June 6th, 2011

Historians: well, Palin was right but it was only an accident

The right side of the blogosphere has been busy digging up evidence that Sarah Palin’s remarks on Paul Revere, for which her opponents had derided her in their usual manner, were actually correct (I did my little part here).

Now come the historians to say that yes, she was right (and not just as opposed to “left;” as opposed to “wrong”):

Boston University history professor Brendan McConville said, “Basically when Paul Revere was stopped by the British, he did say to them, ‘Look, there is a mobilization going on that you’ll be confronting,’ and the British are aware as they’re marching down the countryside, they hear church bells ringing — she was right about that — and warning shots being fired. That’s accurate.”

Patrick Leehey of the Paul Revere House said Revere was probably bluffing his British captors, but reluctantly conceded that it could be construed as Revere warning the British.

But all is not lost, at least as far as the left is concerned. Leehey added, “But I don’t know if that’s really what Mrs. Palin was referring to,” and McConville said that he would call her “lucky in her comments.”

In other words, her errors probably just happened by wild chance to reflect the details of the real Revere history.

It’s sort of the flip side of that old mantra of the left, where it doesn’t matter if someone they support happens to lie or be inaccurate, because it serves a greater truth. In this case, it doesn’t matter if Sarah is correct, because the greater truth is that she’s stupid. So, like a stopped clock that’s right twice a day, any sign of intelligence on her part must be a fluke.

And of course one can’t prove for sure that she knew what she was talking about. It’s certainly within the realm of possibility that she happened by chance to hit on a narrative (love that word!) of Revere that (a) runs counter to what most people believe to be the truth; and (b) is the truth. But how likely is that? Not very.

However, my prediction—and I think it’s a safe one—is that Sarah won’t be hearing any apologies from her mockers any time soon.

26 Responses to “Historians: well, Palin was right but it was only an accident”

  1. Mr. Frank Says:

    This morning on MSNBC Stephen Rattner made some dismissive remarks about Palin and said the American public is not going to vote for someone who doesn’t know what Paul Revere did. No one called him on it and no one on the left will.

  2. M J R Says:

    I think there’s an excellent chance that Ms. Palin, well, chanced upon a truth re Paul Revere when what she actually did was misspeak.

    Virtually everyone misspeaks from time to time, even me and even you (whomever “you” out there may happen to be).

    Did Mr. Obama ^really^ think he’d visited (or was planning to visit? — who the ^%$# cares by now?) 57 states? Of course not.

    But the MSM meme is that Mr. Obama is smart, while Ms. Palin is stupid. And that is that, and so it goes.

    Never mind Obama declaring that Austrians speak the Austrian language, or mispronouncing corpsman as corpse-man. The meme rules.

    And so it goes with Palin. Pundit Michelle Malkin has the perfect word for the phenomenon — “unhinged”.

  3. Oldflyer Says:

    I am too lazy to go back and find it, but I recently read a story from 2008 written by the former Editor in Chief of “Ms” magazine. This woman spent some time with Palin and said she is unequivocally intelligent, and intellectually curious. I am sure the woman was pilloried as a traitor to the “Sisterhood”.

    It appears that SP often “lucks out” when folks attack her credibility. Most will recall this episode referenced by a correspondent in the comments section at http://strata-sphere.com/blog/:

    “She’s done this before. At a Tea Party Rally before the 2010 elections she said, referring to the Boston Tea Party, “Don’t be thinking that we’ve got victory for America in the bag yet…We can’t party like it’s 1773.”

    Assuming she meant 1776 I guess, Gwen Ifill and Markos Moulitsas, immediatly mocked Palin via twitter. Markos’s tweet was especially funny, “Sarah Palin to supporters: “Don’t party like it’s 1773 yet”. http://is.gd/g7rRb. She’s so smart.”

    Google Boston Tea Party if you forget the date of the event. Ifill and Kos were apparently too lazy, or else they are satisfied to speak ignorantly–as long as it is in a good cause, such as trashing Palin. They know that many are perfectly willing to believe anything negative about SP.

  4. Shouting Thomas Says:

    I think that Palin got the info from a docent at a tourist info site during her tour. She definitely knew what she was talking about.

    A Facebook friend became so furious with me when I told him that Palin was correct that he deleted me as a friend.

    Believing that Palin is stupid and illiterate seems to be demanded by leftists. You’re not the right kind of person if you don’t think that Palin is stupid and illiterate.

  5. Occam's Beard Says:

    I think there’s an excellent chance that Ms. Palin, well, chanced upon a truth re Paul Revere when what she actually did was misspeak.

    I think that there’s a pretty good chance the Palin is playing the “rope-a-dope” with our sinister friends, viz., saying something that many would consider wrong, but that she knows is in fact correct (as in the Tea Party and 1773 reference, for example), in the confident knowledge that they will reflexively jump all over it without checking their facts, and end up having to eat their words (thereby further enraging them).

    If so, the strategy is akin to a bullfighter holding his cape in front of a brick wall, inducing the bull to charge, whereupon the bullfighter whisks the cape away and lets the bull crash head first into the wall.

    In both cases, one turns the adversaries’ innate proclivities (indeed, compulsions) into a weapon against them.

  6. Curtis Says:

    Play it backwards. You’ll hear Sarah Palin saying she loves America.

  7. Baklava Says:

    Just the facts ma’am. :)

  8. SteveH Says:

    I’ve always thought conservatives overlooked the benefit of classic sting operations to ensnare reflexive liberals. That pot of gold is endless.

  9. Curtis Says:

    You got that right, SteveH.

    Pamela Geller has a piece on Palin which encourages people who consider Palin as special and great.


  10. T Says:

    Auric Goldfinger said “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.”

    First we had “Party like it’s 1773,” now we are at Goldfinger’s “twice” with the Paul Revere episode.

    I think rope-a-dope is precisely what Palin is doing (especially the “dope” part). I seriously suspect that this is a deliberate game to caricature the MSM and thus neutralize (overtime) all of the inexcusable vitriol they have thrown at her for three years. She is beating the them at their own game; they buy ink by the barrell, but she understands that pixels are free! This, alone, testifies to her intelligence.

    Furthermore, it’s having an effect. We now have committed liberals like Kirsten Powers complimenting Palin for this “screw you” attitude toward the media, and Chris Wallace, long a respected reporter, is also seeing Palin in a new light. One only wonders, can Krauthammer and Will be far behind?

  11. T Says:

    Sorry, should be:

    “First we had ‘DON’T party like it’s 1773,’”

  12. Scott Says:

    I read on blogs that on this trip the Palin’s have taken some formal tours of historical sites. If that is true, then why is it so hard to believe that she had recently taken a tour focused on Paul Revere during which she learned the “real” story about his famous ride?

    I fully accept the criticism that she expressed herself less than eloquently during that 15 second clip. But it is a stretch for me to believe that she “accidentally” hit upon the truth because she got tongue tied and used the word “British” when she really wanted to say colonists or Americans or whatever.

    That just doesn’t seem likely to me.

  13. Don Carlos Says:

    I see a simpler explanation: the Narrative overwhelms the Fact. Especially when the Narrative rhymes to facilitate recall and tells only part of the story; “One if by land, two if by sea, and I on the other shore will be.”

  14. Terrye Says:

    I knew this story. I am one of those boring people who really likes history.

    I think that the media is unfair to Palin, but I also think she was kind of meandering in her comments and that left people wondering what she was talking about.

    If she had just said “Paul Revere not only warned the American colonists about the British coming, he also warned the British that Americans would not be easily disarmed.” She was tired I think. And while she is no dummie, she does not always think well on her feet. A lot of people don’t.

    She said herself that her bus tour was meant to bring light to our history and the foundations of our country. She should have anticipated questions like this and just had some simple stock answers.

    The media no doubt will jump on whatever they can where Palin is concerned, but she could have handled this better.

    I think she had heard the story, but she just expressed herself badly.

  15. Terrye Says:

    Occam’s Beard:

    But the problem with that is that Palin does not come off looking smarter here, she just comes off as a bad speaker. I think the idea that she knew nothing of the larger story is unlikely, but I also think it is unlikely that she deliberately created this controversy just to make her critics look bad. They don’t look bad…as far as most people are concerned Palin screwed up..end of story. She could have made the same statement in such a way that she could have made her point without sounding confused.

  16. Don Carlos Says:

    I just checked Longfellow. Last verse starts,”You know the rest.” (!)

  17. Terrye Says:

    The following paragraphs are from a short article I saw at WaPo…yes I know that WaPo is biased, but read the quote from Palin herself. This is the point I was trying to make earlier, she expressed herself poorly and that lead to a lot of the reaction:

    “Palin appears to be referring to a part of the story which is not in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem but is described elsewhere in historical accounts, in which Revere is detained by the British and warns them, while at gunpoint, that 500 American militiamen awaited in Concord.

    In her initial comment and on Sunday, Palin seemed to blend this aspect of the story with Revere actually riding around to warn the Americans that the British were coming. She described Revere warning the British by riding through town, firing warning shots and ringing bells. Warning shots and bells are not included in historical accounts of the ride, either.

    “He who warned the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms by ringing those bells and making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free,” Palin said to a local TV reporter.”

  18. Curtis Says:

    I have to agree with Terrye, here. A look at the quote shows a sentence little likely to be the result of a fiendish plot to foil the media.

    [Paul Revere] who warned the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms by ringing those bells and making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free and we were going to be armed.

    The way the sentence is constructed shows an awareness that Paul Revere actually warned the British, but her subject isn’t Paul Revere and his activities; it is more likely the connection between freedom and the right to bear arms. She had two thoughts swirling around in her head.

  19. Sam L. Says:

    So Sarah just got “lucky”. As someone commented at Don Surber’s blog–something like “better to be lucky than smart”.

    She’s smarter that the media think, and The Won much less so.

    Misunderestimating Sarah; that ain’t smart. But it is the party line.

  20. Terrye Says:


    Yes, I think she intended to make a point about the second amendment, and why we have the right to bear arms..but it got all mixed up in who did and did not warn who.

    I don’t think it was a plot..I just think people did not understand what she said.

  21. Rathtyen Says:

    What I find lacking in so much American political commentary (and in part what makes it so fascinating and entertaining in a shock, chainsaw movie sort of way) is the utter lack of empathy (I mean in general, not you Neo).

    In Paul Revere’s own words, he was captured by the enemy, and an officer held a gun to his head. Revere told them the Militia were coming. Put yourself in his position – he wasn’t being a traitor: the bells were already ringing and people firing their guns in warning, excitement and as a threat. The British soldiers knew something was happening (after all they were there for a very express purpose, to try to head off a rebellion by confiscating weapons), and Revere, who no doubt expected to be shot at any moment (gun to his head), was taunting them. He was defiant, playing on their confusion and uncertainty, their fears, as the one honourable option he had left (as opposed to begging for his life). He stuck it too them at a time of incredible vulnerability, and it worked, because he was able to get away. And far from being helped by the information, the British were more likely spooked, which is no doubt what Revere intended.

    Many Americans don’t seem to like that story because it hints of betrayal by Revere, which is clearly not the case. It was defiance. Whether it was smart or not is a different matter, but it worked out well enough for Revere’s side, and lets face it, considering he had a gun to his head, it was remarkably brave. A bit more empathy, and more commentators would be able to see it from that angle.

    I’m from Australia, and I know the details of what happened, so why is it a stretch that Sarah Palin, who has shown an inclination to delve into historical detail, wouldn’t?

    The reality is Palin is playing mind games with the press and the Left. She knows they will massively overreact to her smallest gaffe, so she is giving them “gaffes” that aren’t mistakes at all (and in the process highlighting their ignorance: the message is these people aren’t really that smart after all). They go over-the-top, and then get egg on their face. It is the psychology of the booby trap – they need to assume she is trapping them, and that means they have to be a lot more careful in reacting to her. Palin slows her enemies down, and the prime moment slips away.

    Its almost cruel, and remarkable in how effortlessly Palin is slapping the press and Left around, while at the same time taking the wind out of her Republican rivals sails without needing to attack or criticise them directly. I don’t know if Palin can keep this up, but so far what we are seeing is political brilliance. And the Left are so busy convincing themselves what an imbecile Palin is, they can’t see what is happening.

  22. Curtis Says:

    Nicely stated, Rathtyen. Perhaps you and Occam are correct on this one and we might not know until Palin tells us.

    One thing I think this shows: Fear, even power, has been transferred. Maybe transferred is the wrong word because fear never influenced Palin to begin with. I’ve said that Palin has a genius but genius is not quite the right word either. Maybe it is integrity. She’s one of the few that has nothing to hide anywhere anyhow. And what a sorry testament to our ruling class that is.

    Perhaps there is something to tell us in the story of Gideon and his 300 men who caused the enemy such confusion that they turned on themselves. This seems to be the case with the media’s own awareness that somehow this stupid woman is outsmarting them.

  23. Pat Dooley Says:

    Context, people, context. Palin was responding to a reporter’s question in an impromptu environment. The gist of what she may have just learned about Paul Revere came bubbling out; she had just visited the Paul Revere house and was likely excited to learn the full story, including Revere’s capture by the British, his bluffing at pistol point, and his release.

    Not many politicians expose themselves to impromptu questions because the gaffe risk is so high. Palin took that risk dozens of times during her bus tour.

  24. turfmann Says:

    Rathtyen Says:
    June 6th, 2011 at 8:40 pm…

    You are exactly correct, my friend from Down Under.

    If people would just stop for a minute and read what Revere himself wrote of the events…


    it would seem quite clear that Mrs. Palin is indeed correct.

  25. rickl Says:

    Great comment. I think you’re dead on.

  26. Curtis Says:

    Another thing this episode shows: Our culture has greatly relinquished the idea of self-government. We now think only the super educumacated elite can do it. You know, people like DSK and Weiner who can speechify common sense into doubtful mysteries.

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