Out of Africa

On Monday, I posted a blog entry entitled “A Hearty Welcome to Imetatron.”  In it, I recounted a pair of anecdotes of which I said that “I know with sad certainty that a few of my most obsessive and hostile critics will twist and abuse [them] in order to portray me (yet again) as a racist.”  (I knew that race is the ofttimes fatal “third rail” of American politics, and that playing the “race card” is a favorite tool of demagogues, often their weapon of first resort, and I knew the character of my most fanatical detractors.)

They didn’t disappoint.  With their typically obsessive hostility and their always stunning but utterly characteristic dishonesty, the relatively small handful of people regarding whom I made my prediction were soon claiming that I had said that “slavery was actually God’s will,” that “slavery was ordained of god [sic],” that “slavery was God-inspired.”

According to me, they said, “black people should be grateful” for slavery, by means of which “the blessings of being another person’s property could be theirs.”  “Those lucky slaves!” said a critic, as if that represents my view or the view of anybody else involved in this.  They were “the lucky ones,” another critic said, purporting to summarize my feelings on the matter.  They were, said yet another pretending to speak on my behalf, “luuuuucky!”

Slavery, in my opinion, said one critic who was allegedly paraphrasing it, “should be viewed as a blessing to those lucky Africans who made the trip across the Atlantic in those fancy cruise ships in order to fulfill the will of the Almighty for them to become more like his chosen people (white people, of course) by picking a lifetime worth of pure, delightsome cotton.”

My position, one reported, is that “black Africans cannot ‘progress’ without outside help from ‘more-advanced’ whites.”  From my point of view, apparently, it’s just “politically correct leftists” who “decry the practice of buying and selling black people as livestock.”

Searching for appropriately damning terms to describe me, the critics — some of whom commonly lament the supposedly nasty tone of my writing, my reputedly offensive lack of basic civility — reached deep into their personal vocabularies and came up with such elegant descriptors as “idiot,” “racist,” “moron,” and “liar.”  (I’m a liar because, allegedly, I invented the “friend” who told me the first anecdote out of thin air.  Yet, one critic explained, I actually derived it from some black preacher somewhere of whom I’ve never heard.)  My second anecdote came from the economist Thomas Sowell, Rose and Milton Friedman Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.  So a pair of critics effortlessly dispatched him as “Uncle Tom Sowell.”  Case closed.

One critic, righteously indignant at what I had written, encouraged his online associates to spread rumors that he’s going to do “some drive-bys” so as to induce “paranoia” in me.

One or two critics actually raised a substantive issue.  Africa, they said, would not be such a sadly dysfunctional place had it not been for European colonialism and imperialism and the slave trade.  This strikes me as somewhat dubious — I rather doubt that Nigeria, say, is the corrupt kleptocracy that it is because of Europeans; and I can’t quite see how Western imperialism and the slave trade account, simpliciter, for the rather different postcolonial histories of (for instance) Kenya and Tanzania, countries that are otherwise rather similar (e.g., in terms of culture, language, natural resources, etc.) — but at least there’s the germ of a serious proposition and argument in what they say.  One could, potentially, reason about it, and adduce evidence for and against it.

Attempts to portray me as an advocate of slavery, on the other hand, are, simply and flatly and unambiguously, contemptibly dishonest.

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