Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Texas Freedom Network on David Barton:

Check out this site which links to a pdf file by the Texas Freedom Network discussing 1) just how much of a huckster and intellectual fraud David Barton is, and 2) sadly his malign influence on the GOP in general and the Texas GOP in particular. (As the article notes, Barton has served as the vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party since 1997.)

See Chapter 4: David Barton: Amateur Historian, Professional Propagandist.

When reviewing Barton's work, however, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that he is a pseudointellectual fraud whose twisted interpretations of history are little more than propaganda that often dances on the edge between fact and fiction. In the first place, information about Barton's academic career is a bit fuzzy. His biography on the WallBuilders Web site (as of February 2006) notes that he holds a Bachelor of Arts (the field is not specified) from Oral Roberts University and an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Pensacola Christian College. Apparently, an earlier version of the biography noted that Barton's degree was in religious education and that he taught math and science after college.44 Nowhere does he note any formal academic training in historical research....

One problem is Barton's tendency to invent causal links where actual research shows none. Barton claims, for example, that the mandate to write his first book, America: To Pray Or Not To Pray? (1988) came directly from God. God, he says, asked him to research a connection between the removal of state-mandated prayer in public schools by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1962 and 1963 and the drop in SAT scores.47 Claiming to find such a cause-effect relationship, Barton proceeded to blame decades of social problems on an overactive judiciary. "We could correlate that when the court made certain decisions on values, we would see subsequent corresponding changes in societal indicators," Barton wrote in an article for a Christian Coalition newsletter. "Like when you took the Ten Commandments out, violent crime went up." 48 That astonishing leap of logic finds no support outside social conservative circles.

The article then goes on to discuss Barton's phony quotations (which Ed Brayton and I have discussed many times on our blogs) from our Founding Fathers which attempt to demonstrate that America was founded to be a "Christian Nation."

Finally, the article also discusses (something which many of us were previously unaware) Barton's blatant distorting of black/civil rights history for political purposes. One can understand why conservative Christian Republicans may want to reach out to blacks who vote disproportionately Democratic, but yet who tend to be more religious and have more of a socially conservative worldview than other social groups. However, Barton goes about doing so in his typically dishonest, huckster way.

Even Barton’s grasp of more recent history is suspect. At a time when the Republican Party is seeking to attract more African-American voters, Barton frequently writes or speaks about the role of the Republican and Democratic parties during the civil rights struggle. He regularly paints the Democratic Party as the party of slavery and segregation and notes the Republican Party’s early opposition to slavery and support of voting and civil rights for African Americans. Some historians might argue that Barton’s storyline has kernels of truth – as far as it goes.

But Barton’s story is simplistic and misleading. In a 2003 WallBuilder report entitled “A History of Black Voting Rights,” Barton notes that Strom Thurmond, a notoriously segregationist U.S. senator from South Carolina, switched from the Democratic to the Republican Party after a “change of heart on civil rights” in 1964.54 That’s nonsense. Thurmond was among the first of legions of southern white conservatives who began leaving the Democratic Party in the mid-1960s. Most switched their support to the GOP as Democrats finally began to overcome southern Congressional opposition to civil rights legislation. Indeed, Barton neglects to include any discussion of successful efforts by the Republican presidential campaigns of Barry Goldwater (1964) and Richard Nixon (1968) to court southern whites anxious about integration and the civil rights movement.

Moreover, Barton’s attempts to woo African-American voters are ironic in light of his past associations with white supremacist groups. In 1991 Barton spoke at two events sponsored by groups that have been tied to the racist “Christian Identity” movement. Christian Identity doctrine espouses white supremacy and is virulently anti-Semitic and anti-gay. The leader of Scriptures for America, a Colorado group that hosted Barton, has even called for executing homosexuals. Barton later claimed that he had not known when he was invited to speak that the two groups were “part of a Nazi movement.” 55

How anyone can take Barton seriously is beyond me. As I've noted before, when I refute his nonsense, I feel like I am knocking down a strawman. Yet, millions of people take this strawman seriously and believe his twaddle. And that is a shame.

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