[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]
We felt a sense of dread last November when Glenn Beck announced his "100-year plan" for America:
Beck then describes "The Plan," which he says is analogical to "lifeboats" on the Titanic: He says he's assembling a team of "experts" to help him shape a movement that will produce GlennBeckian electoral victories in 2010. (Obviously, that NY-23 experiment didn't turn out so hot.) These experts are being hired to work on policy areas such as the economy, the environment, national security, etc.Beck had already displayed a propensity to traduce history in order to push his thesis that the progressive movement is the Enemy of America, which recently reached full flower in his pseudo-documentary based on Jonah Goldberg's pseudo-history portraying progressives as the font of all the great genocides of the past century.
Beck: And what I've done, is I've found two really smart people in each category, two really -- oh, they just have all kinds of experience. And then I have coupled them with one rebel -- one radical. I hear that's popular to be a radical now.
But these radicals are not the radicals wearing the Che T-shirts. These radicals are the ones wearing the Jefferson T-shirts!
Will Bunch reports that this fondness for fake history is about to extend to church-state separation issues -- and will tread into territory long hold by far-right extremists.
Bunch reports that Beck has released the first concrete details about Beck's "experts" for "The Plan":
It is an eight hour event. You and I on stage with three different experts. David Barton is going to be the first one and we're going to talk about the meaning of faith in America. All the lies that you have been told, that this isn't a nation of faith, that religion played no role. I'm you will be stunned when you learn and see the real history that is no longer taught.As Bunch notes:
The real reason that history "is no longer taught" is because...it's bogus.As Will explains:
Barton is the founder of a Texas-based group called the WallBuilders, a foundation devoted to proving that the roots of the United States and its Constitution are not based on the separation of church of state -- as is widely believed and widely taught -- but as country built upon a bedrock of Christianity. That is also the premise of a widely circulated book that Barton published in the 1990s called "The Myth of Separation" -- a book that was eventually re-written and issued under a different name because it was larded with bad information, some of which nevertheless became gospel on conservative talk radio. As noted in the 2006 Texas Monthly article (via Nexis):Barton previously appeared on Fox News' show hosted by Mike Huckabee, to promote the same nonsense. And as we noted then:
In 1995 the historian Robert Alley attempted to trace the provenance of a quote that Rush Limbaugh had mistakenly attributed to James Madison, in which Madison purportedly called the Ten Commandments the foundation of American civilization. All roads led to David Barton, whose The Myth of Separation attributed the following quote to Madison: "We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self government; upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God." Barton cited two sources for the quote: a 1939 book by Harold K. Lane called Liberty! Cry Liberty! and Frederick Nyneyer's 1958 book First Principles in Morality and Economics: Neighborly Love and Ricardo's Law of Association. Alley couldn't find the quote anywhere in Nyneyer's book, however, and eventually concluded that Barton had pulled it from an article in a journal with the unlikely title Progressive Calvinism, which, in turn, had attributed it to something called the "1958 calendar of Spiritual Mobilization." In any case, Alley reported, the editors of Madison's papers were unable to find anything in his writings that was even remotely similar. "In addition," they added, "the idea is inconsistent with everything we know about Madison's views on religion and government, which he expressed time and time again in public and in private."
[I]t take only a little research to uncover the fact that Barton has a history of specious research. For years his book, The Myth of Separation -- which he's been selling since the early '90s -- has featured bogus quotes, made-up nonsense, and flat-out falsified history that has been dismantled time and again. Rob Boston debunked Barton thoroughly back then, and his methodology has not improved measurably since. (Here's a page devoted to exposing Barton's multitude of bogus quotations from the Founding Fathers.)Bunch also points to another Rob Boston piece for more details:
Moreover, as Boston notes, Barton has a long history of dalliances with the extremist fringes of the far right...
But Barton's biggest whopper concerns Thomas Jefferson, who coined the metaphor "wall of separation between church and state." Jefferson used that phrase in an 1802 letter to the Danbury (Conn.) Baptist Association. According to Barton, Jefferson went on to add that the "wall" was meant to be "one directional," protecting the church from the state but not the other way around, and, furthermore, that it was intended to keep "Christian principles in government."As Will notes, none of this has fazed supposedly mainstream conservatives when it comes to helping promote Barton:
This is a complete fabrication, and if Barton would take the time to actually read Jefferson's letter he would see that he is simply wrong. Jefferson's letter says nothing about the wall being "one directional" and certainly does not assert that it was meant to keep "Christian principles" in government. Such sentiments appear nowhere in the body of Jefferson's writings or speeches. In fact, they conflict sharply with our third president's well known advocacy of church-state separation and religious freedom.
Needless to say, none of these controversies derailed Barton's career as a rising star in either the evangelical movement or the Republican Party. In fact, for most of the 2000s, he served as vice chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, where he's also been a leading fundamentalist voice in that state's ever-raging debate over school textbooks. The national GOP hired Barton as a consultant in the 2004 election, and Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas said Barton's "research provides the philosophical underpinning for a lot of the Republican effort in the country today — bringing God back into the public square."Beck has already established quite a track record when it comes to mainstreaming right-wing extremism. This will just add to it in a big way.