`Gods and Generals`: Movie Critics Betray Their Profession

Published on VDARE.com – March 17,


Samuel L. Baker

Paul Craig Roberts

What has become of movie critics
when they can only evaluate a film in terms of its
political correctness?

Ronald Maxwell`s film, "Gods
and Generals
," is the second in a War Between the
States trilogy. The film is historically correct. But it
is not politically correct. In reading the various
reviews, one cannot avoid the conclusion that for movie
critics only films that are politically correct are
historically correct.

Southern Americans are supposed to be
tyrants who abused their black slaves and fought a
"Civil War" in order that they might keep on abusing
them. These same racist Southerners continued to abuse
blacks via the KKK and segregation long after the Moral
North won the Civil War, fought for the sole purpose of
freeing the slaves from the mean-spirited white
supremacists of the Confederacy.

In contrast with this propaganda
picture of the South, Maxwell`s film depicts Southerners
as honorable and religious people whose loyalties are to
their states. When Robert E. Lee turns down Lincoln`s
offer as commander in chief of the Union army on the
grounds that he cannot lead a military force to invade
his homeland, he is embarrassed for the federal official
who keeps telling him he is missing "a great career

The film makes clear that Lincoln
forced the war and was the aggressor against the South.
Forced to defend itself, the South raises a citizen
army. One of the stars of the Army of Northern Virginia

VMI professor Thomas Jackson
, who earns the nickname
"Stonewall" for his stand at Bull Run, the first major
battle of the war. Throughout the movie, the modest and
pious Jackson insists that the name properly belongs to
his brigade, not to him.

"Gods and Generals"

deals with three of the opening battles of the war, Bull
Run, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. Lee`s
outnumbered and outgunned forces whip the Union army in
all three encounters, thanks in part to the arrogance
and incompetence of the Yankee generals. It is painful
to watch utterly stupid Union generals send brigade
after brigade to be slaughtered at Fredericksburg.

Fredericksburg was a portent of
Grant`s strategy of exploiting his manpower to send wave
after wave of Union troops to their deaths in order to
exhaust the South`s supply of ammunition and wear down
Lee`s undefeatable army.

The opening guns of Fredericksburg
are also a portent of Sherman`s strategy of shelling
towns containing not Confederate soldiers but women and
children. The minute Union troops entered the town, they
turned to looting, a practice that continued throughout
the war.

Southerners and blacks, whether slave
or free, are portrayed as having warm and respectful
relationships. Although there were cruel exceptions,
this relationship is historically accurate. When Lincoln
declared the

Emancipation Proclamation
(which only applied to
"rebel held territory") as a war measure in hopes of
stirring up a slave rebellion, the stratagem failed. The
blacks did not revolt despite the soft target of women
and children left in charge on the plantations.

Truth, of course, is

no defense
against the charge of being politically
incorrect. Film critics have worked overtime to demonize
the film and its creators. Roger Ebert of the Chicago
Sun Times
opens his review by saying, "Here is a
Civil War movie that Trent Lott might enjoy." Among
Ebert`s complaints is that in the film "slavery is not
the issue." Apparently, Maxwell should have made a
propaganda film like Leni Riefenstahl made for Hitler.
Only the target would be different.

Orlando Sentinel

movie critic Roger Moore

"We… shake our heads at the historical
Moore believes proof of
"revisionism" is found in the fact that "the `S` word is
hard to come by in this endless epic."
When a Union
officer moralizes on slavery in one scene, only then,
according to Moore "is the ugly source of the
struggle correctly articulated."
Apparently, Moore
didn`t hear the rest of the speech as the Union officer
explicitly declared that slavery was not the cause of
the war. This particularly Union officer was not
prepared to fight for Lincoln`s cause of retaining the
Southern tax base. He required a moral cause, and found
his in his war against slavery.

Noting cameo appearances, Moore asks,
"Surely there was a role for the least repentant
Southern apologist of them all, Trent Lott?"
It is a
mystery that Moore sees Lott`s pandering as Southern
apologetics, but then Moore is so historically ignorant
that he complains that "Maxwell`s racial myopia is
and his film`s "general whitewashing
of history is patronizing and wrong."
He concludes,
"Thankfully, it will be the PBS version of the war
that will stick in the public mind."

Margaret A. McGurk of the
Cincinnati Enquirer

takes issue
with the movie`s "vision of Jackson
as a serene, kindly commander whose military prowess was
the result of saintly religious faith."
She states
that "Historians may also squirm at the movie`s
awkward bid to reconcile heroism and slavery, and
insistence that sovereignty was the real issue – as if
Confederate states seceded because they wanted to issue
their own postage stamps."
In McGurk we have a
critic who is unaware that secession flowed from South
Carolina`s refusal to collect the tariff that the
Republicans used to bleed the South in order to protect
their northern industries and fund their central

Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment

the film as "crudely simplistic as an
apologia for the Confederate ideology. . . . When
Jackson speaks of the need to defend his beloved
Virginia against `the triumph of commerce – the banks,
factories,` the sentiment rings empty."
concludes, "As history, `Gods and Generals` is a
whitewash, literally; it takes pains to depict Jackson
as the best friend a black cook ever had, as if that
ameliorated the South`s treatment of slaves."

Sean O`Connell of

says "Whether intentional or not,
Maxwell has crafted the most melodramatic piece of
Southern propaganda since

Gone With the Wind
." The black actors,
according to O`Connell, "supply exaggerated `Uncle Tom`
pitches to their dialogue."

Jonathan Foreman of the New York

, "It`s so anxious to whitewash the
Southern cause, it almost makes `Gone With the Wind`

look like a Spike Lee Joint." He goes on to say
"The movie goes to great pains to stress that
Southerners cared only about a constitutional theory –
states` rights – and not about defending slavery. It`s a
substitution of a dishonest folk history for real

Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco
shows his own ignorance of history when he

, "If one were to watch the movie with no
knowledge of history, one could be left with the
impression that in 1861, a maniac named Lincoln decided
to arm federal troops and attack neighboring states
because he felt like it."
But that is precisely what
did happen. The only thing missing is the reason Lincoln
"felt like it." Lincoln was unwilling for the union to
dissolve, because it would cost him the tax base
essential to his government-business schemes.

In general the critics believe that
it is immoral of Maxwell to tell any part of the story
from the South`s point of view, even if accurate.
Critics insist that the South was evil. The true story,
they protest, is one of evil stomped, looted, and burned
out of the South by the moral righteousness of the

William Arnold of the Seattle

, "The filmmakers` decision to tell the
story…mostly from the South`s point of view strips it of
a moral perspective that`s easy to swallow."

Michael Wilmington of the Chicago

that the film`s portrayal of "the Southern
rebellion" as "a noble cause" was an unfortunate
accident rather than writer-director Ronald Maxwell`s
intention. Wilmington "hopes the TV version will
correct the big flaw"
and the Confederacy will be
painted as black as it deserves.

Movie critics, alarmed at the lack of
political correctness in "Gods and Generals," gave the
movie bad ratings because of its ideological failings.
These "critics" are not critics. They are ideologues and
propagandists. They betray their occupation in order to
indoctrinate. They are good little servants – slaves
really – of the all-powerful state founded by Lincoln.

March 5, 2003

Samuel Baker [send
him mail
] is an engineering graduate of Auburn
University. Dr. Roberts [send
him mail
] is John M. Olin Fellow at the Institute
for Political Economy and Senior Research Fellow at the
Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He is a former
associate editor of the

Wall Street Journal and a former assistant secretary
of the U.S. Treasury. He is the co-author of

The Tyranny of Good Intentions

Copyright © 2003 LewRockwell.com