Julie Sherman (julieswn) Wed 26 Oct 11 17:14
This week we welcom Alex Pareene, author of the ebook, "A Tea People's History." Alex is a Senior Writer for Salon.com. He has been writing about politics professionally since he dropped out of an elite Northeastern university in 2005. His work has appeared in New York Magazine, Vanity Fair, The Awl, and Vice. This is his first satirical history ebook. Leading our discussion will be Mark McDonough, <mcdee> here on the WELL. Mark has been a denizen of the Well for 20 years. He has an actual college degree in "American Civilization," although as you might expect, his liberal college professors told him nothing about the important revelations in "A Tea People's History!" In real life, Mark does software quality assurance - "Hey, it's a living and I'm good at it!" - and has co-authored a book on alcohol treatment Welcome Alex and Mark!
Mark McDonough (mcdee) Wed 26 Oct 11 17:26
Alex, I want to congratulate you for writing such an eye-opening book. There was clearly a whole lot that my liberal professors didn't tell me about American History. For example, I didn't realize that the Pilgrims were actually refugees from Shariah law, or the George Washington actually discovered an early draft of the Constitution buried and written on gold plates.
. (wickett) Wed 26 Oct 11 18:21
Oh, exciting. Are there angels, too?
Alex Pareene (pareene) Thu 27 Oct 11 07:45
Hello! Our nation's history is indeed exciting, especially when you learn it from a truly unbiased source, like me. There are indeed angels in the book, because as wise as George Washington was, he could not translate the Constitution into American English without divine assistance. I'm happy to have opened your eyes, Mark. It's never too late to deprogram yourself from a liberal arts education at an accredited college.
Mark McDonough (mcdee) Thu 27 Oct 11 09:56
The only part I've had trouble with so far is the chapter on Lincoln. How can he be both an American hero who proves the Democrats are the *real* racists and also a power-hungry tyrant and murderer with no respect for States Rights? At college, they taught me that when two ideas were mutually exclusive you had to choose one or the other... I guess there's a certain liberation in having it both ways!
. (wickett) Thu 27 Oct 11 10:03
F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function."
Alex Pareene (pareene) Thu 27 Oct 11 11:46
The strange case of two-faced Lincoln has puzzled scholars for years. My own theory is that he had an identical evil twin (the bearded Lincoln, perhaps?), though some sort of "werewolf" scenario seems equally probable. More seriously, Lincoln presents a real challenge to conservative revisionist historians. He's the central figure in the founding of the GOP and the Republican Party's eternal defense against charges of racism. He's maybe the greatest president ever, and likely the single most important president ever. A lot of conservative historiography demands a very morally simplistic reading of American history, to "correct" for years of liberals insisting that things are "messy" and "complex." So heroes are saints and the Founders were infinitely wise and Lincoln, a classic elementary schoolbook "good guy," must be a good guy. But if you believe in state sovereignty and/or white supremacy, this guy's a tyrant. If you're sympathetic to the Confederate cause or invested in whitewashing the causes of the Civil War -- and misty Civil War revisionism is where a lot of conservative pseudo-history originates -- Lincoln's actually the greatest villain in American history. How does the party that wants to represent guys with Rebel flag bumper stickers deal with Lincoln? This argument's been going on for years, with mainstream conservatives basically arguing "suck it up and call the guy a hero" because Americans on the whole happen to think Lincoln's pretty great. So the Heritage Foundation regularly trots out these "Abe Lincoln: True Conservative" pieces where they argue that the guy would've been right at home in the modern Republican Party, but meanwhile lots of the more conservative libertarian scholars regularly call him a tyrant. This is a real-life sentence (not satire) from the Ludvig von Mises Institute: "It is interesting to compare Lincoln and his treachery in causing the Southern 'enemy' to fire the first shot at Fort Sumter, resulting in the Civil War, with Roosevelt's similar manipulation causing the attack on Pearl Harbor and America's entry into World War II." From: http://mises.org/daily/5580/Lincoln-and-Roosevelt-American-Caesars I think the tyrant argument was the dominant one in conservative thought for years, but the rise of the Religious Right helped turn the tide, because they adapt a lot of abolitionist arguments as anti-abortion arguments, and you can only be sympathetic to abolitionist arguments if you're on the side of The North.
Mark McDonough (mcdee) Thu 27 Oct 11 12:07
So that story about the little girl who asked him to grow a beard was a cover story for swapping in his evil twin! If only we'd had modern birth certificates at the time, we could probably straighten it all out. And probably connect it to 9/11 somehow. But yeah, my point in mentioning Lincoln was actually to get more serious. The book is very funny, and we could go back and forth with funny examples all day (who knew that Paul Revere cracked the Liberty Bell by shooting at it while warning the British that we were armed!). But there are obviously some serious points here about the uses and misuses of history. The Tea Party is not unique in picking (or inventing) historical facts to fit their ideology, but they seem to have raised it to new heights.
brighter clouds ahead (noebie) Thu 27 Oct 11 13:43
> a real-life sentence (not satire) from the Ludvig von Mises Institute is the name of the institute satire at least? shame if not :)
Alex Pareene (pareene) Thu 27 Oct 11 15:17
Hah, "Ludwig von Mises," of course. (I need a copy editor.) And yeah the Tea Party certainly didn't invent reinterpreting history through an ideological lens, they're just the ones currently doing it, loudly and with occasional great silliness, in public.
Mark McDonough (mcdee) Thu 27 Oct 11 17:19
Some of our most beloved WELL members are also among our most creative typists!
Jennifer Powell (jnfr) Thu 27 Oct 11 17:56
Typos are us. Welcome to the Well, Alex. I really enjoy your work at Salon, though I don't have this book so have nothing useful to add. Oh well!
brighter clouds ahead (noebie) Thu 27 Oct 11 18:49
i nabbed it for my kindle and read the first couple chapters so far - very funny and i don't think that was a typo - "from the ludvig von mises institute" is just as it should be - just sounded like a made up name to me - those austrians!
brighter clouds ahead (noebie) Thu 27 Oct 11 18:50
oh - i see now - v or w - funny either way
Mark McDonough (mcdee) Thu 27 Oct 11 19:29
Alex, where do you fall on the "grassroots vs. astroturf" argument re: the Tea Party? That's been a lively and ongoing debate on the WELL.
David Gans (tnf) Fri 28 Oct 11 10:04
So where do we get this book, anyway?
Mark McDonough (mcdee) Fri 28 Oct 11 10:10
I got mine right here, and I even paid for it to be a good sport: <http://www.amazon.com/A-Tea-Peoples-History-ebook/dp/B005S4GS54/ref=sr_1_1?ie= UTF8&qid=1319821758&sr=8-1> $2.99! What's not to like?
David Gans (tnf) Fri 28 Oct 11 10:19
Downloading now. Three bucks! Thanks!
Jennifer Powell (jnfr) Fri 28 Oct 11 12:01
Excellent! I got one too.
those Andropovian bongs (rik) Fri 28 Oct 11 12:46
Wow. Talk about priced to move.
Alex Pareene (pareene) Fri 28 Oct 11 15:28
Yes, buy buy buy! It's at the Amazon link above, plus iBooks and B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-tea-peoples-history-alex-pareene/1106367585? ean=2940013231443&itm=1&usri=alex%2bpareene As for the Tea Party, I increasingly think it's hard to define "astroturf," because there clearly were a decent number of people devoted to showing up at these protests and forming Tea Party groups. (And I know Rick Santelli gets the credit for inspiring the first national protests, but the entire movement was sort of co-opting a lot of the grassroots Ron Paul campaign from 2004 and 2008.) Well-funded conservative groups funded and trained a lot of activists, so it was a professional operation, but it's not a fake as sending out letters-to-the-editor from non-existent citizens. It was an innovative way to capitalize on extant conservative anger.
Mark McDonough (mcdee) Fri 28 Oct 11 16:52
Yes, that's sort of where I fall too. Clearly, there's been a great deal of manipulation and a large amount of money spent on focusing the Tea Party's rage and using it to push a certain agenda. But these folks have been out there for a long time - very much part of the American grain. The "creative" rendering of history in TP circles makes for some very funny writing in your book. In a way its interesting that people who get so much of it wrong still believe in the authority of history.
Gail (gail) Sat 29 Oct 11 11:58
I have to confess that reading this ebook reminded me of how little history I know or that I actually can remember learning. I get most of the more current events & culture references, but some apparently wry historical wit went over my head. Reading this gave me a sense that perhaps it would be interesting to re-read Howard Zinn's classic work. The title seems like a nod to "A People's History Of The United States" -- Alex, was that a one-off joke, or did you relate to his book in any detail in constructing the satire?
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Sun 30 Oct 11 05:08
Just finished it...what a gem! I couldn't help reading it as the soundtrack to Mystery Science Theater's version of American History. Your book should be read in parallel with Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States and James Loewen's Lies My Teacher Told Me.
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Mon 31 Oct 11 06:05
A New Declaration of Independence: The following document is the result of the Salon staff's brainstorming; we're incredibly grateful to Alex Pareene for crafting it into a coherent piece. http://www.salon.com/2011/10/31/a_new_declaration_of_independence/?source=news letter Nice work on this Alex.
Mark McDonough (mcdee) Mon 31 Oct 11 06:59
Off saving the world instead of showing up on his topic, eh? Naughty, naughty! ;-) That looks like a great piece.
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