A Case Study In The Spread Of David Barton’s Christian Nationalist Disinformation

Recently, Warren Throckmorton launched a podcast called “Telling Jefferson Lies” that chronicles the career Christian nationalist pseudo-historian David Barton and exposes the ways in which Barton misrepresents and misuses history to promote his far-right political agenda.

The podcast is centered about the new second edition of the book Throckmorton co-authored with Michael Coulter called “Getting Jefferson Right: Fact-Checking Claims About Thomas Jefferson,” which was a rebuttal to Barton’s 2012 book, “The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson.”

While Barton claimed that he was seeking to “correct the distorted image of a once-beloved founding father” with his book, the work was so rife with error that the publisher removed it from publication. The efforts of Throckmorton and several Christian historians and scholars to meticulously debunk Barton’s falsehoods were absolutely integral to the publisher’s decision to remove Barton’s book from circulation, and Throckmorton’s podcast explains in detail how it all came about.

One particular revelation in Throckmorton’s podcast caught our attention because it provides a perfect example of Barton’s blatant disregard for accuracy or honesty, which Right Wing Watch has repeatedly documented.

In the most recent episode, “The Cataclysm,” Throckmorton interviewed professor Greg Forster about his own investigations into Barton’s scholarship. As an expert on English philosopher John Locke, Forster examined Barton’s claims about Locke, concluding that Barton’s work contained “numerous distortions” and “a number of incidental factual errors that don’t even advance his thesis, indicating that his inability to write reliable history stretches beyond ideological cheerleading and into outright incompetence.”

In his interview with Throckmorton, Forster recounted how he was initially mystified by Barton’s claim that not only were the Founding Fathers deeply influenced by Locke’s “Two Treatises of Civil Government,” but that Locke’s work contained more than 1,500 references to the Bible.

Forster knew that to be untrue but couldn’t figure out where Barton got that figure until he and Throckmorton realized that Locke had mentioned the Book of Proverbs in his work. The two then discovered that Barton had simply counted up all of the verses contained in the Book of Proverbs to create his claim that the work contained over a thousand quotes from the Bible.

This sort of egregious misrepresentation is par for the course for Barton and his distortions inevitably get picked up and spread by others who share his worldview.

Just last week, Greg Stephens and Gene Bailey of televangelist Kenneth Copeland’s “Victory Channel” network repeated some of Barton’s lies on a “Revival Radio TV” program, including Barton’s false claim about Locke.

“Our patriotism and our Constitution was taken from the Bible,” Stephens claims. “Our three branches of government are from the Book—God our lawgiver, God our judge, and God our Sovereign, our King. So, that’s where we got our three branches of government was from the Bible.”

This bogus claim originated with Barton and, like so many other claims made by him, it doesn’t stand up to even the faintest scrutiny, yet Christian nationalists like Stephens repeat it blindly.

“We know the Constitution is full of references to the Bible,” Bailey then added. “But the other book that it’s pulled so heavily [from] is John Locke’s ‘Two Treatises of Government’ and that book is full of scripture.”

The reason that Bailey believes Locke’s work is “full of scripture” is presumably because he has either heard Barton or someone echoing Barton make that claim. And this is precisely how Barton’s disinformation spreads: the false history he produces is inevitably picked up by other Christian nationalists who simply accept it and then frequently further distort it, creating historical myths that get progressively garbled and entrenched with every retelling.

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The post A Case Study In The Spread Of David Barton’s Christian Nationalist Disinformation appeared first on Right Wing Watch.


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