Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sarah Palin and Paul Revere

I've written in the past on Tea Party misues and misunderstanding of American history - particularly revolutionary and Constitutional history. It's particularly frustrating because not only are they often mistaken about the course that the founders set us on - they also accuse others who don't think like them of "abandoning the Constitution", "turning from the vision of the founders", and stuff like that. As someone who takes the founding and the significance of the American project seriously, that doesn't sit well with me.

However, I want to note in big bold letters that Sarah Palin's recent claim that Paul Revere warned the British wasn't really an issue at all. It was pretty obviously a misstatement, and I think misstatements are crucially different from misunderstandings. When Tea Partiers co-opt the Don't Tread on Me flag and the phrase "no taxaction without representation" in protesting Obama, that bothers me considerably more because it demonstrates a deeper misunderstanding of the founding era - the concern was not with taxation, it was with taxation levied by a Parliament in which the colonists had no representation.

Anyone who speaks publicly is going to misspeak. It's not something we need to obsess over. I see a big difference between saying Paul Revere warned the British and not being able to name any newspapers that you read. The former tells me absolutlely nothing about the state of Sarah Palin's intelligence. The latter tells me she probably never really spends much time reading newspapers, which is not a trivial thing for someone seeking high office.

David Friedman has an interesting little piece of history - Paul Revere actually did warn the British on his ride! Now, I'm not sure this vindicates Palin's mistake. It seems like a Gettier Problem of sorts. Still - interesting!

1 comment:

  1. It vindicates her ignorance because most Americans' are ignorant of the events of the ride. We should all be less certain in our understanding of historical glorification stories.


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