It’s the far right’s turn to be dumbed down by revisionism. The left has been infected by this vile disease since the end of World War II. Now, it is time for the right to get a little taste of how nasty revisionism is. Revisionism in history is blasphemy. As far as The Pink Flamingo is concerned, it is literally the rape of history. Mike Huckabee thinks every American should be forced, at gunpoint if necessary, to listen to Barton.
To The Pink Flamingo, this is like striking a blow to help rehabilitate Wyatt Earp’s reputation. You see, in the late 1950’s (as detailed in my book, Travesty) Frank Waters basically destroyed the reputation of Wyatt Earp and his brothers. He did so by basically doing the same thing David Barton is doing today. Frank Waters padded his own resume. He lied about his sources. He did not quote properly. He fabricated entire stories. BUT, because he was lionized by the left, people still believe the outright lies he wrote. That is the real danger of revisionism.
As a historian, I detest revisionists. I don’t care if they are liberal or conservative. In this vein, The Pink Flamingo needs to start the day by retracting a post I did in 2008. I was completely wrong. I think that Christian Nationalism exists, and that David Barton is one of the worst examples of it. He is also one of the worst examples of a historian I’ve encountered since Frank Waters.
Please excuse The Pink Flamingo while I snicker about Glenn Beck’s favorite historian having his book pulled by it’s publisher. I don’t like revisionists who deal with greater truth, while ignoring documented facts. The worst example I’ve ever seen is what Frank Waters did in The Earp Brothers of Tombstone.
Paul Harvey’s commentary about the Warren Throckmorton and Michael Coulter commentary says so much about what I discovered when debunking Frank Waters.
“…The reason all the refutation in the world will have little or no effect on Barton’s target audience is that his book, The Jefferson Lies, is not really about Jefferson at all; it’s about Barton’s own skewed view of the context of historical scholarship and the academic enterprise—and, for that matter, of what constitutes “truth.” Barton spends a good deal of his Jefferson book not on Jefferson, but on his supposed bogeymen of the academic world, “Deconstructionism, Poststructuralism, Modernism, Minimalism, [and] Academic Collectivism.”
No, this doesn’t mean Barton’s been studying his Foucault or Judith Butler; these words, as he uses them, bear no relationship at all to their common usage or intellectual derivation (a point Throckmorton and Coulter cover in their introduction, and historian John Fea discusses in his series of posts; how they kept a straight face in covering the virtual self-parody Barton performs with these words is beyond me). They constitute instead a private language that validates Barton’s own self-conception as a defender of Truth against those who, according to him, do not believe in any Truths of any sort.
It’s a case study, in some ways, of recent depictions of the neuroscience of political differences, and in particular the way “righteous minds” conceive of the world. And it’s a perfect example of the thesis that Randall Stephens and Karl Giberson have outlined in The Anointed—the ways in which evangelical experts have created alternate intellectual universes that provide large audiences with a complete explanation of the world. In this case, Barton is the go-to historian with an explanation of America’s founding as a Christian nation and its providentialist mission in the world. There’s a pseudo-historian like that in every generation, from Parson Weems to David Barton.
Thus, in a book ostensibly about Jefferson, Barton has in reality sketched out his case connecting liberalism of any sort with a rejection of Truth. His specific claims about Jefferson can be, and will be, debunked to death, probably nowhere more effectively than in Getting Jefferson Right, but the pseudo-philosophical worldview behind them, complete with Big Words such as “Poststructuralism or (gasp) “Academic Collectivism,” is the intellectual red meat that his sizable audiences show up to hear. And for that reason, when all the trees in his forest fall, his detractors yell “timber!,” and scholars analyze the reason for their crash to the ground, no one in his audience will be there to notice. They already know the Truth, and the Truth has set them free. …”
Nothing thrills The Pink Flamingo more than watching Barton go down in flames. I’m enjoying every minute of this. I’ve been waiting, for about three years, to see Barton get hoisted on his own lovely bed of revisionist baloney.
“...No kidding. I think it’s safe to say that a whole lot of conservative political argumentation about church-state relations, the Constitution, and the Founders has always rested on Barton’s authority, which is now been taken down many notches.
So next time you hear some pol or gabber say confidently that it’s a “well-known fact” this was intended to be a “Christian Nation” with eternal constitutional rules of governance which happen to coincide with the conservative movement’s economic and social prejudices, you might want to ask: “Who Says?” If it’s David Barton, it might be time to laugh…”
Thanks to his lies and innuendo, many people today still think Wyatt Earp mistreated his second wife, Mattie Blaylock. He did not. Waters’ inferred that Mattie was a drug addict. She was not. He almost comes out and says that Wyatt, Doc, and Morgan were involved in the Sandy Bob stage robbery that killed Bud Philpot. They were not. He misquotes Endicott Peabody. He turns John Ringo, who was a cold-blooded killer, into a charming Robin Hood type character.
Why he did it, so far, I don’t know. I’ve been searching for 15 years. When attacked, Waters’ counterattacked. He reacted much the same way David Barton and his defenders act, today. I don’t know which is worse – yes, I do. Barton is far worse. For all his reputation, Frank Waters’ influence was quite limited. Unfortunately, Barton is tremendously influentual.
Some things are quite ironic. When one mentions Karl Marx, you immediately get a vision of Lenin and Stalin, all those poor souls lost to revolution. When one mentions Thomas Jefferson, you hear angles, see a pink glow about things, and hear a heavenly chorus. There’s one problem here. Thanks to revisionists like Barton, the role Thomas Jefferson played in the French Revolution, the Reign of Terror (where close to 17,000 French aristocrats, priests, nuns, and anyone not willing to cooperate with the constantly changing regimes) will never be fully explored.
In many ways, Jefferson was to the Reign of Terror, what Karl Marx was to the Russian Revolution. He was highly inspirational to it. Unlike Marx, who was long gone, by the time the Russian Revolution began, Jefferson was alive and well. He knew all about it, yet never once opened his mouth to criticize the wholesale slaughter of innocent men, women, and children. His ego would not allow him to even admit what was going on in France.
“…Among the most famous American Francophiles is Thomas Jefferson. Even during the excesses of the Reign of Terror, Jefferson refused to disavow the revolution because he was “convinced that the fates of the two republics were indissolubly linked. To back away from France would be to undermine the cause of republicanism in America.” Commenting on the continuing revolutions in Holland and France, the retired Secretary of State predicted: “this ball of liberty, I believe most piously, is now so well in motion that it will roll round the globe, at least the enlightened part of it, for light & liberty go together. it is our glory that we first put it into motion.” Jefferson would often sign his letters “Affectionately adieu”, and commented late in life “France, freed from that monster, Bonaparte, must again become the most agreeable country on earth.” The 1995 film Jefferson in Paris by James Ivory, recalls this connection. The “staunchly Francophile” Jefferson, and by extension his adherents or “Jeffersonians”, were characterized by his political enemies, the Federalists, as “decadent, ungodly and immoral Francophiles”. Benjamin Franklin, who spent seven years as the American emissary to France and was popular there, was also a Francophile…”
When one thinks of what Jefferson did, to be part of the inspiration behind the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, any rational individual, looking back at his great mistake, must shudder. Jefferson was there in Paris, while it was being written. If he did have a part, which most reasonable historians now think he did, then there is absolute proof that Jefferson thought the rights of man had nothing to do with God.
“...Thomas Jefferson served as the American Minister to France from 1785 to late in 1789, and thus witnessed the last crisis of the ancien régime. He was in Paris for the opening of the Estates General (May 5, 1789) and for the fall of the Bastille (July 14). In letters to divers correspondents he evinced growing and confident enthusiasm for the burgeoning revolution. To James Madison: “The revolution of France has gone on with the most unexampled success hitherto. . . .” To Thomas Paine: “The National Assembly [showed] a coolness, wisdom, and resolution to set fire the four corners of the kingdom and to perish with it themselves rather than to relinquish an iota from their plan of total change. . . .” To Paine again: “The king, queen and national assembly are removed to Paris. The mobs and murders under which [the revolutionaries] dress this fact are like the rags in which religion robes the true god.” No mere observer of the revolution, Jefferson is believed to have played a part in formulating the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, adopted by the National Assembly, the revolutionary heir to the Estates General, on August 26, 1789.
He thus became the symbol of a proposition of which he came to be a fervent apologist: that the French Revolution was the continuation and fulfillment of the American one, both being manifestations of one and the same spirit of liberty. Within a few years that proposition was to become bitterly divisive, both among the American people and among the Founding Fathers themselves. The question of policy toward France was to range Jefferson and Madison, supported by James Monroe, against Hamilton and Adams. Washington first tried to hold the balance but ultimately threw his tremendous weight decisively against the Jeffersonian theory of the continuity and kinship of the two revolutions….“
In many ways, Jefferson is the perfect Founding Father for today’s Tea Party movement. He really didn’t care that much about the Constitution. He was all about the cause of liberty, maintaining free militias, and overthrowing the government if it became too annoying.
Like The Pink Flamingo says, Jefferson is perfect for today’s Tea Party fake patriot. Blind to everything but his own ideas.
“...In reality the deep revulsion against the excesses of the French Revolution (while they were happening) was exclusively a Federalist affair. The Republicans, headed by Jefferson himself, stoutly defended the French Revolution throughout the period when reports of the excesses were reaching America. If possible, anything horrible in the reports from Paris was ascribed by Republicans to the manipulation of the news by the British. In private the esoteric doctrine of the Republican leaders — as revealed by Jefferson to William Short — was that what the Federalists called excesses were really taking place but were entirely justifiable, however drastic, because they were undertaken in the cause of liberty.
The Republicans began to detach themselves from the cause of the French Revolution after 1793, and especially from 1795 on. But this was not because Jefferson and the rest of them were belatedly experiencing some form of revulsion against excesses that they had systematically condoned (often by denying their existence) at the time of their perpetration. The detachment was, rather, the result of a growing perception in 1794-1795 that enthusiasm among the American people for the French Revolution was cooling — not only because of those excesses, which were at their worst during the period when Americans other than Federalists were most enthusiastic about the French Revolution, but also because of developments in the United States itself and in a neighboring territory, Saint-Domingue, or Haiti, and because of Washington’s influence.
Those developments included the victory of the black slaves in Haiti and the ensuing carnage and dispersion of the whites. The exact nature of the connection between the black insurrection and the French Revolution remains open to argument. But it would have been hard for slaveowners to remain enthusiastic about the French Revolution after February of 1794, when the French National Convention, then dominated by Robespierre, decreed the emancipation of all slaves in the dominions of the French Republic.
The emancipating act was probably not the least of “the atrocities of Robespierre” in the eyes of Virginia slaveowners, including Thomas Jefferson.
After these events Jefferson and his colleagues realized that the cause of the French Revolution, formerly a major political asset to them in the United States, had become a liability. So they cut their losses. They never repudiated the French Revolution, still cherished by many of their rank and file, but it was as if this part of their political stock in trade had been removed from the front window….”
I bring up Jefferson because David Barton is trying to turn him into this great Christian Founding Father, all knowing, all great. Jefferson is The Pink Flamingo’s least favorite Founding Father because of his embrace of the French Revolution. He was also a political skunk who did his best to undermine President Washington while he was Secretary of State.
This is one of the things that bothers me the most about Jefferson, and the people who admire him:
What do I admire most about Jefferson? Well, it’s something the revisionists refuse to acknowledge. Thomas Jefferson was a very big-spending liberal, when it came to science, technology, and infrastructure. He believed staunchly in public education. He was one of the strongest advocates for big ticket budget-busting scientific exploration and expeditions. His purchase of Louisiana alone basically broke this nation, putting us in debt for years…. but boy did he have a vision.
The worst thing about people like David Barton, is they ignore the greatest gifts Jefferson gave to this nation – S C I E N C E! He set the precedent for for swinging for the fences when it came to science. Two words: Lewis & Clark!
That is the greatest thing he ever did. BUT – you won’t hear any of the far right revisionists discussing it. We don’t want to give the liberals any ideas about big spending – even though Jefferson was really into it. Now, Washington on the other hand….
The worst part of this is the way the founding of this nation is distorted to fit either a liberal view or a conservative view. When I was studying American history in college, my professor was on the leading edge of debunking the left revisionists. He grossly disliked the fact that the Founders were presented as opportunistic bottom feeders who did what they did for personal gain. To debunk them, he became one of the first historians to use a computer database to prove his point.
What conservative revisionists like Barton are doing is just as bad. They are dehumanizing the founding of this nation, and the remarkable people who rose above themselves, for a moment in time, to create a magnificent experiment. By plastering over the warts, they are distorting our nation’s history just as badly as did the liberals.
Let’s face it, the Big Four (Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, and Washington) were not stellar examples of the modern Christian statesman. In fact, today, the far right wouldn’t even allow them to run for dog catcher.
Washington was so pissed with the Episcopal church he refused to take communion. He was, though, a skinflint. He never would have thrown any money across the Potomac River because he was too cheep. He married Martha because he was broke and she was one of the richest women, not only in this country, but probably also in Europe. He ended up falling in love with her – and having one of the great love stories in history. Until the Battle of Trenton, he was considered an abject failure. He was such a failure, his own generals were trying to figure out how to dump him.
Franklin was a dirty old man who went skinny dipping, in public almost every day of his adult life. He hung out with the Hellfire Club, probably hung with de Sade, and was NOT by any stretch of the imagination a Christian.
John Adams was a Unitarian. Unitarians were not Christians. He was a pompous, annoying man who dearly loved his wife. His wife, was so jealous of Martha Washington she couldn’t see straight. She treated Martha like dirt.
BUT…. for one brief shining moment – they rose above themselves. That is what we should be celebrating.