Game of Confederates


The outrage increasingly seems to be like voting in the Democrat-controlled inner city precincts – you have to do it early and do it often. Today, for example, people are losing their shit about a TV show, which at the moment is at a thought bubble stage.

David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, fresh from their “Game of Thrones” co-writing success, as well as husband and wife writers Malcolm Spellman and Nichelle Tramble Spellman, have an idea for an HBO series called “Confederate”, to potentially start screening in 2019. It is meant to be an alternative history where the South succeeded in seceding and slavery is still legal south of the demilitarised Mason-Dixon zone. In the alternative present, the Third American Civil War is about to erupt, drawing a number of characters – abolitionists and guerrillas, slavers and slaves, Northerners and Southerners, into its bloody maelstrom.

But a lot of people aren’t happy:

A grassroots campaign against the upcoming slave drama hit No. 2 on Twitter’s worldwide trending topics Sunday during ‘Game of Thrones.’…

The campaign, organized by April Reign, creator of the #OscarsSoWhite outcry, urged viewers to tweet #NoConfederate during Sunday’s episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones in a bid to send a message to the cabler that their subscribers don’t want to see a show that explores slavery in any sense. By the end of Game of Thrones’ East Coast broadcast, #NoConfederate had reached No. 1 in the U.S. and No. 2 worldwide among Twitter’s trending topics…

“What confidence should we have in two gentlemen who can’t talk about race on their own show and have had seven seasons to introduce significant characters of color?” Reign told The Hollywood Reporter. The series was met with a very vocal outcry to its central premise.

Benioff and Weiss adapted from somebody else’s books, which mostly take place in a sort of misshapen Britain and are partly inspired by the War of the Roses, but it’s somehow their fault the show is missing a racial element. Never mind too, that other localities are reminiscent of the eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East and Central Asia, full of racially appropriate characters. If you’re an SJW, it’s always #GOTsoWhite.

Below is a snapshot of a fair representation of the top tweets about “Confederate”:


It bears reminding all the outraged that alternative history (or alt history, not to be confused with alt-right, which in this case it seems to be) is an old and well established genre of fiction as well as of movies/television. Imagining a different historical path is of course not the same as approving. Quite the contrary – it can even more vividly expose the evils of the past by contemporising them. Does anyone seriously believe that Benioff and Weiss (both Jewish) would portray slavery as anything but evil?

When Philip K Dick wrote “The Man in the High Castle”, recently turned into a TV series, I can’t recall anyone arguing that Dick or the show creators were crypto-fascists for depicting America partitioned between the victorious Nazis and the Japanese. When Robert Harris wrote one of the best thrillers ever, “Fatherland”, subsequently turned into a telemovie, likewise no one argued that anyone involved with the project was a crypto-Nazi for presenting an alternative history where Germany won the Second World War and successfully completed the Final Solution. Harris, by the way, is a left-winger, and though both the book and the movie came out well before Twitter and the social media generally, I can’t imagine the Jews starting a #NoNazi hashtag. There is of course any number of other, less famous, alternative histories where Hitler, or indeed the communists triumph, all likewise unremarked on.

Maybe I’m dumb, or racist, or both – I’m certainly white, which is not a good thing, apparently – but I fail to see the difference between victorious Nazism and victorious Confederacy. #NoConfederate is full of cries about “exploiting black pain” and “profiting from black suffering” as if any alt-history – or any history for that matter – does not deal with someone’s pain.

Both these things can be true:

Slavery is evil. It is evil always, regardless whether white enslaves black, Arab enslaves black, Roman enslaves Slav, black enslave other black, or Chinese another Chinese.

And, the blacks were not the only ones to suffer throughout history, nor was their suffering unique; it is certainly not – and cannot be – uniquely exempt from fictional treatment. To engage in martyrdom Olympics is unseemly and cheapens everyone’s loss.

The Nazis’ Final Solution to the Slav problem was to consist of massive mortality followed by perpetual enslavement of the remainder. Should HBO produce a series where the Soviet Union fell in 1942 and my ancestors – including, indeed, I of the alternative present – are the helots of the Thousand Year Reich, I’m not going to start a hashtag to tell everyone how offended I am – mostly because I won’t be. A show like this would be yet another (useful in my mind) reminder of the ever-presence of evil throughout history, whether borne out of ideology, religion, or simply human nature. It would also be a reminder of the sacrifice tens of millions had made over seven decades ago so to close that potential path of history.

To have a show like “Confederate” no more represents fantasising about white supremacy than “Hitler won the war” fiction represents fantasising about Nazism. Quite the contrary. But if you think that “Game of Thrones” is racist, then no amount of my whitesplaining will convince you otherwise.