Sunday, July 11, 2010

Markos Twain

Wingnuts have a new old reason to hate Mark Twain, beyond the unfairness of the fact that he can say nigger and they can't:

Whether anguishing over American military interventions abroad or delivering jabs at Wall Street tycoons, this Twain is strikingly contemporary. Though the autobiography also contains its share of homespun tales, some of its observations about American life are so acerbic — at one point Twain refers to American soldiers as “uniformed assassins” — that his heirs and editors, as well as the writer himself, feared they would damage his reputation if not withheld.

“From the first, second, third and fourth editions all sound and sane expressions of opinion must be left out,” Twain instructed them in 1906. “There may be a market for that kind of wares a century from now. There is no hurry. Wait and see.”


Twain’s opposition to incipient imperialism and American military intervention in Cuba and the Philippines, for example, were well known even in his own time. But the uncensored autobiography makes it clear that those feelings ran very deep and includes remarks that, if made today in the context of Iraq or Afghanistan, would probably lead the right wing to question the patriotism of this most American of American writers.

In a passage removed by Paine, Twain excoriates “the iniquitous Cuban-Spanish War” and Gen. Leonard Wood’s “mephitic record” as governor general in Havana. In writing about an attack on a tribal group in the Philippines, Twain refers to American troops as “our uniformed assassins” and describes their killing of “six hundred helpless and weaponless savages” as “a long and happy picnic with nothing to do but sit in comfort and fire the Golden Rule into those people down there and imagine letters to write home to the admiring families, and pile glory upon glory.”

Of course, Twain's views on war and imperialism, if not these particular passages, were and are well known. And wingnuts happily and freely criticize wars they don't like, and American soliders who don't toe the wingnut line. (See, e.g., Northern Aggression, War of (1861-2010) and Kerry, John, war crimes of.) So the author of the article quoted above is giving wingnuts undeserved credit for intellectual consistency. They'll hate Twain because he's not the wordsmith Glenn Beck and Orson S. Card are.

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