Monday, May 17, 2010

#14: David Barton


We have mentioned the historical revisionists/reconstructionists before, but Barton is perhaps the most prominent advocate for religiously zealous, Orwellian reconstruction of American history to fit Christian fundamentalist ideals. Barton is a crank historian and Christian Nation apologist (and activist) and founder of Wallbuilders; has written extensively on the alleged religious fundamentalism of the founding fathers and the “true intent” of the constitution as a foundation for a theocracy. Has been caught lying, cherry-picking and fabricating material many, many times, as discussed here (in particular fabricating quotes he attribute to the founding fathers). Many of the alleged quotes have achieved lives of their own, even though Barton has admitted to lying.

More here and here.

The problem is that his writing has exerted profound influence over the Texas Board of Education and other radically religious curriculum builders. And of course, his ideological commitments ensure that he can say virtually whatever he wants without being called out by his allies.

Diagnosis: Liar and fraud, dishonest quack and zealot, and also a victim of severe confirmation bias. He has had a lot of influence however (Texas Board of Education, for instance) and must be ranked among the most dangerous, destructively influential forces of lunacy out there.

45 comments:

  1. Not to be an academic elitist or anything, but even on Wallbuilders, his own website, it says Barton is a 'self-proclaimed historian'. It's no wonder his work is so shoddy, with no relevant credentials. Apparently just claiming you're something has sway over some people...

    Speaking of which, I'm a self-proclaimed investment broker. You should give me your money for, um, investing!

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  2. Haha, to be fair the page I linked to is the "Right Wing Watch" page about Wallbuilders, not the actual Wallbuilders site. Unless it also says that on the Wallbuilders site? In which case, that is incredibly awesome.

    Anyway, I had no idea you were a self-proclaimed investment broker! Where do I send the check, and just how much of my money are you willing to invest?

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  3. Reginald SelkirkMay 23, 2010 at 12:53 PM

    Barton is a crack historian

    You misspelled crank.

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  4. Keeping up with Barton's lying, quote-mining and fact-twisting would be a full-time job. He seems, however, to have deteriorated to the point where he doesn't even seem to care to hide it. He knows he has no credibility among those who actually know anything, and he knows that his fan based on the extreme right is willing to accept whatever shit falls out of his mouth

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  5. I recommend this deconstruction of Barton's Stewart appearance in several parts.

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  6. A good primer on Barton's fraudulent revisions of history can be found here

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  7. Oh, hell. I can't leave him be. Here is Barton claiming that there is a "spiritual" solution to abortion and poverty because people of faith do not "choose to live in poverty." He claims that once poor people change their humanistic attitude that tolerates abortion, poverty will end. Seriously.

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  8. Ok. To clinch it, Barton is claiming that actual demonic powers are literally running rampant in the current government. There isn't really much left to say. Barton has fully embraced the crazy of Bryan Fischer and Tony Perkins, but is an even more hardcore religious fundamentalist than either (Barton, for instance, is more or less explicitly a dominionist). And that takes some work.

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  9. As mentioned, we are not going to keep track of Barton's antics. That would be a full time job (in fact, Chris Rhodda is thankfully taking on herself that task), to say the least. Barton is nothing if no productive, and just in the course of two days did he manage to spill at least this and this example of insanity, as well as some breathtaking displays of dishonesty. Here's an example of why he is so dangerous.

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  10. ... and from the department of alternative realities, we bring you this.

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  11. ... and one more: Barton spectacularly commits a naturalistic fallacy.

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  12. ... and this must be something of a record, even for Barton.

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  13. At least he gets slamdunked here, though he'll of course never admit as much.

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  14. And in yet another breathtaking display of wingnut stupid Barton blames the theory of evolution for the (state level) separation of church and state.

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  15. It is interesting that Barton doesn't even seem to care about hiding it anymore: He has come out as a pure Biblical literalist who rejects any scientific result that can be remotely interpreted as conflicting with a literal reading of any part of the Bible - and he rejects it precisely because it conflicts with a literal (that is "literal" - meaning reading the Bible so that it fully conforms to Barton's preconceptions about what it ought to say) of the Bible.

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  16. Now, this must surely count as among the most ridiculous things Barton has ever said. At least he does not have the faintest clue about American history, and he props up his ignorance with the most ridiculous glassy-eyed, evangelical explanatory attempt we have yet to see.

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  17. Here's Barton claiming that secular law leads to sharia, because he doesn't know how words work, what expressions mean, what distinguishes reasoning from delusional ranting, or (even cursorily) how reality is put together.

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  18. Chris Rodda has started a new series debunking Barton's newest book. You can read the first entry here.

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  19. And here is Barton claiming that schools don't teach his version of history because of evolution. Which would, of course, be an argument against him if it were true, but Barton doesn't quite manage to see it that way.

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  20. Barton is known to try to claim that it's not the religious right who is trying to institute a theocracy, but the liberals. His evidence, however, is more abysmally insane than you'd thought possible.

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  21. This illustrates fairly well the danger a complete loon like Barton pose to civilization.

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  22. Rightwingwatch has compiled the ten stupidest things said by David Barton. They've got plenty to choose from.

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  23. Barton has a new book out. As expected, it is an exercise in motivated reasoning from another world.

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  24. If there is anything that would match Barton’s delusional dishonesty (there are some insights into his research methodology here) it must be his delusions of grandeur.

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  25. Here Barton makes scientific predictions based on the Bible, while lamenting Obama’s lack of Christian faith. And as usual, the fact that people disagree with him is equivalent to Christians being persecuted.

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  26. Here, shockingly, is Barton caught blatantly lying again (also here). For some more examples of how Biblical principles are directly incorporated into the Constitution, see here.

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  27. Barton, in true, standard, conspiracy theorist vein (think Jeff Rense), thinks that the Obama administration allowed the Libya attacks in order to have an excuse to pass laws criminalizing criticism of Islam. One sometimes wonders what it is like to be so fully disassociated from reality.

    Well, one thing that helps is to realize that Barton isn’t really misunderstanding reality so much as not caring – this one, for instance, is a flat-out lie. And his repeated, ridiculously and obviously untrue assertions that the Constitution is full of direct quotations from the Bible are hardly anything but lies either.

    But OK. There is an element of complete lack of comprehension or ability to align one’s views with reality as well. Before the election, Barton was – like Beck and quite a number of wingnuts – pretty convinced that Mitt Romney was going to win in a landslide. Barton agreed, it seems, with Beck’s assertation that he would win in a landslide because the Tea Party and prayer rallies and conservative grassroots activism are all just like what the Founding Fathers did to create this nation, so “we are repeating all of the steps that it took for use to be free around the time of the Declaration of Independence.” Indeed.

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  28. This is what it looks like when Barton is arguing that liberalism destroys virtue. The point being that hate is a virtue while tolerance is a sin, and of course liberalism is opposed to hate and in favor of tolerance. As a consequence, Barton asserts that Christians have got to be “intolerant of liberalism”. Nice.

    Here is a math and reading comprehension lesson for Barton.

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  29. Barton has got some attention recently for his claim that there were no gun accidents during the found era. More debunking here.

    Now, after the Sandy Hook shootings a wide variety of measures have been suggested, some crazier than others. Barton's suggestion is in a class of its own, however. Barton's claims, apparently, that armed school children prevent school shootings, which I think even the dimmest fundie wingnut will recognize as probably not quite accurate.

    Staying with the same topic, Barton has also claimed that there should be no limits to the second amendment, meaning that as long as the government has access to nuclear arms, so should ordinary people.

    February is also Black history month. Barton's WallBuilders celebrate that by encouraging everyone to celebrate it buy purchasing a copy of David Barton's absurdly biased DVD "Setting the Record Straight: American History in Black & White". The scholarship is of course as rigorous as you'd expect from pseudohistorian Barton.

    There is a fine resource for debunking Barton's lies and pseudo history here, and some thorough debunking of Barton's book on the Second Amendment here.

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  30. Barton's been busy since the last update, particularly in just the last couple of weeks.

    Here is his claim that the game "Bioshock Infinite" is teaching kids to hate conservatives and Christians: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/barton-bioshock-infinite-teaching-kids-hate-conservatives-and-christians

    Here, Barton claims that decent people find homosexuality disgusting: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/barton-decent-people-find-homosexuality-absolutely-reprehensible-and-disgusting

    Here, Barton claims that the Democrats have Kermit Gosnell "wrapped around themselves": http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/barton-democrats-have-wrapped-kermit-gosnell-around-themselves

    Here, Barton "explains" why gay marriage is Unconstitutional, and he also throws in a non sequitur about drugs just for good measure: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/david-barton-cogently-explains-why-gay-marriage-unconstitutional

    Here, Barton says that Congress should encourage more people to be religious instead of passing Obamacare: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/barton-instead-passing-obamacare-congress-should-have-called-people-be-more-religious

    Here, Barton shatters every irony meter that ever existed: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/barton-conspiracy-mentalities-are-bad-deal

    For extra head-scratching, try reading his take on the Indian Wars: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/david-barton-explains-just-war-theory-we-had-destroy-indian-tribes-until-they-became-civiliz

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  31. Here is a portrait of a Barton supporter. Here is Barton trying to argue that rightwing vote rigging schemes actually give people a greater voice, presumably because they prevent the wrong people from voting.

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  32. Barton on why you can't drink Starbucks and be Biblically right. Here he lies again, in a manner that suggests that he doesn't even try to hide that he is lying anymore.

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  33. At least Barton doesn’t need either religion or the Bible to lie about gay marriage.

    And here he plays genuinely nonplussed about why his critics are so “angry”. Evidence of anger? They disagree with him.

    Otherwise, things go on as usual. Barton lies and tries to revise history. Here is a preview of the next volume of debunking Barton’s Jefferson lies. And here he claims that there has been no global warming for the last 16 years, a claim so often refuted that it starts to become silly. Barton presumably knows this, but that’s the whole idea behind revisionism: that if you just keep repeating the point, it will become true. For instance his mainstay claim that atheism is a religion and a violation of the separation of church and state, the latter being a separation he does not believe in anyways. He even tries to revise the history of his own revisionism. Despite the appalling lack of quality in his scholarship, however, Barton remains exceedingly popular among the religious right, including rightwingers in Congress.

    As already shown, Barton on science is generally if not always a dismal affair, and he seems to have a rather faulty idea of how science works. At least he baldly asserts that everything the Bible says will eventually be confirmed by science, which kinda reveals a rather unscientific attitude and at least shows (though it is not the most egregious thing the quote reveals) that Barton is quite happy that his beliefs at present are not scientifically based – contrary to what he seems to have claimed elsewhere.

    His attempt to argue that Glenn Beck isn’t really Mormon is mostly funny, however.

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  34. Barton continues to fight for (his own delusional take on) the Second Amendment, claiming that it guarantees individuals the rights to own tanks or fighter jets. At least he seems to have given up the idea of running for senator, an idea that made Glenn Beck all giddy. Indeed, even hardcore conservatives should presumably be a bit worried by a senator who actively supports Texas secessionists, even nominating them for the position of Texas attorney general.

    Here is more commentary on his fraudulent pseudo-history; of course, Barton doesn’t only lie about history to serve his political purposes; he also – blatantly – lies about the reception of his lies among those who actually know something about history. Those lies are probably related to his views on public schools, which are incoherent but at least seems to have something to do with ”Babylonian education”, whatever that is supposed to mean. He also lies some more about Obama, and it is pretty clear that he just doesn’t care one bit that his claims are obviously false or that he knows that they are false. But that’s not unexpected.

    As for global warming, he has recently tried to argue that “it’s not global warming; it’s God’s judgment. More precisely, Barton appears to believe that global temperatures are causally linked to the number of legal abortions.

    He did, though, get some flak for his claims, with televangelist fraud Kenneth Copeland, that veterans can’t have real PTSD because the Bible says they are heroes and ministers of God. After taking a lot of heat, he released a statement defending himself. The defense amounted to claiming that the criticism of him comes from evil liberals and therefore is invalid.

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  35. The Arguement is over just look at the Presidency of George Bush...WHATEVER THAT was:

    TOTALLY NOT
    WHAT THE FOUNDERS HAD IN MIND

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