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History Mangled in Public

History: On learning from and writing history

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Mar 12, 2011, 12:37pm Top

Hey folks,
How about a thread that captures reports of public figures mangling historical data in public?

I'll start:
Michelle Bachman (R-MN)
"What I love about New Hampshire and what we have in common is our extreme love for liberty... You're the state where the shot was heard around the world in Lexington and Concord. And you put a marker in the ground and paid with the blood of your ancestors the very first price that had to be paid to make this the most magnificent nation that has ever arisen in the annals of man in 5,000 years of recorded history."


Double faux pas: Confusing NH with MA in NH while praising something that happened in MA. Ouch.


Mar 12, 2011, 1:11pm Top

I have a feeling that using only Michelle Bachman examples would provide enough posts to continue this thread indefinitely.

Mar 18, 2011, 12:30pm Top

>1 JFCooper:
Heard that on NPR the other day, and couldn't believe that she referenced it again later in her speech and didn't correct herself. I am sure the other Tea Party members are so proud of her.

>2 beelzebubba:
Too true!

I have a feeling that there are many politicians who flubber in public, but I have to say celebrities are always showing their ignorance about history/geography

Here are a few I found:

«The Holocaust was an obscene period in our nation's history. I mean in this century's history. But we all lived in this century. I didn't live in this century.»
- Dan Quayle, former U.S. Vice-President

«Facts are stupid things.»
- Ronald Reagan, Former U.S. President

“I love California, I practically grew up in Phoenix.” - Dan Quayle, former U.S. Vice-President

“The cool thing about being famous is traveling. I have always wanted to travel across seas, like to Canada and stuff.” - Britney Spears, Really Annoying Singer

"I really dig Hannibal. Hannibal had real guts. He rode elephants into Cartilage." - Mike Tyson, former Boxing Heavy Weight Champion

"I pray Egypt maintains it's sic treaty with Israel and sets the trend for its neighbors to create peace with Israel and the entire region." - Lindsay Lohan, Washed-Up Actress

“I can see Russia from my house.” - Sarah Palin

“I didn’t go down there with any plan for the Americas, or anything. I went down there to find out from them and their views. You’d be surprised. They’re all individual countries.” - Ronald Reagan, former U.S. President

Mar 18, 2011, 1:28pm Top

Given the contrast in the education most on the list received and the education Mike Tyson was given the fact that he correctly associated Hannibal, elephants and a word that sounds like Carthage he looks like he is eligible for MENSA.

Where did you find the Reagan "Facts are stupid things" quote? I am working on a project where it would really fit.

Mar 18, 2011, 1:30pm Top

haha! I was just about to post that amongst that group, I would bet Tyson to be the most intelligent!

Mar 18, 2011, 2:47pm Top

>1 JFCooper:

Bachman is even scarier if you're from Minnesota.

Edited: Mar 18, 2011, 2:58pm Top

> 4

RE: Reagan

Apparently he meant to quote John Adams, who said "Facts are stubborn things", but he misspoke and immediately corrected himself.

Full text of speech.

Relevant portion:
Before we came to Washington, Americans had just suffered the two worst back-to-back years of inflation in 60 years. Those are the facts. And as John Adams said, "Facts are stubborn things."

Interest rates had jumped to over 21 percent - the highest in 120 years - more than doubling the average monthly mortgage payments for working families, our families. When they sat around the kitchen table, it was not to plan summer vacations, it was to plan economic survival. Facts are stubborn things. Industrial production was down, and productivity was down for two consecutive years.

The average weekly wage plunged 9 percent. The median family income fell 5 1/2 percent. Facts are stubborn things. Our friends on the other side had actually passed the single highest tax bill in the 200-year history of the United States. Auto loans, because of their policies, went up to 17 percent - so our great factories began shutting down. Fuel costs jumped through the atmosphere, more than doubling. Then people waited in gas lines as well as unemployment lines.

Facts are stupid things - stubborn things, I should say.

Edited: Mar 18, 2011, 6:08pm Top

>4 TLCrawford:
You might be interested in There He goes Again: Ronald Reagan's Reign of Error by Mark Green and Gail MacColl and Green's follow-up pamphlet, To Err Is Reagan.

*damn touchstones*

Mar 18, 2011, 6:28pm Top

I was kinda hoping we could...
a) keep the examples to history, rather than geography or another subject.
b) keep the examples to people who should know better.

Mike Tyson is a celebrity/former boxer. I really can't see how his historical errors harm anything. Same with the young ladies who are too young to really care about History and whether or not people think they have something other than a pretty voice or a pretty face to offer.

On the other hand, I think Reagan gets a bad rap in terms of his intellect. He was a very smart guy. But if he made public Historical errors we should have them here.


Edited: Apr 12, 2011, 4:15pm Top

>young ladies who are too young to really care about History and whether or not people think they have something other than a pretty voice or a pretty face to offer.

Perhaps I'm misreading you here? My infant interests were Egyptology and paleoanthropology, and I'm not sure I ever fussed over my "pretty face" more than an interesting tomb (not that the face deserved it, particularly).

I do agree that being a pop star, male or female, doesn't require a deep understanding of history or geography.

Apr 26, 2011, 10:33am Top

An excerpt from:
Meet the Religious Right Charlatan Who Teaches Tea Party America The Totally Pretend History They Want to Hear

David Barton, Glenn Beck’s favorite history “professor,” is the creator and purveyor of a revisionist history of race in America that is rapidly gaining traction in conservative and Tea Party circles. That history, drawn in part from the writings of Christian Reconstructionists, recasts modern-day Republicans as the racially inclusive party, and modern-day Democrats as the racists supportive of slavery and post-Emancipation racist policies.

Barton frames the details for maximum impact on contemporary politics, to an increasingly growing audience. Like Barton’s larger revisionist effort to develop and perpetuate the narrative that America is a “Christian nation,” the “Republicans-are-really-the-party-of-racial-equality” narrative is not entirely fictive. Some historical points Barton makes are true; but he and his star pupil Beck manipulate those points along with false historical claims in order to promote their political agenda.

Apr 27, 2011, 11:35am Top

At one time the Republicans were the party of racial equality but that changed long ago. IMHO the spectacle of historians who tell people what they want to hear with no regard for the truth to gain popularity is truly disgusting.
I wonder how those who try to portray America as a "Christian nation" explain the attitude of George Washington toward organized religion. Two small examples. When Washington was in Philadelphia for the Constitutional Convention he went to church a total of seven times in four months. When he died he lay ill with an inflamed epiglottis or quinsy and never requested the services of a minister. Like many of the other founders he was a deist who according to the Wikipedia never took communion.

Apr 27, 2011, 12:48pm Top

The Republican Party is not racist. All the National party cares about is how much money you have.

If you are not rich all they are interested in is how can they use you to benefit those who are rich.

Some will say the same about the Democratic Party and, at this time, can not argue with them.

Apr 27, 2011, 7:03pm Top

May 3, 2011, 3:51pm Top

>11 Urquhart:-14
The creation of that inclusionist narrative, for the sake of Republican victories, was under way by 2000. As already noted, the story does rest on some historical facts. In the single-pary South, the Democrats were the party of white supremacy. At the 2000 Republican National Convention, Condolleezza Rice gave a very effective speech recounting her father’s experience of being excluded from the polls by Democrats, but finding a political home with Alabama’s few Republicans. I can still remember the look of joy on some delegates’ faces as the camera panned through the hall. You could see their relief as they were invited, by a black woman, to shrug off the burden of racial guilt — and to place it on the backs of Democrats, where it belonged all along.

It’s not hard to see why the narrative is so attractive. It gives white Republicans permission to stop privately worrying about race, without changing their thoughts or behavior in any significant way. It also gives them permission to brand their opponents as hypocritical racists.

May 19, 2011, 8:55am Top

Tea Party GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann thinks founding fathers ended slavery


May 19, 2011, 9:02am Top

Wait... but... I'm not even American and I know those timelines are off. Man.

May 19, 2011, 3:15pm Top

Doris Kearns Goodwin says no U.S. combat deaths under Eisenhower. She did later acknowledge her mistake.


Jun 6, 2011, 9:50pm Top

Yep. She's a one-celebrity History wrecking crew.
The woman puts her foot in her mouth so much that she can tie her shoe laces over her real tongue.


Jun 7, 2011, 9:08am Top

I could not believe the historians falling over themselves to say she was right. Paul Revere's intention was not to warn the British that Colonial forces were forming to stop them which is what she was saying.

Do they think that by bowing to the radical right's ignorance they can stop the attacks on education?

Jun 7, 2011, 9:39am Top

I can just see Paul Revere surrounded by a group of armed British soldiers telling them "I am warning you, I have alerted the Americans and we are going to kill you." Then the British say " All right mate" and let him ride away. The Department of Common Sense must be closed for repair.

Jun 7, 2011, 10:10am Top

According to one historian I heard yesterday Revere did, after being captured and with a gun to his head, tell the British officer that he had alerted the Colonial forces. Nothing was said about when he was released.

I think the entire issue was caused by stretching the truth to accommodate the National Rifle(manufactures) Association.

Jun 7, 2011, 10:43am Top

I read somewhere (Wikipedia?) that, after being captured, he gave the British some (mis?)information about the location of the militia, hoping to influence their movements away from certain areas. However, that's not the same thing as intentionally riding all over the countryside telling the British that they can't take American guns away because the rebels have a well-armed militia. That interpretation exists only in Palin's head.

Edited: Jun 7, 2011, 3:39pm Top

It's sort of like an American 1066 and All That in real time, only less funny.

ETA: It gets better: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/06/sarah-palin-paul-revere-wikipedia_n_871...

Jun 30, 2011, 7:10pm Top

Michelle Bachman is no dummy. I have a feeling that she's mangling history on purpose. It gives her a small, pointless bone of contention with the standard news media. This allows her to separate herself from the "elite" and advances her efforts to appear either a victim of elites or a champion of people who wish to support historical interpretations that cannot be supported with facts (but only on faith).

Still she's sacrificing legitimate and accepted interpretations for political gain and the result is that Americans' ability to think citrtically, interpret events, and analyze data is continuing to erode.


Jun 30, 2011, 8:16pm Top

Am I correct that the following somehow rhymes with Ronald Reagan's approach?....

Today, 7:10pm
Michelle Bachman is no dummy. I have a feeling that she's mangling history on purpose. It gives her a small, pointless bone of contention with the standard news media. This allows her to separate herself from the "elite" and advances her efforts to appear either a victim of elites or a champion of people who wish to support historical interpretations that cannot be supported with facts (but only on faith).

Still she's sacrificing legitimate and accepted interpretations for political gain and the result is that Americans' ability to think citrtically, interpret events, and analyze data is continuing to erode.


Jun 30, 2011, 11:28pm Top

Hmmm. Well, yeah.
Reagan talked a good Conservative Christian game, but he was very liberal by today's Christian Conservative standards. I like to think that Reagan knew how to play the game, and that a lot of what he said was purposeful BS.

Michelle Bachman is the same way, except she is a LOT less endearing, amusing, charismatic, or likeable.


Jul 1, 2011, 9:37am Top

Regean was a great actor. His handlers were brilliantly cynical and knew exactly what they were doing when they had him announce his candidacy in Neshoba County, Mississippi where the Freedom Summer workers Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner were murdered, with a speech on “states rights”. The racist message immediately won over many lifelong Democrats, like my father, to the Republican Party because of their support for “law and order”. Remember Neshoba County law enforcement was implicated in the murders.

Regean, like any good actor, hit his mark and remembered his lines and as long as his handlers did not tell him why he was saying something he could deny any bad intentions because he did not know what anything meant.

Aug 2, 2011, 4:44pm Top

Good article. Forced family breakups have been the root cause for fleeing to freedom in every slave narrative I have read.

Aug 3, 2011, 8:17am Top

I have always wondered how the lack of family structure in slave society relates to the problems experienced in black families today. That culture existed for two hundred years or so and must have left some type of residual impact.

Aug 3, 2011, 8:44am Top

After the US Civil War thousands of newly freed citizens took to the road to reunite their families. The Freedman's Bureau assisted buy maintaining lists of who was looking for who. Similar to what we now do after a disaster.

Government policies from the 1970s worked to destroy the "traditional" family unit. If a man lost his job his family was not eligible for assistance as long as he lived there. The American government is convinced that every citizen's primary goal is to leach off of society so they make it as distasteful as possible. When it comes down to your entire family being homeless or just you being homeless what would you do?

Look at the family structures in pockets of rural poverty and you will find the same issues that exist in urban poverty areas. The only differences are the peoples complexions.

Aug 9, 2011, 9:47am Top

> Could I sue, "David Barton, Glenn Beck’s favorite history" for the misuse of my name?


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