Politico Fawns Over Barton

Politico, which Charles Pierce hilariously and accurately calls “Tiger Beat on the Potomac,” has a fawning article about David Barton and his vast influence among social conservatives. The problem starts with the headline itself: “Evangelical historian remains key ally of right.” Barton is not a historian. In fact, among historians he is considered pretty much a complete fraud. To call him a historian is to give him credibility he not only has not earned but which is entirely contrary to reality.

The article did go into the problem of his last book being pulled by its publisher, but then quickly moved on to how admirably he’s bounced back.

Just last summer, that kind of role seemed unlikely. Barton’s reputation was in tatters. It appeared doubtful that an ambitious politician would stand next to him, much less turn to him for advice. But Barton has rebounded so completely that his appearance in the inner circle of the Cruz prayer huddle in Des Moines was deemed a smart move — for Cruz — by political analysts…

Barton’s abrupt, and short-lived, fall from grace began with the publication in April 2012 of his book “The Jefferson Lies,” which portrays Thomas Jefferson as an orthodox Christian who saw no need to separate church and state.

Secular critics had long denounced Barton as a fraud who manipulates and misrepresents history to serve political goals. With the publication of “The Jefferson Lies,” several dozen academics at Christian colleges stepped forward to join the chorus.

Led by Warren Throckmorton, a professor of psychology at Grove City College, the Christian scholars tore apart the new book, pointing out a bevy of errors and distortion. Several pastors picked up the thread, organizing a boycott of Barton’s publisher, the Christian publishing house Thomas Nelson. The critiques gained so much steam that Barton’s book was voted “the least credible history book in print” in an online poll by the History News Network.

Barton rejected the barrage of criticism as mean-spirited, politically motivated and just plain wrong. But in August, his publisher withdrew “The Jefferson Lies.” A senior executive explained to NPR that Thomas Nelson couldn’t stand by the book because “basic truths just were not there.”

It was a stunning repudiation of Barton’s credibility.

But to his critics’ astonishment, Barton has bounced back. He has retained his popular following and his political appeal — in large part, analysts say, because he brings an air of sober-minded scholarship to the culture wars, framing the modern-day agenda of the religious right as a return to the Founding Fathers’ vision for America.

Who, exactly, was “astonished” that Barton’s standing with the Christian right wasn’t budged by that “repudiation”? No one that I know. Not only am I not the least bit surprised by it, it was entirely predictable. Barton’s reputation and standing among theo-cons has nothing at all to do with his credibility as a historian and their blind acceptance of his lies has no relevance at all to his continued popularity or his status as a right-wing kingmaker.

Whether he’s telling the truth or not simply does not matter to them. The narrative he sells them is what they want to be true and — voila — it is therefore true. All he has to do is say “Oh, they’re just liberal atheist Muslim communists and all they’ve done is caught a couple of minor quibbles in my work” and his followers are inoculated against reality. They have the cognitive shortcut they need to ignore the evidence and continue to believe what they want to believe. This could only be surprising to someone who hasn’t been paying attention for a very long time.

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  • Larry

    Calling Barton a historian is no different than calling creationists in the Disco’tute scientists. And he has the same credibility.

  • Abby Normal

    I have no problem with calling him a historian, so long as it’s prefaced by, “disgraced armature.”

  • Abby Normal


  • zero6ix

    But to his critics’ astonishment, Barton has bounced back. He has retained his popular following and his political appeal — in large part, analysts say, because he brings an air of sober-minded scholarship to the culture wars, framing the modern-day agenda of the religious right as a return to the Founding Fathers’ vision for America.

    Or it could be that they have developed an addiction to lies, and just need another hit, man. It nourishes them.

  • tbp1

    It’s at least somewhat encouraging that the vast majority of the comments are extremely negative about Barton and about the article as well (at least as far down as I read).

  • Abby Normal

    Larry, have a little sympathy for the poor creation scientist. Do you have any idea how hard it is to gather a test tube full of faith?

  • raven

    If their religion was true, they wouldn’t have to lie all the time.

    Barton and the hordes of Liars for jesus are one of the strongest lines of evidence that xianity is all mythology.

  • D. C. Sessions

    Of course Barton is a historian. He’s almost as great a historian as Robert E. McElwaine was a physicist.

  • anubisprime

    They all tend to back each others lunacy up!

    They are all treading a very fine line that they all risk being dumped off without to much trouble..they need each other for ballast.

    And they look to their own to provide documentation like the degree mills and spurious research grants or bogus recommendations from the likes of the Discovery scam that are essentials in generating sycophantic awe from the lesser mortal brain dead that they all financially scalp regular …in fact like ants milking aphids comes to mind but to do so the brain dead demand something of which they can boast about on line or even to each other!

    Bogus self awarded diploma’s and certificates of trashfuckery are fine!…the brain dead have no idea what a real one is, but it sounds ever so impressive therefore god!

    And scurrilous headlines make them all purr and self stimulate themselves, like porno for the dumb and credulous.

  • regexp

    You know who else doesn’t call David Barton a historian? David Barton. He goes out of his way to not refer to himself as a historian preferring author or minister. But I’ve never seen him once correct or stop someone else from using the term.

  • But when he calls himself “an expert in historical and constitutional issues” in the bio of his own website, it’s a distinction without a difference. The same bio quotes “a national news organization” as calling him “America’s historian.”

    It’s also evident from a quick search of his Wallbuilder’s site that he calls himself a historian quite frequently on copy that goes out with his materials — copy that he no doubt has to approve first.

  • lofgren

    It’s an interesting philosophical question. If somebody works at something, but they are really bad at it, does that mean that they still qualify? If somebody is really bad at being a janitor, are they still a janitor? Or is there a cut-off point where you are so bad at your job that you don’t really get to use the title anymore. I’ve known dozens of actors who were so bad at getting parts (or, indeed, getting themselves out of bed in time or showing up to their auditions sober enough to remember their lines) that calling them actors felt like a bad joke.

    I think I am inclined to say that as long as you are making an honest effort, you can use the title. If you are a scientist and you botch your first published experiment so that the data is worthless, well that sucks but lesson learned. Do better next time. If you just make up the data like Andrew Wakefield, you’re not a scientist, you’re a fraud. So David Barton isn’t a historian. He’s a conman.

  • Akira MacKenzie

    … framing the modern-day agenda of the religious right as a return to the Founding Fathers’ vision for America.

    Right, complete with a disenfranchised poor, slavery, aboriginal genocide, and repression of women. Exactly as that gang of wealthy, white, heterosexual (as far as we know), Christian assholes who started this shit-hole of a country wanted.

    Can we stop with the deification of the “founders,” please?

  • anubisprime

    Akira MacKenzie @ 13

    Can we stop with the deification of the “founders,” please?

    Not likely the Christian right just ‘lurve’ ’em some ratification from a supreme authority.

    The founders of the country provide endless quotes that can be easily twisted to promote xtian values, in whatever shade is required and few folks have the capacity, or indeed will, to check the ‘quotes’ trumpeted as proof positive that xtianity is the road the way and the light in the country that was founded on those ‘principles’

    Dumbhicks like Barton use the sentimentality of the American populace for the founders to advance the xtian agenda…it is a quid pro quo arrangement, dead folks cannot gainsay a contention read into their words or twisted out of their meaning and few in the media has the cojones to question what one of the founding fathers is supposed to have said lest the questioner be labelled as un-American.

    And very much like the bible fiasco, a fake preacher or historian like Barton can twist anything even lie about or indeed invent passages of script from an ‘unimpeachable’ source in order to achieve the effect they want.

    That ‘tool’ will be hard to retrieve from the grubby sweaty paws of the dishonest dumbfucks for jeebus camp.

  • francesc

    “But Barton has rebounded so completely that his appearance in the inner circle of the Cruz prayer…”

    That already makes two frauds and the holy spirit together. Who else was in that circle?