I hate getting drawn into these discussions. Normally I would just ignore the small uproar surrounding Sarah Palin’s comments on Paul Revere, since that’s rather far removed from my normal blogging interests. But, I did post the video as part of our normal Saturday morning fun, so now I fell compelled to comment on recent reports that Sarah Palin was right.
No she wasn’t. Just stop it.
According to the LA Times, Sarah Palin’s version of Paul Revere’s ride was correct, and the media’s response is yet another example of the media reacting quickly and ignorantly to politicians’ statements. So, like Al Gore, George Bush, and Dan Quayle, Palin has been unfairly branded by this unfortunate response.
Now, at least part of the LA Times story is correct. Some have focused almost exclusively on Palin’s claim that Paul Revere warned the British. Since many people were not aware that Revere was captured by the British and that he did warn them about the colonial militia, they assumed that she had gotten the story exactly backwards. So, they were mistaken in focusing on this part of Palin’s claim.
But, that doesn’t mean she was right.
Here’s what she said:
He warned the British that they weren’t gonna be taking away our arms, by ringing those bells, and making sure as he was riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were gonna be secure and we were gonna be free.
So, she has Paul Revere warning the British by riding through town, ringing bells, and apparently firing off warning shots. This is the part of her story that was so wrong. First, he didn’t ring any bells or fire any warning shots. He probably didn’t even yell. The whole idea was to spread the word without getting caught (which didn’t work very well anyway). So, secrecy was more important than noise.
But, more importantly, he certainly wasn’t riding around and making as much noise as possible to warn the British. The purpose of his ride was to warn the colonists. He didn’t warn the British until after he was captured. So, his warning to the British had nothing to do with his historic ride (regarding which so many myths have been spread).
So, Sarah Palin was wrong. She wasn’t as wrong as people have suggested. But, she was still wrong. It happens all the time. And, it probably happens with popular history more often than anywhere (except religion). As James McGrath pointed out, though, the issue isn’t whether you or the people you admire make mistakes, but whether you’re willing to recognize and admit those mistakes when they happen. Apparently, a lot of people aren’t.