The Brett Kimberlin Saga:

Follow this link to my BLOCKBUSTER STORY of how Brett Kimberlin, a convicted terrorist and perjurer, attempted to frame me for a crime, and then got me arrested for blogging when I exposed that misconduct to the world. That sounds like an incredible claim, but I provide primary documents and video evidence proving that he did this. And if you are moved by this story to provide a little help to myself and other victims of Mr. Kimberlin’s intimidation, such as Robert Stacy McCain, you can donate at the PayPal buttons on the right. And I thank everyone who has done so, and will do so.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday Frivolity: Spielberg’s Lincoln

Okay, less frivolous than usual, but I want to talk about it, so there.  When I heard there was going to be a movie about Lincoln by Spielberg, I got hopeful.  Spielberg was the kind of guy who could move movie mountains, who could get a studio to waste a ton of money on a likely financial loser in the name of art, and give us a high quality historic epic...

...assuming he didn’t miss the point.  Which is a real problem with him.  The history geek in me absolutely loves the opening scene in Saving Private Ryan for its startlingly realistic depiction of D-Day, warts and all.

And part of me hated the movie’s “Vietnamization” of the war.  I once heard Spielberg say that he believed that all great war movies are anti-war movies.  Well, of course every person should be reluctant to fight a war; the default position, the presumption for every civilized person should be to prefer peace to war unless a moral justification for the war is presented.  And if that is all he means—that a great war movie should make us hesitant to go to war—that is fine.

But if he means we should be anti-war as in we never go to war, well, I would answer the blood and guts and violence of Saving Private Ryan with this (see right):

Saving Private Ryan is right to depict war as a nasty, ugly business.  It is not glamorous.  You are not like knights going off to fight for the honor of some maiden (indeed that entire cliché is itself likely a myth).  But there is no question that World War II was a just war, a war worth fighting—indeed a war we had to fight.

Some of it is post-hoc.  America was a far more anti-Semitic country prior to the war, so that if you told a person academically if they would support just killing all the Jews they might have said yes.  You don’t think so?  Let’s not forget that we rounded up the Japanese and put them in camps.  It was only after we liberated the concentration camps and the death camps that we realized how wrong and evil our attitude toward Jews had been.  So in 1939, you probably couldn’t have rallied America around the cause of saving the Jews from the holocaust if we even believed it was happening—and I don’t think most people could believe it was happening until they actually saw the death camps—although after the fact we see that as one of the most compelling justifications for the war.

But even at the beginning of the war, we recognized that we needed to make the world safe for our democracy, and restore democracy to as much of Europe as possible.  Of course with the Soviet Union expanding into the Warsaw Pact, freedom did not advance as far as one might have hoped, but that is the other good reason for the war to exist and the other reason it was necessary.

But in Mark Steyn’s review of this movie, he put his finger right on it:

After the spectacular D-Day prologue, the film settles down, Tom Hanks and his men are dispatched to rescue Matt Damon (the elusive Private Ryan) and Spielberg finds himself in need of the odd line of dialogue. Endeavouring to justify their mission to his unit, Hanks's sergeant muses that, in years to come when they look back on the war, they'll figure that 'maybe saving Private Ryan was the one decent thing we managed to pull out of this whole godawful mess'. Once upon a time, defeating Hitler and his Axis hordes bent on world domination would have been considered 'one decent thing'. Even soppy liberals figured that keeping a few million more Jews from going to the gas chambers was 'one decent thing'. When fashions in victim groups changed, ending the Nazi persecution of pink-triangled gays was still 'one decent thing'. But, for Spielberg, the one decent thing is getting one GI joe back to his picturesque farmhouse in Iowa.

Exactly.  It was filled with men declaring that this was so screwed up and they didn’t care about the cause, and so on, and it was crap.  Ironically speaking, Captain America better captured the average American view of the war, where they were extremely anxious to kick Hitler and Tojo in the daddy bags.  The fictional Steve Rogers being a 98 pound weakling desperate to enter the war is more akin to reality (although perhaps exaggerated in its own way).  My maternal grandfather, for instance, wanted to go to war, but was kept home against his will because his job in building airplanes was too important; he went on to be one of the people who built the atomic bomb.*  But he remained angry for years after the fact he was denied the opportunity to serve.  Men killed themselves if they weren’t allowed to serve, it meant so much to them.  People really were different back then, and they really were far less cynical about service.  And for Spielberg to pretend that these guys didn’t care about the cause are doing a disservice to history.  And so I worried he might do something similar.

So that is the first thing I liked about this trailer and the teaser that came before it.  It seemed to be all about the big issues.  Saving the Union, giving this nation a new birth of freedom, and so on.  It won’t be, like War of the Worlds, where they take the destruction of the earth as a chance for a father to reconnect with his children.  The story of a Presidency almost has to be a story about the big issues.  And so far it looks like Spielberg and everyone else gets that:

And perhaps I was being too harsh.  While it was greatly imperfect, Steven Spielberg’s other slavery-related epic, Amistad, was equally a movie about the big issues.  It was a movie that in a pretty straightforward way condemned slavery, and exposed all of the ugliness involved in it.  It was not the masterpiece that Schindler’s List was (which equally kept his eye on the big issues), but at least he didn’t miss the point.  And indeed it helped inform my legal scholarship.  Whenever a person proclaimed that Dred Scott, which said that black people had no rights a white person was bound to respect, was a correct reading of the law, I point out that the Amistad case came before it.  And that case was of the view that if you illegally** kidnap black people, they have every right to defend their right to freedom, violently if necessary.

(Indeed, you can read the case, here.)

And there was something else that made my heart leap in that trailer.  The average viewer probably has no idea who Tommy Lee Jones is playing, but I knew right away and it made my history geek heart  smile.  I did some quick searching on imdb and verified my suspicion right away.  He was playing one of my Constitutional heroes, Thaddeus Stevens.

I wrote about visiting this man’s grave over a year ago, in my Patterico days.  You could quibble with the accents involved.  You can still hear Daniel Day Lewis’ Irish accent to a degree, and I doubt Tommy Lee Jones can manage to sound like a Vermonter living in Pennsylvania for the whole movie, but aside from those quibbles, they are really excellent choices for both members of the cast.  Again, if the writing and the directing supports them I think they will be great in these roles.  Perfect casting.

But I want to focus on Stevens a little.  Here’s what I wrote about him at Patterico’s:

Later in the day, we drove over to Lancaster and had a chance to do something I had wanted to do for a long time.  Anyone who knows me long enough will learn that one of my constitutional heroes is Thaddeus Stevens.  The fact that most lay persons don’t even know his name only makes me more passionate in trying to get the word out.  This video, although containing a few inaccuracies, gives a decent summary of his life and advertises for a worthy cause, The Stevens & Smith Historic Site preservation project.

Thaddeus Stevens was a tireless advocate for equality of opportunity in life.  Primarily he dealt with the issue of racial discrimination, first being an ardent abolitionist, then after the slaves were freed being an advocate for complete social, legal and political equality of opportunity for the races.  His greatest impact on the Constitution was in being the Father of the Fourteenth Amendment.  That amendment not only banned state-based discrimination—particularly racial discrimination—but also made the Bill of Rights applicable to the states.

And indeed the tombstone itself was a monument to his belief in racial equality itself.  When he first learned that the plot he had chosen for himself was in a racially segregated cemetery, Stevens sold it and purchased a new one in a desegregated one.  Stop and think about that for a moment.  There were many white people who could tolerate being among black people in many contexts but would balk at the idea of being buried next to them, into the 1960’s.  But Thad Stevens, dying in 1868, specifically wanted to be buried in a desegregated cemetery.  And to underline the point he directed that this inscription be put upon his tomb:

I repose in this quiet and secluded spot not from any natural preference for solitude but finding other cemeteries limited as to race by charter rules I have chosen this that I might illustrate in my death the principles which I advocated through a long life EQUALITY OF MAN BEFORE HIS CREATOR

So last summer I went to see this place and took some photographs.  And before I left the grave, my wife asked if I wanted to say anything to him.  And I admit I cried as I said what I said, and I think it is worth taking a moment to explain why I did.

You see, Stevens deserves to be seen as a hero.  He declared that “no distinction would be tolerated in this purified republic but what arose from merit and conduct.”  It is a sentiment almost identical to Dr. King’s dream “that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”  (Character, by some definitions can include abilities and matters of achievement and conduct, and thus can be equated to “merit and conduct.”)  Except that Stevens’ statement is if anything even broader than that, because Dr. King limited his discussion to race, and Stevens seemed to think that it applied to any form of discrimination.  The fact that Stevens himself was clubfooted and faced incredibly ugly prejudice as a result of that disability only solidifies the notion that he wasn’t just talking about racism.

He was a hero, a man a good century ahead of his time, who fought extremely successfully against prejudice, but he was not treated as such.  There arose among certain historians a view of history that went as follows.  Lincoln was a great man who would heal this nation, “with malice toward none,” but he was untimely assassinated.  And when he was, the evil radical republicans took over and sought to punish the South.  Mind you the facts of what happened were largely undisputed, but what people thought of them changed.  For instance, when one asks what the evil radical republicans did to punish the South, the answer would start like this: they freed the slaves, gave them legal equality, gave them the right to vote...  and that is about when a modern reader stops and says, “Wait a minute, you are saying that they gave black people their freedom out of spite?  Are you sure it wasn’t, you know, because it was the right thing to do?”  And indeed when there was a revolution in how we saw the radical republicans again, that became the prevailing view:  people started to think of racial discrimination of all kinds as evil and ending it as a good thing, and to presume that the people who tried to end racial discrimination were doing so for the right reasons.

Indeed I also believe that, circling around, our experience in World War II also changed our perspective on Reconstruction—as this period of American history is called.  First, I fully believe that our collective revulsion at the murder of the Jews in turn benefitted race relations.  Black people (and indeed all racial minorities) were less interested in weathering the storm, if you will, and good white people began to see our racism as leading us down a road to genocide and were revolted by the possibility.  Many who knew it was evil but were complacent were shocked out of their complacency.  And many who believed it was right to hate saw where it led and realized it was wrong.  The Holocaust didn’t do the work all by itself, but I believe it to be a significant ingredient in the revolution we have seen in attitudes on race.

And likewise World War II changed our view of the other charges of vindictiveness toward the South.  For instance, it was claimed that we briefly imprisoned the leaders of the Confederacy out of spite.  But at the end of World War II, we not only imprisoned the leaders of Germany, we tried them for war crimes and executed most of them.  Most of us wouldn’t use the term “spite” so much as “justice.”  And the military occupation of the South became much more understandable after our brief military occupation of Germany.  Historians were armed with new metaphors to put the radicals’ conduct in a new light.  For instance, when the radical republicans refused to seat the Southern Congressmen after the war, historians could say, “these guys sent to Congress many of the very same people who had recently been leading their armies.  Imagine if Germany picked a new government run by Goebbels, Himmler and Rommel.  It would be seen as a slap in the face, a sign they had learned nothing.”  It made everything more understandable.

But in the time the radicals were seen as the villains, none was seen as more villainous than Stevens.  Part of it was the simple fact that Stevens, by most accounts, was running the show and so he had to be taken down a few notches.  But what also contributed significantly to this was a superstition at the time that a clubfoot was a sign that one was literally the child of the devil (as stupid as that was).  Very often people would refer to it as a “cloven foot.”  And even in the 1930’s one of his biographers, Richard N. Current, actually traded on that stereotype, alluding to Stevens having the scent of sulfur about him (sulfur is known in the Bible by a different name: brimstone).  The apex of this almost literal demonization was the 1915 movie Birth of a Nation which featured a fictionalized version of Thaddeus Stevens as Austin Stoneman, who was the arch-fiend pushing rapine animalistic black men onto a white populace until a black man—apparently a fictionalized version of Frederick Douglass named Silias Lynch—tries to rape Stoneman’s daughter,*** at which point Stoneman is thankful when the Ku Klux Klan rides in at the last moment and saves her.  Yes, the movie is actually that vile, so much so that the heroes of history are depicted as villains and a terrorist organization like the KKK is depicted as the good guys.  I have forced myself to watch it and you can too, here.

But even as historians have come to think of the Reconstruction Era as our failed attempt at a civil rights revolution (it was ended by terrorism in the form of the KKK and similar organizations), in the public’s mind Stevens name has never been redeemed.  Indeed, he was so successfully smeared that I don’t think among historians he has been redeemed: they still think he was a questionable person.  Bigots in his day, motivated clearly by their bigotry accused him of being evil, and historians have taken the accusations alone as evidence, without the slightest bit of independent evidence to back it up.

So standing by his tomb, the unfairness of it all just got to me.  I said something like this while standing with a woman that but for Stevens I might not have been legally allowed to marry, “I just wanted you to know that some of us know you were a good man.  Some of us remember you did the right thing.  And we thank you for it.”  And yes, I am not ashamed to say I cried as I said that.

And so watching that split second of screen time in this trailer, it holds out the hope that on some level someone will finally do right by Stevens.  And for the same reason I was moved to tears at the unfair way this hero had been treated by history, I was moved by the hope that he might finally be depicted as he deserved to be: a hero and an arch-foe of bigotry and discrimination.

There is still plenty of room for everyone involved not to live up to my hopes, but the trailer gives me that hope.

And it gives me the hope that this will be a movie that un-ironically and unreservedly stands up for what America is really about.  Too many people lose perspective about things.  They think, for instance, that the fact we owned slaves makes us irredeemably evil.

But that is a view that lacks perspective.  Of course slavery was evil, but here’s the reality of it.  Human bondage had been a constant in virtually every society in human history up until now (and indeed more people are in bondage now than there was in 1860).  America is not unique in this respect.

But you know what does set us apart?  There is no time in human history in which a large portion the class that was not enslaved came to decide that slavery was wrong and was willing to fight to end it.  We committed a sin that most of the world committed; but then we actually fought a war to end that sin.  And we can hope that this movie will propagate that idea as well.

So this movie holds a lot of promise to me.  I can only hope it lives up to it.


* I don’t want to over-sell my grandfather’s role in building the bomb.  There were a great many people who worked on the bomb without having any idea what they were working on, only knowing that their country needed them to do this.  That was precisely the position my maternal grandfather found himself in.

** Of course the difficulty I am glossing over is when a black person can be legally enslaved.  There were rules back then on who could and could not be enslaved and evidently the crew of the Amistad were in violation of them.  Which is kind of splitting hairs, because I believe that even if a person was “legally” enslaved, the law of nature would justify disregarding that law.  That is, every slave has a right to rebel.

** The real Stevens had no children.


My wife and I have lost our jobs due to the harassment of convicted terrorist Brett Kimberlin, including an attempt to get us killed and to frame me for a crime carrying a sentence of up to ten years.  I know that claim sounds fantastic, but if you read starting here, you will see absolute proof of these claims using documentary and video evidence.  If you would like to help in the fight to hold Mr. Kimberlin accountable, please hit the Blogger’s Defense Team button on the right.  And thank you.

Follow me at Twitter @aaronworthing, mostly for snark and site updates.  And you can purchase my book (or borrow it for free if you have Amazon Prime), Archangel: A Novel of Alternate, Recent History here.  And you can read a little more about my novel, here.



I have accused some people, particularly Brett Kimberlin, of reprehensible conduct.  In some cases, the conduct is even criminal.  In all cases, the only justice I want is through the appropriate legal process—such as the criminal justice system.  I do not want to see vigilante violence against any person or any threat of such violence.  This kind of conduct is not only morally wrong, but it is counter-productive.

In the particular case of Brett Kimberlin, I do not want you to even contact him.  Do not call him.  Do not write him a letter.  Do not write him an email.  Do not text-message him.  Do not engage in any kind of directed communication.  I say this in part because under Maryland law, that can quickly become harassment and I don’t want that to happen to him.

And for that matter, don’t go on his property.  Don’t sneak around and try to photograph him.  Frankly try not to even be within his field of vision.  Your behavior could quickly cross the line into harassment in that way too (not to mention trespass and other concerns).

And do not contact his organizations, either.  And most of all, leave his family alone.

The only exception to all that is that if you are reporting on this, there is of course nothing wrong with contacting him for things like his official response to any stories you might report.  And even then if he tells you to stop contacting him, obey that request.  That this is a key element in making out a harassment claim under Maryland law—that a person asks you to stop and you refuse.

And let me say something else.  In my heart of hearts, I don’t believe that any person supporting me has done any of the above.  But if any of you have, stop it, and if you haven’t don’t start.

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