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Alabama Public Television Apparently Heading Far Right

By Mark Potok on June 18, 2012 - 3:53 pm, Posted in Extremist Propaganda

Lord help us. Alabama Public Television (APT), a voice of reason in a state that often seems to have very little, is apparently succumbing to the crazies.

Last week, the two top executives of the network were summarily fired by the Alabama Educational Television Commission, APT’s governing body, after they resisted an effort by a new commissioner to air DVDs produced by a far-right theocrat who has been roundly condemned by historians. In the days that followed, three members of a foundation set up to raise money for APT also resigned.

The videos were produced by David Barton, an evangelical propagandist who claims falsely that America was founded as a Christian nation and has also become Glenn Beck’s unofficial — and completely untrained — “historian.” The DVDs were suggested by commissioner Rodney Herring, an Opelika-based chiropractor who was appointed to the panel last year and elected its secretary in January.

Immediately after meeting in executive session June 12, commissioners ordered APT Executive Director Allan Pizzato and his deputy, Pauline Howland, to clear out their desks and leave APT’s Birmingham headquarters. Pizzato had been APT executive director for 12 years; Howland was his deputy director and the network’s chief financial officer.

Pizzato would not comment on the reasons for the firing, other than to say commissioners were seeking to go in “a new direction.” But Howland, in an interview with Current.org, a news service of the American University’s School of Communication, said that Pizzato and his staff had “grave concerns” about airing the videos, which strongly advocate a religious interpretation of the past that historians say is simply wrong. She said she was “baffled” by the firings but recalled Pizatto asking his staff for advice on how to respond to Herring’s proposal.

Commission Chairman Ferris Stephens disputed Current’s report in an interview with The Associated Press, but gave no specifics. Herring, for his part, claimed that disagreement over the Barton DVDs played an “at best minimal” role in the firings, which he described as part of an overall restructuring effort. “We believe it to be a positive change,” wrote another commissioner, conservative talk radio host J. Holland, in response to AP’s queries about the firings. “Simple as that.”

As simple as that? Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I don’t believe it.

Stephens told the AP that Barton’s videos had been discussed in the last meeting before the one that produced the firings last week. He said there was another item related to Barton’s organization, WallBuilders, on the agenda for last week’s meeting, but that the commission didn’t get to that item before adjourning. Herring, for his part, denied knowing that Pizzato and Howland had any opinion at all about the DVDs, although Howland told Current that Pizzato had made it clear that he thought the films were “inappropriate” for APT.

Why is it that Pizzato and Howland were fired just as the matter seemed to be coming to a head? Why won’t Stephens and the other commissioners cough up the real reason for the firings, if it wasn’t what seems obvious? When the AP story ran last week, Herring was quoted saying the station may indeed broadcast some of the Barton videos. In fact, he said the commission had consulted attorneys about that possibility. That’s a funny thing to do if you’re just deciding whether to show a film on public television, not making controversial personnel decisions.

The sad truth is, this kind of extremism is getting to be par for the course in Alabama. We passed the immigrant-bashing H.B. 56 and, when legal problems with it came up, our legislators responded by actually making the draconian bill even worse. Last month, the same legislature, after the John Birch Society warned hysterically about a United Nations global sustainability plan, actually passed a law saying that property here cannot be confiscated as part of Agenda 21 — even though that entirely voluntary plan does not and could not require that. One of our current congressmen even claimed a few years back that he knew of 17 “socialists” in the U.S. Congress — although, like Joe McCarthy, he declined to name them.

Why does Rodney Herring want to show Barton’s videos? He isn’t saying. But what Barton has to say should make Alabamians’ hair stand on end.

Barton doesn’t only not believe in global warming — he thinks reducing carbon dioxide emissions would actually devastate the planet. Barton fought to have the names of Martin Luther King Jr. and labor activist Cesar Chavez removed from public school textbooks. He says God set the borders of nations, so immigration reform is unnecessary. He argues that homosexuality should be regulated because gay people “die decades earlier than heterosexuals” and more than half of all gays have had more than 500 sex partners — both falsehoods.

It isn’t only liberals who dislike Barton. Derek Davis, director of the J.M. Dawson Institute on Church-State Studies at Baylor University, says “a lot of what he presents is a distortion of the truth.” J. Brent Walker, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee, says his writings are “laced with exaggerations, half-truths and misstatements of fact.” Mark Lilla, a scholar who has taught at University of Chicago and Columbia University, says Barton’s work is “schlock history written by [a] religious propagandist” and uses “selective quotations out of context.”

But none of this apparently came up when the commissioners, in their great wisdom, decided to fire Allan Pizzato and Pauline Howland. Instead, it looks like Barton’s backers succeeded, by a reported 5-2 vote, in silencing their own eminently sensible executives, and then refusing to come clean with the public about their action.

Once again, Alabama will be the poorer. Lord help us.

  • Contrary

    I don’t see anything wrong with wanting to air something from a Christian viewpoint. And, if those people thought they were somehow able to just refuse and only show things from a humanist, atheist viewpoint, they should have been fired for refusing to do their jobs. More people in this country than not, believe in God, and enjoy watching religious based programming. You can just choose not to watch it that day. Maybe watch one of the awful shows filled with homosexuals trying to make us believe they are normal families.

  • CoralSea

    Arrggghh — again. “too smug,” not “to smug.”

    This previous post was probably ill-advised on my part, as it greatly simplifies a very complex clash of of ideas. Sorry. Overly ambitious this morning. Must return to writing a very boring report.

  • CoralSea

    I just realized that my post may appear to have a significant internal contradiction, since I tout the merits of facts in the first paragraph and bemoan the literal interpretation of the Bible by some fundamentalists.

    Just for the record — I don’t view the Bible in the same league in terms of facts as, say, scientifically tested hypotheses, the actual number of people who have participated in a particular activity (as opposed to “they all do it,” “everybody knows that…” types of statements). The old testament reflects mostly the tribal cultural practices and beliefs of one specific group of people living thousands of years ago (that is — if we can even be sure of the translations). In my opinion, this should hardly constitute a template for virtually all important decision making about behaviors, values, and morals among modern, diverse populations. The new testament provides more actual “meat” for thought on social behavior, but fundamentalists seem more enamored of the old testament — or at least a lot of them, in the U.S. at least, don’t seem to pay much attention to exhortations to comfort the poor (it’s socialism, you know).

    Again, I do not wish to tar all Christians with the same brush. I know many Christians who are fine, compassionate people who are much more focused on the teachings of Jesus than on picking through the minutae of the old testament and then using the shards as weapons.

    It is interesting, however, how “faith” is expressed by the type of fundamentalists I’ve been writing about and non-fundamentalists. The type of fundamentalists I’ve been writing about do take a lot of things on faith–like that the Bible is completely true–but they seek to hold non-fundamentalists to a high to impossible level of proof regarding OUR facts (e.g., we can’t prove completely that evolution is true, so it’s on the same footing as Noah’s Arc), while non-fundamentalists often place faith in statistics or scientific “findings” that may, in fact, be invalid because of flaws in how they are derived–especially if the findings support their beliefs.

    Arrgghhh. I wrote this to clarify the whole facts versus faith thing. All of us rely on both facts and faith to function, but it can be useful to step back on occasion and consider just what these facts and faith might mean when we make decisions or espouse opinions before feeling to smug about our rationality.

  • CoralSea

    Patricia — It it intriguing to think that, in fact, “factual” does seem to have become at least somewhat synonomous with “liberal.” I hadn’t really noticed this, but you are right. Thus, the term “liberal” should be worn much more proudly as indicating that its bearers are capable of distinguishing fact from innuendo and understanding such scientific methods as hypothesis testing.

    I still don’t understand how Christianity has become, FOR SOME (I know that many Christians aren’t like this, so don’t attack me for it), so literal that any comment or thought that appears to contradict the Bible is not only wrong in their eyes but an attack on their religion and their faith. This is so weirdly defensive to me. Time was, people were more focused on the concept of faith and understanding and instituting the teachings of Jesus in their lives, and their faith wasn’t something that could be rattled by, oh, I don’t know, a dinosaur bone or the theory of evolution. To me, it seems that the literalists don’t really have that same type of faith if they feel that they have to go along with every weird, bronze-age, nomadic, desert tradition mentioned in the old testament (and they do pick and choose, but they don’t like anyone else to do so if it’s a verse they really like.)

    Also, in regard to elected and appointed officials’ professions and training: for some reason, I have run into a half dozen who were, before they were elected or appointed, morticians! I don’t know why this is the case, but it’s rather weird.

  • http://twitter.com/AronL Aron

    Patricia,

    At least dermatology is a legitimate medical field. I have no issues with MDs. DCs (Doctors of Chiropractic), are another story.

  • Patricia Self

    Further to Aron’s comment of the 18th. Feisty comment about the chirpracty knowledge of the APT guy. We in Alabama are also burdened with a governor who was a dermatologist.

    As for this one:
    Linnea said, on June 19th, 2012 at 2:16 pm
    Reality (i.e., real educational programming) has a liberal bias. That’s just the way it is.

    It’s interesting to me that my idea of “factual” is another’s definition of “liberal.” There are scientific facts, provable and accepted by those with a factual bent. Then, there are stories, written long before there was “science,” which should be relegated to the realm of nice-to-hear-but-not-really-true. The difference seems clear to me.

  • CoralSea

    Peter –

    Sorry — I mis-read your post, thinking that you were advocating the position in your first paragraph, which you were not. My bad!

    Thomas — thanks for the info–it is reassuring, and hopefully will curb any really serious abuses in Alabama.

  • J. Lopez

    Conspiracy theory:
    Is it possible that the goal of APT is to
    alienate existing APT supporters. They would in turn stop supporting APT which would make a lot of politicians very happy if APT would be reduced in their effective programming.

    Supporting/suppling religious branded ideology is something most intelligent and semi-intelligent viewers don’t want.

    I recall a quote sometime back:
    “Once religious dogma enters the brain, all intellectual activity ceases. ”

    Alabama has not a single thing to be proud of when it comes to freedom,
    equal rights of all people.

    We as a people have be come saturated with bigotry, hatred and ignorance.

    Just think, we still honor Confederate
    ‘heroes’ who by any stretch of imagination are and were traitors to their country.

    We don’t want every one to have the right to vote if they don’t think. look and act like the typical WASP.

    In general, this area of the country worships at the alter of the gridiron, if you are not a WASP you can carry my football and No, I prefer that you don’t vote.

    What a shameful legacy of this state .

  • Thomas Ballock

    Some googling has turned up information which indicates (a) PBS policy is that member stations (generally speaking) should NOT broadcast religious programming, and (b) the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (which provides handsome funding to APT) also frowns on religious programming. The AETC could end up costing PBS a great deal, and that doesn’t even include defending against a possible lawsuit by Allan Pizzato. “Ready, fire, aim”

  • CoralSea

    Peter –

    There is one problem with a TV station: It has a fixed and finite number of hours to air programs. As a result, more winnowing of materials must be done — far, far, FAR more — than adding to a book collection at a library.

    A mix of program is ideal; but the egregiously slanted stuff or the inaccurate stuff ought to be omitted–unless the programming can include discussion of the viewpoints that make the information controversial. Then it would enhance exposure. To be clear, I am not talking about ridicule. I’m talking about a serious examination of what these viewpoints are and why others may disagree.

    It’s an idea, at least.

  • Steve

    This story is but one more example of the insidious infiltration of the extreme right wing into not only television, but radio, and print media as well. My grandson was assigned to read a book By Frank Peretti. Peretti comes off as a supernatural thriller writer, but is in fact a religious fanatic disclaiming evolution and condemning school systems that teach it. This guy is a childrens propagandist, not a thriller writer. I think he attended the “Josep Goebbels” school of creative writing. Just another example of right-wingers trying to usurp the hearts and minds of children.

  • Peter Hockley

    “Its either free speech or it isn’t. EVERY limit and restriction you think of about speech you dislike, someone else can apply it to you. Is that what you want?”

    This guy is a lying piece of scum who selectively quotes and fabricates. I’m, sorry but I don’t believe telling porkies is covered by free speech.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    “I was first exposed to Barton’s views at a Tea party meeting. I am not a Christian but his views were based on verifiable facts and he made a convincing case for our nation’s founding on Christian principles.”

    And I’m sure you, being totally objective and all, wanted to check to make sure what Barton was saying was true, so you looked around to find sources which dispute his claims. I’m sure you could even tell us the name of the entire book which was written on that very subject, because if you had made an attempt to check his facts, you couldn’t possibly miss it.

    ” One of those principles is tolerance of different beliefs which is why Franklin and Jefferson were so prominent. Much of the intolerance exhibited by “Christians” is directed toward those that are attempting to destroy them.”

    Nobody is attempting to destroy Christians. This is paranoid bullshit. It’s just that some Christians believe that if they aren’t allowed to shove their religious beliefs down everyone’s throat, it means they are persecuted.

  • Krissy

    I bet they’ll be airing the left behind series too. I can’t believe they are trying to make Alabama dumber but its how ideologues win elections.

  • SAS

    For all those who think the state of Alabama where I live is all about far right conservatives and nutjobs, I would like to remind them that our state is where the Southern Poverty Law Center is based.

    It is also where luminaries like Helen Keller and Rosa Parks are from. So please refrain from tarring us all with the same brush.

  • CM

    Bartonophrenia isn’t limited to Alabama or Texas. Virginia Congressman J. Randy Forbes has been trying for several years to get Congress to pass a resolution declaring a Christian Heritage week. The resolution lists about a hundred “whereas” clauses that are all taken straight from Barton pseudscholarship.

    Anyone who thinks Barton has even a slight claim to historiographic respectability needs to check out Chris Rodda’s “Liars for Jesus” website (liarsforjesus.com). She has done the brush-clearing, and you’ll see just how thoroughly and despicably dishonest Barton is.

  • Thomas Ballock

    Petition the governor to get rid of political appointees on the board and replace them with nonpartisan board members who will not pursue personal agendas. http://SaveAPT.com

  • David Kamens

    This is surely a tougher call than the Nazis’ marching in Skokie issue of some years ago. I guess all I can take away from this current Alabma idiocy (oops, might that not be an oxymoron?) is an enhanced appreciation of Indiana Public Radio (IPR).

  • CoralSea

    Grumbler –

    I agree. The problem is that, particularly in regard to history, the facts are sometimes open to interpretation and shading — although I understand Barton’s stuff is well beyond the pale in outrageous interpretation and omission, at the very least.

    The lack of any attempt a balance in reporting–or calling people to account when they willfully mis-state or twist facts–is a real problem. For all of the resources the media has available to them for checking facts or considering other aspects of a situation, it appears that there is precious little effort to do so out there. The result is not just an uninformed public, but in some cases, a seriously misinformed public. For example, I’m not sure which group it was (Pew Research, perhaps), but they found that Fox News viewers actually knew less about current events (e.g., the got the answers wrong) than people who didn’t watch the news because Fox actually airs “news” that is factually wrong.

  • http://twitter.com/AronL Aron

    Dick’s back, everybody! And now he’s touting the veracity of David Barton AND creationism! This is going to be lots of fun.

    I would be curious what background gives you the idea that Barton’s ideas are true, Dick? And the same with the God-concept vis-a-vis quantum physics?

    Because Barton’s no historian, ad you’re no physicist.

  • kbrown225

    Oh that is scary. If the right can take over public television or radio in any state we are in big trouble.

  • Grumbler

    Public officials have a right to their own opinions. Public officials do not have a right to their own facts–nor ought Public Television.
    Moderate is not the middle ground between progressive and conservative. Neutral is. That means to me presenting progressive and conservative points of view with an even hand; but disallowing or, better, challenging the spewing of falsehoods as fact.
    PBS interviewers do often give conservative politicians a pass on misinformation and disinformation. This is not being neutral. This is being irresponsible.

    .

  • CoralSea

    Joseph — It is my view that a good public school system is vital to our country because a lot of parents are just too overwhelmed or, in some cases, indifferent to their kids education to get them into “good” charters or to home school them. At this point, the performance of charter schools is decidedly mixed. In Chicago, of I believe 48 charters (there are more, but some hadn’t been in existence to have enough of a track record to legitimately measure their level of achievement), only seven performed better than the public schools and more than half performed worse (some, a lot worse). I am well-acquainted with one of the high-performing charters, which his a largely Latino population. The principal (who actually got her start in Texas), teachers, and parents work their fingers to the bone to get these results, and it is a marvelous place. They have to use a lottery to accept new students as the school “ages up” (it started with k-2nd grade and is planning to continue with these first classes up to 8th grade, so each year, new slots open to start kindergarten).

    Certainly, options like this are great — and in Chicago (I don’t know about elsewhere), the schools have to raise half of their funding from private sources. However, if the push toward charters through the ridiculous No Child Left Behind program ultimately guts public school funding so that the kids who don’t end up in charters end up in ever resource-deficient public schools, this would be a real tragedy and a reversal of the American tradition, set forth in the 19th Century, of providing public education. We risk losing a substantial percentage of people who might otherwise have lead productive lives through lack of education. That would be both a public and a private tragedy.

    Incidentally, it is telling that, except for some parents who want religious schooling or some other specialized schooling for their kids (e.g., French immersion, arts oriented), there is precious little talk of defunding the public schools in well-off areas. Public schools in middle, upper-middle class areas are considered valuable assets that have a strong impact on housing prices, and they are defended by the public from doing anything too extreme that might diminish their rankings.

    Home schooling is very definitely a mixed bag. Some curricula–and some parents’ ability to teach–is superior, but some is downright bad. I know this personally because I have seen the curricula a family member has used for her kids. It’s David Barton stuff on steroids as far as history and social studies, and there really isn’t any science (my relative’s kids told me that science is bad, and they are concerned that I deal with geology, which is also bad).

    Sam makes a good comment about the need to have balance in government and in learning. He is right — it is a constant tension between letting people fend for themselves and helping them get a leg up into a better life. I agree with Ruslan, though, that “personal responsibility” tends to apply more to “the little people” and not at all to some outrageous crooks (How many people have been arrested or convicted for the mortgage and banking melt-down – answer zero — and a lot of the big wigs got bonuses, too, although I’m sure they were plenty auster with the worker bees). We do need disaster assistance and medical care for the destitute. We also need all sorts of infrastructure, like roads and dams, if for no other reason then to allow businesses to have water and get their stuff to the market. Now, however, the cost of providing a lot of the stuff that benefits business and makes a robust, capitalist economy possible, is being shifted onto individual taxpayers while corporations suck up tax breaks. That’s welfare. (And gee — now that corporations are people, perhaps we should begin to demonize them and say they are lazy the way some people have referred to women who are on welfare).

    Your point on balance in information, and delving into views that may be different than your own is also very good. But I set forth the idea that one place where this is vitally important is in school — especially public school. I have no problem with creationism personally; I like learning about belief systems. But I also think that kids should be able to learn about evolution because it is the best SCIENTIFIC theory to explain the diversity of life. One of the downsides to the mass proliferation of media and websites is that people can very easily be insulated from the thoughts, beliefs, and experiences of others. We do need to stop ourselves every now and then and peek outside the “silos.” Fortunately for me, I have a job that requires me to interact with many different people in many different settings and with many different challenges and experiences in their lives. Believe me when I say that my preconceived notions (we all have them) get slam-dunked about once a day.

    This thread started with public television. I think it has come full circle, because what we are talking about is ensuring that people have access to various viewpoints, even if they don’t agree with some of it. The trick is figuring out how to pick one’s way through the choices and hope that the good ones will outnumber the bad ones.

  • Sam Molloy

    All governments that function, including a benevolent monarchy, are a mixture of personal responsibility and the nanny state. It’s that balance that can be discussed. If people only listen to what they already agree with, I suppose to reinforce how smart they think they are, the people that desperately need to hear a different take on an issue never will. If you think Creationism cannot have any validity whatsoever, for instance, look up the Creationist book with the most objectional title you can find and do some summer reading.

  • Joseph

    My wife is a teacher. I hope we’re not holding the entire school system of the country to Texas. Public vs. Private in TX is more of a toss up than anything else. Either you want them “taught to the test” or not. But TX is a conservative state anyway. Private school not that big of a deal here, so my opinion wouldn’t bring much to this conversation.

  • CoralSea

    Reynardine –

    Yes — they want some parts of the gov. reduced — like that pesky EPA and those uppity union teachers — but they want this in large part so they can simply “privatize” (read “profitize”) these functions and make a boatload of cash. That is working out SO well with the prisons. And if we lose a real public school system, I fear that a lot of kids won’t get any real education at all (and some of the “education” by charter schools and evangelical religious schools as well as the curricula used by some home schoolers, often for religious reasons, is already taking a toll).

    I’m afraid that “The Indumbening of America” is definitely underway.

    And I hope you aren’t in Michigan and anywhere near their state legislators, because they freak over the “V” word and I would expect they would swoon over the word “tampon.”

  • Reynardine

    Well, Coral Sea, these conservatives you mention think government should be reduced to the size of a tampon, so it fits into the same place.

  • CoralSea

    Ruslan — Excellent points on the whole, “personal responsibility” thing. I also find it amazing when one hears persons of a conservative bent who complain about government intrusion into their lives (you know, by regulating fire arms AT ALL), but who don’t think there is anything wrong with meddling in the sex lives and health care of women. It’s hard to imagine anything much more intrusive than allowing employers to quizz their female employees on whether they take birth control pills for “real” medical reasons (like endometriosis or other conditions) or because they are “loose” women, which is something at least one state is contemplating.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    The reason why you don’t see them debate “personal responsibility VS the nanny state” is because this is a bullshit conservative false dichotomy totally out of touch with reality. For one thing, conservatives are infamous for ducking personal responsibility for all kinds of things. Second, our society frequently rewards rich people even when they screw up. No personal responsibility for those Wall Street bankers, even when they run their companies into the ground. The poor guy who’s only mistake was getting sick one day and being laid off- HE’S the one who needs to learn personal responsibility in America.

    Second, there is no “nanny state.” For one thing, America’s welfare system is broken and backward. Secondly, the point of a welfare system isn’t to be a “nanny.” It is an investment in one’s own country to have a healthier society.

  • CoralSea

    This is a tough one. I do uphold the First Amendment–even in regard to stuff I don’t like. However, unlike libraries, where there is, well, not infinite space but the capacity for lots and lots of books, especially through inter-library loan agreements, a given TV station has a fixed number of hours for broadcasts a day, so there has to be some standards and some discussion of the worthiness of content. But it can become difficult when one gets into the “tit for tat, David Barton is a barking idiot, so if you air his stuff, you have to let us have air time to show something more balanced.” Hmmm. I guess the answer here is good, moderated discussion about what is good and informative to the public, and if the occasional stinking fish gets through, so be it.

    Also, Sam Molloy, PBS and NPR aren’t quite as liberal as you might think — especially when it comes to news and discussion shows. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (www.FAIR.org — I think there is a link on this page), periodically provides analyses of who appears on these shows, and even on the “liberal” PBS and NPR as opposed to the big broadcasterrs (NBC, CBS, ABC, my hand refuses to type F*X), spokespersons, guests, people quote skew heavily to white, male, and conservative. In fact, in some cases regarding social issues (think welfare reform), PBS and NPR skewed worse toward the conservative, white, male guests than some of the others. Infact, during the welfare reform debate, very few persons of color, young persons, or — gasp — women appeared on talk shows, were quoted, etc. except when footage of poor, pregnant and/or carrying a kid woman or girl, often of color, was shown or given a sound bite like, “It’s real hard to find a job.” In an analysis of coverage and minutes of who spoke, opined, whatever, PBS and even NPR didn’t do much or any better than the other “mainstream” media.

    I pay attention to this stuff because I am often looking at how environmental and related social issues are covered. I also once worked as a reporter before stuff happened and — oh, never mind. It is distressing to me how rarely reporters appear to dig beneath the surface of stories anymore — or perhaps they do and the editors clip out all of the stuff that would have given the story depth. Reporters may still be liberal (isn’t that what everyone says — “the liberal media”) but editors decide what gets run, and editors answer to publishers, many of which are now parts of corporate conglomerates. It isn’t up to the reporters.

  • Reynardine

    Sam, there is no creationism v. evolution.

  • Linnea

    Reality (i.e., real educational programming) has a liberal bias. That’s just the way it is.

  • Sam Molloy

    Creationism does not hurt anyone, but Theocracy can. PBS and NPR have had a liberal bent for years, and could stand some reasonable discussions about personal responsibility VS the nanny state, Creationism VS Evolution, etc. Searching for inoffensive middle ground would be an unlistenable wasteland.

  • ModerateMike

    This reminds me of a similar debate about library policies regarding the acceptance of books. I remember getting slammed a bit when I suggested that librarians should vet purported historical works according to their objectivity, and should not feel forced to accept books based upon the imagined need to maintain “liberal-conservative equilibrium”. My point is simply that attempting to steer a middle course is problematic because “centrism” is a moving target, and as far right as “The Right” has become, those seeking the middle ground cannot compromise with them without compromising their own educational standards and principles.

  • Reynardine

    Aron, I am speaking, not of his status in 1978, but of the level he had reached by the time of Irving v. Lipstadt.

  • Erika

    Jayce, you do realize that “public television” is not “public access teleivsion – its not their responsibility to air every viewpoint. Their responsibility is to provide educational and cultural programming – the works of David Barton really do not qualify as either (although perhaps if you add a laugh track and write things like “This is not true” or “David Barton just made it up” under his fabricated Thomas Jefferson quotes it could qualify as comedy)

  • http://twitter.com/AronL Aron

    Rey, I hate to say it (as I strongly dislike the guy), but David Irving *IS* in fact, a serious historian. He was very widely respected among military and Holocaust scholars for his works and translations, up until he went a little Hitler happy…

    His earlier works are very much worthwhile reading. His later works, not so much.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GargamelGold?feature=mhee CriticalDragon1177

    Mark Potok,

    Pretty soon they’ll be demanding that shows on Evolution be replaced with shows promoting creationism, or at least that shows promoting creationism be given equal time.

  • Reynardine

    I would add that “free speech” does not mean anyone can call himself an expert and then propagate lies about his alleged field of expertise at public expense. David Barton is no more a historian than is David Irving. The purpose of public television is primarily educational, and that means that, whatever the viewpoint of the “educational” material being offered, it should pass a genuine peer review. We do not need to squander our public funds on someone’s propaganda.

  • Joseph

    Free speech yes – hate speech, not so much, and make no mistake about it, that is hate speech. If it looks like it, and if it smells like it, I don’t have to step in it to tell you what it is.

    Now, as much as he has the freedom to spew his “ideas”, my child should have the freedom not to be exposed to it, in a forum that could very well be my livingroom, since it is on public TV. Public TV is just that, open to the public, TO the public, not from the public, therefore, what is shown TO the public, should be basically agreeable, by all viewing parties. I don’t like prayer being removed from schools, but at the end of the day, a child can pray to himself, while a child who is being raised in an atheist household should not be exposed to prayer and then left to go home and question his parents. I don’t like it – but I see the reasoning in it.

    Public TV should not be conservative or liberal, it should be moderate. That is not protected free speech. That is the takover of a public TV station.

  • Sam Molloy

    Supposedly Mike Huckabee, who is sometimes reasonable, said that everyone should be forced at gunpoint to listen to David Barton’s revamped history lessons. Basically the rants about this country being founded as a Christian Nation. As opposed to my understanding that it was founded on Religious Liberty.

  • Jayce

    I would think that public television would have room for all points of view, even ones that you or I may consider foolish or silly.

    This is _public_ television, i.e. it is funded by the public (and pretty substantially by the government), and if you start restricting the views shown to just those that agree with you, how public is it? A public forum _must_ allow views that may be disagreeable. Otherwise, its really not public, just publically supported.

    This has nothing to do with whether you or I disagree with him. This is about his right to have the same access to the forum he pays for along with everyone else. If he does not have that right, then, really, we should not consider it public TV, and the general populace should not be paying for it. The government should never be in the business of deciding what speech is valid. Ever.

    I may think he’s misguided, but that does _not_ detract from my belief in his right to speak in a publicly funded forum. If these executives cannot understand that, then yes, they need to find new employment. It isn’t about what _they_ like, either.

    So many people claim to support free speech, but then someone comes up with speech they detest. Suddenly, there needs to be limits, and restrictions.

    Its either free speech or it isn’t. EVERY limit and restriction you think of about speech you dislike, someone else can apply it to you. Is that what you want?

  • Lone Wolf

    Alabama is sure headed towards the banjo ditch. The same with Arizona.

  • ModerateMike

    What’s happening in Alabama doesn’t strike me as merely right-wing extremism; it just seems downright crazy. Is this really the kind of programming that most of the state’s residents want? I don’t live in Alabama, but even as conservative as the state appears to be from my own casual observation, surely remarks as ridiculous as those that Barton is making must be giving people some pause…mustn’t they? Then again, as you mentioned, Mark, rational arguments don’t seem to have much effect on Alabama’s elected leaders these days. I don’t know how you maintain your sanity.

    Keep up the good work, SPLC. I’m eager to hear more details about this story if they become available.

  • http://twitter.com/AronL Aron

    Also, how on earth does the quackery of chiropractic give someone the ability and skills to run a state-wide PBS? TV and ‘medicine’ are two slightly unrelated fields…

  • Reynardine

    Joseph, he’s part of the same pig. The south part.

  • Joseph

    Is this guy related to the Pig’s Head pastor?

  • Erika

    whatever happened to the right wingers wanting the market to decide everything?

    Obviously if there was any market at all for the David Barton dvds there would be several commercial broadcasters (or religion for profit guys) seeking to air them.

    Or the right wingers hostility towards anything public?

    Is public subsidized broadcasting okay if it is right wing propaganda?

    What’s next, for Alabama Public Television? The KKK Komedy Hour?

  • http://twitter.com/AronL Aron

    I can only hope these two former APT executives file a wrongful dismissal suit against the board.

    And I also thank goodness I live outside Boston, where we have the legendary WGBH to rely upon for our public television. Down with Barton! Up with truth!