Beyond Macaca: The Photograph That Haunts George Allen | The Nation


Beyond Macaca: The Photograph That Haunts George Allen

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In posing for a picture that he knew the CCC would use to promote itself and him, and would be circulated to true believers, Allen joined a tradition of conservative Southern politicians seeking to burnish their neo-Confederate credentials. In 2003, former Republican National Committee chairman and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour took a photograph with revelers at the CCC's "Blackhawk Rally," a fundraising event for white "private academies." In the subsequent hailstorm of media criticism, after reporters discovered that the CCC had posted photos of Barbour on its website, Barbour pointedly refused to demand that the group remove them. Though Barbour came from an old and influential Mississippi family in Yazoo, he had spent a long time as a lobbyist in Washington. "In Mississippi, one of the biggest problems he had was they thought he [Barbour] was a scalawag. So it didn't hurt him in Mississippi," Baum said of the photos. "Nobody said, 'Oh my golly!'" Despite the CCC photos becoming a campaign issue, or partly perhaps because of it, Barbour handily won re-election in 2003.

This photo, published in the Summer 1996 edition of the Citizens Informer, the newsletter of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens, shows George Allen, left, and actor Charlton Heston, right, posing with Gordon Lee Baum and two associates.

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Max Blumenthal
Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles...

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Reform legislation has stalled, and the private-prison industry is making obscene profits from a captive population.

In a bloody career that spanned decades, he destroyed entire cities and presided over the killing of countless civilians.

But George Allen's relationship with the CCC is different; it went beyond poses and portraits. In 1995, he appointed a CCC sympathizer, Virginia lawyer R. Jackson Garnett, to head the Virginia Council on Day Care and serve on the Governor's Advisory Council on Self-Determination and Federalism. According to the CCC's Citizens Informer, Garnett delivered a speech before a CCC gathering saying that the Federalism Commission was "created to study abuses by the Federal government of constitutional powers that rightfully belong to the states."

Later that year, Garnett closed the Virginia Council on Day Care after accusing it, as he wrote in a letter to Governor Allen, of attempting to "form the minds of our young children with a radical ideology before they enter public schools." The Virginia Council had aroused Garnett's ire, according to the Virginian-Pilot newspaper, for preparing an "anti-bias" curriculum for daycare teachers. Allen approved the shut-down.

Allen's Advisory Council on Self-Determination and Federalism bore an eerie resemblance to the Virginia Commission on Constitutional Government, a state agency that engaged in lobbying and propaganda in support of "massive resistance" to integration. One typical pamphlet published by the Commission declared, "We do not propose to defend racial discrimination. We do defend, with all the power at our command, the citizen's right to discriminate."

A year after the trashing of the Virginia Council on Day Care, Allen expressed his fervent belief in states' rights in a letter to the largest neo-Confederate group, the Sons of Confederate Veterans. On the occasion of the group's centennial, in 1996, Allen wrote, "Your efforts are especially worthy of recognition as across our country, Americans are charting a new direction--away from the failed approach of centralized power in Washington, and back to the founders' design of a true federal system of shared powers and dual sovereignty." Then Allen appropriated Lincoln's language in the Gettysburg Address about "a new birth of freedom": "By doing so," wrote Allen, "our country is helping to foster a rebirth of freedom for all Americans and will allow the states to chart their own course and control their own destinies as intended by the Constitution."

Allen was not alone in sending congratulations to the SCV; twelve other governors and Mississippi Senator Trent Lott--an SCV member--joined him. However, according to Ed Sebesta, a Dallas, Texas-based researcher of the neo-Confederate movement, Allen's letter was unique. "The other governors wrote mostly sentimental blather to the SCV," Sebesta said. "But Allen's letter really expressed the neo-Confederate view of the Southern tradition and showed him to be a neo-Confederate in his thinking."

The year after his letter to the SCV, Allen issued a proclamation, drafted by the local SCV, declaring April as Confederate History and Heritage Month--the month Fort Sumter was attacked and Lincoln assassinated. Once again, Allen's proclamation was laced with neo-Confederate ideology, describing the Civil War as "a four-year struggle for independence and sovereign rights." He avoided any mention of slavery.

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