A lot of people have been commenting lately on a Drudge article, among others, which are purporting to defend Sarah Palin’s inaccurate retelling of the Paul Revere story.. Once again though, it’s time to defend rationality and along the way, make a serious point about irrationality in our politics.
The argument they make to defend Palin goes something like this. There is a historic disagreement regarding whether Revere actually rang bells and when captured he actually did warn the British that the Americans would fight to defend their freedom. Therefore the words Palin said were technically accurate. This may well be true, but it also requires that Palin, standing in front of the historic site most closely associated with Paul Revere’s ride chose to make references to obscure historical facts with no clues or explanation to the audience, leaving it to us to figure out what she was referring to. Overall, the “Drudge Hypothesis” is claiming Palin chose not to acknowledge the famous parts of the Revere story, but rather to mysteriously allude to the more obscure elements of the story. I think that’s a bit much given her, let’s say…tenuous relationship with the truth.
Big deal you say, she got it wrong (again) and we all had a good laugh. Well, not so fast.
We all had a good laugh because we knew that when a politician says something so obviously untrue and outside the scope of their knowledge the appropriate response is to ignore them and even laugh a little. However, what Palin said is no less demonstrably wrong and outside her expertise than every politician who denies evolution or climate change says on a regular basis – only those errors are far more life threatening than Palin’s. Palin’s mistake is a teaching moment, there are moments when people say thing that are demonstrably wrong and they should be confronted. That is the surest method of protecting our nation from the dangers of irrational politics, rewritten history and magical thinking.
So the next time you encounter a public official saying something that is just wrong you know the right response. Call them on it and have no mercy.
PS: This is my first post on my new blog. I hope this blog will serve as a place where in a non-partisan way we can have a discussion of the rational worldview and evidence informs political worldviews. Admittedly Palin is an easy target for a first post, but over time we will definitely be taking on harder subjects. Stay tuned and welcome.