It looks like we might not have seen the last of David Barton’s Lies About Jefferson, er… um…I mean…that is to say, The Jefferson Lies…after all. Barton, the guy who believes in telling lies to repurpose America’s history for a conservative agenda, is no doubt feeling smug today.
Publishers Weekly announced yesterday that “David Barton, author of The Jefferson Lies, which Thomas Nelson pulled from shelves last week, is in negotiations to publish a new edition of the book with Mercury Ink, Glenn Beck’s publishing arm.”
Okay, so it’s not one of the “two New York publishers ‘larger than Thomas Nelson'” he told CBN “who want to pick up his book” but it is a publisher, and one ideologically predisposed enough not to yank the chain on Barton’s flagrant dishonesty. After all, it is Glenn Beck who made an industry out of misrepresenting the views of Thomas Paine, the Christianity-hating radical liberal, and turning him into a flaming Tea Partier.
Leave it to Barton’s BFF to come to the rescue of the Alternative History genre so popular in conservative Christian circles:
Barton told PW he bought back around 17,000 copies of the current edition and will sell out of those before the publication of the new edition. He said Nelson would not give him the digital version: “They just pulled that down, and we are going to have to reconvert it if we want to sell an e-book” of the current edition; he added he has not yet decided whether to do that. “It depends on how quickly we think we can get the new edition out.”
Barton said the new edition “will not include any substantive changes, but I will rephrase some things to remove any potential confusion.” He also plans to add back some of the content Nelson cut in their editing process, and that in the process of reviewing the accusations made by his critics, “I have actually run across more supporting documents that strengthen my case, not weaken it.”
It’s impossible to imagine that Barton could solve the book’s manifest problems with a ”rephrase” here and there. As for running across more supporting documents, what Barton no doubt means is that he has found more things to take out of context and to cherry pick for supporting quotes, or thought of more lies of omission and commission he can commit in the cause of re-inventing Thomas Jefferson as an Evangelical Christian.
As you no doubt remember, Barton’s book met a storm of controversy even while climbing the New York Times bestseller list. Conservative Christians Throckmorton and Coulter wrote their book; Conservative Christian history professor John Fea and others all leapt to history’s defense, including actual Jefferson scholars. Barton’s fans said the criticism somehow proved Barton was right without criticism of his critics proven them right, and then Barton himself attacked all his critics personally, not by addressing the merits of the argument but with ad hominem attacks.
Then, just last week, Barton’s conservative Christian publisher, Thomas Norton, found his book deficient, pulled it from the shelves and stopped printing the distasteful bundle of lies. His latest move in defense of his discredited book was to accuse Throckmorton of not really being a conservative Christian at all, but a member of the liberal academic elite!
There is good news, however. The effort will likely spur actual historians, people who know what they’re talking about and who are more interested in the facts of history to write some really good (by that I mean accurate) stuff about our third president.
And Warren Throckmorton and Michael Coulter will have to revise their valuable antidote, Getting Jefferson Right, which to my mind isn’t a bad thing.
Sadly, nothing is going to cure the Bartonian disease afflicting conservative Christian Americans. They are completely sold on the idea that owning ten thousand documents bestows knowledge and expertise. It isn’t enough to actually read the documents yourself, even if you do have relevant degrees (unlike Barton’s “religious education” degree from ORU). People really have bought into Bartonism, lock, stock, and barrel and they defend him vociferously.
And as Throckmorton told Glenn Beck’s The Blaze last week, “Barton’s followers think that if you don’t agree with them then you’re against God and you’re a liberal person.” Conservative Christian pseudo-scholars insulate themselves against the world and from reality in the same way conservative Christianity insulates itself against those things, claiming somehow to be a religion of history while being immune to historical facts and the criticisms of historians.
Barton answers the call of culture warriors by providing them with a vindicatory alternative history that justifies their hated, fear, and bigotry. In reality, Barton is working in the field of religious education because religious education is exactly what he is attempting, albeit a highly dishonest religious education (sadly, nothing unheard of there). It is not history and can never be history. All success on the New York Times bestseller list confirms is that in America, even (perhaps particularly) the dishonest can prosper.
Top Image: The Blaze
Ignorant and Free Image by Hrafnkell Haraldsson
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.