Not too long ago, I received an email from someone demanding to know why I constantly referred to David Barton of WallBuilders as a “pseudo-historian” instead of a “historian,” given that he has copious original documents to back of his assertions.
I wrote back to explain that I call Barton a “pseudo-historian” not because he gets his history factually wrong (though he does that, too) but because he uses his history selectively to present a warped and biased view designed specifically to bolster his right-wing political agenda.
Whereas historians examine past events in order to present a coherent and comprehensive explanation of those event, Barton filters history through his own narrow ideology and highlights only those things that support his overall conservative political agenda.
I actually wrote a report about this tactic several years back that examined Barton’s “Setting the Record Straight: American History in Black and White” DVD, in which he recounted the Democratic Party’s historical hostility to African Americans and insinuated throughout that similarly racist views are still held by the party today. Barton ran through a litany of Democratic sins – ranging from slavery to Jim Crow to segregation to the Ku Klux Klan – while praising the Republican Party as the party of abolition and civil rights … until his history lesson suddenly ended after the Civil Rights Act of 1965.
Barton made absolutely no mention of the political transformation that overtook the country following the passage of this legislation or the rise of the Republican Party’s “Southern Strategy.” Instead, it simply concluded with Barton telling his audience that African Americans cannot be bound blindly to one party or the other, but must cast their votes based on the “standard of biblical righteousness … the principles of Christianity … and an awareness that voters will answer to God for their vote.”
I also posted a video containing excerpts from the DVD to demonstrate exactly how Barton misleadingly uses this history to support the Republican Party:
So imagine my surprise when I saw this quote from Barton praising the new textbook standards in Texas (which, not insignificantly, he helped to draft):
Defenders of the new social studies standards just passed by the Texas SBOE say it will encourage students to go back to the Constitution and First Amendment to learn about religious freedom. WallBuilders founder and president David Barton was among the six advisers the Board brought in to help rewrite the standards.
“You should present history has it happened — the good, the bad, the ugly; the right, the left, the center; the anything else that is out there,” argues the Christian historian. “And I think that’s the final product that we got, despite all the media clamor to the otherwise. When you just read the standards, they’re extremely balanced, extremely fair, and extremely thorough.”
Presenting a balanced, fair, and thorough look at history is exactly the opposite of what Barton does, which is precisely why he has recently become Glenn Beck’s go-to historian. Incidentially, Chris Rodda has a great new piece up debunking Barton’s favorite shtick of pulling out a rare Bible printed in 1782 by Philadelphia printer Robert Aitken and claiming that it was printed by Congress for the use of schools. Among all the other useful information the piece contains is evidence Barton’s ties to Beck are really starting to pay off, at least in terms of book sales:
Needless to say, Beck and his audience are just eating this stuff up. Barton’s appearances on Beck’s show have propelled his fifteen-year-old book of historical hogwash, Original Intent, to bestseller status, reaching as high as #6 on Amazon. Right now, as I sit here writing this post, this masterpiece of historical revisionism is ludicrously, and alarmingly, holding the #1 spot in the category of “Constitutional Law.”