The Place Where Bullies Go

(May 3, 2018)  Bullies, who would normally be deterred by a punch in the nose or a slap on the face in the real World, presently flock to cyberspace. In the context of Civil War and Reconstruction era history, they loiter mischievously at FaceBook (FB) discussion groups and other online forums. The acceptable viewpoints in such forums are controlled by “administrators” or “moderators” who too often are really censors of perspectives—no matter how valid—that are contrary to their own. Generally their viewpoints conform to the teachings of history professors during the last thirty years.

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Thus, Ulysses Grant is presumed to be a heroic civil rights President and the best military commander of the Civil War. Any contrary analysis is viciously attacked and often censored. Similarly, anyone providing evidence critical of the Northern interpretation, or favorable to the Southern perspective, is swarmed with such assaults, against-the-rules personal insults, and eventually labeled a “slavery apologist”, racist, or proponent of “Lost Cause Mythology.” Any in-kind response that the victim’s attackers are “Grant Fanboys”, “Pious Cause Mythologists” and “tyranny apologists” is censored.

While those controlling such groups imagine themselves to be brave social justice warriors dedicated to “correcting” earlier misinterpretations of the war and reconstruction, their true character as bullies is revealed by the fact that they limit their remarks to their own forum—even when the original post in an applicable forum thread originated at a separate blog, e-zine, or other online publication. Here’s one example.

About six months ago somebody posted one of my blog articles to a Civil War FB group. Since my analysis differed from the group’s dominant viewpoint it was vigorously attacked by dozens of commenters including “administrators.” One commenter whined that he thought (erroneously) that I had been banned from the group. Other discussion participants had to tell him that somebody else posted the article, not me. Partly because I was unaware of the thread for several days, I did not participate in the FB discussion.

One reason I was unaware was because none of the FB group members critical of the article elected to ask questions, or comment, about it at my website. Instead, they restricted their remarks to the FB group where a mob of allies and agenda-friendly “administrators” protected them by censoring the best rebuttals to their arguments. Although most FB groups—including that one—generally cite good reasons (e.g. personal attacks) for “editing” participant remarks, ultimately enforcement-fairness depends upon the integrity of the “administrators.” Thus, unethical “administrators” and their buddies might accuse debate opponents of “intellectual dishonesty” without consequence, but promptly censor any opponent who makes the same accusation against them or one of their fellow mobsters. Such behavior is a time-proven characteristic of persons with unrestrained authority as Aesop explains in his fable of the Wolf and the Lamb.

Even dictatorships like Soviet Russia had rules intended to promote even-handed justice. But if Premier Stalin wanted somebody jailed or executed, the outcome was as certain as fleas on a yard dog. The situation is much the same where biased online “administrators” and “moderators” rule. And that is why bullies congregate there.


9 thoughts on “The Place Where Bullies Go

  1. Pingback: Discussion Group Selective Censorship | Civil War Chat

  2. Cotton Boll Conspiracy

    Birds of feather and all that. If they had any real conviction behind their beliefs, they’d venture beyond their own echo chambers and engage in real debate. And, I’d add, that goes for anyone engaging in debate on any topic. It’s easy to espouse one-sided views when you’re preaching to the choir.

    1. Phil Leigh Post author

      I could not agree more. I regret the echo chambers as much as anyone, because they apply not only to the Northern viewpoint but also to those favorable to the Southern perspective. There is little good discussion in the latter and nothing but personal attacks against the Southern viewpoint in the former.

      The leading academics who set the stage for this reprehensible situation should agree to debate, but they abhor free speech even though their own viewpoints would never have seen the light of day if historians of the 1960s and earlier had shouted them down as they presently do those who disagree with *them.*

      1. Cotton Boll Conspiracy

        If folks couldn’t agree on the direction of the nation 160 or so years ago or whether the South should have been allowed to go its own way, it’s not unreasonable to expect there to be disagreement about the topic today.

        But this current push to shut down anyone who doesn’t toe the slavery-was-the-lone-cause-of-the-war line I can’t comprehend. It’s polarizing, hurts scholarship and benefits neither students nor readers. It would seem to run counter to everything scholarship is supposed to be about.

      2. Phil Leigh Post author

        The best solution is debate and the professors, rather than the discussion board acolytes who do their bidding, should be the ones to show up.

        The shout-down tactic against the Southern perspective has been so effective that presently even Nothern-perspective historians with unflattering opinions of Union leaders such as General Grant get the hecklers’ veto. Two of the most effective Grant critics won’t participate in FB groups and leading online discussion forums and the third guy who *does* show-up is forever ridiculed no matter what the strength of his arguments.

        This whole situation might never have happened if free speech was resected on campus.

  3. Letitia Sorensen

    too bad people don’t bother with the facts and reason. I find the bullies ever present in religious circles as well. But, history? they are totally biased with opinions and don’t want to be bothered by the facts….right?

      1. Phil Leigh Post author

        No, but it would not surprise me if the conduct at the Civil War Trust FB page was the same. That organization is heavily influenced by the propaganda, euphemistically termed “scholarship,” of the last thirty years.

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