The intertubes are quite clogged today.
I was reading this piece Digby wrote about today’s anniversary of the Kent State shootings, and I had a sudden flashback of the alcoholic judge I used to date.
I honestly don’t know if it was the grandiosity typical of the advanced alcoholic, or simply hardwired into his psyche, but he was the biggest liar I’ve ever met. He was so prolific, so over the top, he reminded me of the Michael Keaton character in “The Dream Team”. (In a scene where they’re driving past the World Trade Center, Keaton points to it and says, “See that? I designed them.”)
He was forever name-dropping, but it simply doesn’t work with me. I’ve known lots of interesting, creative people (some of them famous) and it’s just not such a big deal. (The only time I’ve ever been starstruck was just a few weeks ago, when I found out someone I know hung out with Laura Nyro for a year. “Really?” I said, and started pressing for details.)
Some of the whoppers the judge told me:
* The FBI hounded him because of his high-profile anti-war activities.
* He was an Olympic lacrosse coach.
* He played keyboards with Al Kooper.
* He was a semiotics genius who’d invented the smile button. (And apparently thought that was something to brag about!)
* His marriage broke up when he caught his wife in bed with her girlfriend. (They split up because she gave him an ultimatum about his drinking.)
* He was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam who helped evacuate the Saigon embassy. When I challenged him, saying the Marines evacuated it, he gave me a knowing smile and said he’d been on assignment with the CIA – but he couldn’t tell me about it.
* Oh and by the way, he’d recently been diagnosed with leukemia and wasn’t it ironic that he’d found true love with me, only to have it snatched away by a cruel fate?
The real kicker, though, was when he told me he was best friends with one of the guys killed at Kent State, and was even supposed to be there that day. “I thought you went to Michigan State,” I said.
“Yes, but I was supposed to be there that day,” he said.
Whatever. When I broke things off with him, people started cautiously approaching me. “You’re not dating him anymore, right?” Nope, I told them. Then the stories came, and I was floored. I couldn’t believe I’d been involved with someone so very duplicitous. (It was not the last time I was to wonder.) Turned out he was one of those people who sort of appropriated stories he heard from other people and passed them off as his own, and I was in shock. Devastated, really. (My shrink told me not to beat myself up. “You only went out with him for a few months,” he said. “It’s not as if you married him.”)
I did get over him eventually, and cautiously moved on to less obvious liars. But now I realize that I just like storytellers – like me. They may not have been writers in the literal sense, but they wove such glittering tall tales for me, and for a long time, I loved to listen. So I’m not mad anymore, just amused.
I loved how many people were insisting this man was set up for raping a hotel maid. I’m sure this one’s a setup, too:
A 25-year-old Belgian sex worker has accused former French finance minister and head of the IMF Dominique Strauss-Kahn of gang rape, saying that he and three other men forcibly restrained and sodomized her in a room at Washington, DC’s tony W hotel. U.K. news daily The Telegraph reports that the alleged incident took place in December of 2010. It has come to light as part of an ongoing investigation of Strauss-Kahn by French authorities, who have charged him with “aggravated pimping in an organized gang.”
The young woman, who called Strauss-Kahn “a nasty piece of work,” was a prostitute based out of Lille, France and is known to the court as “Marie-Anne S.” The “violent scene” she described to prosecutors, however, took place here in the U.S., where earlier this week, a judge denied DSK’s plea of diplomatic immunity in a civil suit filed against him regarding an alleged assault on a hotel maid in New York City. Criminal charges were dismissed against the diplomat in that investigation last year amid questions about the accuser’s credibility.
You may have seen David Barton on Jon Stewart the other night, plugging his new book, “The Jefferson Lies.” Barton is a right-wing fundie who’s rewritten history to make Thomas Jefferson a religious man who never wanted religion out of public life. (You may also know him as a “professor” at the famous Beck University.) Fred Clark, famous for calling out the charlatans in his faith, has a bone to pick with how the mainstream media depicts David Barton:
“Who is David Barton?” CNN’s Dan Gilgoff asks.
And then Gilgoff refuses to answer his own question.
Instead, Gilgoff retreats into a wretched, flaccid display of false-equivalence, view-from-nowhere, opinions-on-the-shape-of-earth-differ non-journalism.
“Barton’s work has drawn many critics,” Gilgoff writes, in lieu of actual journalism.
That’s a remarkable sentence. It’s like saying, “Bernie Madoff’s investment skills have drawn many critics.” Or, “Ty Cobb’s sportsmanship has drawn many critics.” Or, “Leroy Jenkins’ teamwork has drawn many critics.”
Who is David Barton? David Barton is a man who says things that are not true.
David Barton makes stuff up. He surgically alters quotations deliberately in order to deceive others.
David Barton says things that are not true. He is not merely “controversial.” He is not merely “a lightning rod for critics.” His many, many false assertions are not merely “disputed” or “questioned” or “challenged.”
David Barton says things that are not true. After being repeatedly, publicly corrected, he repeats those very same untrue statements. This is what he does. This is how he makes his living.
David Barton has not attracted “critics.” David Barton says things that are not true, and those Gilgoff mislabels as his “critics” are simply those many, many people who have pointed out the many, many untrue things that David Barton has said. His false statements are obvious. His false statements are extravagant. His false statements are hard to miss.
David Barton says things that are not true. That is the primary, pre-eminent, pervasive fact about David Barton.
To say anything else about David Barton without also saying that is to be inaccurate, misleading and dishonest.
But Paul Harvey, a real history professor, says of course it won’t matter:
I don’t question the necessity of pointing out Barton’s history of outright falsehoods, explaining the fallacies of his presentism (as in using a 1765 sermon or a 1792 congressional vote to show that the original intent of the founders was to oppose bailout and stimulus plans), and introducing to non-experts the abundant evidence calling his historical worldview of the Christian Founders into question. Yet while these kinds of refutations are necessary, they are not sufficient. That’s because Barton’s project is not fundamentally an historical one.
That’s why historians’ takedown of his ahistorical approach ultimately won’t matter that much. Nor will historians’ explanations of his presentism, and his obvious and unapologetic ideological agenda (albeit considerably muted for his appearance on The Daily Show). While all the historians’ refutations are good and necessary, ultimately they won’t matter for the audience which exists in his alternate intellectual universe, one described in much greater detail in my colleague Randall Stephens’ forthcoming book The Anointed: Evangelical Experts in a Secular Age…
After all the refutations and belittling of pedigree, Barton still appears in a New York Times “puff piece,” argues with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, and fields calls from congressmen and presidential candidates. In short, if this were a basketball game between Barton and professional historians, in some ways it’s already a rout, with Barton far ahead and the scrubs in to play out the garbage time.
Some of that is because of the skill of Barton and his organization WallBuilders at ideological entrepreneurialism. Barton’s intent is not to produce “scholarship,” but to influence public policy. He simply is playing a different game than worrying about scholarly credibility, his protestations to the contrary notwithstanding. His game is to inundate public policy makers (including local and state education boards as well as Congress) with ideas packaged as products that will move policy.
And once again, our librul media is outplayed.
This weekend is the Finster Festival in Summerville, GA. The festival celebrates the life and folk art of Howard Finster, “The Man of Visions.” He was not only a folk artist, but, a preacher of the Word.
He built on his property a “Paradise Garden” of murals and sculptures from all kinds of junk that he could find. He also was famous for painting album covers for REM, Talking Heads and also a painting of an Absolut Vodka Bottle for an ad.
In my young adult life. no springtime would be complete without visiting Howard Finster’s Paradise Gardens in Pennville in northwest Georgia. One could take hours exploring the grounds. A real treasure.