Reading: Jess Flanigan, Liberalism
Most things that are bad shouldn’t be illegal.
What I’m Reading: Jesse Walker, From Antifa to UFOs, One Joke Can Spawn a Thousand Conspiracies: What happens when a prank or spoof sparks a real belief?
Reading: Jesse Walker, From Antifa to UFOs, One Joke Can Spawn a Thousand Conspiracies, Reason (August/September 2020 Issue).
One thing is certain: In addition to all the other ways that false conspiracy stories begin, from honest speculation to commerce-minded fraud, we need to appreciate the role of jokes. We can divide those jokes into three categories: pranks, accidents, and enigmas.
Pranks are deliberate hoaxes, like the plots promoted on fake antifa accounts. In some cases, these are essentially disinformation campaigns. But even then—unlike, say, the fake Black Panther literature the FBI planted in the 1960s, or the stories the KGB spread in the 1980s claiming that the U.S. government created AIDS—the aim is at least partly satiric. In many cases, the story’s author intends to reveal the truth after a while, hoping to embarrass or illuminate the people who embraced the story. Such plans do not always work out as intended.
Accidents, by contrast, were not meant to be believed. Like @KrangTNelson’s tweet, they are works of fiction that people unexpectedly mistake for facts. Not only do their authors not intend to fool anyone, but sometimes they are not even aware that they have fooled anyone.
Enigmas fall into the cloudy territory in between. As with The ANTIFA Manual, it’s not clear whether they were supposed to trick people. Sometimes the author himself may feel ambivalent about his intentions.
— Jesse Walker, From Antifa to UFOs, One Joke Can Spawn a Thousand Conspiracies
Reason (August/September 2020 Issue).
To-day is Juneteenth. Celebrations on June 19th began as a Jubilee Day festival by freed African-Americans in Galveston and around abouts in Texas in 1866. Over the years it spread through other Southern black communities and spread into the western states through the Great Migration. The main story of Juneteenth is the story of a festival culture that spread throughout Southern black communities, on a lot of different days, where African-Americans organized parades, picnics, processions, and other public community celebrations to observe the anniversary day, or just to celebrate the fact, of emancipation from slavery. The specific date of June 19th radiated out from Texas through migration and cultural diffusion; some of the reasons for convergence on the date outside of Texas had to do with the Great Migration, and others just had to do with the obvious reasons to recommend a day on the edge of high summer for big outdoor community celebrations.
But the special significance of the day in Texas — the occasion of the event — was to mark the anniversary of the public pronouncement, and the beginning of effective enforcement, of the the Emancipation Proclamation in Texas. The U.S. General Gordon Granger arrived to take command of the occupied District of Texas in Galveston on June 19, 1865, and immediately posted and read out a series of General Orders, which included General Order No. 3. Here is the text, as it was re-printed in Flake’s Daily Bulletin, one of the Galveston papers of the time, on June 22, 1865. Really, it’s not the most inspiring freedom document in the world (I guess announcements by white U.S. Generals usually aren’t), and of course the greater meaning of the day is in the people and communities who enjoyed it and who celebrate it, not in the text that happened to provide the occasion to set it off. But, in any case, this is what people read out on the day:
Headquarters District of Texas
Galveston, Texas, June 19th, 1865.
General Orders, No. 3.
The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States,all slaves are free.This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.
The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts, and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere. By order of
Major General GRANGER
F. W. Emery, Major, A. A. General
The scan that Portal to Texas History has of this issue is, sadly, only barely legible; but the text appears at the bottom of the 3rd column and the top of the 4th on page 2, along with four other General Orders issued by Granger. (In No. 1 Granger assumes command of all soldiers in Texas, No. 2 announces the general staff, No. 3 publicizes the Emancipation Proclamation, No. 4 nullifies all acts of the secessionist government and orders remaining Confederate troops to surrender themselves into U.S. custody, and No. 5 arranges for the Army Quartermasters to act as a monopoly agent for the purchase and sale of cotton.)
There are actually a couple of textual variants to General Order No. 3. The version many people have seen online over the last few years — thanks to digitizations hosted by BlackPast and, via BlackPast, on WikiMedia Commons — is a signed, printed handbill preserved by the Dallas Historical Society, which must have been circulated in Texas some time on or after June 25, 1865. That version of the order reads as follows:
HEAD-QUARTERS DISTRICT OF TEXAS,
Galveston, Texas, June 19, 1865.
GENERAL ORDERS, No. 3.
The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights, and rights of property between former master and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that of employer and free laborer. The freedmen are advised to remain at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at Military Posts, and that they will not be supported in idleness, there or elsewhere.
By Order of
G. GRANGER, Major General Commanding.
F. W. Emory, Major and A. A. Gen’l.
— G. Granger, MILITARY ORDERS
Presented in General Order No. 3, Dead Confederates (June 19, 2015)
The handbill’s version of the order reads
This involves an absolute equality of rights, and rights of property between former master and slaves, where the Galveston newspaper version reads
This involves an absolute equality of rights between former master and slaves. The handbill also reads
the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer, , instead of the Galveston newspaper version’s
between employer and . The Houston Tri-Weekly Telegraph published a version very close to the handbill
free laborer version on June 28; the same variant appears in the version of the order printed in the Clarksville Standard in July.
Free laborer was also the phrase used in the version half-quoted, half-paraphrased by The Bellville Countryman (June 24). Most other newspapers closely followed the Galveston newspaper
hired labor version, for example the Dallas Herald, and the New York Times.
The version read into the Congressional Record follows the
hired labor Galveston newspaper version. The version in the Austin Weekly State Gazette, and the Matamoros, Mexico Daily Ranchero follow the Galveston newspaper versions in other respects, but they read
hired labor in place of
Anyway, that’s the documentary history. For more on the deeper and more lasting story — the story of free black community festivals, of Jubilee Day, Emancipation Day, and Juneteenth celebrations, and of black life after the day of emancipation — check out Juneteenth (Texas State Library), Galveston History: General Order No. 3, and BlackPast on Juneteenth: The Growth of an African American Holiday (1865-).
- This year seems to be the year that public awareness of Juneteenth outside the black community really becomes fully part of the national mainstream, and it’s become weirdly common to try to explain the reasons for the date with phrases like
the day that the last slaves were made free,or
the day that all slaves became aware of their freedom,etc. That’s kind of a weird oversimplification, or mischaracterization, of what happened. People remained in slavery outside of Texas well after Juneteenth, for example in the slaveholding Border States — in Kentucky and Delaware, some people continued to be held in slavery until the 13th Amendment took effect on December 18, 1865. Lots of people in Texas already knew about the Emancipation Proclamation well before Juneteenth — even in conditions of extreme tyranny and isolation, word spreads, and many Black people sought Union lines where they could well before the end of the War. Some people in Texas found out about the Emancipation Proclamation from the General Order, but others didn’t know about emancipation until months after, when Union soldiers reached further out into inland Texas, etc.↩
- This is the earliest number of Flake’s Daily Bulletin that I know of in the Portal to Texas History’s collection; it’s possible that the order might also have been printed in the previous days’ numbers of the paper; the General Orders were re-printed multiple times throughout 1865 in the paper’s columns.↩
- It compiles several orders, including one from June 25 by L.B. Houston.↩
- It also gets F. W. Emery’s last name wrong, in the printed text — although Emery was apparently willing to sign off on that, in his own hand.↩
- Perhaps a small typographical error in one was repeated in the other; or maybe they did it just to be ornery.↩
Reading: David Hume, History of England, from the Invasion of Julius Caesar to the Revolution of 1688, vol. 6, Chapter LXVII, 332 et seq.
The usual Over My Shoulder rules apply:
Avoid commentary above and beyond a couple sentences, which should be more a matter of context-setting or a sort of caption for the text than they are a matter of discussing the material.
Quoting a passage absolutely does not entail endorsement of what’s said in it. You may agree or you may not. Whether you do isn’t really the point of the exercise anyway.
Anyway, here’s the quote. This is from Vol. 6, Chapter LXVII, of Hume’s History of England, from the Invasion of Julius Caesar to the Revolution of 1688, concerning Titus Oates’s spectacular allegations of a secret Catholic government-in-hiding and a
Popish Plot against the liberty of Protestant England and the life of King Charles II.
1678. The Popish plot.
The English nation, ever since the fatal league with France, had entertained violent jealousies against the court; and the subsequent measures, adopted by the king, had tended more to encrease than cure the general prejudices. Some mysterious design  was still suspected in every enterprize and profession: Arbitrary power and popery were apprehended as the scope of all projects: Each breath or rumour made the people start with anxiety: Their enemies, they thought, were in their very bosom, and had gotten possession of their sovereign’s confidence. While in this timorous, jealous disposition, the cry of a plot all on a sudden struck their ears: They were wakened from their slumber; and like men affrightened and in the dark, took every figure for a spectre. The terror of each man became the source of terror to another. And an universal panic being diffused, reason and argument and common sense and common humanity lost all influence over them. From this disposition of men’s minds we are to account for the progress of the Popish Plot, and the credit given to it; an event, which would otherwise appear prodigious and altogether inexplicable.
Notwithstanding these objections, great attention was paid to Oates’s evidence, and the plot became very soon the subject of conversation, and even the object of terror to the people. The violent animosity, which had been excited against the catholics in general, made the public swallow the grossest absurdities when they accompanied an accusation of those religionists: And the more diabolical any contrivance appeared, the better it suited the tremendous idea entertained of a Jesuit. Danby likewise, who stood in opposition to the French and catholic interest at court, was willing to encourage every story, which might serve to discredit that party. By his suggestion, when a warrant was signed for arresting Coleman, there was inserted a clause for seizing his papers; a circumstance attended with the most important consequences.
When the contents of these letters were publicly known, they diffused the panic, with which the nation began already to be seized on account of the popish plot. Men reasoned more from their fears and their passions than from the evidence before them. It is certain, that the restless and enterprizing spirit of the catholic church, particularly of the Jesuits, merits attention, and is, in some degree, dangerous to every other communion. Such zeal of proselytism actuates that sect, that its missionaries have penetrated into every nation of the globe; and, in one sense, there is a popish plot perpetually carrying on against all states, protestant, pagan, and mahometan. It is likewise very probable, that the conversion of the duke, and the favour of the king had inspired the catholic priests with new hopes of recovering in these islands their lost dominion, and gave fresh vigour to that intemperate zeal, by which they are commonly actuated. Their first aim was to obtain a toleration; and such was the evidence, they believed, of their theological tenets, that, could they but procure entire liberty, they must infallibly in time open the eyes of the people. After they had converted considerable numbers, they might be enabled, they hoped, to reinstate themselves in full authority, and entirely to suppress that heresy, with which the kingdom had so long been infected. Though these dangers to the protestant religion were distant, it was justly the object of great concern to find, that the heir of the crown was so blinded with bigotry, and so deeply engaged in foreign interests; and that the king himself had been prevailed on, from low interests, to hearken to his dangerous insinuations. Very bad consequences might ensue from such perverse habits and attachments; nor could the nation and parliament guard against them with too anxious a precaution. But that the Roman pontiff could hope to assume the sovereignty of these kingdoms; a project, which, even during the darkness of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, would have appeared chimerical: That he should delegate this authority to the Jesuits; that order in the Romish church, which was the most hated: That a massacre could be attempted of the protestants, who surpassed the catholics a hundred fold, and were invested with the whole authority of the state: That the king himself was to be assassinated, and even the duke, the only support  of their party: These were such absurdities as no human testimony was sufficient to prove; much less the evidence of one man, who was noted for infamy, and who could not keep himself, every moment, from falling into the grossest inconsistencies. Did such intelligence deserve even so much attention as to be refuted, it would appear, that Coleman’s letters were sufficient alone to destroy all its credit. For how could so long a train of correspondence be carried on, by a man so much trusted by the party; and yet no traces of insurrections, if really intended, of fires, massacres, assassinations, invasions, be ever discovered in any single passage of these letters? But all such reflections, and many more, equally obvious, were vainly employed against that general prepossession, with which the nation was seized. Oates’s plot and Coleman’s were universally confounded together: And the evidence of the latter being unquestionable, the belief of the former, aided by the passions of hatred and of terror, took possession of the whole people.
This clamour was quickly propagated, and met with universal belief. The panic spread itself on every side with infinite rapidity; and all men, astonished with fear, and animated with rage, saw in Godfrey’s fate all the horrible designs ascribed to the Catholics; and no farther doubt remained of Oates’s veracity. The voice of the nation united against that hated sect; and notwithstanding that the bloody conspiracy was supposed to be now detected, men could scarcely be persuaded, that their lives were yet in safety. Each hour teemed with new rumours and surmizes. Invasions from abroad, insurrections  at home, even private murthers and poisonings were apprehended. To deny the reality of the plot was to be an accomplice: To hesitate was criminal: Royalist, Republican; Churchman, Sectary; Courtier, Patriot; all parties concurred in the illusion. The city prepared for its defence, as if the enemy were at its gates: The chains and posts were put up: And it was a noted saying at that time of Sir Thomas Player, the chamberlain, that, were it not for these precautions, all the citizens might rise next morning with their throats cut. In this disposition of the nation, reason could no more be heard than a whisper in the midst of the most violent hurricane.
It must be owned, that this extreme violence, in prosecution of so absurd an imposture, disgraces the noble cause of liberty, in which the parliament was engaged. We may even conclude from such impatience of contradiction, that the prosecutors themselves retained a secret suspicion, that the general belief was but ill grounded. The politicians among them were afraid to let in light, lest it might put an end to so useful a delusion: The weaker and less dishonest party took care, by turning their eyes aside, not to see a  truth, so opposite to those furious passions, by which they were actuated, and in which they were determined obstinately to persevere.
— David Hume (1778), History of England, from the Invasion of Julius Caesar to the Revolution of 1688
Vol. 6, Chapter LXVII, 332 et seq.