Thursday, January 24, 2008

Marketing the South

If you've ever wondered how a flag that sympolizes slavery, racism, terror, and treason came to be a piece of Americana treasured by those who think themselves conservative patriots, you may be interested in this press release summarizing an article on the marketing of the South from the February Journal of Consumer Research. Authors Craig Thompson and Kelly Tian report on a
broad coalition of Southern mythmakers [who] sought to defend the honor of their Confederate ancestors, rebuke the cultural stigmas that had been ascribed to white Southern identities and perhaps most of all, attract infusions of Northern capital needed to build a more prosperous New South.
The key white identity myths are the Lost Cause (Confederate soldiers as "gallant Christian Knights"), Moonlight and Magnolias (white Southern womanhood as "a vulnerable vessel of virtue"), and Celtic Rednecks (poor whites as hillbillies).

And, I gather, the less said about those human beings owned by the first two categories of people, the better.


Michael Koplow said...
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Dennis said...

Do you really think any measurable proportion of Confederate soldiers were slaveowners? Or even knew any slaveowners personally?

I wish I could better understand what led young men on both sides to volunteer to fight for such conceptual objectives as "preserving the Union" or "State's Rights." But I suspect it was in large part the kind of vague tribalism that throughout history has caused people to fight to "defend their way of life" from outsiders who wanted to change it.

Harold said...

Dennis, yes to both questions. However I don't know where to find a real answer quickly. Any help?

Then again, I'm not sure it redeems the cause if your characterization of their motives is correct.

prb said...

Fighting to "defend our way of life" does not seem in any sense "vague" and it certainly doesn't deserve to be sneered at as some sort of mindless "tribalism." It seems actually to be a quite conscious, and specific, choice.

Forming an opinion about the _validity_ of that choice seems to require knowing what the specific way of life that is being fought for. Personally I can think of several "ways of life" for which I would make that choice, whereas in 1860 it would have been quite obvious to me that the way of life in Alabama was not at all worth fighting for. Of course your mileage may vary, and (at least in the particular way of life that we are each enjoying right here) we have the freedom to form and express individual opinions on it.

But in any case I fail to see the relevance of whether any specific soldier does or does not share in a specific feature of the given way of life that he or she feels to be worth fighting for. Suppose most Confederate soldiers _had_ personally owned slaves, would that have morally legitimized their decision to fight for that particular way of life? I hardly think so.