Saturday, January 19, 2008

League of the South: Please learn to use p.r.!

I suppose the cartoon on the left pretty well captures the standard public image of the “secesh” in our part of the world. And it is one that the League of the South is apparently intent on perpetuating. Even if it defeats the cause. Bear with me for a few paragraphs, and I shall explain why this matters to us who are north of the Ohio River.

The League has a serious public relations problem – it is widely perceived as being racist – but as Fox News says, I’ll report, you judge. The immediate case in point has to do with the upcoming Martin Luther King Day observance at the State Capitol in Columbia, South Carolina, which will be attended by several of the Presidential candidates. The NAACP has planned a large rally to honor Dr. King and to press for the removal of what is popularly known as the Confederate Battle Flag from the war memorial on the Capitol grounds. The South Carolina chapter of the League has decided to launch a massive “flagging” – a counterdemonstration in which all of their supporters who can find a Confederate Battle Flag will display it prominently while the NAACP demonstration is taking place. Thus, the counterdemonstration simultaneously pours contempt on the work of Dr. King and uses its most abrasive symbol to do so.

Before I continue, a few disclaimers: First, what South Carolina decides to do with the flag is their internal matter, and is not the point of this discussion. Secondly, I sympathize with the League’s contention that they want to honor their ancestors. One of mine also fought for the Confederacy. Finally, we need to make a distinction between “political correctness” and public relations. “Political correctness” is the suppression of discussion because its content might offend someone. Public relations embraces the discussion, but in a way that seeks consensus.
The Confederate Battle Flag is a bold in-your-face design that is offensive to many people, not only because it is an historic symbol of the Southern nation; but in the years since the Civil War has become intimately associated with white supremacism, segregation, and rebellion. There are other Confederate flags (left) that can be used to honor the war dead. A p.r.-savvy League would call off the counterdemonstration and say something like “We have the right to honor our traditions, but we understand why people are offended by the Confederate Battle Flag. We therefore propose that one of the other flags be displayed at the war memorial.”

A few years ago, Georgia adopted a new state flag modeled on the Stars and Bars with relatively little objection from the Black community, and Confederate war memorials in several states display the 3rd national flag (lower right in the illustration above). If the NAACP insists on removing all Confederate symbolism from the war memorial, and the League insists that the only acceptable symbol is the Confederate Battle Flag, the debate will never end. The NAACP will continue to be aggravated and the League will continue to be branded with the word racist. It is therefore in the interest of both organizations to settle the issue.

The problem for us up North is that the perceived racism of the League of the South (and please note, I’m trying to be fair by calling it perceived) has ramifications up here. The most mature secessionist movement today is the one in Vermont. Begun in 1991 as an outgrowth of discussions during their Bicentennial, it has won support from 20% of the population, according to a University of Vermont poll last year. The best known organization, called the Second Vermont Republic,* was well on the way to advocating a resolution for secession from each of the some 200 town meetings to take place this March. However, one of the leading lights of that movement is Prof. Thomas H. Naylor, who moved to Vermont some 20 years ago from a teaching position at Duke University, in North Carolina. His close association with the Middlebury Institute (a secessionist think tank based in New York), and the latter’s defense of, and cosponsorship of a secessionist convention with the League of the South, has split, and apparently seriously damaged, the Vermont movement. While the criticisms of Prof. Naylor and his movement smack somewhat of guilt by association, neither the Second Vermont Republic nor the Middlebury Institute has answered the allegations, one of which is that the Institute is effectively acting as a front organization for the League of the South. (I personally doubt that this is true, but again, the allegations remain unanswered).

So, we have a domino effect. If the League of the South cannot apply p.r. to address the charges of racism, they will never sell secession to a majority of Southerners. As a result, the League may cause Vermont’s movement to grasp defeat from the jaws of victory, and it will greatly increase the financial and psychological startup costs for movements elsewhere, including Ohio.

All because they will not challenge the notion that a secessionist is a cartoon figure in a gray uniform that shouts “Fergit, hell!!!”

(I will give my own views on racism on Monday).

* The First Vermont Republic existed as an independent nation from 1776 until its admission to the Union in 1791.


Anonymous said...

South Carolina commends Ohio for taking this great step towards independence. The time is ripe. With dedication and leadership you can not fail.

You write clearly and persuasively and obviously understand some of the complexities involved. Each nation has a history, a culture, and a unique iconography.

Each nation will discover strengths therein, as the will for self determination grows. Ohio's flag, as an example, is the most distinctive and among the most beautiful of all our flags.

Thank you for mentioning the LoS. I came upon our site through that reference.

We share a common dream and the future is on our side.

Jim Hanks
South Carolina League of the South

Bernhard said...

I appreciate your solid position regarding self-determination as an American institution and wish Ohio well in promoting our joint cause.

Regarding public relations and the League of the South, I must disagree---the very appropriate action of the South Carolina League is justly aimed at a group which is determined to erase symbols of American heritage, and the American South in particular.
It wont, and should not be tolerated by any American ethnic group.

Should the NAACP attack the flag or other symbols of Ohio's great heritage, I would expect no less from your citizens who revere their past and ancestors.
If the NAACP would cease its constant and unnecessary attacks on the symbols of Southern heritage, which the League reveres as well, then there would be no need of counter-demonstrations.

The flags of the Confederacy are no more symbols of white supremacy and segregation than the Stars & Stripes or the Union Jack of England---and this claim by the writer is disingenuous---that argument is false and cannot stand the light of scholarly scrutiny.

As the article lists the usual lists of sins of the South, I challenge the writer to find more "racism" in the League than would be found at a Maine Rotary Club meeting. My wife of 21 years is a native of Korea, I am of Northern-birth, and have been a member of the League since 2005. I detect no racism, but I observe a reverence for heritage, ancestors and the republic of the Founders. Nothing wrong with any of the above.

The public relations message the South Carolina League is conveying today is that those who revere their American ancestors that fought for political liberty and independence a second time in 85 years, will absolutely not tolerate the NAACP attacks.

It is to the benefit of the Ohio, Vermont and other movements for self-determination to be associated with the League and the energy within it. The best path in public relations is to be steadfast in your cause, not lose sight of your goal, and educate the public to discredit the misunderstandings and lies one's enemies use against you. The usual litany of white supremacy, segregation and racism are worn-out residue of postwar propaganda that continues to this day, used to justify the overthrow of the original republic. The League is foremost in publishing objective and accurate versions of our history, and discrediting the false histories of the past and present.

If we let these lies derail the potential of self-determination, we succumb to our enemies and their own version of "public relations," or better described, distortions.

Nonetheless, we must work together earnestly and learn more about each other---I invite the writer to meet our members at our next conference in Burlington, Feb 9.

Bernhard Thuersam
North Carolina League of the South

Anonymous said...

Mr. Hanks:
I appreciate your gracious response, and believe that we are mostly on the same page.

Mr. Thuersam:
I'm not sure you got my point. I am deeply opposed to "political correctness", and I agree with your right to display a Confederate flag at the war memorial. On the other hand, the League and the NAACP need to publicly seek some common ground on the issue, so that you can move from the display of Confederate flags to more substantive issues.

I was suggesting an approach that I thought might help do this. I was also suggesting that "flagging" with the (specifically) Confederate Battle Flag was effectively shutting down the discussion you need to move on. I was also trying to help you get that "racist" tag off your collective back.

My opinion as a Copperhead, anyway.

Thomas Rowley said...

It is heartening to learn that other secessionists are finally realizing that deliberate associations with groups that have a documentable agenda of white supremacy may have a downside.

Part of the problem though remains the acceptance of spin as fact. You've mentioned that secesssion "has won support from 20% of the population, according to a University of Vermont poll last year." Can you link to that poll? I think you'll find that you can not. What you can find are various assertions that can be traced to Thomas Naylor that don't disclose much beyond the assertion itself of 8% in a 2006 Center for Rural Studies poll (a UVM polling outfit) and a 13% figure the following year (CRS/UVM). The real story about the poll can be found here and here. There's also a reference in your post about SVR being "well on the way to advocating a resolution for secession from each of the some 200 town meetings to take place this March." Can you name just one of those towns?

I'm not trying to minimize what SVR has sought to do but the rhetoric and disinformation doesn't match up to the reality.

You should know that after the purge of local Vermonters who belonged to Naylor's SVR and his sister organization, VTCommons, and who had objected to the Naylor response to the factual revelations about he and his group that go far, far beyond mere "guilt by association," as well as his reaching out to other hate groups by way of repeated interviews on the hate radio program, The Political Cesspool, (see here and here), SVR is little more now than a website devoted to press releases. As a result of the exposure of Naylor's reaching out to that sort of audience my blog received the expected not so thinly veiled threats that one might associate with bona fide hate group supporters.

When you look for substantive support in Vermont for Naylor's group, SVR, and its propaganda arm, VTCommons, you won't find it. The group that remains is truly fringe, as evidenced by their present devotion to 9/11 conspiracism and creation beams.

LoS propaganda notwithstanding, your group would be doomed to follow SVR's failed trail should you not do your own indepth research that looks beyond the shoddy historical revisionism and delusion press releases emanating from SVR, the various LoS chapters and the Middlebury Institute.

Bernhard said...

Mr. Rowley is correct---it is acceptance of spin as fact that is creating issues where there are none---and this alleged "white supremacy" where none is proven is just that, and should be discarded as we move on to more important issues. But where are these documentable agendas?

When such allegations are made, I ask for proof and I have seen none as yet. I mistakenly stated in my post of being a member of the League since 2005---it is actually 1995 and I have seen no racism or visions of segregation appear in League events in those 13 years.

I would kindly ask Mr. Rowley to identify anything questionable emanating from our chapters. It is one thing to disagree with a position, but I would like to see the League chapters have an opportunity to explain or clarify.
Along with a common goal that we all aspire to, respect for each others organizations and ideals should be a basis for cooperation.

Bernhard Thuersam
North Carolina League of the South

Thomas Rowley said...

I sincerely doubt that there is any proof that a LoSer like Bernhard Thuersam would concede exists in that imaginary land that Southern secessionists and their supporters chose to live in but try this for starters.

Make no mistake about this; that I have no respect whatsoever for your organization, your allies, your ideals and for people such as yourself who would lead such a group.

(Spoiler Alert: Get ready for a denial that doesn't really deny so much as attack an organization that has done so much to effectively thwart the efforts of the LoS, their allies in the Klan and other white supremacist organization.)

Bernhard said...

When one resorts to using the imaginary land of a discredited racial con-artist and his SPLC as a credible source for anything, it is certain that the serious dialogue has ended.

With that out of the way, let us get on with the business of restoring the proper Constitutional relationship between the States and their federal agent, and pursue self-determination.

I stand by my previous post and appreciate Harold's understanding of the view from this side. However, and I agree that an understanding between the League and the NAACP would be in order, the League as far as I know has always been open to any dialogue from anyone on the issue of public display of the flags in question.

From the League standpoint, the NAACP simply has to stop its attacks on the symbols and heritage of ethnic Southerners, and the issue ceases.

Those that began the reason for the SC flagging must be the ones to come to the League and be willing to stop fomenting hatred between white and black people which is the net result of the NAACP actions. That said, any person, white or black is welcome to attend our NC Conferences and discuss an "approach" as Harold suggests.
I hope this will happen soon.

Bernhard Thuersam
North Carolina League of the South

Anonymous said...

I appreciate all of your comments, and am glad that I could help bring these issues out in the open. Our cause suffers when we allow ourselves (including myself, as noted by Mr. Rowley) to simply follow the rhetoric. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to pursue the truth through exclusively Internet resources.

I will withhold further comment until I can more thoroughly digest what has been written here and in Rebellion.

Thomas Rowley said...

Well, Bernie, as long as you want to persist in a fantasy world, I can see why you might think that there'll ever be a day when the NAACP or any other worthwhile organization might be willing to stop calling that particular spade some kind of symbol of heritage.

It's a symbol of slavery and treason, nothing more.

Do you find it satisfying to live in a Ruritanian mindland of a make believe future? The obvious answer would be yes.

Please forgive those of us who chose to live in the real world.

Thanks for the opportunity to interact with this, uh, comedic opera character, Harold. And stop by at Vermont Secession in the future. You won't want to miss what's coming up.

CarolMooreReport said...

Glad to see a secessionist giving up to date info on this issue from a pro-secession view. When rabid anti-secessionists given to libelous attacks intended to injure the reputation of another by exposing here/him to hatred, contempt or ridicule on their blogs do it, who can take the issue seriously at all? If we had more fair, balanced, non-hostile reporting like this the topic could be discussed more sensibly by people like Sale and Naylore, instead of dismissed (legitimately) as the rantings of statists whose true goal is to make sure the Democratic (or Republican) Party and its special interests keep us their slaves forever!
Carol in dc

CarolMooreReport said...

PS: The good news is searching news google for: king south carolina league of the south I found no news stories. Two stories on the MLK event at SC Capitol did not mention counter protesters, though one deleted article that jumped up on google mentioned LOS intended to protest before hand. So if anyone even showed, they probably just went home.

I'm working on a variety of solutions for the problem, in between fighting off the attacks from those who look to cause problems among secessionists, as opposed to those of us who are trying to deal with and solve the problems.

CarolMooreReport said...

re: "The Problem".

Looking at the LoS postings, I can see that there is a problem with holding on to old grievances, and sectarianism in general on all sides, rather than trying to seek reconciliation and create a new future. Isn't that the problem they are having in Israel/Palestine, with Israelis thinking the Nazi genocide excuses driving Arabs off their land and killing them when they protest?

African-Americans are getting screwed by the centralized nation states. It's better to convince them of that than protest old hurts and angers in a way that turns them off to the solution to their problems. It would be frustrating if African-American secessionists only talked about the hurts of slavery - and not the hurts they have suffered under the Demo-publican war on drugs which singles out blacks for special persecution.

I'm all for women having the right to secede into their own communities run by women's rules and values, with or without men. But I'd think it was pretty counterproductive if they were constantly protesting for their right to shoot attempted rapists in their privates - or castrate those who dared to commit crimes in their secessionist communities! (As even some of the daintiest women love to discuss from time to time in private.)

Remember, the Demo-publican power mongers and their lackeys will do their best to divide all secessionists with lies and libels, so why give them undue ammunition?

Thanks to Ohio Republic for an open forum for stimulating these insights. We all must continue to learn, or why live??

Anonymous said...


Thank you for writing about the League in an bold objective manner. It is rare that writers seek to understand rather than to judge the issues regarding controversial issues.

I am encouraged that people in Ohio are taking action. It takes courage and fortitude to stand and be counted.

This is not the first time that the Sons of Ohio stood on principle. During the war, some of the Sons of Ohio served in the Confederacy. This past summer, homage was paid to the Sons of Ohio and the other states whose sons served in Terry's Texas Rangers at the 100th anniversary of the Terry's Texas Ranger Statue on the capital ground s in Austin, Texas.

Jeff Murrah
League of the South
Texas State Chriman

Matthew Cember said...

I would like to thank all of the Chairmen from the League of the South on doing such a splendidly professional job of avoiding Mr. "Thomas Rowley"'s attempts to goad them into a pointless exchange of acrimony. Everyone involved naturally respects the Southern States' attempts to free themselves of Federal domination which in my opinion were thwarted unconstitutionally.
But those elite members of the LoS who commented here must surely be aware that they are more... shall we say, educated?... than other individuals on the "grass roots" level and that sometimes the frustration borne of 145 years of military occupation can be scapegoated onto innocent individuals, on the basis of race or color, for reasons that do not hold up to the light of historical reason. You have your work cut out for you, my southern friends.
Personally, I would like to suggest that we can show our support and solidarity for the cause of States' Rights by proudly displaying The Bonnie Blue Flag - a single white star on a royal blue background which stands for the national soverenty of every State.

Benjamin9 said...

A symbol of treason? Since when is secession treason?

Harold Thomas said...

Secession isn't treason.

"Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort."

Therefore, if one agrees with Lincoln that the secession was illegal, then the Confederates were not "enemies" -- they were Americans in rebellion, and outside the meaning of "treason".

And if one agrees with the Congress in early 1861 that the secession was legal, then the Confederacy was answering an act of aggression by the United States, in which case it cannot fairly be said that the Confederate flag was a "flag of treason."

Unionists, you can't have it both ways...