Thursday, January 28, 2010

The "Historian" Who Hated America

I take no personal delight in the death of histrionic "historian" Howard Zinn, despite the unhealthy and warping influence his revisionist, left-leaning text books have had on an untold number of school kids. I only wish his "People's History of the United States" could so easily be expunged from school bookshelves.

The propaganda will outlive the propagandist, unfortunately. That's what I'm grieving over.

So far out of the mainstream was Zinn's interpretation of U.S. history that even the late Arthur Schlesinger Jr. -- no slouch as a liberal -- called Zinn a "polemicist, not a historian." Yet that never prevented Zinn's texts from winning wide acceptance among educrats, who inflicted his politically-motivated distortions on impressionable young minds. He also developing a cult following among the fashionably left wing, including fellow revisionist Oliver Stone, as the following write-up indicates.

From the Associated Press:

"Howard Zinn, an author, teacher and political activist whose leftist "A People's History of the United States" sold millions of copies to become an alternative to mainstream texts and a favorite of such celebrities as Bruce Springsteen and Ben Affleck, died Wednesday. He was 87.
Zinn died of a heart attack in Santa Monica, Calif., daughter Myla Kabat-Zinn said.

Published in 1980 with little promotion and a first printing of 5,000, "A People's History" was — fittingly — a people's bestseller, attracting a wide audience through word of mouth and reaching 1 million sales in 2003. Although Zinn was writing for a general readership, his book was taught in high schools and colleges throughout the country, and numerous companion editions were published, including "Voices of a People's History" and a volume for young people.

At a time when few politicians dared even call themselves liberal, "A People's History" told an openly left-wing story. Zinn charged Christopher Columbus and other explorers with genocide, picked apart presidents from Andrew Jackson to Franklin D. Roosevelt and celebrated workers, feminists and war resisters.

Even liberal historians were uneasy with Zinn. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. once said: "I know he regards me as a dangerous reactionary. And I don't take him very seriously. He's a polemicist, not a historian."

In a 1998 interview with The Associated Press, Zinn acknowledged he was not trying to write an objective history, or a complete one. He called his book a response to traditional works, the first chapter — not the last — of a new kind of history.

"There's no such thing as a whole story; every story is incomplete," Zinn said. "My idea was the orthodox viewpoint has already been done a thousand times."

"A People's History" had some famous admirers, including Matt Damon and Affleck. The two grew up near Zinn, were family friends and gave the book a plug in their Academy Award-winning screenplay for "Good Will Hunting." When Affleck nearly married Jennifer Lopez, Zinn was on the guest list.

Oliver Stone was a fan, as well as Springsteen, whose bleak "Nebraska" album was inspired in part by "A People's History." The book also inspired a 2007 documentary, "Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind." It even showed up on "The Sopranos," in the hand of Tony's son, A.J.

Zinn himself was an impressive-looking man, tall and rugged with wavy silver-gray hair. An experienced public speaker, he was modest and engaging in person, more interested in persuasion than in confrontation."

That Zinn became the teacher of so many American students is another indictment of a system that often seems more interested in political indoctrination than real education.

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