Do Well By Doing Good
Chris Rodda printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu May 05, 2011 at 02:11:45 PM EST
OK, I'm about to do what will either be the smartest or the stupidest thing I've ever done.

After watching Jon Stewart's interview of pseudo-historian David Barton last night, and the extended interview online this morning, I wasn't sure what to do. Jon did as good a job as he could against the fast talking Barton -- better than anyone else I've seen debate this very slick character -- but missed several opportunities to really nail him.

After nine years of battling Barton's lies, the first three or four of which were spent writing my book, Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version of American History, I'm at a point of utter frustration as I watch this Christian nationalist liar get more and more influential. Jon Stewart's interview was the tipping point. If Jon couldn't nail this shameless and obvious history revisionist to the wall, I don't know who can.

A lie can be told in a few words. Debunking that lie can take pages. That is why my book, (which is only the first volume of what will be a three volume series), is five hundred pages long. Nobody is going to be able to adequately prove to any audience that Barton's lies are lies in an interview like Jon Stewart did last night, and David Barton is never going to agree to debate anyone that he knows can defeat him.

A few hours ago, I was about to sit down at my computer to do my usual thing -- write about the Daily Show interview, and debunk the specific lies that Barton was able to get in. But instead I found myself staring at the big Ben Franklin poster on my wall, and changed my mind. Sure, I could write about the particular snippets of disinformation and dishonesty that spewed forth from Barton during this particular interview, but what good would that do? Been there; done that. Then, staring up at the face of Ben Franklin, it was his words, "Do well by doing good," that suddenly popped into my head.

"Do well by doing good" -- the words of a man who could have become outrageously wealthy by patenting his inventions, but decided to just let everybody have them for the public good -- have now been stuck in my head for hours, and aren't going to leave until I do what I'm about to do -- give my book away for free.

Can I afford to do this? No. Do I need to do this? Yes! Will lots of people download it and read it? I have no freakin' idea. It's just what I need to do to bee able to look Ben Franklin in the eye on that poster on my wall.

If you haven't seen it already, please watch the Daily Show interview, particularly the online extended interview. Then download my book and read it, or watch the videos on my website. I'll be outside on this beautiful spring day playing with my dog, knowing that I've now done everything I possibly can to fight the scourge of David Barton.

Chris, what you are doing is a beautiful thing. I do wish you would put some kind of link somewhere so that folks can make a donation or gift or a "pay what you think it's worth" kind of contribution.

One of the points you made, that a lie may take only a few words and refutation could take pages, is really at the heart of the frustration that comes along with this topic and this area of nefarious intents. In the time it will take any of us to digest your book, looking things up and verifying them ourselves, doing a tiny fraction of the research into aspects of the issues that you and others have spent hours, days, ... hell, YEARS researching, the dogs on the other side will have cranked out another book or three, collected another outrages speaking fee, and laughed their way through more interviews.

How in the world do we combat that kind of propaganda?(sp?)

I wish I knew the answer(s). I don't.

But I think the solution can not rest on the efforts of one person, one online community, one organization, one social group, or even one political group. The response to this kind of premeditated manipulation of public thought will ultimately have to be one that is more solid and well thought out than the attack itself. It will not be enough to simply, intellectually defend. The defense will have to be one that not only deflects, but disarms the attacker. I don't know how we will get there. But I do know that works such as yours and works such as those the other amazing researchers, watchers, and wardens on this site and sites like it produce will be foundational to that effort.

So I will say thank you for your years of toiling and your willingness to share your tireless, meticulous research with others. And more than fame and fortune, I hope that you get to see your work used as a tool for good. I hope that you get to see your work used as fuel for a light in the midst of the darkness and chaos being cast over the minds of so many.


by rahilliard on Thu May 05, 2011 at 08:37:48 PM EST

Sorry for all the typos.

by rahilliard on Thu May 05, 2011 at 10:45:41 PM EST

Chris, why don't you contact the producers of the Stewart show - maybe send them a copy off your book.  Perhaps they will book you as a guest.

by JerrySloan on Fri May 06, 2011 at 04:12:13 PM EST
If Stewart has a guest on that has lied to his face, he almost always does a follow-up segment exposing the mendacity. I see no reason why it should be any different with Barton.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Sun May 08, 2011 at 10:23:36 AM EST

I heard from the local library yesterday. They couldn't locate a copy of Liars for Jesus, which I recently requested through interlibrary loan. To my surprise, Barton appeared on the Daily Show later that evening (which you know). I missed part of the interview and wanted to see all of it, plus I wanted to see the part that is put on the site. Today, I went to the Daily Show site and found -- to my amazement -- that your book was available in its entirety.

Thank you for your book. I admit to being cheap (actually, poor lately) but it's still going for more than I'd like and now I have it anyways. Yeah!! I promise to make it up to you. Really. Thanks.

"When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross." - Sinclair Lewis
by colinski on Fri May 06, 2011 at 03:09:33 AM EST
The librarian who said that (s)he couldn't locate a copy of "Liars for Jesus" on Interlibrary Loan is either lying or is incompetent.  According to http:/, 34 copies of this book can be found is U. S. public and university libraries.

I suggest that everyone who is wishes to help refute Barton's ridiculous claims ask their public or university library to purchase a hard copy for their collection.

by historyprof on Sun May 08, 2011 at 05:22:55 PM EST

Purchase one yourself and donate it to your local library. This is how I have gotten several books into the local collection that I know would not otherwise have been purchased, even upon request.

by MLouise on Sun May 08, 2011 at 09:16:39 PM EST
... that libraries and book stores order from. These sales show up differently on my sales report, and other libraries have obviously gotten it. I can't remember the name of the catalog offhand, but I know it's one of the main ones that libraries order from.

by Chris Rodda on Mon May 09, 2011 at 09:35:24 AM EST

I use the information from your book all the time in countering Christian dominionists and I'm sure I'm not the only one. I am so looking forward to your next printed volume of Liars For Jesus.  Well, I certainly hope is is released in print form, as I hate reading long stuff online and can't afford to print out 500 pages.  

by monarchmom on Fri May 06, 2011 at 09:13:41 AM EST
I'll never give up!!!! I was just a bit at a loss as to what to do next, and decided on the drastic action of giving away my book for free. I've now had time to channel my frustration better, and that 'what more can I do?' frustration has actually made me think of some other things I can do. I now have two projects planned to step the fight up a notch!

by Chris Rodda on Wed May 11, 2011 at 12:46:33 PM EST

I have the paper version of your book already, but have also taken you up on your generous offer and dl'd the pdf and am sharing this post with friends.

I do not think you're making a mistake at all. I think answering Barton with sound reasoned arguments will benefit us all. And, hopefully, will benefit your bottom line in the end.

Thanks for doing the the work you do.

by justanotherjones on Fri May 06, 2011 at 12:43:32 PM EST

A very dear friend of mine asked me,"Why do you waste your time fighting these fools?"

My response,"Who was it that said,'the easiest way for evil to prevail, is for a good man to do nothing.'?

My beloved friend had told me the person who said that right away, and gave me such a heartwarming look....a look of admiration, and knowing...with a hint of resignation that she could not sway me to make some jewelry because I was doing what I was meant to do...and the crux of why we became such good that I stand for the truth, and I abhor mendacious snake oil salesman, such as Barton, Perkins, Sprigg, Dobson, Hagee......and Palin, Bachman, et al.

My point being is that I'm a newbie to the prodigious scholarly minds that I have come to admire and respect.  I truly believe that you wanted a respite from the constant vigilance you espouse with regards to these, the great charlatans of mankind.

With the greatest respect, Bernie

by OneOfTheWatchers on Wed May 11, 2011 at 01:59:56 AM EST

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