Renegade History

Hosted byIan Punnett

Renegade History

About the show

Historian Thaddeus Russell joined Ian Punnett to discuss his controversial view of American history presented in A Renegade History of the United States. In the book Russell argues that many of the freedoms enjoyed by contemporary Americans were won by people, who in their time, were not held in high regard -- "the immoral, the degraded, the low-level, the scum of the earth, the debauched." To support his thesis, Russell pointed to the libertine atmosphere of the late 18th century, a period when the cultural norm involved heavy drinking and a wide acceptance of sexual promiscuity.

The founding fathers thought the common man lived a vile life, he continued, noting that some even hoped Britain would prevail in the Revolutionary War. John Adams would have passed at least ten brothels and numerous taverns (one for every 100 residents) on his short walk to the meeting of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, Russell explained. The fathers knew to grow a fledgling democracy and maintain the far-flung empire would require discipline, hard work, and sacrifice on the part of the people, and they sought to shame them into self-regulation, he added.

By the 19th century, a time characterized by intense sexual repression and the Protestant work ethic, white people began envying slaves and imitating their lives in blackface minstrel shows, Russell revealed. "There was a lot in slave culture to envy for white people living in Victorian-era America," he said, noting that slaves did not share the same work ethic and did not believe sex (outside of marriage) was wicked. According to Russell, the leading opponents of slavery objected to the personal liberties enjoyed by slaves, and the Civil War was fought in part because these white Northern Abolitionists wanted to bring their puritanical culture to the South.

Russell also spoke about how unassimilated immigrants kept sexual freedom alive by producing birth control during the period of the Comstock Act, as well as Margaret Sanger's legacy of racism and eugenics. In addition, he suggested that Americans were far less united behind World War II efforts than traditionally thought, and exposed Roosevelt's New Deal as a sibling to European Fascism.

George W. Bush

In the first hour, investigative reporter Russ Baker commented on George W. Bush's new book, Decision Points. Baker called the work a "selective memoir," noting that the former President, like his father, has too many secrets to write a complete biography of his time in office. Baker offered a brief analysis of some key points covered in the book, including Bush's evangelical faith and response to Hurricane Katrina. According to Baker, the Katrina disaster was mismanaged because Bush had appointed an unqualified crony (Michael Brown) to run FEMA, with the ultimate goal of destroying the agency. Regarding the ex-President's faith, Baker suggested it may have been more a matter of political expediency than genuine conversion.


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