08 June 2011

Palin's Gaffe and Her Apologists

It’s so important for Americans to learn about our past so we can clearly see our way forward in challenging times; so, we’re bringing attention to our great nation’s foundation.
Sarah Palin, SarahPAC
The news has slowed concerning former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's gaffe, and some of what was there in the beginning seems gone.

The Boston Herald offered this passage in a much copied article:
But Cornell law professor William Jacobson, who asserted last week that Palin was correct, linking to Revere quotes on his conservative blog, said Palin’s critics are the ones in need of a history lesson. “It seems to be a historical fact that this happened,” he said. “A lot of the criticism is unfair and made by people who are themselves ignorant of history.”
"Experts Back Sarah Palin's Account"
It's a compelling quote. As Jacobson is a law professor at an elite university, I eagerly went to his blog seeking an able explanation and defense of this judgement: Palin's remarks are more accurate than those of her critics.

Searching for this quote, or even the word "ignorant" in Jacobson's blog bears no fruit. Perhaps the quoted lines are from an interview. Perhaps they originally appeared in the post obliquely referenced, but edits removed them.

Jacobson has several posts over the past few days:

"So Now All These People Will Apologize to Sarah Palin About Paul Revere, Right?" 3 June 2011

Noting that Palin's version "seemed odd," Jacobson found that Conservatives4Palin had quoted Paul Revere's 1898 letter and repeats their quote.

“I'm not a potted plant. I'm here as the blogger. That's my job.” 4 June 2011

He takes issue with a comment on his blog that accused him of "offering cover" to a politician who deserves scorn.

"Deranged Propagandist"
4 June 2011

Notes that Andrew Sullivan linked to his blog via the label "deranged propagandist".

"Anti-Palinites Go All In On Epistemic Closure," 6 June 2011

Renders accusations against Palin's critics for committing the errors they attempt to pin on her.
The debate also shifted, from she was wrong as to the fact of the warning to she was wrong as to Revere's intent. The goal posts constantly were moved. All in all, there was an intellectual shut down by those on the left and right who don't like Palin, an unwillingness to consider facts which contradicted their narrative.
"Suffolk Univ. History Prof. - Palin Right About Paul Revere," 6 June 2011

Links to the NPR interview with Robert Allison that I discuss in "Paul Revere's Bells".

"I Demand That Obama Recite The Longfellow Poem From Memory," 8 June 2011

Clever turn of the whole controversy against our current President.

Paul Revere's Ride

In his first post, Professor Jacobson searched David Hackett Fischer's Paul Revere's Ride (1994) for "Paul Revere bells and gunshots," finding this passage: "A townsman remembered that 'repeated gunshots, the beating of drums and the ringing of bells filled the air'" (150). Something along those lines was my second response (after finding Revere's letter) and I bought the eBook from Google. I started reading it from the beginning, but jumped forward to the passages relevant to Palin's version.

The text read fine on my notebook and desktop computers, but Google's iPad app utterly failed after purchasing the book. After nearly twenty-four hours of frustration, I deleted the app, then reinstalled it. Last night I was able to read Fischer's book as I fell asleep. His description of General Thomas Gage's frustration with colonials seems apropos. If Gage's view has any credibility as Fischer presents it, his observation of colonial contradictions establishes a stronger connection between today's Tea Partiers and the original Boston Tea Party.
General Gage reminded himself that most of these infuriating provincials were British too--blood of his blood, flesh of his own freeborn nation. They had been allowed more liberties than any people on the face of the globe, yet they complained that he was trying to enslave them. They were taxed more lightly than the subjects of any European state, but refused even the trivial sums that Parliament had levied upon them. They professed loyalty to their rightful Sovereign, but tarred and feathered his Royal officers, and burned His Majesty's ships to the water's edge.
Paul Revere's Ride, 31
That a tax revolt might be led by those who paid the least taxes seems as true of the eighteenth century Boston smugglers who organized the Tea Party as of those that lead today's group that claims their mantle.

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