Doctor Science Knows

Friday, October 05, 2007

Michael Medved on Slavery

David Neiwert of Orcinus interviewed Michael Medved, who recently got Keith Olberman's "Worst Person in the World" Award for his column on slavery in America. One of the things Medved said in the column was:
Perhaps the most horrifying aspect of these voyages involves the fact that no slave traders wanted to see this level of deadly suffering: they benefited only from delivering (and selling) live slaves, not from tossing corpses into the ocean.

When Neiwert brought this up In the interview, Medved replied:
I’ll want to reword that. What I’m saying is that it is horrifying that they had the level of death that they did in the Middle Passage given the fact that they had every interest in keeping people alive. In other words, when you talk about estimates, and I acknowledge, in my piece, that up to one third of slaves in the Middle Passage perished – when you’re dealing with that kind of death when it is clearly not deliberate, then it is even more horrifying than it would have been if it had been deliberate. Because what it suggests is that the conditions were so abysmal and that the risks of oceangoing transport were so huge at that time, that even with every motivation in the world to keep people alive they were unable to do it.

In the comments at the Orcinus, I wrote:
Even if by "every motivation in the world" he means "a very narrow economic motivation", this statement is the most horrific nonsense.

The slave-shippers' ideal was to have all the slaves be about half alive during the middle passage, because strong, healthy people are very dangerous. Their worst nightmare was not that all the slaves would die, but that they'd successfully revolt in mid-ocean.

So the conditions on the slave ships were intended to be almost, but not quite, fatal for the average slave -- which inevitably means that they would kill off a certain proportion. But those were acceptable losses.

Michael Medved is in fact a holocaust (note lower case) denier.

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