That's Not What They Meant! and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more
Buy New
$14.13
Qty:1
  • List Price: $19.00
  • Save: $4.87 (26%)
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
In Stock.
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com.
Gift-wrap available.
Add to Cart
Want it Tuesday, April 22? Order within and choose One-Day Shipping at checkout. Details
Have one to sell?
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See all 2 images

That's Not What They Meant!: Reclaiming the Founding Fathers from America's Right Wing Paperback


See all 2 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from Collectible from
Kindle
"Please retry"
Paperback
"Please retry"
$14.13
$2.11 $0.01

Frequently Bought Together

That's Not What They Meant!: Reclaiming the Founding Fathers from America's Right Wing + Wrapped in the Flag: A Personal History of America's Radical Right
Price for both: $33.81

Buy the selected items together

NO_CONTENT_IN_FEATURE

Big Spring Books
Editors' Picks in Spring Releases
Ready for some fresh reads? Browse our picks for Big Spring Books to please all kinds of readers.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 253 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (September 18, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616146702
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616146702
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #155,962 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"A new era of critical analysis of the Founders may be at hand. If so, it makes That's Not What They Meant! all the more important. The book deserves to find a wide audience."--Rob Boston, Free Inquiry
 
"Remarkably free of the typical media bias, this intelligent book presents the case that our so-called Founding Fathers were not the figures bombastic politicians or newsreaders like Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck would have us believe."--Monsters and Critics
 
"A guaranteed argument settler."--Terri Schlichenmeyer, The Daily News


"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).                                                      

"This could be one of the most important books written in recent years on the subject of Constitutional interpretation."--Holly Scudero, San Francisco Book Review

"Brings the Founding Fathers back to vibrancy and authenticity for a contemporary world."--Carla Hand, Wichita Bar Association Bar-o-Meter


"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

The Day I Was "Review Bombed" at Amazon.com

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!
Posted on Tuesday, January 08, 2013 1:52:09 PM by Jacquerie
Remember how the DUs trashed Mark Levin's books at Amazon? Well, here is our chance. Some English prof named Michael Austin wrote a scatterbrained hit piece that is full of cheap shots directed at the Tea Party, Mark Levin, Hannity, etc. To do this, he took teaspoons from various works of our Framers, mixed them up with some Howard Zinn, and baked them with social justice gravy at high heat.
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
Click the link and give this radical leftist clown Austin the zero rating he deserves.


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.

More About the Author

Michael Austin is Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Newman University in Wichita, KS. He is the author of several textbooks and works of literary criticism. His most recent book, "That's Not What They Meant: Reclaiming the Founding Fathers from America's Right Wing," examines the way that America's founding narratives have been incorporated (often very inaccurately) into contemporary political discourse. He is currently working on a book with the tentative title, "Arguing As Friends: Why It's So Important, Why It's So Hard."

Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
Share your thoughts with other customers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Penny on January 9, 2013
Format: Paperback
How sad that people can organize a review bomb of a book they have not read but have been told to be afraid of. Austin is certainly right: That kind of " democracy" is NOT what Americas founders intended!
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
90 of 99 people found the following review helpful By Georgianna Walters on January 8, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a well written document describing how statements from our founding fathers need to be taken in context, in order to understand what they were saying to the American people.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
88 of 97 people found the following review helpful By tim h on January 8, 2013
Format: Paperback
A good book which does it's best to pull apart the far right willful misinterpretations of our founding documents. It's smart and self-critical and actually written by an academic.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
118 of 132 people found the following review helpful By H. Cross on January 8, 2013
Format: Paperback
I was not going to write a review of this excellent, balanced piece of scholarship. That's because I normally do not write book reviews at all on Amazon. However, when I started to order this for a friend, I noticed the avalanche of negative reviews all posted today - all by Right Wing nutjobs it appears. I wish Amazon had a way of dealing with this. To those of you contemplating ordering this book, I urge you to buy it and read it. It should be assigned reading for every true American and patriot.
4 Comments Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Christine E. Johnson on January 15, 2013
Format: Paperback
This book does an excellent job of explaining the true meaning of our constitution. It is well thought out and filled with historical evidence. Please don't listen to reviewers that never even read the book. You need to read this! Decide for yourself where the truth lies. Well done Mr. Austin!
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
75 of 85 people found the following review helpful By KScott on January 8, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book does what journalists should have done during the past decade. Since 1994, the extreme conservative wing of the Republican party has tried to co-opt the founding fathers to serve their purposes. Using proof-text citations, they pull one or two sentences out of context and use them to justify their stances. This book places those quotations back into their contexts and shows that the right is being sloppy at best, and blatantly dishonest at worst, in their invocation of the founders.

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.
4 Comments Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Delwin Johnson on January 15, 2013
Format: Paperback
As a moderate Republican, combat veteran, and Mormon- I find this book a refreshing look at our founding fathers. I am tired of the right-wing of my party demonizing everyone that doesn't agree with their radical opinions. This book is written for everyone that agrees with this sentiment. It is thought provoking and well balanced. Mr. Austin has created the go-to book for anyone interested in the truth. If you cant handle the truth- don't read it.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
87 of 100 people found the following review helpful By Stuart Grahm on January 8, 2013
Format: Paperback
I greatly enjoyed this book. It takes a primarily centrist view that highlights some of the reasons why compromise and statesmanship have been stymied at many levels of government. It also illustrates how oversimplification of history is a dicey business. Excellent read for the current state of government.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

Product Images from Customers

Most Recent Customer Reviews

Search
ARRAY(0xa57f7930)