COMMENTARY | The controversy surrounding Sarah Palin and what she said about Paul Revere “warning the British” continues to roil. In the face of incontrovertible evidence that Palin was correct, many people are still not prepared to concede the point.
The Paul Revere Heritage Project not only has the now famous letter written by Revere to Jeremy Belknap, the corresponding secretary of the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1798, but also a 1775 disposition written by Revere in which he tells the same story. To recap: Revere tells of how he was captured by the British during his famous midnight ride and, under questioning, warned them that he had aroused the countryside and colonial militia had already been deployed against them.
The negative reaction that seems to deny the evidence does not just come from Internet ranters who post anonymous screeds in the comments sections of articles and blogs. Of course those, like the comments that infest our previous piece on this subject, are of the same quality of the ravings of 9/11 truthers and Obama birthers. They are not informed by reason, but rather by a “desire to believe,” in this case to believe that Palin is a fool. The motive may be politically partisan or rooted in sexism, the idea that all conservatives are stupid, or bigotry against rural Alaskans. But it is not rooted in reality.
More disturbing are the more respectable denial responses. Joel Miller, who actually wrote a biography of Paul Revere, still says that Palin got it wrong. According to the National Review, Miller concedes that the incident Revere describes actually took place, but he engages in a little word parsing to make his case.
“Never mind that he only warned the redcoats because he was captured; it had nothing to do with his original mission.”
Never mind that Palin never said that warning the British was part of his original mission. Miller seems intent on sticking to the meme that Palin is an ignoramus, thus behaving as pig-headed as he accuses the former governor of being.
Greg Easterbrook, who ordinarily writes on science and space subjects and is very familiar with getting things wrong, also weighs in via Reuters. Easterbrook falsely states that Palin said that it was Revere’s “purpose” to warn the British. More word parsing.
How can Palin counter this torrent of calumny? The media machine, when it is intent on destroying someone, is like a smothering weight, slowly pressing down, crushing every defense. Dan Quayle, the former vice president, can attest to this.
Of course, the machine can be thwarted. President Reagan did it. So did George W. Bush. But Palin, whether she runs for president or not, is going to have a tough time doing it.
Sources: Manuscript of the Letter From Col. Paul Revere to the Corresponding Secretary (Jeremy Belknap)., Paul Revere Heritage Project
Revere’s Account of the Events of April 18, 1775, Paul Revere Heritage Project
How Sarah Palin Got it Right About Paul Revere ‘Warning the British’, Mark R. Whittington, Yahoo News, June 5, 2011
What Sarah Palin Got Wrong ‘” And We Did, Too, Joel J. Miller, National Review, June 6, 2011
Why can’t politicians admit they’re wrong?, Greg Easterbrook, Reuters, June 7, 2011