Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Gatekeepers' Lament

 In short, the same cyberworld that gave us Kevin Levin also gave us Connie Chastain... The same environment that gave rise to Civil War Memory also made Backsass! possible.... Academics used to “controlling the message” as well as being the chief messengers in classroom-like forums express discomfort with the result ....  
Brooks D. Simpson

It used to be that there were three powerful TV networks headquartered in New York City, that controlled everything that every-freaking-body in the United States saw on national television -- news, entertainment and advertising.

It used to be that a few powerful record labels controlled what music got airtime on radio, and thus controlled what music people did and did not get to hear (and which musicians were allowed to record music and get known). 

It used to be that a few powerful newspaper chains and syndicates controlled the national news in the press, and that the Big Six publishing houses in New York City controlled what books were widely available for people to read (and which authors would get published and promoted).

And it used to be that the educational establishment -- teachers, professors, administrators and school boards -- controlled what students learned and where/how they learned it.

Then the digital revolution came along.

How we watch television, movies, video has been changed.  The press, the music industry, book publishing.... it's all been irrevocably changed.

Nowadays, just about anybody can publish e-books, or even print books and sell them online, since digital print-on-demand technology means large print runs costing thousands of dollars up front are no longer necessary.  I know this because I've self-published both print and e-books, and helped others do the same. 

And this particular finger of the digital revolution has the traditional book publishing industry in turmoil....  As Forbes told us recently, Publishing Is Broken, We're Drowning In Indie Books - And That's A Good Thing

Right now, the old school laments the mountains of badly written indie books being churned out, but as most industry watchers agree, this is what happens on the forefront of revolution.  Change will come, improvement will come as readers themselves detemine which authors and books have staying power.  Forbes predicts that mainstream publishers will use indie publishing as a "minor league" for finding and developing new talent.

~ Education Revolutionized, Too ~

Eventually the world adapts to revolution and its change -- but when it first appears, the gatekeepers of the past will grumble, you may be assured.  This is illustrated marvelously by certain educators who specialize in Civil War history. 

To read the writings of some of them, they think they own the information of history, and only they have a right to dole it out, as they see fit, to those who will accept it as they think it should be accepted.  You have to learn it the way they did -- in some sterile classroom from some sterile teacher, who tells you only what you need to know, in the manner they deem you need to know it.  This is known as "knowing how to interpret" the historical record.

I mean, God forbid that you learned a piece of history from stories handed down through your family or from letters of kinfolk who've come to you through the generations.  Never mind if your own independent research verifies the family stories (as mine has done).  You're too stupid to know what you're reading.  Unless some teacher in some classroom somewhere told you what to do and how to do it -- you're doing it wrong.

Frankly, I don't doubt that some people do get it wrong; but like other segments of the digital revolution, self-education, in history or whatever, will get more sophisticated and reliable as people learn.

I don't think that's much comfort to the gatekeepers who increasingly find themselves growing irrelevant.  It shows in their shucking the role of "gatekeeper" and taking on the job of Civil War Thought Police, complete with (figurative, i.e., verbal) billy clubs for battering amateur historians who have the temerity to go around the gatekeepers-turned-thought cops and do their own historical research. 

This is particularly well illustrated by the behavior of the Civil War Riot Cops/SWAT Team made up of Andy Hall, Kevin Levin, Brooks D. Simpson and sometime-hangers on Corey Meyer and Rob Baker. 

Recently, Levin posted on his "memory" blog an entry titled "She's Back" about Black Confederate researcher Ann DeWitt.  Since none of these esteemed gentlemen even believe in Black Confederates, Ms. DeWitt is doomed to their derision and verbal billy-club beatings from the start.  At Levin's blog, Hall posted this in a comment:
I’ve said repeatedly that I believed Ms. DeWitt to be sincere and well-intentioned in her efforts, but I’m less certain of that now. She can’t or won’t answer criticism directly — recall when she complained to YouTube about your video critiquing her website, claiming it was a “copyright infringement” — and I don’t recall a single case where she’s publicly acknowledged and corrected even egregious errors — she just deletes the original post to cover her tracks. This is not the mark of someone who is serious about her research, or who is willing to have the quality of her work examined in the bright sunlight. Ms. DeWitt’s problem isn’t that scholars don’t take her seriously; it’s that she herself shows little evidence of taking her own work seriously.
Well, golly geepers, why should she answer "criticism" -- civilly or otherwise -- when it comes wrapped in the kind of ridicule, the bloody verbal battering and derision Andy and his henchmen friends wrap their "criticism" in?  If her responses are "not the mark of someone serious about her research..." the verbal billy-club beatings Andy had his buddies give her are not the mark of somebody interested in sincere correction of another person's errors. 

Take a look at the frenzied and orgiastic derision with which Andy Hall and his myrmidons attack Ann's mistake -- MISTAKE -- not deliberate deception of the type Brooks D. Simpson is guilty of.

Such gentlemen!  Andy and his fellow travelers shovel out this criticism clad in vulgar mocking and mean-spirited ridicule but expect Ann to be sincere in her admission of mistakes? 

Keep in mind that this display of hypocrisy is not the only example from Andy.  He has repeatedly bellyached about the Southern Heritage Preservation Group not policing its sloppy research and meeting erroneously presented material with silence.  But where was Andy Hall when Brooks D. Simpson posted on his blog sloppy and dishonest research about my family history, done for no purpose whatever except to embarrass me -- and wrapped it in numerous lies about "wanting to provide a more complete historical context" than I had given about my family history -- a blatant lie because, in fact, he purposely left out pertinent facts found in the research material because they didn't establish what he wished? 

Where were ya on that one, Andy, you poseur?

Brooks D. Simpson is STILL piling on about the "black cooks" regiment thing that was dealt with long ago.  What is it about such derision that so titillates these "scholars" -- that tickles their innards, or whatever it tickles -- that they have to keep doing it over and over and over?

Look below at the number of times the obsessive Brooks D. Simpson has mentioned Ann and/or the black cooks regiment, in either a blog post or comment thread,  looooooong after it was dealt with. And this is just the ones I recorded before I got sick of looking.  There's no telling how many other times he's beaten her over the head with his verbal billy club....


~ What Motivates These Verbal Abusers? ~

I have some speculations about what motivates these folks to so freely and frequently spew such verbal abuse (something Ann has never, ever done to them, so far as I know) but I'll keep it to myself for a while.  But if you want to offer your opinion, just click "add a comment" below....

Photo by Ggia via Wikimedia Commons..  Licensed under Creative Commons License 2

1 comment :

  1. All them teachers of history are like a dog that fetches yer paper,yea he brings ya the news the way he was taught, but he can't read it!


Comments are welcome, but monitored.