Fake US history is an enormous problem - roughly 1/2 of Americans believe in some version of the "Christian Nation" historical mythology.
Help us fight it :
David Barton, called one of the most influential American evangelical leaders, is the king of falsified American history.
My colleague (and fellow Military Religious Freedom Foundation researcher) Chris Rodda, author of Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version Of American History has written a review of David Barton's "magnum opus", "Original Intent".
With an account at Amazon.com, which requires no more than a name an and email address, you can vote on Chris Rodda's review of David Barton's "Original Intent". Indeed, if you have read Barton's book you can write your own review.
"Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts." - Daniel Patrick Moynihan
The Christian right's falsified version of US history, designed to undermine the case for separation of church and state, has moved into the US mainstream and been featured in PBS documentaries, cited on the US Senate floor in debates, and aired in USA Today op-ed columns.
Last week, I made a Daily Kos post, entitled New Fake History Guru Stephen Mansfield Just Makes Sh*t Up, about the new book, "Ten Tortured Words: How the Founding Fathers Tried to Protect Religion in America and What's Happened Since" by "The Faith Of George W. Bush" author, bestselling NYT writer Stephen Mansfield.
Case Study: Daily Kos Helps Fight Stephen Mansfield's Historical Revisionism: Chris Rodda wrote a review of Mansfield's new book, and following my recommended Daily Kos post on the subject, Chris' review received close to 700 recommendations and is now by far the most highly rated review of Mansfield's new book. [image, right: Chris Rodda scrutinizes Stephen Mansfield's and David Barton's falsified US history]
Many others, including a number of practicing historians, wrote their own (scathing) reviews of Mansfield's book, too, and the Amazon rating of Mansfield's book has dropped from 4 stars to 2 stars. A few days ago, Mansfield was on "Book TV" twice in one day, in favorable time slots to plug his new book. Regardless of the promo though, Mansfield's book only got a bump up to about 1300 on it's Amazon popularity rating. So, I guess word is getting out that Mansfield "just makes sh*t up".
Here's an excerpt from Chris Rodda's Amazon review of Mansfield's book:
From a Review of Stephen Mansfield's "Ten Tortured Words..."
"Ten Tortured Words... surpassed even my lowest expectations.
When I got the book, the first thing I did was turn it over to read the description on the back of its jacket, which begins:
"It was the steamy summer of 1787, as America's founding fathers fashioned their Constitution, they told the most powerful institution in their new nation what it must not do:
'CONGRESS SHALL MAKE NO LAW RESPECTING AN ESTABLISHMENT OF RELIGION.'"
What??? This seems to be saying that the First Amendment was written in 1787 at the Constitutional Convention. I must have misread this, I thought, and proceeded to reread it several times. No, I read it right the first time. It really does say that the First Amendment was written at the Constitutional Convention. My next thought was that this jacket text wasn't written by Stephen Mansfield himself, but by some history ignoramus at the publishing company. Mansfield, a New York Times best-selling author, writing an entire book on the First Amendment, couldn't possibly be unaware that this amendment was written two years later by the first Congress." - from a review of "Ten Tortured Words....", by Chris Rodda, author of Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version Of American History
Here's Chris Rodda's second installment of her ongoing review of Stephen Mansfield's dubious history in his new book "Ten Tortured Lies..."
In my own review of the book, I mused :
How does it happen that an author who seems to lack basic understanding of American history, whose latest book cites fraudulent "founding father" quotes, conflates The Constitutional Convention with the Continental Congress, and contains multiple, contradictory accounts of the same historical event, rise to such a level of prominence as Stephen Mansfield ?
Here's the answer - Americans with an informed understanding of the origins of US government have long ignored the rise of the sort of pseudohistorical account Mansfield and othes ply. As a result, the "Christian Nation" account of the founding of American government has spread to the point that it threatens to become the dominant historical narrative.
Many American political progressives now recognize that the Christian right effort to subvert science to be a major threat, but a similar effort to subvert American history has been underway probably longer;
The falsified view that the US was founded as a Christian nation is part of a broader narrative of political complaint, used to demonize the US left and Amricans who support secular government, in which social ills alleged to have beset America in the latter half of the 20th Century are said to have happened because America "walked away from God and the Bible", through the Everson Supreme Court decision or later, through court decisions in the early 1960's preventing the sectarian teaching of the Bible in public schools.
Belief that America's "Godly heritage" has been subverted by nefarious "secularists" and that a wide range of evil consequences have ensued powers the American Christian right as a political movement.
Here's the opening of Chris Rodda's review of David Barton's Original Intent
"Because the portrayal of history so affects current policy, some groups have found it advantageous to their political agenda to distort historical facts intentionally. Those particularly adept at this are termed 'revisionists.'"
Who wrote these words? David Barton, in the foreword to Original Intent. And, Barton has certainly proved this statement to be true. No group has found it more advantageous to their political agenda to have "revisionists" as adept as himself on their side than the religious right.
In Chapter 16 of Original Intent, "Revisionism: A Willing Accomplice," Barton, after defining "historical revisionism" as "a process by which historical fact is intentionally ignored, distorted, or misportrayed in order to maneuver public opinion toward a specific political agenda or philosophy," goes on to present and provide examples of nine methods employed by those who he accuses of being the "revisionists."
- The Use of Patent Untruths
- The Use of Overly Broad Generalizations
- The Use of Omission
- The Use of Insinuations and Innuendos
- Impugning Morality
- The Use of "Faction"
- The Use of "Psychohistory" and "Psychobabble"
- A Failure to Account for Etymology
- A Lack of Primary Source References
But, in order to conjure up examples of the use of these methods by others, Barton, as he does throughout his book, uses most of them himself. For his examples of "The Use of Patent Untruths," he uses three of them -- "A Lack of Primary Source References," "The Use of Omission," and...well..."The Use of Patent Untruths."
From "Revisionism: A Willing Accomplice," Chapter 16 of Original Intent:
"1. The Use of Patent Untruths
The use of untruths was one of the earliest tools effectively employed by revisionists. For example, Robert Ingersoll, a well known political lecturer of the 1880s and 1890s, falsely declared:
'[O]ur forefathers retired God from politics....The Declaration of Independence announces the sublime truth that all power comes from the people. This was a denial, and the first denial of a nation, of the infamous dogma that God confers the right upon one man to govern others....Our fathers founded the first secular government that was ever founded in this world.'"
Barton's Ingersoll "quote" is created by starting with the opening statement of Ingersoll's Centennial Oration, a speech about the Declaration of Independence, delivered in Peoria, Illinois on July 4, 1876:
"One hundred years ago, our fathers retired the gods from politics.."(1)
Then taking this sentence from a lecture on Individuality, presented by Ingersoll in 1873, three years before his Centennial Oration:
"The Declaration of Independence announces the sublime truth, that all power comes from the people. This was a denial, and the first denial of a nation, of the infamous dogma that God confers the right upon one man to govern others. It was the first grand assertion of the dignity of the human race. It declared the governed to be the source of power, and in fact denied the authority of any and all gods. Through the ages of slavery -- through the weary centuries of the lash and chain, God was the acknowledged ruler of the world. To enthrone man, was to dethrone God."(2)
And, finally, going back to the 1876 Centennial Oration for the last sentence:
"Our fathers founded the first secular government that was ever founded in this world. Recollect that. The first secular government; the first government that said every church has exactly the same rights, and no more; every religion has the same rights, and no more. In other words, our fathers were the first men who had the sense, who had the genius, to know that no church should be allowed to have a sword; that it should be allowed only to exert its moral influence."(3)
note: I am not an historian nor do I claim to be one or to write works of history. Nor do I play an historian on Television. I did, however, co-found Talk To Action with Frederick Clarkson. I do not fish for trout, mainly because Trout tend to have high levels of Mercury. But I do enjoy Ping-Pong. This post is based on the historical research of Chris Rodda, who is an historian and does write substantial (to say the least) works of history. While Rodda takes great pains to write accurate history, in covering her work I sometimes make mistakes and, when I do so, am glad to stand corrected. Because, facts matter - Bruce Wilson