Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

The other British are coming!

Jerry Stratton, June 5, 2011

Well, the press and left-leaning blogs1 are trying to clean the egg off of their faces by claiming that while Palin turned out to have been right about Paul Revere warning the British, she couldn’t have known she was right.

As proof, they point to all of the uhs, and run-on sentences in the media’s quotes of what she said.

He who warned, uh, the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms uh by ringing those bells and making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free and we were going to be armed.

Because someone who talks like a normal person can’t possibly know anything about history.

It’s not surprising that the media would quote Palin’s verbal pauses exactly when they clean up the verbal pauses (and sometimes complete misstatements) of other politicians. Most other politicians are establishment politicians.2 They speak a language the press can understand. When you hear a language you don’t understand, but you have to repeat it anyway, it’s natural to start transcribing it exactly.

When Palin says that Revere wanted “the British” to know about armed colonists, it makes no sense to them, because they see political fights in black-and-white. They like to talk bipartisanship, but they don’t practice it. It’s just words in a foreign language to them.

Being secure, being free, and being armed is also a foreign language, I suspect. So when someone actually talks in that language, they have to transcribe it exactly for fear of misquoting. I actually agree with that—but they should transcribe all politicians this way. This is the way everyone speaks, and it is dangerous to pretend that politicians aren’t just like everyone else. It would deservedly puncture some inflated self-images of being great orators, and bring our leaders back into the common realm, where they can lead instead of govern.3

Now, I’m not surprised that the media didn’t know that Paul Revere warned—and wanted to warn—“the British” that they were going to meet armed resistance if they tried to seize the weapons stores in Concord. I didn’t know this either. The traditional account we learn in grade school is that the “mission depended on secrecy” despite the actual account that it involved fired shots, banging drums, and ringing bells. But is it surprising that Sarah Palin did know?

Just about everyone in the areas Revere and the other riders rode through were British subjects. In 1775 we hadn’t yet declared our independence, and wouldn’t for over a year. Most people still considered themselves British subjects. Part of the purpose of Tom Paine’s Common Sense was to change this. But in April of 1775 there was still hope that deadly battles could be averted. This hope wasn’t without foundation; as early as 1766, in the aftermath of the 1765 Stamp Act, William Pitt wrote:

Is this your boasted peace? Not to sheath the sword in its scabbard, but to sheath it in the bowels of your countrymen? — William Pitt (Correspondence of William Pitt, 1766)

Pitt wrote this in January and became Prime Minister in July, for two years, and remained a strong supporter, in the House of Lords, of granting America its fundamental liberties.

It would be much harder to avoid war after a battle in which people on both sides died.

Palin is obviously someone who keeps the American revolution on her mind. I get most of my knowledge of it from 1776 the Musical. When Palin coined the phrase “party like it’s 1773” I had to infer what she meant—she’s talking about tea parties, the Boston Tea Party took place a couple of years before 1775, I’ll bet the media and leftist blogs are making fools of themselves.

But while it was obvious in context what she meant by 1773, it’s not a catch phrase I would ever have thought of using. I don’t find it at all surprising that the person who did think of “party like it’s 1773” would also know, not only that Revere was interrogated by British regulars and warned them that the irregulars were going to fight if the army tried to seize the arms stores, but also that this was part of the purpose of making so much noise. If the British officers didn’t know they were going to meet armed resistance, there was no chance that the war could be averted.

Remember, these were Revere’s fellow countrymen. Some of them, potentially, were his neighbors. The rebels didn’t want war, they wanted independence. Some didn’t even want independence, they just wanted equal treatment and representation.

All that noise the rebels were making was meant to rouse the colonists to action—but may well have also been an attempt to avert the need for that action by making “the British” think twice about “sheathing their swords in the bowels of their countrymen.”

Someone who pays attention to the events of the American revolution, and who had just been in the Old North Church, might easily remember that. That certainly seems a lot simpler than assuming that she just randomly lucked into getting it right.

  1. But I… oh, never mind.

  2. Most other politicians, because even establishment politicians who run against Barack Obama are going to get this treatment.

  3. Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters. — Daniel Webster

  1. <- Mitt Romney’s Day
  2. The media’s new normal ->