Is Confronting Fake History Worth It?

After fighting a few of these battles, I still believe it is worth it.

I thought about this question again while watching Princeton historian Kevin Kruse take on Dinesh D’Souza. Kruse created a thread of over 120 historians who either debunked or expressed criticism of D’Souza’s historical writings. For his part, D’Souza seems to thrive on Kruse’s attention and shows no awareness of the significant rebuke by historians of many ideological stripes (left, center, right). D’Souza had this to say in response:

It is obvious that D’Souza will refuse any expert correction. If anything this emboldens his efforts to cast himself as smarter than the academy.

D’Souza’s response, while more brazen and rude, is similar to how other historical revisionists respond to public correction. For many years, David Barton was effectively and accurately debunked by Rob Boston, Chris Rodda, and others. However, Barton and his followers dismissed them as unbelievers who attacked him because he was a Christian. When the criticism started coming relentlessly from within the church, things changed. Eventually, Barton’s book on Jefferson was pulled from publication and he was stung by the scrutiny from once friendly sources.

Those who follow this blog know that Barton made a come back. He eventually published a second edition of The Jefferson Lies with World Net Daily. Barton, pal Glenn Beck, WND claimed that political correctness at Christian publisher Thomas Nelson doomed The Jefferson Lies. However, the evidence contradicted that claim.

Before and after Barton’s book was pulled, numerous Christian historians weighed in against Barton’s writing. Along the way, over 40 Christian historians, some of them quite conservative politically, expressed publicly their criticisms of Barton’s historical claims. It is simply impossible to make a case that the criticism of Barton is based in ideological difference.

Has it made a difference?  I don’t think there is a good way to know for sure.  One can never erase the unprecedented removal of a book from publication. I feel certain Christian history professors are more aware of the issues than ever before. It appears to me that more are speaking out and engaging the public on questions of religious influences during the founding era. I also see fewer instances of false stories such as Congress printed the first English Bible and Jefferson gave his Bible to the Indians as indications that America is a Christian nation.

So what has Barton done? With so many academic Christian historians calling him out, he attacked them back by questioning their Christianity and their expertise. He even attacked Christian colleges and universities. He warned parents to think twice before sending students there. He came up with his approved list of schools where the history departments apparently approve of him. Barton shows no signs of stopping his work recruiting legislators to his brand of Christian nationalism.

Here is a sign of progress. That list was very small with about 10 schools mentioned. Many were small Bible schools. One, Ecclesia College in Arkansas, became embroiled in a fraud and kickback scandal leading to the jailing of the president.

Back to Kruse and D’Souza: Now that Kruse has compiled this list, people who need a quick response to D’Souza defenders have a resource. While an insufficient answer to D’Souza’s overall message, it is a response to D’Souza’s claim that his work is historically sound. Like Barton, D’Souza may yet find a few professors who are willing to put their reputation on the line to support him. If so, the issues will continue to be exposed to more people which will further discredit D’Souza in the long run.

I have watched Kruse and D’Souza for months now and the pattern is that D’Souza makes a claim, Kruse answers, and D’Souza goes silent or responds with an insult. Now that Kruse has confronted several of D’Souza’s claims, this pattern has become clear. That alone has made the effort worth it.

Before Dinesh D’Souza, There Was David Barton

Eric Metaxas (Right), David Barton (Left)

David Barton hasn’t gone anywhere but D’Souza is currently associated with the claim that progressive historians have kept the racist past of the Democratic party out of our education system. In 2004, Barton publihed a book called Setting the Record Straight: American History in Black & White in which he emphasized the Democratic failings and the Republican history of civil rights advocacy. However, he fails to account for the shift in the Democratic party during the last 50+ years. Typical of Barton, the book is missing important events such as Barry Goldwater’s failure to support the Civil Rights Act. I critiqued the book in a 2012 post.

Currently, Princeton historian Kevin Kruse is documenting on Twitter the many historians who have found D’Souza’s work to be lacking (over 100 at this writing). I was reminded that D’Souza’s spin on the Democratic party isn’t new with him by this tweet from Bruce Wilson:

I don’t know how long D’Souza has been promoting the Democratic party is still the racist party line but he sounds a lot like Barton when he does it. Is it possible that D’Souza lifted it from Barton?

D’Souza claims history teachers obscure the fact that Democrats favored slavery and Jim Crow laws. That certainly isn’t true in our local school system and as Kevin Kruse regularly points out, historians teach the facts — all of them. It is D’Souza and Barton who leave out the facts they don’t like.

Kruse’s thread with the line up of historians is here:

Kevin Kruse Dismantles Blexit’s Faulty History

Trump supporter Candace Owens has started something she calls Blexit which stands for Black exit from the Democrat party. It is a movement and a website.

African-Americans haven’t voted in great numbers for a Republican presidential candidate since 1960 but Owens hopes to change that with her movement of Black conservatives. However, she will need to clean up her historical act if she is going to succeed. As Princeton historian Kevin Kruse pointed out today on Twitter, the first three historical claims on her website aren’t accurate.

If you click the tweet, you will get to a thread which debunks the claims made by Owens. A little later in the thread actress Stacey Dash challenges Kruse with a altered photo of Margaret Sanger at a KKK rally.

Kruse then demonstrated that the photo was fake.

Although Dash seemed to offer some respect to Kruse’s efforts, the fake information is still up at Blexit.

On the Blexit website, I did not see any citations or sources for information. Some of claims appear to have originated with David Barton and/or Dinesh D’Souza. Some appear to be deliberate misinformation. It is an insult to the intelligence of the audience OWens and others are trying to reach to put up so much faulty material.

I am thankful that Kevin Kruse is so “informative” to quote Ms. Dash. If only she and others would go a little further and question the rest of the material.