By contrast most bloggers, particularly those who advocate strongly for a given political or philosophical position, do not (or cannot) admit any such tentativeness. For example, I enjoy Will Wilkinson a lot and am frequently convinced by the arguments that he forwards on various topics (though I would be philosophically disposed to do so in advance), but there is also a sense at times that any given subject need only be run through an electronic libertarian sausage-making machine and out pops the blogged result. In other words, his intellectual position (hard won I do not doubt) rarely surprises me or seems to wrestle with its own internal contradictions (if they exist).
Ta-Nehisi, by contrast, once responded to someone who called him out on a supposed intellectual inconsistency between two separate posts with something to the effect of: "What can I say? I am a mass of contradictions." No apologies needed.
To wit, see his recent post linking himself to Nathan Bedford Forrest, founder of the KKK:
Of the many reckonings that black people of honest political consciousness must endure, the appointment with black slavery is the most agonizing. I don't mean the appointment with the notion of white people as the enslavers of our ancestors, but the appointment with our African ancestors as brokers.
I think, when you're in your intellectual infancy, myth keeps your sane. When I was young I believed, like a lot of us at that time, that my people had been kidnapped out of Africa by malicious racist whites. Said whites then turned and subjugated and colonized the cradle of all men. It was a comforting thought which placed me and mine at the center of a grand heroic odyssey. We were deposed kings and queens robbed of our rightful throne by acquisitive merchants of human flesh. By that measures we were not victims, but deposed nobles--in fact and in spirit.
By the time I came to Howard University, I was beginning the painful process of breaking away from the "oppression as nobility" formula. But the clincher was sitting in my Black Diaspora I class and learning that the theory of white kidnappers was not merely myth--but, on the whole, impossible because disease (Tse-Tse fly maybe?) kept most whites from penetrating beyond the coasts until the 19th century.
A few years later I read (like many of you, no doubt) Guns, Germs and Steel and was, again, heartbroken. Here was a book with no use for nobility, but concerned with two categories--winners and losers. And I was the progeny of the losing team. I was not cheated of anything. I had simply lost.
This was heart-breaking, in the existential sense. What was I, if not noble? What was the cosmic justice at work that put me here, that made me second? Slowly, by that line of questioning, I came to understand that there really was no cosmic justice, that I should just be happy to be alive. Moreover the truth--Harriet Tubman and Ida Wells--was sustenance enough. Finally I learned to actually like that old pain, that feeling of something inside me, deeply-held, falling away. It was not the end of me, just the burn of good, refining, moral and intellectual, work-out.
As I've said, I finished McPherson's Battle Cry Of Freedom today. It deserves its own post, but I want to focus on one aspect the book handles particularly well--the South's psychological need to turn defeat into nobility. I don't mean defeat in the war, so much as I meanlagging behind the North, economically, and due to slavery, lagging behind virtually the entire world, morally.
It is one thing to be judged immoral. But to be judged immoral and backward, at the same time, to be both debauched, and yet in your debauchery, still be a loser, is deeply painful. It was not bad enough that my people had been enslaved, but the fact that we were first enslaved by people who looked like me robbed us of any moral high ground.
The South long evaded that painful reality, and when confronted with it, simply lied. Thus pre-War Jefferson Davis is arguing that the fight is over slavery and white Supremacy. Post-war he's claiming it was about the sovereignty of states. To this day, 150 years later, you find people parroting this lie.
[Nathan Bedford Forrest’s] story is American--the dirt poor son of a blacksmith who becomes a millionaire. But he's noble too, and volunteers to fight for his home state of glorious Tennessee. With no military training, he rises to the rank of Lieutenant General, giving the Union hell the whole time.
Forrest is the model of Southern chivalry--too much so. He made his money buying and selling people like me, and when the war started he dutifully enforced the Confederate policy of giving no quarter to black soldiers. At Fort Pillow he massacred black soldiers trying to surrender, and afterward went on to found the Ku Klux Klan. Tennessee is dotted with monuments, not simply to the generals of the Confederacy, but to the first Grand Wizard of the KKK (Forrest). To this day, you can find people who deny his role in Fort Pillow and in the KKK.
I imagine for a kid coming up in these times, in certain sectors of the South, it's painful to face up to Nathan Forrest, to the notion that the pomp and glamour, all the talk of honor and independence was, at the end of the day, dependent on slavery. The Lost Cause isn't just "lost," it's barely a cause.