IN REPLYING to the previous installment of John Doggett’s self-righteous assault on conservatives, Republicans and myself, I was deferential and polite to a fault – more than willing to overlook the mean spirit, not to say bloodlust, of my antagonist’s prose. This approach broke a cardinal rule of political discourse: Under relentless and unprincipled attack, take no prisoners. In this response, I am not going to repeat the mistake.
Republicans are currently the targets of the most sustained and vicious racial attacks in modern political history. As a party, they are accused by Democrats of disenfranchising the descendants of Holocaust survivors and slaves; their President is defamed as a supporter of hate crimes, an executioner of minorities and a man who lynched a lynch victim a "second time" (this, by his own daughter in a TV and radio ad that reached millions of African Americans).
In the course of a Senate nominations process, a Republican Senator of immense personal decency, and without a blemish in a twenty year public record, is attacked by congressional Democrats as a "racist," and interrogated about his attitudes towards slavery, an institution no public figure in American life has defended in over 100 years. All through the grotesque Inquisition of John Ashcroft and the high-tech lynching of George Bush, no media institution – the only referee of the public trust – even raised so much as a Jennings’ eyebrow at the Democratic outrage. The word "witch-hunt" – the only possible descriptive term for these proceedings and the campaign -- was not even uttered. Is it then, an intellectual mystery as to why 92% of African Americans, who have been relentlessly scared into thinking that -- if elected -- Republicans will treat them as 3/5ths of a human being, vote Democrat instead?
Yet, John Doggett, professor, lawyer and Dallas talk show host, opens his diatribe ("Black Reparations and Conservatives, Part 1" and Black Reparations and Conservatives, Part 2) by blaming this situation on conservatives themselves, because they don’t even "give lip service to issues that are important" to blacks. Worse, conservatives allegedly "ignore or ridicule their issues." As a result, 92% of blacks don’t even have a choice but to vote against Republicans. Or so Doggett claims. This is – to put it mildly –contemptible – an attempt to blame the victims and exonerate the culprits. And to do it, posing as a conservative ally.
In addition to having an impressive dose of chutzpah, Doggett is also uncommonly petty, laying equal blame on conservatives’ support for rival black talk show hosts, like Ken Hamblin: "A second problem for conservatives is … we embrace black columnists or radio talk show hosts who heap scorn on the black community…..Instead of holding up ‘black avengers’ as role models, we need to support the millions of men and women in the black community who do the right thing…" Anybody who has listened to Ken Hamblin, or read his book, knows that this is slander, and that praising worthy individuals, black and white, is exactly what Hamblin does.
Having anointed himself as a politically correct spokesman for black conservatives, Doggett gets around to his main topic, which is me. Apparently, he has "a huge problem with people attacking the black reparations movement with half-truths and breathtaking demonstrations of ignorance." Who wouldn’t? Physician, heal thyself.
As everybody within eyeshot of a cable TV show knows, I am under national attack by a ruthless left which has attempted to demonize me in exactly the same way they will demonize any conservative who is effective or powerful – Bob Barr, because he took the lead on impeachment; John Ashcroft because he is head of Justice. In Berkeley, demonstrators carried signs (later photographed in Newsweek) calling me a "racist ideologue." These protesters were members of the same lunatic fringe (although Newsweek and other media never characterized them that way) as the demonstrators at the Inauguration who chanted: "George Bush go away; racist, sexist, anti-gay." John Doggett now joins them in World Net Daily.
I am a particular target of attack, it should not be overlooked, because I have been prominent in urging Republicans and conservatives to fight back when they are under racial assault (Hating Whitey & Other Progressive Causes for example.) By not fighting back, conservatives have created a situation in which Trent Lott can be stigmatized as a racist for speaking to a group some of whose organizers forty years ago were members of a group that supported segregation. This kind of exhume-the-past guilt-by-association would bury a conservative who attempted to employ it. It is simply racial McCarthyism. But in the absence of a counter-attack, calling it just that, it works. As a result, Trent Lott now bears a racial taint, while the entire Congressional Black Caucus, led by the current head of the NAACP, can embrace a loony anti-Semite who preaches a religion in which white people are "devils" whom God will destroy, without a trace of stigma attaching to them.
But if the left is out to destroy me, John Doggett is more than ready to assist them. With conservative friends like these, who needs enemies? In the first installment of his attack on me, Doggett managed to misrepresent four of the first five points of my argument, while agreeing with a fifth. Now he complains that I "ducked" his "strongest arguments" and "ignored the essence of [his] concerns." Well, of course I ignored most of your arguments, John, because they were arguments with someone else, not me. In my response, I pointed this out ever so politely in refuting every point you actually addressed to points I made. You return my courtesy by slandering me in the same ignorant and hostile manner as my enemies. Thanks.
You write: "What pushed me over the line was your written denial of the horrors of slavery," but without of course identifying a single sentence that I have ever written that did that. And what idiot would? But even this egregious lie is not enough. You have to invent others: "For you, a Jew, to claim that my ancestors were better off because of slavery is offensive." What is offensive Doggett, is that you should invent a claim like this, attribute it to me, and affect outrage in the process. What I said was: You, John, are better off, because you are living in America today, than you would be had your ancestors not been dragged in chains to these shores. That is a fact. Get used to it. Especially if you want to engage in adult dialogue with others. Every outrage you have expressed in these interminable, narcissistic columns of yours is based on similar misreadings of what I have written and an apparent inability to understand what I have said.
Your attempt, in the latest installment, to grapple with my 6th point illustrates how an utterly misplaced self-righteous indignation has blinded you to the point itself. I wrote that "no evidence-based attempt has been made to prove that living individuals have been adversely affected by a slave system that was ended over 150 years ago." In your attempt to answer the point, you revert immediately to your autobiography, recalling how discriminatory laws made it illegal for you to attend "the university in Texas where I now teach." John! Read the sentence you just wrote! The legacy of slavery prevented you from attending a university that you now are a respected and well-paid part of. Welcome to the 21st Century. That’s progress! It’s what’s called an achievement. You are a very successful great-grandson of an oppressed slave. In your own individual life, America has pretty much repaired the damage you adduce to yourself (not your great grandfather), wouldn’t you say? What would reparations paid to you be paid for? You’re better off than most of the people who would have to pay them. Maybe the deficit you faced was even part of your success story. Maybe the indignation you felt at the injustice that was done to you fifty odd years ago was a spur to your achievement. Maybe without that edge you wouldn’t have gotten as far as you did. Do you ever think about ironies like that? Do you think government can judge these unbelievably complex issues of a human life? Should it even attempt to? These are the issues I was addressing, but you haven’t begun to deal with them.
My seventh point was that the reparations claim is one more attempt to turn African-Americans into victims. Instead of focusing on the misery of the past and claiming it as an excuse for failure in the present, it would be better in my view to celebrate the remarkable achievement of African Americans in this country despite the great sufferings they endured. Not to forget the sufferings, but not to make the focus of a national movement again. It would seem that Doggett would applaud this point. After all, he began his columns on my ad with the complaint that "What conservatives don’t do is celebrate the successes in the black community." Here is my version of the same point only applied where it belongs – to black and white leftists supporting the reparations movement.
Instead, Doggett insults me "This is a silly argument for a Jew." Some of his best friends are Jews and "none of them believes that their constant reminders about the horrors of the Holocaust will turn Jews into victims." Who said anything that would suggest that they would? Have I ever said "Forget the horrors of slavery?" If Jews, moreover, instead of focusing on their real world problems, and directing their energies towards their practical futures, launched a reparations movement against the U.S. government for American anti-Semitism, or for not attempting to stop the Holocaust, I would write another "10 Reasons Why Reparations is a Bad Idea" for them. Jews, by the way, do not get reparations as Jews. Jews who were directly injured by the Holocaust, claim reparations from the nation that inflicted it on them.
Doggett grants me a half-truth for my eighth argument that reparations to African Americans have already been paid. Thanks. Then he says I overlooked an argument (and in fact it’s a good one) that the blood sacrifice of many white Americans is a kind of reparations. But why give me such a hard time for not including it? I had 1200 words for my ad. If John’s refutation is less than 12,000 words, I will pay him reparations. Cut me some slack.
My 9th point is a question: "What About the Debt Blacks Owe To America?" John’s answer is "False." Huh?
What Doggett really doesn’t like is my statement that "in the thousand years of its (slavery) existence, there never was an anti-slavery movement until white Christians – Englishmen and Americans – created one." His comment: "What a breathtaking demonstration of ignorance." In fact, the ignorance is about to come.
First there is Doggett’s inability to understand the statement. Of course there have been slave revolts throughout human history (who hasn’t heard of Spartacus?). But there has never been a movement behind the principle that slavery as an institution was wrong. Consequently, for 3,000 years it was universally accepted (for others of course, not for oneself or one’s people). An anti-slavery movement, based on the idea that it was morally wrong (not just wrong for us, but for any people under any circumstances) began in the 18th Century and by 1888, when slavery was outlawed in Brazil, it had effectively abolished slavery as an institution. "And so [comments an authoritative work on the subject], within the span of a little more than a century, a system that had stood above criticism for 3,000 years was outlawed everywhere in the Western world." (Without Consent Or Contract: The Rise and Fall of American Slavery," Robert William Fogel, p. 205)
From this gaffe, Doggett moves on to join the leftwing defamers of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln bashing, it must be noted, is now a vast industry among left-wingers generally and African Americans in particular. Its summa is a 600-page tome by a distinguished black writer, Lerone Bennett Jr., which attempts to prove that the Great Emancipator was actually a skin-head. Doggett joins the disreputable assemblage of Lincoln-deniers with these familiar statements: "Anyone who knows American history knows that Lincoln didn’t die because of the Emancipation Proclamation. He died because the South lost the war. He didn’t sign the Emancipation Proclamation to solve the moral issue of slavery. He signed it to undermine the economic and political strength of the confederacy." Talk about lies and half-truths! John Wilkes Booth himself said he killed Lincoln because Lincoln freed the slaves. It can’t get much more specific than that. Doggett should read James McPherson’s classic Abraham Lincoln and the Second Revolution to understand how Lincoln’s leadership is so singularly responsible for freeing the slaves that, without it, the North would not have supported either the Proclamation or the 13th Amendment that followed it, and the South would probably have won the war. Obviously if you have a problematic coalition, as Lincoln did – there were four slaves states among the Union forces – compromises and tacks along the way are going to be necessary. Without them you lose the war, and slavery rules.
There is nothing in the entire reparations movement quite so offensive as its attempt to trash Lincoln and pretend that the slaves were freed by accident or as a casual by-product of other agendas. Ironically, but not coincidentally, the same people who work themselves into a lather over the Confederate battle flag as a symbol of slavery, turn around and contend that the Civil War was only about politics and economics. Yah.
As for the gratitude issue, which Doggett does not begin to fathom, of course I do think that America should be thankful to the Civil Rights movement of the Sixties for making "all of the words of the constitution live for all of her citizens." Just turn that around John and you’ll understand what I mean when I say that African Americans need to feel gratitude towards America as well.
My 10th point is that blacks should be wary of the racist mentality in their own ranks (nota bene Doggett) and avoid separating themselves from America. Instead they should build on the observation of W.E.B. DuBois: "[T]here is nothing so indigenous, so ‘made in America’ as we" (Dusk of Dawn). Or as I put it in the ad, "The American idea needs the support of its African-American citizens. But African Americans also need the support of the American idea."
Comments Doggett: "This is the most offensive of David’s arguments." He explains: "David, your argument is like asking a woman whom you have raped to thank you for stopping." Well, if I did that, shame on me.
But I didn’t. Unfortunately, Doggett’s obtuseness on this point is almost universally shared by my opponents. "If someone chops off your fingers and then hands them back to you," as two black scholars (Chrisman and Allen) have put it in an academic response, "should you be ‘grateful’ for having received your mangled fingers, or enraged that they were chopped off in the first place?" This common misinterpretation of my argument reveals not only confusion about American history but a deep-seated antagonism towards America and the American idea.
If proponents of reparations did not have this animus, they would see that America is not one theme, and that in its formative years it was only in some ways one nation. That’s what the Civil War was about. There will always be a battle for the American soul, and I am just encouraging black Americans to be part of it, and the better part at that. Anyone capable of looking at the complexity of America’s self-creation knows that battle against slavery is present in America’s heart from the beginning. Of course, if you regard Jefferson as merely a hypocritical "slave owner, racist and … rapist," as a Marxist like Randall Robinson does, then it’s easy to miss how critical is Jefferson’s proposition that "all men are created equal" to the fact that John Doggett, for example, is a free man today. (Nor does this statement in any way slight the fact Nat Turner and many black soldiers gave their lives in the service of that freedom.) It is even easier – if one ignores the fact that Abraham Lincoln redefined America’s charter of freedom to hinge on the extension of its principles to people of all colors – to miss how essential the ideas and deeds of Lincoln were to making possible that freedom. No African-American can feel American without understanding this heritage or being grateful for it. No Jew can, either, John, nor any American soul.
In his conclusion, Doggett proposes his own reparations plan. He wants $25 billion for black colleges. I have no problem with aid to black colleges. Except in the context of a reparations claim. He wants $100 billion to be thrown at "predominantly black public schools" in the South. Apparently Doggett is unfamiliar with the extensive conservative literature on why these schools are failing, and why that $100 billion will be wasted without radical reform. I am for the money, but how about putting it behind a scholarship program that will get these youngsters out of schools that cannot help them and into schools that can?
Finally, a word about the torrent of abuse with which Doggett introduces his latest torrent of abuse. Reading a blurb about me on my website (www.frontpagemagazine.com) he accuses me of being a self-promoter and a man without honor and a man on a mission to create pain for him and others like him. Well, I confess to a self-conception originating in Mencken’s description of the task of journalists: "to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." John Doggett is comfortable. The people who will suffer from the reparations movement – poor blacks who will never see a reparations dime and whose real needs will be submerged under the recriminations of a reparations claim -- are not. So I have no apologies to make to John or to well-heeled race-baiters like him. He should have read my arguments more carefully, and realized that they were not "anti-black," but made in support of the descendants of slaves who deserve better movements than this.
As for my self-promotion, I do not edit or see the blurbs on FrontPageMagazine.com before they go up. The editor, Richard Poe, is based in New York City. I am usually in Los Angeles. However, in the last week, to take one instance, I was in three cities in three days. On all three days, I spoke and met with the press, and on one of them I did 7 interviews and 2 TV shows, including a two-hour debate. I literally talked from 9 in the morning until 8 at night. I have three organizations to run. I get 200 emails a day. I am under attack by radicals across the nation in dozens of magazines and college papers that I have to read and often respond to. As a result, I sometimes miss the FrontPage until it is simply too late to change it.
I also have a very able staff whose judgments I need to defer to if my organization is going to be successful and provide a platform for these agendas. You cannot build a significant media platform from scratch and escape the charge of self-promotion – unless you are a leftist (click here for Richard Poe’s personal response to Doggett).
I believe my current campaign – which is reaching millions and even tens of millions of Americans -- is beneficial to all conservatives and Republicans. I have exposed the political left as a totalitarian anti-free speech force in the heart of America’s university system. I have refused to be intimidated – as so many Republicans unfortunately are – by race demagogues who play the race card unscrupulously in order to silence the opposition. (This, in my view, is Doggett’s biggest offense.) If I survive this effort to demonize and marginalize me, I will have expanded the area of freedom for all conservatives. In doing this, I – and those who support me -- will have enhanced, and the ability of conservatives to advance their agendas in the face of racial attacks. And facing such attacks, as every conservative and Republican should realize, is going to be a crucial task and test in the next elections. For this, too, I have no apologies to make.