Marvin Olasky, editor of the Christian publication WORLD magazine, has written a column to defend that magazine’s handling of David Barton over the years. And he basically says that he paid no attention to previous criticism of Barton’s work because it came from “left-wing historians.”
Left-wing historians for years have criticized Barton. We haven’t spotlighted those criticisms because we know the biases behind them. It’s different when Christian conservatives point out inaccuracies. The Bible tells us that “iron sharpens iron,” and that’s our goal in reporting this controversy. As the great Puritan poet John Milton wrote concerning Truth, “Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?”
That last quote from Milton is what shows the rest of what he said to be absurd. This is the essence of what I call the argumentum ad labelum — we can just dismiss any criticisms of Barton if they come from anyone we can apply what we think is a negative label to. But this is highly irrational. The only thing that matters is whether those criticisms of Barton’s work are accurate, not whether the person pointing out the inaccuracies is a liberal, conservative, Christian, atheist or Muslim or communist. But Olasky had no interest in letting “truth and falsehood grapple,” despite his repetition of that quote.
If Barton is dishonest in his distortion of the Donald Lutz study — and he is — he was dishonest when Chris Rodda was the one pointing it out too. It didn’t suddenly become dishonest when Warren Throckmorton used her research to repeat the same point, or when John Fea decided to jump in to the controversy (Ed. Note: Warren Throckmorton emailed to say the following: “I really respect Chris’ abilities and her work, but Coulter and I did our own research. We reached similar claims and came to the same conclusions which is a validation of the truth of what we all found. However, we did not use her research in the way that you have asserted.” I see no good reason to doubt him on this, so I retract my unsupported assertion and apologize to both authors for it). An empirical claim is either true or false; it isn’t false if said by a liberal and suddenly true if said by a conservative.
David Barton should not be, nor does he want to be, defended as if he were inerrant: If his history writing does include some inaccuracies, I trust he’ll make corrections.
You clearly haven’t been paying attention.
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