Hold My Beer: Speaking of ‘Both Sides’ on Columbus Day

Wow. Bill O’Reilly has sabotaged his own credibility literally hundreds of times. He has said some of the worst things ever said on television, even if he’s not quite guilty of saying the single worst thing I’ve ever heard said on TV. And yet he felt it necessary to hand a friend his beer to take another go at this being-a-dishonest-asshole-for-cash gig because he really felt he had one more valuable contribution to make to public discussions.

Now, Bill O’ has managed to impress me with the arrogance of his ignorance and with his utter confidence that bothsiderism is somehow a careful, commendable journalistic practice. Given his history, that takes some serious doing. Yet he did it, and The Hill published it.

How, precisely, did he manage to make an impression that stood out after a career of such bullshit? Well, start with this:

First of all, “Indigenous People’s Day” might sound good on the campus of U.C. Berkeley, but it may be troublesome. Yes, some native tribes were enlightened societies but many were not. After inter-indigenous battles, torture and enslavement were often on the menu for the losers.

Wait, Bill. When you describe capturing people in battle and then torturing them, were you intending to describe the enlightened societies or the unenlightened ones? I’m a bit curious given your history.

But hey, the vast numbers of people in the Americas before Columbus did include some good folk and some bad folk. At least that has the benefit of being true, right? So what’s so appalling about this new column? Well, because Bill O is just warming up. Try this next:

Christopher Columbus was not a villain and does not deserve the vilification the PC police are heaping upon him. Every person on the planet has done bad things, but it is the totality of a human being that should be the litmus test.

Soon, the loons will come for the slaveholders George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. In fact, the Dallas school board is now debating their diminishment right now.

This is, of course, just the same macro point about populations brought down to the micro case of an individual:

Sure, Stephen Paddock killed 58 people and shot literally hundreds more, but he was also a fan of country music. Human, see? Complex! Good and bad! Not a villain! And John Shaft was a little bit white, okay? Can we all just agree to that like reasonable people?

Columbus landed on islands in what we now call the Caribbean. He came looking for loot. When he arrived, he found locals quite willing to trade, which we all know generates wealth. But Columbus decided against free trade. Instead he had something else in mind (quoted from Zinn’s Peoples History of the United States which itself quotes Columbus directly):

Arawak men and women, naked, tawny, and full of wonder, emerged from their villages onto the island’s beaches and swam out to get a closer look at the strange big boat. When Columbus and his sailors came ashore, carrying swords, speaking oddly, the Arawaks ran to greet them, brought them food, water, gifts. He later wrote of this in his log:

They … brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks’ bells. They willingly traded everything they owned… . They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features…. They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane… . They would make fine servants…. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.

And it’s not like he idly mused about this while twirling a mustache, but then forgot all about it, went home to his mother and talked about how excited he was just to have been on a ship that crossed a whole ocean. No, Columbus refutes that idea in his own writing:

As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts.

Okay, maybe he was a bit tribalist. He wasn’t a melodramatic villain to everyone, just those people who weren’t from his own European roots. Yes, sure he enslaved. Yeah, okay, when coming into contact from people of a totally different culture, with no common language and the fear of being one of a few whites on an island dominated by the darker Arawak, Columbus kinda went and kid a few bad things. But what was he like to his fellow whites? I mean, tribalism is a common human failing and I’m sure he was a good guy to those whites he bonded with over the course of a month at sea, right? Well, let’s see:

…on October 12, a sailor called Rodrigo saw the early morning moon shining on white sands, and cried out. It was an island in the Bahamas, the Caribbean sea. The first man to sight land was supposed to get a yearly pension of 10,000 maravedis for life, but Rodrigo never got it. Columbus claimed he had seen a light the evening before. He got the reward.

Oh. Okay. But disease, right? It’s not like he was really that evil, or that he sought to take lands by force. That whole genocide thing was just the accidental result of the introduction of European diseases to American populations, right?

Columbus built a fort, the first European military base in the Western Hemisphere. He called it Navidad (Christmas) and left thirty-nine crewmembers there, with instructions to find and store the gold. He took more Indian prisoners and put them aboard his two remaining ships. At one part of the island he got into a fight with Indians who refused to trade as many bows and arrows as he and his men wanted. Two were run through with swords and bled to death.

Columbus’s report to the Court in Madrid was extravagant. He insisted he had reached Asia (it was Cuba) and an island off the coast of China (Hispaniola). His descriptions were part fact, part fiction:

Hispaniola is a miracle. Mountains and hills, plains and pastures, are both fertile and beautiful … the harbors are unbelievably good and there are many wide rivers of which the majority contain gold. . . . There are many spices, and great mines of gold and other metals….

The Indians, Columbus reported, “are so naive and so free with their possessions that no one who has not witnessed them would believe it. When you ask for something they have, they never say no. To the contrary, they offer to share with anyone….” He concluded his report by asking for a little help from their Majesties, and in return he would bring them from his next voyage “as much gold as they need … and as many slaves as they ask.” He was full of religious talk: “Thus the eternal God, our Lord, gives victory to those who follow His way over apparent impossibilities.”

Because of Columbus’s exaggerated report and promises, his second expedition was given seventeen ships and more than twelve hundred men. The aim was clear: slaves and gold.

Okay, that kinda sounds bad. He was safe back in Europe and turned around to go back with the specific aim of taking slaves? And this after proving that he was perfectly fine with murder and theft? Yeah, that does sound kinda bad. But not too bad. I mean, lots of people killed people back then, right? I mean, the indigenous peoples of the Americas even tortured and killed sometimes, right? So it was a bad time, but it’s not like Columbus was EEE-ville with a capital EEE. I mean, he believed in God, right? What did the priests have to say about his expedition? Good things, I hope, right? Let’s ask the Catholic priest Bartolome de las Casas who went on Columbus’ expedition to Cuba (via RawStory):

Endless testimonies . .. prove the mild and pacific temperament of the natives…. But our work was to exasperate, ravage, kill, mangle and destroy…

And the Christians, with their horses and swords and pikes began to carry out massacres and strange cruelties against them. They attacked the towns and spared neither the children nor the aged nor pregnant women nor women in childbed, not only stabbing them and dismembering them but cutting them to pieces as if dealing with sheep in the slaughter house. They laid bets as to who, with one stroke of the sword, could split a man in two or could cut off his head or spill out his entrails with a single stroke of the pike. They took infants from their mothers’ breasts, snatching them by the legs and pitching them head first against the crags or snatched them by the arms and threw them into the rivers, roaring with laughter and saying as the babies fell into the water, “Boil there, you offspring of the devil!” Other infants they put to the sword along with their mothers and anyone else who happened to be nearby. They made some low wide gallows on which the hanged victim’s feet almost touched the ground, stringing up their victims in lots of thirteen, in memory of Our Redeemer and His twelve Apostles, then set burning wood at their feet and thus burned them alive. To others they attached straw or wrapped their whole bodies in straw and set them afire. With still others, all those they wanted to capture alive, they cut off their hands and hung them round the victim’s neck, saying, “Go now, carry the message,” meaning, Take the news to the Indians who have fled to the mountains

Oh, er. So that genocide wasn’t all just an accident of disease? And Columbus carried out a campaign of violence in order to terrorize entire populations so that he could take land and gold and spices and slaves and whatever else he wanted? Well, it’s a good thing he wasn’t after any political objectives as well. Armed robbery is bad enough. Genocide is as bad as it gets. If we had to add terrorism to Columbus’ crimes, I think I’d just have to cry some ivory white tears. Thank goodness that quote stops there. Right? RIGHT?

They usually dealt with the chieftains and nobles in the following way: they made a grid of rods which they placed on forked sticks, then lashed the victims to the grid and lighted a smoldering fire underneath, so that little by little, as those captives screamed in despair and torment, their souls would leave them.

Oh, fuck. He was engaged in political killings, too? Well, at least he was a good Christian man. Yeah, he killed those who didn’t give him whatever he wanted. Yes, he terrorized entire nations. Yes, he engaged in targeting killings of political leaders. Sure, it’s hard to believe that anyone could say that he had no political or social objectives such that this would actually constitute terrorism. But he didn’t have, like, naughty sex or anything, did he? I mean, except for the coveting, the murder and such, he didn’t actually break any really important commandments or anything, did he? I’ll let the relentlessly conservative Death and Taxes Magazine tackle this issue, republishing in full their defense against charges of Columbus’ sexual violence and sexual immorality:

 In 1500, Columbus wrote to a friend: “A hundred castellanoes are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and it is very general and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten are now in demand.”  Another letter written by Columbus’ friend Michele de Cuneo (in 1492, before the expedition reached the New World) reads “Columbus was rewarding his lieutenants with native women to rape.”

From these letters it has been deduced that Columbus was something of a New World pimp, auctioning off women to his men for sexual pleasure. Surely this behavior must have occurred to an extent, but was it systemic and carried out with great relish by Columbus?  No one can know for sure, yet the charge is leveled at Columbus by his detractors as if it is indisputable fact.

Well, good to know. Columbus killed locals and when their parents were dead enslaved girls “from nine to ten”. Then the wages paid to the Europeans who worked to bring him gold were taken back in exchange for these enslaved girls. But since we don’t know how systemic this was, and we don’t know if Columbus actually chortled with glee while contemplating the profits he made off the rape of children, let’s not actually criticize, okay? It could have happened only a few dozen times, after all! Thank goodness we have conservatives here to give us the best possible view of Columbus. It’s just lucky Columbus didn’t give any of the sex slaves birth control, or he might have lost the advocacy of even those as effective as the writers at Death And Taxes.

After all that, you would think that O’Reilly’s bothsiderism-inspired statement imploring us to remember Columbus was actually a good guy is as bad as it can get. Even when he literally dismisses murder, genocide, theft, and slavery as irrelevant to our moral evaluations of Columbus, that’s merely an extension of what he’s already done, right? I mean, you couldn’t be any more infuriated by this

that was a minor part of the “Columbus business,” as Hollywood would have put it if they were wooing him for a three-picture deal. Mostly, Columbus was a brilliant navigator who opened up the world for travel. No small achievement.

than you already were, could you?

Well then, you really ought to stop reading right now. Now is when O’Reilly passes his beer to whomever counts as his best friend, cracks his knuckles, and outdoes his own obscenities. His bothsiderism (hell, Bothsiderism itself) reaches peak dishonesty, peak horror, and even peak wtF? with this quote:

Columbus made four voyages across the Atlantic between 1492 and 1504. He was looking for a route to Asia so he could buy spices at a discount or something.

But Chris kept running into various Caribbean islands, also the formidable obstacles of South and Central America. There was no passage to the Far East, only an endless drifting around.

Along the way, Columbus ran into some Indian tribes, most notably the Caribes. They did not like Chris and his malodorous European crews. Strife broke out and some bad stuff went down on both sides.

Presumably, of course, he’s referring to the fact that his first military fort in the Americas, on land he didn’t own and wasn’t even in the possession of Spain (his sponsor) or Genoa (the city-state of his birth), was attacked by locals after he murdered many, enslaved more, and left for Europe allowing his 39 representatives living in the fort to scour “the island in gangs looking for gold, taking women and children as slaves for sex and labor.” All 39 representatives were missing and presumed dead on Columbus’ return. Since O’Reilly doesn’t specify any “bad things” done by the Arawak or other nations Columbus attacked, we’ll likely never know to what O’Reilly refers. But perhaps it’s as safe a bet as any to assume that local leaders punishing a gang of serial rapists is a very, very bad thing to O’Reilly.


You can, and should, contact The Hill to tell them just exactly what you think of their publication of this apologia for genocide.

 

 

Hold My Beer: It’s greatly to his credit…

In my last post, I mentioned (inter alia) that the Physiocrats gave us the phrase “Laissez Faire Economics” through their policy guiding advice against regulations of the trade in grains, flours & breads that were intended to stop hunger. Despite riots in the spring of 1774 and again, more notably, in the spring of 1775*1 (the latter of which*2 were both serious enough and of such obvious focus and origin that they were named Les Guerres des Farines), the Physiocrats argued against regulations and social services that would prevent flour shortages and, as a last resort, simply pass out food to the people when shortages did occur. An individualist capitalist analysis made the authors sure that the wealth of the nation – the wealth of the king – would be increased if only the government could see fit to scrap regulations of the agriculture trade and harden their hearts to the temporary consequences of their wealth-building policies. The Physiocrats didn’t want their gloriously perfect economic regime to be destroyed by such human failings as pity or empathy. Riots? Pshaw. “Laissez faire, laissez passer” they told the King’s government: “let them happen, let them pass by”.

Stabilization: bad. Unbridled self-interest: good.

[Read more…]

Hold My Beer: Sean Spicer Edition

Best Twitter response to racist, ignorant Sean Spicer’s callousness and othering?

The close-to-perfect tweet by Joe Walsh @WalshFreedom gets us nearly there:

@pepsi and @united: There’s no way anyone could have a worse PR nightmare than what we had.

Sean Spicer: Hold up. I got this.

But it could have been note-perfect if only it had ended

Sean Spicer: Hold my beer.

Oh, but wait!

[Read more…]