Patriotic Hooey Revisited

On Independence Eve, Chatterbox is sorry to report that the error-ridden paean to the founding fathers recycled last year by Ann Landers, the Boston Globe’s Jeff Jacoby, National Review Online’s Jonah Goldberg, and Rush Limbaugh, among others, remains in circulation. The offending Ann Landers column, Rush Limbaugh’s version (written, he says, by his father), and Jonah Goldberg’s “In Praise of July 4” essay are all still online, without corrections. For some reason, David Horowitz’s Front Page Magazine has an uncorrected reprint of Jacoby’s version on its Web site, too. National Review Online gets a gold star for this year posting a corrected paean to the founders, written by Matthew Spalding. But it also gets a demerit for mentioning Jacoby’s blunder in the Spalding essay while leaving out Goldberg’s. (Goldberg is editor of National Review Online.) The history department of Staunton, Va., Military Academy has an error-laden version on its Web site, as does Alexandria, Va.’s Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies and the Web page for Aaron Hall, a Republican candidate for the Minnesota state legislature. And the Philadelphia-based Descendents of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence continue to insist that signer Carter Braxton died in poverty and that signer Thomas Nelson’s house was destroyed. Not true. (These and other founder howlers are dissected on James Elbrecht’s Signer’s Index Web page and the Web page for the Connecticut Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. The earliest known version was first published in 1956 by radio commentator Paul Harvey.) As Chatterbox noted last year, the main purveyors of this historical misinformation are conservatives. That they should continue to purvey it a full year after Jacoby’s gaffe received heavy publicity testifies to the right’s deep affection for folklore.

The good news is that the founder’s paean isn’t turning up much in newspapers anymore. A database search by Chatterbox located only one version of the bogus essay, tacked on to the end of a Jan. 8 story in the Accra Mail about the swearing in of Ghana’s President John Kufuor. The same database search found that patriotic articles that do not lift erroneous material from an essay that’s been in circulation for nearly half a century are plentiful, as always. These, of course, are always welcome. Happy Fourth.

[Update, July 5: In her July 4, 2001 column, Landers retracts last year’s July 4 column, noting that several readers informed her that “the facts presented in my column were misleading.”]