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Who said it, or didn't!

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  • rlbaty60
    ... Date: Wed, 29 Sep 2010 Extra! April 2010 The Right s Library of Fake Quotes Putting words in dead people s mouths By Steve Rendall Abraham Lincoln despised
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 28, 2010
      --------------Forwarded Article-------------

      Date: Wed, 29 Sep 2010

      Extra! April 2010

      The Right's Library of Fake Quotes
      Putting words in dead people's mouths

      By Steve Rendall

      Abraham Lincoln despised class warfare, Thomas Jefferson detested
      bailouts and the founders of the nation were all Bible-believing
      Christians. These are among the historical "facts" you'll learn as a
      regular consumer of talk radio, Fox News and other conservative

      While non-conservatives have been known to misquote historical figures
      to add credibility to their own views, the right seems to have a
      special enthusiasm for putting words in dead people's mouths.

      Take what has become known as the "The Ten Cannots," a list repeatedly
      misattributed to Abraham Lincoln. It begins:

      > You cannot bring about prosperity
      > by discouraging thrift.
      > You cannot strengthen the weak by
      > weakening the strong. You cannot
      > help little men by tearing down
      > big men.
      > You cannot lift the wage earner
      > by pulling down the wage payer.
      > You cannot help the poor by
      > destroying the rich.
      > You cannot establish sound
      > security on borrowed money.
      > You cannot further the
      > brotherhood of man by inciting
      > class hatred.…

      And so on.

      These words were actually written by William J.H. Boetcker,
      a conservative minister who published them in a 1916 pamphlet along
      with some actual Lincoln quotes (Snopes.com, 8/19/09).

      Almost a century and many well-documented debunkings later (e.g., the 1989 Oxford Press book They Never Said It), some conservatives still insist on assigning them to Lincoln.

      The canard is a staple of rabidly anti-Obama right-wing media such as
      Newsmax, where it has been repeated by columnist Geoff Metcalf
      (1/20/09) and radio talkshow host Al Rantel (3/1/04).

      This past summer, a flurry of letters to the editor citing Lincoln's supposed remarks coincided with right-wing Tea Party demonstrations across the country (e.g., Charleston, S.C., Post and Courier, 8/8/09; South Florida Sun Sentinel, 9/18/09).

      Rush Limbaugh (Rush Limbaugh TV show, 2/19/96) acknowledged falsely
      assigning the remarks to Lincoln in a 1986 speech he gave honoring the
      16th president's birthday.

      This admission came four years after former President Ronald Reagan misattributed the quote in his speech at the 1992 GOP convention and the New York Times (8/19/92), CNN (8/19/92) and NPR (8/20/92) ran stories disproving the Lincoln connection.

      Current Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele used to
      include "Lincoln's" advice in his boilerplate speech. It was in the
      pre-published text of his 2004 GOP convention speech, but not in the
      version Steele delivered; perhaps someone remembered Reagan's RNC woes
      12 years earlier (PR Newswire, 8/31/04). (Steele continues to use the
      quotes from the "Ten Cannots," now saying that he learned them from
      his mother—e.g., Your World, 1/5/10.)

      Putting the Founders to Work

      When widely syndicated columnist Cal Thomas posted a commentary on his
      website (1/15/09) opposing federal bailouts, he cited quotes from
      Thomas Jefferson to bolster his argument:

      > "The democracy will cease to exist
      > when you take away from those who
      > are willing to work and give to
      > those who would not";
      > "It is incumbent on every generation
      > to pay off its own debts as it goes.
      > A principle, which, if acted on would
      > save us one-half of the wars of the
      > world";
      > "I predict future happiness for
      > Americans if they can prevent
      > government from wasting the labors
      > of the people under the pretense of
      > taking care of them";


      > "My reading of history convinces me
      > that most bad government results
      > from too much government."

      Thomas described these quotes as "ancient wisdom," which, he said,

      > "is almost always better than
      > what people come up with today."

      Consider that it became ancient because it was wise.

      But consulting The Works of Thomas Jefferson available in full at the
      Online Liberty Library, as well as the Library of Congress' online
      Jefferson site, Ed Darrel of Millard Fillmore's Bathtub (2/1/09) could
      find no evidence authenticating any of the quotes. As Darrel, whose
      website targets historical falsehood, observed, "Jefferson seem[ed]
      oddly prescient in these quotes, and, also oddly, rather endorsing the
      views of the right wing."

      None of the quotes could be authenticated on the Jefferson Library
      website (www.monticello.org) either, which includes the first and the
      last quotes in Thomas' column in its list of frequently cited
      "Spurious Quotations."

      In a syndicated column (Washington Times, 1/25/01), right-wing
      economics professor and Limbaugh stand-in Walter Williams used
      purported remarks by Jefferson and George Washington to argue against
      gun control.

      Gun control proponents were constitutionally ignorant,
      Williams wrote, because they didn't understand the intentions of
      framers like Jefferson, who Williams claimed once wrote:

      > "No man shall ever be debarred
      > the use of arms. The strongest
      > reason for the people to retain
      > the right to keep and bear arms
      > is, as a last resort, to protect
      > themselves against tyranny in
      > government."

      That quote can be found in the Spurious Quotations list on the Monticello website.

      Williams also quoted Washington:

      > "Firearms stand next in importance
      > to the Constitution itself. They
      > are the American people's liberty
      > teeth and keystone under
      > independence."

      Five years earlier, after Playboy magazine (12/95) ran a longer version of that same quote, the magazine had to run a lengthy retraction (3/96) that cited George Warren, editor of the Papers of George Washington project at the University of Virginia, who called it

      > "either a complete fabrication
      > or a case of misattribution."

      Williams and the Washington Times apparently found the quote too useful to fact check—or to retract.

      Founders as `Bible-Believing Christians'

      Over the last two decades conservatives have waged a war on the "wall
      of separation between church and state," arguing that the United
      States was founded on Christian principles by deeply religious men who
      intended to enshrine their beliefs in its founding documents.

      As Rush Limbaugh (or ghostwriter Joseph Farah) wrote of the founders in his 1994 book See, I Told You So,

      > "Don't believe the conventional wisdom
      > of our day that says these men were
      > anything but orthodox, Bible-believing
      > Christians."

      The book cited constitutional architect James Madison as saying: "We have staked the future upon our capacity to sustain ourselves according the Ten Commandments of God."

      In reality, several founders (including Madison) were not Christians,
      and Limbaugh's Madison quote is a fraud, as revealed in FAIR's 1995
      book, The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error.

      Furthermore, independent of his religious views, Madison was a staunch
      proponent of separation, arguing in his 1785 essay "A Memorial and

      > "During almost 15 centuries has the
      > legal establishment of Christianity
      > been on trial. What have been its
      > fruits? More or less in all places,
      > pride and indolence in the clergy,
      > ignorance and servility in the laity,
      > in both, superstition, bigotry and
      > persecution."

      But despite conclusive debunkings, the bogus Madison passage lives on,
      cited alongside other fraudulent founders' quotes by conservatives who
      care less about history than ideological expediency.

      Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby has cited a version of the bogus Madison quote on several occasions, including a column (6/5/00) chiding the ACLU for constitutional ignorance. A version of the "Madison" quote also appeared recently in an op-ed (Tulsa World, 6/30/09) written by U.S. Rep. Sally Kern (R-Okla.).

      One of the most prolific purveyors of bogus founder quotes is
      Christian theocrat David Barton. Though not a household name, Barton's
      tireless efforts to construct a Christian origin story for the United
      States have been praised by the likes of Pat Robertson and Newt
      Gingrich (Church & State, 7–8/96).

      His 1989 book The Myth of Separation attributed bogus quotes to Washington

      > ("It is impossible to rightly govern
      > the world without God and the Bible''),


      > ("I have always said and always will
      > say that the studious perusal of the
      > Sacred Volume will make us better
      > citizens")

      and Patrick Henry

      > ("It cannot be emphasized too strongly
      > or too often that this great nation
      > was founded, not by religionists, but
      > by Christians; not on religions,
      > but on the gospel of Jesus Christ").

      Barton has also misattributed the "Ten Command-ments" quote to Madison.

      In 1996 Barton admitted that these and nine other quotes he'd been
      circulating in his writings, videotapes and live appearances were
      either false or unverifiable (Church & State, 7–8/96).

      But Barton's reputation suffered little from the fraud, according to Rob Boston of Americans United for Separation of Church & State. "He's doing better than ever," Boston told Extra!, noting that since 1996 Barton has served as vice-chair of the Texas GOP, and now sits on the Texas state committee advising the state's board of education on history and social studies curiculum, "despite no history credentials."

      Meanwhile, the bogus quotes Barton helped to popularize continue to
      make the rounds.

      In a 2007 column in the far-right World Net Daily (1/29/07), conservative activist and actor Chuck Norris used "Washington's" passage about the impossibility of governing without "God and the Bible" to argue for teaching the Bible in schools.

      A Human Events profile (7/1/02) singing the praises of president of the Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools used the "Jefferson"
      quote about the need to study the sacred volume.

      The "Patrick Henry" quote on the U.S. being founded "on the gospel of Jesus Christ" has been repeated in numerous newspaper op-eds (e.g., Fond du Lac, Wisc., Reporter, 5/1/09; Wichita Eagle, 5/27/06; Columbia, S.C., State, 9/21/04).

      Making fake history every day

      You can't expect a culture that conveniently fabricates history to
      restrict that practice to the distant past. So it's not surprising to
      see conservative opinion leaders arguing, contra history, that Nazism
      is a liberal ideology (Extra!, 3/10) or that government spending made
      the Great Depression worse.

      Nor is it surprising to see such commentators ignoring facts to
      distort current events. Witness the trend among conservatives who
      dismiss global warming science, fantasize imaginary "death panels" in
      healthcare legislation, or declare Barack Obama to be a Kenyan, a
      Muslim or maybe even the Antichrist (CNN, 8/15/08).

      Indeed, the ascendance of a black, Democratic president seems to have
      sent irrational conservative tendencies into overdrive. Commentators
      Rush Limbaugh (10/23/09) and Michael Ledeen (Pajamas Media, 10/21/09)
      heatedly pointed to a socialist thesis they said was written by Barack
      Obama while a student at Columbia University. Like one of the the fake
      Lincoln or Jefferson quotes, the thesis was a hoax (St. Petersburg
      Times, 10/26/09), but it met the contemporary conservative standard:
      If it makes your point, run with it.

      Appropriately, upon learning later in the show that the thesis might
      be a hoax, Limbaugh responded, "I don't care if these quotes are made
      up. I know Obama thinks it."

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