History’s Greatest Libels: A Challenge to Some of the Great Lies of History is the latest book from Steve Byas, editor of The Oklahoma Constitution, a conservative quarterly about Oklahoma politics. I should note that I am a contributing writer for that newspaper. Byas is also a contributor to The New American, a publication of the John Birch Society.
Steve Byas taught history and civics in public schools for 28 years. Today, he teaches at Hillsdale Free Will Baptist College in Moore.
He, a lifelong student of history, says he wanted for some time to write this book. “I hear things said about people in history that are just not factually correct.” He claims much of the false information about historical figures has a political narrative behind it. He quoted the left-wing writer Eric Blair, who authored the novel 1984 under the pseudonym George Orwell: “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”
Byas argues that while conservatives legitimately win battles, like the 1991 confirmation of Clarence Thomas to the United States Supreme Court, the left seeks to win battles by creating historical myths about those events.
Clarence Thomas was President George Herbert Walker Bush’s choice to replace liberal Justice Thurgood Marshall, who retired from the high court in 1991. Thomas was a conservative replacing a liberal. During his confirmation hearings, Thomas was opposed by various liberal groups, but it was not until the testimony of Anita Hill that his confirmation was seriously jeopardized. Hill had worked with Thomas at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the early 1980s. She claimed Thomas sexually harassed her. Thomas defended his past, claiming there was no truth to Hill’s allegations. He was confirmed.
Byas says two-thirds of the public believed Thomas was telling the truth. A year later, The Washington Post reported a poll showing that 53% of the public believed Anita Hill’s story and that only 37% believed Justice Thomas. Byas argues the reason for the change in public opinion about Thomas was the left’s efforts to distort the historical record. Byas says of Thomas, “Being on the Supreme Court makes it hard to defend himself.”
One of the myths reported in History’s Greatest Libels is Queen Marie Antoinette’s saying, “Let them eat cake” when asked about the hungry people of France before the outbreak of the French Revolution that overthrew the monarchy. Byas believes deliberate distortions are used to create myths to justify past events. The French Revolution, Byas argues, was the father of modern, left-wing revolutionary movements.
Other topics addressed in History’s Greatest Libels are claims that:
George Washington was a deist;
Thomas Jefferson fathered a child by slave Sally Hemings;
President James K. Polk started a war with Mexico to annex Texas;
William Jennings Bryan was a buffoon at the Scopes trial;
Adolf Hitler was a champion of Christianity;
Christopher Columbus was an evil man;
Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy smeared innocent people in his efforts to find Communist operatives.
Steve Byas was libeled 19 years ago. At the time he was the Republican candidate in Norman for an open seat in the Oklahoma State House of Representatives. His Democrat opponent, Wallace Collins, circulated a flier to voters a few days before the election claiming Byas had said things about the Oklahoma City bombing that were said by a leader of the right-wing Michigan Militia. Byas narrowly lost the election and immediately filed a libel suit against Collins. In September of 1997, a Cleveland County jury awarded Byas an $82,000 judgment against Collins: $50,000 for actual damages and $32,000 for punitive damages. Collins appealed to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, which upheld the Cleveland County decision.
“History is part of the battle with the statist, secular progressives.” – Steve Byas
Steve Byas has authored two murder mysteries, Digging Up Bones and Sooner Dead.