The New “Lost Cause”: What Might Await Us – Part 1: The Historical Legacy of Perceived Betrayal and Vigilante/Guerilla “Justice”
A new blog series on a new “lost cause” that has gripped America in 2021, beginning with the history of the “lost cause” concept and mindset in America’s historical memory and that of the Western world in general, and its impact on our world today.
Wikipedia defines “The Lost Cause of the Confederacy,” or the “Lost Cause,” as
an American pseudo-historical, negationist ideology that advocates the belief that the cause of the Confederate States during the American Civil War was a just and heroic one. This ideology has furthered the belief that slavery was just and moral, because it brought economic prosperity. The notion was used to perpetuate racism and racist power structures during the Jim Crow era in the American South. It emphasizes the supposed chivalric virtues of the antebellum South. It thus views the war as a struggle primarily waged to save the Southern way of life and to protect “states’ rights,” especially the right to secede from the Union. It casts that attempt as faced with “overwhelming Northern aggression.” At the same time, it minimizes or completely denies the central role of slavery and white supremacy in the build-up to, and outbreak of, the war.
One particularly intense wave of Lost Cause activity occurred during World War I, as the last Confederate veterans began to die out and a push was made to preserve their memories. A second wave of Lost Cause activity occurred in reaction to growing public support for racial equality during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Through activities such as the construction of prominent Confederate monuments and the writing of school history textbooks, the Lost Cause movement sought to ensure future generations of Southern whites would know about the South’s “true” reasons for fighting the war, and therefore continue to support white supremacist policies, such as Jim Crow laws. In that regard, white supremacy is a central feature of the Lost Cause narrative. Lost Cause narratives typically portray the Confederacy’s cause as noble, and its leaders and armies as exemplars of old-fashioned chivalry, whose defeat by the Union armies was because the South’s greater military skill and courage was overwhelmed by the North’s numerical superiority and immense industrial power.
In other words, believers of the “Lost Cause,” both at the conclusion of the war and since then, believed it wasn’t a “fair fight,” and that the deck was stacked against them from the start, and their beliefs in traditional values and the superiority of their culture were directly placed in jeopardy. From this, they never accepted the reality of the defeat, clinging (even up to today) with battle cries like “the South shall rise again,” and continue to raise the Confederate battle flag (which is becoming harder to do in more places, even with their modern leader, the Manhattan Yankee Donald Trump’s strong defense of such, but it was prominent at car races and southern rock and country music concerts in the era of my upbringing). They assert that their northern brutish adversaries used technology to steal the fight away from their higher character and ideals, as they then were forced to suffer under their dark and immoral national political leadership.
They quote Mick LaSalle in a 2020 article in the San Francisco Examiner that “They say that history is written by the victors, but the Civil War has been the rare exception. Perhaps the need for the country to stay together made it necessary for the North to sit silently and accept the South’s conception of the conflict. In any case, for most of the past 150 years, the South’s version of the war and Reconstruction has held sway in our schools, our literature and, since the dawn of feature films, our movies.” They have also emphasized over the years that Africans “had it easy” under their “Christian reign” of the antebellum South, and had no cause for complaint or accusations of unjust treatment, when given their “limited” innate abilities that the South tolerated.
The picture at the top of this post is by Henry Mosler, called “The Lost Cause,” and a famous work completed three years after the end of the Civil War.
They quote University of Virginia professor Gary Gallagher as writing that “The defeat of the Confederacy devastated many Southerners economically, emotionally, and psychologically. Before the war, many white Southerners proudly felt that their rich military tradition would enable them to prevail in the forthcoming conflict. When that did not happen, many white Southerners sought consolation in attributing their loss to factors beyond their control, such as physical size and overwhelming brute force [i.e., that it was a “rigged” operation]…They also wanted to provide their children and future generations of white Southerners with a ‘correct’ narrative of the war.” They add that the United Daughters of the Confederacy had been associated with the Lost Cause for over a century. However, Union Army General George Henry Thomas of Virginia wrote in 1868 that
[T]he greatest efforts made by the defeated insurgents since the close of the war have been to promulgate the idea that the cause of liberty, justice, humanity, equality, and all the calendar of the virtues of freedom, suffered violence and wrong when the effort for southern independence failed. This is, of course, intended as a species of political cant, whereby the crime of treason might be covered with a counterfeit varnish of patriotism, so that the precipitators of the rebellion might go down in history hand in hand with the defenders of the government, thus wiping out with their own hands their own stains; a species of self-forgiveness amazing in its effrontery, when it is considered that life and property—justly forfeited by the laws of the country, of war, and of nations, through the magnanimity of the government and people—was not exacted from them.
After 1900, the Lost Cause was perpetuated by the sudden production of heroic Confederate statues by Confederate-sympathetic organizations, and also helped justify the Jim Crow laws in the South to further extend their “benevolent” caretaking domination over African-Americans (the treatment of blacks in their region not being discussed in notable detail in their mythology). One of the best-known proponents of the “Lost Cause” was Southern Baptist minister and author Thomas Dixon, Jr., who proposed repatriation of African-Americans to Africa, with a “race war” a result if they didn’t, which he assuredly knew the white man would win, with three thousand years of civilization and advantage over the black man. He also thought that getting proper education to the black community was dangerous, and that racial prejudice was just “self preservation.” He was heard by millions of people, and his novel and play The Klansman (which includes a national political party taking power by enfranchising (giving the vote) to African Americans to overthrow the rival) was seen by four million people, which later was turned into the iconic film Birth of a Nation. This latter film (about the Klan saving the day), which featured Dixon’s normal narrative in his books of a black man attempting to rape a white woman until stopped by a white posse, was the first film seen in the White House, and by the Supreme Court and Congress the next day; more importantly, this film, considered the first “modern film” in narrative structure, was the inspiration for the founding of the new and far bigger Ku Klux Klan at Stone Mountain Georgia shortly thereafter. White women have since played a very strong role in defending the Lost Cause, through the United Daughters of the Confederacy and similar local organizations to defend their aristocratic values and way of life.
Soon after the Civil War, proud Southerners began to see even their fellow white Southern neighbors who helped bring down the Lost Cause by seeking reconciliation with their political opponents, or worse yet, empowering former black slaves to vote in large numbers and enfranchise them with easier means to vote (and thus unseat their privileged political and power control in their regions) as the most vile of enemy traitors who betrayed their own kind and stabbed them in the back, which they called “scalawags.” Ironically, at that time the party who wanted minorities and blacks to vote to unseat power was the Republican Party. These local Southerners were thought to be in league with the liberal northerners to destroy the South’s “traditional values” (i. e. white supremacy over a large black population in servitude). It was said then pejoratively that a “scalawag” was a “Southern white man who said he was no better than a Negro.” One of the most prominent people considered then a “scalawag” was Gen. James Longstreet, the deputy general to Robert E. Lee. Even more ironically, this contentious situation of patriotic citizens distrusting and being aggressive to their own neighbors due to their intensely felt superior traditions and culture was eased after the 1876 presidential election, when the Democratic candidate won over 50% of the vote nationally and several percentage points over their Republican rival in an extremely high-turnout election, but lost the presidency by one elector when the Republication state representatives in three southern states and one western one overturned the Democratic majority public vote in each of them, and awarded Republican electors instead, with tension building right up to the reading of the electors by Congress later; war and crisis was averted by the government agreeing to end Reconstruction and the stationing of northern Union troops in southern states in exchange for a Republican presidency.
Scalawags were often threatened with violence by traditional conservative Southerners for violating the “traditional values” they stood for, of conserving who the ruling race and class of people would be in their region, often by means of the vigilante Ku Klux Klan outside of the use of government, law enforcement or legal means. The following picture is from an 1968 Alabama newspaper that showed what the KKK would do to native scalawags and Yankee carpetbaggers if their candidate won the 1868 presidential election:
Speaking of the Klan, the “Lost Cause” era after the Civil War produced a reaction shortly afterwards, as it does in all subsequent societal “lost causes,” when political and other “official” power and authority had been lost, under the guise of presumed unfair treachery and betrayal, leading the resistance of such to be taken “to the streets,” as a typical of grass-roots, semi-organized but organic form of dispersed “citizen vigilantism” in guerilla fashion to retain and restore some “power to the people.” The nature of these reactionary vigilante movements outside the bounds of civil and legal authority were meant to terrorize “up-starts” of influence in traditional societies, either from minorities, underclasses or “outsiders” from cultures outside their local traditions within their region, to intimidate them to withdraw from taking a seat at the table of societal influence and leadership. It is to “conserve” who are the “haves” of resources, wealth and influence from the traditional “have nots,” regardless of their resented new-found legal rights and authority, under the mask of defending “traditional values,” which no one otherwise prevented them from honoring within their own homes and circles.
Outsiders were firebombed and arson and terror tactics were used, as well as being directed at domestic “scalawags” of their own clan and culture who assisted them in “meddling” in their operation of the culture, but the most direct targets were African Americans attempting to exercise their new-found rights of voting. Every technique was devised, from “poll taxes” and guessing the number of marbles in a jar before voting, to intimidation by armed white men at the polling stations, to lynchings and other violent means afflicted on those (black and white) who signed up black persons to vote. Today in 2020 it is accomplished by “gerrymandering” districts,” devising additional identification and registration rules and complex means of assuring voter registration, discouraging sign up drives of immigrant and minority-class citizens, and using strange legal maneuvers after the vote to throw out large numbers of votes by legal, registered voters after the voting day has passed. The 2020 presidential election cycle, in which mail-in voting was encouraged during the worse throes of the COVID epidemic to limit its deadly spread with crowded election-day poll sites, these parties (which had discouraged people to mail-in vote, rather preferring they decline to participate due to safety, or be confronted by armed “poll watchers” on election day to intimidate them) even introduced a modern “advancement” in 2020, of setting out voting boxes marked “official voting box” (implying it is a voter ballot collection boxes run by the elections departments of the government) that are actually set up (without identification) by the California Republican Party. They ignored courted-ordered cease and desist pronouncements from deploying such by the state Attorney General and Secretary of State, as they set up 100 “official” ballot collection boxes, with no one knowing if they were forwarded intact to be counted by election officials. Techniques like this were used recently in addition to the scores of dubious lawsuits filed nationwide to throw out their fellow citizens’ votes of another party after the election, regardless of their evidence-free allegations that have not held up to even cursory review in any of these lawsuits, even among judges appointed by the same party. Minority groups of formerly-dominant cultural classes that cling to their stolen “lost cause” have always found such techniques most valuable for retaining power over the majority of their fellow citizens that seek to join the seats of societal influence via the ballot box.
The supporters of this original “lost cause” used terror groups like the Ku Klux Klan to intimidate the far larger ranks of minority and “outsider” underclasses with new-found rights and legal voting privileges by appearing in terror-inducing garb and brandishing weapons conspicuously, and “hunting” in packs, often without interference from “official” law enforcement that was sympathetic to them (and who often had their own ranks in these groups and under the masks), appearing to envy the unregulated power to bring terror and court and legal system-free “justice” on those they opposed that these vigilante groups exercised, and removing any recourse for victims to seek protection from authorities. They killed over 2000 potential black voters and their white sympathizers in Louisiana alone just prior to the 1868 election, whiles hundreds of such voters were killed in each county in Florida, as examples, and widespread votes in the primaries for Republicans by blacks and white sympathizers of minority representation in the electorate totally disappeared once the general election began across the South, as their votes were suppressed, or widely discouraged. Often the intimidation and control was accomplished without continued and widespread violence, and rather by conspicuously displaying their weaponry and ranks, and setting a few horrific “examples” to keep the masses docile. It featured many veterans of the last war, who thought the politicians had “sold them out” or not held out to defend their culture long enough, as well as current law enforcement figures and judges. In essence, these terrorist vigilante grass-roots populist movements became the alternative to earlier government authority to enforce the preferred political, economic and rights status of the traditional ruling race and class over the underclasses they had been exploiting, which was suddenly in peril by their increased voting capacity and legal rights to political participation. The first-generation Klan organization was organized officially during Reconstruction here in Nashville, prominently featuring veterans like Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest (who had massacred over three hundred surrendered black soldiers and white Southern sympathizers at the Battle of Fort Pillow) as its first national leader and Grand Wizard, and who is commemorated with an amazing statue of him on horseback here in Nashville, in view of the interstate, and “Nathan Bedford Forrest Day” is commemorated each year in Tennessee up through 2019.
The next embodiment in 1915, begun in the wake of the popularity of the aforementioned film Birth of a Nation (actually invoking the costumes and rituals invented by the novel and film itself), grew from 5,000 members in 1920 to 5 million members in 1925, or about 15% of the nation’s eligible population. It really grew amongst the grass roots who distrusted the “Swamp” establishment powers when the “Fake News Media” (national newspapers) and Congress condemned its hateful rhetoric and xenophobia, with new founder William Simmons adding that “It wasn’t until the newspapers began to attack the Klan that it really grew…Certain newspapers also aided us by inducing congress to investigate us. The result was that congress gave us the best advertising we ever got. Congress made us” (emphasis added). This Twentieth Century embodiment was far more savvy in public relations, imagery, symbolism and messaging, and using the new mass media to promote their cause in advanced marketing and standardization of its organization and “franchise product.” Rather than just being vigilante terrorist posses in the night, they tried to project an air of conservative Christian “respectability” of preserving the nation’s Christian values, including to protect the “interests of white womanhood” and the home (and white suburbs and neighborhoods, as it exploded in the growing transplant communities of places like Dallas and Detroit) from ethnic minority community encroachment. Its founding documents explained its goals to “shield the sanctity of the home and the chastity of womanhood; to maintain white supremacy; to…conserve, protect and maintain the distinctive institutions, rights, privileges, principles and ideals of a pure Americanism.” In fact, their national messaging was virtually indistinguishable from the modern Religious Right messaging and priorities today. As alluded to in the pictures of their marches at the top of this post, they portrayed themselves as “Christian warriors” defending “Americanism” and its “Christian values,” such as Bible reading and prayer in schools, the Ten Commandments up in the courthouse, and warnings of the motives of non-Protestant religious groups in America, immigrants, as well as minorities of race, religion and ethnicity that were not Anglo-Saxon based, in their national motive to make America great again. Their ranks included judges and top state officials in both the North and South (with states like Indiana and Maine having some of the most prominent organizations). The similarity to today’s conservative and Religious Right movements don’t end there; the leaders of these movements were able to raise funds off of their paranoid warnings of “outsider” infiltration in America sufficient to obtain quite lucrative fortunes, and the decadent and hypocritical lifestyles out of the public eye that comes with it. By 1925, 40,000 unmasked Klan members were marching to the Washington Monument.
While these tens of thousands of “patriotic Christians,” proudly marching without their masks, got lots of attention of the Washington DC press in 1925 as the “next big thing,” one historical source reports that a few lone Christians dared speak up to this intimidating crowd of ultra-conservative “Christians” in their public show of strength. They note that a Thomas Avaunt there passed out flyers amongst the crowd, stating that “All Christian men and women bow their heads in shame when they know the streets of their city may soon be bathed in blood. Those of us who are Christians and believe in law and order cannot forget the scores of cities where similar parades of the KKK have been the cause of murder and bloodshed and without a minute’s notice men and women have been shot.” They source adds that “infowars”-style rumors of unattributed threats of armed “minority uprisings” and deadly counter-protests also spread around; they write that “Rumors began to circulate that the African American community had been arming itself to combat the parade, buying up all the rifles and revolvers in local thrift shops. The Metropolitan Police investigated the claims and debunked them. In a public statement, they were adamant that no such violence was planned. In fact, in hopes of avoiding conflict, police and African American pastors urged their congregants to steer clear of the crowds gathering around the parade.” They also note that 150,000 spectators watched these tens of thousands of Klansmen march to restore America. As they completed the several-hour march and began to ready the Christian Klan orators to inspire the gathered crowd, storm clouds began to form. They write that a local Klan leader tried to reassure the crowd with “Christian” words, saying that “‘I have faith enough in the Lord that He is with every Klansman,’ he told the restless audience. ‘You ought to have as much faith in Him as I have. We have never had a drop of rain in Washington when we got on our knees.’ Right about then, the heavens opened up.” The next night featured a cross burning there, reported to be eighty feet tall and thirty feet wide, which was lit as U. S. flags were mounted around it and on the speaker’s stand, as they played and sang “Onward Christian Soldiers” and “America” – a spectacle that stirs, inspires and invigorates the fleshly souls of “Western Christians” like the similarly staged Nuremberg rallies in Hitler’s Germany just a few years later.
Leader D. C. Stephenson made millions in the mid-1920s with an exclusive franchise racket selling Klan uniforms in Indiana, the state with the largest Klan population of 250,000, or one third or more of all of Indiana’s white males, and a governor a presumed Klan member as well as the majority of the Indiana General Assembly and other politicians (confirmed by Pulitzer Prize-winning press investigations), such that politicians needed Klan endorsement to be elected as a Republican, the party in which they focused their efforts (with Stephenson saying publicly that “I am the law in Indiana”), just as modern Republicans need Trump endorsement or face a primary rival in local offices. They emphasized strict morality and exposed “notorious sinners,” but much like today’s religious activist groups, it was found that leaders like Stephenson were exposed and convicted of decadent and violent sexual perversion (including chewing on a young lady Stephenson kidnapped and raped) and assault, leading to their general demise in this “mainstream” form in the late 1920s (he and pro-Prohibition Klan officials were found at trial to be alcoholics and womanizers). Just like today’s Tea Party organizations and “astroturf” fake grass roots organizations behind them, various Klan franchisees fought over assets procured from the lucrative racket funded from merchandise, public donations, fund raising and events, as their primary interest in the movement. During that time, cities like Indianapolis were controlled by the Klan, while smaller cities like New Albany fought them; street fights between Klan “Christian warriors” and minority groups were commonplace. In the community outside Louisville that my family members lived in after I left town, I found the community newspapers of that era show the Klan welcomed with open arms in the community and specifically within its conservative churches, where they had recruiting drives in the services much like the Gideon Bible distributors do today, albeit to arrange “god-fearing” men and pastors to resist dangerous minorities that threatened to move into or burn down white suburbs or rape their white women, as well as immigrants and non-Protestants (and including socialists and other leftists) that threatened their heritage and traditions of Anglo-Saxon Protestant control of America that they had to preserve. They had a major impact in governments across America, particularly in places like Maine and Southern California (future stronghold of the John Birch Society), where thousands of Klansmen were active in Orange County, and were elected in city council in Anaheim, and nationwide they were mostly supported or even led by Methodist or Baptist ministers. In Oregon, where the Klan swiftly took over, they brought in an “escaped nun” to tell made up terrors of the Catholic clergy (which sounds like much of the anti-Catholic, “Satanic Panic” and “Illuminati paedophile ring” whistleblowers I have seen peddled in Christian circles in my day). They bitterly divided every town and city they entered into opposed camps of the public, while ministers and politicians were usually too timid to stand up to them (and their supporters in the voting public) or take a principled stand, as the Klan controlled their seats of government in Oregon with only 2 percent of the population being members.
These prominent first and second generation Klan movements were just indicative of a long tradition of American vigilantism when law enforcement, the legal system or even the military were not “cutting it” in terms of satisfying the passions of the populists, going all the way back to the Revolutionary War. In Civil War times, they were often known as “bushwackers,” and spread death, arson, destruction and terror across the land. While not officially part of any government armed institution, they often coordinated with sympathetic law enforcement and military chains of command, doing their “dirty work” that the laws of policing and war would not let them, as a “force multiplier,” and even getting military ranks awarded at times, without the need to obey rules of engagement. As their movements that followed, often behind masks and at night, collapsed as a “Lost Cause” as feuds increased the body count and escalation, their new-found ability to break down the psychological barrier to and experience in killing in cold blood made these groups into excellent self-motivated violent criminal gangs in the aftermath in the Old West, such as by former bushwacker Jesse James, and subsequent guerilla and militia movements typically devolve from their “cause” and resort to violent, self-serving crime.
Later in the 1800s and 1900s it formed the basis of a far-broader citizen-led guerilla culture nationwide known as the “white capping” movement. When communities of people no longer had patience to deal with or confidence in legal institutions of law enforcement or the legal system when court rulings opened up opportunities for rival minority groups (blacks, immigrants and minority religious faiths) to conduct business, work and own property in their communities that went against their wishes of domination, collectives of working class nativist citizens nationwide took matters in their own hands and used their greater numbers, or terror tactics as a force multiplier, and formed groups like the “Night Riders” and “Bald Knobbers” across America, raiding minority families or their white sympathizers at night to whip and kill them, burn their houses or threaten them to leave their community and property behind, and not impact their communities’ economies with their work force or businesses. They also attacked those seen as a “welfare” drain on their communities by not working hard enough. Since that time, more modern groups such as The Minutemen, The Secret Army Organization (a paramilitary group that bombed buildings and shot pro-peace professors and such, being controlled by the FBI and Nixon White House, as it was discovered at trial and congressional testimony, including the planned false-flag bombing of the 1972 Republican Convention to blame on the Vietnam Veterans against the War), the Christian Identity militia movement that “successfully” killed hundreds of innocent civilians with the Oklahoma City bombing, the deadly bombings by the Jewish Defense League for decades, and the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys and similar groups have kept up the tradition today, with the consistent help of significant portions of “official” law enforcement, and sometimes even the President. This is why federal authorities consistently report that right-wing anti-government paramilitary guerilla activities are the most frequent source of terror and hate crimes annually, and the greatest terror threat to American society. All these groups outside the law will eventually follow the same path of making killers of normal citizens (with the help of experienced veterans or law enforcement retirees, or even active duty sympathizers), without rules or laws, leadership subsequently devolving to the hands of the most ruthless, and despairing cynicism amongst all the lawlessness until they use their (sometimes newly learned) propensity to use violence and aggression for self-serving ends of crime, just as white supremacist groups, and even the Symbionese Liberation Army, use bank robberies, kidnappings and the like to enlarge their coffers and personal bank accounts, with new tools of cybercrimes and such now available.
The revived Klan of the 1950s until today has focused on opposing civil rights, desegregation and black residents in communities in which they had a presence. They revived terror tactics, lynchings and hate crimes, including upon white human rights activists (whom they called “N___r lovers”), which included Northern students and civil rights figures who tried to support black and minority voters in Southern states, helping local authorities devise means of denying blacks voter privileges and representation on juries, and conducting bombings and burnings of churches with black members (either as majorities or minorities in white-majority churches), and local judges usually would not convict captured perpetrators. They responded to the newfound power of black and minority communities in removing roadblocks to their voting by means of 1960s legislation, and opportunities of housing outside their confined ghettos, or ability to organize into protest movements and marches to expose communities violating their legal rights. White populations saw this voting power and encroachment in their communities as a direct threat, and in addition to their efforts in trying to stop their votes or otherwise invalidate them, resorted to vigilante action outside the law, but with the common understood support of local law enforcement and judicial system, and with the help of many pastors and religious leaders. In 1979 KKK and American Nazi Party members pulled up by car and shot and killed five communist activists who were supporting black labor workers to join unions in Greensboro, NC; in 1980 three KKK members shot and killed four elderly black women in Chattanooga after a rally, and when caught, two of them were acquitted by an all-white jury, and the other served three months. Around 1980 in the same area outside Louisville, the attendance of some black Christians at a local Baptist church where my brother served for the time as an assistant pastor, resulted in a public threat at a church service by a member known to be a local Klan leader, and when my brother retorted that they would always be welcome in the house of worship, the man’s last threat was followed with deeds within a week, as the new church whose construction was just completed by the parishioners was burned to the ground, with investigators finding evidence of arson.
In recent years the Klan has been in decline, although it is somewhat due to the rise of many rival hate groups which are growing; the Klan has had a sudden rise is chapters opening since 2015. In February 2019, Goodloe Sutton, editor of the Linden (AL) Democrat-Reporter, wrote an editorial entitled, “Klan Needs to Ride Again,” saying they needed to “night ride” because of the “socialist-communist ideology” invading Alabama, and responded to complaints to it that, “The point of the editorial was ironic in that all these years, the FBI and the Department of Justice have been investigating the Klan and now, that shoe is on the other foot. (The FBI and Justice Department) are doing wrong and the Klan needs to investigate them.” He said regarding liberals offended by the editorial, “It’s not their country. It’s our country and if they don’t like it, they can go to hell.” He wrote concerning the aftermath of the editorial that “It got me about $10 million in free publicity. I know I would do it all over again”; the 80-year-old stated in a phone interview that he had resigned, and said “I’m going to drink beer and sex young women,” after receiving praise for the editorial in which he said that the Klan should “raid the gated communities” of Democrats. In the interview he said that Democrats should be lynched, and that ““we’ll get the hemp ropes out, loop them over a tall limb and hang all of them.” He added in an interview with the Montgomery Advertiser that the “socialist-communists” should be lynched, and balked at ideas the Klan were violent, saying, “A violent organization? Well, they didn’t kill but a few people,” Sutton said. “The Klan wasn’t violent until they needed to be.”
One essential element of fortifying and sustaining such populist movements in paranoid suspicion and contempt of their fellow citizens of other races, religions or economic class, is to control the information space and narrative, and for “Lost Case”-based movements, the historical record of what “went down” up to today, and its justification of the nature of the grievances and aggressive reactionary actions and initiatives. Even in December 2020, Nashville’s Tennessean newspaper reports on how the school textbook contents regarding the South’s “Lost Cause” has fomented these world views and strife for generations, right up to 2020. They write that, “For much of the 20th century, southern classrooms…Teachers taught students to sing Dixie and memorize long lists of forgettable governors. Civil War battles got described in detail. Textbooks celebrated the violent overthrow of democratically-elected, multiracial governments. Lynching went unmentioned. The evils of slavery got cursory acknowledgments — and quick dismissals,” with one 1961 Alabama textbook stating that “It should be noted that slavery was the earliest form of social security in the United States.” They add that “The same forces that took over public spaces to erect monuments to the Confederacy and its white supremacist tenets also kept a tight grip on the history taught to Southern pupils. The United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) spent decades shaping and reshaping textbooks to put a strong emphasis on Lost Cause views of the Civil War and Reconstruction, which glorified the white supremacist foundations of the Confederacy and was used to justify segregation and authoritarian Jim Crow governance. While the UDC was responsible for erecting many of the Confederate statues that are controversial today during the Jim Crow era, Civil War legacy historian Kevin Levin is quoted as saying that, “With all the attention they received in terms of reference to the monuments, I think their most lasting impact was in controlling and censoring textbooks.” The article further writes that “Efforts to improve history education moved slowly. Lost Cause mythology came under sustained fire from academic historians starting in the 1950s, but that research took decades to reach classrooms. After a long court fight, Mississippi in 1980 adopted the textbook “Conflict and Change,” which confronted lynching and the dehumanizing aspects of slavery in ways previous textbooks had not. Later textbooks provided more information about slave life and abandoned earlier whitewashings of terrorist groups like the Ku Klux Klan. But change came slowly. Textbooks that said Black Southerners were content to be second-class citizens were in use in Virginia well into the 1980s. Mississippi students were not required to learn about the civil rights movement before 2011.”
This concept of a national “lost cause” betrayal, and the resultant populist covert wave of vigilante resistance to the powerlessness it imbued, is not just an American phenomenon, even in the 20th century. One such prominent example is the “stab in the back” myth, in which the Germans from 1981 to Hitler’s reign in the 1930s were led to believe that the vaunted German army did not actually lose World War I, but were “stabbed in the back” along with the German public by Jews and socialists, and the governing Weimer Republic that capitulated by signing the Armistice. This conspiracy theory and disbelief in their movement and ideology ever losing was made possible because the media sources their leader and aligned German media arms of government propaganda allowed them to be exposed to had led them to believe it was “impossible” to lose, that “God was on their side,” and that any events reported to the contrary were merely “fake news” – an alternative reality they clung to until their loss was sudden and inexplicable to them, to the point of disbelief. Actually, the army was well aware of their ultimate loss, and encouraged the settlement with the Allies, but shrewdly did not admit it publicly, and rather had the civilian authorities of Weimer sign the surrender documents, thereby giving them later plausible deniability, and placing all the blame on the hapless new government put in power at the end of the war (with its leader later killed for such “cowardice”). This similar disbelief due to the lack of their favorite leader-in-power-aligned media outlets not reporting the weakness of their leadership or its imminent peril has provided a similar public disbelief in electoral losses and the embrace of laughable conspiracy theories by today’s followers of the “invincible” Donald Trump and his “prophesied” victory in the 2020 election. As the Germans were led by their failing authorities and military heroes to blame scapegoats like socialists and Jews for the sudden loss as opposed to their own incompetence, Trump and his henchmen blame Democratic socialists, Antifa, Black Lives Matter, ballot stuffers, Republican governors, all major big city residents, and even voting machine software firms as all part of some coordinated mega-conspiracy to barely steal the election away, even with all their power, from the “overwhelming” popularity of Trump, who never reached 50% popularity at any time in his presidency, although all polling verifying such by anyone is also part of the cabal as well. The foreign government China is blamed as an international culprit, although no data has provided any evidence of such, and even North Korea is even blamed for bringing in fake ballots to Maine by ship (!) by Roger Stone, but the Russian government that all U.S. intelligence agencies have provided evidence of election tempering, as well as Trump’s own campaign chairman Paul Manafort giving key swing-state polling data to a top known Russian operative Konstanin Kilimnik (who used it in Putin’s Internet Research Agency to perform critical local social media campaigns in swing states) being proven in court to the point of conviction, is never mentioned or disputed. Those German officials who acknowledged the loss were castigated by the public when prodded by demagogues, no matter how patriotic they had been in the past (rather calling them “November Criminals”), just as mainstream Republican elected officials, and even Religious Right leaders like Pat Robertson, are now similarly treated as being “unloyal” for acknowledging the obvious of the major electoral loss and the clean nature of the election process, including the head of the Department of Homeland Security and the Attorney General, both hand-picked by Trump himself.
This concept of German “betrayal” was first started from a sermon of a Protestant Court Chaplain, even before the war was over. It Germany it was the losing military leaders who originated this false conspiracy theory for the public, to save their reputations; in the U.S., it was the President and his allies who developed a similar conspiracy theory to cover his failure, although retired military leaders like just-pardoned Gen. Michael Flynn have also played a key role. The German military leaders used this lie and conspiracy theory to also delegitimize the new government that had come into power, and asserted that it had entered by duplicitous means, and that the public had experienced a “lost cause” of being cheated by connivers over their noble, unvanquished military heroes they had idolized in the past, just like Southerners in the U.S., or Trump followers today. They made these accusations before parliament inquiries into the matter in their testimony, which further cemented the idea in the minds of the pliable public. Even though the head of the Social Democratic Party that led the government complimented the German army for their valiant fighting and even let paramilitary Friekorps units form around the country (as militias who crushed socialist movements in places like Munich) without confronting them to avoid disturbances, the conservative German press still accused him of being a traitor to the army and the country and a “criminal,” as his fellow government officials who signed the Armistice were assassinated. This conspiracy theory that absolved the German people of soul-searching was exploited by skillful demagogues like Hitler and the Nazis to empower street militias to fight and kill socialists and Jews as the scapegoats, push out experienced mainstream politicians, and justify an extreme movement to avenge these manufactured “injustices” on a mass scale, with atrocities justified by this “betrayal”; what will Trump supporters now be willing to do in the aftermath of this “corrupt” election, perpetrated by leftist elements, local politicians and even accommodated by vile mainstream Republican leaders and pundits?
Not surprisingly, these two modern western “lost cause” movements, one in decline and another on the upswing (and who taught them a more militant and aggressive manner for daylight resistance against the government, and not just small groups of minorities), would find “common cause” here in America. The online report by the Southern Poverty Law Center on the history of the Ku Klux Klan writes that
By the late 1970s and early 1980s, Klansmen and Nazis were beginning to see the value of cooperating with each other. Although they had roots in different traditions — the Klan in the post-civil War South and the neo-Nazis in Hitler’s Germany — they shared the same enemies and the same fanatic obsession with white supremacy. Some Klan leaders, like David Duke and Don Black, started out as Nazis. Former Nazi Glenn Miller incorporated the military fatigue uniform and the Nazi salute into his Klan organization in North Carolina. Ed Fields in Georgia brought both Klansmen and Nazis into the National States’ Rights Party; his virulently anti-Semitic publication, The Thunderbolt (later renamed The Truth At Last), was read by both groups. The combination of the Klan, with its historical foothold in American society, and the Nazis, with a modern militancy that appealed to many younger ideologues, resulted in a racist front whose potential for danger was evident by the early 1980s.
The Nazi influence radicalized traditional Klansmen. In secret camps across the country, white supremacists of all descriptions began training in the use of assault weapons, grenades, rocket launchers and explosives — all in preparation for what they believed would be a nationwide race war [which is what President Trump has been insinuating recently via Black Lives Matter and Antifa; Ed.]. In 1981, more than 1,000 people learned advanced guerrilla warfare techniques at an annual paramilitary training camp sponsored by the Christian Patriots Defense League in Louisville, Illinois, which had ties to the white supremacist pseudo-religion, Christian Identity. At a Posse Comitatus “survival school” in 1982, members received instruction in the demolition of roadways, dams and bridges. At the covenant, Sword and Arm of the Lord Survivalist compound, members stockpiled weapons and explosives, and trained in urban warfare, martial arts and wilderness survival in preparation for “the coming war.” An FBI raid on the compound in 1985 yielded hundreds of weapons and bombs, and enough cyanide to poison the water supply of an entire city.
…In 1985, Glenn Miller changed the name of the Carolina Knights to the Confederate Knights and preached the need to secure the Southern United States for a white homeland. He told his followers at one rally, “We’re building up a white Christian army. We’re going to get our country back. We hope to keep bloodshed to a minimum, but anyone that gets in the way is going to be sorry.” With the name change, Miller’s group took on a new look — instead of wearing Klan robes to rallies and marches, members wore camouflage uniforms and army boots. Not only was Miller conducting the training he wrote about in his newspaper, he authorized his second-in-command to purchase a whole array of weapons that had been stolen from military bases. They included dynamite, claymore mines, grenades, plastic explosives, AR-15 rifles, gas masks, night scopes, chemical warfare items and light-weight anti-tank weapons capable of piercing up to 11 inches of armor. Miller also hired a military weapons expert to train his men in small teams at night, sometimes as often as twice a week. In the summer of 1984, Miller later admitted, he had received $200,000 of money stolen by members of the revolutionary group, The Order. In late 1984, Miller hooked the Carolina Knights into the Aryan Nations Liberty Net, a computer bulletin board which listed activities of various radical white supremacists around the country….Several months after his conviction, Stephen Miller and four other white patriots were arrested after they plotted to rob a Fayetteville, North Carolina, restaurant, buy stolen military explosives, blow up the Southern Poverty Law Center and kill Law Center Director Morris Dees…In April 1987, Glenn Miller, then in hiding, issued a “declaration of total war” against the government, blacks and Jews. In his declaration, Miller assigned a point system for the assassination of key minority, government and civil rights leaders, with Dees heading the list. Ten days later, Miller was captured in Missouri along with three other White Patriots and a cache of weapons that included grenades, pipe bombs, automatic rifles, shotguns, pistols and crossbows.
One last historical “lost cause” in the West that reveals further facets of modern populist resistance to the loss of a “Camelot” existence for one’s culture when perceived as being oppressed by a rival culture that had wrested political and institutional power from them by disputed means, is the struggle in Northern Ireland for many decades, commonly referred to as “The Troubles.” In fact, a bombing this week in my own hometown of Nashville caused my good friend Adam Sayne to suggest to me the potential of such an element of ideological violence to be featured in the years ahead within our own nation. The table was set for such cultural, political, economic class and even religious strife hundreds of years before “The Troubles” were officially recognized as such, with the forced colonial settlement of Protestant British subjects in the northern counties of the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic Ireland, just as Africans were forcibly settled in America hundreds of years earlier to be exploited for literal slave labor, and an inevitable clash of cultures and interests. Eventually, Catholic Ireland won her independence from Great Britain via civil war after World War I, but the Irish Catholics in six northern counties were denied their desire to have a “traditional Irish Catholic” government in their region, and subject to Protestant votes and politicians in the equivalent of their “states” that secured governing authority. The multi-generation indigenous Catholics were often of poor and working class status, with positions of authority, privilege and wealth reserved for the British-sympathetic Protestant “unionists” (i.e. for remaining in “union” with Great Britain, rather than the “Irish Republicans” (who wished governance in line with their traditional Irish Catholic culture)). Both sides used their education (or lack thereof), wealth and professional class, and their religious tradition as grounds for animosity. Old religious partisan groups like the Protestant “Orangemen” from the late 1700s would still parade in Catholic neighborhoods in the attempt to provoke unrest (which my wife and I observed in our visit there in the mid-1990s), just like groups have done in our cities in 2020 to incite violent confrontations.
This long-term, guerilla-style resistance movement (short of full-blown civil war) is typically considered to have lasted in earnest from around 1969 until 1998, with usually a few hundred killed each year having direct connection to “the troubles,” with many, many more injured and maimed. However, this moderate to low-intensity insurrection had so many facets of violence – from police harassment, whippings, torture, forced suicides, false-flag terror, bombings, shootouts, conflicts between different sides of belligerents, and Faustian cooperation at times and outright personal selfish agenda “hits” and criminal activities of personal or group enrichment under the guise of “resistance” on either side, it is hard to ascertain the true number of casualties in the conflict, which was not restricted to colliding armies, rifles, and missiles. The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and Northern Ireland Defense Forces defended the Protestant dominance, and was assisted by the deployed British Army, in their longest deployment in their history. To resist them, paramilitaries were formed like the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA), Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) and Irish People’s Liberation Organisation (IPLO). To counter them beyond “official” government and military forces, the pro-Protestant citizenry also formed their own citizen militias, including the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), Ulster Protestant Volunteers (UPV), Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and the Red Hand Commandos (RHC), and the “official” British military units would collude with these “extra-legal,” loyalist paramilitaries “off the record.” These days also resulted in public riots, mass protests and civil disobedience, with the formation of segregated communities and “no go” areas (which we witnessed while there, as it was painted right on the neighborhood sidewalks). Of the 3,500 people killed in the region during this period that was attributed to the struggle, just over half were non-participating citizens, and split almost evenly in perpetration by both sides.
While this land graft from native Irish Catholics and resettlement of Protestants in the 1600s caused an expected conflict of communities, that being between the native and transplanted colonist (as they have in America and elsewhere, and currently in Palestine), the Penal Laws by the British Crown removed the religious, political and legal rights of non-Anglicans, both Catholic and Protestant Dissenters. The era of extreme restriction, and then relaxation of Catholic rights (in the “wisdom” of the British government) that suggested a new imposition of Catholic rights on a new generation of Protestant residents unaccustomed to them, led to the formation of fighting factions back into the late 1700s. Ireland was forced into Great Britain in 1801, abolishing the Irish Parliament, and united Anglican and non-Anglican Protestants as “loyalists” of mutual cause, and although Catholics were officially given status to prohibit their discrimination in the 1800s, a “Home Rule” movement was started by native Irish Catholics to restore the Irish Parliament, and from the late-1800s to early 1900s, the political divide in Ireland was along native “republican” vs. “loyalist/unionist” grounds. As the “republican” independence movement gained strength and neared “home rule” status, the minority Protestant residents feared Catholic government and formed in 1912 the Ulster Volunteer Force (ULF), the first extra-constitutional militia paramilitary force. In turn, republican forces founded the Irish Volunteers to counter them in 1913, but before civil war broke out, the First World War took precedence, and the planned Home Rule for Ireland by the British government was also suspended. While many Irish republicans left to help Great Britain in the War, civil disturbances broke out back home, and in 1918 the Irish republican Sinn Fein party won the majority of seats in Ireland, which launched the Irish Parliament and set up the 1922 War for Irish Independence and the establishment of the Irish Free State in the 26 counties where Sinn Fein won, but the six northern counties where they did poorly were left out, as the Protestant leaders there “opted out” to become the Great Britain-affiliated state of Northern Ireland. Between this time and 1969, Catholics in Northern Island were intentionally kept from the best housing and jobs, and Protestant politicians gerrymandered districts to keep Protestant parliamentary representatives for Catholic communities, and ignored calls for respect of the 35% Catholic minority to prevent future acts of desperation.
In 1966, the Protestant fundamentalist preacher Ian Paisley, praised profusely by contemporary Christian documentarian Chris Pinto in his recent works, formed the Ulster Constitution Defence Committee (UCDC) and the Ulster Protestant Volunteers (UPV) paramilitary wing, opening the raising of potential conflict with armed hostilities. The UPV was a loyalist and fundamentalist Christian paramilitary group who in the spring of 1966 bombed an all-girls primary school in Ardoyne, where talks to better relations between Protestants and Catholics were to take place. Soon thereafter in that year they killed a 70-year-old Protestant woman they thought was a Catholic next door, and then two Catholic men nearby, using firebombs and firearms, and declaring “war” on the IRA, as a fundamentalist Christian group successfully initiating a lengthy, deadly national conflict. By 1969 they were targeting the water supply and electrical grid used by Catholic communities, and often blamed on the IRA as false-flag events. Meanwhile, a non-violent civil rights movement had started to get more proportional job opportunities and housing for the large Catholic minority, an end to “one vote per household” which was meant to neutralize large Catholic families as well as the gerrymandering, and laws that had allowed arrests without warrant, imprisonment without trial and ban on assemblies and publications. Civil rights marchers began to be beaten routinely and without provocation by the police. What followed beyond that was a veritable melee of Northern Irish police, military and British military forces, along with republican and loyalist paramilitary groups, with children, woman and the elderly often the targets, large numbers of displaced civilians (mostly Catholics driven from their damaged homes), and a major refugee problem. Walls were erected separating Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods, like the Berlin Wall or the rest of the Iron Curtain. “Bloody Sunday” in 1972 described the killing of fourteen unarmed civil rights marchers by the British military. Outside nations and groups began funding and arming the various factions (such as from Libya for the IRA, and South Africa for the loyalists). British troops were often found colluding with loyalist forces, against their deployment mission, and helped them off-hours or smuggled them weapons. The society began showing all the social decay effects of an extended war zone, including increases in nihilistic behavior such as greater promiscuity, suicides, substance abuse and a distrust of social groups by young people growing up during the period. It also trained a generation of bombmakers and mercenaries, comfortable with remorselessly taking life, that also later found use as soldiers of fortune, criminals, corporate security commandos, and terrorists for hire around the globe.
Is this picture of sustained domestic bombing, rioting, kidnapping and sniper operations a possible scenario as an outgrowth of the extreme ideological conflict and schism our nation now experiences, in the near future? Will today’s “lost cause” of lost (or perceived stolen) political influence and cultural erosion trigger a reactionary aggressive and violent response from a people who feel they have no other options nor desire to evolve with changing times, to make such a dystopian struggle come true in our own land in the days ahead? If so, who will be the possible religious figures or group to start it, or other cultural icons or institutions as the catalyst? Or is this all just more paranoid conspiracy mongering and unjustified “Chicken Little” hand-wringing? Or – are its beginnings – the “shots on Ft. Sumter” – already underway?
Stay tuned for Part 2, which will discuss the seeds of such tensions in the last few years in our own country that mirror the elements and facets of such “Lost Cause” guerilla violence in the streets and towns that we have documented in this historical review. Please also check out my book, Two Masters and Two Gospels, Volume 1 – The Teaching of Jesus Vs. the “Leaven of the Pharisees” in Talk Radio and Cable News, which is available in ebook, paperback and hardcover in places like Amazon, Barnes and Noble and the usual suspects.