Sunday, March 29, 2009

David Barton's Other Distortions

As American Creation we have a follow up written by Brad Hart on left-wing scholars who hold respectable positions in the academy who likewise engage in similar shenanigans. Hart's poster boy for a radical left wing version of Barton is Howard Zinn.

I am not going to term either Zinn or Barton "liars." That's a strong term. However I would agree that both are distortionists and propagandists. It may be impossible for historians not to read their biases into the record. But, it seems to me, using history for blatant propagandistic purposes is a lame thing to do.

Linked below is an example David Barton's "other" historical interests which just as badly distort the record as much as anything he's done with the American Founding. Barton is a partisan Republican and has held positions in the Texas Republican Party. Barton is now, also, an historian of the Civil War and "black history."

The Republican Party is not doing an effective job reaching out to blacks. I have no problem with Republicans trying to attract more minorities; I think it's a good idea. However, the video below well illustrates using history as propaganda to achieve political ends.

Barton's narrative connects modern day Democrats (the party who elected Barack Obama) with the racist Democrats who lost the Civil War and formed the KKK. What Barton doesn't mention is that it was the Southern White Male Conservative Christians (i.e., what Barton himself is) who actually are the heirs to the Confederates and the KKK. They were called "Dixiecrats." And they tended to be to the right of Republicans. Jerry Falwell, admittedly, was once such a racist Dixiecrat. The Dixiecrats are almost all Republicans now. I think most SWMCCRs have sincerely repudiated their racist past. Falwell, to his credit, repudiated his racist past. Not Trent Lott, but he was punished by the Republicans for his lack of repudiation. I don't think David Barton is a racist. And I don't think most SWMCCRs are racist. But blatantly distorting the record for political ends is not the proper way to do outreach.

74 comments:

Pinky said...

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It's tough for an amateur to gain standing at this site.

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I cannot help pointing to the fact that, if it weren't for spokespersons like Barton, there wouldn't be any need for those like Zinn. But, because there is such an effort to distort and to propagandize the gullible public, we sorely need advocates for the other side.
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Barton shamelessly goes deep to purposely lead his followers to the pits of ignorance and in the name of God for whatever purpose drives him.
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That clearly qualifies out and out blasphemy in some circles.
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Explicit Atheist said...

Zinn is a change of topic, Zinn's focus isn't "the religious history of America's founding", which is David Barton's focus and the focus of that blog, and thus the primary purpose of Brad Hart's turning the focus to Zinn on that blog appears to be to avoid discussing Barton. Historian and author John Fea of Messiah College criticism of Zinn doesn't accuse Zinn of deliberate deception regarding historical facts, instead he points out that Zinn is misusing history to promote his own political agenda in the present. I cannot accept the notion that Zinn is therefore just as bad as Barton, Zinn's current political activism or viewpoint may coincide with the focus of his history writing but that doesn't by itself undermine his credibility as historian. Jon Rowe's political/religious viewpoint also corresponds with the focus of his history writing and that doesn't make Jon Rowe a liar like David Barton.


On the one hand we have to be carefull to avoid calling people liars who may be mistaken and sincere, on the other hand I think we do have an ethical responsibility to identify someone as a liar who clearly is trying to deceive his audience. It is so obvious that David Barton is knowingly decieving his audience that I consider the refusal of Jon Rowe and others to use that term with David Barton to be a serious mistake. Jon says using history for blatant propagandistic purposes "is a lame thing to do" but this goes beyond that. We can have a meaningfull and productive discussion regarding history with people with whom we disagree only if those people are committed to being honest and to accurately and fully representing the evidence. Deliberate deception about the historical facts is too fundamental a problem to refuse to directly confront and deal with, particularly when the liar is being promoted by hundreds of churches, by Congresspeople, and the like as a source of accurate and honest history and large numbers of people, maybe reaching into a million or more, accept him as an accurate and honest historian. That is one of the major reasons that I am unwilling to blog on this blog (the primary reason being that I am not so committed to that topic). I would much rather participate in a group blog where I had confidence in the integrity of all of the other bloggers.

Tom Van Dyke said...

The Dixiecrats make Barton's argument ineffective, but I don't see the distortions. The link of the KKK and Democratic Party is made by this scholar

http://www.sfltimes.com/index.php?Itemid=37&id=473&option=com_content&task=view

Near the end, Barton explicitly says that the voter shouldn't consider party, but the individual candidate's views.

I hate defending Barton, but slobbing up these videos along with a blanket condemnation is getting old. I was hoping the blog was returning to more thoughtful and less emotional and partisan discussion.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Tom,

The only reason I posted this now is because Barton, like it or not, is a currently a matter of hot discussion on this blog.

Brad Hart said...

E. Atheist writes:

"That is one of the major reasons that I am unwilling to blog on this blog (the primary reason being that I am not so committed to that topic). I would much rather participate in a group blog where I had confidence in the integrity of all of the other bloggers."

Whatever. You can question our integrity all you like. I have complete confidence in the integrity of all our contributors. Now, we may not see eye-to-eye on things, but that doesn't mean anyone is being deceitful. It happens...at least in a mature setting.

Your lame attempt at a cheap shot is just that: lame. I could just as easily question your integrity. You don't really know us, yet you insist that your confidence in our integrity is lacking. Why? Because we don't agree 100% with YOUR viewpoint.

Whatever dude, whatever.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I agree with the "hot" part, Jon, but it's not a discussion, it's a grenade toss. Feh.

My remarks on the video in question stand.

Explicit Atheist said...

Jon Rowe equating Barton with Zinn as both "distortionists and propagandists", even though no one appears to be showing that Zinn is in the habit of deceiving his audience about the historical facts, contributes to my sense that Rowe doesn't argue from a balanced ethical foundation. Rowe likes to position himself in the middle, as if the merit of the argument can be measured by its relative location in the debate domain, even if that means equating two symbolic representatives of the right and the left as both equally culpable when only one of the two has been shown to be out and out lying about the historical record.

Jon Rowe's apparant sense that he needs to justify allowing David Barton to be a focus of this blog, when David Barton writes books and talks in churches and on the radio with a primary focus on "the religious history of America's founding" that is supposed to be the focus of this blog, is unfortunate. The fact is that I didn't introduce David Barton here, a number of people who are bloggers here mentioned David Barton a number of times in their blogs. I just responded in a comment on one such blog with links to the videos about David Barton. To now say that we shouldn't talk about David Barton would be a double standard, wouldn't it? We need to talk about David Barton here.

Tom Van Dyke said...

contributes to my sense that Rowe doesn't argue from a balanced ethical foundation

"Hot", indeed, Jon. "We" can function in the Bearded Spock Universe, but the door doesn't swing both ways.

Pinky said...

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"Rowe likes to position himself in the middle, as if the merit of the argument can be measured by its relative location in the debate domain, even if that means equating two symbolic representatives of the right and the left as both equally culpable when only one of the two has been shown to be out and out lying about the historical record."
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With no disrespect whatsoever. In fact, it is quite an accomplishment to complete the requirements for lawyering. Rowe is an attorney--a professor of law even, unless I am mistaken.
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Do lawyers seek truth or do they judge the quality of argumentation based on standing and some precedent?
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Something is going on at this site that creates an aire of suspicion that meanders throughout. Yet, there's a great deal to learn here.
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"...David Barton writes books and talks in churches and on the radio with a primary focus on 'the religious history of America's founding'... "
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THAT is the point of my comment about blasphemy.
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I am oh so familiar with such talks in Christian churches. I KNOW that prayers are offered up in those specific services that "God might speak to every heart in this congregation" in the introduction. I am absolutely positive from personal experience that David Barton almost always gets such a welcome in every church where he speaks.
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And, THAT is what is so despicable about the nature of his misleading (lies wearing whiskers--so, maybe he isn't a bald faced liar).
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Is this an emotional comment? Does the study of history require as much truthfulness that can be found?
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jimmiraybob said...

TVD - ...but I don't see the distortions.

The distortion is via omission. By omitting the other half of the story Barton creates a false equivalence between the Democratic party of the early to mid 19th century and the Democratic party of the late 20th & 21st centuries. Shame shame shame.

To quote a commenter on an earlier post on Zinn, "But there can be lies of omission as well." To which I agree.

bpabbott said...

Phil,

Regarding blasphemy, it's been my understanding that onyone who projects or represents their will as that of God's commits this sin.

Is that a fair assesment of what you refer to?

Brad Hart said...

Pinky writes:

I am oh so familiar with such talks in Christian churches. I KNOW that prayers are offered up in those specific services that "God might speak to every heart in this congregation" in the introduction. I am absolutely positive from personal experience that David Barton almost always gets such a welcome in every church where he speaks.
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And, THAT is what is so despicable about the nature of his misleading (lies wearing whiskers--so, maybe he isn't a bald faced liar).


Yes, you may have a point here. To be certain, Barton's audience already affords him an incredible amount of blind allegiance simply because of their shared faith. Many already buy into Barton's assertion that academia, liberals, etc. are the literal spawn of Satan and are secretly laboring behind a Darth Vader mask to eradicate any and all traced of God. With such a mindset, it's no wonder why many people won't listen to counterarguments when they concern Barton's legitimacy as a historian.

With that said, I think many on this blog have still taken things too far. Yes, Barton is an extremist who sensationalized the historical record for his purposes...almost a Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity type for America's religious history. However, many seem to categorize him as a bold-faced hypocritical Ted Haggard type who will look you in the eye, tell you he loves you, and then stab you in the heart. I don't see Barton in this light. His sensationalism of history is more in the mild tone of a John Tesh than a Howard Stern. I really don't see hostility emanating from him, which makes me think that he isn't 100% deserving of it being thrown back at him with such vigor.

Tom Van Dyke said...

TVD - ...but I don't see the distortions.

The distortion is via omission. By omitting the other half of the story Barton creates a false equivalence between the Democratic party of the early to mid 19th century and the Democratic party of the late 20th & 21st centuries. Shame shame shame.

To quote a commenter on an earlier post on Zinn, "But there can be lies of omission as well." To which I agree.


A valid point, JRB. But do keep in mind my criticism of Zinn is as an historian, specifically as a classroom resource. Neither do we have Barton's complete speech---perhaps he did mention the Dixiecrats. We should not rush to judgment, especially based on video excerpts.

We are getting into sophistry here---and I admit I am with the following counterargument. [Sophistry is not necessarily pejorative, it's merely restricting oneself to the form of the argument rather than its underlying truth.]

In form, Barton is counterarguing against the notion that one should vote based on party, specifically against the GOP as the racist party. And let's be clear---he's arguing as an advocate, as none of us accord him the status of "historian." Still, he does not argue that one should vote GOP because the Democratic Party was the home of the KKK, although that's certainly his rhetorical intimation. [A lousy one.]

Now, any advocate argues his evidence and not the opposition's. And before we get into shame shame shame---how many people who make the Dixiecrat argument ignore the rest of Barton's evidence? Virtually all of them, eh?

Although the Dixiecrats joined the GOP c. 1968 [not all of them though, like Sen. Byrd and Al Gore's daddy], a large majority of the GOP did indeed vote in the majority for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Look, Barton is a crap advocate. I'd have stipulated the Dixiecrat problem [and we must keep in mind maybe he did, we don't have his entire speech, just an excerpt], but I'd have argued that it was GOP Sen. Everett Dirksen who swung the passage of the Civil Rights Act with his stunning speech:

"The gallery was packed on June 10, 1964, as all one hundred senators were present for the climactic moment of the longest filibuster in Senate history. Late in the morning Everett Dirksen rose from his seat to address the Senate. In poor health, drained from working fourteen-, fifteen-, and sixteen-hour days, his words came quietly. "There are many reasons why cloture should be invoked and a good civil rights measure enacted. It is said that on the night he died, Victor Hugo wrote in his diary substantially this sentiment, 'Stronger than all the armies is an idea whose time has come.' The time has come for equality of opportunity in sharing of government, in education, and in employment. It must not be stayed or denied."

http://www.lib.niu.edu/1996/iht319648.html

Ooops, started sliding out of the sophistry and started talking the actual facts. Sorry. The story of the 1964 debate and filibuster and Dirksen's beautiful and pivotal speech to win the day have always moved me.

Pinky said...

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"Regarding blasphemy, it's been my understanding that anyone who projects or represents their will as that of God's commits this sin."
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A precise assessment.
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Pinky said...

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Good comments, Brad.
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If the fact that Barton is a proven liar were just allowed to stand without so much defense on the part of his avowed apologists, I doubt anyone would ever had taken these discussions so far.
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Tom Van Dyke said...


"Regarding blasphemy, it's been my understanding that anyone who projects or represents their will as that of God's commits this sin."


Phil, although technically accurate, that's such a stretch of the meaning of the term that I'm tempted to call you a liar.

No worries, I don't use that word. It's an attack on the other fellow's character, his very humanity, which is why---for no small reason---using the word "liar" would find you at dawn with a pistol in your hand in the Founding era, getting your ass shot at.

So if we stipulated that David Barton is a "liar," what then? How much of his work is false? 10%? 90%? 100%?

I asked this question once and the jackal pack refused to answer. You're a smart fellow, give us a reasonable answer on how we should proceed.

Pinky said...

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Seeing that it is polite to be reasonably compliant in such an environment in which the participants--mostly--don't really know each other, it seems to me TVD's comment, "Phil, although technically accurate, that's such a stretch of the meaning of the term that I'm tempted to call you a liar" should get a decent response.
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Blasphemy is most often described as the act of speaking on behalf of God.
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I think, that when a person speaks in front of an audience in which the power of God has been invoked to help the audience actually receive the Word of God in their hearts, that any person that stands there and goes along with the invocation can be thought of as committing blasphemy.
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But, that's just my opinion.
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I don't know why you think Brad's definition was a stretch. It seemed right on to me.
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By the way, I have lied in my life. I'm not proud of it; but, I have done it.
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Have you?

Pinky said...

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BTW, I had an expert standing at the firing range when I was in the Marines.
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But, I would apologize for any insult I ever gave before I would risk the other person's life.
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So, if I insulted you, please accept my apology.
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Better than pistols at ten paces, right?
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bpabbott said...

Tom,

I'm curious; what do you imply?

It is not blasphemous for one to exhault themself as God's representative? ... as an arbirtrator for God's will, intent, etc?

Regarding Barton; the term "liar" is an qualitative statement. It does not convey a quantitative value. In this instance the qualitative context is with regards to the history of the founding period.

My impression is that Barton distorts, misrepresents, and introduces fraudulent facts into his presentation of history to further his activist goals. Meaning his false account is willful and not a manifestation of ignorance.

From my position it appears Barton associates lesser value with the accurate portrayal of history than he does with ensuring our Nation of God's grace. Meaning he willfully sacrifies the former's value for that of the latter (implying a false dichotomy, imo).

bpabbott said...

Phil: "By the way, I have lied in my life. I'm not proud of it; but, I have done it."

*Never!* ... oh -- ah -- well ... may be once.

ahhh ... twice? ;-)

Tom Van Dyke said...

Ben, when it comes to David Barton, I think of lawyer Barney Greenwald's response to the defendants in The Caine Mutiny. He takes their case but says, "I'd rather prosecute."

As it would prejudice against my own case, I won't name the, um, unsympathetic figures that the ACLU and Alan Dershowitz have defended over the years on principle alone, but I think you see where I'm going with this.

Phil, besides registering a passing complaint about your use of the term "blasphemy," my point was that I'm uncomfortable with calling any man a liar. That's just not how I do business, and I think that's been the message coming from any of the apparent "defenders" of David Barton, especially Brad Hart, who has made that point over and over, unfortunately without any sense that it's understood by his interlocutors.

As soon as "liar" becomes an acceptable part of a discussion, all savagery and hell breaks loose, as no doubt you've seen here over the past few days. The Bearded Spock Universe. Give me your Agonizer.

"Liar" is such a threat to civility and civilization that duels were once permitted to release the steam from society and put only the participants in mortal jeopardy. Sort of like fights in hockey.

And so, Phil---Pinky---I do hope for a response on the 10-90-100% question above. I'd love to get out of the Bearded Spock Universe as soon as possible and back to reality.

Pinky said...

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I'm just not going to give in to your framing of the subject matter on lies, etc., Tom.
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I hope you can live with that.
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By the way, how are you coming on the Strauss book?

Any thoughts you care to share?

Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes, Phil, but anyone who can't make their case without the word "lies" has no standing---no place at the table---with civilized men. You need not give in to that idea, but that's not opinion, you'll see it manifested as fact.

You already have seen it manifested as fact. The civilized persons on this blog have declined to participate. Surely you've heard that piece of American folk wisdom

"Never wrestle with a pig—you get dirty and the pig likes it."

Not that you're a pig, Pinky. But the mud is no place for civilized men. Or as Voltaire responded to Rousseau:

"I have received your new book against the human race, and thank you for it. Never was such a cleverness used in the design of making us all stupid. One longs, in reading your book, to walk on all fours. But as I have lost that habit for more than sixty years, I feel unhappily the impossibility of resuming it."

As for the Strauss, thx for asking. To fully understand the book review section requires more learning than either you or I can possibly achieve in our remaining time on earth. Nor do I wish to spend very much more time with Leo Strauss. I still have a fundamental disagreement with him that I must explore elsewhere, although his method of reading the original texts to understand the authors "as they understood themselves" remains the most valuable hermeneutic tool available to scholars and historians, and seekers of truth.

To read the great men and minds of history carefully, closely and sympathetically remains the best avenue to understanding the wisdom of the ages.

As for the 10-90-100 obstacle, if you don't want to take it on, perhaps someone else will, although I doubt it. For the polemicist, I think it's insurmountable.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Phil, it was easy to grab that ubiquitous Voltaire quote above from a web page, but I went back to read the rest. Apropos to our discussion, I think you'll agree:

"Voltaire, a young man in the France of King Louis' XIV, supposedly was seen talking too loudly at the opera in December of 1725 by a certain French aristocrat named the Chevalier de Rohan-Chabot. In the France of that time, anyone who did not have a de at the end of their name denoting royal patronage was immediately looked down upon. Rohan confronted him superciliously with the haughty question: "Monsieur de Voltaire, Monsieur Arouet - comment vous appelez-vous? [what really is your name?]" Voltaire is said to have replied:

"One who does not trail after a great name,
but knows how to honor that which he has!"


"Yikes! The enraged Chevalier raised his cane to strike while Voltaire tried to draw his sword before the fight was broken up and the two separated. Voltaire spent the next day practicing swordsmanship for a duel to the death with Rohan when the aristocrat simply had Voltaire arrested and thrown into the Bastille. Soon thereafter, Voltaire was exiled to England where men and minds were free."

"I have asked God for only one thing in my life
and that is that he should make people laugh at my enemies.
And he did."---Voltaire


Well, that's not my prayer, Phil, but I can't deny I'm down with it.

bpabbott said...

Tom: "Yes, Phil, but anyone who can't make their case without the word "lies" has no standing---no place at the table---with civilized men. You need not give in to that idea, but that's not opinion, you'll see it manifested as fact."

Tom, I think the case has been made.

The term in question was not applied out of a lacking of a compelling case against Barton. Rather the term was applied (imo) to illustrate that Barton's place at the table is suspect.

Pinky said...

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It gets to be boring to figure out where being a pig starts and ends.
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I calls 'em like I sees 'em.
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A rose by any other name would still be a rose.

I don't read Strauss to fault him or to compete with his intellectual attainments. He got to be where he was because of some problems his family had with the Nazis when he was just a young boy. He spent his entire life working out the details. I have my own fish to fry.

I find Strauss to be quite interesting; but, I would never question his scholarship. He sets the example.

jimmiraybob said...

...but anyone who can't make their case without the word "lies" has no standing---no place at the table---with civilized men.

The civilized persons on this blog have declined to participate.

Maybe at the lofty heights that such persons dwell there is no need to make the distinction but then again the mundane world isn't built to such heights.

I assume then that it would be such a person's position that the Christian Bible is geared toward driving society to the barbarians, what with its unseemly attention to the matter. Very unique take. I can think of some secular humanists that would be very down with this.

As for the 10-90-100 challenge, it is an absurd rhetorical trick and why would anyone attempt it since the effort would be destined for summary dismissal anyway. I suspect that we all know that but only the unwashed will dare to utter it aloud.

Pinky said...

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So, wash your hands, Tom.

Tom Van Dyke said...

You got it all wrong, jimmiraybob. It's not lofty or arrogant to stay out of the mud. It's common sense.

You washed your hands, Pinky, and dodged the question 3 times. I answered every one of your questions, openly and with no problem.

I asked what we should do about David Barton besides call him a liar.

Our Founding Truth said...

What Barton doesn't mention is that it was the Southern White Male Conservative Christians (i.e., what Barton himself is) who actually are the heirs to the Confederates and the KKK.>

If there ever was a distortion, here is one! The Civil Rights Act would never have gotten passed, if not for Republicans, and it didn't get passed under Truman because of racist democrats who controlled the South.

Brian Tubbs said...

Jon, your post here not only links David Barton with racism, it also indicts all southern white male Christian conservatives as being sympathetic with or derived from the KKK, etc. It's a cheap shot, and I thought better of you. I'm very disappointed.

Pinky said...

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TVD, "You ...dodged the question 3 times."
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Turnabout. That's supposed to be fair play.
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"I asked what we should do about David Barton besides call him a liar."
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I don't know. Could we quit wasting time on his game strategies? He certainly has been in control of this blog site for some time now.
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Pinky said...

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So what does "Van" mean in a Dutchman's name, Tom.

Do you spring from a leak in the dike?
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Jonathan Rowe said...

Brian,

I tried to be EXTREMELY explicit when I noted that SWMCCRs are NOT racist and have repudiated the racism of the Dixiecrats. But I think it's undeniable that the Dixiecrats are part of their heritage at least as much if not more so than the heritage of the "Democratic Party."

And if it is a cheap shot on my end, it's far more of a cheap shot on Barton's end trying to pin the KKK, slavery and Confederates on today's Democratic Party.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I answered all your questions and directly, as is my custom, Pinky.

As for Barton being in control of this site, it's only at the receiving end. If you're implying that he is a source of any kind for what is posted at this site, that's a lie.

Pinky said...

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I was surprised to learn that all Siamese cats have blue eyes.
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Did you know that?

Tom Van Dyke said...

I learn something new every day at this site, Pinky. At last, you've contributed some useful original research!

Pinky said...

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"Pinky...At last, you've contributed some useful original research!"
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Totally unintentional and a ricochet, Tom.

I never came here thinking I had anything of value to contribute. Some questions and, maybe, useful criticism; but, that would be it.

In fact, when I was asked to accept some status as a contributing participant, I declined based on that very point.
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Maybe you'd like to check that out?
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And, you're here to teach, right? How could your research be useful to anyone except there are some here for the purpose of learning?
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Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, this explains the mess we've had lately around here. I'm not here to "teach," nor could I be, since 98% of what I write I didn't know before I joined this blog.

The word used often here is "inquiry." There are no teacher-student relationships, except mutual ones where we teach each other.

No word from on high that that the lower are obliged to swallow. And anyone can be, in his or her turn, a teacher, as long as they bring some game, their "A" game, backed by solid research. When that turn comes, one "shares."

Now at the center of the 10-90-100 question is whether this is indeed a joint inquiry or an adversarial proceeding.

If one were to read David Barton, it would not be with proving him as a source of gospel truth, nor to prove him a liar. This is how courtrooms work. In an inquiry, one reads seeking some underlying truth.

I've leafed through Wallbuilders.com to see what Barton's up to, and several of Chris Rodda's points jumped out at me too. A few are absolute howlers, and she takes great time and care in dismantling them. However, there are often underlying truths, like Jefferson's University of Virgina was not secular, but non-sectarian, pluralistic. All sects/denominations/creeds were taught, and quite rightfully by the people from those very sects. [Unlike the modern academy, where theistic arguments are often "taught" by people hostile to them!]

Your declining the invitation to become a contributor was wise if you were disinclined to do the requisite research. No, I didn't know. These invitations are made often, in an attempt to "balance" me out---over a dozen have been run through here. However, a dozen or fifty can't "balance" out the truth, which I alone have.

Pinky said...

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You should give me some credit for my persistence in not leaving due to insults and for being ignored.
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Pinky said...

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It's not that I'm disinclined to do the research.

Being retired, I have the opportunity to pursue many issues of interest. I am fortunate to spend time on several.

Christian Nationalism is one of my pet peeves.

I am very interested in learning history and totally at ease in letting others do the leg work; but, I do like to keep them honest. I love to sit and listen to my wife play the piano; but, I can't play chopsticks.

As for Barton, he clearly shows himself to be dishonest. I have very little respect for such people regardless of their I.Q. Barton, obviously, has a brilliant mind..

I think you are worthy of compliments and I have often offered them your way.

But, you are a little on the weird side. Maybe it's the glasses?.
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Jonathan Rowe said...

Let me mention one more thing re Brian's critique (I respect Brian and take his criticisms very seriously) on a personal note -- a note about which I feel far more comfortable writing buried in the comments than on a front page post.

I teach at a community college that happens to be very politically correct and, like most PC institutions, committed to "diversity." And because we are a CC that encompasses Trenton, we get plenty of Blacks, Latinos, and many other different kinds of folks without the need for Affirmative Action. (I also taught at Bucks County Community College as an adjunct and it was far less diverse).

I have many black, latino, immigrant, asian, eastern european, Muslim, etc. students, many of them of poor and blue collar for whom I love and care. Indeed, unlike many "elite" college professors, I am actually helping educate them, getting them Associate degrees and seeing them off to four year colleges.

One of my front row students in my Business Law I class -- a black guy with visible knife wound scars on his face -- recently shared with the class, while discussing the unit on Criminal Law, how he spent two years at Trenton State Prision.

That said, I tend to agree MORE so with the Republican Party's anti-affirmative action platform on race issues than I do with the Democratic Party, pro-Affirmative Action platform. And I resent greatly PC accusations of "racism" if one doesn't agree with modern left-wing ideas, explanations and policies on "race."

So I try to be EXTREMELY sensitive with accusations of racism and I thought I had made it clear that I didn't consider white southern male Christian conservative Republicans to be "racist," and that indeed they -- as a group -- had properly repudiated the Dixiecrat past which IS part of their heritage as much as it's part of the heritage of the Democratic Party, which OBVIOUSLY has repudiated that part of its heritage.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Phil, I'm a rebel, a subversive, man. Check out the article on Freeman Dyson in yesterday's NY Times magazine, I'm sure it's online. I'm no Freeman Dyson, but I ain't no David Barton either.

The militant secularists are today's true orthodoxy. I give 'em hell, not by wasting my time hunting down their errors, but by affirmative counterargument, the advantage of which is that you have something positive at the end, not just ashes.

Christian Nationalism is one of my pet peeves

Yes, I know, and all the other people who stopped by to spit on David Barton but otherwise avoid the serious discussions around here. Barton is easy pickins and so is OFT if you're content with using their errors to burn them to the ground.

No, I don't think David Barton is all that brilliant, because he still makes so many needless and avoidable errors, the ones that his critics burn him with. That quote of John Adams and the Holy Ghost is disproved by reading the next paragraph.

Then again, Barton's not the only one---see how many people use Ben Franklin saying "I soon became a thorough deist," even though the very next paragraph says he found that even if true, deism wasn't very helpful. A few paragraphs later, Franklin's reading and trying to live the Bible. [He does not say he believes it's the Word of God, although he allows for that possibility.]

See how I had to add that last bit? Otherwise I'm a "liar" or misleading or whatever.

Probably the biggest error in this religion and the Founding thing is reading too much into the Founding documents, seeing what we want to see, quote-grabbing and running to the public square with "proof" of x, y or z. But, charitably, what I think happens is that many people see what they want to see but their eyes glaze over as they look at the context.

Like the junkyard dog who sees the steak in the burglar's left hand but not the baseball bat in his right.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Hush, Jon. That would be like Isaac Newton saying he didn't believe in the Trinity. It almost cost him his job. Orthodoxy must be respected, or in the least, feared.

bpabbott said...

Tom: "Orthodoxy must be respected, or in the least, feared."

Past-tense?

Orthodoxy [needed to] be respected, or in the least, feared.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Heh. I'm just hoping that comment is properly camouflaged. The point is apt; even in a "free" society, we can't seem to get beyond "orthodoxy," which you buck publicly at your own peril. I think Pete Townsend said something about the old boss and the new boss being one and the same.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Geez, Ben, you can't just come in at the punchline and say the joke's not funny. In fact, you might not even know it's was a joke in the first place. Scroll up before you comment, pleeez.

Jon got it. Cheers, mate. As Bill O'Reilly sez, I'm looking out for YOU!

bpabbott said...

TVD == Bill O'Reilly

I knew it was so !!!! ;-)

By the way, I enjoyed the RC quip!

Chris Rodda said...

Tom wrote: "However, there are often underlying truths, like Jefferson's University of Virgina was not secular, but non-sectarian, pluralistic. All sects/denominations/creeds were taught, and quite rightfully by the people from those very sects."

But, that's not true. There was NO religious instruction at the university until the 1840s. The first professor who was even a minister was William Holmes McGuffey, who replaced the last of the university's original professors in 1845, and started holding Bible studies in his lecturing room.

There was some student initiated religious activity while James Madison was rector, after Jefferson died, but nothing that wouldn't be permissible under today's standards of allowing student run religious groups the same facilities as secular student groups. There was also a group of students who raised money to hire a chaplain, but that didn't last long because the university board, under Madison, would not allow a chaplain to live on the campus, so the students had to come up not only with his salary, but the money for a place for him to live off-campus, which ended up being too expensive.

Formal religious education did not begin until even after this, when McGuffey got a branch of the Young Men's Christian Association to open near the campus in the 1850s. At first the YMCA's religious classes were entirely separate from the university, then, after a while, they started being listed in the university's catalog, and then eventually the university itself started offering religious courses. By this time, Jefferson had been dead for at least four decades, so any claims that there was religious education at the time of the university's founding, or that Jefferson had anything to do with this, are utterly false.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Nice to see you still hanging around, Chris. Please do send your sources [links] along that refute Barton on this point. If I were a betting man---and I am---I'd put my money on you.

If you missed my one comment, as in The Caine Mutiny, the mutineers' lawyer takes their case but says he'd rather prosecute.

Please do take on the 10-90-100 question, though. I've been waiting for a principled response, not per Barton so much, but per this age of epistemological nihilism, adversarial inquiry, and playing Law & Order in our every word to each other.

And if you ever hang around here long enough to search for truth rather than errors, that would be welcome. Kristo Miettinen on the "Jefferson Bible's" tacit acceptance of Jesus' miracles was truly fascinating, and disputes all our "common knowledge." It certainly made me think.

Here it is, cheers.

http://americancreation.blogspot.com/2009/03/thomas-jefferson-radical-american.html

Chris Rodda said...

Tom...

I got caught up in work and haven't been able to get back here to comment until now. I kind of appear and disappear in discussions because I have a crazy job.

Anyway, if you want, I'll send you a PDF of my entire chapter on Jefferson and education. That should answer every possible question you might have. Just email me at liarsforjesus@aol.com and give me your email address so I can send it to you.

Chris Rodda said...

Tom wrote: "Kristo Miettinen on the 'Jefferson Bible's' tacit acceptance of Jesus' miracles was truly fascinating, and disputes all our 'common knowledge.'"

I just took a look at Kristo's piece, and have a few problems with it, in part because I actually have all of Cyrus Adler's papers -- hundreds of pages of notes, etc. -- from when he was writing his introduction, so I've read some things that reveal a much more intriguing story.

Also, the theory that Jefferson prepared his first compilation for the Indians, which is based solely on his title page, and was actually contradicted by Jefferson himself, has one enormous problem. The title page isn't in Jefferson's handwriting. It was found in a collection of papers that were, in many instances, supposedly copied by Jefferson's grandson. A title page in Jefferson's handwriting, if there ever was one, does not exist.

The Indian thing also leads Kristo to speculate that the timing of Jefferson's compilation might have had something to do with the 1803 Kaskaskia treaty, in which it is claimed that Jefferson provided funds to "evangelize" these Indians. This, coincidentally is one of the claims I addressed in my little "Barton bashing" video. The Kaskaskia did not need to be evangelized because they were already Catholic, and had been for many generations, having been converted by French missionaries in the late 1600s. So, obviously, even if Jefferson did do his first compilation for the Indians, which is seriously in doubt, it certainly wouldn't have been for the Kaskaskia.

But, this just goes to show how inaccurate history, whether resulting from a mistake or a deliberate lie, can lead the next historian to pose a theory based on something that wasn't rue to begin with. Kristo obviously didn't question the often heard claim that Jefferson was trying to evangelize the Kaskaskia through the 1803 treaty, or check for himself to see if this claim was even true, so he, in turn, assuming that it was true, proposed it as a possible reason for something else. This is exactly how history gets progressively more and more distorted.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Great to hear from you yet again, Chris. I'd rather you take this up with Kristo directly. Sounds like you brought some game. Excellent. That's what we do around here when we're at our best, discuss.

I will have absolutely no idea what you're talking about until I spend hours and great care sorting it out, which I may or may not do.

But the fundamentals of Kristo's thesis about Jefferson's theology have absolutely nothing---zero zip nada zilch or doodah---to do whatsover with the Kaskasia, this I know. So I absolutely absolutely have no idea of what you're talking about, because Kristo's thesis is about Jefferson's theology, not Native Americans.

This much I do know, which doesn't give much credit to your response about American Indians. Shall I be content with this polite and gentle response, or would you like more explication? Your call, Chris.

Me, I'm learning every day it's a sucker's game to say word one about anybody's work but my own. [Do have at mine!] But I'll still defend the right of free speech in that Founders way. Diamonds in the dunghill.

You understand.

Chris Rodda said...

Tom...

I realize that Kristo's thesis about Jefferson's theology and his background about the Jefferson Bible, which includes his speculation about the Kaskaskia treaty, are two separate things. I just thought that his having taken for granted that the often heard claim about that treaty was true, and speculated about something else based on the assumption that that claim was true, was a good opportunity to illustrate how ingrained some of these revisionist claims are, and what that can lead to.

As far as Kristo's thesis about Jefferson's theology goes, I'm just not that interested in the details of his theology to give it that much scrutiny. My own work is a little unusual in that respect. I look almost exclusively at the actions of the founders, and speculate very little about their personal beliefs. For example, when a revisionist misrepresents a bill to make it appear that it was a bill promoting Christianity, and then claims that President So-and so signed that bill so that proves they were a Christian, I'll only debunk the misrepresentation and explain what the bill really was, and that's where I stop. I don't continue by saying that by debunking the misrepresentation of the bill I've proved or disproved anything either way about that president's personal beliefs.

It's not that I'm completely uninterested in the beliefs of the founders, and if I find some time to be able to read Kristos's thesis with more attention, I will, but in my quick glance at his post, what struck me was his taking for granted that the Kaskaskia myth was true. It's just because this is the kind of unintentional perpetuation of inaccurate history that I'm concerned is being caused by the unquestioned acceptance of the revisionist claims that have become as widespread as this one.

Tom Van Dyke said...


As far as Kristo's thesis about Jefferson's theology goes, I'm just not that interested in the details of his theology to give it that much scrutiny.


Exactly. And I respect that, Chris. But this blog is precisely about stuff like Kristo's work. I'm only marginally interested in the Kaskaskia and David Barton's errors. Once in awhile, OK, if we must.

If you saw my previous remarks about not spending time hunting down errors in favor of making affirmative arguments, you know where I'm coming from. You're coming from the opposite dynamic. So be it.

We understand each other fine. If David Barton maintains he's doing the Lord's work [and he does], then so are you in your own way, because The Lord---if He exists---loves truth. Live long and prosper, Chris, although I imagine we'll cross paths again.

jimmiraybob said...

If you saw my previous remarks about not spending time hunting down errors in favor of making affirmative arguments...

But how do you make valid affirmative arguments if they rest on errors?

Chris Rodda said...

jimmiraybob wrote: "But how do you make valid affirmative arguments if they rest on errors?"

That's a very important question. I have found several times in my research that certain well accepted "facts," (and I'm not talking only about things in revisionist books, but in mainstream history books also) turned out not to be true, and finding the error changed an entire story.

One instance of this, for example, was the date of a letter written by Jefferson. It had been accepted by everyone, revisionists and mainstream historians alike, that Jefferson wrote this letter on a particular date. To me, however, the date didn't make sense. Well, guess what? Everybody had the date wrong. The date had been written on original copy that Jefferson had mailed not by Jefferson, but much later by someone else who was in possession of this copy. When I looked up Jefferson's own "file" copy in the Library of Congress archive, it turned out that Jefferson had not dated this letter when he worte it, but later made a note on the bottom saying when he had written it. With Jefferson's date, the rest of the story fell into place and finally made sense. With the wrong date, the reason I thought Jefferson had written this letter would have been impossible, because the wrong date was prior to this event taking place. With the correct date, my theory about why Jefferson wrote this letter was not only viable, but almost certainly correct.

Tom Van Dyke said...

jimmiraybob said...

If you saw my previous remarks about not spending time hunting down errors in favor of making affirmative arguments...

But how do you make valid affirmative arguments if they rest on errors?


JRB, do you honestly not understand what I'm saying here? There is a fundamental difference between the epistemology of the Socratic dialogues and that of the OJ Simpson trial.

jimmiraybob said...

JVD - JRB, do you honestly not understand what I'm saying here? There is a fundamental difference between the epistemology of the Socratic dialogues and that of the OJ Simpson trial.

It's not for want of trying but I am baffled. How is my simple question a violation of epistemological or Socratic inquiry? Presumably in seeking a truth there is a objective known and a subjective belief. If the objective known is distorted or fabricated then the outcome is invalid - at least if the goal is accuracy and precision. I know that my thinking is clouded by a modern reliance on establishing an objective metric but I thought that the use of empirical data had been established here by the reliance on documentation - and a hope for primary documentation at that.

To seek clarification of the facts used in deriving knowledge is not trivial if the application is to derive an accurate understanding and measure of the founding and our religious heritage. If that's not the goal around here then what is?

Or perhaps better stated, if the facts don't fit then you must not acquit. Otherwise the truth is on a golf course in Florida thumbing its nose at us.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Nobody said don't test the facts. But that shouldn't be the limit.

For instance, under the rules of criminal evidence, all the OJ team had to do was refute enough of the inept prosecution's arguments to introduce reasonable doubt.

Acquittal, but that served only the law, not the truth.

There was a second OJ trial, the civil case brought by the family of Ron Goldman. In a civil trial, which is much more analogous to inquiry, the search for truth, both sides share the burden of proof and it's the preponderance of the evidence that decised. So even if you shoot down 9 of my 10 arguments but make no affirmative arguments of your own, the preponderance of evidence is still on my side, as my last surviving argument is the only evidence.

And of course, OJ lost the second, civil, trial. Truth was served.

So I respect Chris shooting down whatever Barton or anybody else contends about the Kaskaskia. It has value.

But it brings us no closer to the truth about religion and the Founding by itself; only affirmative argument can do that.

Now, when many "authorities" who should know better proclaim that the Founders were "deists," well, work like Kristo's [not to say he's proven his case yet] not only refutes them, but provides a usable counterfactual. This is inquiry, the search for truth.

I'd add that where the search for error is by its nature adversarial, inquiries like the the Platonic dialogues are co-operative, and are impossible without the presence of good will. And in the case of the "Symposium," a little good liquid cheer as well.

Chris Rodda said...

Tom wrote: "So I respect Chris shooting down whatever Barton or anybody else contends about the Kaskaskia. It has value.

"But it brings us no closer to the truth about religion and the Founding by itself; only affirmative argument can do that."


I think what's going on here is that we have different objectives, which make us consider different things more important.

My goal is to stop bad history from being used by the courts, Congress, etc., something that has immediate and important consequences. For example, the revisionist claim about the Kaskaskia treaty has appeared in Supreme Court opinions, used as an example in support of government funding of religion, and also as an example of Thomas Jefferson approving of the government promoting religion. But the truth is that Jefferson didn't do what he is claimed by the revisionists to have done in that treaty. Am I the only one here who finds it just a bit frightening that bad history has been making its way into the opinions of Supreme Court justices?

The we have things like H. Res. 888, the resolution for an American religious heritage week introduced in the last Congress by Rep. Randy Forbes. This resolution, with its 75 Whereas clauses, was a litany of inaccuracies, myths, and lies from the revisionist history books, and was admitted on David Barton's radio show to have been a backdoor way to sneaking religion and Christian nationalist history into our public schools. The reasoning was that, if the House passed Forbes's resolution, nobody would be able to stop a teacher from teaching about the resolution. Who could tell a teacher in any state that they couldn't teach their class about a resolution that had just been passed by the House of Representatives? Fortunately, we were able to stop this resolution, but, by the time we did, it had an astounding 93 co-sponsors.

Hopefully, this will shed some light on why I find it necessary to go after the revisionists as aggressively as I do. I'd love to spend my time just studying and writing about history because I love history, but now is not the time to do that. Now is the time to do whatever I am capable of doing to fight the revisionism and prevent its perpetrators from doing as much further harm as possible. The revisionists have gotten as far as they have over the past few decades in part because their critics have been to damned polite, so, if my tactics seem to aggressive and cause me to occasionally offend some people, tough noogies.

Pinky said...

..
WOWEEEE
.
A real honest to goodness American dyed in the wool.
.
Thank you for your involvement in the real world, Ms. Rodda. I have great respect for people liike you. I'm sure it isn't easy.
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Your point about revision ism is my point about religiosiy. It is the mistake our American Founding sought to rectify. Who are we not to honor the Founders for their hard work?
.
By the way, the difference between puritanism and what it left behind is this: Puritanism taught that man should ultimately come into confrontation with God on a one on one basis while the othrodoxy.of the time taught that God was watching our every move and, so, we must be obedient to his chosen vicar on earth--the English Monarchy.
.
That's where the rubber hit the road in Colonial America.
.

Tom Van Dyke said...


Hopefully, this will shed some light on why I find it necessary to go after the revisionists as aggressively as I do.


I understand, Chris. I hope I've made that clear from the start. And I do think it's good to take on their errors when they're put forward, and your work seems to be very good. I hope I've made that clear. And it certainly seems that David Barton is the point man for those errors.

But as Jonathan Rowe advised our resident commenter from the "other side," the net effect is that your confrontational prosecution of Barton gathers him more support at least from his "side." Your [legitimate] prosecution is perceived as persecution of a truthteller.

Fortunately, your political "side" has control of the US government at the moment, so I think theocracy is not at hand. Neither do I think those dickhead "proclamations" like H. Res. 888 have any real effect on anything real in our republic. Even if they took "under God" out of the Pledge of Allegiance, I think we'd be pretty much the same tomorrow or in a year or six.

I don't think you'd find it unfair to say that your guns sit on one side of the culture divide, pointed at the other. I realize you don't have the luxury of saying that although David Barton is wrong on x and y, he's correct on z.

As to the actual facts of religion and the Founding, there are revisionists on both sides. The hagiographers controlled the 1800s, the secularist skeptics rewrote them in the 1900s. We're trying to sort it all out here in 21st century and this stupid little blog comes up more often than you'd think on Google. we write for the ages, I suppose.

So, I think that H. Res. 888 isn't any greater threat to the republic [and I've read many such things, many of them filled with the very errors that you creditably hunt down and nobly attempt to destroy] than Keith Olbermann or Glenn Beck. Sentiments sway this way and that, but the search for truth sustains.

The truth about religion and the Founding has some surprising twists, and we discover them together here most every day.

So, when you have a few spare moments--- whenever---I do hope you'll stop by here now and then and [no sarcasm here] share the results of your work and studies. And please do examine my own work and let me have it when I have it coming.

But gently, please, Chris. Just one barrel, not both, at least first. I shall continue to return that courtesy.

Change is a whisper spoken when all the thunder dies away. Which way we should change, back from this revisionism or its opposite---for they have both had their turns---perhaps the truth should decide.

Cheers.

Chris Rodda said...

Tom wrote: "I don't think you'd find it unfair to say that your guns sit on one side of the culture divide, pointed at the other. I realize you don't have the luxury of saying that although David Barton is wrong on x and y, he's correct on z."

What's really funny is that I do occasionally find myself agreeing, or at least partially agreeing, with the "other" side on particular issues.

A recent example is a fight recently in the news over whether a Christian school that participates in athletic events with public schools can have their usual prayers or religious messages coming over their PA system before sports events held at their school when the visiting team is from a public school. On this one, I agree with the "other" side. The reasoning behind not allowing prayers at public school sports events is that this would be perceived as an endorsement or promotion of religion by the public school, which is a government entity and should be secular. If public school students are visiting a Christian school, and the Christian school promotes religion at sports events, the message is that the Christian school endorses religion. There would be no reasonable perception that this is a government endorsement of religion because the message is not coming from a public school. The visiting students know they're at a Christian school and that it is that Christian school that's endorsing religion. So, I agree with the other side that whoever complained about this is going too far, and that they're forgetting the reason that prayers are not permitted at public school events, a reason that just wouldn't apply to private schools.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes, moderation in the face of extremism is difficult; it seems the only way to fight fire is with fire.

Which, come to think of it, doesn't sound all that wise. Everybody gets burned.

Anywayz, I understand your thing with H. Res. 888 and the like. They can get pretty bad.

WHEREAS Jesus Christ crossed the Delaware and defeated the Russians at Gettysburg;

Etc. Rock on.

Chris Rodda said...

"Anywayz, I understand your thing with H. Res. 888 and the like. They can get pretty bad."

The one I'm trying to battle right now is H. Con. Res. 34, (also introduced by Randy Forbes), a resolution to place the Lincoln Bible in the new Capitol Visitors Center.

As I wrote in an article about this one, I have no objection whatsoever to the Lincoln Bible being displayed for the legitimate reason that Obama's choice to use this Bible at his inauguration is a symbol of the 150 struggle for civil rights from Lincoln to Obama. The parts of the resolution about this are just fine. All Americans, including those who don't believe in the Bible, can appreciate this Bible as an historical artifact for this reason.

But, Forbes couldn't leave it at that. He had to ruin what could have been a resolution acceptable to both sides by making one of its Whereas clauses "Whereas, the Holy Bible is God's word."

He also, of course, added a bit of historical revisionism for good measure, but his sneaky attempt to get Congress to declare the Bible to be God's word is the most offensive clause.

Here's the link to the article I wrote about the resolution:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-rodda/randy-forbes-wants-congre_b_172772.html

Brian Tubbs said...

Jon, I appreciate your clarifying things. This thread has gone long and taken several tangents, so I won't type out a long post here.

Just want you to know I appreciate your contributions to this blog, including your painstaking research and your commitment to continual inquiry.

Brian Tubbs said...

Question about the video....

Jon, I see that the video was posted on YouTube by RightWingWatch, rather than by Wallbuilders or David Barton.

Do you know if the black screens with white lettering were added by the RWW folks or were those screens part of the original video?

Note that the YouTube video is apparently only excerpts, as opposed to the whole thing. So, if it was edited, I wonder if the black screen with white lettering were put in during the RWW edits.

This is important, because if the black screens with white lettering were put in by Barton's people, then I would have to agree with you that the video is unnecessarily provocative and very unfair to today's Democratic Party.

Pinky said...

.
I second Brian's comments regarding Rowe's work here.
.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I understand, Chris. I rate these things about as important as proclamations of National Avocado Day, but what the hell.

Looks like grandstanding by Shields and his co-sponsors for the folks back home and is going absolutely nowhere. But if it ever gets out of committee, I'll give you a dollar.

What's funny is that even if it were possible under the US constitution to declare the Bible to be the word of God, with the zillion sects around now and at the Founding, it'd be tough to even come up with a legally enforceable definition of what the Bible even is. KJV? Douay-Rheims? NIV? The Torah?

For practical reasons alone, the government was taken out of deciding such things.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Brian,

It's my pleasure. I'm not sure whether those white words were added by the "RWW." I suspect they were. I've seen Barton's original before and I don't see much difference between the two. BUT I would note IF Barton's untouched were up there (and I found it) I would have used it. I grabbed this one because it was the first that came up. I'll check to see if the untouched exists on YouTube.

Chris Rodda said...

Jon...

If you can't find the original Barton video, I can take a look and see if I have it. I have the DVD box set of Barton's entire "American Heritage" TV series, and in that series there are lots of clips from his other videos. One of the DVDs is the several episodes of the series on black patriots, civil rights, etc., so there's a chance that this video is in there somewhere.

Brian Tubbs said...

Jon & Chris,

If the original has the black screens with white lettering - the screens that say "Democrats = Slavery" and those things, then I'd have to agree that the video is WAY over the top.

Even without the screens, I think Barton does a poor job in not clarifying that the vast majority of modern-day Democrats are sincerely and passionately opposed to racism.

Of course, it's possible that Barton does make some of those clarifications in the full version of the video.

I'd be interested to hear what you all find out, if one of you has the full version.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Brian,

I haven't fully investigated the matter yet but will let you know when I have.