Was Paul Revere an Alarmist?

By Mark Boslough via HuffPost

On this Independence Day, it is worth reflecting on the willingness of our founding fathers to sacrifice their own comforts for the future–for many generations to come, including ours.

They didn’t argue about discount rates, or how expensive it would be, or if fighting the British would be cost effective in the long run. Imagine what would have happened if the “skeptics” had been given equal time, or if the patriots had lacked the will to “mitigate the threat”.

“The weight of evidence suggests that it is ‘very likely’ (probability greater than 90%) that the British are coming. I am not advocating any specific mitigation or adaptation response.” (Paul Revere, if he had been a climate scientist)

“We should refrain from asserting that the British are (or are not) coming without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon information that critics have called into question. It is not our place as journalists to assert such notions as facts.” (Fox News, if cable TV had existed in 1775)

It is fun to imagine what others might have said if they had been around at the time.

“The British have been here before. The British are always coming.” (Richard Lindzen)

“This is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” (James Inhofe)

“Have you ever read anything good about the British? Why is all the news always bad? Objectively speaking, the British should have both positive benefits and negative effects.” (Patrick Michaels)

“People who believe they’re saving us can be impatient. Because they feel a sense of urgency, ongoing debate seems pointless to them. They’re interested in action, not more talk. But if the diagnosis is wrong, taking action may harm the situation rather than help it. Reasonable people acknowledge other points-of-view and give everyone the opportunity to hear all sides.” (

“Two thousand years of published human histories say that the British are good for people. ” (Dennis Avery)

“We have spent our entire existence adapting, OK? So we will adapt.” (Rex Tillerson)

To that, Paul Revere would have said, “Adaptation is surrender,” and completed his ride.

Please suggest your own 1775 “skeptic” quotes in the comments section!

Mark Boslough is a physicist and skeptic who enjoys using humor to defend science and reason from global warming denial and other forms of pseudoscience. Reprinted from HuffPost with permission of the author.


43 Responses to Was Paul Revere an Alarmist?

  1. robert says:

    Brilliant! Lovet it!

    Addition: “The British are plant food — the more British, the greater our crop yields…” (Craig Idso)

  2. john atcheson says:

    While the British might be coming, they’re just one of many threats. The best thing we can do is to invest in new war technologies and then deal with the British sometime in the distant future.

    Bjorn Lomborg

  3. pan says:

    The British can do absolutely nothing to hurt your economy, and there is certainly nothing you can do about it – you should dare to do absolutely nothing, and enjoy the slaughter.

    Christopher Monckton

  4. chessmen says:

    Mark Boslough is a physicist? That is admirable, but he is also a terrible historian.

    Please do not perpetuate false historical narrative.

    Please read The Unknown American Revolution, by Gary B. Nash (2005), and remove the false historical narrative.

    Paul Revere was not his birth name. He was a war propagandist. He served and shared the interests of the tax evading British merchant class. He is no hero.

    Paul Revere never shouted the legendary phrase later attributed to him (“The British are coming!”) as he passed from town to town. Furthermore, colonial Americans at that time still considered themselves British.

    Knowledge of the past helps us to predict it when and where it reoccurs. Please don’t treat history like fiction.

    FURTHERMORE, he was charged with cowardice and insubordination, Revere was court-martialed and dismissed from the colonial militia for the disastrous Penobscot Expedition of 1779.

  5. fj says:

    The great lack of action at extreme scale and urgency is the silent scream of now.

  6. onyerlefty says:

    Does Paul Revere qualify under the Reverse-Godwin Law, in which an argument fails upon invocation of a Founding Father?

  7. prokaryotes says:

    Riding through present-day Somerville, Medford, and Arlington, Revere warned patriots along his route, many of whom set out on horseback to deliver warnings of their own. By the end of the night there were probably as many as 40 riders throughout Middlesex County carrying the news of the army’s advance. Revere did not shout the phrase later attributed to him (“The British are coming!”): His mission depended on secrecy, the countryside was filled with British army patrols, and most of the Massachusetts colonists (who were predominantly English in ethnic origin[44]) still considered themselves British.[45][46] Revere’s warning, according to eyewitness accounts of the ride and Revere’s own descriptions, was “The Regulars are coming out.”

  8. Joe Romm says:

    Not on July 4!!!

  9. Joe Romm says:

    1) Chill out, it’s humor.

    2) Yes everyone knows that Paul Revere didn’t shout “The British are coming!” He shouted “The Regulars are coming out.”

    3) I’m not exactly sure what your point was with bringing up the court-martial, but you rather tellingly neglected the small detail that Revere himself (!) “repeatedly sought a full court martial to clear his name, but it was not until February 1782 that a court martial heard the issue, exonerating him.” D’oh!

  10. prokaryotes says:

    “Nothing we can do about it.”

  11. fj says:

    Reality is messy and chaotic as is the belief in causality and it is truly amazing how encapsulated manmade causality or mechanics has such extraordinary practical functionality.

  12. fj says:

    True action on climate change will cause great hardship and sacrifice.

  13. chessmen says:

    Joe I think we have a miscommunication. Humor is great. No issues there. My concern, Joe, is with usage of the old historical myth. Because it self-perpetuates itself. That irritates me. Other posters have added details and that is fantastic. So did you. I am happy with that.

    Joe said, “2) Yes everyone knows that Paul Revere didn’t shout “The British are coming!” He shouted “The Regulars are coming out.”

    No Joe, not everyone knows that…that is the problem. Not everyone is educated.

    Please consider there is such a long misuse of history for political purposes…the real story…and you indeed know…is more complicated. And that is OK! History is messy. Some of us can work with that.

    Joe said, “3) I’m not exactly sure what your point was with bringing up the court-martial, but you rather tellingly neglected the small detail that Revere himself (!) “repeatedly sought a full court martial to clear his name, but it was not until February 1782 that a court martial heard the issue, exonerating him. D’oh!”

    Joe…please don’t. I didn’t write what I wrote to attack you or the author. My “display” of passion is for the historical narrative…Please don’t direct attention at me. I don’t want it.

    I don’t see any issue with your addition to historical narrative. I didn’t add it. My goal wasn’t to reproduce all the events.

    Let me be super clear…my goal was to attack…what I perceived…to be the usage of Paul Revere’s “perfect” historical reputation. I don’t want us to use the myth. I want us to remember the human being….

    That’s all I have for you.

  14. catman306 says:

    A real firecracker for the 4th. Thanks!

  15. Joe Romm says:

    Paul Revere is now metaphorical and nothing anybody writes is going to change that one way or another. If the mythical part is self-perpetuating, I think it’s safe to say this post is but a drop in the ocean. And your comment can be read by anyone who wants the record set straight, as can the Wikipedia page.

    I was being semi-facetious, but I do think it has become fairly well known.

    I confess your bringing up the court-martial threw me off. It appears to be used to de-mythologize him, but as I’m sure you know far better than me, the truth of that story is infinitely more complicated. But it bears repeating that the fact that he was court-martialed does not diminish him as a historical figure and probably adds to it.

  16. Henry says:

    “If the President approves this trade route with England, it will be ‘game over’ for Colonial farmers!”

    -James Hansen – Alchemist extraordinaire.

  17. KyotoDen says:

    People are hearing many boots, horses, and wagons on the road in these early hours, but no one knows who’s coming or why. (NPR and NYT journalists covering Revere’s epic ride.)

  18. catman306 says:

    I’ve discovered that Revere’s misquote probably stems from Longfellow’s 1860 poem “Paul Revere’s Ride” which contains that misquote and many other historical inaccuracies.

    Poetry was a major medium of communication back then. Longfellow’s poem was considered by some to be political propaganda for the coming American Civil War.

    Since, after many decades, I have just now learned that ‘British’ was substituted for ‘regulars’ in an act of propaganda, I will never underestimate the power of a big lie to live forever.

    Only education can make these things die.

  19. Michael Crumpton says:

    You might have intended to just correct the historical accuracies, but you entirely missed the point of the article and also came across as an intolerant whiner.

  20. Henry says:

    “Public discourse has been polluted now for decades by British-funded disinformation”

    -Mike Mann – Carpenter and maker of specialized “sticks” for a variety of uses (walking, thatching, ice-hockey, etc….)

  21. BobbyL says:

    Many colonists were tories. There was no completely united effort to fight the British. Nothing has changed.

  22. John M says:

    Wasn’t Paul Revere caught coming back from his. . .err, side piece?

  23. Chris Winter says:

    Of course there’s the oft-repeated warning of economic harm:

    “Attempting to deal with a British invasion will destroy our fledgling economy!”

  24. Endofmore says:

    I can see the British from my front porch
    Sarah Palin

  25. Will says:

    The Bible says nothing about the British and hosting their troops in our homes creates jobs!
    – John Shimkus

  26. pan says:

    The British army was here in September, and there was no war – British attack my gluteus maximus.

    Sarah Palin

  27. bruce says:

    It might be noted that Revere’s place in folklore (not history) is largely due to Longfellow not having words that rhyme well with “Dawes” or “Prescott”. History-wise, Dawes and Prescott did as much, maybe more, than Revere THAT night.
    And Revere did a lot more than just row boats and ride around on horses in that era.
    Is this all nerdy and pedantic? If we belabor the truthiness of contrarians, we should maintain a better standard of factuality.

  28. pan says:

    The British are going through a natural cycle of replacements. In fact our military intelligence say we are in a periode of cooling tention with the British. The idea of a war by the British is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.

    James Inhofe

  29. kermit says:

    While there may be a minor unpleasant effect from industrial by-products, such as the occasional spill from a watermill, there is no evidence that this is in any way related to alleged British behavior.
    – Forbes Penny Press

    While in the opinions of some scholars the arrival of the British may present some problems, our economists have determined that it is too expensive to deal with the British regulars now, and we should instead defer such expenses to a later date, when the extent of the issue becomes more pressing.
    – Wall Street Almanac

  30. Vic says:

    No single sighting of a British soldier can be attributed to an invasion.

  31. Vic says:

    The British army is complete crap.
    – Tony Abbott

  32. pan says:

    [FOX News]: We have interviewed a military expert on the field, and asked him what he has to say on the imminent threat of a military attack by the British army.

    [Local farmer]: I have no idea, I’m just a farmer.

    [FOX News]: According to our military expert on the field, the British army doesn’t have any plans to attack – it is a political move by our failed government to raise our taxes, and has nothing to do with reality.

  33. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Putting a price on the British will wipe Whyalla off the map

    Tony Abbott

  34. Vic says:

    Mars, Venus and Pluto have all been invaded by the British.

  35. Vic says:

    Southern England is gaining soldiers.

  36. wili says:

    Here are some more thoughtful folks that I’m sure someone will call “alarmist”:

    “Allowable carbon emissions lowered by multiple climate targets”

    “So far, international climate targets have been restricted to limiting the increase in temperature. But if we are to stop the rising sea levels, ocean acidification and the loss of production from agriculture, CO2 emissions will have to fall even more sharply. This is demonstrated by a study published in Nature that has been carried out at the University of Bern.

    This is why Dr. Marco Steinacher, Prof. Fortunat Joos and Prof. Thomas Stocker are proposing a combination of six different specific global and regional climate targets (Figure 1) in their work, which has just been published in the “Nature” journal.

    And the researchers ask the crucial question of what would be required in order for all of the climate targets to be met. Their unambiguous answer is that CO2 emissions have to be lowered even more radically than provided for by the two-degree target (Figure 2). “When we consider all targets jointly, CO2 emissions have to be cut by twice as much than if we only want to meet the two-degree target”, explains Steinacher.

    The objective of limiting ocean acidification proved particularly challenging and is achievable only through a massive reduction in the emissions of CO2.”

  37. Merrelyn Emery says:

    But they have not invaded the Earthly poles which are just FINE, ME

  38. J4Zonian says:

    There has been no increase in the number of Regulars in the colonies since 1760.

    There was a record number of Regulars in the colonies in 1754. Troops follow war; war doesn’t follow troops.

    You’ve changed the name from “British” to “Regulars”.

    It’s Rural Fort Island Effect.

    Are you now or have you ever been a guest at a party in which British East India Company property was thrown overboard?

    Goose quill pen and parchment calculations are unreliable.

    The Lacrosse stick is broken

    Thomas Paine is getting rich from Common Sense, has several houses in Philadelphia and London, and sails back and forth constantly with willful disregard for the amount of hardtack and rum it consumes.

    Flogiston is causing the increase in soldiers.

    We don’t know how much the Stamp Act is going to cost. We should leave the tea on the ship until we know for sure.

    31,000 signers signed a Declaration of Abject Dependence

  39. Paul says:

    “Never mind about the British! What about those candlesticks I ordered?”

    Paul (Yes, that’s my real name.)

  40. Superman1 says:

    Anderson’s 10%/annum emissions reductions for 2 C would have to be roughly doubled, according to your summary. That’s ~20%/annum. But, that’s still for a 2 C base. Cutting to a 1 C base (borderline dangerous) essentially leaves no options but elimination of all non-essential uses of fossil fuel (and perhaps some essential uses) starting now.

  41. British soldiers have always been coming and going. But now Dr. Scaffetta has shown that their comings and goings are governed by the motions of the heavenly bodies! King George is a scam invented by militiamen trying to get their salaries raised!

  42. Chris Winter says:

    Those are all good, but the last one wins the blue ribbon!