The Ideologues

Who are the intellectuals who form the core of the modern neo-Confederate movement? And what exactly do they think?

 

Thomas DiLorenzo
Economics professor, Loyola College
BALTIMORE, Md.

The earliest apologists for the lost Cause of the South, writing in the first years of the 20th century, described Abraham Lincoln as a good and even great man, sorely misled by evil advisers who pushed a harsh Reconstruction policy. No more.

Thanks to Thomas DiLorenzo and others of his ilk, the 16th president is now viewed in neo-Confederate circles as a paragon of wickedness, a man secretly intent on destroying states' rights and building a massive federal government.

"It was not to end slavery that Lincoln initiated an invasion of the South," DiLorenzo writes in his 2002 attack on Lincoln, The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War. "A war was not necessary to free the slaves, but it was necessary to destroy the most significant check on the powers of the central government: the right of secession."

DiLorenzo is not a historian. With a doctorate from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute, he has been since 1992 an economics professor at Baltimore's Loyola College. And most of his work has not been about history, focusing instead on libertarian and antigovernment themes.

His 10 books include Official Lies: How Washington Misleads Us, and, with writer James T. Bennett, The Food and Drink Police: America's Nannies, Busybodies and Petty Tyrants (attacking organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and Unhealthy Charities: Hazardous to Your Health and Wealth and Cancer Scam: Diversion of Federal Cancer Funds to Politics (both of which accuse nonprofits like the American Cancer Society of using public money to fund leftist "political machines").

DiLorenzo is also a senior faculty member of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, a hard-right libertarian foundation in Alabama, and teaches at the League of the South Institute for the Study of Southern Culture and History, a South Carolina school established by the League of the South to teach its unusual views of history (see also Little Men).

In 2003, LewRockwell.com, a Web site run by Von Mises Institute President Llewellyn Rockwell that includes a "King Lincoln" section, hosted a "Lincoln Reconsidered" conference in Richmond, Va., starring DiLorenzo. The conference has since become a bit of a road show, reappearing around the South and headlined by DiLorenzo.

 

Thomas Fleming
President, Rockford Institute
ROCKFORD, Ill.

Thomas Fleming came to neo-Confederate ideas early, co-founding and editing the first few issues of Southern Partisan, a hard-line "pro-South" magazine started in 1979.

Holding a Ph.D. in classics from the University of North Carolina, Fleming today is president of The Rockford Institute, a right-wing organization that says its aim is "the defense of fundamental institutions of our civilization" and "the renewal of Christendom."

In that post, Fleming edits the institute's Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, where he argued in a 1990 article that "government-imposed civil rights" had been "an unmitigated disaster for everyone." Elsewhere that same year, he defended arch-segregationist Alabama Gov. George Wallace as having been "clearly on the right track," even if he was "mean-spirited," in resisting the federal government.

In the 15 years since then, Fleming's magazine has repeatedly returned to neo-Confederate themes, including a 1991 cover story on secession that featured his interviews with leaders of the immigrant-bashing Northern League in Italy. In 1994, Fleming became a founding member, and later served on the board, of the League of the South (the name was inspired by the Northern League), which has been listed since 2000 by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group.

The Rockford Institute distributes "The Regnery Lectures," named in honor of the late right-wing publisher, Alfred Regnery, who sat for many years on the institute's board. As president, Fleming also emcees the institute's annual gatherings of the John Randolph Club, a highly conservative group that increasingly seems concerned with racial matters.

 

Michael Andrew Grissom
Free-lance writer
WYNNEWOOD, Okla.

Although Michael Grissom holds only a master's degree from the University of Oklahoma, his books have become key texts of the neo-Confederate movement.

His first, Southern by the Grace of God, was published in 1988 and, Grissom claims, "is credited with starting the Southern resistance movement." The book actually lauds the role of Ku Klux Klan in rolling back Reconstruction, arguing, "Without it, we might never have shaken off the curse of the carpetbag/scalawag government which bound us hand and foot after the war." In a picture caption, he adds that the terrorist group "played a vital role in ridding the post-war South of brutal carpetbag rule."

In 1994, Grissom became a founding member of the neo-secessionist League of the South, and he would later become a board member of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens (which has described blacks as "a retrograde species of humanity").

Grissom has published books including When the South Was Southern, Can the South Survive?, The Southern Book of Quotes and The Last Rebel Yell. That last, published in 1994, argued, among other things, that "cultural and physiological difference[s]" between blacks and whites are "real."

Saying he had learned much about "negro character," the book also defended the break-up of slave families: "I suspect that such family separations did not really trouble them as much as I once supposed. The old-fashioned plantation negroes did not take much trouble to themselves about anything."

Grissom has also attacked the Brown vs. Board of Education decision that ended segregated schools, complaining it "forc[ed] the white Southerner to send his children into a school, the traditional institution that produces boyfriend-girlfriend relationships, now burdened with the added complication of the black factor."

With the help of the Council of Conservative Citizens and other groups, Grissom is now raising money for a pro-Confederate statue in his hometown of Wynnewood.