Right Wing Watch caught David Barton, former Texas Republican party co-chair, christian nationalist and revisionist historian, telling whoppers as usual. He also sought to use a quote from Booker T. Washington in a rather self-serving manner, claiming that people on welfare must not read the bible enough, or else they'd want to work harder. The same old welfare stereotype that Republicans have been abusing since welfare existed, I suppose.
There is a problem, however, with holding up an authority figure and quoting them as axiomatic, as if their sayings are self-evident truths. Could come back to bite you.
For anyone asking who the hell is David Barton, some background information:
A 2005 Time magazine article entitled "The 25 Most Influential Evangelicals" called Barton "a major voice in the debate over church-state separation" who, despite the fact that "many historians dismiss his thinking... [is] a hero to millions—including some powerful politicians." He has been described as a Christian nationalist and "one of the foremost Christian revisionist historians"; much of his work is devoted to advancing the idea, based upon research that many historians describe as flawed, that the United States was founded as an explicitly Christian nation. Barton has appeared on television and radio programs, including those of former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and Glenn Beck, who has praised Barton as "the Library of Congress in shoes".Of course, the article also cites the NYT, mentioning professional historians who characterize Barton as a "biased amateur" and a cherry-picker of history and the bible. I guess this ties into the latest news nicely.
Barton's latest whoppers as reported by Right Wing Watch are from "WallBuilders Live," where he claimed one of the top law schools in the nation was at Liberty University, Jerry Falwell's college for training evangelicals. The apparent problem with this claim was the demonstrable reality as reported by RWW.
Every year, US News and World Report produces a list of the best law schools in America that ranks the top 150 schools and Liberty University Law School was ranked number "Rank Not Published," meaning it didn't even qualify among the top 150. Thus, it is a little hard to understand how it could be considered one of the top law schools in the nation when it doesn't even make the list of top law schools in the nation.And that's bad enough, BSing about Right-Wing U. as if it's some great school when it's not. Of course they would praise their indoctrination centers. But then there was the piece about welfare, when Barton quoted Booker T. Washington, just because it "makes perfect sense" to him. Here is Right Wing Watch, quoting Barton:
Wouldn't it be interesting to do a study between those that are on welfare and see how much and how often they read the Bible. You know, if Booker T. Washington is right that Christianity and reading the Bible increases your desires and therefore your ability for hard work; if we take that as an axiom, does that mean that the people who are getting government assistance spend nearly no time in the Bible, therefore have no desire, and therefore no ability for hard work? I could go a lot of places with this. I would love to see this proven out in some kind of sociological study, but it makes perfect sense.Now, I don't know why David Barton would find virtue in an activity that increases one's desires, synonymous with coveting; something I seem to recall is thought to be bad in the bible, don't they stick it on monuments all over the South? Yes, it seems as if Barton is aware of those. To the point that he compared the crowd protecting Roy Moore's monument to the civil rights activists of the 1960s. Feh.
Anyway, it can be problematic to find some figure of authority, real or imagined, and call what they say axiomatic. As a skeptic, I've learned to expect human beings to be imperfect, that folks can be really right about one thing and extremely wrong about something else. Christopher Hitchens and his Iraq war support, for example. Perhaps the same might be said of Booker T. Washington, but I don't know enough about him to say. What I've read today, about his differences with the NAACP over how best to advance the cause of civil rights, has been an interesting read.
I don't know if Washington would have approved of this sort of...use...of his sayings. If I were to use David Barton's standard of evidence ("it makes perfect sense"), maybe it just makes sense to me that a fellow like Booker T. Washington wouldn't dismiss everyone who failed to pore over the bible as a bunch of unrepentant slackers. Then again, I didn't actually find the quote Barton cited, so should I trust a revisionist historian?
When it comes to his quoted works, however, it's not hard to find other quotations of Booker T. Washington and just wonder if David Barton would find them worthy of being called axioms. Having read some today, I'm just going to offer my personal favorite. It seems pertinent today in this age of unbridled corporate influence and vulture capitalism.
In any country, regardless of what its laws say, wherever people act upon the idea that the disadvantage of one man is the good of another, there slavery exists. Wherever, in any country the whole people feel that the happiness of all is dependent upon the happiness of the weakest, there freedom exists.In closing, I noticed that I'm not the only one who wrote something disparaging of David Barton by documenting his penchant for revisionist history. A few more whoppers are mentioned here. It's interesting to consider the alternate reality built and maintained for the benefit of such deluded believers, Fox 'news' enthusiasts and right-wing radio fans. Barton is surely one of the architects of this Bizarro world, and they love him for it.
"An Address on Abraham Lincoln before the Republican Club of New York City" (1909-02-12)