Abraham Lincoln

Episode 25: Finally, the Woodrow Wilson Throwdown

February 8th, 2013 | Robin

In the Gaming Hut, we mull the economics of game design. Will the Kickstarter wave usher in a new era of component-driven play?

Then it’s off to the History Hut for Ken’s long-anticipated final showdown with the historical legacy of Woodrow Wilson. Was he really America’s worst president?

In Ask Ken and Robin, we are asked the most basic question of our craft: why do people game?

Finally the Consulting Occultist considers the silver-shirted biography of American screenwriter, vision-haver and fascist William Dudley Pelley.

21 Responses to “Episode 25: Finally, the Woodrow Wilson Throwdown”

  1. Conrad Kinch says:

    Question for Ken & Robin – Robin has in the past spoken about useful versus non-useful playtesting for rpgs. In brief, what does one look for in a good playtester and how does one guide a so-so playertester to greatness?

  2. Michael Cule says:

    Wilson caused the Spanish Influenza Epidemic because he got the US into WWI?


    And as a supplement to Conrad’s question in the comment above (since I suspect that Robin may have regarded my input on HEROWARS (as it was then) as of the not so useful sort)(if he even remembers it) are there any bits of playtesting advice you’ve decided to ignore and then later wished you hadn’t?

    • Kenneth Hite says:

      Spanish Flu started in Ft. Riley, Kansas among troops mobilizing for WWI. QED. Although I see now the British are blaming the French for it. Typical.

      • Michael Cule says:

        The Wikipedia page on it says it started in Haskell County, Kansas among the civilian population three months before the Fort Riley outbreak though there is dissenting research that claims it struck the Central Powers first and was moving east from Asia. The outbreaks among the troops followed after that. How it got to Kansas in the first place is unclear and unlikely to be resolved at this late date. We should probably call it the American rather than the Spanish flu: it was just that the Spanish weren’t censoring their reports being neutrals and not having to keep civilian morale up. If you really want to claim the originating of the disease as a national achievement then you’re welcome to it. It seems more likely to me that America having a public health service and not being in the war zone noticed it first.

        I may be wrong here but would be willing to defer to any actual epidemiologists who want to enter the argument. Arguably the war made things worse and spread the disease through the increased contact between nations and the crowding it caused in the armed forces. But it hit all parts of the world and was going to do so regardless of the state of armed conflict. The war was already going on and if it was making the pandemic worse would have continued to do so with or without American involvement, assuming as I say that it didn’t actually originate in the US.

  3. GB Steve says:

    I’d not heard of Pelley before, great stuff! I found this useful photographic resource about him.

  4. Thom says:

    Not up to this podcast yet, but enjoying all the Woodrow Wilson bashing. Is there a biography on the gent that you would recommend?

  5. Sheila says:

    Talking of Wilson and brown shirts and Jewish refugees, I note that Wilson signed into law the 1924 Immigration and Naturalization Act, which among its many faults severely limited immigration among Eastern Europeans, thus preventing untold numbers of Jews from fleeing those nations an advance of the Holocaust.

    • Sheila says:

      Oh, wait, he signed the precursor 1921 Immigration Restriction Act, not the 1924 act. Still, some historians believe the 1924 act was more or less inevitable once the precursor bill had gone through.

  6. Kenneth Hite says:

    Much as I would love to blame Wilson for the Immigration Acts of 1921 and 1924, by May of 1921 Wilson was out of office, having been repudiated in the largest single landslide in American electoral history.

    That said, the Act of 1921 passed with only one dissenting vote, so it’s not like the Progressives and Wilsonians fought it tooth and nail, either.

    • Michael Cule says:

      Well, to be clear the election didn’t reject Wilson himself since he wasn’t running. He’d had his two terms and was in no condition to run if he’d wanted to try it.

      It did reject a continuation of ‘Wilsonian’ policies of engagement in foreign affairs and general Progressiveness.

    • Harding won in 1920 by the largest margin, but that’s not the only reasonable standard for the largest landslide. Johnson in 1964, Roosevelt in 1936, and Nixon in 1972 all received higher percentages of the total vote. Of course, they were all running as incumbents, so Harding’s victory is pretty impressive.

      Of course, Harding is usually very near the top of lists of “worst presidents EVAR”. So, you know, vox populi, vox dei and all that.

  7. Tim Daly says:

    I would like to state my mild annoyance at the politics huts. For the most part, I enjoy the discussion of meta-politics and even Woodrow Wilson bashing. However, I let is slide when Ken said that BO was “supressing” votes, chalking it up to a technical use of the word as opposed to its more common politically charged use. But in this episode, Ken quickly constructs a strawman about progressivism (“Progressivism’s sole virtue…”), quickly vanquishes the straw man, and Robin, with his Canadian politeness moves on. In theory, I wouldn’t even mind if Ken wanted to take on progressivism, but I’d expect it to take the form of a more reasoned effort, not just a hit and run at the end of segment.

    If that is not a compelling enough reason to abstain from such practice in the podcast, consider that a good many of Ken’s customers may indeed identify as progressive, and might not actually appreciate the unchallenged hit and run.

  8. Chris Miles says:

    So Robin, is the announcement of a “Blood splattered Night’s Black Agents USB drive” the first teaser for the special edition of NBA? Funded via Kickstarter?

  9. Martin R. says:

    Until I listened to episodes of this podcast my opinion of Ken Hite was unblemished and the only person I had ever heard malign Woodrow Wilson was Glenn Beck. Now, regardless of whether it be fairly or unfairly, Ken and Glenn will be forever linked in my mind for their shared animosity of our nation’s 28th president.

    For all his dislike of Woodrow Wilson, Ken has not suggested who might have been a better choice from the available candidates. Socialist Eugene Debs? Populist William Jennings Bryan? Teddy Roosevelt? I am guessing that Ken does not have much fondness for TR, since he also called himself a progressive (plus the fact that Ken referred to his third-party candidacy as “chowder-headed” in the podcast). Perhaps a future segment of Ken’s Time Machine can explore in detail possible alternatives to Wilson’s presidency.

    Woodrow Wilson did accomplish at least one great thing. He supported Tomas Masaryk’s bid for the independence of Czechoslovakia in the aftermath of World War I. Masaryk came to the U.S. to convince Wilson of the rightness of his cause (and attracted a crowd of over one hundred thousand people who came to hear him speak in Chicago). Wilson threw his support behind the effort and the U.S. recognized Masaryk’s government in exile. Masaryk was elected the first President of Czechoslovakia. Today a statue of Woodrow Wilson stands in the main train station in Prague (which is named after him).

    • Craig says:

      “Chowder-headed” in the sense that TR thus guaranteed the election of Wilson, which was obvious to all parties involved.

      It is true that the segment spent surprisingly little time on the post-WWI peace settlement, which was arguably the peak of Wilson’s influence on the future. Allow me to suggest, as delicately as possible, that this is not an area that Woodrow Wilson fans are going to want to make a focus of attention.

  10. nolandda says:

    At around 13:48 Ken mentioned Vincent Baker’s Mechaton which is obviously a wonderful thing to mention except it isn’t called Mechaton any more. Vincent ran into some trademark issues with the name Mechaton.

    But fear not, it was kickstarted under the new name “Mobile Frame Zero”. It did so well that Vincent and friends released the rules as Creative Commons, Attribution, Noncommercial, Share-Alike. The pdf can be had for free here.

  11. CBrinton says:

    One thing that occurred to me on listening to this podcast–are either of you aware of a well-worked-out alternate history of a victorious Kaiserine Germany?

    Most people who bring it up seem to assume that, since Bolshevism and Nazism would be avoided, things would be hunky-dory. I find this unconvincing, since the most plausible route to a German victory (it seems to me) involves the despoiling and immiseration of Russia to allow the Central Powers to continue a defensive strategy against Britain and France (while NOT restarting unrestricted submarine warfare or sending the Zimmermann telegram). Those Americans who had lent such massive sums to the Allies would do their best to get the US involved, but had the Germans not attacked US ships or tried to ally with Mexico they might have failed.

    What’s always seemed really odd to me about how WWI ended was the way the Germans, having succeeded in their plan to bring about revolutionary chaos in Russia, threw away this massive advantage by getting the US in the war against them.

  12. Tom Vallejos says:

    Wilson’s time as president has been glorified by his left-leaning successors. However, his writings and teachings at Princeton slammed the Constitution. Radio Talk-show host, author, and attorney Mark Levin has pointed this out, in either (or both), in his books “Liberty and Tyranny,” and “Ameritopia.”

    Sorry for the two month delay. I recently discovered your podcast.

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