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Paul Revere by Copley-modded

Paul Revere facepalm (via boingboing.net)

[UPDATE: Since I wrote this post, people have also revised the Paul Revere entry at Andy Schlafly’s Conservapedia to match the Palin version of history. And the battle at Wikipedia is still going on, it seems.]

JISHOU, HUNAN — Can American politics get any stranger? Alleged presidential contender and full-time media hog Sarah Palin recently mangled the story of Paul Revere in a public address, and soon after some of her fans went to Wikipedia to change the Paul Revere entry to match Failin’ Palin’s version.

Because, they said, Palin is a “reliable source,” so her imaginary version of events entitles them to rewrite history. One imagines if Palin told them the Moon was made of green cheese, they’d try to rewrite its wikipedia page, too.

Dumb and dumberer.

In case you missed the gaffe, Palin told a crowd in Boston on June 2 that native son Revere rode through the streets toward Concord ringing bells and making a lotta noise to warn the British.

“He who warned, uh, the…the British that they weren’t gonna be takin’ away our arms, uh, by ringin’ those bells and um by makin’ sure that as he’s ridin’ his horse through town to send those warnin’ shots and bells that uh we were gonna be secure and we were gonna be free…and we were gonna be armed.”

And we were gonna still be, um, part of that, um, peachy British Empire that has the nice grandma as queen, you betcha!

How any American who has attended school here can get this story wrong is positively mindboggling. We hear this story from kindergarten on up: Revere was on a secret mission to warn Americans in Concord and Lexington that the British were coming — the whole “one if by land, two if by sea” thing.

Then to make things worse, Pain tried to explain her mistake to Fox News’ Chris Wallace:

“Part of his ride was to warn the British that were already there. That, hey, you’re not gonna succeed. You’re not gonna take American arms. You are not gonna beat our own well-armed, uh, persons, uh, individual, private militia that we have. He did warn the British! And, in a shout-out, gotcha type o’ question that was asked of me, I answered candidly, and. I know my American history!”

Well, it seems that merely saying you are knowledgeable makes you an expert, so some of her loyal fans proceeded to mangle the Wikipedia page on Paul Revere to reflect this new version of American history. It was quickly corrected.

From the discussion section, which had been relatively quiet until June 5, when all hell broke loose:

In the article on Paul Revere, someone has added false information in an effort to support Sarah Palin’s FALSE claims about Paul Revere.

“Accounts differ regarding the method of alerting the colonists; the generally accepted position is that the warnings were verbal in nature, although one disputed account suggested that Revere rang bells during his ride.[8][9]”

This must be removed as it is a LIE designed to mislead. dj

Five minutes later:

A lie? If you follow Wikipedia’s rules, we must maintain a WP:NEUTRAL position, representing the mainstream position as well as disputed versions. I think the addition represents this fairly — the mainstream position is that Revere’s warnings were verbal, but there are differing accounts that the warnings were done with bells — with two sources: WDHD television plus a live interview, with a highly influential US politician relating these facts.–Tomwsulcer (talk) 14:50, 5 June 2011 (UTC)

Another minute passes:

Yes Done. Thank you, I removed the content not backed by a reliable source. –CutOffTies (talk) 14:52, 5 June 2011 (UTC)

I kindly remind people that it’s not our job here at Wikipedia to decide what’s true, but to report what reliable sources say, such as the LA Times, WDHD TV in Boston, numerous others. And they quoted an American politician saying that bells were used. –Tomwsulcer (talk) 15:09, 5 June 2011 (UTC)

It’s not the LA Times that’s questionable as a reliable source, it’s Palin herself. Even if the Times (& others) quoted her accurately, her poorly-informed view doesn’t belong here, per WP:UNDUE, and I have reverted. Hertz1888 (talk) 15:30, 5 June 2011 (UTC)

Sarah Palin is a former governor of Alaska as well as a presidential candidate of one of the two national parties in the United States. Her account of Paul Revere’s famous ride has achieved national attention from most mainstream media — LA Times, CNN, you name it. There are numerous reliable sources quoted her exact words on this subject. This article has HUGE attention (55K readers in one day) as a result. Clearly, there should be some mention given its obvious importance. And I remind people, kindly, that it’s not up to us contributors to determine who is and isn’t a “poorly informed view” and to try to determine truth. Rather, Wikipedia is about verifiability.–Tomwsulcer (talk) 15:37, 5 June 2011 (UTC)

Paul Revere may have rang some bells on his ride, but does any mainstream historian believe that Paul Revere had any intent to warn or scare the British in any way? I have never heard this, except from Palin. All accounts I have read say that Revere and Dawes were trying their best to avoid being noticed by the British, who would likely capture them immediately if found. –Westwind273 (talk) 15:49, 5 June 2011 (UTC)
How Paul Revere warned colonists using Bells by Sarah Palin
Church bells are too heavy to carry on horseback, so Revere may have used a lighter weight bell similar to a bicycle bell (see figure). Two (2) problems: (1) bicycle bells weren’t invented yet (2) would they scare the horse?

Another possibility: Revere shot at church bells (to ding them and cause them to ring) when passing through towns. Problems though: (1) might he have hit some person sleeping in the church towers by accident? This is why the bicycle-bell theory may have more weight.–Tomwsulcer (talk) 16:33, 5 June 2011 (UTC)

(Tomwsulcer is either grasping at straws, pulling our legs or smoking too much of something.)

Wikipedia is not a news source

It is not appropriate to add controversial material simply because it is in the current headlines or is a temporarily controversial subject as this one has become. I remind editors that just because a public figure mentions a subject…regardless of whether the remark is accurate or not, does not mean we need to mention it here in Wikipedia. Is it noteworthy in the overall history of Paul Revere? I think not. Is it something that might be appropriate in Sarah Palin’s article? Perhaps, but even then, due weight must be taking seriously. Thank You.–Amadscientist (talk) 21:13, 5 June 2011 (UTC)

If you mention Sarah Palin you’re doing it wrong

If you mention Sarah Palin you’re doing it wrong. This article is about Paul Revere, a historical figure who died nearly two centuries before Sarah Palin came to prominence. She has absolutely nothing to do with the article. I would expect to see contemporary sources and theories proposed by modern historians, but Sarah Palin is neither here nor there. –Cyde Weys 22:17, 5 June 2011 (UTC)

Been there, discussed that, got the T-shirt. (see 2 threads up) –Kim Bruning (talk) 22:34, 5 June 2011 (UTC)

Her views on Revere are irrelevant. However, the fact that some politicians throughout history have made a demagogic appeal by referring to the founding fathers is of some interest, although perhaps not relevant to this article. TFD (talk) 23:28, 5 June 2011 (UTC)

Definitely not relevant to this article. Any erroneous comments about Revere are relevant to HER page, or better yet a page devoted to Palin’s historical errors. The page should be locked to prevent vandalism by her supporters. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:29, 6 June 2011 (UTC)

Sarah Palin is intent on destroying wikipedia, isn’t she? First we had huge wars over the blood libel article, now this. But Obama’s supporters do not support claim that there are 57 states! Amazing!–Milowent • talkblp-r 01:15, 6 June 2011 (UTC)

Bottom Line: YOU CANNOT TWIST FACTS TO MAKE SOMEONE LOOK BETTER!! Palin. Was. Wrong. You do NOT get to rewrite encyclopedia articles to fit her mistake. I can’t believe that we are even having this conversation. What is this, North Korea? SemDem (talk) 01:36, 6 June 2011 (UTC)

SemDem later advises the page be locked. I can’t tell if it has in fact been locked down, but as of 3:20 UTC it was looking OK.

Why does anyone take this woman seriously? I mean, honestly, politicians should have at least some familiarity with basic American history. Immigrants need it for the citizenship test, after all. Shouldn’t the fact that a so-called politician gets something so simple so wrong (twice, even!) automatically disqualify from running for any office above Kentucky constable?