Recognizing bogus history, 2

August 2, 2006

Bogus history infects political discussions more than others, though there are some areas where bogus history strays into the realm of science (false claims that Darwin and Pasteur recanted, for example).

1. The author pitches the claim directly to the media or to organizations of non-historians, for pay.

Historians are detectives, and they like to share what they find. One historian working in the papers of one figure from history will find a letter from another figure, and pass that information on to the historian working on the second figure. Historians teach history, write it up for scholarly work, and often spin it in more fascinating tales for popular work. Most years there are several good works competing for the Pulitzer Prize in history. Academic historians, those tied to universities and other teaching institutions, join societies, attend meetings, and write their material in journals — all pitched to sharing what they have learned.

Bogus historians tend to show up at conferences of non-historians. Douglas Stringfellow’s tales of World War II derring do were pitched to civic clubs, places where other historians or anyone else likely to know better would not appear (Stringfellow’s stories of action behind enemy lines in World War II won him several speaking awards, and based on his war record, he was nominated to a seat in Congress for Utah, in 1952, which he won; a soldier who knew Stringfellow during the war happened through Salt Lake City during the 1954 re-election campaign, and revealed that Stringfellow’s exploits were contrived; he was forced to resign the nomination). David Barton speaks more often to gun collectors than to history groups. Read the rest of this entry »

Flag ceremony update, 2

August 2, 2006

In comments to the first post on flag folding, Chris noted that the American Legion’s website has the ceremony I fisked, verbatim. So I wrote to the American Legion and suggested they explain that the ceremony isn’t official, and perhaps fix some of the errors in it.

I have heard back. They’re sticking by it, even to the wrong words of the hero of the War of 1812, Stephen Decatur. The misquote of Decatur is really no big deal, but the real quote suggests Decatur will stand up for his nation, “. . . our country, right or wrong!”; the erroneous version suggests a ‘well, whatever’ attitude towards defending the nation, “. . . it is still our country.”

I looked: There is nothing at the American Legion site about Millard Fillmore and the White House bathtubs.

I also found the newer Air Force ceremony, posted at, at the “Betsy Ross” site.

Update February 26, 2007:  Go here for another list of the new Air Force ceremony.

Image of folded flag from CNN

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