The online version of the WSJ recently (August 10) did a review of “Better Off Without ‘Em, a Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession.” The article reminds me of the golden boys in the Civil War blogosphere and their blind spot when it comes to who is advocating secession and who promotes an "us vs. them" perspective. They're just missing so much. Of course, most mature readers are aware of the agenda-driven analysis being vomited out by academia - let 'em believe their own propaganda; I think a lot of Americans have moved on. But, it's really sociology, not history.
Here's an excerpt from the WSJ piece:
Willie Morris, the longtime editor of Harper's magazine and a native Mississippian, told a story about getting into a cab in New York with the poet James Dickey. The cabbie, recalled Morris, "proceeded to launch into a tirade against our black brethren, and a vicious thing it was, the likes of which I never heard in the Mississippi delta." It was Dickey, a South Carolinian, who spoke up first: "If there's anything I can't stand it's an amateur bigot."
The cabdriver made a whole series of assumptions about the two men, merely from their accents, and Dickey's remark came to mind many times as I read "Better Off Without 'Em," Chuck Thompson's diatribe against the backwardness, reactionary politics and manifold perversity of the American South.
I like how the review ends:
Yet for all his know-it-all wit, the author is never able to answer some of the most obvious responses to his secessionist argument. Who would serve in the U.S. military, currently constituted disproportionately of Southerners, who fight and die not for the Confederate flag but for the American one? What would be done with Northern enclaves like Chapel Hill and Atlanta? And—as a University of Georgia student asks Mr. Thompson near the end of the book—"If you don't have the South to look down on, who would you look down on?"
I also like P.J. O'Rourke's comment on Amazon:
“Thank you for the copy of Better Off Without ‘Em, but I'm afraid it's New York and San Francisco that I think should secede.” ~ P.J. O’Rourke
I agree, but I would have included Boston.
Based on the review, it sounds like the author of Better Off Without 'Em spends a lot of time reading academic Civil War blogs.
You can read the complete review here.