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Thursday, May 05, 2011

David Barton's Historical Hallucinations

by digby

In case the recent Trumpmania didn't convince you, here's the latest example of how the media helps to mainstream the craziest wingnuts in the land. Check out today's front page NY Times article on Glen Beck's personal historian, the leader of his Black Robed Regiment, pseudo-historian David Barton. You'll find that he's quite a nice fellow who is influential in the GOP. You'll also find that some "liberal groups" like People for the American Way and Americans United for Separation of Church and State are alarmed because he's one of those ...zzzzzzzz. (Aren't they always upset about something???)

What you won't find is any serious discussion of his alleged scholarship, politics or theocratic vision for America. Instead you get this mealy mouthed nonsense:
[M]any professional historians dismiss Mr. Barton, whose academic degree is in Christian education from Oral Roberts University, as a biased amateur who cherry-picks quotes from history and the Bible.

“The problem with David Barton is that there’s a lot of truth in what he says,” said Derek H. Davis, director of church-state studies at Baylor University, a Baptist institution in Waco, Tex. “But the end product is a lot of distortions, half-truths and twisted history.”

Mr. Barton says it is his critics who cherry-pick history by underplaying the religious dimension. Over the years, he has only dug more deeply into his documents, filling out books like “Original Intent” (published by WallBuilders, his organization here).

No need to go into that any further, I guess. It's just an academic disagreement. And there were only ten paragraphs left and it was important to talk about his sleeping habits and horse back riding hobby. Besides, I'm sure that that everyone who reads the NY Times can read between the lines and "get" that Barton is saying something silly. There's no need to rile up the right wingers by coming right out and saying it. They'll send a bunch of nasty emails and who needs that?

I've been writing about this guy for a long time so anyone who reads this blog or any of the writers who chronicle the religious right know about him. But I'll just take a wild guess that that isn't very many people, even among those who are proficient in reading the NY Times' Kremlinogy. But he's a very familiar figure on the the right and has been heavily indoctrinating the religious right, and more recently the Beck audience, for years. He's a professional social conservative political operative, not a folksy autodidact who is serious about history and challenges the stale status quo.

Last night he appeared on Jon Stewart and lied repeatedly. And no, I'm not just talking about American history, I'm talking about his own history. Right Wing Watch has the video and fact checks his many lies and obfuscations. I urge you to look at it. This is just one of many examples:
...Barton told Stewart that he “never had to retract a single thing.”

Oh really? As noted in Barton’s Bunk, Barton “edited and renamed one book (The Myth of Separation became Original Intent) after critics pointed out false material.”

Here are just a few erroneous quotes of the Founding Fathers used by Barton in his books and documentaries that he later admitted were questionable:

We have staked the whole future of all our political constitutions upon the capacity of each of ourselves to govern ourselves according to the moral principles of the Ten Commandments. – Falsely attributed to James Madison

The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: It connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity. - Falsely attributed to John Quincy Adams

It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible’’- Falsely attributed to George Washington

I have always said and always will say that the studious perusal of the Sacred Volume will make us better citizens. - Falsely attributed to Thomas Jefferson

It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. - Falsely attributed to Patrick Henry

He's especially close to Mike Huckabee who had this to say about him just last month:

“I almost wish that there would be, like, a simultaneous telecast, and all Americans would be forced–forced at gunpoint no less–to listen to every David Barton message, and I think our country would be better for it. I wish it’d happen.”

Yeah. I'll bet he does.