In the category of well-deserved: Christian news site World reported on August 9th that “The Thomas Nelson publishing company has decided to cease publication and distribution of David Barton’s controversial book, The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed about Thomas Jefferson, saying it has ‘lost confidence in the book’s details.'”
And they were good at their word. By Friday morning, it was gone from Thomas Nelson’s online store. You can still find it on Amazon.com and WallBuilders is still selling it (at a discount), but it will soon be a collector’s item for the delusional. Even the e-book got axed. According to The Tennessean, “The publisher hasn’t decided what to do with the recalled books.”
I’m sure we could come up with a few ideas.
I mean, ouch, that’s gotta hurt! This is a burn. Barton, after all, is the guy Mike Huckabee said we all ought to be forced to listen to at gun point:
Up until now Barton has enjoyed an almost unbroken string of successes, with politicians like Huckabee and Bachmann in his pocket and extremist buzz-jock Glenn Beck his loudest supporter, not to mention palling around with former child star and current crazy, Kirk Cameron. And now his own Christian publisher has deep-sixed him. That’s right: his Christian publisher. If you look at some of the books Thomas Nelson publishes, you’ll realize what a big deal this is.
According to World,
Thomas Nelson describes itself as “the world’s largest Christian publisher and one of the largest trade publishers in the United States.” (Last month, HarperCollins Publishers closed a deal to acquire Thomas Nelson.)
Of course, that a secular publisher now owns Thomas Nelson will be a cause for some speculation among the faithful, that it was canceled not for inaccuracies but because it was too accurate.
Barton, of course, pretends to be mystified:
Barton told me that he regards Thomas Nelson’s decision as a “strange scenario.” He added that the press has not tried to engage him about the ostensible problems in the book, and that Thomas Nelson officials simply notified him by email that they were stopping publication.
He is also not advertising the debacle on his WallBuilders site – no mention of it along with all the other “news” he deems worthy to print.
To be fair, we’re not talking about a few problems Barton could have cleared up with a couple taps of the keyboard. He would have had to re-write the entire book, from its flawed thesis and fabricated details to it’s twisted conclusion.
His book was under attack from Day One, not only by Throckmorton and Coulter this spring (though By May 13, 2012 it had made The New York Times Best-Sellers list) but by John Fea, a conservative historian and by others both left and right. His supporters claimed that criticism proved Barton was right and Barton himself responding not by arguing the merits of his thesis but by attacking his critics as liberal elitists – even his conservative critics, people who by and large share his worldview.
Then in a mid-July poll taken by History News Network, his book won the dubious distinction of being named the ”least credible history work in print.” And that was followed by NPR’s blistering profile of the liar on All Things Considered just the other day.
Warren Throckmorton’s response was, ”Wow, I think they did the right thing.” He can probably give his fingers a well-earned rest now and power to him. For his part, Barton says of Throckmorton ”This is one of the cases where he is just nuts.”
By far the most hilarious reaction to the cancellation was that noted by The Tennessean:
Janice Johnson, who “said she’s heard Barton speak a number of times and bought an audio book copy of “The Jefferson Lies” on CD, hoped “the current controversy won’t undermine his credibility.”
“It’s bad because it’s not typical of him,” she said. “He’s usually so rock solid on history.”
Yeah…good luck with that, Janice.
World reports that according to “Casey Francis Harrell, Thomas Nelson’s director of corporate communications,” the publishing house “was contacted by a number of people expressing concerns about [The Jefferson Lies].”
To their credit (but probably by and large due to the growing chorus of conservative criticism of the book of lies), Thomas Nelson “began to evaluate the criticisms, Harrell said, and “in the course of our review learned that there were some historical details included in the book that were not adequately supported. Because of these deficiencies we decided that it was in the best interest of our readers to stop the publication and distribution.”
“Not adequately supported” is a nice way of saying it was a wholly dishonest portrayal of Thomas Jefferson, a collection of lies of both commission and omission all strung together by wishful thinking.
Clearly, the faithful won’t abandon David Barton over this setback – a glance at comments on various sites will serve as proof of that, as this comment will attest: “PRAISE GOD DAVID HAS MANY MORE SUPPORTERS THAN CRITICS. THE HOLY SPIRIT WILL LEAD ALL OF US INTO ALL TRUTH.”
That sort always write in caps. Let’s face it: there will always be those who think dishonesty is the way to go and Barton is far from alone in pushing this revisionist, non-historical agenda, a world where lies somehow serve truth. Paul Harvey at Religion Dispatches asks if Barton is falling from grace but I don’t think that’s possible
But that so many conservative figures had begun to speak out against the book doesn’t bode well for Bartonism as a whole. And now that he has had his book pulled by his publisher, what’s next for America’s least favorite pseudo-historian? Surely anything else he writes will have to be more carefully vetted by any publisher going forward, though he can always go back to the self-publishing route.
Of course, Barton is claiming over at ever-reliable conservative Christian propaganda source CBN (at least they stopped short of calling him a ‘historian’) that “he’s now in talks with two New York publishers ‘larger than Thomas Nelson’ who want to pick up his book.” It will surprise no one to learn that “When CBN News asked Barton if he plans to make any corrections to the work he said that he’s disproved all the major claims against it that he’s aware of.”
At this point there is nothing else Barton can do but stand by his lies. If ever there was a classic case of DIY martyrdom, you’re seeing it in David Barton. And the one certainty in all this is that this won’t be the last we hear of it – or him. Not as long as there are people who value belief about facts over the facts themselves.
Image from CBN
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.