Revisionist History: Fox Reporter Hijacks Thanksgiving for Insane Rant About Socialism

You really can't make this stuff up. John Stossel, Fox News correspondent with a history of hateful rhetoric, published an insane piece yesterday saying that pilgrims in 1623 almost died because of–you guessed it–“socialism.” In a revisionist rant, he wrote that Plymouth Colony's early settlers divvied up their farm economy “along communal lines. The goal was to share the work and produce equally. That's why they nearly all starved.” But once their crops were privatized, Stossel writes, everything flourished under the tenets of capitalism. Which is a convenient viewpoint for Fox's crazed party line... but it just isn't true.

Tea Partiers and other right-wingers have been repeating this same story all year, so earlier this week a New York Times reporter investigated and spoke to a historian who debunked the tale:

Leave aside the question of whether this country is on the march to socialism (conservatives say yes, and blame the Democrats). What does the record say?

Historians say that the settlers in Plymouth, and their supporters in England, did indeed agree to hold their property in common — William Bradford, the governor, referred to it in his writings as the “common course.” But the plan was in the interest of realizing a profit sooner, and was only intended for the short term; historians say the Pilgrims were more like shareholders in an early corporation than subjects of socialism.

“It was directed ultimately to private profit,” said Richard Pickering, a historian of early America and the deputy director of Plimoth Plantation, a museum devoted to keeping the Pilgrims’ story alive.

The arrangement did not produce famine. If it had, Bradford would not have declared the three days of sport and feasting in 1621 that became known as the first Thanksgiving. “The celebration would never have happened if the harvest was going to be less than enough to get them by,” Mr. Pickering said. “They would have saved it and rationed it to get by.”

Like other Tea Party tenets, the Times traces Stossel's stance back to outdated Cold War paranoia and suspicion of the Russians.

Samuel Eliot Morison, the admiral and historian who edited Bradford’s “Of Plymouth Plantation,” titled the chapter about Bradford ending the common course “Indian Conspiracy; Communism; Gorges.”

But it is important to note that he was writing in 1952, amid great American suspicion of the Soviets. “The challenges of the cold war and dealing with Russia are reflected in the text,” Mr. Pickering said.

McCarthyism lives on. Read more at the New York Times and Media Matters.

AlterNet / By Julianne Escobedo Shepherd

Posted at November 25, 2010, 3:26am

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