Palin’s Revisionist Paul Revere History Stokes Wikipedia Wrassle

I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a Sarah Palin fan. However, I feel I owe her some thanks as a result of her recently informing us that, on his famous ride, Paul Revere was warning the British

“by ringing those bells, and makin’ sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be sure and we were going to be free, and we were going to be armed.” 

As quite a few have pointed out, secrecy, which generally calls for quiet (i.e., not ringing things like bells), was “critical as Revere sought to carry out his mission to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock that British troops were coming to arrest them,” to quote the New York Times.

Rather than acknowledge her error about one of those basic facts of American history we would hope American school children, whatever the political proclivities of their parents, would know, Palin has defended her mistake as being nothing but the truth. As she she said on Fox News Sunday:

“Part of his ride was to warn the British that were already there. That, hey, you’re not going to succeed. You’re not going to take American arms. You are not going to beat our own well-armed persons, individual, private militia that we have,” she added. “He did warn the British.”

It’s not only Palin who has been revising history, but her supporters. On Sunday and Monday, Palinytes were waging a bit of a “war,” as The Atlantic puts it, revising the history of Revere’s ride as presented on a Wikipedia page in order to square up to Palin’s version. The page — I imagine poor Paul Revere might be turning in his grave over the revisions to accounts of his historic deed, though he might be wanting to ask first “what is this Wikipedia?” — now bears a padlock so, as Wikimedia Foundation spokesman Jay Walsh says in the New York Times, there can be “a cooling-off period” in the wake of “numerous attempts to edit a site.”

The Atlantic article about this whole tempest in a tea party-pedia quotes some of the exchanges between Palinytes and Wikipedia’s voluntary editors. The latter have doggedly been pointing out someone basic dicta of citing sources and writing about historical events, that one must use “reliable sources when making claims” and, too, that one is to “remain neutral in depicting historical events.” Obviously, Palinytes think Palin is a “reliable” source and that she is “neutral” — obviously too, some people may need a bit of a refresher about what constitutes a “reliable source” and being “neutral.”

Which takes me back to why I am finding myself in the unexpected position of sending thanks to Palin. Understanding what is a “reliable source” is something that some (well, Palin’s supporters and Palin) seem to be struggling with. Many college students do too, and all the more so in this age of the Internet and, yes, Wikipedia, which has become so much a part of our lives, culture, everything — that it is seeking World Heritage Site status. 

Come autumn when I’m back in the college classroom teaching about ancient Greek and Roman history and culture, I’m going to be explaining about clarifying the “accuracy of sources” and “writing from a neutral perspective” by making reference to the epic Palinyte struggle over the truth about Paul Revere; by using Sarah Palin (and her historical inaccuracy, perhaps inadequacy) to teach students not only about history, but historical accuracy. 


You betcha.


Previous Care2 Coverage

Sarah Palin: Paul Revere “Ringing Those Bells, Keeping Us Free” [VIDEO]


Photo from wikimedia commons


Maarja L.
Maarja L5 years ago

Maybe I am over-reacting, but... Wikipedia should try to be truthful, not 'truthful'. It is much easier to access than other encyclopaedias, and much more known.

Brigid C.
Brigid C5 years ago

well yes thanks Sarah for driving another coffin nail in your presidental aspirations

Steven Brewer
Steven Brewer5 years ago

Craig C
Other quotes by John Adams:
"As I understand the Christian religion, it was, and is, a revelation. But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed?"
..........To F.A. Van der Kamp, Dec. 27, 1816

"I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved--the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!"
..........To Thomas Jefferson

"What havoc has been made of books through every century of the Christian era? Where are fifty gospels, condemned as spurious by the bull of Pope Gelasius? Where are the forty wagon-loads of Hebrew manuscripts burned in France, by order of another pope, because suspected of heresy? Remember the 'index expurgatorius', the inquisition, the stake, the axe, the halter and the guillotine."

Steven Brewer
Steven Brewer5 years ago

Craig C
"Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
- John Adams

The above quote doesn’t entail the conclusion that religious principles “undeniably” govern our laws. On the contrary, it is arguable that if our Constitution is made only for a religious and moral people then the laws don’t need to be based upon religious principles — after all, a “religious and moral people” don’t need the government to enforce their own religious morality, right? If the Constitution is inadequate to the government of anyone other than a religious and moral people, perhaps it's precisely because religion and morality have been left out — and left to the people themselves.
You can have morality in religions other than Christianity. You can have morality without any religion whatsoever. As a result, you can have morality without "Christian traditions" being used to determine the content of civil laws.
Aside from that, John Adams didn’t write the Constitution, much less the First Amendment, so his idea of how it should be interpreted isn’t immediately more authoritative than that of others’. Just because he might have thought that the Constitution was incompatible with a nation of secular atheists doesn’t mean that anyone else necessarily has to think the same.

Steven Brewer
Steven Brewer5 years ago

I heard Palin boasting about raising her foreign relations credentials beacause now she can see New Mexico from her front porch.

As for Paul Revere's ride, riding a horse at top speed takes two hands. Even though ringing a bell only takes one and firing a musket once only takes one, to do either would have been contra to the secrecy of his ride. Firing a musket is not like firing the guns in the old the cowboys and indian movies. Muskets took two hands to fire and two very, steady hands to load the powder the ball and the wad and ramrodding it all down the barrel while standing, let alone riding a horse at full speed. The multiple warning shots Palin speaks of would have been close to impossible especially while holding those damn bells. I suppose the lanterns hung in the old North Church were traffic signals for Revere, one saying go and two saying stop and warn the British that you were warning the colonists of their imminent approach after which they would let you go on your merry way. She's an idiot you betchya...

Kathleen D.
Kathleen D5 years ago

I thought this article was about Palin, not Wiener. As far as John Adams is concerned, he has little to do with being worthy of even being mentioned much less quoted.

Kathleen D.
Kathleen D5 years ago

Well, I disagree with the statement (with all due respect) that Palin is not an idiot. She simply was targeted by another 'Karl Rove' who had the genius to capitalize on her 'faux pas' by making her the 'Queen of Stupidity'. And let's face it; only the tea-bags would jump up in her defense and expand on the revisionist history by doing some revising of their own. The tea-bags and Palin can only be defined as "dumb and dumber".
I personally would love to see her throw her hat into the presidential campaign ring. Palin would provide great comedy relief for those of us who don't often watch Saturday Night Live.

Craig C.
Craig C5 years ago

Gary A quote by John Adams " Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other end quote" Not only that he is and will remain a compulsive liar, that my friend I have a problem with, you don't see a problem with sending pics of your private parts to women you have never come into contact with, with child on way with a wife of less than 1 year, then join his fan club, he still tweets!!!!!

Craig C.
Craig C5 years ago

Sharon at your age one wonders? We have 50 states PERIOD as we do have 7 US territories which operate under their own government separate from ours get it! And I haven't been to the 2 others as of yet????

Deborah L.
Deborah L5 years ago

Forgot to add as the 1st comment page got lost in limbo.

Puerto Rico has been a dependent on the U.S. government for food stamps and other benefits since the 1970's that I know of and probably a lot longer than we really know. Also in the last presidential election many of these territories also voted for the American president, so I can see why Obama would consider them as one of the states. After all we are sort of responsible for them anyway.