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That's Not What They Meant!: Reclaiming the Founding Fathers from America's Right Wing Paperback – September 18, 2012
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"Our national dialogue strongly resembles a form of political insanity. This book is part of the cure." Ray Smock, Historian, US House of Representatives (1983-1995).
"Tired of people bellowing at you about the Founding Fathers? Then read Michael Austin's quiet, good-humored, thought-provoking book. . . . A welcome breath of fresh air about a stale subject, it also captures the most important truth about the Founding Fathers - they disagreed with one another, eloquently and even bitterly, about what America should be and about how we should govern ourselves."
- R. B. BERNSTEIN, Distinguished adjunct professor of law, New York Law School, and author of The Founding Fathers Reconsidered
"A long-overdue critique of partisan distortions of America's Founding Fathers. Austin takes both the Right and the Left to task, but he especially castigates the Far Right for cherry-picking (or proof texting) various Founders' statements and then attributing their sentiments to the Founding Fathers as a whole, as if the Founders were a homogenous group of men who agreed on everything. . . .A must-read for anyone who wants an objective exploration of the American political and constitutional system."
- DAVID CONTOSTA, Professor of history, Chestnut Hill College, Philadelphia, PA, and author of Rebel Giants
"Provides a much-needed corrective to some of the craziness being promoted by right-wing extremists these days in the name of the Founding Fathers. . . . The real legacy of those Fathers? A political system. In Austin's words, it's 'a system of disagreement, debate, and compromise...that has kept democracy vibrant in America for more than two hundred years.'"
- DAVIS D. JOYCE, Professor emeritus of history, East Central University, Ada, Oklahoma, and author of Howard Zinn
From the Author
On January 8, 2013, I was "freeped." Until 3:30 that day, I had no idea that "freep" could be used as a verb. Or even a noun. But now, and probably for a long time, "freeping" will define the Amazon page for That's Not What They Meant!
"Freeped," as it turns out, is a portmanteau of "Free Republic," a conservative commentary and blog site based in Fresno. It advertises itself as "the premier conservative site on the web," and I have no reason to think otherwise. At 3:52 (CST) on January 8, the following message was posted to the Free Republic Site
FREEP THIS BOOK:
Book: That's Not What They Meant!
Within an hour some 15 brief, one-star reviews had appeared on my book's Amazon site, all of them, with one exception, containing boilerplate phrases that could be applied anything left of Ron Paul or Glenn Beck. The one review that actually does refer to something in the book (a story about Elbridge Gerry), actually refers to the forward that, while not actually written by me, is available in the Amazon preview.
Perhaps even worse (from my perspective) is that the few existing reviews by people who had actually read my work--not all of them positive--were sabotaged according to the instructions given on the Free Republic site: "lower the stars on the gushy reviews by clicking NOT helpful and BUMP the 1 * star reviews by clicking HELPFUL!"
They came, they saw, they freeped. And I am trying hard not to let it go to my head. As much as I would like to think that I was freeped because somebody considered my ideas dangerous, or radical, or worthy of rebuttal, I know that this is not the case. That's Not What They Meant! was chosen more or less at random because because somebody who participates in a blog site stumbled across it and thought that it would be fun, or noble, or brave to crowdsource their disapproval. Apparently, somebody at another site did this to another book. And so on.
Ultimately, I can have no objection to the actions of the freepers, nor would I do anything to stop them even if I could (and I can't). I made a very conscious choice to enter the ideological marketplace with a book that criticizes some people and calls them wrong. Choices like that have consequences. And I would much rather be criticized--even by people who have read no more than the book's title and a call to action on a popular blog--than ignored. As far as I can tell, all of the reviews have spelled my name correctly, and, beyond that, there really isn't any such thing as bad publicity.
But I would also like to issue an invitation to the freepers, wherever they may be: let's really talk about the issues that divide us--not in a tribal way, where we immediately divide into teams and dismiss the other side as intellectually and morally inferior, but as actual intelligent, responsible human beings who might disagree about some things, but who love our country and want it to succeed.
I currently maintain a blog site called Arguing as Friends where I invite people of all backgrounds and perspectives to come together and talk about current political issues without insults and without personal attacks. Your voices would be welcome there, and I would be very happy to discuss my view of the Founding Fathers--or anything else--with all of you on those terms. Really discussing controversial issues with people you disagree with can be a powerful experience that can lead to understanding, intellectual growth, and the kinds of deep compromises that led to the founding of our Republic and continue to be essential to its success.
This is a more difficult approach to political discourse than simply taking pot shots at each other on Amazon. But it is much more rewarding as well.
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Top Customer Reviews
The author claims to not be a liberal. To the extent that the author appears to have an axe to grind, it is with the misuse of historical documents, not in political ideology. And as an English professor specialized in 18th century political texts he is probably more able to interpret what the "founders" meant than anyone, and definitely more able than the likes of Glenn Beck.
Today a number of one-star reviews showed up. Undoubtedly by people prompted by this right-wing website's encouragement: [...] (the link is to a screenshot on the author's blogpage). I am sure they did not read the book. If you read their reviews you will undoubtedly come to the same conclusion.
The book is a good read. At times repetitive, but it does a good job in assessing what the founders thought (hint - they NEVER agreed) and how this is represented in today's media. One eye-opener in the book is that the mudslinging that is so commonplace today was not better in the past. If anything, it was worse.
Read the book yourself. If you hate it, please come back and rate it a one. I think you will give it a four or five.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This the Best discussion of the history of the constitution and giving a basis for understanding modern issues raised by both the right and the left who push their positions based... Read morePublished 4 months ago by mike
Destroys the pretentious positions of those who claim to know the original intent of the founding fathers. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Christine Plaatje
I don’t know that it’s because Michael Austin isn’t an historian (or a broker, either) (or a bookie).. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Christy Wells
This would be a much better book if not for the author's obsession with Glenn Beck. In his discussion of the 3/5 rule, Austin writes, in effect, that 60% is nearly 50%. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Gderf
First of all, a shame on those (likely devout Christians, each and every one) who engaged in the "freeping" of multiple 1-star reviews at the egging on by one of their... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Master Hahn
There is no question that the author is correct when he states the obvious, that the Founding Fathers had differing opinions on many subjects and should not be used as if they... Read morePublished 15 months ago by F. Bunum
Every American should understand Austin's thesis: that each of the Founders was speaking only for himself and that the issues about which they had to compromise are, in many cases,... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Tim H.
This book is as it describes a modern interpretation. What it fails to tell you is its a very leftist modern interpretation with a very skewed understanding of who the founder... Read morePublished 16 months ago by Steve R