Category Archives: Media Matters

My History Lecture on C-SPAN: Victorian Culture

C-SPAN has a series of televised lectures on American history by college professors.  A colleague was kind enough to recommend me to them.  C-SPAN then asked for a list of potential lecture topics.  I submitted the list, and to my surprise, they asked to film my lecture on Victorian culture in America.   The producer said they she selected this lecture because it’s a bit different from the usual topics they get on the Revolution, the Civil War, and such.

I wrote this lecture a few years ago for the freshman introduction course on U.S. History since the Civil War.  The topic is pretty far from my research area, and nothing I actually specialize in, but I included it on the list because it’s gone over well in the past.  Maybe because it includes a discussion of sex.

So for those of you who have ever wondered just how boring it would be to sit and listen to me ramble on about history for an hour, here’s your chance.  Highlights include photos of dazzling Victorian fashions for men and women, some botched spelling and word history, and a nice cutaway shot of a student yawning.

The lecture was filmed on February 23, 2017 at Towson University.  It originally aired on C-SPAN 3 at 8pm, and then again at midnight opposite Saturday Night Live.  I haven’t checked the ratings, but I’m pretty sure I crushed them.

C-SPAN Lectures in History: Akim Reinhardt on Victorian Culture Continue reading My History Lecture on C-SPAN: Victorian Culture

This Populist Moment

Last week, Barack Obama got beaten up on social media and called out by the press for accepting a $400,000 speaking fee from a Wall Street firm Cantor and Fitzgerald.  It was the day’s major kerfuffle, the non-Trump story of the week, and reactions to it by many of my smart, well reasoned friends surprised me somewhat.

They began with the stance that it simply wasn’t an issue.  Obama’s a private citizen now, so who cares? But lots of people did care.  When the story picked up steam despite their protestations, my friends then blamed the loony left for fabricating the issue, launching a general assault on fringe elements of the Democratic party and a firm defense of sensible liberal or centrist (depending on the friend) outlooks.  But of course it wasn’t just the left.  The right predictably piled on as well, without any prompting from the left.  The story also transcended the partisan divide as the centrist press ran with it.  Christ, even the BBC, the vanilla pudding of international news, covered it.

In the end, the defense of Obama that gained the most traction among my friends, and to some degree in the national media, was a racial analysis.  Some claimed that this brouhaha was another example of white people shaming a black man for earning a paycheck, the imposition of a racial double standard since white politicians and ex-politicians do this kind of thing all time.

This needs to be reckoned with.  Obama was always held to a higher standard, precisely because he was black.  He was always subjected to intense racism.  And the racist backlash to his presidency, as much as anything else, helps explain Trump’s victory.  So was this just another example of that racial double standard?  It’s an important question to ask.

In the end, I don’t think it was.  Which is not to say that Obama is no longer subject to racism and double standards; he obviously is.  And those issues are still at play here, but I don’t believe they’re the driving force.  Because to mark race as the reason for a vast public outcry against his acceptance of money is to ignore the most salient point: where the money came from.

People are not upset that he made money.  Private citizen Obama collecting a $400,000 speaking fee doesn’t violate anyone’s principles, even racist assholes’.  Rather, the problem is that he very specifically took money from Wall Street.  The proof is clear: There wasn’t nearly as much griping when he signed a $20,000,000 book deal last month.

Why did that eight-figure windfall spark nowhere near the outrage this five-figure fee did?  Because no one’s worried that publishing money has corrupted Washington.  No one’s bitter about the book industry crippling the U.S. economy ten years ago, only to reap a massive bailout from taxpayers, and now running amok again.  And thus, virtually no criticism of twenty-million to publish what will probably be the kind of bland, self-serving memoir that every ex-president of late has authored.  But $400,000 from Wall Street is different, if for no other reason than the general public now views Wall Street differently than it used to.

Why did Obama take the speaking fee?  Should he have?  Should people be upset about it?  None of those questions interest me.   Rather, I believe the issue worth considering is: Why exactly did so many people get upset about it?

That question speaks to the current political moment, which Obama seems to have misread, much as the Democratic Party mainstream he represents has been doing for over a year now. Continue reading This Populist Moment

In Memoriam: Jimmy Breslin

Chuck Berry died yesterday.  That’s gobbling up a big chunk of the news cycle, as well it should.  Berry was not only a phenomenal talent, but a figure of singular importance in American cultural history.  However, I’ll leave others to sing his praises while I ponder the passing of another, lesser known giant.

Jimmy Breslin died yesterday at the age of 88.  And make no mistake about it.  That’s Jimmy, not James, no matter what his birth certificate said.

Largely unknown nowadays to most outside New York City, and even to those within the boroughs under the age of 50, Breslin was a longtime columnist for several city newspapers.  He was also a bestselling author of numerous books, most successfully with his 1969 novel The Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight, a send up of the Mafia that was made into a forgettable film starring another iconic New Yorker, Jerry Orbach.

But at mid-century, when newspapers were central to American life, Breslin was among the best known writers in the nation.  And the whole time he was quintessentially New York. Continue reading In Memoriam: Jimmy Breslin

God Bless the #Millennials

According to a new poll, Donald Trump’s approval rating among voters age 18-30 is a measly 22%.

For those of you who really dig fractions, that’s less than a quarter.  Barely a fifth.

But wait.  It gets better.

A clear majority of these voters (57%) don’t just disapprove of the orange hair pie; they think his presidency is downright illegitimate.

Plain old disapproval?  That would be the 70% who don’t like his demeanor, and the whopping 80% who disapprove of his policies.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: God Bless the Millennials.

I don’t care if they can’t tie their own shoes.  Lord knows they’re the only thing standing between us and Ronald McDonald totalitarianism (that last line works on a couple of levels; think about it). Continue reading God Bless the #Millennials

Why You’re Going to Vote for Trump and How You Can Win a Free Ticket to Mexico

2+2=5I was very, very wrong, and now it’s time to pay for my mistakes.

The good news is, when I pay, you just might be the one to collect.  My loss can be your windfall.

The catch? You too will have to publicly debase yourself

Sigh.

How did it come to this? You and I publicly shaming ourselves on the internet, each of us desperately hoping to salvage a little bit of joy as the world burns around us?

It’s all because of that goddamned Donald Trump.

Trump is about to claim the Republican presidential nomination, and a whole lotta pundits got that one wrong.  Legions of professional gabbers, from every corner of the political spectrum, badly missed the mark, assuring you that he’d never be the GOP candidate.

Despite their wishful thinking dressed up in high falutin’ gibberish, it’s happening anyway; Trump is poised to become leader of the pachyderm pack.  And so a lot of the yakkers had to make amends.

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post literally ate his words.  Pass the salt and pepper.

Nate Cohn of the New York Times and David Byler of Real Clear Politics each created a laundry list of everything they got wrong, which like most analysts, was quite a lot.

Perhaps the oddest mea culpa came from polling wunderkind Nate Silver, who explained away his spectacular failure by saying that he had acted like a barbaric “pundit” instead of staying true to the “scientific method.”  Rather than relying on statistical modeling to figure out if Trump would win, Silver says he just made “educated guesses.”

Since Silver never really explains why he traded  true reason for such wild tomfoolery, I’m just gonna assume he went on a months-long bender.

Normally, it would be very easy for me to look down my nose at these losers.  After all, I’m not a statistician or a professional talking head.  I’m a historian.  And if there’s one thing studying history has taught me, it’s that trying to predict the future is pure folly.

What were these dullards thinking? Guess the future? Good luck with those crystal ball shenanigans.  Studying history has shown me, time and time again, that the future is unknowable.  The past is a mystery and the future is an illusion.  So allow me, in full haughtiness, to point a sanctimonious finger at these morons.

Except for one thing.  It turns out that I’m one of those morons.  I, too, am a loser. Continue reading Why You’re Going to Vote for Trump and How You Can Win a Free Ticket to Mexico

The Public Professor Site Redesign

cropped-Profile-Picture.jpgFive and a half years after its initial launch, this site is receiving a substantial update for the first time.  Some of it is aesthetics, with new colors, imagery, and font.  Some of it involves updating content.

The “Pages” at the top of the site (eg. “Me” and “Books I Done Written”) are not only renamed, but also updated.  Click inside and see.

In addition, I’ve added two new pages: “Books I Might Write” and “CV.”  The former contains brief overviews of book projects I’m working on.  Beyond the infamous Communities book that was responsible for launching this site but has yet to see the light of day, there are also working manuscripts on music and misadventures from the road.  The “CV” page contains my Curriculum Vitae, which is what professors call their resumé.  Is our pretentious Latin name for it better than your pretentious French name for it?  Who knows.  The bottom line is, we’re all pretentious.

Enjoy!

P.S. Yes, I’ll keep blogging here on the front page.  If you’d like to sign up for email notifications, or get them via Facebook or Twitter, that’s just to the right near the top of any page.  Viva la blog! (That’s pretentious Spanish for, “None of this stuff ends up on my resumé.”

Some of the People All of the Time (On Trump’s Legion)

Lincoln quotesYou can fool all the people some of the time
and some of the people all the time,
but you cannot fool all the people all the time.

For example, sometimes all of the people believe that Abraham Lincoln first uttered these famous words.  But he didn’t.  It originally traces back to a French Protestant named Jacques Abbadie in 1684.  The phrase doesn’t show up in American letters until some Prohibitionist politicians started using it in 1885.  Twenty years after Lincoln died.

Until recently, I simply took at face value the common claim that these were Lincoln’s words.  It’s not a very important issue, so what would push me to question it?

My decision to title this essay.

A little healthy skepticism is all it took.  After all, lots of famous quotes are misattributed to famous people, ergo the Yogi Berra line: “I really didn’t say everything I said.”  Which he really did say.

So before titling and publishing this rant, I looked up the aphorism at a reputable site with citations, just to be sure.  And presto: suddenly I am, at least in this regard, all of the people some of the time, and not some of the people all of the time.

You really don’t want to be some of those people who get fooled all the time.  Which brings us to Donald Trump. Continue reading Some of the People All of the Time (On Trump’s Legion)

My Second Book: Welcome to the Oglala Nation

Reinhart book cover (photo by Reinhardt)I’m happy to announce that my second book was recently published by the University of Nebraska Press.  Special thanks to editor Matthew Bokovoy, editorial assistant Heather Stauffer, and the entire UNP staff for all of their help and professionalism during the past several years in shepherding this project to completion.

The book is entitled Welcome to the Oglala Nation: A Documentary Reader in Oglala Lakota Political History.  The UN Press website for the book is here.  The Amazon page for the book is here. Continue reading My Second Book: Welcome to the Oglala Nation

Donald Trump and Heidi Klum Probably Deserve Each Other Right Now

Donald TrumpThere’s obviously no end to the list of dumb things Donald Trump is capable of saying.  He’s an endless wellspring of arrogance and stupidity.  And given some of the bumbling insanity that has issued forth from his mouth of late, his latest verbal turd seems hardly worth mentioning, much less discussing.  But alas . . . Continue reading Donald Trump and Heidi Klum Probably Deserve Each Other Right Now

Baltimore’s May Murders

murderAs has been widely reported, May was an exceptionally violent month here in Baltimore.  The city has witnessed dozens shootings and 42 murders.  That is the most murders in any one month since 1990.

Such a spate of violence is certainly worth reporting, and the national media has been quick to pick up on it.  However, many media outlets are also drawing lazy connections to the riot and protests that took place several weeks back.

The typical analysis, whether implied or explicit, goes something like this.

There was a riot in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray from injuries sustained while in police custody.  The riot amplified already troubled relations between Baltimore’s African American community and its police force.  The police, unhappy about the indictment of six officers in the Gray case, are staging a work slowdown.  The result is tremendous violence across the city.

This brand of analysis is not factually wrong. Some of those statements may be a bit vague, but they’re wrong in and of themselves.  However, when those those facts are strung together in this manner, the narrative they produce is just a bit too facile to offer a penetrating explanation for recent upswing in violence.

The problem with such an analysis is that it’s:
A) Too focused on the present and fails to account for historical forces, and;
B) Too narrow in the way it corrals all the immediate factors but fails to make room for larger structural forces Continue reading Baltimore’s May Murders