Let us take this day as a vigorous reminder of what insane partisanship and unscrupulous ideological fanaticism can do with historical facts. To sum up: A mob killed a few retirees and cripples who were guarding a prison holding a few upper-crust criminals and crazy people, and set them free in the name of liberté, égalité, fraternité. Vive la révolution! I guess. And this has become the great event that marks France’s joining the ranks of countries that have slaughtered tens of thousands of their own unarmed citizens because they failed to get with the Enlightenment program. Or something.
As Tonio-K put it: but just because we’re hypnotized, that don’t mean we can’t dance!
In early 1794 – at the height of the Reign of Terror – French soldiers marched to the Atlantic Vendée, where peasants had risen up against the Revolutionary government in Paris. (They had risen up because of the slaughter already being visited upon their sons, pressed into war for the Revolution and killed if they resisted, and their priests and sisters – ed.)
Twelve “infernal columns” commanded by General Louis-Marie Turreau were ordered to kill everyone and everything they saw. Thousands of people – including women and children – were massacred in cold blood, and farms and villages torched.
In the city of Nantes, the Revolutionary commander Jean-Baptiste Carrier disposed of Vendéean prisoners-of-war in a horrifically efficient form of mass execution. In the so-called “noyades” –mass drownings – naked men, women, and children were tied together in specially constructed boats, towed out to the middle of the river Loire and then sunk.
Now Vendée, a coastal department in western France, is calling for the incident to be remembered as the first genocide in modern history.
Residents claim the massacre has been downplayed so as not to sully the story of the French Revolution.
Historians believe that around 170,000 Vendéeans were killed in the peasant war and the subsequent massacres – and around 5,000 in the noyades.
But to call it genocide might taint (!) the glorious memory of the French Revolution. Can’t have that. Sort of like acknowledging that Che was a sociopathic murderer of defenseless men, women and children whose talents happen to find perfect opportunity for expression in another branch of the revolution – best not to think about it.
And this is just the most egregious slaughter carried out by the Enlightened. Many hundreds more died by the guillotine, by being left to starve or rot in ships or prisons, are just more prosaically murdered as the situation allowed. The French Revolution is the archetype and model for all future efforts to implement Progressive ideals once power has been seized.
Bastille Day is an ideal way to get your feet wet in actual history, and to see how willingly some people lie and how effortlessly many more people believe them. Ignorance is usually best, or at least the least trouble, but if people know anything about the French Revolution, it’s probably something to do with having killed mean old Marie Antoinette and gotten rid of a crazy monarchy. That the French then proceeded to cycle through military dictatorship, monarchy, and an emperor or two between periods of anarchy, all the will leaving piles of bodies along the way – that seems less well known or, worse, irrelevant.
You have to ask the question: why do the lies seem to almost always go one way and not the other? Or, better, why is something like gruesome and sadistic slaughter of unarmed men women and children given a pass if not ignored completely? Or how do actual acts of murder get presented as equivalent to largely theoretical evils, such as the victims of capitalism? Oh, sure, people have been and are still being oppressed, and some have even been murdered. But 170,000 in a year? When did Pullman or United Fruit or the mining companies round up 170,000 men, women and children and sadistically murder them? And if you’ve got something, And if you’ve got something, I’ll raise you 20 million Ukrainian Kulaks and 60 million Chinese peasants.
All evil is evil, but there are degrees. That spirit that drove the French Revolution is far more evil than the simple greed of men, and lives and wrecks havoc even today.