Wednesday, March 25, 2015

PROPAGANDA REVIEW: "They Were White and They Were Slaves"

The message is hard to deny. Unfortunately, the messenger isn't exactly the kind of person you would want to side with in an argument. 

"To admit the true history of white slavery and record it faithfully in modern history is to furnish empirical evidence that white skin does not necessarily embody power and status; that the 'poor white redneck' of today who is asked to subsidize with his taxes and make sacrifices in his living wage and job prospects so that blacks may be 'compensated for slavery' in reality owes nobody for anything."

-- Michael A. Hoffman II
   "They Were White and they Were Slaves" (1993)

"The planters treated the black better than they did their Christian white servant. Even the negroes recognized this and did not hesitate to show their contempt for those white men who, they could see, were worse off than themselves."

-- Carl and Roberta Bridenbagh
"No Peace Beyond the Line: The English in the Caribbean, 1624-1690" (1972)

There was an old Tenacious D skit where Jack Black was performing the band's usual, profanity-laced, sexually-explicit brand of comedy jock rock. Afterwards, a random skeezer walked up to JB and Kyle and asked them, oh-so-delicately, if they wanted to tag-team her. Much to KG's dismay, JB proceeded to give the amorous young woman a lengthy spiel, urging her to not confuse the artist's message with the artist himself.

With "They Were White and They Were Slaves," I think we would all be wise to preface the tome with Mr. Black's little aphorism about art and artist. The book is certainly a worthwhile read, and up until fairly recently, it was far and away the most comprehensive writing out there on the subject of Caucasian slavery.

There's just one little tiny, teensy fly in the ointment, though. You see, Michael A. Hoffman II, author of the treatise, is one of them conspiracy theorist folks who believes an evil shadow government is controlling all of the world's affairs. Obviously, that makes his credibility suspect, but the really, REALLY big strike against Hoffman (not to be confused with another guy who is named Michael Hoffman, who shows up as a half-naked dude when you enter said search term into Google) is that he kinda, sorta doesn't believe the Holocaust happened. I mean, he thinks a lot of Jewish people were butchered and maimed by Hitler's armies and all, but he casts serious doubts on the whole '"Final Solution" deal. Unsurprisingly, not a lot of people take his work seriously as a result.

Now, I am not here to exonerate or eviscerate the fella. Even if he's damned wrong on his thoughts on World War II, we live in a democratic state where you are free to believe any stupid bullshit you want to believe. Unless you live in a democratic state like Canada or Merkel's Germany, though ... there, if you say the shit Hoffman believes, they actually will put you in jail for it.

Rather, I am here to SUBJECTIVELY review his magnum opus, which at a paltry 100 or so pages, is really more of an extended pamphlet, now that I think about it.

The core thesis of "They Were White" is a fairly straightforward one -- that the ancestors of many Caucasian Americans actually arrived to the New World no different than the African slaves did: in bondage, against their will and immediately thrust into agrarian labor hell.

As a neat-and-tidy summary of Caucasoid subjugation, this Hoffman fellow does a rather bang-up job of outlining a good 4,000 plus years of chalkie servitude. He begins by taking us back to the heyday of Greek and Roman slavery, when Julius Caesar himself reeled in about 1 million captives from Gaul. A bit later on, he describes how the Franks enslaved the Visigoths and how the Russian Muscovites wound up as chattel for not only the Scandinavians, but the Mongols and the Ottoman Empire.

He then explains how France became a vital transfer point for white slavery, with most of the shipments bound for the Arabic world. As it turns out, Norsemen had a pretty sweet deal going on with the Moors, as Vikings spent hundreds of years nabbing the Irish and selling them to Muslims in Spain.

From there, he jumps a couple of hundred years to England circa 1600. The author discusses an intentional "holocaust of white yeomanry" throughout the serfdom years, explaining how articles like the oh-so ironically named Black Act and even the Magna Carta's writ of disseisin pushed the working classes into states of virtual slavery.

Then, he takes us to the industrialization years, bringing up how England's "poor relief" programs constituted a mini class-cleansing effort. Long, long before subjugated Jews were forced by the Nazis to wear the Star of David on their clothing, Hoffman tells us that the British powers-that-were literally forced the impoverished in London to sport scarlet P's. The anti-poor ideology of plutocrats like Joey Townsend and Thomas Malthus ultimately led to the creation of "poor workhouses," where the starving masses were lifted off the streets and literally worked to death so as to not gum up the walkways begging for change.

Quoting Charles Shaw, the author of "When I Was a Child," Hoffman describes the joys and wonders of factory life, where 5-year-old children were tied to machines 16 hours a day and pummeled with iron rods for not working fast enough.

"These little white slaves were flogged at times as brutally, all things considered, as Legree flocked Uncle Tom," Shaw stated.

According to William Dodd, in 1846 alone more than 10,000 English workers were mutilated, mangled and maimed by machinery, with scrofula outbreaks due to unsanitary working conditions more often than not resulting in amputations. Hoffman allows an anti-child-labor proponent from the timeframe to describe the horrors of the Industrial Revolution: " A girl [was] caught by the hair and scalped from the nose to the back of the head. The manufacturer gave her five schillings. She died in the workhouse."

So horrific these conditions, the Reverend Charles Edward said, that he would rather his children be held in Southern slavery than be a poor bondsman in England.

Which brings us to white slavery in these United States. According to historical records as many as a a HALF TO TWO-THIRDS of white settlers to the New World up until the American Revolution were slaves. In fact, the Mayflower arrived stateside with a dozen indentured Caucasians aboard.

In 1670, the author states that 10,000 Brits were kidnapped for use as cheap labor in the Americas. Kind of around the same timeframe, Oliver Cromwell shipped more than 100,000 Irishmen to the West Indies -- including pregnant women and children arrested for the horrendous crime of stealing apples off trees. You see, a 1618 bill allowed children as young as 8-years-old to be sold into 14 to 16 years of slavery for offenses as nefarious as breaking up water ponds and accidentally stepping on the property of the landed gentry.

Although the white slaves were promised their own land once their indentured stints concluded, the historical data shows that to be, by and large, a big, fat lie. Of about 5,000 servants in Maryland from 1670 to 1680, barely one-fifth actually went on to acquire their own properties -- the other four-fifths all died in bondage. For misdeeds like "idleness" and missing church services, these mayonnaise-colored slaves received punishments such as being branded with the letter "R" and having their ears sliced off.

As far as the hard data, it is REALLY hard to argue against Hoffman's assertions. Where things get iffy, of course, is when he decides to politicize the issue, and incessantly make the same two arguments over and over again:

1.) That, traditionally, enlightened liberals have never given a shit about the poor white man, even though they all cry rivers of tears for the plight of darker-skinned slaves, and

2.) That all things considered, black slavery really wasn't any worse than white servitude.

Not that there isn't some merit to his arguments. Since African slaves fetched much higher prices, the author reasons that slaveholders in the Americas treated them much better as economic investments than they did their honky servants, whom were deemed more or less disposable. He even cites numerous historical examples, demonstrating that on the socioeconomic pecking order, the downtrodden freed whites where often held in less esteem than even the enslaved blacks by the upper classes. He even finds historical proofs of some Africans held in bondage, who considered themselves in more fortunate places than the lowly, impoverished whites. "I'd rather be a nigger," and old field song went, "than a poor white man."

Alas, Mr. Hoffman spends so much of the damn book harping on the above-mentioned topics that it becomes irritating. Of the scant 100 or so pages in the book, I'd surmise that at least a fifth of it is Hoffy talking about how libs lament black slavery but ignore white enslavement, and periodically, some downright prejudicial comments sneak in there, such as as his digs at Harriet Beecher Stowe and his description of Charles Sumner as a "negrophile."

As simply a starting point for research on the history of white class oppression, it's a pretty good primer, although the questionable editorializing -- which I would feel comfortable describing, at least partially, as race-baiting -- makes the thing feel a lot less credible than it would have otherwise.

Thankfully, authors Don Jordan and Michael Walsh came along in 2008 to co-write "White Cargo: The Forgotten History of Britain's White Slaves in America," which is a much more-thorough, in-depth and academic examination of the same territory that Hoffman covers in "They Were White." And as an added bonus, it's also a lot less Stormfront-y, too.

The positive, I guess, is that Hoffman's book is readily available on the Intraweb, so if you'd like to get a quick and dirty lead on the history of Caucasian servitude, it's not hard to find.

Just don't consider it the authoritative work on the subject ... nor the author really that much of an authority on anything.

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