Thursday, August 9, 2012

NPR Airs Story About David Barton, the Right’s Favorite Teller of Historical Lies and Peddler of Bull

Last night, NPR’s All Things Considered aired an important story about one of the most dangerous people you’ve probably never heard of. His name is David Barton and he pretends to be a historian. In reality, he is an evangelical Christian activist and charlatan who has made a living out of trying to reinvent American history to “prove” that America is a “Christian nation”.

While you have most likely never heard of Barton, on the right and in certain segments of the evangelical community, he is a virtual rock star. Why do I say that Barton is dangerous? Because people believe the lies that he tells (for example, please see my post Cognitive Dissonance in Action) and, more importantly, they have been using those lies to shape our laws and society. Case in point is the recent textbook adoption process in Texas in which Barton was a star witness for those who sought to make drastic changes to the Texas history curriculum in a way makes the history of America far, far different both from what you learned in school and from what virtually all true historians will tell you. Or, as you can see if you watch one of the videos below, my own Congressman, Dan Burton (R-IN) has even quoted Barton’s falsehoods from the podium in the House of Representatives.

But Barton is an activist on a mission, so inconvenient facts don’t deter him at all.

Anyway, have a listen to the NPR story.

Also, at NPR’s site, there is an expanded text version of the story (well worth the read).

I want to make a few points that I’m not sure were made completely clear in the NPR story. First, though it is mentioned, I want to reiterate that the authors of the book Getting Jefferson Right (the takedown of Barton’s pseudo-history of Thomas Jefferson) are not far left liberals or Christian-hating atheists; rather, they are themselves conservative evangelical Christians.

The other point that I want to make is that, though Barton may have gathered 100,000 documents, he’s been caught, time and time again, either lying about what is in those documents, taking them wildly out of context, manipulating the quotations (a word change here or a sentence omitted there), changing dates, or simply making things up. His form of “history” seems to be simply holding up a piece of paper and saying, “Gee, this piece of paper proves what I’m saying,” without bothering to, you know, read and understand that piece of paper or show the actual document to those he’s trying to convince. Or, if he does show the document, he does so in a way that nobody can actually read the content of the document to compare what he claims is being said to what is, in fact, contained in the document.

Need an example? Watch Chris Rodda’s brilliant and detailed examination of one of Barton’s document-based lies:

How did Barton respond to Rodda’s takedown? Watch:

What? Did you think he’d admit that he’d lied or say, “Damn, you caught me?” Of course not. He’s not a real historian, but rather a charlatan and activist. So he doubles down (or worse)! He talks about “thousands of documents” failing to note, as Rodda did, that the documents he was describing were merely pre-printed forms that had specific language required by treaty. But the people who watch and love Glenn Beck and David Barton are not, I suspect, also watching and reading Chris Rodda (whose name, you’ll note, neither Beck nor Barton reference). And so people continue to believe Barton. Of course, those who do so seem to be the same people who don’t believe real science either (you know, like evolution and global warming). On the far right, facts don’t matter and lies win the day.

If you’re interested in more of this sort of thing, I highly recommend Rodda’s book Liars for Jesus, her website where she includes several more videos in which she takes on David Barton, and her Talk to Action blog. Or just watch a few more of them below:

Next time you hear someone talking about the United States being a “Christian nation” you will be a bit better armed to know truth from David Barton’s fiction.

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