Why Does the Right Have Such a Problem with History?

What is it with right-wingers who seem to have so much trouble with American history? See this tweet today from Peggy Venable, Texas policy director for the Koch-funded, anti-government Americans for Prosperity:


“Peace is that brief glorious moment in history, when everybody stands around reloading” — Thomas Jefferson

Except that there’s no evidence Jefferson ever said that. The Monticello website notes that this quotation has been making the rounds on the Internet since about 2001:

This quotation has not been found in the writings of Thomas Jefferson. The language is somewhat uncharacteristic of Jefferson’s style. “Stand around” in the sense used here is not an expression that can be found in Jefferson’s letters. He almost always wrote “every body” instead of “everybody.” And there are no instances of the word “reload” (or variations thereof) referring to firearms in Jefferson’s writings.

Of course, someone posting a dubious quote from a famous American is hardly news on the Internet. Venable has plenty of company there — on both sides of the political spectrum.

But we’re fascinated by how often leaders and activists on the far right misquote the Founders and get so much else about our nation’s history so incredibly wrong — especially since they often portray themselves as uniquely informed about what makes America exceptional.

David Barton, the phony historian who heads Texas-based WallBuilders, has been among the most infamous misquoters. He has other problems with historical facts as well. Christian publisher Thomas Nelson stopped publication of The Jefferson Lies, Barton’s book about the nations’ third president, because scholars found numerous inaccuracies and distortions throughout it. But none of that stopped the chair of the Texas State Board of Education from declaring Barton to be “a leading historian of our state, if not the nation.”

Barton also served as an “expert” adviser when the state board revised the social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools back in 2009-10. State board members relied partly on his advice when they vandalized those standards. In fact, the new U.S. history standards are so bad and misleading that even the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute calls them “a politicized distortion of history” filled with “misrepresentations at every turn.”

This year the State Board of Education will consider the adoption of new social studies textbooks based on those deeply flawed curriculum standards. The deadline for publishers to submit those textbooks was April 18, and the state will begin its official review of the textbooks soon.

Last year the Texas Freedom Network helped lead a coalition of educators, scholars, businesspeople, parents and other Texans in support of new science textbooks that didn’t include bogus creationist arguments attacking evolution. We won that important battle when the state board adopted textbooks based on sound science, but the fight over social studies textbooks this year will be even harder. Right-wing activists like Barton (and Venable), as well as State Board of Education members, will almost certainly insist that textbook publishers rewrite and distort history to fit their particular political agendas.

But we’re determined not to let them get away with it. We’ll be letting you know soon how you can get involved in our efforts this year to ensure that Texas students get a history education based on facts and sound scholarship, not right-wing political agendas.

17 thoughts on “Why Does the Right Have Such a Problem with History?

  1. Amusingly, it looks like the source for the earliest version of the quote is from the Great Agnostic, Robert Ingersoll, in his letter/address “To the Indianapolis Clergy”. Given how often the Christian Right has tried meddling in textbooks, the context of the genuine original seems fitting.

    Christian kings have no confidence in the promises of each other. What they call peace is the little time necessarily spent in reloading their guns.

  2. Try getting into a sane discussion on Twitter with these people. They call names and stereotype with disdain for their neighbors, then spew Koch/Fox talking points and bad information as if they’re fact. It’s mind-boggling that that many people can be so dim. Can’t these people check things out? Can’t they read? (or better yet, get out and get to know people who are struggling to get through each day due to financial or medical reasons. Grow a heart. Care about something other than yourselves.) Geez. They’re wearing me out.

  3. That really, truly was a Jefferson quote, too!! It was in his “sent” e-mail folder on his AOL account!!

  4. The Right has a fear of history because what the Right says about history is WRONG.


    Right wing extremist attempts to rewrite American history for students according to a self-generated BIG LIE mythology are doomed for two reasons: 1) Jesus will not allow a lie to prosper for long and 2) Lies do not have the power to overcome truth.

    God has set a warning before those who try:

    “The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright. But their swords will pierce their own hearts,and their bows will be broken.” (Psalms 37:14-15)

    Here is the key problem. The concept of the BIG LIE was formulated by Adolf Hitler in his famous book “Mein Kampf” and used to describe the political behavior of Jews. The concept of the BIG LIE, along with other public relations and propaganda principles, was taken over and made even more famous by Joseph Goebbels, who was the Hitler-appointed Minister of Propaganda for the Third Reich.

    In the years since World War II, propaganda, public relations, and marketing people around the world have conceded that Goebbels and his wife Magda were very bad people, but they have hailed his propaganda principles as pure genius and have incorporated them in various forms into their own work. But there is a problem with this, and people on the Religious Right who claim to be Christians and use the BIG LIE principle to achieve their goals need to understand a few basic things:

    1) The BIG LIE CONCEPT was created by evil men, and the concept itself is deeply and fundamentally evil. Those who use an evil tool will be punished severely. “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish.” (Proverbs 19:9)

    2) Do not be fooled. When applied, an evil tool like the BIG LIE might appear to prosper. The public relations and marketing consultants will probably tell you that variations on the BIG LIE are the “in crowd” thing to be doing in public relations these days if you want to beat your enemies. However, Jesus makes it clear that no evil thing can produce good fruit. (Matthew 7:18) It might appear to make you look like a winner for a time, but this is an illusion like the tip of an iceberg. Enormous loss is your inevitable fate because an evil thing cannot bring prosperity for long. “But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us. (Luke 23). In other words, if you keep on using the BIG LIE concept to rewrite or distort American history for political ends, the rest of that iceberg is going to one day fall on you and crush you. It is inevitable.

    3) The BIG LIE was specifically founded and formulated to persecute God’s chosen people—the Jews.

    4) Look at what has happened to the people in world history who developed and used the BIG LIE. Can you not see your own fate in the fates of those who went before you? Hitler blew his brains out. Goebbels and his wife Magda killed all six of their small children with poison and then killed themselves. This is where the BIG LIE leads for those who adopt and use it.

    The BIG LIE looks attractive. It looks successful. It looks innocent sitting on your nicely clipped suburban lawn while you bake that apple pie and fill out your financial contribution form for your favorite Religious Right organization. You say to yourself, “Well, they might be just little white lies told for a good cause.” You would do well to remember that the Bible recognizes no such thing as a “little white lie” told for a good cause. Intentional lies, distortion, and deceit are Biblically wrong—period.

    Knowing that, and all the while claiming to be Christians, why then does the Religious Right hug the BIG LIE to its breast like a child does her Teddy Bear? Riddle me this Batman!!!

    1. I intended to post the very same before I opend the comment section. You preempted me there.

  5. I found Sarah Palin’s take on Paul Revere’s ride to be highly amusing … as well as highly inaccurate. Most of what she said is so far from historical accuracy that you can assume if she said it, it didn’t happen that way. My favorite is the picture she paints of Paul Revere riding through Boston firing his pistol. Just try loading a musket pistol on a galloping horse. I’m assuming, of course, that she at least realizes that a musket pistol is a single-shot weapon. That’s right up there with Michele Bachmann’s suggestion that John Quincy Adams was a Founding Father. He was 9 years old when the Declaration of Independence was signed. I’m not sure he qualified as a ‘Founding Father.’

  6. The “quote”, aside from not being found in any speeches or writings of Thomas Jefferson, has no place in reality either.
    Between the end of the War for Independence and the opening shots of the War of 1812, America’s military was plagued by lack of funding, poor training if any, and logistical rot. Far from ‘reloading’, the newly born USA practically disarmed itself upon the suspension of hostilities with Britain, if there even as a standing army during that time.

    1. I remember once reading that during one of the years of George Washington’s presidency, the U.S. Army’s official rolls carried only four people in total.

  7. Because they are children still. Barton and his krew are childish in their philosophy basing it on TV shows and games they played as kids: cowboys and indians, house, doctor.

    They have never grown up.

    A 30 second Google search finds the Oxford English etymology dictionary recording the first use of the word “reload” pertaining to a firearm in 1858.

    Of course, the right-wing clods would have no sense of real history and when real things were developed, even their precious, precious firearms!

    Idiots led by idiots. We get what we vote for.

  8. The business of kings is the accumulation of power.
    The Sport of kings is WAR.

    Aren’t these Christianist right-wing extremists actually “Reactionary” rather than merely “conservative” of any stripe? I mean,their desire to “take the world back to” a time and culture that never existed does get kinda disproven by actual history, doesn’t it?