Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Gun Advocate Lies to Make His Case

One of the common characteristics of many right wing commentators is that they have a tendency to simply make-up facts to fit their view of the world. This tendency is summed up by Stephen Colbert's quip that, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias." As a case in point, let's look at this exchange between David Barton and Glenn Beck. In the clip, David Barton, who claims to be a historian, is trying to make a case about the attitude of the Founding Fathers towards guns and firearms. In particular, he wants to demonstrate that the Founding Fathers felt gun ownership was important for purposes of self-defense. As evidence he cites a letter from John Quincy Adams to his brother Thomas. Let's look at the exchange:

So, according to Barton, the reason Adams wants his sun trained in the use of a firearm is not for sporting purposes but for personal defense. However, if we take a look at the actual text of the letter we can see quite clearly that Barton is guilty of Eduction, that is, he is guilty of taking the quote out of context in order to change its original meaning. Let's look at the actual text of the letter:
One of the things which I wish to have them taught, and which no man can teach them better than you, is the use and management of firearms. This must undoubtedly be done with great caution, but it is customary among us, particularly when children are under the direction of ladies, to withhold it too much and too long from boys. The accidents which happen among children arose more frequently from their ignorance, than from their misuse of weapons which they know to be dangerous. As you are a sportsman, I beg you occasionally from this time to take George out with you in your shooting excursions, teach him gradually the use of the musket, its construction, and the necessity of prudence in handling it; let him also learn the use of pistols, and exercise him at firing at a mark. “In general let him have as much relaxation and sport as becomes his age, but let him be encouraged In nothing delicate or effeminate. [Worthington Chauncey Ford, ed., Writings of John Quincy Adams, vol. 3, (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1914), 497.]
 As the parts in bold show, Adams was clearly thinking of firearm use in the context of hunting or sporting, not, as Beck and Barton would have us believe, about self-defense. The only way Barton can make the claims that he does is by actively misrepresenting the contents of the letter by taking excerpts from the letter out of their original context. And this is a textbook example of eduction.

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