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Mind Control: Oaths and Diversity Training

Courtesy of Wikipedia

In his President column in Perspectives on History (61:7 2023), Edward Muir, American Historical Association, describes an oath-taking incident from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1949. It was the Year of the Oath. The Board of Regents required all university employees to pledge their loyalty to the Constitutions of the United States and the state of California. Each individual was to deny membership in or belief in any organization that advocated overthrowing the U.S. government. The intention was to uncover communist associations.

Not stated but implied is whether a MAGA President, member of Congress, or state legislator should have to do the same. Oh, wait. They already do which is a lesson in the effectiveness of oath—taking.

In the column, Muir reports on the incident of a German medievalist historian there. According to an eyewitness, “Perhaps none made a more profound impression upon those who experienced it than the speech of a once German scholar…. He told of the impositions of oaths in the early days of Hitler’s power. His theme was always, ‘This is the way it begins. The first oath is so gentle that one can scarcely notice anything at which to take an exception. The next oath is stronger! The time to resist, he declared, was at the beginning: the oath to refuse to take was the first oath.”

The scholar subsequently was fired by Berkeley for his refusal to take the oath. Later in the column, the President of this history organization notes that many teachers today even if they are not required to take such oaths, may still be subject to efforts at mind control by the government.

The column concludes with the scholar’s oath to the academic discipline of history. The credo is more to the practice of history than to the end results. In so doing, Muir takes exception in the previous paragraph to the efforts of the American Birthright Coalition that advocates for memorization over rational inquiry in k-12 with the Coalition presumably determining what the data is to be memorized.


We all are used to the idea of pledging allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. Students in elementary school may take the pledge daily. Somewhere along the line, the Pledge is dropped except perhaps for special occasions. Various meetings may begin with the taking of the Pledge such as in my village and town at trustee meetings.

What is unclear is the effect of taking these pledges. What is the impact of these pledges on the thinking and/or behavior of the people taking them? Consider, for example, Iran. People there take a far more intense “pledge of allegiance” daily in their prayers. And such prayers are not limited to young impressionable children but carry forward into adulthood and all the years of their lives. Evidently, and the evidence is quite strong, such “pledges of allegiance” have not had the desired effect. Instead, the Iranian rulers know they are sitting on a churning inferno that could erupt at any moment like the volcanoes that make the news. Still, on it goes, an embattled ruling class doubling down on mind control and guns to quell the disturbances.


Since I began this blog with one national history organization, let me turn now to another: the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic (I am a member of both AHA and SHEAR). It is the source of this subtitle. The call for papers for the conference this summer in Philadelphia includes the following:

The SHEAR 2024 Program Committee is eager to build a conference that reflects and fosters the diversity of the field and that upholds SHEAR’s Statement of Values. Your proposal should engage with this goal by including a brief diversity statement that explains how your panel will, in its composition and/or content, reinforce SHEAR’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Panels should strive for representation across gendered, racial, institutional, interpretative, and career categories. This policy will not be interpreted to exclude panels comprised entirely of graduate students, women, and/or scholars of color, as the Program Committee is committed to featuring early career scholars as well as members of groups who have been historically underrepresented at SHEAR. Graduate students may find it useful to enlist more senior scholars as commenters, and are welcome to contact the Program Committee for suggestions and assistance.

Panels should:

Address key historiographical questions and/or pressing contemporary issues.
Reflect the diversity of the past and expand narratives of the early American republic to highlight Indigenous, Black, queer, and global histories.

SHEAR is committed to inclusion and diversity and encourages panels that feature members of groups who have been historically underrepresented within the organization. Potential panelists should seek gendered, racial, institutional, interpretive, and career diversity, and each panel proposal should include a statement about how the panel furthers SHEAR’s commitment to diversity.

Since the conference is in Philadelphia, the conference guidelines express awareness of the semiquincentential:

This year marks the 250th anniversary of the meeting of the First Continental Congress at Carpenter’s Hall in Philadelphia. The Program Committee would like to mark this moment—before the semiquincentennial—as an opportunity to analyze the contingency of 1774 and other turning points in early American history.

It will be interesting to see, how many panels reflect this awareness.

These statements by the prospective speakers serve as a form of oath-taking to the stated precepts and values of the organization. If you want to speak at the conference you must adhere to the stated values of the organization. Fair enough. It is a volunteer organization free to make up its own rules for membership and presentation. And if you don’t like it, then create your own organization and present the papers and ideas you want to present.


While it is highly questionable that loyalty oaths produce the desired outcome. However one should note the ongoing program in Florida to ensure the faculty subscribes the appropriately designated values. One response has been people vote with their feet and leave the university for better pastures elsewhere more conducive to their own value system.

Popular Jewish author and thinker who lives in Israel to skip Arkansas over pro-Israel boycott law By Austin Bailey, Arkansas Times October 30, 2023

Conservative cancel culture canceled an opportunity for enlightenment in Arkansas Monday, thwarting a visit from a leading writer and scholar on the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Jerusalem-based journalist and author Nathan Thrall shared his experience bumping up against Arkansas’s 2017 law requiring individuals or companies to pledge not to boycott Israel or its settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories if they want to do business with the state. That includes speaking at the University of Arkansas, evidently.

Thrall took umbrage at this action.

“I was just told that I cannot speak at @UArkansas unless I sign a pledge that I will not boycott Israel or its occupation,” Thrall said on X yesterday revealing that he had refused the demand. “A 2017 state law requires @UArkansas to impose this McCarthyist requirement. A reminder that the current effort to quash free speech is not new.”

(Middle East Monitor, October 31, 2023).

The reason for the restriction sometimes gets lost in the fuss over the censorship issue.

State Sen. Bart Hester (R-Cave Springs) sponsored the bill requiring a pro-Israel pledge back in 2017. He later explained his thinking this way to a documentary filmmaker:

“There is going to be certain things that happen in Israel before Christ returns. There will be famines and disease and war. And the Jewish people are going to go back to their homeland. At that point Jesus Christ will come back to the Earth … Anybody, Jewish or not Jewish, that doesn’t accept Christ, in my opinion, will end up going to hell” (Arkansas Times October 30, 2023).


In this blog, it has only been possible to touch upon the issue of oaths and DEI. The latter topic certainly is worthy of more consideration. But given the date, it is necessary to turn to the anniversary of when people who did recite the pledge of allegiance and waved both the American and Confederate flags sought to overthrow the Constitutional order the President had sworn to uphold while he actively worked to undermine it.

A Tweet Taxonomy for a Very Little Man: Bringing Order to Trump’s Chaos

Twins with no sense of decency (Leonard Mccombe/The LIFE Images Collection, via Getty Images, (left); Patrick Semansky, via Associated Press, (right).

The news media is failing the American people. It is failing the American people by continuing to treat the very little man as if he were an adult. The burden has now fallen to Twitter to try to monitor what the media should have been doing all along.

Anderson Cooper is facing the truth about our immature child president. He has referred to his hissy-fit tweets as “schoolyard.” Exactly right. What else should you expect from a seventh-grade-smart-aleck-dumb-aleck? What took you so long?

Cooper also has called Little Donnee Waney “a little man.” He did so repeatedly in fact. In the segment I heard, I kept waiting for Cooper to add the word “very” but he didn’t. Still, he looks as if he has reached the point where enough is enough.  Perhaps it is because America is at 100,000 dead on this President’s watch and he still rates himself a “10” who wouldn’t change a thing. Perhaps it is because of the incessant unfounded assaults on Joe Scarborough. Perhaps it is because of the complete lack of empathy and sympathy by the very little man. Perhaps it is because of another racial incident during the presidency of the Racist in-chief. Perhaps it is because of his willingness to jeopardize the health of Americans by not wearing a mask. Perhaps it is because of the absurd miracle cures the scam artist peddles to the desperate people who accept him as their Lord and Savior, the Chosen One, Blessed Be his name. Perhaps it is all of the above and today was just the day when the straw broke the camel’s back for Cooper.

The time is long past due when the news media should stop treating Little Donnee Waney as an adult. The time is long past for the news media to follow the example of Twitter. Instead of simply reporting on what he said and expressing some rage, the media needs to be more organized and disciplined. It is tiring hearing people talk about how the immature child erupted today at the White House and/or on Twitter. That’s what eight year olds do. They have tantrums. A child having a tantrum is no more news than tracking the eruptions of Old Faithful is. His tantrums may not be quite as regular but that happen frequently enough to know that tantrum tweets, tantrum press conference exchanges, and tantrum political rallies are par for the course.

Don’t report his tantrums as news. Classify them.  Here is a system I proposed last September (Bringing Order to Chaos: Creating a Trump Taxonomy). It’s a suggestion on how to fill a need. You may have your ideas. That’s fine as long as something is done to systematize the Little Man’s comments instead of treating everything one up.

  1. Trumps – Little Donnee Waney is incapable of telling the truth except by accident. So far he has trumped over 12,000 times [obviously outdated!]. In this instance, the number of occurrences is being tracked. Unfortunately news organizations do not display a bar chart with the ever increasing numbers or announce each day how many additional trumps were told the previous day.
  2. Hissy fits – Here is where the seventh-grade-smart-aleck-dumb-aleck is in his natural habitat. It is easy to see how much he enjoys demeaning people. He demeans people as individuals, by ethnicity, by race, by religion, by appearance and he has great fun doing so. He especially enjoys responding to criticisms about him by others by insulting them personally. He would not rape someone because she is not his type but did not volunteer what his type was.
  3. Bozos – This category refers to the statements by the very stable genius that display his true ignorance. Who knew that Canada burned the White House after the patriots captured the airports? Who knew that 306 Electoral College votes was a landslide? It is important to distinguish between bozos and trumps. If he says that two plus two equals five, then you need to make a determination. Does he know that the correct answer is four and deliberately misstated the answer? That is a trump. Or is he genuinely ignorant of the correct answer? In that case, it’s a bozo.
  4. Alabamas – This is a new term for a long-time action of his. When the immature child is caught in a mistake, whether an honest one or a bozo or a trump, what is his reaction? He always doubles down. He never admits he made a mistake. He will demand other people who work for him to trump at the cost of their integrity and possibly their job if that what it takes to cover up his mistake. He will never man up, he will always carry on like the immature child he is. In the classifying of actions as Alabamas, one always needs to link them to the underlying bozo or trump that made the Alabama necessary. The database needs to have cross-referencing capabilities. [One day the Sharpie he used to mark the path of the hurricane will be in the Unpresidential Library.]
  5. Ka-chings – Part of the reason for his running for President was to make money. As President, he has worked ceaselessly to bring home the bacon. If China offered to build Trump Resorts in the South China Sea, he would have caved in a moment. [Probably not true now.] It’s all about the Benjamins. We need a running tally of the ka-chings both as to the number and the dollar value.
  6. Swamp Builder – There once was a time when some news outlets tracked the number of resigned appointees in this administration. Clearly far from hiring the best people available, he aims for people like himself – people who know how to game the system, people who sexually assault or harass women, people who are ignorant. As long as they are loyal to him what does he care? And if he does hire a competent and honest person, how long do such adults last in the White House anyway? How many appointees have there been and how many turned out be ignorant criminal scam artists…including those who still are in power?
  7. Flip Flops – If you do not like what he says, wait a while and he may say the opposite; if you do like what he says, do not count your chickens before they are hatched. He will release his tax returns. He will release his tax returns after the IRS completes its audit. He will release his tax returns after hell freezes over. He will meet with Iran without pre-conditions. He never said he would. He will support gun control. No, he will not. You will have to pry his assault weapons from his small cold dead hands. Again there is a need for cross-referencing. The original pronouncement before he flips probably was a trump.
  8. Hide and Seek – The most transparent government in the history of the United States (classified as a trump) will reveal nothing. No law, no regulation, no subpoena, no court ruling will ever cause him to reveal anything. Based on the concept of six-degrees-of-separation, this means that everyone in the United States is prohibited from testifying against him because they have some connection to him. How many outstanding unanswered requests for information are there? Historians will want to know. [When will Scarborough and the Klausutis family sue him for everything he has?]
  9. Unfilled Promises – After the election he will sue each and every woman who accused him of sexual harassment. He will balance the budget. He will pay off the debt. He will bring back coal. He will present a beautiful beautiful health care plan. AND MEXICO WILL PAY FOR THE WALL!

Help make the life of future graduate students in history easier. The historians writing about this administration are going to need this information. The application of this classification system will change the way news is reported. Look at the power of Twitter to disrupt the White House and Trumpicans in but a single day. Imagine what would happen if every nasty cutie pie scum bogus charge was tracked, classified, and made visible for all the voting public to see? What are you waiting for?

Witches in America: A Tale of Three New Yorkers

Witch Hunter? (

Witches are in the news and three New Yorkers have tales to tell. From Queens to Ithaca to Chittenango, New Yorkers figure prominently in the witch stories in American history. And there is Broadway too. So let’s examine the status of witches through the lens of the New York experience.


Today the big noise about witches comes from a new source. It is the tale of a child from Queens who lives a great white house when he isn’t playing golf. He talks about witch hunts all the time. In his use of the term, he implies that he is the target of a witch hunt. How one reacts to that assertion depends on three factors: whether or not witch hunters are heroes or villains, whether or not the target of the hunt is a witch, and whether or not the witch is a good witch or a bad witch.


These pronouncements about witch hunts led to a response by Professor Mary Beth Norton, Cornell University, acting in her capacity as the president of the American Historical Association (AHA). As an historian she is the author of In the Devil’s Snare, a book I own, about the most famous outbreak of witch-hunting in American history, the Salem Witch Trials. She reports that she has been teaching an undergraduate seminar at Cornell focusing exclusively on the Salem witchcraft, a course which has a robust enrollment. She also occasionally comments on my posts.

In the May issue of Perspectives on History, a publication of the AHA, she authored a column “From the President” entitled “An Embarrassment of Witches: What’s the History behind Trump’s Tweets?” She begins with the presumed consensus among historians that witches did not exist in the past so that therefore anyone who is the target of a witch hunt automatically is innocent (of at least that charge). She concludes that the use today similarly is meant to assert a declaration of innocence as the persecuted victims of the witch hunts were centuries ago in Essex County, Massachusetts. Her comments leave open the question of whether those engaged in the witch hunt genuinely believe in the existence of witches or simply using that charge to cover up the true motives of the hunt.

Norton continued by noting the persistence of the Salem witch hunt story in American life. Case in point is the Arthur Miller play The Crucible (1953). It was written during the time of Senator Joe McCarthy’s investigations through the House Un-American Activities Committee of suspected Communists and traitors, people who were colluding with the Soviet Union to violate the United States. That play has become a staple of American education. During National History Day, Norton receives multiple inquiries annually from students about the historical event.  For the remainder of the column, she discussed some of the enduring myths and historical questions about the witchcraft crisis of 1692.


The small community of Chittenango is home to the person who perhaps created the most enduring image of witches in America. I am referring to Frank Baum. The Wizard of Oz is a beloved part of the American cultural heritage. Every year it introduces young children to a slice of Americana and reminds older Americans of this venerable triumph of innocence over evil. Its music, dances, and scenes have become iconic symbols in the American culture.

So beloved is the movie that it has fostered an annual conference, the Oz-Stravaganza. [From the organization websiteIn 1978, librarian Clara Houck set out on a mission to acknowledge the history of the Village of Chittenango as the birthplace of author L. Frank Baum. Clara organized the very first celebration. Local children dressed up as OZ characters and paraded around the library parking lot on May 15th. Then they went inside, had birthday cake and sang Happy Birthday to L. Frank Baum. A lot has changed since then. The festival became a multi-day event. Changed names from Oz-Fest to Oz-Stravaganza, and saw crowds increase from a few hundred for the parade to several thousand for the festival. The event is now run by the International L. Frank Baum & All Things Oz Historical Foundation. Nearby is his home in Fayetteville where he lived as an adult.

Baum actually wrote multiple OZ stories. Dorothy would return there for additional adventures. So perhaps one day there will be multiple sequels as with other superheroes.

The Munchkins used to attend the festival in numbers but they have dwindled in ranks over the years and the conference last summer may have marked the end of a longstanding tradition.

But there is more to this sweet innocent girl of the Midwest than you might suspect. She was after all a serial witch killer. In the first instance, she dispatched the Wicked Witch of the East with great force. All one can see of the dead witch is the ruby red (not orange) items attached to her feet (not head). After her death is verified, the people erupt into a joyous song and dance of “Ding dong, the witch is dead” as if it were V-J Day (which hadn’t yet occurred when the movie was made) itself. Celebrate! Celebrate! Dance to the music!

However Dorothy’s work was not yet done. There was still another wicked witch to kill. This one even more formidable than her departed sister. This witch fought back to destroy the one who would slay her. The closer Dorothy came the more enraged the witch became, erupting into spasm after spasm of focused fury against the innocent Dorothy and her little dog Toto (tweets hadn’t been invented yet). She warned of the pending destruction of the witch-killer but to no avail.  At last as Dorothy pressed on step by step in her quest, the Wicked Witch unleashed her flying monkey minions to rid her of the threat to her wellbeing. If you look closely enough even today you can even recognize from the faces of the flying monkey minions who they are in the real world.

Then at last, the moment of truth arrived. Just as the witch was ready to burn down those who threatened her, Dorothy reached for the waters of purity against which there is no defense. (Note – she couldn’t use the lasso of truth because it hadn’t yet been invented either.) As the vanquished witch began to dissolve into nothingness until only the item on the top of head remained, she shrieked those words which have become the dying cry of all witches dispatched to the great beyond: I’M MELTING. I’M MELTING.

Storytellers have more options than historians to create alternate facts. In fact, it is possible to tell a story from the perspective of the Wicked Witch of West as has been done on Broadway in Wicked.

Baum has raised two issues of importance in the quest to ascertain the true meaning of witch hunts:

  1. there can be good witches, Glenda the white-costumed witch, and wicked witches, the green-skinned wicked witch of the west
  2. witch hunts can be a something good if a wicked witch is the target.


As it turns out, witch hunters can be heroes. Consider these examples in addition to the aforementioned Dorothy.

The Last Witch Hunter is a 2015 American dark fantasy action film starring Vin Diesel as an immortal witch hunter who must stop a plague from ravaging New York City (Wikipedia)


Hansel and Gretel are bounty hunters who track and kill witches all over the world.

If there were Americans acting on behalf of the Soviet Union in the 1950s, then it is understandable why someone seeking to identify them would be a hero. Of course, if the hunter went too far, abused his power, and falsely accused people then he would have forfeited his claim to be acting for the good of We the People. Still, we should be cognizant of the fact that in American mythology and storytelling, being a witch hunter can be heroic. The trick is to know if there really is a witch to hunt, if the witch is a good witch or a bad witch, and if the hunter exceeds his mandate.

So when we look at America today, what is the situation involving witches and witch hunters? Did Americans support the violation of the 2016 election by Russia and obstruct the effort to reveal the truth? Or are the pure and innocent being falsely accused in hoax by a witch hunter who has overstepped his bounds: “there is no there there”? If the latter is true, then we have a new Joe McCarthy and The Crucible should be updated. If the former is true, then we should hope the musical shout of “Ding-dong, the witch is dead” will rise to the heavens and people will rejoice as if it was V-J Day all over again.  The witch killer will have prevailed, the witch hunt will have been successful, and once again there will be peace in the shire.

So is Robert Mueller Dorothy or Joe McCarthy? What about his target? Who is he?