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The Lie: Evolution

Textbook War

Pure Propaganda & Trembling Truth

by Karl Priest December 13, 2011

In typical propaganda fashion Rick Perlstein opens his 2004 review* of The Tribes of America (Paul Cowan, 1979) with a mixture of fact, lie, hyperbole, sensationalism, and omission of key facts. Oddly, he missed the usual slur of "racism."

He wrote:

In the fall of 1974, in Kanawha County, W. Va., Christian fundamentalists enraged at the imposition of "blasphemous" textbooks in the public schools demolished a wing of a school board building with fifteen sticks of dynamite. When the board insisted on keeping the books in the curriculum, homes were bombed and school buses shot at. "Jesus Wouldn't Have Read Them," read one of the slogans of a movement whose leader, a preacher, would soon face charges of conspiracy to bomb two elementary schools.

The facts are:

A wing of a school board building was not demolished. There was some dynamite set off causing minor damage. The culprits were never caught and there is reason to believe it was not done by anyone sympathetic to the protesters. Empty school buses were shot at and no one was ever charged with the act. No homes were bombed! The protesters had violence committed against them. NOT EVER DID PROTEST LEADERS SUPPORT OR SYMPATHIZE WITH VIOLENCE! The sign was one of many. The indicted preacher was one of five preacher leaders and his indictment was arguably a set-up by the feds to break the protest.

Despite the reviewer's undeniable lean to the left, he did point out some amazing conclusions from the late Mr. Cowan who was a leftist writer for the Village Voice. He also was Jewish.

The review reviews a rare example of a liberal that is actually open-minded.

He wrote:

The people responsible for the textbooks were bureaucrats who wrote blithely of pedagogy's power to "induce changes ... in the behavior of the 'culturally lost' of Appalachia," and identified teachers as state-designated "change agents" and schools as "the experimental center, and the core of this design." Nowadays the arrogance of this formulation is as grating to us as a chalkboard screech. Not then. It was an era when the language of universally applicable liberal enlightenment flew trippingly off cosmopolitan tongues. Which was why it came as such a shock when the "culturally lost" proved to have ideas of their own – that their culture had inherent dignity and value, and that textbooks suggesting that Christian revelation was on a par with Greek myth were, as protesters put it, "moral genocide."

It took a keen eye and an open mind to recognize that the cosmopolitans were pursuing a form of class warfare. Cowan noticed how urban and suburban professionals in Kanawha County – "Hillers," in local parlance – spoke nervously in private of how familiarity with names like Mailer and Baldwin would get their precious darlings into Harvard and keep them out of West Virginia Tech. The Hillers weren't about to risk having their upward climb impeded by the "Creekers," poor residents in the hollows who wanted "to protest corruption," as one suburbanite told Cowan, but didn't "even know how to spell that word."

Dynamite wasn't the answer. But neither was a kind of cultural imperialism indifferent to the fact that 81 percent of the district opposed the textbooks. It was, in a word, complicated. Certainly more complicated than the portraits other journalists were creating for sneering consumption back home: death threats, double-barreled shotguns, Onward Christian Soldiers. The futile last stand of yokels against the inevitable march of progress.

We call those fights the "culture wars" now, and we have a more richly variegated vocabulary to describe the Hillers and the Creekers: red state and blue state. Redneck and yuppie. New Class and white working class. "Evangelical" and "liberal."

(I)n his conclusion to the West Virginia chapter, in which he faces a moment of truth with the Creekers' charismatic leader: he has to grant her point that "maybe there is no school system that can provide for your kids and mine"...

*“Tribal Warfare in America”, Columbia Journalism Review, November 16, 1974 (

Other instances of Perlstein’s propaganda are in NOT NARROW-MINDED and PERTINENT POINTS.


The TRUTH is that the Kanawha Coutny Textbook Protesters were true patriots and heroes. They consisted of thousands of humble people who have suffered humiliation because they stood up for children and America in 1974. The Kanawha County Textbook Protesters deserve to be honored.  Please read THE FACTS.