A Podcast Gone Wrong
My son sent me a link to a Lex Fridman podcast this morning with the following short note. “I’m sure you’ll find much that is misguided here.” What an understatement! Lex is interviewing Jeremi Suri an historian at the University of Texas in Austin. He is part of the LBJ School of Public affairs and professor of public affairs and history. His most recent book is Civil War by Other Means, America’s Long and Unfinished Fight for Democracy.
The title of the Podcast is American Civil War and Lex approached the interview as if Professor Suri was an expert on the Civil War. He is not. Take this quote for example:
“It’s extraordinary how many people died. More than half a million and this is without a single automatic rifle, without a single bomb. It was mostly in hand-to-hand combat. Which is to say, that these 600,000 or so people who died, they died where the person who killed them was standing within a few feet of them.”
As my few but cherished readers know, I am no Civil War expert. One does not need to be in this case. You only have to have read one decent history book on the subject to know that disease caused most of the deaths. As for hand-to-hand combat, there was a lot of it. Yet, everything I have read suggests the killing efficiency increase was due to rifled muskets and advances in artillery technology. I would guess as many people were killed from between 50 and 100 yards as within a few feet. There were many killed at 200 yards or more too.
It gets even worse.
“The deadliest day in American history was during the Civil War. September 18, 1862 at Antietam more than 22,000 Americans killed one another hand to hand.”
The actual number of killed is 3,650 according to the National Park Service. There were 22,720 casualties. The only reason it is the deadliest day is Americans were fighting each other.
The Civil War is a popular topic and people like to link their thinking on modern topics to it to sell books. Lex should have investigated the professor’s background more thoroughly. It would have shown that he was not a Civil War expert. Professor Suri should do some self-reflection on humility and not answer questions he is unqualified to answer.