In the early 1900s , Will Rogers quipped: “I only know what I read in the papers.” Although newspapers had agendas in those years, their news reports were largely reliable. Over the years, technical advances improved how news is reported, but the reliability of reports has dissipated. Television transformed newscasters into celebrities and their inflated self-importance encouraged opinion-based reporting with little regard for veracity. This trend has continued, and news reports are not only purposely distorted but frequently dishonest.
Mainstream media maintains that rioting, burning, and looting by Black Lives Matter and Antifa are actually “peaceful protests” against a grossly unfair society. But the public doesn't view American society as grossly unfair. Contrariwise, most think mob violence is destroying the substance and civility of our cities.
Elites hope continual rioting will eventually convince the public that American society must be overturned and replaced. That is the establishment's goal. But the public doesn't agree that society is so flawed that it must be eliminated, nor does the public believe that mob violence is benevolently motivated. So elites must either alter the public's negative opinion of rioting or convince the populace that other problems are more important.
To increase the importance of a social problem, the Left usually claims it is racist; that has been the tried-and-true public manipulator for decades. But most of the specious racism stratagems have been thoroughly exploited. However the bigotry of Confederate monuments still has traction.
Most of us think the destruction of our cities by mobs is a more timely and significant issue than Confederate monument removals. But not CNN. To hype the need to remove Confederate monuments, CNN's Chris Cuomo has resurrected Leftist filmmaker Ken Burns. Cuomo's interview-probe into Confederate monument removals elicited these responses from Burns:
“I think we’re in the middle of an enormous reckoning right now in which the anxieties and the pains and the torments of injustice are bubbling up to the surface. It’s very important for people like me, of my complexion, to it be as quiet as possible and to listen. What I know from my reading of history is that the Confederate monuments have to go.”
“They’re an attempt to rewrite history and to essentially celebrate a false narrative about what happened during the Civil War and to send the wink-winks, the dog whistles, as we are fond of saying today, across the generations about what the Civil War was about. It’s so interesting that we’re even having this argument because the people that we memorialize, the nation's forts that are named after Civil War generals ... these are people responsible for the deaths of loyal American citizens.”
Obviously, this so-called interview was simply a venue for Burns to reiterate the Left's prescribed view of the Confederacy. Ken Burns claims his opinions come from his “reading of history.” Based on his comments, I don't get the impression that Burns has actually read history. But if he has, he obviously has only read selective versions. And if Chris Cuomo had demanded valid historical data that supported his opinions, Burns would be hard pressed to supply it.
Burns further states that Confederate monuments “celebrate a false narrative about what happened during the Civil War.” By “false narrative” he means one that deviates from the establishment's interpretation of that era using today's socio/political standards. It would be hard to find a respected historian who would claim that, in the mid 1800s, people risked their lives on battlefields because of their moral opposition to slave labor. However, there is a general consensus among historians that the War was the outgrowth of years of economic and cultural differences between Northern and Southern regions.
Burns's heyday was during the national television era when programming was dominated by the big three networks and PBS. In that era, there was an absence of dissenting views, and programs rarely featured professional historians. Like most TV programs, Burns's films were designed for the masses - and essentially avoided complex issues.
Hopefully, in this age of the Internet, with countless websites, and divergent ideologies, Burns's opinions won't go unchallenged.
Gail Jarvis is a Georgia-based free-lance writer. His writing is influenced by witnessing how versions of news and history were distorted for fashionable political reasons. Mr. Jarvis is a member of the Society of Independent Southern Historians and his articles have appeared on various websites, magazines, and publications for several organizations. He lives in Coastal Georgia with his wife.