Politico's Ben Smith Sees Red People

From a post at Ben Smith’s blog at Politico titled Wrong Army?:

[Referring to the image above] We live in an age, as Michele Bachmann illustrated recently, in which veneration of the Founders isn’t always matched by a profound grasp of historical fact.

And an amused reader forwards on an email he got from the Louisville Tea Party, under the image above.

Those are, he was surprised to note, Redcoats.


And so, Ben Smith, ever the dutiful stenographer makes another entry in his “conservatives are stupid” file.

It is always fun to laugh and point at your opponents. Fortunately, on the right we have many more opportunities to do that than does the left. (H/T Zombietime)

The left, immune to any sense of ridiculousness, is relegated to trying to convince each other they are smarter than anyone on the right. Naturally, this often leads to hilarious results. When Sarah Palin told a Tea Party crowd to “party like it was 1773” the leftosphere went positively orgasmic until someone pointed out that the Boston Tea Party occurred in 1773, not in whatever year the left thought it did.

This brings us back to the Ben Smith blog post and associated image. This was one of those stories that always scares me because it is too good to check and it fits just exactly with my image of the person/organization/event I am writing about. Rather than avoid a tragic self-beclowning by doing just a little due-diligence, Smith elected to run with his favorite meme: conservatives are stupid. In this case, a Tea Party organization was so ill informed about American history, he believed, that it didn’t even know the Continental Army wore blue coats. And they believe they are defending the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. What a hoot! It was just too good to pass up. It was especially too good for a Journolist member like Smith.

Let me digress for a few paragraphs.

During the 18th and early part of the 19th century infantry and cavalry regiments were identified by the colors of the cuffs. lapels, and turnbacks of their coats, there were other things, to be sure, like whether braid was gold or silver, type of lace around buttonholes, etc., but coat facings were the primary means of regimental identification. Each regiment also had a contingent of musicians. A standard line regiment had fifers and drummers (German regiments liked oboes, go figure), cavalry had trumpets and kettle drums, highlanders their bagpipes, etc. It was de rigueur for musicians to be outfitted in the reversed colors of their regiment. So, if we look at a musicians of the British 10th Regiment of Foot during the American Revolution we see:

they are wearing yellow coats with red facings, in the background you can see the line companies of the regiment in red coats with yellow facings.


Using that as a point of departure we can go to the uniforms worn by the Continental line of Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey:

From this, what uniforms do we suppose the musicians for those regiments wore? Probably something very like those worn by the Fife and Drum Corps of the 3d United States Infantry:

which, oddly enough, is what is represented in the image.

The point here is not to provide Ben Smith with a tutorial on military uniforms of the 18th and 19th century, though I could certainly do so, but to point out the obvious. Smith didn’t know the uniforms in the advertisement were wrong. What he did know was he was smarter than any dozen Tea Partiers and if he thought the red coats were British regulars it meant that’s what they were and the Tea Party folks, being idiots, didn’t know squat about American history. And so he ran with the blog post.

He’s since been called out he’s done a halfway walk back:

UPDATE: Readers say the image is accurate, as the military band typically wears the opposite colors of the army. So, esoteric, but not wrong.

AND: RedState’s streiff ruthlessly, and mostly justifiably, mocks me.

But even here he is being dishonest. Being right isn’t esoteric just because Ben Smith didn’t know it. He should have apologized for poking fun at the organization without bothering to check the story out or at least admitted that some rightwingers knew something that he didn’t know.

But he can’t do that because we are all, you know, stupid. And if he has to credit that freakin’ Tea Partiers, of all people, might be right and he wrong on this then what else might they be right about? And his self image crumbles and his world view is up for grabs.



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