Category Archives: Ask Dr. Harris

Happy New Year!

Screen Shot 2014-12-31 at 11.53.39 AMAnd alas we have reached the end of another year. I hope your 2014 was a smashing success. Here in Hollywood, this year saw the publication of my first book, Across the Bloody Chasm and the launch of my monthly web-journal, The Americanist Independent. I guess I could say that 2014 was a spectacular year.

What’s on the agenda for 2015? Well, I’ve got an essay coming up in a book on the 1864 Overland Campaign edited by Caroline E. Janney and Gary W. Gallagher – it should be out in spring. And of course the journal is still on point. Also, I am working on a book tentatively titled, An American Racist: D. W. Griffith and the Making of the Birth of a Nation. I hope to have it done by summer. Expect some surprises.

I wish you all the very best in the upcoming year! My advice: strive for excellence, do something exceptional, and kick some serious ass.

With compliments,

Keith

How Not to Use Twitter

Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 7.49.33 PMOr rather…how to use Twitter poorly. This post will initiate a series discussing the things one should and should not do when using Twitter…or if you like, Social Media etiquette. I am specifically addressing people involved with historical inquiry and education – teachers, students, scholars, and everyone else. But this can just as easily apply to anyone.

I am on Twitter constantly. My students think it is funny that the old guy has a Twitter account, but I assure them that I am not interested in the Kardashians or any of the other Internet sensations out there, but rather the pursuit of knowledge and – here it is folks….INTERACTION with others who are doing the same thing.

Interaction means real conversation with real people. Note the message on the left I received from a radio host who does a show on the Constitution. I initially followed him to perhaps get a little insight on this foundational document – maybe engage in some conversation. But then I received his stupid, impersonal, meaningless automated message.

I’ll admit my response was a little snarky (I’m the king of snark). But honestly…an automated message? This is my Twitter pet peeve. I have such an unfavorable reaction to these because they serve to undermine the very best application of the platform. Here is what an automated message says: “Hi, thanks for following me. I am far too important to personally introduce myself to a peon like you (did you notice, I have 57k followers!) – but I would still like you to follow my other shit – and buy stuff too.”

No thanks.

Now normally I would publicly call this person out. But seeing that the message was intended to be private (fake or not), I respect that person’s privacy and thus blacked out their handle and website. But none of that really matters. The image simply serves as an example of what NOT to do. A very good example…I might add. Full disclosure: I used to employ one of these automated systems until I realized how obnoxious they were.  Friends, if you want to reach out to a new follower then send them a personal message. Sheesh. If you don’t, you just look like a bot. And NOBODY likes a bot.

With compliments,

Keith

Speaking Engagement in Pasadena – October 28th

Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 9.33.16 AMGreetings to my Southern California friends – I will be speaking to the Pasadena Civil War Round Table on October 28th at 7:15 PM. The place: the Pasadena Central Library. The topic: Civil War veterans and reconciliation. This talk will be kicking off my book tour, of sorts…kind of promotional and kind of informative at the same time. If LSU press comes through by then, I might even have a copy or three on hand. Come one, come all – I PROMISE you will not be disappointed!

Here’s the deets.

With compliments,

Keith

The Lee v. Grant Twitter Experiment

Screen Shot 2014-08-01 at 9.21.40 AMFrom time to time, as you all by now surely know, I ask some sort of little question on Twitter to get the ball rolling toward a conversation. Recently I asked the hypothetical: “Who would you rather have on your side, Grant or Lee…and why?” Kind of a silly question of course, since there are so many other factors to consider when it comes to victory and defeat, but my point was to get people talking about the military prowess of each commander. 

The most interesting thing happened. The votes were unanimously cast for Ulysses S. Grant. This surprised me a little – the Twitter universes is a big place, and surely there have to be some Lee fans out there. But not this time.

A number of things could explain this. One, we are looking at these two men retrospectively and well, we know who won. So yes, we all like to pick a winner.

But I think there is more to it than that. Answers indicate that Lee was overrated both in his time and by subsequent generations…that he was too audacious and unnecessarily bled his army to defeat. Grant, on the other hand, masterfully used the resources that those before him did (or could) not. This suggests to me that myths surrounding both men have changed drastically over the last several decades. 

Others suggested that northern leaning sentiment is slowly taking over the Internet – that perhaps a less technologically savvy older generation favors the Lee camp and thus doesn’t really use social media platforms to speak their minds. I’m not sure if I agree with this – I have seen plenty of web-based pro-Confederate groups who maintain active forums declaring the many virtues of their beloved Robert E. Lee.

At least one person figured that I might have driven the pro-Lee crew away and they just did not participate. After all, besides being a “Yankee metrosexual wearing purple sunglasses” I am also on record as favoring the Union cause…maybe I was just baiting them. (I wasn’t. I am also on record as stating that I think RE Lee was a hell of a soldier) 

I’ll give the Lee crew a chance to weigh in here. But as it stands so far – Grant is a clear winner in the “who would you rather have on your side” contest.

With compliments,

Keith

Introducing the Americanist Independent Free Student Portal

graduation-capHow’s this for good news? Students of American history now can get limited access to the Americanist Independent website for FREE. That’s right friends, gratis. No charge. Nada. I have developed a section of the site especially for students that will feature downloadable PDFs focusing on some of the most pressing issues and debates in United States history AND hold on…there will also be PDFs with suggested readings on various topics written by scholars in subfields of US history. If that is not enough, student members will have access to the AI forum. Do you have a question? Now’s your chance to engage with world-class experts in the field. Fire away.

All you need to do is click HERE to sign on.

You’re welcome.

Keith

PS – naturally, those who subscribe to the Americanist Independent Journal  as a charter member have access to the Student Portal already. You’re good to go.