ROSA PARKS AT 100: Embellished facts right there on page 1!

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2013

Part 8—To what extent does it matter: Does it matter if new myths and legends are created about Rosa Parks?

Does it matter if people are fed new bogus “facts?” Truth to tell, it doesn’t hugely matter.

Today, Rosa Parks is one of the best-known people of the past century. That said, most people don’t know that she (bravely) worked for the NAACP long before her famous refusal to stand.

But in truth, that doesn’t gigantically matter. Nor will it gigantically matter if people start thinking that her personal hero was Malcolm X, although there’s little evidence in support of that claim. It won’t gigantically matter if people start thinking she thought Dr. King was crazy when he refused to defend himself.

It won’t hugely matter if people are told that she fought off an attempted sexual assault as a young woman, although the evidence for that claim seems to be rather shaky.

One more point: It won’t gigantically matter if people are told that Mrs. Parks was "sanitized and sugarcoated...in nearly every account" at the time of her death in 2005, although that claim is patently absurd, just plain flat-out bogus.

That’s the utterly bogus claim which started our current award-winning series. Here’s why we’ve done this work:

It won’t gigantically matter if people start hearing new myths about Mrs. Parks, who would have turned 100 last week. But as we’ve noted in this series, new myths and legends are being generated by Jeanne Theoharis’ fascinating new book.

This process gives us a valuable look at the way our discourse works.

“Where do ‘facts’ come from?” Paul Krugman recently asked. By “facts,” of course, he meant bogus facts.

Theoharis’ book, and its journalistic reception, help us answer his question.

In reality, our actual discourse is constantly built around bogus, invented faux facts. This process is driven along by the crackpots on Fox—and by fiery “progressive” professors.

The process is enabled every step of the way by our array of modern faux journalists. As Theoharis has advanced her array of new bogus facts, a wide array of Potemkin journalists have been there to help her advance them.

Again and again, this is the way our broken discourse has worked over the past thirty years. This is where our bogus “facts” come from—and it actually is extremely important to understand this process.

The new myths and legends about Mrs. Parks won’t gigantically matter. Meanwhile, on the brighter side, the invention of these bogus “facts” can be fairly amusing.

Consider two amusing examples from Theoharis’ book:

First, consider the claim from which the professor takes her book’s title. Below, you see the way her Chapter One starts.

The embellishments here don’t hugely matter. But the embellishments are amusing—and it helps you see the way our entitled elites often work.

This amusing example also lets you take a test: To what extent are you offended when elites manipulate the truth to create new “facts” they find more pleasing? Below, you see the way Theoharis starts Chapter One. To read the whole chapter, click this:
THEOHARIS (page 1): CHAPTER ONE

“A Life History of Being Rebellious”
The Early Years of Rosa McCauley Parks

When asked what gave her the strength and commitment to refuse segregation, Parks credited her mother and grandfather “for giving me the spirit of freedom…that I should not feel because of my race or color, inferior to any person. That I should do my very best to be a respectable person, to respect myself, to expect respect from others, and to learn what I possibly could for self improvement.” [1] This learned sense of rectitude and race pride combined to make Rosa Parks a woman who insisted on respect and found ways over the course of her life to fight for justice and freedom.

Parks’s life reveals “a life history of being rebellious,” as she liked to explain it. [2]
As she liked to explain it!

In that highlighted passage, Theoharis seems to be quoting Mrs. Parks describing her own life history. She then pens the most comical line in her book.

Theoharis tells us that Mrs. Parks “liked to explain” her life history this way. An endnote is cited, thus beginning the fun.

Is it true? Did Mrs. Parks “like to explain” her life history in that manner? Theoharis’ endnote cites a 2004 book by Stewart Burns; a fuller version of that quotation is indeed found in that book. But Burns sources the quotation to an earlier book of his from 1997—and in that earlier book, he sources the quotation to Howell Raines’ oral history of the civil rights movement, My Soul is Rested.

Raines interviewed many figures from the civil rights movement for his book, Mrs. Parks included. That said, his book appeared in 1977—and just for the record, this is the way Mrs. Parks was quoted, right there on page 44:

“I had almost a life history of being rebellious against being mistreated because of my color” (our emphasis).

Did Mrs. Parks “like to explain” her life history in the way Theoharis describes? If so, she lived a life of intense self-denial. According to the documentary record, Mrs. Parks seems to have described her life that way one time, in an interview in the mid-1970s. And when she did, she qualified her remark, as she so frequently did, being a nuanced thinker:

In her single statement, Mrs. Parks actually said that she had “almost a life history of being rebellious...” In order to make her new book sing, Theoharis dropped the “almost” from this remark, then created a construction which made it sound like Mrs. Parks went around calling herself “rebellious” a good deal of the time.

(For the record, Burns gave the full quotation, including “almost,” in the book Theoharis cites in her endnote.)

Did Mrs. Parks “like to explain” her life in the manner described? There’s no sign that she did; to all appearances, she made that statement exactly once, thirty years before her death, in a qualified manner. Right at the start of her second paragraph, Theoharis is somewhat comically embellishing an actual fact.

This gives you a chance to test yourself: To what extent are you offended when elites manipulate the truth to create better “facts,” facts they find more pleasing? To create “facts” which may advance their careers or their ideologies?

That said, here’s another test of your reaction to the work of our entitled elites:

As she starts the Introduction to her book, Theoharis pens an absurd account of the way Mrs. Parks was described in the press at the time of her death. We discussed this account in substantial detail last week.

Just to refresh you, this is the absurd account Theoharis presents in her book. Some of this is grossly misleading. Some of this is just false:
THEOHARIS (pages vii-viii): Despite those powerful visions and labors, the women who emerged in the public tributes bore only a fuzzy resemblance to Rosa Louise Parks. Described by the New York Times as “the accidental matriarch of the civil rights movement,” the Rosa Parks who surfaced in the deluge of public commentary was, in nearly every account, characterized as “quiet.” “Humble,” “dignified,” and “soft-spoken,” she was “not angry” and “never raised her voice.” Her public contribution as “the mother of the movement” was repeatedly defined by one solitary act on the bus on a long-ago December day and linked to her quietness. Held up as a national heroine but stripped of her lifelong history of activism and anger at American injustice, the Parks who emerged was a self-sacrificing mother figure for a nation who would use her death for a ritual of national redemption.
Theoharis builds her fury around the claim that Mrs. Parks was characterized as “quiet” in nearly every account. As we noted last week in great detail, that claim can be defended as technically accurate, although it’s grossly misleading.

Other parts of that paragraph are just flagrantly wrong.

It’s true! The people who actually knew Mrs. Parks constantly cite her quiet demeanor, although their descriptions often pair that demeanor with her strength of character. But in that way, most portraits at the time of her death did characterize Mrs. Parks as “quiet” at some point or other.

It’s true! In this sense, Mrs. Parks was frequently characterized as “quiet” at the time of her death. But then, she’s characterized the same darn way in Theoharis’ book, starting in the first chapter!

Consider the portrait Theoharis includes at the start of Chapter One. The highlighted statement could have come straight from the various profiles at the times of Mrs. Parks’ death:
THEOHARIS (page 2): Born on February 4, 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama, “halfway between the Emancipation Proclamation and the new era of freedom,” Rosa Louise McCauley was named for her mother‘s mother, Rosa, and her father‘s mother, Louise. Her audacity and political sensibility emerged early, influenced by her mother‘s feistiness and firm determination. “Instead of saying, ‘Yes sir,’ ” Rosa recalled, her mother “was always saying ‘No, you won‘t do this.’ ” Given the racial climate of early 20th century Alabama, saying “no” required a deep sense of courage. Elaine Steele, Rosa‘s longtime friend and caretaker, made a similar observation about Rosa: “She can very quietly say ‘no’ or ‘I prefer not,’ and you know instinctively that that is the bottom line.”
Duh. That is precisely the kind of comment which appeared in the profiles at the time of Mrs. Parks death! In the Introduction to her book, Theoharis scorches the press corps for printing such characterizations. And then, at the start of her own Chapter One, she starts to print them herself!

Such descriptions are found all through Theoharis’ book, attributed to the various people who knew Mrs. Parks best.

Does this type of foolishness matter? Not gigantically, no. People don’t spend the bulk of their time talking or thinking about Mrs. Parks, even though she is world famous.

Most people don’t know that she (bravely) worked for the NAACP in Montgomery long before her most famous act. In truth, that ignorance has never gigantically mattered—and it won’t gigantically matter if people start believing bogus claims about what the press corps said about her at the time of her death. Or about her view of Malcolm X, who almost surely wasn’t her personal hero. Or about her view of Dr. King, who she didn’t think was crazy. Or about that attempted sexual assault, the attempted assault which may not have happened. Or about the way she “liked to explain” her life.

In the New York Times, Charles Blow rushed to advance those bogus claims about the press corps’ accounts, and many of his readers believed him. It’s unfortunate that this occurred. But it doesn’t gigantically matter.

That said, the general culture of invented fact and massaged quotation does enormously matter. Over the past thirty years, progressive interests have been badly damaged by this noxious culture. Entitled elites like this fiery professor help keep this bullshit alive.

In her new book, Theoharis toys with facts early and often. On the one hand, this is amusing. On the other hand, it displays a great deal of disrespect for the person about whom she writes.

Tomorrow, we’ll finish this series with a few last thoughts about this fiery professor, who helps us answer Krugman’s question.

Where do (bogus) facts come from? Theoharis and her many enablers are one rather pitiful source.

Tomorrow: Our Own Tammy Bruce!

Regarding that quotation: From the sourcing of Burns and then Raines, we aren't entirely sure: Did Mrs. Parks make that statement about her "life history" in her interview with Raines? Or did Raines quote the remark from some previous source?

We'll continue trying to nail that down. But there is no sign that Mrs. Parks made that statement more than once. If she "liked to explain" her life history that way, she was a true ascetic.

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