Right-wingers have ventured predictably to the Wikipedia online encyclopedia website to make a comically contrived case that Sarah Palin was right about Paul Revere.
They trivialize history by adapting its truth and accuracy in the interest of partisan advancement.
So let us take a constructive moment to consider one more time precisely what Palin was asked and what she said in response.
This was the question put to her as she toured American historic sites around Boston: "What have you seen so far today that you are going to take away from your trip?"
This is how she answered, after invoking Paul Revere: "He who warned, uh, the British that they weren't gonna be takin' away our arms, uh, by ringing those bells, and um, makin' sure as he's riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be sure and we were going to be free, and we were going to be armed."
Three things about that:
1. Her answer was, as you can read for yourself, babbling and mostly incoherent. Other than that, it was nonsense.
Revere did not ride his horse through town ringing any bells or firing any warning shots and he certainly did not tear through on his high horse to warn the British not to take away any of the colonists' arms.
He was on a quiet mission to ride out to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock that British troops were coming to arrest them.
Indeed, along the way, he got detained by redcoats and, owing to that unexpected circumstance, he told them, by golly, that they were in for a fight because well-armed colonial militiamen were on the move behind him.
2. Of course, Palin defenders began developing the case that this shred of indirect and accidental accuracy emerging from her incoherence meant that she was right altogether and her critics wrong altogether. These defenders begin literally rewriting history to recast criticism of her verbal misadventures into merely another typical case of liberal media bias.
Thus our partisan polarization has rendered us so dysfunctional that we can no longer rely for authorization on reputable historical accounts -- even, in this case, if we have Revere's own heavily misspelled account.
We are now devoid of accepted truth and fact. Thus our attempts to establish context for political differences, and maybe even resolve them, will inevitably prove futile.
If Palin next says that Abraham Lincoln got shot by Sirhan Sirhan after the California Democratic primary, Wikipedia will be there for the supportive editing.
We may as well stop teaching history. We should simply wait for the contemporary politicians to butcher it, then write it in accord with the way they butcher it. We could have Wikipedia-Democratic and Wikipedia-Republican and, for those preferring the zaniest versions, Wikipedia-Palin.
Oh, by the way: National Public Radio, speaking of liberal media bias, found one noted Boston historian who said, well, Palin was a little clumsy in what she said and that it is always dangerous for politicians to try to be historians, but that, actually, the British did want to confiscate stockpiled colonial weapons and, yes, Revere did warn those redcoats that they were in for a battle with well-armed foes.
One more interview like that and the Republicans will stop wanting to defund public radio.
3. Asked a few days after the preceding exchange to admit she had been wrong, Palin protested that she had been right and that, anyway, this was just a shouted-out "gotcha question."
Normally, a "gotcha" question is one that boxes the responder in a way that he or she cannot safely negotiate.
Normally, a "gotcha question" is not one inviting a politician to relate what she has enjoyed most about her visit to the city.
("How are you doing today, Mrs. Palin?" the reporter asked, seeking to trick the former Alaska governor.)
John Brummett is an award-winning columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock and author of "High Wire," a book about Bill Clinton's first year as president. His e-mail address is jbrummett@ arkansasnews.com.