When I first heard of HBO's Confederate, an upcoming series set in an alternate universe where the South won the Civil War and slavery is still legal, my eyes rolled all the way back in my head. The preposterous bigotry and historic illiteracy of such an idea, the snobbish leftwing elitism of it all makes the concept desperate and insulting, which is the opposite of intriguing.
Had the South won the war, no one believes slavery would have existed into the 20th century or even another 20 years. The very symbol of the Confederacy, the soul of the "Lost Cause," one Robert E. Lee, was as opposed to slavery as Ulysses S. Grant (both owned and emancipated slaves). Many Southerners despised slavery. But unlike the North, much of their economy depended on it. Nevertheless, even without the war, there is just no question that progress on the fronts of both humanity and technology would have made quick work of this abomination.
HBO's notion that the modern South, the very place I've adopted as my home, would tolerate any form of bigotry, much less slavery, enrages me.
But do you want to know what never crossed my mind? The idea of doing anything that would kill the project, the notion of signing or starting a petition, forming a boycott, or writing a dictatorial op-ed that declared such ideas and points of view out of bounds, off-limits, verboten — to tell artists what their art must look like.
Yes, you can run with the intellectually dishonest and claim that only the government can censor, but we all know that is BS. Through bullying, blacklisting, and peer pressure, our news media pushes for and successfully censors every single day. Ideas, jokes, and even certain subjects are toxified and shut down with cries of anti-science! Racist! Sexist! And here we go again.
The fascism of political correctness is the New Hollywood Production Code, and it is much worse than the old one. You could work around the old one. There are all kinds of creative ways to tell the audience Rick and Ilsa had adulterous sex without showing Rick and Ilsa having adulterous sex. But how do you work around the kind of outright censorship The Atlantic seeks to impose, the censorship of IDEAS, the censorship of POINTS OF VIEW: [emphasis mine throughout]:
HBO’s motives aside, the plea to wait supposes that a problem of conception can be fixed in execution. We do not need to wait to observe that this supposition is, at best, dicey. For over a century, Hollywood has churned out well-executed, slickly produced epics which advanced the Lost Cause myth of the Civil War. These are true “alternative histories,” built on “alternative facts,” assembled to depict the Confederacy as a wonderland of virtuous damsels and gallant knights, instead of the sprawling kleptocratic police state it actually was. From last century’s The Birth of a Nation to this century’s Gods and Generals, Hollywood has likely done more than any other American institution to obstruct a truthful apprehension of the Civil War, and thus modern America’s very origins. So one need not wait to observe that any foray by HBO into the Civil War must be met with a spirit of pointed inquiry and a withholding of all benefit of the doubt.
This is The Atlantic telling HBO how it series must be approached. This is The Atlantic declaring the "Lost Cause" approach to the Civil War off limits.
It gets worse, including an extraordinary amount of revisionist history:
Skepticism must be the order of the day. So that when Benioff asks “what would the world have looked like … if the South had won,” we should not hesitate to ask what Benioff means by “the South.” … because he is not so much asking about “the South” winning, so much as he is asking about “the white South” winning.
The distinction matters. For while the Confederacy, as a political entity, was certainly defeated, and chattel slavery outlawed, the racist hierarchy which Lee and Davis sought to erect, lives on. It had to. The terms of the white South’s defeat were gentle. Having inaugurated a war which killed more Americans than all other American wars combined, the Confederacy’s leaders were back in the country’s political leadership within a decade. Within two, they had effectively retaken control of the South.
The Atlantic's view of the Confederacy is as bigoted and narrow-minded as Birth of a Nation. While I do not buy completely into the Lost Cause mythology, and even agree that Gods and Generals goes too far in this regard, the truth is much more nuanced than whips and chains. Moreover, the idea that the South did not pay a heavy price is preposterous. Reconstruction brutalized white Southerners, took away many of their rights, even those who had nothing to do with slavery or the Rebellion.
Of course The Atlantic is entitled to its opinion. That is not the issue. What is the issue is a demand from a major media outlet that artists create art in only the approved and correct ways. The threat implied throughout is dictatorial and un-American — do this or else we will destroy you forever as backwards racists.
The Atlantic is not joining the debate and expressing its point of view, rather, The Atlantic is attempting to kill debate and make certain points of view forbidden.
The original Production Code was not a form of censorship created by the government. Bowing to public pressure and the Catholic Church, it was the movie business that created and enforced the original Production Code.
And so it is again. Only now the public pressure comes from leftwing moralists and the Sacred Church of the Politically Correct. Only now it is killing ideas and thoughts and points of view. This is Thought-Policing from the very media that should be defending all forms of expression, most especially those forms they most disagree with.