Looks like radio shouter and neocon blogger Charlie Sykes is on to the ultimate Internet hoax – take a well-documented fact you just can't bear and indignantly claim it's nothing but an Internet hoax. Then get some soulmates on the airwaves and in the blogosphere to give your claim the appearance of credence by repeating it over and over again, and you're well on your way to erasing history.
The Democracy Campaign recently quoted Abraham Lincoln in our statement on the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on Wisconsin Right to Life's legal challenge to the federal McCain-Feingold campaign reform law. Sykes accused us of using a bogus quote, citing snopes.com.
Our source for the Lincoln quote was The Lincoln Encyclopedia by Archer H. Shaw, published by Macmillan in 1950. Page 40. To get the book, go here. Another source is page 954 of Abraham Lincoln: A New Portrait (volume 2) by Emanuel Hertz, published in 1931. Hertz published another pertinent book, The Hidden Lincoln; from the Letters and Papers of William H. Herndon, in 1938.
After hearing that some doubted the authenticity of the quote, University of California-Davis researcher Rick Crawford went digging and was willing to stake his academic reputation on his finding that the quote is authentic. In the course of his research on the subject, Crawford also found this on page 24 of Lincoln's Complete Works (volume 1), published in 1905: "These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert to fleece the people, and now that they have got into a quarrel with themselves, we are called upon to appropriate the people's money to settle the quarrel." Lincoln uttered those words in a speech to the Illinois legislature in January 1837.
The likes of Charlie Sykes do not want to believe that the party of Lincoln's namesake may have had such concerns about corporate power. Even if it says so in exhaustively researched, well-documented and peer-reviewed books that have been in publication for more than a half century and have yet to be challenged by serious historians, it can't be true. So Sykes takes snopes.com's word for it. Even if some of the content on that online rumor mill is, well, less than confidence inspiring. Or downright weird.
Sykes has something in common with much of his audience. Those who hang on his every word want to be lied to. They don't want to believe in evolution. They want to believe the earth is really 6,000 years old, despite the preponderance of scientific evidence showing they are a few billion years off. They want to believe global warming is not happening or, if the earth's climate is indeed changing, human behavior has nothing to do with it. They need someone like Charlie Sykes to assure them they're right.
They support U.S. policy in Iraq even though it's easily one of the biggest foreign policy blunders in American history and they think the Geneva Conventions are an intolerable nuisance. They need a Bill O'Reilly to confirm that warped belief, even if twisting history and slandering dead American World War II soldiers is the only way he can think to do it. O'Reilly and Sykes and their ilk cater to an audience that wants reality to disappear when that reality offends them or makes them uncomfortable or just doesn't fit their world view. They need to be told that fantasy is reality.
Charlie Sykes and Bill O'Reilly and dozens of others just like them happily oblige because they make a handsome living indulging their audience's delusions.