It is amazing how many people seem to have discovered last Wednesday, Jan. 6, that riots are wrong when many of those same people apparently had not noticed that when riots went on, for weeks or even months, in various cities across the country last year.

For too many people, especially in the media, what is right and wrong, true or false, depends on who it helps or hurts politically. Too many media people who are supposed to be reporters act as if they are combatants in political wars.

Someone once said that, in a war, truth is the first casualty. That has certainly been so in the media — and in much of academia as well.

One of the most grotesque distortions growing out of this carelessness with the facts has been a removal of Abraham Lincoln’s name and statues from various places, on grounds that he saw black people only as property.

Such criticisms betray an incredible ignorance of history — or else a complete disregard of truth.

As a lawyer, Abraham Lincoln knew that there was nothing in the Constitution which authorized him or any other president to free slaves. But he also knew that a military commander in wartime can legally seize the property of an enemy nation. Defining slaves as property gave President Lincoln the only legal authority he had to seize them during the Civil War. And once they were seized as property, he could then free them as human beings.

But, if the Emancipation Proclamation had based its action on defining the slaves as human beings, with a right to be free, the Supreme Court of that era would undoubtedly have declared it unconstitutional.

Millions of human beings would have remained slaves. Would ringing rhetoric be worth that price?

As for the claim that Lincoln did not regard black people as human, he invited Frederick Douglass to the White House.

Gross distortions of history, in order to get Lincoln’s name removed from schools, tells us a lot about what is wrong with American education today.

Many schools are closed because of COVID-19 and the teachers’ unions. And many schools in minority neighborhoods failed to teach children enough math and English, back when they were still open.

So it is incredible that school authorities have time to spend on ideological crusades like removing names and statues from schools.

Unfortunately, too many American educational institutions — from elementary schools to universities — have become indoctrination centers. The riots that swept across the country last year are fruits of that indoctrination and the utter disregard for other people’s rights that accompanied those riots.

At the heart of that indoctrination is a sense of grievance and victimhood when others have better outcomes — which are automatically called “privileges” and never called “achievements,” regardless of what the actual facts are.

Facts don’t matter in such issues, any more than facts mattered when smearing Lincoln.

Any “under-representation” of any group in any endeavor can be taken as evidence or proof of discriminatory bias.

But those who argue this way cannot show us any society — anywhere in the world, or at any time during thousands of years of recorded history — that had all groups represented proportionally in all endeavors.

In America’s National Hockey League, for example, there are more players from Canada than there are players from the United States. There are also more players from Sweden than from California, even though California’s population is nearly four times the population of Sweden.

Californians are more “under-represented” in the NHL than women are in Silicon Valley.

But no one can claim that this is due to discriminatory bias by the NHL. It is far more obviously due to people growing up in cold climates being more likely to have ice-skating experience.

This is one of many factors that produce skewed statistics in many endeavors. Discriminatory bias is among those factors. But it has no monopoly.

Yet who cares about facts any more, in this age of indoctrination?

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Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His website is www.tsowell.com.

(3) comments

Branch

This is precisely the kind of disinformation that is hurting our country so deeply right now. The most infuriating part of Sowell’s letter is that he claims to be writing under the banner of truth and factual information. He accuses others of lying, distorting history, or of abject ignorance. I am truly becoming exhausted. It takes so much longer to explain the truth than to state falsehoods, as Sowell does throughout.

The most blatant of his false claims is easy enough to dismantle, however. After gesturing somewhat vaguely to statues of Abraham Lincoln being removed from conveniently unnamed public spaces, Sowell claims the removals have occurred “on the grounds that he saw black people only as property.”

A quick internet search will pull up a widely reported, singular instance of a statue of Lincoln being removed in Boston, MA. It is a replica, first of all, and it is the infamous depiction of Lincoln standing over a kneeling Black man. It was removed from the public, not because Lincoln “saw Black people as property,” but because 12,000 citizens decided that the “memorial is demeaning and lacks proper context” according to NPR reporting. They were apparently in good company, as Frederick Douglass himself, who Sowell has the mind-bending audacity to mention in his letter, criticized the exact statue that the removed replica was based on (the original still stands in D.C.). From the same NPR article, Douglass is quoted as saying: “Admirable as is the monument by Mr. Ball in Lincoln park, it does not, as it seems to me, tell the whole truth…the negro here, though rising, is still on his knees and nude…what I want to see before I die is a monument representing the negro, not couchant on his knees like a four-footed animal, but erect on his feet like a man.”

For further context: Lincoln’s preliminary draft of the Emancipation Proclamation was meant only to threaten Southern states that still refused to surrender — under punishment of taking their slaves away. He promised to leave slavery alone in states that conceded to his terms; Black slaves already behind Union lines were not set for freedom. At his first inaugural address in 1861, Lincoln said “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.” In 1862, Lincoln wrote in a letter to Horace Greeley that “my paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that.” These are not the words of a radical abolitionist.

This is why Sowell’s words are so damaging: he is the one engaging in revisionist history, not Lincoln’s critics. I cannot alone stem the daily deluge of half-truths and outright lies that come from some conservatives. It is ironic that Sowell’s letter appears, in the latest print edition of the Democrat, directly underneath my recent letter to the editor, which in part decries America’s problematic relationship with disinformation. That Sowell would choose to name-drop Frederick Douglass in his defense of a statue that Douglass himself criticized — for the exact same reasons as those who petitioned for its removal — is an absolute slap in the face to anyone concerned with objective fact. This has to be intentional because of how brazen and outlandish it is. This is "owning the Libs” at any destructive cost; with no adherence to truth or honor. If truth is irrelevant, it is because Sowell and so many others have made it so.

foxwow10@gmail.com

FACTS. What happened to them in America? Our education system or lack of one is disgusting. And killing America. When the Chinese take over in the next 15-20 years. America is gone

thechaosaysmuuuu

What happened to them? They've never left. It's just that right-wing extremists (and in your case, racist, too, given so many of your recent posts) refuse to acknowledge them out of their fetishization for "strong man" politics. Our education system has been systematically dismantled at the hands of rabid conservatives. If America collapses, it's on conservatives outright refusal to engage in or support any notion of modern society. Y'all would rather pretend that we're still living in the pre-industrial age.

By the way. Where's your outrage on what happened at the capitol. You were on here ranting and raving in mostly incomprehensible babblings for *months* during the height of the BLM protests. But when right-wing domestic terrorists literally storm the capitol, kill a police officer, and deface one the the major symbols of republic? *crickets* Hypocrisy at its finest.

Way to go, foxwow, you've proven Clinton's adage correct (which I personally initially thought was hyperbolic and unnecessarily divisive) but after the last four years, and especially in the last few months, y'all have proven without a doubt that you are indeed: deplorable.

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