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Luker Blog Archives 10-25-03 to 11-16-03


Glenn Reynolds and I read this piece by Jennifer Howard in the Washington Post with the same bemusement. She says we're a little"inbred." Never of us has seen any of the blogs to which she refers and they can deal with the charge that they've been keeping it"all in the family." But on my blogroll, Andrew Sullivan lives right between Eric Alterman's Altercation and Atrios and Allen Brill's Christian perspectives on the news sit side by side with Jewish perspectives at Oxbog and The Volokh Conspiracy. I know that some healthy cross fertilization is going on here. The blogosphere is like a library in which books offering competing interpretations of things sit quietly beside each other until you open them up and the dialogue begins.

Do not begrudge the print media its sniping, however. Almost a year ago, Glenn, Andrew, and a few other bloggers almost single-handedly kept the story about Trent Lott's tribute to Strom Thurmond alive. I tried to get my friend, David Garrow, to alert his contacts at the editorial desks of the New York Times and the Washington Post that there even was a story and to persuade him to write an op-ed for them. Finally, I wrote one for History News Service which appeared on History News Network and in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the San Diego Union-Tribune. I actually feared that the story might die before I could get it through Joyce Appleby's and Jim Banner's fine-toothed editorial comb and into print. But Glenn gave me some quick lessons in sending links and the rest is, as they say, history. Well, almost.

Glenn, Andrew, others and I could keep the fires burning until the New York Times and the Washington Post caught a whiff of smoke, but it took another smart historian, Joe Crespino, to seal the case with the evidence that Trent Lott's tribute to Strom Thurmond wasn't an isolated event at the old man's retirement party. Joe was finishing his dissertation at Stanford on Mississippi politics over the last forty years and he could show that Trent Lott had been praising Mississippi's vote for Strom Thurmond for president in 1948 many times over many years. That sealed it. Emory University's history department was smart enough to hire Joe Crespino to teach modern Southern history.

Update: Damn. Allen Brill says that my post's references to him, Reynolds, Sullivan, Volokh and the others are just the kind of thing that Jennifer Howard was talking about. Fellahs, we gotta quit meeting like this.

Posted by Ralph 4:00 a.m. EST

MILDLY WHAT? ... 11-16=03

I am always delighted to discover another great blog by a historian on the net. But my gills turned green with envy when I discovered Edward Cohn's Mildly Malevolent. I offered to arm wrestle him for his blogtitle. After all, what's a decent blog without a little harmless malice. But I'm not smart enough ever to have thought of it and he insists that he had it first. One of Tim Burke's former students at Swarthmore, Cohn is an advanced graduate student in Russian and Soviet history at the University of Chicago, but his interests are very wide ranging. So, reluctantly, I concede the right to his title, add it to my blogroll, and enthusiastically recommend that you go and spend some time with Mildly Malevolent.

Posted by Ralph 4:00 a.m. EST

SHOCK AND AWE ... 11-16-03

It was"shock and awe" last week when Allen Brill's The Right Christians had 5,000 visitors in one day and for good reason. It began innocently enough with Nicholas Kristof's lazy op-ed for the New York Times about the polarization of American public opinion. Allen handed the Times' man his hat in a smart series of posts: here, here, here, and here. Against Kristof's generalizations, Brill demonstrates that:"America is not becoming more Christian but it is becoming more diverse and more secular"; that"pundits like Kristof greatly overestimate the electoral importance of conservative Christians"; and that"even conservative Christians are becoming more progressive in their views on most social issues." Kristof isn't the only reader who will be surprised by the data that Brill cites. Go look.

Posted by Ralph 4:00 a.m. EST


Two historians were honored in quite different ways on Friday:

Louis Sako, who holds a doctorate in history and a master's degree in Islamic studies, was ordained as the Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Kirkuk in northern Iraq. The Chaldeans are an Eastern Rite body of 700,000 to 1,000,000 Iraqi Christians in communion with Rome. They follow the Gregorian calendar and retain the Syriac language and liturgy. Here is an interesting interview with Archbishop Sako about the role of the United States and of Iraqi Christians in his country.

Elizabeth Fox-Genovese was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Bush in ceremonies at the White House. She is the founding editor of The Journal of the Historical Society and founding director of the Institute for Women's Studies at Emory University, where she is the Eléonore Raoul Professor of the Humanities and Professor of History. Professor Fox-Genovese's books include Within the Plantation Household: Black and White Women of the Old South (1988), a highly regarded prize winner, and her more controversial engagements with feminism, Feminism Without Illusions: A Critique of Individualism (1991), "Feminism is Not the Story of My Life": How the Feminist Elite Has Lost Touch With the Real Concerns of Women (1996), and Women and the Future of the Family (2000).

Other winners of the National Humanities Medal include: oceanographer Robert Ballard, children's television advocate Joan Ganz Cooney, literary critic Midge Decter, essayist Joseph Epstein, actor Hal Holbrook, writer Edith Kurzweil, classist Frank Snowden, and novelist John Updike.

Posted by Ralph 2:30 a.m. EST


Thirty years after the fact, the Toledo Blade's series tells the story of atrocities committed by"Tiger Force," an elite American fighter unit in Viet Nam. The government's suppression of this story for three decades is a good example of one reason why"revision" is an essential part of the process of writing history. Thanks for the tip to Eric Alterman, who thinks this series is certain to win a Pulitzer Prize.

Posted by Ralph 12:15 a.m. EST

"IF" ... 11-14-03

You may be thinking of Rudyard Kipling's impossibly high-minded tribute to the noble virtues:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise: ...

It goes on, of course, but I was thinking about"If you had a grandmother who committed suicide and if your mother nearly murders you with a meat cleaver, then you must be Amy Tan."

Posted by Ralph 12:15 a.m. EST

IT'S REAL PITIFUL ... 11-14-03

It's real pitiful when American colleges and universities themselves become party to threats to freedom of the press in the United States. Two Southern institutions made the news for it this week. Georgia Military College first invited reporters to hear and then barred reporters from hearing a speech by one of the pilots who helped to rescue Jessica Lynch. The pilot said he feared retribution if he had any contact with the media and school officials eventually called the police to make sure there was none. Also, this week, Hampton University lost a $55,000 grant from the American Society of Newspaper Editors to its journalism program because Hampton's administration had seized all copies of the student newspaper when its editors did not follow orders about placing a letter to the editor on the front page of the newspaper. How do you teach about freedom of the press in an institution where the administration violates it?

Posted by Ralph 12:15 a.m. EST


Don't tell Zell Miller, but Fort Ogden's got the best collection of Jeff Foxworthy's"You're a redneck if ..."s on the net. Zell'll think Howard Dean made ‘em all up. I plead guilty to a couple of ‘em, myself, but I'm not telling you which ones!

Posted by Ralph 12:15 a.m. EST

LET MY PEOPLE GO! ... 11-14-03

Josh Chafetz, Kevin Drum, other netters, and left coasters seem to think that Arnold Schwarzenegger needs to"let my people go!" Whatever. But, Lord, please do not lead them all to Atlanta.

Posted by Ralph 12:15 a.m. EST

O. K., LET'S TALK ABOUT IT ... 11-13-03

When I posted yesterday on Emory's bruhaha over Carol Worthman's comparison of the status of her colleagues in anthropology to"six niggers in a woodpile," I hadn't expected to stir the pot. But posting David Salmanson's critique of E