Thursday, February 24, 2005

A Carnival of Carnivals

It was inevitable that eventually someone would do this. It was also inevitable that that someone would be Coturnix. If you want to better understand the carnival phenomenon, if you just want to find something good to read, or if you are looking for the right venue for your writing, this is the post to check out. Coturnix has managed to round up four dozen carnivals and link to their most current issue. This kind of labor deserves a reward.

Call for Bad History

I'll be posting the first Carnival of Bad History over at archy next Tuesday. We still have plenty of room for contributions and I'll be accepting till about noon on Monday.

Since this is the first Carnival, I'm very fluid on how old the contributions can be. If you've written anything you think might be relevant since the first of the year or so, send it in.

Also, since this is the first carnival, we're still fine-tuning the concept. Anything even remotely related is acceptable. If you want to correct a bad historical parallel that some talking head pulls out to support their position, send it in. If you have a pet peeve about historical movies, send it in. If you've been doing battle with holocaust deniers, internment apologists, or slavery romanticizers, definately send it in. If you want to debunk a favorite conspiracy theory, send it in. If you just want to bash on The DaVinci Code, send that in too.

Lastly, we need volunteers to be future hosts. The whole point of a carnival is to share the glory.

Send your article links and hosting volunteerances (or whatever you call that) to archy or to Bad History.

PS - Over the next day or so I'll be sending reminders to everyone who contributed, so you'll know you're in.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Bad History in the Social Security Debate

I think we can expect a lot more of this in the coming months.
In an attempt to promote President Bush's plan to partially privatize Social Security, nationally syndicated radio host and former Reagan administration official William J. Bennett and FOX News managing editor and anchor Brit Hume falsely claimed that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt advocated replacing Social Security with private accounts. In fact, while Roosevelt advocated "voluntary contributory annuities" to supplement guaranteed Social Security benefits, he never proposed replacing those benefits with private accounts.


Former Social Security associate commissioner James Roosevelt Jr., Roosevelt's grandson, noted in a January 31 Boston Globe op-ed piece: "The implication that FDR would support privatization of America's greatest national program is an attempt to deceive the American people and an outrage."

As a debate tactic, what Bennett and Hume are attempting is as old as written language and probably older. They are attempting to make their ideas unassailable by claiming that they spring from ancient revered authorities. This argument is especially effective with conservative audiences, so it's no wonder that conservative pundits would use it to push forward the agenda of an ultra-conservative president.

As history, Bennett and Hume are committing two sins. The first is misrepresentation or just plain lying. The second is trying to draw an ahistorical parallel. This is the act of pulling historical examples and saying they are relevant to present day issues because of some similarity. There is nothing wrong with using historical examples in debate, but the issues have to match.

In this case, the real problem is the misrepresentation. If the Roosevelt program had been what Bennett and Hume claimed it was, then they would have had a valid parallel. But it wasn't, so they don't. This then undermines the debate tactic. They appealed to a revered authority for support and the authority didn't support them. They lose this round.

Cross posted at archy.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Bad History Rudely Noticed

The Rude Pundit noticed some faulty memory at work in the state of the union address and in some people's coverage of the audience reaction.
Let's get one thing straight right here, right now, for every right-wing fuck doll in the media who gets up in arms about how "rude" the Democrats were for shouting "No" when Bush stood up last night and said, "Fuck your Social Security. I piss on your retirement": From the Buffalo News on Bill Clinton's 1995 State of the Union speech: "At one point, Republicans even booed. About 20 of them left before Clinton finished talking." What did the Republicans boo for? Because Clinton dared to say that there were some things that government must do.


Bush ended "his" speech with a quote from Franklin Roosevelt's 1937 Inaugural Address, where Roosevelt included the famous words of poet Arthur O'Shaughnessy, "Each age is a dream that is dying, or one that is coming to birth." Of course, the Republicans are desperately trying to co-opt FDR to justify their destruction of his works. But one wonders if Bush has read the entirety of Roosevelt's Second Inaugural. See, because in the rest of it, Roosevelt said, "We of the Republic sensed the truth that democratic government has innate capacity to protect its people against disasters once considered inevitable, to solve problems once considered unsolvable. We would not admit that we could not find a way to master economic epidemics just as, after centuries of fatalistic suffering, we had found a way to master epidemics of disease. We refused to leave the problems of our common welfare to be solved by the winds of chance and the hurricanes of disaster." Huh. Just the thing that the Republicans booed when Clinton invoked such ideas in 1995.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

It's Black History Month

There has to be some good material inherent in that. Off the top of my head, I think this might be a good time to look at some of the recent Neo-Confederate revisionist literature on master-slave relations in the Old South. Neither Alan nor I specialized in American history, so we aren't the best candidates to write the posts on that. However, I bet someone out there could take care of it.