Religious Right Pseudo-Historian David Barton Replies (Weakly) to Critics
Recently, Barton went too far. He published a book called The Jefferson Lies that asserts that Thomas Jefferson was really an orthodox Christian most of his life and that he didn’t advocate strict church-state separation.
Warren Throckmorton and Michael Coulter, two professors at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, debunked Barton’s new tome in their e-book Getting Jefferson Right. At first, Barton tried to ignore the book and even told his radio audience that he didn’t intend to read it.
Barton has apparently had a change of heart because he has issued a rebuttal to the book - kind of. Much of the rebuttal is just an ad hominem attack on Throckmorton, Coulter and other scholars who have criticized Barton’s work. For example, Barton accuses his critics of being “academic elitists” - a curious charge to level against two guys who issued their book in an electronic format for $4.99. (You can read Throckmorton’s reply to Barton here.)
Barton then attempts to establish his credentials by noting that he has been summoned as an expert by some state education officials. But this is irrelevant. The fact that some ultra-conservative politicians brought Barton in to promote a political agenda during textbook disputes does not give him any credibility. Barton seems to believe that because some people are foolish enough to believe the lies he peddles, that makes him a historian. Please.
But I was most amused by these passages by Barton: “[P]eople are willing to pay good money to learn the simple, uncomplicated history that used to be taught in school” and the academics’ “real objection is that I make history uncomplicated, and thus make them irrelevant.”
I almost fell out of my chair with laughter. I read a lot of history, and the last thing it is is uncomplicated. The complications are what make history so fascinating. Uncomplicated history isn’t worth reading.