David Barton's hateful ideology has no place in York County

YORK DISPATCH EDITORIAL BOARD

David Barton likes to quote George Orwell.

"Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."

However, Barton fails to provide his audiences — most recently, a congregation at Lighthouse Baptist Church in Dover Township — any context for those words from the novel "1984," Orwell's anti-fascist satire that's been a favorite of high school English teachers for decades. (Barton doesn't even cite "1984" as his source.)

In the book, the quote is set up by O'Brien, a functionary of an all-powerful government who at first pretends to be part of the resistance — in order, perhaps, to test the protagonist Winston's loyalty. But eventually O'Brien reveals himself to be a member of the established order, a wolf in sheep's clothing.

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The words themselves are meaningless, just like truth is meaningless in Orwell's authoritarian state. Orwell's point is that fascists will twist words and facts in whatever way advances their ideology.

O'Brien uses this quotation not to illuminate but to confuse.

And so does David Barton.

Barton is a Christian nationalist whose end goal is not to encourage critical thinking but to advance an ideology of hate that blends elements of fact, fiction and fire-and-brimstone into a potent stew of misinformation.

David Barton, pseudo historian who will be speaking at Lighthouse Baptist Church.

"We are changing the direction of the nation by what we do with history," he says, in a staccato rhythm that makes him sound more like an auctioneer than the historian he claims to be. "This is the reason we see the rise of Marxism and communism and socialism."

In typical fashion, Barton goes on to rail against critical race theory, liberals and — of course — LGBTQ people. His transitions are often so abrupt as to sound absurd, leapfrogging from one disjointed attack line to the next.

Like so many far-right ideologues these days, Barton invokes the specter of socialism as a kind of boogeyman without actually engaging with what the word means. Indeed, he brings up three distinct political theories for the price of one.

If Barton had bothered to study Orwell, the source of his thesis quotation, he'd know that the British author supported giving working class people more power and described himself as a democratic socialist. He even went to Spain in the 1930s to fight the far-right fascists led by Francisco Franco.

You'd think Barton would think twice about distorting the truth after referencing Orwell. Or maybe find a meme-worthy quote from a more fascist-friendly thinker.

But the truth, again, is not the goal of people like Barton.

They luxuriate in confusion.

Barton's real goal isn't that difficult to suss out. It's buried amid the rhetorical flourishes.

"The Bible [is] right every time," he's said, adding: "That’s why AIDS has been something they haven’t discovered a cure for or a vaccine for."

Of course, Barton's arguments aren't even particularly Christian. His reading of the Bible ignores most of the New Testament and Jesus' message of love and redemption.

Barton's kind of hateful ideology has no place in York County.