General Lee Speaking, This Meme Is Awful

KermitDukesCosby

You know, because of idiotic memes, I cannot even look at Willy Wonka’s grinning mug without wanting to punch something.  Now they’re trying to ruin Kermit the Frog for me too.  Bastards.

We’ll talk more about Bill Cosby and Subway in a moment, but let’s start with The Dukes of Hazzard, a television series that originally aired on CBS from 1979 to 1985.  The show followed the adventures of Bo and Luke Duke, cousins on probation for transporting moonshine.   Their trademark vehicle, which they used to commit shenanigans and to jump over stuff, was an orange 1969 Dodge Charger called General Lee.  The General Lee, as you might expect from the name, featured a large Confederate battle flag on its roof.

The cable channel TV Land started broadcasting TDoH reruns on June 10, 2015, but pulled the program just three weeks later in the wake of the Charleston shootings.  Although TV Land gave no public explanation for their decision, the show was yanked in the midst of increased public scrutiny regarding the modern display of the Confederate battle flag.  Confederate flag supporters and Civil War revisionists (but I repeat myself) cried foul, arguing that the flag didn’t stand for racism and besides, them Duke boys never meant no harm.  People who know how to use Google responded with crushing evidence that the Confederate battle flag was very much a racist symbol at the time of its creation, and that it had been resurrected by an organization with racist goals.  Granted, nobody is claiming that The Dukes of Hazzard itself was a racist show, but it did prominently and proudly feature a racist symbol.  Unwilling to admit defeat even in the face of overwhelming evidence, flaggers launched an immediate tu quoque campaign.  Their goal: to find unsavory slobs whose related franchises were nevertheless still available for consumption, and to hold them up as shining examples of liberal hypocrisy.

If you were looking for unsavory, you could hardly do better than Bill Cosby.  Bill Cosby, once America’s beloved father-figure, lived a second life as a serial rapist.  According to the allegations of more than fifty women, Bill Cosby harassed, threatened, and drugged women to make them have sex with him.  That’s rape, ladies and gentlemen.  It doesn’t get any more clear-cut than that.

Like the Confederate-flag-festooned General Lee, Bill Cosby was featured in a popular television show from the 1980s.  The Cosby Show originally aired on NBC from 1984 to 1992, and it literally made NBC’s Thursday night lineup.  The Cosby Show was in the top ten Nielsen ratings for all but its final season; still, when one thinks of the show now, one must consider the fact that even while Cosby was filming it, he committed multiple acts of sexual assault, including rape.  Clearly the man is scum.

So TV Land should be ashamed – ashamed – to continue airing a television show featuring a man who, by all accounts, is a monstrous rapist, when they pulled The Dukes of Hazzard for nothing more offensive than a decoration on the roof of a garish car.

Except…TV Land is not airing The Cosby Show anymore.  That’s right, TV Land pulled The Cosby Show in November of 2014, again, without an official explanation.  One assumes that TV Land wishes to avoid controversy – and they aren’t alone.  In fact, many media outlets pulled programming featuring Bill Cosby, and some canceled planned projects.  You would be hard-pressed to find Bill Cosby’s face on any TV channel, unless you’re watching a news story about another one of his victims shedding light on his terrible, terrible past.

Interestingly, both The Dukes of Hazzard and The Cosby Show are still available on several digital services, including Amazon, Netflix DVD, and Hulu, none of whom have announced their intentions to drop either program; ergo, the double standard that the meme tries to suggest simply doesn’t exist.  The most-talked-about network that gave the axe to the goose, gave it to the gander as well.  If other, smaller networks decided to keep one show while ditching the other…well, that is for them to explain.

Now then, let’s talk about Subway, shall we?  Subway also found itself at the center of controversy recently when its long-time spokesperson, Jared Fogle, became embroiled in a sex scandal of disgusting proportions.  Fogle, apparently not content to let Bill Cosby be the ickiest person in the world, was arrested on charges of possession of child pornography and paying for sex with a minor.  Subway severed ties with Fogle before the proverbial excrement hit the cooling device, but now the question becomes: How much did Subway know about Fogle’s actions before letting him go?

At least two people claim to have alerted Subway that something was wrong with Fogle prior to the FBI investigation that exposed his sick deeds and officially ended his career as Subway’s pitchman.  One of the whistle-blowers was a Subway franchise owner.  She says she met with upper management to alert them that Fogle had asked her about the possibility of having sex with her underage cousin, and that he had admitted to paying a 16-year-old for sex.  She suggested – very reasonably, I think – that Jared’s image and merchandise should not be displayed in Subway stores, nor should he be allowed to interact with children.  Despite her conversation with the higher-ups, Subway made no immediate move to distance itself from Jared Fogle.

Rochelle Herman-Walrond, a Florida radio host, says she spent four years recording conversations with Fogle, who allegedly confided in her about his deviant interests.  She says the information she provided to the FBI was crucial in its investigation of Fogle.  She claims to have warned Subway about Fogle’s creepy behavior via an online form, but she never received a response.  Subway denies knowledge of either woman’s allegations.

Assuming that both women are telling the truth, then somebody at Subway knew about Fogle’s problematic behavior long before it became public, yet Subway failed to act.  That is a very big problem.  In that case, we must shift the question: To what extent is Subway culpable in this tragedy?  And what should we, the conscientious consumers, do about it?

It’s a difficult question to answer.  Subway publicly denounced Jared Fogle’s actions.  It’s not like they’re digging in their heels in the immediate wake of public controversy, unlike some fast-food chains I could name.  Still, one suspects they could have acted sooner – they should have paid more attention to the troubling claims brought to them by those two women.  Ultimately, I suppose, the consumers will determine whether Subway escapes from Jaredgate relatively unscathed, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to insist that Subway face some very close scrutiny regarding its delayed response to the Jared Fogle case.  At the very least, it may be time for an overhaul of Subway’s communication policies and a changing of the guard in the upper echelons of management.

Would it be appropriate to boycott Subway, in the same way that LGBT-supporters boycotted Chic-Fil-A after that corporation’s financial support of notoriously anti-gay organizations became public knowledge?  Again, that is for the consumers to decide.  If you eat at Subway, there’s no reason to expect that your dollars will eventually harm somebody (going forward, anyway).  But your patronage of that restaurant might also send the message to its directors that you agree with, or at least, don’t disagree with – their treatment of the two women and the information they provided.  One could argue that you are implicitly endorsing Subway’s reluctance to put morals above profits.  You’ll have to decide for yourself if you can live with that.

So what’s the final judgement on this meme?  Well, it was TV Land’s decision to take down The Dukes of Hazzard, and although the channel didn’t specifically say why, it’s reasonable to assume that it was related to the Confederate flag controversy.  But the network also responded to the Bill Cosby scandal in a similar fashion, so there is nothing hypocritical about their actions.  And the Subway case is a whole other can of worms.  As troubling as Subway’s early response (or lack thereof) to the allegations about Jared Fogle may be, they did eventually dump him.  Each person will have to decide whether he or she is comfortable eating fresh, but no one should feel that he or she is supporting a child molester for doing so.  The author of this meme seems to think that he is terribly clever for sticking it to the hypocrites who canned his beloved Dukes of Hazzard show, but the barb of this meme is simply too weak to puncture.  This meme aims at too many targets, and misses them all.

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Spoiler Alert: It Came Down

Confederate Lives Matter

Let’s be crystal-clear about this: if you put any word other than “Black” in front of the words “Lives Matter”, you are creating a problem.  At the very best, you’re misappropriating the name of a movement that protests the violence disproportionately thrown down on people of color by law enforcement and vigilantes.  That’s not nice; you shouldn’t take the name of their movement to advance your own cause.  At the very worst, you’re being really, really racist.

Yes, really.

Some people hear the phrase “Black Lives Matter” and assume that it’s racist, as if the leaders of the movement have no regard for non-black folks.  Actually, the phrase doesn’t mean that other lives don’t matter.  All lives are important, yes, and in a perfect world everybody would recognize that.  Unfortunately, the world is far from ideal.  While we may profess with our lips that all people are created equal, our actions as a society indicate that we believe otherwise.  That’s why “Black Lives Matter” exists.  If you’re white, straight, Christian, etc, in America, nobody needs to be reminded of the importance of your life – it is taken as self-evident.  But if you’re black, it wouldn’t hurt for people – particularly law enforcement officers – to be reminded that you are also a human being, deserving of the same basic dignity and respect we theoretically afford to all humans.

As spiteful as it is to co-opt the “Black Lives Matter” title to support a different agenda, it’s particularly hateful to replace the word “Black” with “Confederate”.

For one – and this really ought not have to be pointed out – there are no more Confederate lives.  The war’s long done.  The Confederacy is extinct.  If the Confederacy lives on, it’s only in the hearts of people who sympathize with the Confederate cause, which was closely tied to the institution of slavery.

We’ve discussed this before, but it bears repeating: the Confederacy was a racism-motivated regime, and the Confederate battle flag is a racist symbol!  Of course it is.  This point is beyond legitimate debate. The Confederate battle flag was stitched and flown by people who made no secret of their belief that black people were inferior to white people, and that they ought to be kept as slaves.  After the Confederacy was defeated and re-absorbed into the United States, their flags might never again have seen the light of day, had they not been resurrected during the civil rights movements by white segregationists.  The Confederate battle flag was revived as an immutable symbol of anti-black racism.  It continues to be flown by people who wish to ignore that racism was a major cause – nay, the central cause – of the conflict that spawned it.  It is an unfortunate part of Southern heritage, but not one we should celebrate.

Just so we’re clear, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Southern pride, per se.  If you’re a Southerner and proud of it, then I say “Good for you”, as long as you are aware that the book of Southern Heritage has some awfully dark chapters.  If you construct a flag depicting a plate of grits and a glass of iced sweet tea, I will gladly wave it for you (although, I should point out that I’m somewhat atypical as a Southerner in that I do not enjoy either of those fares).  I have no problem with anybody expressing a well-tempered degree of regional pride, but I strongly disagree that the Confederate battle flag is the appropriate symbol of that pride.

I’d like to conclude by addressing the first statement made by this odious meme: “It Ain’t Coming Down”.  I have a couple of relevant videos.  I’ll just leave them right here.

In South Carolina, at least, it came down.  Twice.

Confederate Controversy Confusion

Confederate Flag 1Confederate Flag 2

On June 17, 2015, a 21-year-old man named Dylann Roof shot and killed nine African-American worshipers during a Bible Study at the historically-important Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.  According to Roof’s own statements, the mass shooting was racially motivated; in fact, Roof apparently wanted to start a race war.

That Dylann Roof’s actions were motivated by racist bigotry should not be controversial – he told us so in unambiguous language – although, institutional racism being what it is, there are still media elements scrambling to repaint his actions as the symptoms of mental illness.  There are other aspects of the case up for debate, however.  Dylann Roof’s website contains pictures of Roof posing with a Confederate flag – much more on this in a moment – the flag often identified with the rebellion that led to the American Civil War.  The surfacing of Roof’s apparent Confederate sympathies has re-ignited a fierce debate about the lingering presence of Confederate flags in America, especially on government property.

Now before we continue, I would like to make one thing clear: take a look at the right-hand flag in the second meme above.  You’ll hear a lot of people referring to that flag as the Confederate flag, but it was never the official national flag of the Confederate States of America.  The rectangular flag sporting a blue St. Andrew’s Cross emblazoned with white stars, set against a red background, is more reminiscent of the the Second Confederate Navy Jack, used from 1863 to 1865, or the Army of Tennessee Battle Flag.  The Army of Northern Virginia used a similar battle flag, but it was square rather than rectangular.  YouTuber C.G.P. Grey has a video sorting out some of the confusion surrounding the various Confederate flags.

Still, for all the various flags that flew above the government and the armies of the Confederacy, the so-called rebel flag is what most people think of when one says Confederate flag.  Please, spare me the pedantic comments .  I know, okay?  I know.

As of this post, the Confederate battle flag still flies above government property in several states, including monuments to Confederate soldiers.  The horrific murders at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church, and Dylann Roof’s connection to the flag have caused many people to question why state governments are still displaying a symbol that, to many, represents racial hatred and slavery.  Defenders of the flag say that it’s not about hatred, but about Southern pride and heritage.  People who just wish the issue would go away complain about their free speech rights being trampled upon.

Oh, and let’s not forget about the historical revisionists who insist that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery anyway and who want to know why everybody’s getting so upset about it.

I thought it would be helpful – nay, necessary – to take a look at the claims being made or implied by these memes.

  • Claim: Dylann Roof is crazy.

It seems like an open-and-shut case: anybody who would brutally murder nine innocent people must be absolutely crazy; what else could you say about him?  To tell the truth, I don’t buy it.  Crazy is a hard word to define, and even harder to apply to a person.  I submit that the only disease in Dylann Roof’s mind was intense racial hatred.

  • Claim: The Confederate flag is being banned.

This is false.  The word banned implies that you do not have a choice about whether to fly a Confederate flag on your porch, or to adorn your mud-splattered pickup truck with a Confederate flag bumper sticker.  You still have a choice.  You can still get a Confederate flag tattoo on your forehead, and you can still wear your Confederate flag swim trunks.  Nobody is telling you that you cannot adorn every square inch of your body, vehicle, and home with Confederate flags.  You probably shouldn’t do that, but you can if you want to.  Your choice.

(Just so you’re aware: if you do walk around wearing a Confederate flag tee-shirt, other people have the choice to think of you as a racist douchebag.  Freedom all around, right?)

Here’s what’s really happening, alarmist meme maker.  Several state governments are considering voluntarily removing Confederate flags from government property.  They’re doing this because they realize the flag has a long connection with slavery and racism, and it’s upsetting to many of the people they claim to represent.  In an effort to be more inclusive and representative of all Americans, these states are choosing to distance themselves from the flag and its history.

The word banned might be used in connection with many retailers’ decision to stop selling Confederate flag merchandise.  In that sense, corporate headquarters are banning their outlets from selling the flag.  But the flag itself is not banned in America.  That’s an important distinction to make.

  • Claim: Stomping on the American flag shouldn’t be protected speech (or the legality of stomping on the American flag is somehow connected to state governments’ decisions about flying the Confederate flag).

I guess this is a matter of opinion.  I personally have no desire to stomp on the flag, but like Evelyn Beatrice Hall, I feel very strongly that you should have the right.  People who conflate these two issues are missing the point.  Which leads me to my next quibble…

  • Claim: This is a free speech issue.

No it isn’t.  Once again, nobody is saying that you cannot make, purchase, own, or fly a Confederate flag in any of the fifty states.  Your personal rights to expression are not being infringed upon if South Carolina finally decides to pull down the Confederate flag that flies above the State Capitol grounds.  If Wal-Mart will not sell you a Confederate flag suspender thong, I’m sure you can find somebody who will.  Your life will continue, your rights unimpeded, just as before.

Of course, these aren’t the only erroneous claims made during the recent Confederate flag controversy.  If I may, I’d like to address a few other misconceptions you may have encountered in social media or at family gatherings.

  • Claim: The Confederate flag is a symbol of Southern pride, not racism.  Also, the Civil War was about states’ rights and high taxes; it was never about slavery until Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

Regardless of the fact that some Southerners have adopted the Confederate flag as a symbol of pride, the claim that it’s not also a racist symbol has never been true.  By its own admission, the Confederacy seceded from the Union in order to protect the institution of slavery.  The CSA committed itself from the outset to the idea that black people were inferior to white people, and that their “natural and normal condition” was to be enslaved to whites.  The Confederate battle flag waved over the army of a nation that considered slavery a “positive good“.

After the Civil War, the Confederate battle flag saw little use until it was resurrected in the 1940’s by a political party that strongly opposed desegregation.  Remind me again how it’s not a racist symbol?

The Tattooed Professor provides tons of links that brilliantly destroy Southern apologists’ arguments about the Civil War, slavery, and hate.  He also demonstrates the futility of engaging said apologists in debate.  If you have a friend or family member who peppers their Facebook wall with pro-Confederate memes, you might direct him to that post.  Don’t expect it to convince him, but at least you’ve introduced him to the truth.

  • Claim: The United States flag flew over a slave-holding nation much longer than the Confederate flag did, but you don’t see people clamoring to take that down.

Well, some people are.  But that’s not the point.

Yes it’s true: the United States of America has committed some horrible atrocities beneath the Stars and Stripes, including a prolonged period of racist slavery.  But while the Confederacy fought and died in defense of that peculiar institution, the United States as a nation matured and moved on.  The CSA is extinct; a testament to a failed philosophy based on racism and hatred.  The United States, for all its warts, lives on.  We’re not perfect – we never have been – but I think we’re trying to be.  Removing a symbol of racism and oppression from all government property would be a good step toward showing we’re committed to never returning to that dark past.

  • Claim: Northerners and black people owned slaves too, you know.

And now they don’t, at least in the United States.  How is this justification for the continued presence of the Confederate flag on government property?

  • Claim: Lincoln started the Civil War and blah blah blah I want the southern states to be justified in everything they’ve ever done: before, during, and after the Civil War.

Yeah, good luck with that.  The rest of us, including your more enlightened Southern peers, will continue to move forward without you.


 

I’ve discovered this website called Twitter.  I don’t know, it probably won’t take off.  Anyway, I’ve created an account there called @stupidbadmemes.  I have no idea what I’ll use it for, but if you’d like to find out along with me, feel free to check me out over there.