|Revere-ing Ms. Palin
||[Jun. 6th, 2011|07:16 am]
For those who somehow missed it, Sarah Palin recently said that Paul Revere was|
he who warned the British that they weren't going to be taking away our arms. By ringing those bells and making sure as he's riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free.This was generally ridiculed. That seemed to me not entirely fair, because she hesitated at the beginning, and it sounded like she perhaps reached for a noun and got "British" instead of "colonists", and then finished the sentence rather than correcting herself. Very Palin, really, but everyone misspeaks.
Then, of course, talking to Chris Wallace, she insisted that she got it right:
Part of his ride was to warn the British that we're already there. That, hey, you're not going to succeed. You're not going to take American arms.So much for misspeaking. I really was prepared to grant her some latitude, but not when she goes back the next day to insist on her misstatement.
OK, none of that is really news to y'all. You might even have heard that some conservatives are insisting that Palin was right, insofar as according to one of Revere's letters (courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society) discusses his capture by British troops, and his telling them that they would face 500 armed colonists. Mind you, there's a big difference between "telling the British once they've captured you" (and Revere makes clear that his statement was given once they had already pointed a pistol at him) and "[riding] to warn the British that we're already there".
The thing that I did just learn, and that I find really quite striking, is that people didn't have to turn to obscure letters by Paul Revere; they could have found the following statement from a reliable source:
That reliable source is, of course, Conservapedia. And thanks to the joys of wiki, we can see that this statement was added yesterday. Well, admittedly, what was added first was a paragraph about Sarah Palin, which was removed. Then user DanW edited the page to say:
- Part of the purpose of Revere's ride was to warn the British that colonists would exercise their natural right to bear arms.
This was reverted, with the observation that "there was not a constitution yet". So DanW tried again, saying:
- Part of the purpose of Revere's ride was to warn the British already present in the colonies that colonists would be exercising their 2nd Amendment rights.
This, too, was reverted by a different person, observing that "Americans had no rights under the British". Finally, DanW put it back, noting that "The right to keep and bear arms is a natural right. It does not matter whether or not the British recognized them"; and the previous reverter did some "copyediting" to put it in its current, "natural right" form. (Perhaps the most brilliant part of yesterday's editing was that someone then added a citation to a discussion of Sarah Palin's comment, which was removed with the observation, "Citation not needed", which tells you more or less everything you need to know about Conservapedia.)
- Part of the purpose of the ride was to warn the British that colonists would exercise their gun rights.
I genuinely can't decide if I find this really funny or really scary. On the one hand, it's hilarious, and on the other, it represents an actual attempt to do the Orwellian change-history-to-match-current-statements thing.
(Incidentally, the far more fascinating part of the Revere letter linked above is a phrasing he also used in his 1775 deposition, in which he relates encountering some officers who rode up, pistols in hand, and said, "God damn you Stop if you go an Inch farther you are a dead man". When Revere and his companions tried to pass them anyway, "they kept before us & swore if we did not turn in to that pasture, they would Blow our brains out". Seriously. If I saw a reenactment of these events with British officers using the phrases "you are a dead man" and "we will blow your brains out", I would have thought it was some stupid modern Tarantinoesque reimagining, and not something directly from the source material. I wonder how old the phrase "blow [one's] brains out" is.)
(Later edit: Poking at Google Books, there's a 1771 account of a trial in "The London Magazine; or, Gentleman's Monthly Intelligencer" in which a witness testifies that the defendants said, "d——n your eyes, you fon of a bitch, lie ftill, of we'll blow your brains out." Interestingly, too, the same article appears in "The Lady's Magazine; or, entertaining companion for the fair sex, Appropriated solely to their Use and Amusement", with the differences that (a) this is headlined as "An Account of what passed on the Trial of the Jews", and (b) "damn" is uncensored. In 1724's "A General History of the Pyrates", the author—possibly Daniel Defoe—referred to "blow his Brains out" as "a favourite Phrafe with thefe Pyrates". Why can't I get paid to do this kind of research?)
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