If you had a question about history in a prior generation, you would consult a book or an encyclopedia - now you simply “Google It.” But anyone, regardless of expertise, can post videos on YouTube. Interpretations of history vary based on the generation in which they were written and the political persuasions of the historians. This is especially true of agenda-driven history videos on YouTube.
As someone who was born and raised in the South before the 1960s counterculture, I'm skeptical of today's versions of history, especially history videos on YouTube. These videos seem more concerned with promoting social causes than reporting reliable history. And YouTube interpretations of history are heavily influenced by racism, the cause de jure of Leftist ideologues.
Today's YouTube videos portray racism as America most serious problem. But our country has much worse problems; such things as unchecked immigration, exorbitant healthcare cost, rampant crime and unsafe streets, poverty, excessive government spending, politicized education, and declining religious affiliation. Although these pragmatic problems are the most harmful, they are not the most fashionable. Consequently, they are of little interest to elites.
Although slavery ended well over a century ago, YouTube videos claim that its legacy is demoralizing members of contemporary society who were never slaves. Slavery is a popular YouTube topic but you will rarely find a discussion of its beginning in prehistoric times. The use of slaves predates the development of cities and even recorded history. It is estimated that slavery has existed for roughly 9,000 to 11,000 years and it was legal for most of that time.
During all those centuries when slavery was legal, prominent citizens would likely have had some involvement with the practice. But any connection with slavery, even when it was lawful, prevents distinguished persons from being honored for their accomplishments. Monuments for these past dignitaries are being eradicated by juveniles and others who have only a limited grasp of history. In addition to involvement with slavery, a statue can be removed simply by inferring a connection to one of today's hate symbols. A century-old statue of songwriter Stephen Foster was removed from a park in Pittsburgh because it contained the figure of a shoeless black banjo player sitting at Foster's feet. Activists felt that the statue implied white supremacy.
A YouTube video gives the year of our nation's beginning as 1619, the year when the first African slaves arrived in Jamestown. This conflicts with 1776, when the Declaration of Independence liberated the colonies from the British monarchy. That was always considered our founding. A 1619 creation date would mean that America began as a slave-holding nation rather than a constitutional republic. If citizens accept the 1619 founding, esteem in America will lessen. Also objections to the restructuring of society would lessen.
If you rely on YouTube history videos you will get the impression that moral opposition to slavery caused the Civil War. But the War was fought for economic reasons rather than moral reasons. (Statistics indicate that in the Ante-bellum South only 1 in 5 families owned slaves.) The War was fought primarily to keep the Southern states in the Union and to prevent the spread of slavery into the territories. Slave plantations in the territories would hinder smaller farms operated by families relocating from the Northeast. Only abolitionists, around 5% of the population, opposed slavery for moral reasons.
The South has long been slandered with hyperbolic racism accusations and YouTube videos largely malign the Southern region. One such anti-Southern site goes by the name Atun-Shei Films and uses play-acted videos to dramatize slavery and racism in the Ante-bellum South. The term 'Atun-Shei' is a loosely translated Turkish term meaning 'horse phallus.' This site's crude designation and its entertaining videos appeal to a younger generation.
Atun-Shei is the creation of a Massachusetts filmmaker who relocated to Louisiana – one of those Northern self-anointed experts. His video scripts depict a slave-holding South permeated with racism and his actors don Civil War uniforms and recite derisive comments using exaggerated Southern accents. Although the site exhibits a proficient knowledge of history, its formulaic caricatures of the old South are passe.
For too long elites have made the South the scapegoat for slavery. But he public knows that the entire country was involved in and benefited from slave grown cotton. And Blacks demanding reparations also know that. If reparations come to fruition, areas outside of the South that sanctimoniously absolved themselves from culpability with slavery will have to pay their share.
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.