Custer and Sitting Bull…and the politics of idiocracy

Stinky bull — Fox sings the praises of “General” Custer. President Obama’s new children’s book — “Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters” — celebrates 13 famous figures in American history, including George Washington, Jackie Robinson, Neil Armstrong, Helen Keller and Sitting Bull. Profits will be donated to a scholarship fund for children of fallen and disabled American troops. But this is how Fox Nation chose to present the book… “Obama Praises Indian Chief Who Killed U.S. General.”

Never mind that Sitting Bull was too old to fight at Little Big Horn and certainly killed no one, on that fateful day. Even making allowances, anyone with an ounce of intelligence would dismiss this snark as just another example of pinheaded culture war.
Still, I do have to offer a small side note, in the interest of historical nit-pickery.  I don’t know if anyone else has pointed this out.  But at the time of the Battle of Little Big Horn, George Armstrong Custer was not a general.

Yes, he had been one, during the Civil War, when rank inflation made generals as common as grass nettles.  But after peace returned, those choosing to stay in the army took steep rank cuts.  Heck, at the time of his fateful encounter with the allied Lakota and Cheyenne nations, Custer wasn’t even a full colonel!  He did not command the Seventh Cavalry, but just one of its battalions, as a Lieutenant Colonel.

Violating clear orders, he led that battalion off scouting duty and straight into premature hostilities.  Violating all military sense, he peeled off two companies and charged them into certain death… thus saving the other two companies from the misfortune of his further suicidally insane leadership. (Those two mostly survived.)

Two companies, badly led by an insane lt. colonel, were wiped out.  A Fascinating event that did resonate loudly with the public. Still, on the grand scale of things, this wasn’t a “battle” but a dismal skirmish, in which all sides have been over-rated. Without taking away from the courage of Custer’s men or the victory of the tenacious war leader, Crazy Horse, certainly the earlier triumphs of Tecumseh were more substantial and came far closer to achieving historical change for native peoples.  But let’s admit the Lakota and Cheyenne earned a moment of significance in history, fair and square, especially through the later diplomatic skills of Sitting Bull.

So, does this nit-pick really matter?  Not really, except to illustrate another example of really, really bad journalism.  The shabby villain in all this is snippy little episode — as always — Fox News. No other force in American life is as responsible for undermining the old spirit of pragmatic negotiation with our neighbors and non-political problem-solving, than this foreign-owned organ of bilious hatred, whose incessant lying has forced many of us Goldwater Republicans to flee in disgust from a GOP that has gone quite un-dead.


Faced with rising, dogma-driven attacks upon science, hundreds of climate scientists are joining a broad campaign to push back against congressional conservatives who have threatened prominent researchers with investigations and vowed to kill regulations to rein in man-made greenhouse gas emissions…. Now, the American Geophysical Union, the country’s largest association of climate scientists, plans to announce that 700 climate scientists have agreed to speak out as experts on questions about global warming and the role of man-made air pollution.
I have urged that scientists take a less-passive stance in the “war on Science,” which is spearheaded by precisely the same law firms, think tanks and ad agencies who brought us 40 years of “tobacco is good for you” and who now pushboth creationism and climate change denialism from the same slush funds.  In fact, the scientific consensus is not always right, and benefits from regular scrutiny and criticism! But parsing the difference between genuine Skeptics and members of a dogmatic cult is something that scientists are going to have to learn to do.
Following up on my posting about “corporate personhood:
Murray HIll Incorporated Running for Congress.”
And finally… from a classic article (2005) in Esquire: “Greetings from Idiot America” Creationism. Intelligent Design. Faith-based this. Trust-your-gut that. There’s never been a better time to espouse, profit from, and believe in utter, unadulterated crap. And the crap is rising so high, it’s getting dangerous. By Charles P. Pierce

“…a pastor named Ray Mummert delivers the line that both ends our tour and, in every real sense, sums it up: “We’ve been attacked,” he says, “by the intelligent, educated segment of the culture.”

“The rise of Idiot America is essentially a war on expertise. It’s not so much antimodernism or the distrust of intellectual elites that Richard Hofstadter deftly teased out of the national DNA forty years ago. Both of those things are part of it. However, the rise of Idiot America today represents — for profit mainly, but also, and more cynically, for political advantage and in the pursuit of power — the breakdown of a consensus that the pursuit of knowledge is a good. It also represents the ascendancy of the notion that the people whom we should trust the least are the people who best know what they’re talking about. In the new media age, everybody is a historian, or a preacher, or a scientist, or a sage. And if everyone is an expert, then nobody is, and the worst thing you can be in a society where everybody is an expert is, well, an actual expert.”

“In the place of expertise, we have elevated the Gut, and the Gut is a moron, as anyone who has ever tossed a golf club, punched a wall, or kicked an errant lawn mower knows. We occasionally dress up the Gut by calling it “common sense.”

Is that creepy enough for you to realize they mean it, when they say “Culture WAR”?  Now recall that these are allies of the same folks who brought you “cars don’t make smog,” then “flouride is a commie plot,”

Now hop over and have a look at these links, and remember, these are the guys who, via their wholly owned propaganda machine, have used populist methods to rile up a third of the US population against science, against their own government, against the universities, the cities (that pay most of the taxes and that sit in the terrorists’ crosshairs) and against modernity.

http://en.wikipedia .org/wiki/ List_of_Saudi_ billionaires
http://en.wikipedia .org/wiki/ List_of_the_ richest_royals
http://en.wikipedia .org/wiki/ List_of_Arabs_ by_net_worth
http://www.zawya. com/story. cfm/sidGN_ 11032010_ 120349/The% 20Billionaires% 20Club
http://en.wikipedia .org/wiki/ List_of_richest_ American_ politicians




Filed under history, science

2 responses to “Custer and Sitting Bull…and the politics of idiocracy

  1. This kind of populism is, of course, nothing new. Its roots go back to the founding of our nation. A significant portion of the original colonists and later immigrants were minority groups who had been suppressed by the “experts” of Europe. Add to that an understandable resentment against the establishment that wants to preserve things as they are, and you can see why Americans are often anti-intellectual.

    What we need is an educational system that values skepticism that does not grow into the excess of being merely obtuse. We have a healthy doubt whenever an expert speaks to us. We do have to do the work of following the argument through and evaluating its supports and conclusions.

    Therein lies another part of our distrust of experts. Human beings are often lazy, while understanding an expert takes effort. I know this all too well from my experiences with my writing students. A quote doth not an argument make, and an expert is only as good as the work that the expert produces.

    • matthew jones

      Distrust of experts, yes, an American institution. So is questioning the estblished truths.
      But, calling all scientists your enemy? This is not so american in genesis. This is rooted in the efforts of a group that wants America to fail, to fall.
      Call Fox’s talking heads what they really are – traitors to our nation.

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