The Limits Of The Counterintuitive

Under the headline "A Qualified Defense Of Pat Robertson," FiveThirtyEight has a guest post up that notes the quasi-historical roots of Pat Robertson disgusting slur against the people of Haiti:

The French Revolution had been going on for two years when slave leaders gathered in the Caiman woods outside of what's today Cap Haitien. The fighting between and within the white elite and the free mulatto population presented an excellent opportunity for general revolt. Most of the slaves present worked as overseers or coachmen for their respective masters, giving them freedom of movement and the right to carry swords. Dutty Boukman, a slave originally from Jamaica, and a priestess of disputed identity led a Voudou ceremony where they allegedly charged the gathered slaves "to throw away the image of the god of the whites who thirsts for our tears and listen to the voice of liberty that speaks in the hearts of all of us." They then made an oath of secrecy and revenge, sealing it by drinking the blood of a sacrificed pig, a ceremony possibly West African in origin. This event bears a similar relationship to the Haitian Revolution as the Boston Tea Party does to the American Revolution--a critical event that helped galvanize the founding generation and forms a centerpoint for revolutionary legend today.

....For its practitioners, Voudou offers a pantheon of friendly spirits, or lwas, that offer avenues to healing and hope. For its opponents, including many conservative Protestants and Catholics, it is spirit possession and satanic worship. The two sides disagree on what percentage of Voudou involves curses and malevolence, but both agree that such things are part of the religion. And, for those who oppose Voudou, Boukman's ceremony in Bois Caiman sold the country to the devil.

Let's recall precisely what Pat Robertson said:

"Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it," he said on Christian Broadcasting Network's "The 700 Club." "They were under the heal [heel] of the French. You know, Napoleon the third, or whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, we will serve you if you will get us free from the French. True story. And so, the devil said, okay it's a deal."

It's clear that both Pat Robertson and some number of Haitians, and some number of historians, believe some kind of pact took place. Leaving aside the actual facts of history, the clear bone of contention--the one the author acknowledges--isn't whether a pact took place, but to whom the rebels were praying.

Again, if I go on TV and claim that the Boston Tea Party was actually the Boston Cocaine Party, then claim that the drug trade is what liberated America, and then further claim that the Meth epidemic is a direct results, saying "But there was a party," isn't a defense--not even a qualified one. It's a either a dodge, or a ill-conceived attempt to be "counter-intuitive."

As an aside, pleas allow me this one moment of complaint. I am extremely grateful to be here at The Atlantic, writing  for a large audience about my various passions. But frankly, this is where the job, as a black person, becomes rather tiring. It's the constant explaining, the constanst defending, the always arguing for the most basic shit. Reading that post was like watching someone defend slavery because the slaves got to come to America. I'm sure that isn't how the author meant it, and I'm doubly sure that that isn't how Nate (whom I respect immensely), or anyone at FiveThirtyEight meant it. But it feels like a particular kind of wrong.

Forgive my rant guys. Carry on...

UPDATE: This sentence deserves a highlight...

The most generous reading of Rev. Robertson's statement is one of searching for positive direction and building anew.

...mostly because it's the only place where I could discern an actual defense. That said, the author's contention that he is offering a "generous reading" is erroneous. He's offering an incomplete reading bordering on the dishonest. It omits the charge that Haitians owe their independence to Satanism, and recasts the final portion of the quote in the most favorable imaginable.