of the enemy's first line threw down their arms and surrendered. An officer fired his pistol at my head with one hand, while he handed me his sword with the other. Holding fast by our right, and swinging forward our left, we made an extended right wheel, before which the enemy's second line broke and fell back, fighting from tree to tree, many being captured, until we had swept the valley and cleared the front of nearly our entire brigade.:

      Meantime Captain Morrill with his skirmishers sent out from my left flank, with some dozen or fifteen of the U.S. Sharpshooters who had put themselves under his direction, fell upon the enemy as they were breaking, and by his demonstrations, as well as his well-directed fire, added much to the effect of the charge.:

      Having thus cleared the valley and driven the enemy up the western slope of the Great Round Top

      http://www.civil-war.net/searchofficialrecords.asp?searchofficialrecords=Chamberlain%20Gettysburg

      Now, for people who don't understand the meaning of these paragraphs, look at a Gettyburg map and see how close Chamberlain stood from the Tanneytown Road, with no one behind him. That afternoon, his men, with those from Penn and N.Y. saved Modernity.

      Delete
    7. Absalon, er du Norsk?

      Delete
  10. Noah, I thought the most powerful scene against slavery was of the slaves serving dinner.

    A great lesson that, in Art, understatement may be the most powerful tool of the Artist.

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  11. Noah, great article. As I learn more about American History I marvel at how tremendously have North-South relations influenced events and shaped the general political landscape in different periods. Both political parties in different times have leveraged the anti-modern tendencies of the South.

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  12. Anonymous3:41 PM

    In reply to Nina

    What Faulkner said about the American South’s uniquely regional inability to move into the future – "The past is never dead. It’s not even past

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  13. Harold Bloom writes about this in The Western Canon - that many in the South seem very distrustful of the ability of people to overcome their environments, or indeed to achieve anything new. This gets echoed in the works of many conservative writers such as Mark Steyn and (ironically) Thomas Sowell. Bloom blames the Civil War, but it seems deeper than that. Nice post as usual : )

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  14. Anonymous4:15 PM

    Aren't most Hollywood movies involving "the Black experience" really designed to make white people feel good about themselves? You can trace a line from "To Kill A Mockingbird" right through to "The Help" -- the story is always about noble white folk standing up to the evils of racism and injustice. The black people are almost incidental to the story. They exist mainly so that the white people can show themselves to be heroic.

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  15. Great article, and may explain why...
    SPOILERS!!!
    ...Tarantino chose to have Dr. Schultz take out Candie in a very flippant way, and not have Django do it. (His major showdown awaits--killing Samuel L. Jackson's character).

    But there's still that irony, that while Dr. Schultz comes to correct history in terms of the white race, one of his relatives may turn out to be a very clever Nazi in the future...

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, basically Schultz would rather die than shake a slaver's hand...that's Tarantino directly spitting in the face of the slavers...

      Delete
    2. I think it's interesting that Candie needed Schultz to shake his hands also. Deep down he knew he was in the wrong, that's why he needed the validation.

      Delete
  16. Great review, Noah. Just a correction, if I may? It's Siegfried and Brunhilde :)

    Cheers from Buenos Aires!

    --L

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  17. Anonymous6:16 PM

    I haven't seen the movie (nor do I intend to) and I like your comments about it (can't say the same about your Atlantic article about growth and capitalism...), but I'd like to, maybe, broaden your perspective a bit.

    I'm an African-American, descended from the slaves of 2 different US Presidents - one of those was Washington's personal valet. I have a technical PhD. That's for background.

    The Civil War was about slavery, but slavery was about ... capitalism - in close to its purest and most extreme from: the right to own other persons _as private property_. It was about whether, ultimately, _human_ rights or _property_ rights were higher. For the North, it was human rights; for the South, it was property rights. It wasn't, originally, about folks with white skin not liking darker skin tones. Slavery was not axiomatic - its motivation was capitalism.

    John Nichols covered this quite well in his book, "The S Word."

    Ta-Nehisi Coates reminded me recently of this, in referring to the story of Strom Thurmond's illegitimate daughter that recently passed. He noted James Baldwin's quote about white supremacists' true views on racial purity, something like "You don't object to us marrying _your_ daughters - we've been doing that all along; you object to us marrying your _wives'_ daughters."

    Look at small-bill US currency. Of all such bills, all but one (the $5, which depicts Lincoln) honors the memory of a slaveowner. That makes the point is a true "nose on your face" way...

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  18. Anonymous6:42 PM

    Um... it seems like this post is saying that Django Unchained succeeded in getting white viewers to stop identifying with Southern white culture, and instead to identify with the idea of a superior German/Nordic whiteness, essentially exchanging one form of white supremacy for another. And this is supposed to be a good thing?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, but that's why there's Inglorious Basterds...

      Delete
    2. It's Tarantino films all the way down?

      Delete
    3. Yeah, I definitely saw the movie as Tarantino saying "Hey Germany, you guys were good sports about my last movie; in this one I'll make the German the only redeeming white character. Hell, I'll even have the same actor play him!"

      Delete
    4. Anonymous8:09 PM

      It's more about modeling European (in this case German) behavior. Rewarding altruistic behavior as "good," denigrating group solidarity.

      It is telling Germans and other Whites, see, this is how you will get higher status and be rewarded: sacrifice your lives and nations for the benefit non-Whites.

      As Whites cede control of the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and even Germany, and give their lives in military actions against Israel's rivals, cui bono, in the end?

      Delete
  19. Really interesting and persuasive article-- but can I ask how you deal with Schultz's death in your model? I'd previously thought Django had managed to actually be about black people because Schultz dies when he stops prioritizing Django's needs over his own. If he had continued to act in Django's best interests, he wouldn't have shot Candie and everyone would have just gone home; instead, he puts his pride in his own superiority above Django's more legitimate need to save his wife, and gets shot. That said, you're absolutely right that the first half of the movie is much more interested in Schultz than Django. Oh well Tarantino, you tried.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Schultz dies because he needs to for the sake of the plot. And because he has nothing obvious to live for. I wouldn't read too much into it...

      Delete
    2. No, Schultz dies because of the reasons you exactly state in your post! Listen to your own words!

      That's exactly why there was that scene with him sitting in the chair before the "deal" goes down, reminiscing about the dogs tearing up that slave. He could not be associated with that. He had gunned down many a slave owner before for the bounties, but this time, he was gunning Candie down because he couldn't stand the atrocities of what he was seeing. Up until then, he always had an "excuse" to gun down slave-owners, the money.

      He could not in good conscience let a man like that walk the face of the Earth. It was literally tearing him up inside, to the point that although he was about to put Django in a very tough position, he couldn't let a man like Candie live when he had gunned down so many other people, who just happened to be slave-owners.

      That's why he says "Sorry, I couldn't resist". He knows he was about to put Django in a tough position, although from Django's face and the hand on the gun you could see he was expecting Schultz to do this. It's exactly what you are talking about, a white man standing up to another white man for being so inhumane. It's symbolic for the exact reasons you state.

      Delete
    3. Well yeah, makes sense.

      Delete
  20. "White Americans will never understand or share black Americans' historical experience of suffering and escaping from slavery"

    Do we really have to keep saying silly things like that? And for how long? People alive today do not have deep, personal connections to events that happened in the 1860s, not of the kind that people of another color "can never understand".

    ReplyDelete
  21. You make a compelling point. I just thought he was throwing the Germans a bone after his previous film.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Awesome! Just as Catholics reinvented their brutal history in the image of Father Gabriel (The Mission), and every German in the image of Schindler, America gets to revise its legacy in the image of Schultz. So Schultz doesn't die as a mere convenient plot device; he dies because Terantino crucifies him to wash us of our sins. And boy does it feel good! Wasn't that easy?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A lot of Union Troops fought and died to free the slaves. The North does not need to be washed of the sin of slavery.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous4:24 PM

      A lot of Union Troops were Germans from St Louis, Cincinnati &c. Germans kept Missouri in the Union. About 1 in every 8 Union soldiers was German immigrant.

      A few thousand Germans fought for the Confederates compared to a quarter million for the Union.

      Confederates notably massacred German settlers inNueces, Texas.

      John Brown was the Ultimate anti-slaver, but he has been portrayed historically as crazy.

      -jonny bakho

      Delete
    3. Anonymous8:25 PM

      A lot of Union Troops were Germans from St Louis, Cincinnati &c. About 1 in every 8 Union soldiers was German immigrant. A few thousand Germans fought for the Confederates compared to a quarter million for the Union.

      Confederates notably massacred German settlers inNueces, Texas.


      And Germans, by your own evidence, notably massacred Southerners throughout the Southern homeland.

      All for a green card.

      Delete
    4. Anonymous12:11 AM

      How much blood is enough?

      Let me put it another way. Would you send your brother or son to die to free the slaves? Would you?

      Does morality really require killing?

      Delete
  23. Absalon,

    Indeed! And also we would never have acquiesced to 100 years of brutal segregation and denial of civil rights. We are Schultz!

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  24. Had the same feels about this. Good review.

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  25. I liked the really, really long scene where they talk about how they can't see in the proto-Klan masks.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Thanks Noah, I will definitely go see the movie.

    I don't think solving the southern cultural problem is nearly enough. In fact, Europe seems to import Southern ideas from the US. They are way too powerful and politicians copy whatever works. (And the US has recently imported the 'reform' code to replace the cut taxes and small government code)

    I know that a lot of people from my country that go to the US instantly become 'Southerners', without having ANY legacy from the Civil war. And I get it - the Republican party makes white people feel much better than the Democrats. Its amazing how little the new immigrants know about US history and politics, yet how big the appeal is. If I was in the Republican party I would do anything to provide easy immigration from Europe.

    The only reasonable solution isn't just to counter the old ideology, but to invent new ideas that are at least as appealing. Otherwise, the zombie ideas will just rise once again from the dead (hats of to Quiggin, the book is really bigger than its subject)

    ReplyDelete
  27. Londoner10:53 AM

    Noah, you say that the South 'doesn't have to be the bad guy[s] going forward'. But do you actually mean it? It seems highly likely to me that the South's role as bad guy will continue indefinitely - certainly if Hollywood has anything to do with it. Truthfully, how justifiable is this now?

    More generally, DU seems to have some disturbingly snuff-like aspects. It seems to revel in the slaughter of whites as whites, using the slavery angle as an excuse.

    ReplyDelete
  28. o. nate2:21 PM

    With a bit of cartoonish violence, Quentin Tarantino was able to do what a thousand reasonable op-eds and preachy biopics have been unable to do: reverse white people's affinity for the South

    I haven't seen the movie and probably won't since I've seen enough of QT's love-letters to cartoonish violence, but I doubt that good-ol' boys are going to start trading in their Confederate flags for the Iron Cross any time soon. QT can get an audience to root against slavers for a couple of hours (hardly an accomplishment) but his trademark nihilism pretty much forecloses the possibility of any complex moral reflection. For an entertaining and more humane poke at regional provincialism, give me "My Cousin Vinny" over this any day.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Actually, as America has become more diverse, whites are becoming more and more unilaterally right wing Republican. Romney won the white vote in New York City(!) for crying out loud.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Anonymous2:54 PM

    I'm from the south so naturally I'm not crazy about this article. We have more black representation in Congress than anywhere else in the country. We have more black/white interracial marriages than anywhere else in the country. I went to school here. I was taught that the Civil War was about slavery.

    There are no neighborhoods here that don't have black residents although there are are plenty of neighborhoods where whites dare not tread. The city in which I sit right now is 72% black. What are the demographics like where you live? It appears Stony Brook, NY is less than 2% black. Way to walk the walk. Come teach at Alcorn or Grambling sometime. Surely the underprivileged students of color have something to gain from all that wisdom that you hoard for the well-to-do whites and Asians of Stony Brook. I love it when I hear about "diversity" from people who live in lily-white enclaves.

    That is not to say the South is completely free of any and all racial prejudices. That said, point me to the location that is completely free of prejudice. Stony Brook? Heh. Sure. I have no doubt the mere sight of most of my co-workers would have you clutching your valuables and running for the safety of la locked door.

    Seriously, this piece is about as much fantasy as the movie.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous5:27 PM

      You tell him, Noah!

      Delete
    2. ???

      But you and him have the same name...

      ...I'm so confused...

      Delete
    3. "the Southern way of life began to be embraced around the country until, in a sense, it came to stand for the “real America”: country music and Lynyrd Skynyrd, barbecue and nascar, political conservatism, God and guns"

      Barbecue? REALLY? You know who makes some of the best BBQ around, right? Hint: they aint white. But now I'm supposed to feel bad about liking BBQ because it's "southern" or something?

      It's amusing reading all of the Republican bashing here coming from democrats. Democrats, the party of chattel slavery, Jim Crow and the KKK. Democrats who pushed the nations first racist gun control laws to keep freed slaves from obtaining the means to protect themselves from ... Democrats! Democrats who's contemporary gun bans in Chicago, Baltimore, Camden and Compton leave law-abiding blacks defenseless to be gunned down in their thousands.

      It's really something seeing people attack others for their ignorant bigotry using ignorant bigotry.

      But please, do carry on.

      Delete
  31. My response to this movie was OK this is upending cultural tropes about slavery but it is really upending cultural tropes about Germanness. It is uncomfortable that a film about black people turns out yet again to be a lot about white people, but Tarantino's role for Waltz was so extraordinary that I am willing to give it a pass. Waltz absolutely deserved that second Oscar and Angela Merkal ought to give him a goddam prize for the service he's rendered.

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous5:16 PM

      Who said it was supposed to be a film about black people? A white guy wrote and directed it, and obviously it's a film about black AND white people. Sorry if that makes you uncomfortable.

      Delete
  32. Anonymous4:13 PM

    Good post, quick criticism of your point of how militarily awesome the German immigrants were, especially during this time period in the US. In the Civil war, the Germans immigrant Corps was repeatedly beaten by southerners in the Shenandoah, at Second Manassas, at Chancellorsville, and at Gettysburg.


    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XI_Corps_(Union_Army)

    ReplyDelete
  33. Anonymous4:47 PM

    And every time Schultz gunned down another white Southern slaver, these people laughed and whooped and cheered.

    Maybe because they enjoyed the violence?

    ReplyDelete
  34. Anonymous5:23 PM

    Noah:

    My Great, Great Grandfather was a German immigrant who settled in Missouri and who fought for the Union, so thanks for the link you added...

    Also, to your point of Southern white identify representing white identity politics across the US, this trend is becoming international, as it may be ebbing in the US.

    When I was in Croatia a few years ago, I saw numerous examples of street graffiti of the Confederate flag. At first, I associated it with just a chance similarity, but then I realized that it was being used as an identifier for white racist politics in Croatia. My tour guide, who never thought of it before, agreed, sicne we were seeing the Confederate flag in a more right-wing, racist portion of Croatia (ironically, southern Croatia).

    And from what I have read, racist, white-wing groups across Europe are using the Confederate flag as an identity markers. According to Canadians I know, it is not an identifier there, either for white identity politics or ruarl living.

    Go Canada. ;)

    Frank

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  35. Sure, the US South was wrong in the civil war, they promoted slavery, their culture was completely racist, and in that sense morally wrong, but to the average civil war fighter who had never owned slaves, of course the war was largely about cultural pride and a basic power struggle with the north in addition to slavery.

    Claiming that the south fought the civil war simply for slavery is like saying that the Japanese fought in WW2 simply for Jewish genocide. Sure, the Japanese supported Jewish genocide, but their motivation was also basic power hunger.

    The mother of my two children is African American with her roots traced back to the slave trade in the US south. Do my children understand the suffering and escape from slavery better than I? They will understand what it is like to be a black American better than I, but they are several generations removed from not only slavery but the racist atrocities committed against African Americans in the 20th century.

    As a white man with only half black kids (which society considers more black than white) I think it is wrong that our society is intensely aware of the white-on-black racism and slavery in the US and prescribes such intense guilt on whites today in 2013, but is so completely ignorant of other global incidences of racism and slavery and assigns zero guilt to them. Many Arab nations of the middle east practiced slavery of black Africans to a much larger degree, and when they ended slavery after the US, rather than go through this long challenging emancipation and integration process, simply killed their slaves. Yet we don't teach, care, or guilt and shame those countries and cultures and ethnic groups. Most American children are taught about white-on-black US slavery but never hear that most black African slaves were enslaved by other black African from warring tribes just like most across human history, most human slavery was inflicted upon neighbors not distant wildly different ethnic groups. Context is important.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Japanese actually fought WWII for the control of Asia and because of their paranoid view that they were under ABCD encirclement (American-British-Chinese-Dutch).

      Delete
    2. Anonymous8:23 PM

      The Japanese actually fought WWII for the control of Asia and because of their paranoid view that they were under ABCD encirclement (American-British-Chinese-Dutch).

      And the Germans actually fought WWII for the sovereignty of German lands and because of their not-so-paranoid view that they were under encirclement by the Bolsheviks, Britain, and France.

      Delete
    3. Wonks Anonymous10:22 AM

      To say the Japanese fought WW2 due to Jewish issues is absurd. They started fighting before anyone in Europe did, and they never sent any troops to Europe either. Of course, the Axis powers were never quite as unified as the Allies (and geometrically speaking, an axis is defined by two rather than three points). They did fight for imperialist reasons, although they may have viewed things in a more anti-colonialist lens with a Greater East-Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere.

      My own view is that nationalism played a huge role in the Civil War (Italy & Germany fought wars of unification around the same time), but because it's a much weaker force now we talk about it just in terms of slavery (it WAS motivation for the south, but not the north). WW2 helped establish America as a world power, and so we craft a narrative that makes us the heroes even though most of the casualties (excluding the Chinese theater, which was basically a separate & pre-existing war) were Germans vs Russians.

      Delete
    4. France spend most of their military budges on projects like the Maginot line - defensive fortifications, that were not a threat to Germany, but an obstacle in case she started a war. The other neighbors also had defensive preparations and Poland was rightly more concerned with the USSR with which it fought in the 20s. The USSR had no land border with Germany until '39, when they divided Poland.

      So in '38, if anything, a peace-loving Germany would try to maintain the status quo - it was effectively allowed to re-militarize, it united the same year with Austria, and the Allies actually tried hard to appease her by giving her the then German-speaking regions of Czechoslovakia.

      Germany got a lot in the late 30s, and they weren't in any immediate threat - in fact all the countries, except the USSR, with which it had a buffer (Poland in the Baltics), weren't prepared and showed no inclination to war.

      Instead as seeing this as an opportunity to integrate herself, Germany saw weakness in the international stage and exploited it for the sole purpose of conquest, exposing herself eventual war with the USSR, the UK and US. Which was unwinnable even in 1939.

      Actually Germany and Japan were really close in (irrational ) motivation and (arrogant and wrong) judgement in WWII. The leadership of both countries seemed to believe their delusional racial superiority and will for war was enough to win wars against more powerful countries.

      Delete
  36. "Quentin Explained"

    http://takimag.com/article/tarantino_explained_steve_sailer/print#axzz2LzcUGHaH

    ReplyDelete
  37. The Prussians were good at war because they had total commitment to it.

    Although Frederic for example was a known supporter of art and philosophy, the military took 70% of their budget and the population was heavily taxed to support it.

    They usually won their wars with quick mobilization and having good armament and enforcing strict discipline.

    They were able to quickly overwhelm Austria, France, Denmark in the middle of the 19th. century, but it wasn't enough on some occasions.

    This tradition will work if you assume your opponent is less ready than you are but total war wasn't sustainable, especially against bigger opponents and/or over longer periods of time. This lesson was painfully learned in the World Wars where the Prussian tradition actually revealed shocking incompetence and waste of personnel and materiel.

    But hey, they are the proverbial Prussians.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't forget that much of the financing of the impressive Prussian infantry came from hiring them to foreigners and alliances with other European powers (England in the 18th century especially).

      Ben Wheeler
      Sensational Sonnets
      From Now Until Muhammad Mahdi's War

      Delete
  38. Interesting thought of the movie being push back against Confederate sympathizers. Hollywood has a notorious history of Confederate sympathy: Birth of a Nation, Gone With the Wind, etc.

    I grew up in West By God Virginia and it would not have been a state except for Virginia leaving the Union and West Virginia fighting to remain. The Confederates were ruthless to those who opposed secession, jailed political prisoners and even hung people in East Tennessee. I have never understood why modern Americans would glorify the Confederate Traitors.

    My fantasy push back against modern day Confederate sympathizers would be a re-enactment of Sherman's march to the sea. Fall 2014 would be 150 years.

    It would be shock and awe.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous8:04 PM

      I have never understood why modern Americans would glorify the Confederate Traitors.

      "Traitors"?? The Southern states were only exercising their right of secession. They offered to compensate the federal government for its land in the South.

      Delete
  39. Why do you want the South to apologize? They lost the war, saw their farms and cities burned, and their economy permanently handicapped in a post-war order in which they were conquered vassals. If you don't like the limited success they've had in gaining influence in national politics and the corporate world, that's too bad-- I'd say whatever the underdog wins is fair game.

    Racism is evil but there is no better or faster remedy than time and patient education. You can't expect people to disown their ancestors-- no healthy human being would disown his ancestors, except perhaps in an extreme and unambiguous case.

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous9:02 PM

      Noah would never disown his ancestors. That's for the silly goy to be guilted into.

      How much more should we give?

      "More, more, more!"

      Delete
    2. Anonymous9:18 PM

      If you don't like the limited success they've had in gaining influence in national politics and the corporate world, that's too bad-- I'd say whatever the underdog wins is fair game.

      It is certainly interesting that Noah, who says he grew up in the South, feels no sympathy for or pride in his people.

      Delete
    3. Noah would never disown his ancestors. That's for the silly goy to be guilted into.

      Actually I don't know who my ancestors were. Poor Lithuanian peasants, apparently.

      It is certainly interesting that Noah, who says he grew up in the South, feels no sympathy for or pride in his people.

      Well, I don't really feel any attachment to Dixie. My ancestors weren't even around at the time. And my parents and grandparents and great-grandparents are all from St. Louis.

      I do feel affinity for Texas, specifically. That's where I grew up.

      Delete
    4. You can't disown your ancestors but you can admit they did evil things. Guilt does not transmit through generations...

      Delete
    5. Anonymous11:29 PM

      Actually I don't know who my ancestors were. Poor Lithuanian peasants, apparently.

      What evidence do you have they were poor?

      Delete
    6. Anonymous11:30 PM

      @Noah

      You can't disown your ancestors but you can admit they did evil things. Guilt does not transmit through generations...

      But can you? I mean, this kind of admission and apology only seems to occur with the European people. When have Jews admitted they did evil things?

      Delete
    7. What evidence do you have they were poor?

      Only hearsay. If they were rich, I guess they lost all their money...

      But can you? I mean, this kind of admission and apology only seems to occur with the European people. When have Jews admitted they did evil things?

      Jews? Well, plenty of individual Jews have done evil things, but in terms of political power...well, before Israel, Jews never had any political power (except I suppose in pre-Roman Israel). Now that there's Israel, Jews are certainly abusing their power over Palestinians, not to the extent of genocide of course.

      Delete
    8. Anonymous2:50 PM

      Why should the South Apologize? The Confederates abandoned the political process and resolved to settle political differences by violence. They started a civil war that killed and maimed hundreds of thousands of young men. They invaded neutral states. They started the first draft in the country ever. They forced citizens who wanted nothing to do with their war into their ranks as cannon fodder. They silenced their critics by jail, execution and massacre. They massacred prisoners of war or treated them so inhumanely many starved to death. They derailed trains killing innocent passengers. They fired on steamboats, exploding boilers and injuring passengers. They brought war and malediction on themselves. Starting the war was entirely on the South. It was a terrible idea and a terrible act. It was not the heroic "lost cause" of Newt Gingerich "what if" history.
      -jonny bakho

      Delete
    9. Anonymous12:23 AM

      The Confederates abandoned the political process and resolved to settle political differences by violence.

      No they didn't. The voted on and issued declarations of secession from the Union. That is a political/contractual act. The North sought to keep them bound with violence against their will.

      They started a civil war that killed and maimed hundreds of thousands of young men.

      The conglomeration of Northern States started the civil war. If they had permitted the South its God given liberty and right to self-determination, there would have been no war.

      They started the first draft in the country ever.

      What country are you referring to?

      They forced citizens who wanted nothing to do with their war into their ranks as cannon fodder.

      They Northern states did that. Read up on the draft riots in Northeastern cities.

      They silenced their critics by jail, execution and massacre.

      Lincoln is notorious for having suspended habeas corpus.

      They massacred prisoners of war or treated them so inhumanely many starved to death.

      You need to read up on the conditions for Southern POWs.

      They derailed trains killing innocent passengers. They fired on steamboats, exploding boilers and injuring passengers.

      Are you thinking of Sherman's March or the torching of the Shenandoah Valley?

      Delete
    10. Anonymous12:25 AM

      @Noah

      Jews? Well, plenty of individual Jews have done evil things, but in terms of political power...well, before Israel, Jews never had any political power.

      Why did you delete the well-documented, dispassionate evidence posted here that contradicted this outrageous claim of yours?

      Delete
  40. Anonymous7:59 PM

    Noah,

    Why don't you spend your time highlighting existing bigotry, you know, the kind of things we can do something about?...

    "Racial homogeneity (ignoring those pesky [Palestinian Gentiles], of course) is one of the [Israel]'s selling points. The other is its fabled military prowess. [Southerners are supposed to make the best soldiers.--DELETED] This is certainly the Israel's image of itself..."

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  41. Anonymous9:08 PM

    The idea of Southern men as a "warrior race" even gave birth to the "Southern race" mythology, in which some Southerners contended that they were descended from the chivalrous Norman warriors of old England.

    I don't know why you refer to this as a myth. Many Southerners are in fact descended from Norman conquerors.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Actually I looked into this...it's not true. Southerners probably are disproportionately descended from the Cavaliers of the English Civil War, as they claimed. But the Cavaliers were a complete mix of Normans, Saxons, and Celts. Those English ethnic groups were almost certainly too interbred to be distinguishable, by that point.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous12:24 AM

      Southerners probably are disproportionately descended from the Cavaliers of the English Civil War, as they claimed. But the Cavaliers were a complete mix of Normans, Saxons, and Celts.

      By your own admission, many were descended from Norman conquerors.

      Delete
    3. many were descended from Norman conquerors

      Sure...just not any more than the Northern British-descended whites they were fighting against...

      Delete
    4. Anonymous12:13 AM

      @Noah Smith

      But the Cavaliers were a complete mix of Normans, Saxons, and Celts. Those English ethnic groups were almost certainly too interbred to be distinguishable, by that point.

      And yet, you are "Jewish" and Obama is "African"? You are almost certainly too interbred to be distinguishable, don't you think?

      Delete
    5. And yet, you are "Jewish" and Obama is "African"? You are almost certainly too interbred to be distinguishable, don't you think?

      Well, Judaism is a religion...I was raised Jewish, but gave it up later. And yeah Obama is half Irish...

      These groups are pretty pointless, I agree.

      Delete
    6. Anonymous12:39 AM

      Well, Judaism is a religion...I was raised Jewish, but gave it up later.

      What makes something a "religion" in your opinion? If Judaism is a religion, why does it determine who is Jewish and who is not by bloodline?

      And what are we to make of claims that Israel is Jews' "ancestral homeland"?

      Delete
    7. Anonymous12:40 AM

      I will say, despite my criticism of you here, you seem like you have the makings to be a good guy.

      Delete
    8. Anonymous12:47 AM

      @Noah

      ...and while I think that your deleting the perfectly straightforward examples cited in other posts as evidence of Jewish influence was unwarranted and bush league (you were who put it at issue after all by making the claim, and you left your own post up there), I nonetheless commend you for permitting a relatively free commenting board.

      You do seem to welcome debate and you may be open to learning from others, rather than interested in merely confirming your prejudices.

      Delete
    9. What makes something a "religion" in your opinion?

      Well, if you can convert to it, I guess. I can't be "black", even if I want. But I could be Christian or Muslim. And Barack Obama could be Jewish.

      If Judaism is a religion, why does it determine who is Jewish and who is not by bloodline?

      ...aggressive recruitment of minors, to make up for the lack of proselytizing, by exploiting the idea of an ancestral connection?

      And what are we to make of claims that Israel is Jews' "ancestral homeland"?

      Just about the same as any claims of "ancestral homelands", I'd say...somewhere between "herp" and "derp".

      Though I'd love to see my descendants try to go claim Norman, Oklahoma as their "ancestral homeland". That would be a hilarious spectacle...

      I will say, despite my criticism of you here, you seem like you have the makings to be a good guy.

      Well, don't give me too much encouragement, it'll go to my head... ;-)

      Delete
  42. Anonymous9:12 PM

    The audience's response was Pavlovian. I wouldn't read any more into it.

    This was the "two minute hate". Afterwards everyone enjoyed a swig of Victory gin and puffed on Victory smokes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well that's true! But I was saying that the Pavlovian conditioning was powerful enough to reverse some people's natural political leanings. It's Tarantino's revenge fantasy, not America's in general...but a good movie director has the power to force you to share his fantasy, and Tarantino did it.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous11:54 PM

      Really? What political leanings? Those of the slave owners in the audience? There are few groups americans are still allowed to joyfully hate in public. Cartoonish slavers are definitely on that short list.

      People like to hate. In public. Preferably with other people who hate the same thing. Ever been to a football game?

      Tarantino also did a movies about killing Nazis and Misogynists. Notice a trend? Tarentino didn't stock the pond, he just casts his line where the fish are.

      Delete
  43. Anonymous10:19 PM

    @Thursday

    That's not even close to accurate. Obama won NYC, annihilating Romney 81% to 18%. According to the census, 33% of NYC is non-latino white.

    So perhaps as America becomes more diverse conservative whites get worse at math.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous10:46 PM

      I don't know the exit polling for this question, but are you sure your math skills are really all that great? lol, think a little bit harder about whether your information actually rules out Thursday's suggestion.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous11:56 PM

      Uhh.. 1/2 of 33 is 16.5 dude.

      Delete
  44. Your entire article focuses on the fact that Slavery represents the south. It does not.

    Hating the memory of slavery does not equate a rejection to "country music and Lynyrd Skynyrd, barbecue and nascar, political conservatism, God and guns, the code of masculinity, militarization, hostility to unions, and suspicion of government authority, especially in Washington, D.C. (despite its largesse)."

    I also believe that your generalization that the South tries to rationalize the history of slavery is either outdated or a non-representative sample. I would be interested in any research that you could provide to the contrary.

    I hate genocide. I love schnitzel and bratwurst.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous12:44 PM

      I've lived in Alabama for 25 years. But I was born and raised in Hawaii. Looking at the premise of the "Southernization" of the country I note that when driving secondary roads to Atlanta I will see 50 or more American flags for 1-2 Confederate flags in 3 1/2 hours.

      Delete
  45. Anonymous9:39 AM

    Econ bloggers becoming movie critics?
    I guess we should look out for Steve Williamson's retort to this article.

    ReplyDelete
  46. Lincoln started the war in 1861 to "save the Union" and stop slavery -- stopping slavery is good, starting a war and mass killing is not so good.

    Brazil, without a war, ended slavery in 1888.

    Because of moral progress, slavery would have ended before women got the vote in a Confederate States, had those states not been invaded and defeated.

    Was the Civil War worth 625 000 deaths?
    If you think so, how many would have to have been killed before you think it was "too many".

    I think more than 1% dead is too many:

    Total Free Population 27,489,561
    Total Slave Population 3,953,760
    Grand Total 31,443,321

    The Civil War, killing 2%, was too expensive.


    N. Viet & Cambodian communists, after the US left Indochina (1973 Paris Peace Accords), killed over 2 million, in order to force the other millions to live in unfree communism. How can one argue that the Civil War was worth it, but the Vietnam war (56000 dead Americans) was not? How many would the commies have to murder before continued fighting after the N. Viet liars invaded again justify the US defending S. Vietnam again?

    Every baby boomer & older who voted Democrat in 1974 (for the House) is a leeeeetle bit responsible for accepting commie Killing Fields in Cambodia 1975-1978 (stopped by Viet commies taking over then). None of us have any responsibility for the Civil War.


    Have not yet seen the flick, but mass killing of the bad guys is a good idea. Too bad the good guys bringing justice are never really saints.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous4:19 PM

      States' Rights, Southern Hypocrisy, and the Crisis of the Union

      http://scholarship.law.duke.edu/faculty_scholarship/2641/

      Delete
  47. My paternal grandfather's name is Siegfried. He fought for America in the Philippines while his cousins disappeared fighting the advancing Red Army. Coincidently I recently learned that I'm related to Lincoln's Secretary of War on my mother's side. Her grandfather was a Stanton.

    Anyhow, Germany had a cultured tradition of enlightenment and democracy: Goethe, Beethoven, Marx. I see Shultz as being representative of this tradition. It was crushed by war, depression and fascism.

    Tarantino explored the evil fascist side in Inglorious Bastards. In Django he's rounding out the picture.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous1:19 AM

      I'm pretty certain you are referring to Groucho, not Karl, when you speak of enlightenment and democracy: Karl Marx replaced the former with dialectical "thinking" and reviled the latter.

      Delete
  48. Less than five percent of White Southerners owned slaves, and slavery depressed the wages of the other 95%. It was an institution that had negative consequences for the vast majority of Confederate soldiers. Southerners were not fighting for slavery, they were fighting to defend their land and way of life just like all brave and noble men have throughout history. Lincoln wanted to export blacks out of the US once slavery was ended and didn't view them as equals suitable for living alongside with Whites. While his war ended up benefiting them, he was a "man of his time" in not viewing them as fully human, but he gets a pass.

    Tariffs were the pretext for the Civil War, but the Slavery issue the became it's "moral" justification. This was also fought for setting the precedent for centralization of power by the federal government, because prior to this it was understood that the federal government gained it's power from the states. The rest of the Western world managed to end slavery without costing the lives of nearly 700,000 of it's own citizens, so there is no reason the same thing could have happened in the US without a war.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous12:10 AM

      This.

      Delete
    2. Dude, you've really got to read a history book.

      Delete
    3. Anonymous11:45 AM

      He has read history books, just not the ones written by the victors and cult of lincoln.

      I hope we are all aware that in his first inagural address, Lincoln gave his explict support for a constitutional amendment to make slavery permanent and perpetual for all time, a fair compromise, in his mind, to "save the union". So despite his meager racism and nice words about equality and liberty in the same speech, Lincoln reveals his true intentions when he threatens the south with a bloody invasion in order to enforce the high 45% protectionist tarriffs that the south was ademently resisting, since they would bear the brunt of the costs, while the northern industrialists would profit from them. So in his own words, Lincoln's presidency started with the notion that slavery was permissible, should be made permanent, and that the war only about protecting the union, aka allowing the north to exploit the south through economic warfare.

      Sure slavery is evil, but only 5% of southerners even owned slaves, and most of them were the rich aristocrats. Just read the war time journals and letters of thousands of southern soldiers, and see how they thought they were fighting not for slavery, but to protect their lands, their nation, their rights, and their families from an aggressive northern force hell bent on exploitation. The south exploited slaves, and the north successfully tried to exploit the south, especially the southern poor.

      Delete
  49. The author's take on the modern evolution of race in the south starts correctly but descends into "bull shit", ironically based on stereotypes of the south the author purports to expose. And for some the same age old reasons: an attempt to feel superior.

    Blatant racism was finally brought out in the open and confronted in the south in the civil rights era, where, with success thanks to MLK and others, it was largely destroyed. For comparison, the author gives blivet history, "as non-Southern America became more racially diverse", and the moves on as if that proved something about racial equality in the non-South. There lies the bullshit.

    If you want a glimpse of racism in the US it can be found in many places, but make no mistake the quickest ticket to a show is *not* in the South. Want to hear the N word? No place quicker than Boston. Want to see the cops pounding Rodney King? LA. Want to see night after night of not just mostly but *all* white faces at a play or restaurant? NYC. Major race riots? Well LA, DC, Boston, etc will serve something up every decade or so, but the last one in say, South Carolina is coming up on 80 years ago. Of course don't forget the largest race riot in American history *still* lies with NYC during the civil war.

    The real story is not about antics of "real white people", that's incidental. The real story is about the elaborate constructions of those like the author's to show self-superiority over the knuckle dragging rubes.

    ReplyDelete
  50. I didn't care for the reflexive dissing of country music. This excellent, recent post may serve as an antidote:
    http://www.amoeba.com/blog/2013/02/eric-s-blog/pan-american-blues-black-country.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nice. But not what's getting played on the radio.

      Disclaimer: Although I usually get bored by country, I love Toby Keith.

      Delete
  51. I enjoyed Django Unchained, partly because of my ethnic background. My grandfather, Joe Leo Meyer, moved to Texas from Alsace, France (within ten miles of President Obama's Mom's side of the family). He started a Dr. Pepper plant in Palestine by the turn of the 20th century. Grandpa hired Blacks as well as Whites; he needed plenty of drivers as well as factory workers. Juneteenth was biggest money making day of the year, so as a young child, I realized that Dad's side of the family was middle-class during The Depression through a largely Black clientele. Only two of his employees ended up graduating from college: my Dad and Dr. Nolan Anderson, MD of Marshall. One of Dad's fondest memories of childhood was going to Grandpa's friend store, Willie the butcher, so young Nolan could practice his German. Surely that was a gutty move back then because the Klan hated Catholic immigrants and Jews too. Dr. Anderson got his degrees from Wiley (an HBCU in Marshall), Univ. of Michigan, and Meharry--the dominant HBCU medical college. Dr. Anderson returned to Wiley to teach and have his medical practice. Dr. Anderson delivered heavyweight champion, George Foreman. Dr. Anderson was honored by the NAACP in Marshall too............Thus I could relate to a bond between a newly arrived German and a Black man, as shown in Django. The German Hill Country was considered Northern territory during the Civil War.

    ReplyDelete
  52. I would just like to point out that there is also a difference between the south and the southwest or west. Cowboys and country music are not a thing of 1800s southern production, but of German and Northern European settlers and folkloric music in the west. "Manliness" is a complex topic, but at least for me, confederate flags were never part of it.

    ReplyDelete