NPR’s tweets expose a thin grasp of American history

Were those bomb-throwing leftists at NPR trying to undermine the nation and start a revolution? What could possibly explain this kind of talk on the Fourth of July?

For more than an hour yesterday, NPR tweeted this un-American gibberish.

Shut it down! Shut it all down!

Fortunately, real Americans pushed back while defending the very values upon which this country was founded.

Another person called NPR’s tweets “trash.”

It was the Declaration of Independence.

  • Paul Weimer

    I facepalmed so hard.

    I love listening to NPR reading out the Declaration of Independence every 4th of July. I suppose tweeting it out was the next logical extension of that tradition, but of course, people jumped to the island of conclusions that it was an attack on the President.

    • Barton

      I agree. I LOVE listening to the Declaration read out each 4th as well.

    • lindblomeagles

      And in 1776 it was delivered to the British. Pretty normal, relevant, and respectful to read it every 4th of July.

    • Ben Chorn

      I think this proved that more people will read a tweet than listen to the radio.

  • John O.

    Bonus points for the one tweep who apologized in a subsequent tweet that he “jumped the gun.” You don’t see that every day.

    • Resilien7

      Was it the Vice writer?

  • MikeB

    You’re being kind when you use the term “thin grasp of American history”.

    “It is better to not tweet and let people think you are a fool than to tweet and remove all doubt.” – modernized Twain quote

    • lindblomeagles

      And a great quote for the times too! Thanks.

  • ‘Murica! If you can’t live with ’em, pass the beer nuts.

  • Mike

    Somewhere I hope Jefferson and his partners in crime (literally) are having a good laugh about this. I doubt it would surprise him. Now just imagine the impact of these words in the 18th century, when virtually everywhere in the world it was assumed that kings ruled by divine right.

    My personal favorite quote of Jefferon’s is this one from the Kentucky Resolution of 1798, where he was protesting the Adams administration’s adoption of the Alien and Sedition Acts:

    “In questions of power, then, let no more be said of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”

    There’s a lesson in that for everyone in our hyperpartisan times.

  • Zachary

    I think this is an instance where the delivery format worked against them. I’ve expressed before how I don’t care much for ‘tweetstorms’ or ‘twitternovels’ or whatever else people call them – mostly for how single thoughts can be broken up and jumbled about later.

    If you take even a single one of those tweets out of the context of the whole – I think we all can see where people might get riled up. For example – this line (linked above): “…it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government…” (fun drinking game – DoI or NRA ad…)

    Full disclosure – I once had the entire DoI memorized. I don’t anymore, but can recognize phrases and sentences from it, so after seeing the first one Bob copied – I knew right away what it was.

    Context, context, context. Props to NPR for doing this, but maybe next time just post an instachat or snapgram picture or something. Keep your tweets to a single 140 or less.

    • NG

      Valid point. Broken into such small segments, it can be taken out of context.

    • MReap

      Even taken in context it is a radical document of which people generally have only a thin grasp.

      • lindblomeagles

        You’re right. People ascribe the meaning in the Declaration of Independence to the US Constitution or the Bill of Rights, of which, both came later, and was a system of organizing society and government.

        • Zachary

          I think of the DoI as the “Why” part of the question, and the USC and BoR as the “How” part. Both meaningless without the other. Going back over the DoI today, I (re?)discovered that pretty much everything TJ was railing on King George about was fixed in the drafting of the USC.

    • lindblomeagles

      Yes, but the question is “Why did Trump’s camp take the Declaration of Independence out of context in the first place?” And the answer is Trump’s audience is trying to censor speech and the press. That’s the threat here! Why do you think Trump and his flock yell “Fake News?” Why do you think Trump and his flock “defend rude speech?” And why do you think Trump and his followers aren’t interested in listening to anybody EXCEPT themselves?

      • Zachary

        “…A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

        Taken out of context – standing as it is written – that description could, at one point or another be used to describe any of the 44 people who have been the leader of this county. (43 if you take Wm. Henry Harrison out of the picture… 🙂 )

        If that tweet came across your feed, and barring any knowledge of the history of that tweet – I’m talking about the tweet itself, not where the words themselves came from, but the tweet. Tweets are awful things, they get retweeted, liked, commented on and passed around. If you were of a particular political persuasion (PPP) that feels that they were being assaulted on (now, 4 years ago, 8 years ago, 12 years ago, 200 years ago, etc) and this showed up – it could be riotous. That is why, IMHO, TJ et al chose those words. They were treasonous, they were incendiary, they carried weight. Just like now – people choose to apply weight to words – both the words themselves, and where they came from – the speaker (or tweeter).

        I didn’t know that NPR tweeted out the DoI. I do now, and it reiterates my original point about the method of delivery as well as the message. Tweets suck. You can pick out something in the DoI that can apply to just about any situation or PPP and retweet the ones that back up your message.

        • If you have a Twitter feed an NPR is in it, it’s highly unlikely you come across only one tweet that you can take out of context? How could you? in a tweetstorm in which each tweet is only seconds apart. The only way you could is if you just happen to go into Twitter (or whatever app you use) at exactly the moment when it appears at the top of your feed.

          • Zachary

            Ok – but you can ‘like’ or ‘retweet’ or ‘comment on’ a single one of those, correct? So, if someone you follow ‘likes’ one of them, just that one shows up in yours. I don’t do enough tweeting to make sense of it, but people I follow will ‘like’ something, and I only see that one, not the entire output of the original tweeter.
            i.e. person A is following person B, and B likes a single tweet from the NPR DoI post. A sees that one, not knowing what it was from, retweets B, and says “Guess What NPR just tweeted – you won’t believe #8!!”
            I can see that escalating past the original context pretty quickly. Or trolls will kick up dirt (whether ironically or not) by just retweeting the most inflammatory ones.
            Did I mention that twitter sucks?

          • lusophone

            I don’t think Twitter sucks so much as people do. It usually takes just a little bit of digging to get a fuller picture of a tweet. People don’t want to dig though, they want to jump to conclusions.

          • Zachary

            “People don’t want to dig though, they want to jump to conclusions.”

            That’s the point of all of this.

          • lusophone

            Right. My comment was addressing your statement about Twitter. My point was that the blame falls on us, the users, more than the platform itself.

  • L. Foonimin

    After reading the tweets responding to NPR’s reading of the Declaration of Independence my confidence in universal suffrage is further shaken.

    • NG


    • lindblomeagles

      Does make you wonder doesn’t it?

    • Ben Chorn

      ” universal suffrage ” reminds me of the time on the (much since cancelled) show The Man Show where they set up a table outside a mall to get signatures to “end women’s suffrage.” Many women had no issue adding their signatures

    • unrulysunshine

      I don’t believe this is so much an argument against universal suffrage as an argument for improvement in education. There is nothing that could ever shake my belief in universal suffrage, because historically the lack of it is a guarantee for tyranny of those who have it over those who don’t. A more educated populace is the key to a better society. Ignorance is the enemy, not the people.

      • Jim B.

        Sara N, you have hit the nail on the head, uneducated folks behave in uneducated ways, and that’s contrary to, common sense. But what happens if the people don’t think they need or want to be educated, then what? Then you have a trumpite. Just an observation.

    • Ernie Lederman

      “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” — Winston Churchill

  • Mitch Berg

    Isn’t that why NPR does this?

    To have an evergreen story every July 5 about how stoopid their critics are?

    • Mitch Berg

      Also, Bob – if Fox News or Rush Limbaugh or the Northern Alliance had done the same thing – read/tweet the DOI line by line – you have *got* to know that a horde of Samantha Bee-addled, Subaru-driving, Whole Foods-shopping Macalester grads would blow up the internet tweeting about “climates of hate” and “calls to violence”, too.

      • My guess, though, is the Samantha Bee-addled, Subaru-driving, Whole Foods-shopping Macalester grads would’ve recognized it as the Declaration of Independence somewhere around “when in the course of human events.”

        • Mitch Berg

          Your faith is touching but, I suspect, misplaced.

          • Jack Ungerleider

            I fit some of your stereotype: Carleton not Macalester, Prius not Subaru, Trader Joe’s not Whole Foods, and I prefer Colbert to Samantha Bee. But I’ll take the bait. I don’t use twitter (I’m from an older generational group that put the liberal in Liberal Arts) so didn’t watch the tweets as they happened. But from the first one in this post I knew that it was the Declaration of Independence because the line “Being a long line of abuses and usurpations” is just so 18th century. 8^)

        • jon
          • Mike Stevens

            Every NewsCut post has its Star Trek reference.

      • P Gustaf

        Ah, but they didn’t. If they do it will be a story.

        • Mitch Berg

          Well, my bet is placed.

      • Mike Stevens

        That’s a gross generalization. This Samantha Bee-addled, Subaru driver shops at Mississippi Market and went to Purdue.

      • Angry Jonny

        But they didn’t, did they? So…yeah.

      • Postal Customer

        I thought of this too, but then I thought: Fox/Rush/et al DIDN’T do that. Moreover, they WOULDN’T do that. They would never bother to consider what these documents really say. They would never use these documents to start a conversation.

        It’s far easier for them and their supporters to simply imagine what’s in these documents, to think they know or understand, and to just invoke these documents when throwing rhetorical bombs.

        • BReynolds33

          Sure they would. But only when a democrat is in office.

    • RBHolb

      Why is it an “evergreen story every July 5?” That, right there, underscores the idea that gets your knickers in such a twist.

      • Mitch Berg

        “in such a twist”.

        North Korea has the bomb and ICBMs.
        The national debt is past a year’s GDP and growing
        Asymmetrical terrorism
        Democrats hunting Republicans

        You think NPR japing at illiterate hillbillies as a “feel good” for their audience gets my “knickers” in a twist?

        You flatter yourself.

        • RBHolb

          Mitch, you’re the one who took the time to post his indignation at the story. Enough said.

          • Mitch Berg

            OK then.

        • NG

          It’s just sad that these critics can’t even recognize the Declaration, while attacking it as “Un-American”. It shows the tribalism, fear, and rabidness of people.

          • Mitch Berg

            Well, it certainly shows that in a nation of 315 million people and ubiquitous social media, you can find examples of people who make one feel much better about oneself, whomever oneself is.

    • bad penguin

      When you say “evergreen”– have they tweeted it like this in past years? (A quick Google search didn’t answer this question.) I can’t imagine that reading it aloud would trigger quite the same reaction. I sure hope not, anyway.

    • Postal Customer

      Even if that were the objective, why do their critics fall for it?

    • unrulysunshine

      I mean…..maybe….don’t be stupid then? Also I sincerely doubt that NPR intended to be inflammatory. The Declaration of Independence is possibly the most recognizable document in American history. They require elementary students to memorize it in part or in whole, depending on the district. And even if you don’t recognize the quote, it’s clear that it is a historical quote. There can hardly be any excuse for this, nor is it fair to expect NPR to have anticipated it.

      • // I mean…..maybe….don’t be stupid then?

        This is advice that never goes out of style.

        • KTFoley

          It must take some admirable restraint to not link back to the post on the Marist poll, with all its back-and-forth about why students shouldn’t be expected to know specific details from American history.

          • it’s all just trivia, I hear.

          • KTFoley

            And I’m wiping snorted coffee off the screen. Thanks for that.

  • jon

    If any time some one refers to a dictator or tyrant you assume it is the person you elected to office, perhaps maybe, there is a chance, you believe you elected a dictator to office.

    • lindblomeagles

      Amen Jon. Amen.

    • Eddie Harrington

      Well said!

  • Jonathan Larson

    I teach US History and this just hurts. I’ll have to try harder.

    • BReynolds33

      God speed.

  • BReynolds33

    Being the masochist I am, I decided to look at some of the feeds of these people.

    One woman deleted her tweet and apologized.

    One guy calls himself a libertarian (he’s not), but deleted his tweet and tweeted this instead:

    The last guy (rethink this) seems to have been commenting on the monotony and boring content, not necessarily misunderstanding the content. Of course, he could have deleted others before I went…

  • This is about hating on NPR so much that they are blind to what they are really reading. If Breitbart News had tweeted the same thing, it would be interpreted differently. The closed-mindedness demonstrated by this is certainly discouraging.

    • AFV

      You have no proof.

      • lindblomeagles

        Yes, but he’s right, and you know it, which is why you responded to toadstool. Instead of being defensive, which is why this story happened in the first place, take a step back and actually think about what you’re doing and saying in the name of a man none of us really knows.

    • Helen Mazarakis

      Why do they have to “interpret” it? Why don’t they recognize it?

  • AL287

    This is why taking things out of context, something the 21st century media is extremely skilled in, is an invitation for online outrage and only serves to enrage the opposition, whichever camp you fall into.

    If you read the D of I as a whole, it makes sense. Take any part of it out of context and it sounds like you’re fomenting revolution against the current government.

    The capitalized words should have given readers a clue. That is if, and that’s a mighty big if, they have a grasp of American History which a previous post indicates one quarter of the population of the United States obviously lacks.

    I prefer it being read on air. We’ve been at each others throats long enough for NPR to have known this kind of reaction was going to happen tweeting it 140 characters at at time.

    I agree with Bob that we are coming dangerously close to civil war in the U.S. The shooting at the ballpark is an indication of how angry the populace is.

    • BReynolds33

      I like the irony contained here: “If you read the D of I as a whole…”

      I liked the abbreviation when talking about reading something as a whole. It made me laugh. Thank you.

      • AL287

        You’re welcome!

    • It’s a little odd, though, isn’t it that the shooting in Alexandria is treated as the first political shooting of the century? People have been getting shot for their beliefs — political and otherwise — for years now and why now is someone just getting around to starting the clock on who’s shooting whom?

      • AL287

        The clock has been running ever since the assassination of President Kennedy. The recent election stirred up the embers of a smoldering fire.

        Unfortunately, it hasn’t changed the conversation about gun purchases and who should and shouldn’t have access.

        • That conversation became pointless the minute the nation found the killings of kindergarteners and first graders acceptable collateral damage.

          • Ray Zielinski

            Absolutely agree and don’t forget shootings at Planned Parenthood of women in for preventive exams and not abortions

          • AL287

            This why the U.S. is headed the direction of the Roman Empire.

            When we think it is okay to kill innocent children and their teachers as long as we have our guns, the balance has tipped to anarchy.

            Isolationism doesn’t work in the age of advanced technology and a global economy. You adapt or get left behind.

            If we wanted to protect American jobs, we should never have agreed to NAFTA. It was only a matter of time before jobs starting moving south to Mexico where wages are vastly lower.

            Profits above people has reached critical mass including our often touted healthcare system.

          • Kyle

            Look at the acceptable collateral damage of automobiles. I’m not going to argue guns and automobiles provide equal value. I don’t have to. Your sensationalist statement implies that you think innocent children should never be acceptable collateral damage of anything. But they are.


          • You’re correct, I think that innocent children should never be acceptable collateral damage. The fact that they are doesn’t have anything to do with whether it’s acceptable to me.

            As for cars, well, the country has taken steps to try to address the deaths of children in cars…whether it’s in accidents or being left in hot cars.

            That’s why we have seat belt and child seat laws and design changes in locking mechanisms.

            What would be the mass-murder of children equivalent in this comparison?

          • Kyle

            Seat belt laws work. Child seat laws work. The assault weapon ban did not work. Several proposed gun control laws would not have stopped this tragedy. What do you suggest?

          • Trying.

          • Kyle

            Okay. I’m glad we got to the root of the issue, you are complaining about a problem and have no intention of looking for ways to solve it. Complaining is definitely easier than problem solving so I can’t blame you.

          • That’s a punt. Good talk.

          • kevins

            What do you suggest?

          • >>The assault weapon ban did not work.<>Several proposed gun control laws would not have stopped this tragedy.<<

            Such as?

            /A low-capacity magazine law may have saved a few more lives during this particular massacre.

          • Eilidh St John

            I wonder why assault weapon bans don’t work in the USA when they have worked so well in Australia

      • Ben Chorn

        I don’t recall anything before Gabby Giffords was shot (in my lifetime). Obviously there were previous shootings, but that really opened my eyes.

        • The interesting thing about that incident is nobody remembers that a federal judge was assassinated in it.

    • lindblomeagles

      I agree with Bob’s question (the timing of political shootings), but I can’t get behind what NPR should and should not have known about the tweets. NPR has traditionally read the Declaration of Independence on air. BUT, in the 21st Century, people of all ages tweet and text one another, especially young people. And, if I remember correctly (Bob please correct me if I’m wrong), News Cut had a couple of articles in the past year or two about the “death of radio” and NPR’s need to broaden its audience, specifically to younger listeners. Our society SHOULD NOT expect NPR to know everything the Twitter World is or isn’t going to do, especially since they are publishing a public document (The Declaration of Independence) that everyone SHOULD have seen or read once in their life. This time IT IS THE AUDIENCE that owes somebody an apology.

      • Gi Mom

        Wow, voice of reason; thank you.

    • STPCommuter

      “If you read the D of I as a whole, it makes sense. Take any part of it out of context and it sounds like you’re fomenting revolution against the current government.” . . . that’s precisely what they were doing.

      • unrulysunshine

        Excellent point.

  • Al X

    It seems like many of the comments are dealing with the partisanship of the twitter replies. To me the real issue is the speed and harshness with which people on all sides will react or how easily they will become offended or defensive. When did we become so thin skinned?

    • 1776

    • Ray Zielinski

      It makes a good argument for ignoring most of what’s on Twitter. In the name of instant gratification in 140 characters, clarity, intention and good manners (in the form of taking a deep breath before responding) are frequent victims.

    • lindblomeagles

      The nation was similarly thin-skinned from 1850 through the end of the Civil War, and from about 1955 through 1970. During both of these periods, the United States lost 2 Presidents (Lincoln and Kennedy) and enacted countless violence towards one another (though, in all honesty, Southern violence against Americans didn’t end until after Reconstruction, and that was more of a cease fire than an actual ending, but I digress). The reason for this is the United States was generically born from 3 governments in 1776: one Progressive, liberal leaning, future oriented, represented largely by New Englanders, from New York north to Maine; one aristocratic, proudly believing men should be separated by wealth, power, race, and other factors, represented by the South, particularly the Deep South; and one moderate leaning, able to be persuaded by the better argument; much more interested in getting along to get along; and that was represented by Pennsylvania and Delaware. As the nation has spread to the Pacific Ocean, the remaining 47 states have incorporated one or more of these original ideals while, simultaneously, adding a few values to that to fit the new states’ social and economic environments.

      • Jack Ungerleider

        Nice comment. A couple of things: You left out New Jersey, and New York should probably be linked to Pennsylvania and Delaware (along with NJ) in that centerist group. The stories I’ve heard reflect a more wishy-washy attitude towards the whole Independence process by the New York Assembly. They are what was commonly called the Mid Atlantic colonies/states and the British attacked this area in an attempt to cut off the separatist north (New England) from the more unionist south. Figuring the Mid-Atlantic region would side with a majority.

  • jon

    Saw on another site, over 50 years ago that people called the declaration of independence a commie trick… Radical petition with God’s name on it…

  • lindblomeagles

    I’d like to sincerely, proudly, respectfully, and publicly thank Bob Collins and writer Paul Weimer for today’s Featured Comment, and NPR for reading the Declaration of Independence as it has done over these many long years. I will also add that the reason for observing the Declaration of Independence is two-fold; a celebration of freedom from despotism and the unification of various people coming together, despite their differences, to work alongside one another for the common good. Moreover, the Declaration of Independence FOUNDED the United States. The United States Constitution refined what was founded so that the dream and hope penned in the Declaration of Independence would have lasting meaning through the ages. To those of you who leaped at the chance to sabotage the reading of the Declaration of Independence in pursuit of defending and establishing your political candidate or leanings, please read King George’s biography. When you’re finished, ask yourselves which side of history are you on? The side of the Founding Fathers, or the side of something else.

    • Jack Ungerleider

      Another way to think of it is that the Declaration of Independence creates the country, the Constitution creates the government that runs the country.

    • Karen

      Very well stated.

  • KariBemidji

    This isn’t new. I saw this on Twitter earlier today. It’s pretty easy to succumb to our fears and let them shape our world view.

    “”There was a copy of the Declaration of Independence on the wall in the city room,” he said. “I went by and saw it and thought, this is real revolutionary. I wonder if I could get people to sign it now.”

    So he typed up the preamble to the Declaration, included six of the 10 amendments that constitute the Bill of Rights, and added the 15th Amendment. Hunter put all of it into the form of a petition, mimeographed it, then hit the streets.

    Of the 112 people he talked to that day at Madison’s Fourth of July celebration in Vilas Park, only one, a Madison insurance agent, agreed to sign the “petition.”

    “Ironically the guy who signed it, his ancestors came over on the Mayflower,” Hunter recalled this week. He was Wentworth A. Millar, who worked for the Mutual Service Insurance Co.

    “Sure I’ll sign the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights,” he told Hunter. “We were never closer to losing the things that they stand for than we are today.”

    None of the others would sign. Twenty of the 111 accused Hunter of being a communist. “I can see you are using an old commie trick, putting God’s name on a radical petition,” one elderly man said.

    When Hunter pointed out to one woman that the opening passage of the petition was from the Declaration of Independence, she was in disbelief. “That might be from the Russian Declaration of Independence, but you can’t tell me that it is ours,” she said hotly.”

  • Edwl

    The Declaration loses nothing with age. The prose is still remarkable.

  • RageMojo

    This is like the War of the Worlds radio broadcast for people too steeped in “right”.

  • Richard DAndrea

    is this why they want to thin out the voter roles, there is definitely a defensive reaction from people who have voted for that individual whenever that person’s leadership is brought to task, it’s almost like they know it was wrong but can’t admit it to themselves never mind someone else, when he first started campaigning he said things that caught my attention, but then i realized who said them and I just couldn’t support a person like that, and all the promises he made to his ardent supporters he has broken, but I think the promises he made to special interests behind closed doors he has kept, he is the worst kind of politician he panders then he changes everything and does what most of us expected him to do, enrich himself and his family using his office