We all know that it is not fitting for any length of time to go by in these parts without somebody bringing out old charges against me. Try to think of these charges as an order of refried beans in a cheap dive of a Mexican restaurant, meaning that the refrying actually took place about three weeks ago, but with the owners trying to get the customers to eat them today. Anyhow, Nick Gier just published on the web a letter to the editor that will shortly be appearing in the Daily News. My comments are interspersed in bold.
To the Editor of the Daily News:
Thus far we agree.
We all know how misleading book “blurbs” can be, so what are we to make of the fact that Doug Wilson keeps trotting out (most recently Nov. 5) historian Eugene Genovese’s praise for Wilson’s self-published book “Black and Tan”?
Why does Wilson keep bringing this subject up? We cannot understand it. Does he not know how contemporary scholarship works? We throw things at his head, and he is not allowed to move.
Of all the professional reviews that I have read of Wilson’s work on slavery, it is only Professor Genovese who has approved it.
Yeah, sure, Sir Edmund Hillary climbed Mt. Everest. But he didn’t climb all the other ones. The point of Genovese’s approval of Black & Tan is not that this makes what I am arguing automatically correct. Reasonable people can differ with what I have written and many of them probably should. But his endorsement does mean that what I am saying should be considered as being within the pale of reasonable discourse and discussion. These opinions of mine, approved by someone of Dr. Genovese’s caliber, ought not to make reasonable people go sideways in a kind of leftist warp-spasm.
Two UI history professors and a University of Washington expert on the Civil War (and member of a Wilson related Christ Church in Seattle) have condemned it. The historians on George Mason University’s History News Network (http://hnn.us) have roundly rejected it.
Right. One of them rejected me as an “Aryan supremacist minister.” We are the History News Network. We don’t need no stinking fact checkers.
When the Seattle professor told Wilson that 20 percent of the early booklet “Southern Slavery As It Was” was lifted from another book, Wilson withdrew it from circulation and promised to fix the “citation problems” and reissue it as soon as he could.
And Wilson apologized for the dog’s breakfast of a problem we created in the footnotes. And ran an appendix in Black & Tan that explained in detail the problem with the original booklet (and our responsibility for it) so that no one would think that in the new publication we were trying to evade responsibility for the blunder.
But it took Wilson 18 months to republish it as “Black and Tan,” with substantial revisions responding to the criticism that he had once publicly rejected.
Of course I responded to the criticism. That was kind of the point of the book. But if the idea being advanced here is that (apart from the citation problems) I rejected a critique of my work at one point and then quietly adopted that same criticism later, then I must repond by asking Nick to provide me with a “for instance.” He won’t be able to, because I didn’t.
Here is the real rub, however. The original slavery booklet has now been reprinted without change (except for quotation marks around the lifted portions) in “The War Between the States: America’s Uncivil War,” which historian Ed Sebesta claims “incorporates every ‘Lost Cause’ and modern Neo-Confederate idea.”
Ed Sebesta is an historian? Really? Can I be an historian too then?
Genovese’s blurb raises another serious problem. Here are the relevant parts: “Wilson . . . has a strong grasp of the essentials of the history of slavery. . . . Indeed, sad to say, his grasp is a great deal stronger than that of most professors of American history, whose distortions and trivializations disgrace our college classrooms.”
And again I thank Dr. Genovese for his kind words. And I thank Dr. Gier for repeating them.
Perhaps Genovese thinks that none of his professional colleagues will read or hear of Wilson’s book, so that he can spew this venom about them behind their backs. Genovese’s betrayal of his profession, however, is now all over the internet.
This was not Genovese’s betrayal of his profession. It was his considered and learned opinion that his profession has betrayed itself, having sold out their vocation for a rash of politically-correct multiculti lefists nostrums. Which they have.
Nick Gier, Moscow
Again, no dispute.
My thanks for Bill Ramsey, UI history professor, for help in writing this. I wish he would write a letter, too. The Daily News refused to let him have a guest column to respond to Wilson’s Nov. 5th piece.
In the midst of the slavery fracas a few years ago, I offered to debate the UI history profs who were in the fray, and all I heard was the sound of crickets. But I would certainly be willing to re-extend the invitation, in order that we might have a cordial exchange of views. I think a lot of people would come.