A Smallpox Thanksgiving and other Happy Tales from the Loony Left

Family Security Mattersby Robert Weissberg

Despite heartfelt warnings from friends and family, even an occasional, “Don’t go in there!” I keep an Internet eye on what I call the Loony Left. These muddle-brained folk are not about a coherent ideology like Marxism; their agenda (if you can call it that) is typically a jumble of clichés, empty slogans entering on multiculturalism, diversity, race and ethnic grievances, a dollop of feminism, a half cup of anti-Americanism, a pinch of economic redistribution and whatever might attract this motley crew of progressive “activists.” My aim in tracking this web-based nonsense is quite serious – much of today’s horrific political idiocy began with some “silly” musing by some obscure airhead lefty, and it is better to expose this foolishness before it has metastasized. If this is doubted, recall how such pernicious contemporary ideas as cultural relativism, the social construction of academic merit and the multiple definitions of “family” all began in tiny corners of the political spectrum and were initially dismissed, at least by normal people paying attention, as “too crackpot” to be taken seriously. Imagine if Ricky had mentioned “gay marriage” to Ozzie and Harriet?

With this in mind, let me present the latest installment of what the Loony Left is up to, and reiterate that it is better to kill dangerous stupidity in the larvae stage. The specimen comes from a Website blog called Colorlines, national magazine of race and politics that has been going since 1998, and according to its Website, won (or was nominated) for some eight awards since its founding. In its own words, “Our team of multiracial journalists covers stories about race around the country. Our writers look at police brutality, the myth of a colorblind America, and Obama's web strategy – just to name a few topics. We also write about the impact of public policy in communities of color and consider steps we can take to move forward.” In reality, it simply provides a relentless potpourri of alleged harms to “people of color” accompanied by demands for “racial justice,” e.g., more green jobs for African-Americans.

So far nothing particularly noteworthy but on the eve of Thanksgiving it went over the top with a two-minute video clip called “Kids Reenact First Thanksgiving with Smallpox Blankets.” The accompanying text spoke of how kids say the darnedest things, especially when they voice social truths about history. Though it might be tempting to dismiss this short video as just the latest installment the best-selling Lefties Gone Wild DVD series, pay attention – this is serious political business.

The videotaped play resembles an event familiar to all parents – youngsters (I’d guess maybe 6 or 7 years old) dressed up in home-made Pilgrim and Indian costumes reenacting the first Thanksgiving. It is fashionably multicultural – of the three Pilgrims, the largest is a black boy and there is a white girl; the two “Indians” are white boys (who seem a bit older) and everyone speaks quintessential cute kiddy talk. What makes this “reenactment” attention-getting is that it gives a whole new meaning to lying propaganda. This is gold standard stuff worthy of being shipped to the Bureau of Standards so as to calibrate other mendacious propaganda.

On two occasions “Pilgrims” hand the “Indians” some smallpox infected blankets and in one instance, an “Indian” thankfully responds with, “I will give them to my wife and vulnerable children.” And how do these settlers greet the “Indians?” With “Hello savages,” naturally. And, not satisfied just to give them the pox, the “Pilgrims” offer some whiskey and matchbox type trinkets. The plot thickens. After telling the “Indians” that the Pilgrims now own their land, the “Indians” are informed that they will be shipped thousands of miles away to the Mojave Desert, and when they’re asked what they’ll do there, the “Pilgrim’s” response is “open a casino.” (They will also get a 25-year-old rusted pick-up truck). The video concludes with action scenes in which the “Pilgrims” hunt down and kill the “Indians” in various wars. So much for telling it like it is.

Let’s start with simple facts. Not even the most airhead leftwing historian has ever alleged that early New Englanders purposely infected Indians with smallpox or debilitated them with whiskey. Nor did settlers mention an upcoming journey to the Mojave Desert, let alone open casinos. Colorlinesis thus offering an historical first, and a truly breathtaking one at that. Second, the entire business about whites, anywhere, anytime purposely inflicting Indians with smallpox is probably a myth. Yes, a smallpox epidemic occurred among Indians but over 200 years later (1837) and in the northern plains (not Plymouth Rock). Moreover, reputable historical research plus eye-witness accounts strongly suggests that the disease was inadvertently spread by fur traders aboard the steamship St. Peter’s. (See the citation rich Thomas Brown, “Did the U.S. Army Distribute Smallpox Blankets to the Indians?”). Even a Cherokee sociologist (Russell Thornton) rejects this genocidal myth. Third, getting the facts straight was a no-brainer, but even the most minimal effort at historical accuracy was, apparently, too much for this award-winning blog. Just typing in “Indian Smallpox blankets” into Google elicited numerous entries (including one from Wikipedia) that cast serious (if not conclusive) doubt on this “the white man committed genocide against native Americans with smallpox” historical narrative.

Historical inaccuracy is only the beginning. This “interpretation” of Thanksgiving is so far off, so clearly removed from any historical record, that one can only suspect that respect for truth has vanished among this Looney Left. What was the Colorlinesstaff thinking when this was posted? Perchance years of cultural relativism combined with heat-of-the-moment rhetoric (think unverified accusations of police brutality, hate crime hoaxes among multiple other commonplace falsehoods) has totally incapacitated the brain’s capacity to separate truth from lies. This is the equivalent of color blindness, tone deafness or some similar physically-based impairment. “Might it advance a political agenda” has, obviously, replaced “is it true” in fighting ideological battles. This is hardly welcome news for those of us, including honest liberals, who believe in truth. Inventing lies is a snap but refuting typically requires serious research, far in excess of a quick Google search. Battling the far Left is always time-consuming, but challenging this make-it-up-as-you-go-along truth might consume every hour of the day.

There is also a subtle but fundamental shift beyond historical inaccuracy. This ideologically tainted Thanksgiving history attacks our nation, at least white people; it extends far beyond the usual condemnations of slavery, economic discrimination and all the other racial grievances periodically assembled to extract pay-offs. This dramatically escalates the hate America campaign. It transforms the familiar (though pointless) “who took land from whom” debate into the far more serious accusation of conscious genocide. I am not a board-certified psycho-babblist, but this Pilgrim-gave-the-Indians-smallpox skit suggests that the Looney Left might be growing psychotic. What’s next – a “documentary” showing that plantation owners systematically castrated blacks so they themselves could impregnate black females? Don’t laugh – even worse nonsense has occasionally found its way into some school curriculums (e.g., Afrocentric education with its tales of how Greek civilization was “stolen” from Africa).

Finally, this “Reenactment” exemplifies an especially pernicious political trend – the conscription of pre-teens as “soldiers” in today’s political battle. These youngsters are obviously just mouthing an adult-provided script, but Colorline activists probably believe that this anti-American rant will hit harder if coming from cute kids, dressed up in adorable outfits play-acting at a familiar ritual. Perhaps legislatures should ban this conscription--political child abuse, so to speak. And where were the parents in this charade? Could any responsible parent permit their offspring to partake in this blatant propaganda?

In a sense, this is a mild version of what often happens abroad: African child-soldiers totting AK-47s they can barely lift, Arab children pushed to confront the Israeli army so as to create a deplorable made-for-TV “humanitarian” incident and, back home, children recruited for the drug trade since they automatically escape the harsh penalties meted out to adults. (Black demagogues like Al Sharpton have similarly deployed unruly school children to disrupt meetings knowing full well that they will not be arrested for disorderly contact and the police are loath to use force.)

What can be done? Legally, nothing—grossly distorting history using children for the most nefarious reasons is not yet a criminal act, and any attempt to make it criminal is a cure worst than the disease. Nor does it pay to refute this “history” since the perpetrators will just instantly invent something new. The only reasonable solution is embarrassing publicity – put the video on the O’Reilly show and turn the conservative bloggers lose (Colorlinesled the campaign to get sponsors to drop the Glenn Beck show, so all’s fair in love and war). In other words, a pox on them.

FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Robert Weissberg is emeritus professor of political science, University of Illinois-Urbana and currently an adjunct instructor at New York University Department of Politics (graduate). He has written many books, the most recent include The Limits of Civic Activism, Pernicious Tolerance: How teaching to "accept differences" undermines civil society and the forthcoming, Bad Students, Not Bad Schools: How both the Right and the Left have American education wrong (early 2010). Besides writing for professional journals, he has also written for magazines like the Weekly Standard and currently contributes to various blogs.