...the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life...

Saturday, August 11, 2018

A few history lessons

I recently joined Twitter, though not because I'm a fan of social media. I did it in part to follow historians setting the record straight about the misuse of history made by political hacks. Twitter, alas, is still publishing people like Alex Jones, whose lies about the Sandy Hook massacre (and other events) are, and I don't use this word lightly, evil. Twitter should show some backbone here.

Yet Twitter doesn't make me feel bad about myself in the way FB and Instagram can, so that's something. Even more something is the way that truth, in the hands of someone competent and patient, and when expressed beautifully and concisely and forcefully, is a hopeful, clarifying act. I've witnessed this in the past few weeks as several historians have been taking on the revisionist history of Dinesh D'Souza. D'Souza once came to my university to debate a renowned (atheist) philosopher about the existence of God. (This was before the sex scandal that forced D'Souza from his presidency at NYC's King's College, and before he was arrested for fraud. I mention these things because ethos is part of any debater's performance.)

At the debate, D'Souza was received warmly by the large crowd. D'Souza was practiced at debate, at public speaking, at delivering his bons mots. His opponent did not appear to be practiced, and came off as kindly if a little stammering and out of his depth. The difference in the debater's performances signifies nothing about truth, as any rhetorician, or Moses, will tell you. What D'Souza's performance did signify was that he is smug, condescending, and, frankly, a jerk*--all in the name of the Christian religion, mind you, although I'd argue it was more in the name of a politics using the language of Christianity to obscure its self-serving injustice.

And so it's satisfying to watch historian Kevin Kruse take D'Souza down, as he does in numerous Twitter threads. This is necessary in a time when white supremacists are holding a second rally in our nation's capital, when the president and his advisors are pursuing increasingly racist policies, and when the Republicans' propaganda network is espousing, at best, hate-by-way-of-fear talking points. I just hope what's necessary--e.g., telling the truth--makes a difference.

[*I've never met D'Souza, so I can't say what he's really like. All I can say is that he appeared this way in the debate, an appearance that he seems to revel in. His mockery of the Parkland Massacre survivors, despite his subsequent apology, is only a degree or two removed from Alex Jones. So, whatever his Christian beliefs at this point, appearances suggest what they suggest.]

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