22 Oct – Six Lies! And PZ Invents a War Out Of Thin Air

One of the good things about this (unpaid, volunteer) job is we’re never quite sure what we’re going to write about when we get up each morning. Every day is quite literally a new day and we often find ourselves researching things we’d never heard of before.

This is exactly what happened today. In the course of commenting on the new HBO series Watchmen, PZ mentions something called the Kirk-Holden War, which took place in North Carolina. Our ears perked up at the mention of the state – we lived there for years and never heard anything about a war with the KKK, especially not a war the KKK had won.

Because PZ Myers included no links or references to substantiate his description of the events, we did our own sleuthing.

What did we find?

PZ fabricated the entire thing. Almost nothing he wrote about the Kirk-Holden War – save the name – is correct. We could find no justification for most of his claims. He appears to have simply made them up.

Even by PZ’s standards, this is pretty outlandish.

PZ Myers Lie 1-5 [in bold]:

I had never heard of the Kirk-Holden War before. This was a real war in North Carolina, in which the Ku Klux Klan declared war against the state, the army was called in, and the KKK won, dictating terms to the government…terms that included allowing no Northern intervention in how they “regulated” elections, where “regulation” included murdering black elected officials. One outcome of that kind of action was that the victors celebrated by erecting Confederate monuments all over the place. Our country supported the oppression of a democratic majority! It still is.



Where to begin…

The Kirk-Holden War was, first and foremost, not a war. There may or may not have been a gun battle at one point between the militia called into service by Republican Governor William Holden and a small faction of one KKK group active in central North Carolina at the time, the historical record is unclear on this point. But, what is clear is the following:

The term Kirk-Holden War is intentionally misleading. The Conservative press created the term to vilify Holden and destroy the Republican Party. Governor Holden’s militia campaign was in no way a war. There were no opposing armies, no battles, and no causalities…The name Kirk-Holden War is akin to two other deeply political terms: the “War of Northern Aggression” and the “War Between the States,” terminology that purposely misrepresents and distorts historical events and has served and continues to serve political and ideological ends.


Did the KKK “declare war” against the state of North Carolina? Not in any formal sense, as far as we can tell. Klan groups in the state did commit hundreds of violent acts in the years immediately after the Civil War, and it was this violence that Governor Holden was reacting to when he authorized George Kirk, a former Union Officer, to raise and lead a militia to arrest the perpetrators.

Did that militia lose the Kirk-Holden War, as PZ claimed? Not even close.

Kirk’s militia “arrested over one hundred men suspected of having ties to the Klan, and under orders from Holden, Kirk held these men for several weeks, ignoring writs of habeas corpus issued by North Carolina judges.”

It was this legal wrangling which would prove to be the militia’s, and Holden’s, undoing [emphasis added]:

Governor Holden instructed Colonel Kirk to ignore the orders of the North Carolina Supreme Court, a critical political mistake. The matter was taken to federal court in Salisbury, where a federal judge ordered most of the prisoners released. The few not immediately released were never tried.


Did the KKK “dictate terms” to the government of North Carolina? No, not unless “dictating terms” means following the Constitution and the laws of the State, then using the results of a democratic election to oust Governor Holden from office:

The militia campaign proved to be a political disaster for Holden and the Republican Party in North Carolina. Members of his own party in Washington abandoned the governor, and President Grant failed to support Holden’s suspension of habeas corpus because Grant’s attorney general advised him that Holden’s legal position on the issue was unsustainable. By late August, with no support from Washington and no legal grounds to sustain his position, Holden released the prisoners. The Conservatives used the now-named “Kirk-Holden War” as a rallying cry and swept to victory in the election of 1870, winning a heavy majority in the General Assembly. By December, Conservatives began impeachment proceedings against Holden. In March 1871, Holden became the first governor in United States history to be removed from office.


What about PZ’s claims about “allowing no Northern intervention in how [North Carolina] ‘regulated’ elections, where ‘regulation’ included murdering black elected officials”? We have no idea. We could find no reference to this in any of the literature. PZ appears to have just made it up, along with the claim that “the victors celebrated by erecting Confederate monuments all over the place.”


Our normal procedure, when PZ packs multiple lies into a small amount of text, is to count them all as a single lie. But, because this case is so egregious – he made up an entire historical narrative out of whole-cloth – we’ll charge him with a total of five.

Why does PZ Myers feel the need to invent a horrific story about the KKK in North Carolina after the Civil War? Your guess is as good as ours. He begins the blog post talking about the Tulsa race riot, which is about as horrific as it gets. Apparently that wasn’t good enough.

PZ Myers Lie #6 [in bold]:

Lack of access to health care does lifelong harm…And it was treatable, especially if it could have been caught early. This is precisely why health care ought to be a human right.



Please don’t click on the link below if you have a queasy stomach or have just eaten. We include it only to provide context for the lie PZ tells above.

A 43 year-old male from Panama presented to the emergency department with fever, tachycardia, and increasing swelling and drainage from his scrotum. His medical history was limited. He had not sought medical care in many years. 


Panama, in case you were wondering, has plenty of low-cost access to health care.

The problem in this case was not access. This man – for some reason we cannot fathom – simply refused to go see a doctor. All the access in the world won’t fix anything if someone refuses to walk into the doctor’s office to begin with.


We won’t put too much effort into analyzing this lie. The only reason for the post was to provide another “data point” supporting PZ’s opinion that health care should be a universal human right.

Only it can’t be a “data point” if it’s a lie, can it?

He doesn’t care. End of story.

Final Tally:

Today: 0 science-related posts, 5 posts on other stuff

Since 30 May 19: 121 science-related posts, 504 non-science posts.

19% of the posts on a “science blog” are about science. 

Today: 6 PZ Myers Lies

Since 30 May 19: 162 PZ Myers Lies

Over to you, PZ. Until tomorrow.

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