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Apr 08 2014

Shocker! Allen West Uses Fake Quotes In His Book

You might want to sit down for this one lest you fall over from the shock. Failed former far right member of Congress Allen West uses a bunch of fake quotes from the Founding Fathers in his new book. Well, his ghostwriter did anyway. The book is called Guardian of the Republic, which of course is him, even if he knows so little about the thing he pretends to be protecting.

“Thomas Jefferson said it first: ‘A government big enough to give you everything you want is also big enough to take it away,’” West writes.

The quotation doesn’t appear in Jefferson’s writings, according to researchers at the Charlottesville, Va.-based Thomas Jefferson Foundation. But variations of it have appeared on coffee mugs and T-shirts with Jefferson’s name and have ricocheted around the Internet enough that the foundation included it in a “Spurious Quotations” list of popular sayings misattributed to the Declaration of Independence drafter and third president.

Three other Jefferson quotes in West’s book also appear on the foundation’s list of debunked Jeffersonisms.

Asked this week to provide sources for the Jefferson quotes and some others in the book, West co-author Michele Hickford declined comment and a spokeswoman for Crown Publishing did not respond. West, who is touring to promote the book, could not be reached…

West’s book quotes Lincoln as saying: “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

The quote has appeared on bumper stickers and was attributed to Lincoln in the trailer for the 2013 movie “White House Down.” But it didn’t come from Lincoln, says James Cornelius, the curator of the Lincoln Collection at the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill…

West’s book quotes Alexis de Tocqueville, the 19th century French observer of America, as saying democracy “can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result being that a democracy collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship.”

Tocqueville did see danger in big government, but the quote in West’s book “certainly” is spurious, said Harvard historian Harvey Mansfield, who translated a 2000 edition of Tocqueville’s seminal “Democracy In America.”

A quote attributed to Patrick Henry in West’s book didn’t come from the 18th century Virginian’s writings or speeches, said Henry biographer Thomas Kidd.

West quotes Henry as saying: “The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government.”

Kidd, a history professor at Baylor University in Texas, said the quote appears to be of relatively recent vintage and has taken on a life of its own on the Internet.

“The thing that’s strange about that quote to me is it actually sounds like something that Henry might have said…I find it puzzling that it keeps getting used. You can find similar things that Henry has said that are actual quotes,” Kidd said.

It’s the one from Patrick Henry that is the most absurd, for one obvious reason: Henry was an opponent of the passage of the Constitution. He was invited to take part in the Constitutional Convention but he declined, then worked diligently to prevent it from passing. If you’ve taken even a basic U.S. history course, you should know that was a fake quote. Maybe instead of writing a book about his “warrior code,” West should have been reading some actual history.

24 comments

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  1. 1
    howardhershey

    Don’t you know that all good American history comes from right-wing bumper stickers?

  2. 2
    Trebuchet

    @1: Don’t forget the chain e-mails!

  3. 3
    Modusoperandi

    The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government…

    …pinning it down, questioning and performing a mock execution on it.

  4. 4
    abb3w

    The de Tocqueville quote (or variant) is also sometimes mis-attributed to Tytler; the actual originator appears to be an Oklahoma newspaper columnist with anti-New-Deal leanings.

    Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
    Is the immediate jewel of their souls.
    Who steals my purse steals trash. ‘Tis something, nothing:
    ‘Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands.
    But he that filches from me my good name
    Robs me of that which not enriches him
    And makes me poor indeed.

    The use of spurious quotations for social validation seems an interesting phenomenon that appears understudied in the social psychology technical literature.

  5. 5
    John Pieret

    Maybe instead of writing a book about his “warrior code,” West should have been reading some actual history.

    But then he’d actually know something about American history and that would prevent him from firing up the base with inane platitudes attributed to the Founders!

    Wait a minute! … what am I saying? … it wouldn’t stop him for a MOMENT.

  6. 6
    martinc

    On the plus side, as a comprehensive guide to what right-wing nutters THINK the Founding Fathers said, the book appears to function splendidly.

  7. 7
    Michael Heath

    Ed writes:

    It’s the one from Patrick Henry that is the most absurd, for one obvious reason: Henry was an opponent of the passage of the Constitution. He was invited to take part in the Constitutional Convention but he declined, then worked diligently to prevent it from passing.

    Also important when describing Patrick Henry, even succinctly, is that he didn’t obstruct the government after his losses. Instead he was helpful to the Federalists after ratification of the U.S. Constitution, particularly George Washington and John Marshall. That rather than doing what Republicans do now, which is work to cause failure by those who beat them.

  8. 8
    d.c.wilson

    Separate issue, but: What does someone who nuked his military career over the mistreatment of prisoners have to teach the rest of us about a “warrior code”?

  9. 9
    Chiroptera

    I always find it odd that people even think that a good way to figure out how to run our affairs today is by quoting people who died 200 years ago.

    We don’t quote there ideas about phlogiston to figure out how thermodynamics work, why would we quote people just figuring things out from scratch how to run a modern democratic republic?

  10. 10
    Area Man

    West’s book quotes Alexis de Tocqueville, the 19th century French observer of America, as saying democracy “can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result being that a democracy collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship.”

    Never mind the fakiness of the quote, did it not occur to anyone that we have 200+ years of evidence showing that this is wrong?

  11. 11
    garnetstar

    It’d be obvious to anyone who ever read any 18th or 19th century writings that those quote were fake.

    Everyone then aspired to an elegant, more formal style, and the idea of using some of the relaxed syntax and vocabulary of today would have been anethema. They would not have been taken as credible authors.

  12. 12
    LightningRose

    “Failed former far right member of Congress and confessed war criminal Allen West…”

    There Ed, FTFY.

  13. 13
    Area Man

    “If Alan West had pulled that shit on my watch, I would have hanged him immediately.”

    –George Washington

  14. 14
    Area Man

    “Why is this nigger not working on my plantation?”

    –Edward Rutledge, signer of the Declaration of Independence.

  15. 15
    freehand

    The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government…
    .
    “…then to sit on its chest and forcibly cut its hair with scissors because we think it looks strange.”
    - Mitt Romney

  16. 16
    freehand

    Chiroptera: I always find it odd that people even think that a good way to figure out how to run our affairs today is by quoting people who died 200 years ago.
    .
    Remember, for anti-knowledge authoritarians, reliable beliefs only come from moral authorities, and the more ancient they are the more venerable they are. You sound almost as though you think that knowledge accumulates over time.
    .
    We don’t quote there ideas about phlogiston to figure out how thermodynamics work, why would we quote people just figuring things out from scratch how to run a modern democratic republic?
    .
    Why not? We quote the bible as a source of knowledge on the origin of species, and its geneology to determine the Earth’s age.

  17. 17
    D. C. Sessions

    We don’t quote there ideas about phlogiston to figure out how thermodynamics work, why would we quote people just figuring things out from scratch how to run a modern democratic republic?

    Because they are closer to the Revelation than we are. Just as our parents are wiser than us, and their parents wiser then them, etc. all the way back. 200 years ago, the Founders were vastly wiser than we are [1]. So being both wiser than anyone alive today and closer to the Revelation (and thus better informed as well) their every though was so saturated with knowledge and wisdom that is is blasphemy for any of us to so much as question them. Their word, all of them, are only for us to study in the futile hope that we will at least keep from degrading the world we leave our children any more than the fallen nature of the world demands.

    [1] and vastly more foolish than Jesus’ contemporaries, who were wiser than the Israelites of David’s day, who .. never mind.

  18. 18
    felidae

    “If tyranny comes to this country, it will come wrapped in the flag and carrying the Bible”–I don’t know who the author was or if this is an accurate wording, but his is a warning against people like West

  19. 19
    fmitchell

    @felidae

    “If tyranny comes to this country, it will come wrapped in the flag and carrying the Bible” is a paraphrase of Sinclair Lewis, but apparently he never actually said it.

  20. 20
    tuibguy

    If most of the RW Nut Jobs’ history comes about from a combination of reading the Bible and David Barton, then these are the results you get.

    Even if he knows he is lying, this is spiritual warfare for the soul of the nation! And he can justify his lying.

  21. 21
    dingojack

    D C Sessions – then there was this wiseguy!
    Dingo

  22. 22
    abb3w

    @16, freehand:

    Remember, for anti-knowledge authoritarians, reliable beliefs only come from moral authorities, and the more ancient they are the more venerable they are.

    This approach is less crazy than it sounds at first, if you start translating into mathematical proof-theory terms. Ideas which have been probabilistically tested and proven “good” for time 2T tend more likely to be better than those which have been tested and proven “good” for only time T. Candidate oracles which have a record as source for the ideas which have proven best (thus making an oracle authoritative) gives a Bayesian expectation for their ideas to be valuable. Even if validation costs are included, using the results of a reliable oracle tends computationally cheaper than independent generation. Social validation thus is merely an attempted optimization via greedy search strategy; and such bogus attributions are essentially an attempt to achieve (via counterfeit) a Bayesian-grade certification towards proof acceptance.

    Confirmation bias may in turn be viewed as associated to aversion to triggering reflective cognition needed to reconcile inconsistencies, which cognition has higher metabolic and other effort costs than reflexive cognition that allows some through.

    Of course, that’s merely an abstract mathematical model, not necessarily how human brains actually work.

  23. 23
    dingojack

    abb3w – Iago. (Othello Act 3, Scene 3)

    IAGO: Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
    Is the immediate jewel of their souls:
    Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing;
    ‘Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands:
    But he that filches from me my good name
    Robs me of that which not enriches him
    And makes me poor indeed.

    Dingo.

  24. 24
    abb3w

    @23, dingojack

    abb3w – Iago. (Othello Act 3, Scene 3)

    Well, yes. But the principle is sound, even if expounded by one of Bill’s most malign villains.

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