Howard Zinn's Biased HistoryHistorians/History
tags: Howard Zinn, Daniel J. Flynn, historical criticism, Pequot War, historical theory, A People's History
Mr. Flynn is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia and author of the newly released, :Why the Left Hates America: Exposing the Lies That Have Obscured Our Nation’s Greatness."
Who is the most influential historian in America? Could it be Pulitzer Prize winners Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. or Joseph Ellis or David McCullough, whose scholarly works have reached a broad literary public? The answer is none of the above. The accolade belongs instead to the unreconstructed, anti-American Marxist Howard Zinn, whose cartoon anti-history of the United States is still selling 128,000 copies a year twenty years after its original publication. Many of those copies are assigned readings for courses in colleges and high schools taught by leftist disciples of their radical mentor.
“Objectivity is impossible,” Zinn once remarked, “and it is also undesirable. That is, if it were possible it would be undesirable, because if you have any kind of a social aim, if you think history should serve society in some way; should serve the progress of the human race; should serve justice in some way, then it requires that you make your selection on the basis of what you think will advance causes of humanity.”
History serving “a social aim” other than the preservation or interpretation of a historical record is precisely what we get in A People’s History of the United States. Howard Zinn’s 776 page tome, which after selling more than a million copies, has been recently re-released in a hardback edition.
What accounts for the massive sales figures? One odd answer for a work by a university professor is that A People’s History of the United States has been the beneficiary of fawning celebrities, who are not normally associated with . Zinn has discussed politics with Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and was on Rage Against the Machine’s reading list (note: beware of rock bands that issue reading lists). In Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon’s “Will Hunting” tells his psychiatrist that A People’s History of the United States will “knock you on your ass.” Damon and co-star Ben Affleck, who grew up near Zinn outside of Harvard Square, are said to be producing a miniseries based on their neighbor’s magnum opus. Zinn repaid the actors’ youthful infatuation by including them in an inconsequential paragraph in the book’s new edition.
The New York Times’s reviewer (no doubt a cousin of Jayson Blair) declared that the book should be “required reading” for students. Professors have heeded this counsel. Courses at the University of Colorado-Boulder, UMass-Amherst, Penn State, and Indiana University are among dozens of classes nationwide that require the book. The book is so popular that it can be found on the class syllabus in such fields as economics, political science, literature, and women’s studies, in addition to its more understandable inclusion in history. Amazon.com reports in the site’s “popular in” section that the book is currently #7 at Emory University, #4 at the University of New Mexico, #9 at Brown University, and #7 at the University of Washington. In fact, 16 of the 40 locations listed in A People’s History’s “popular in” section are academic institutions, with the remainder of the list dominated by college towns like Binghamton (NY), State College (PA), East Lansing (MI), and Athens (GA). Based on this, it is reasonable to wonder if most of the million or so copies sold have been done so via coercion, i.e., college professors and high school teachers requiring the book. The book is deemed to be so crucial to the development of young minds by some academics that a course at Evergreen State decreed: “This is an advanced class and all students should have read Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States before the first day of class, to give us a common background to begin the class.”
And what “common background” might that be?
Through Zinn’s looking-glass, Maoist China, site of history’s bloodiest state-sponsored killings, becomes “the closest thing, in the long history of that ancient country, to a people’s government, independent of outside control.” The authoritarian Nicaraguan Sandinistas were “welcomed” by their own people, while the opposition Contras, who backed the candidate that triumphed when free elections were finally held, were a “terrorist group” that “seemed to have no popular support inside Nicaragua.” Castro’s Cuba, readers learn, “had no bloody record of suppression.”
The recently released updated edition continues to be plagued with inaccuracies and poor judgment. The added sections on the Clinton years, the 2000 election, and 9/11 bear little resemblance to the reality his current readers have lived through.
In an effort to bolster his arguments against putting criminals in jail, aggressive law enforcement tactics, and President Clinton’s crime bill, Zinn contends that in spite of all this “violent crime continues to increase.” It doesn’t. Like much of Zinn’s rhetoric, if you believe the opposite of what he says in this instance you would be correct. According to a Department of Justice report released in September of 2002, the violent crime rate has been cut in half since 1993.
According to Zinn, it was Mumia Abu-Jamal’s “race and radicalism,” as well as his “persistent criticism of the Philadelphia police” that landed him on death row in the early 1980s. Nothing about Abu-Jamal’s gun being found at the scene; nothing about the testimony of numerous witnesses pointing to him as the triggerman; nothing about additional witnesses reporting a confession by Abu-Jamal—it was Abu-Jamal’s dissenting voice that caused a jury of twelve to unanimously sentence him to death.
Predictably, Zinn draws a moral equivalence between America and the 9/11 terrorists. He writes, “It seemed that the United States was reacting to the horrors perpetrated by the terrorists against innocent people in New York by killing other innocent people in Afghanistan.” Scare quotes adorn Bush’s “war on terrorism,” post-9/11 “patriotism,” and other words and phrases Zinn dislikes.
Readers of A People’s History of the United States learn very little about history. They do learn quite a bit, however, about Howard Zinn. In fact, the book is perhaps best thought of as a massive Rorschach Test, with the author’s familiar reaction to every major event in American history proving that his is a captive mind long closed by ideology.
Theory First, Facts Second
If you’ve read Marx, there’s really no reason to read Howard Zinn. The first line of The Communist Manifesto provides the single-bullet theory of history that provides Zinn with his narrative thread— “The history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggle.” It is the all-purpose explanation of every subject that Zinn covers. On other hand, why study history when theory has all the answers?
Thumb through A People’s History of the United States and you will find greed as the motivating factor behind every act of those who don’t qualify as “the people” in Zinn’s book. According to Zinn, the separation from Great Britain, the Civil War, and both World Wars all were the result of base motives of the “ruling class” -- rich men to get richer at the expense of others.
Zinn’s Marxist explanation of the New World begins with Columbus who like every other settler in the New World was driven by the (evil) profit motive. “Behind the English invasion of North America, behind their massacre of Indians, their deception, their brutality, was that special powerful drive born in civilizations based on private profit.” This malicious view of people who often came to the New World to escape persecution in the old, who sometimes championed the rights of indigenous peoples and who mostly attempted to live peacefully alongside them is characteristic of the extreme anti-European, anti-white, any American prejudice of this book. The idea that the Indians who themselves were “invaders” by Zinn’s standards (they came on a land bridge from Asia and exterminated the then native peoples) somehow owned the continent is a much a fantasy as the idea that they were simply passive victims of the settlers. Zinn’s account omits the unprovoked aggressions of the Indians on each other and on the settlers. But then doing so, would spoil his leftist melodrama.
Case Study: The Pequot War
This melodrama depends on simplistically dividing mankind into two groups – and only two: oppressors and oppressed. This is how Zinn describes and utterly distorts the early settlement of North America. The Pequot War serves as his example, as it will ours.
The war was climaxed when the Pequot stronghold in Fort Mystic was burned in battle and all its inhabitants incinerated in May of 1637. Finding themselves severely outnumbered the attackers had set fire to the Pequot compound. This is a tragic enough story, but Zinn won’t be satisfied until it becomes a story of native American innocence and victimhood versus rapacious and evil white settlers.
Thus the Pequot violence against whites that led to the war is almost entirely absent from the text. The most Zinn can bring himself to admit is that “Massacres took place on both sides.” In fact, the author details only the atrocities committed by one side: the Puritans. While graphic descriptions of Puritan violence are highlighted, Pequot atrocities are brushed aside. Here are some examples not to be found in Zinn::“[T]hey took two men out of a boat, and murdered them with ingenious barbarity, cutting off first the hands of one of them, then his feet,” writes 19th century historian John Gorham Palfrey about the Pequots’ assaults upon settlers. “Soon after, two men sailing down the river were stopped and horribly mutilated and mangled; their bodies were cut in two, lengthwise, and the parts hung up by the river’s bank. A man who had been carried off from Wethersfield was roasted alive. All doubt as to the necessity of vigorous action was over, when a band of a hundred Pequots attacked that place, killed seven men, a woman, and a child, and carried off two girls.” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why the settlers might have decided to resort to violent means to deal with the Pequots. But it does take someone more honest than Zinn.
The author mentions only briefly the atrocity the precipitated the war, which was the killing of a settler named John Oldham. Zinn morally justifies the murder by labeling the victim a “trader, Indian-kidnapper, and troublemaker.” This loaded account helps Zinn persuade his readers that it was the white man’s greed that led to the Pequot War. The settlers, writes Zinn, “wanted [the Pequots] out of the way; they wanted their land.”
Also absent from Zinn’s devious narrative are the atrocities that the Pequots committed against other Indians of the Connecticut Valley. The Pequots not only waged war on whites, but on their fellow native Americans as well. They were a belligerent people feared by weaker tribes.
Consequently, while Zinn portrays the Pequot War as a Puritan-versus-Indian conflict, the fact is that both Puritans and Indians fought against the Pequots, nothing could be further from the truth. Indian tribes—for example, the Narragansett—repeatedly urged the English newcomers to attack their enemies, namely the Pequots. Zinn writes that “Indian tribes were used against one another” by the Puritans when, in fact, the reverse was true. Indian tribes used the Puritans and their superior firepower to eradicate their fellow Indians who posed a threat to them.
In fact Indians were the majority in the attacking force at Fort Mystic, and by a vast margin. Whites comprised less than 15 percent of the 500-plus men who attacked the Pequot stronghold and burned it to the ground. After the horrific conflagration ended, it was the Mohegans who executed the Pequots’ captured chief.
Zinn’s account of the Pequot war is a microcosm of his book as a whole which is little more than an 800-page libel against his country.
“Around 1776,” A People’s History informs readers, “certain important people in the English colonies made a discovery that would prove enormously useful for the next two hundred years. They found that by creating a nation, a symbol, a legal unity called the United States, they could take over land, profits, and political power from the favorites of the British Empire. In the process, they could hold back a number of potential rebellions and create a consensus of popular support for the rule of a new, privileged leadership.” Forget about all men are created equal, forget about liberty and the pursuit of happiness, America’s founding can be reduced to the pursuit of exploitation and profit. Well maybe for academics with lifetime subsidies and rock stars with drug-fried brains.
Zinn continues (without irony): “When we look at the American Revolution this way, it was a work of genius, and the Founding Fathers deserve the awed tribute they have received over the centuries. They created the most effective system of national control devised in modern times, and showed future generations of leaders the advantages of combining paternalism with command.” Rather than an event that inspired movements for freedom and self-government throughout the world through the present, the American Founding is portrayed as a virtually totalitarian system of oppression. If the Founders wanted a society they could direct, why didn’t they establish a dictatorship or a monarchy and model their rule on what was the universal form of government at the time? Why go through the trouble of devising a Constitution departing from a repressive status quote and guaranteeing individual rights, mass political participation, jury trials, and checks on governmental power? Apparently inhabiting an alternate reality, Zinn doesn’t feel the need to account for this and merely explains it away as a charade designed to prevent class revolution. This is conspiracy theory with a vengeance.
As his fictional narrative gathers steam, Zinn paints antebellum America as a uniquely cruel slaveholding society subjugating human beings for profit. The fact that America was half free and the site of an anti-slavery crusade that put an end to a 3,000 year old institution goes unnoticed or so severely discounted as to be of no account. The civil war that ended slavery becomes in Zinn’s malicious deconstruction a campaign to change the form of oppression and make it more profitable. “It is money and profit, not the movement against slavery, that was uppermost in the priorities of the men who ran the country.” Rather than welcoming emancipation, Zinn is depressed by it. “Class consciousness was overwhelmed during the Civil War,” the Marxist laments. The efficiency of the Zinn formula is impressive to behold. Both slavery and emancipation, are explained by the same factor: greed. Whether the U.S. tolerates or eradicates slavery, its evil motives remains the same. To Zinn the important thing about the emancipation of the slaves and the Civil War that brought that about is that they served as distractions from the impending socialist revolution. This is history as religious fantasy.
Here we come to the real secret of the commercial success of A People’s History. It is a case of simple ideas for simple minds – a broken record for the tone deaf. When we come to World War I, it sounds very much like the Civil War. “American capitalism needed international rivalry—and periodic war—to create an artificial community of interest between rich and poor,… supplanting the genuine community of interest among the poor that showed itself in sporadic movements.” Yet another conspiracy to distract the proletariat from its destined revolution.
The account of World War II made slightly more interesting by author’s preposterous account of its origins. According to Zinn, suggests that America, not Japan, was to blame for Pearl Harbor, provoking the Empire of the Sun and forcing it to attack us. It’s the devil made them do it theory of history, which is great fallback position of the left when confronted with the imperialistic aggressions of “people of color.” Like the war to end slavery, the fight against fascism was an optical illusion. It was really a struggle by American capitalists to rule the world. Regarding America’s neutrality in the Spanish Civil War, which preceded World War II, Zinn asks: “Was it the logical policy of a government whose main interest was not stopping Fascism but advancing the imperial interests of the United States? For those interests, in the thirties, an anti-Soviet policy seemed best. Later, when Japan and Germany threatened U.S. world interests, a pro-Soviet, anti-Nazi policy became preferable.”
Thus is reality inverted or more accurately twisted. Zinn – a pro-Communist supported Stalin’s monster regime at the time, elides the fact that it was the Soviet Union that pretended to be anti-fascist in Spain, then signed a pact with Hitler and then – when Hitler double-crossed his Communist ally and invaded the Soviet Union became anti-fascist again. The United States was isolationist in 1936 and until Pearl Harbor. But it was always anti-fascist. Zinn projects the Soviet Union’s schizophrenic policies (and his own schizophrenic allegiances) onto America. While the Hitler-Stalin Pact is awkwardly excused, Zinn all but invents a Hitler-Roosevelt Pact to serve his social aims.
But this deceptive ingenuity is fleeting and the text returns to its state of terminal boredom as Zinn tells his readers that the Second World War was really about money. “Quietly, behind the headlines in battles and bombings, American diplomats and businessmen worked hard to make sure that when the war ended, American economic power would be second to none in the world. United States business would penetrate areas that up to this time had been dominated by England. The Open Door Policy of equal access would be extended from Asia to Europe, meaning that the United States intended to push England aside and move in.” Zinn does not explain if it was America’s agenda to create a global empire why Americans helped to rebuild Japan and Germany and thereby create its chief economic rivals in the postwar world.
It is not that economics does not influence events. It is just that Marx’s simplistic reduction of all historical motives to profit motives has been discredited – not least by the 100 million people whom Marxists killed in the 20th Century to make their theories work. There is no reason to resurrect them now, despite what Eddie Vedder and Matt Damon think.
Uncooperative Facts & Convenient Omissions
When fact and theory clash, the ideologue chooses theory. Time and again, A People’s History of the United States distorts or simply ignores the truth to make the facts, or the alleged facts, or the invented facts, fit the theory that justifies his “social aims.”
Zinn claims that “George Washington was the richest man in America.” He wasn’t, but it makes for a good Marxist tale. George Washington certainly rose to accumulate great wealth in his lifetime—even if he was chronically cash-poor. (For example, he had to borrow money to travel to New York upon his election to the presidency.) It is generally conceded that Robert Morris was the Founding era’s wealthiest merchant, while Moses Brown, whose family’s name graces an Ivy League university, was another Washington contemporary whose wealth exceeded his.
“When the Scottsboro case unfolded in the 1930s in Alabama,” Zinn writes in an even more egregious fit of historical amnesia, “it was the Communist party that had become associated with the defense of these young black men imprisoned, in the early years of the Depression, by southern injustice.” Perhaps the Party had become “associated” with the defense of the Scottsboro Boys, but in reality the Communists merely used the embattled youngsters. Richard Gid Powers points out in Not Without Honor that the Communists had raised $250,000 for the Scottsboro Boys’ defense, but had put-up a scant $12,000 for two appeals. At the time, a black columnist quoted a candid Party official who stated, “we don’t give a damn about the Scottsboro boys. If they burn it doesn’t make any difference. We are only interested in one thing, how we can use the Scottsboro case to bring the Communist movement to the people and win them over to Communism.” As a fellow-traveler, Zinn has the identical view. He is only interested in history so long as it serves as a weapon of socialist ideology.
“Unemployment grew in the Reagan years,” Zinn claims. Statistics show otherwise. Reagan inherited an unemployment rate of 7.5 percent in his first month in office. By January of 1989, the rate had declined to 5.4 percent. Had the Reagan presidency ended in 1982 when unemployment rates exceeded 10 percent, Zinn would have a point. But for the remainder of Reagan’s presidency, unemployment declined precipitously.
Not surprisingly, Zinn’s book contains not a single source citation (perhaps footnotes would discourage his Pearl Jam fans).
More striking than Zinn’s inaccuracies—intentional and otherwise—is what he leaves out. Washington’s Farewell Address, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and Reagan’s speech at the Brandenburg Gate all fail to merit a mention. Nowhere do we learn that Americans were first in flight, first to fly across the Atlantic, and first to walk on the moon. Alexander Graham Bell, Jonas Salk, and the Wright Brothers are entirely absent. Instead, the reader is treated to the exploits of Speckled Snake, Joan Baez, and the Berrigan brothers. While Zinn sees fit to mention that immigrants often went into professions like ditch-digging and prostitution, American success stories like those of Alexander Hamilton, John Jacob Astor, and Louis B. Mayer—to name but a few—are off the Zinn radar screen. Valley Forge rates a single fleeting reference, while D-Day’s Normandy invasion, Gettysburg, and other important military battles are skipped over. In their place, we get several pages on the My Lai massacre and colorful descriptions of U.S. bombs falling on hotels, air-raid shelters, and markets during the Gulf War of the early 1990s.
Zinn utters perhaps the most honest words of A People’s History of the United States in the conclusion of the book’s 1995 edition, conceding that his work is “a biased account.” “I am not troubled by that,” he adds, “because the mountain of history books under which we all stand leans so heavily in the other direction—so tremblingly respectful of states and statesmen and so disrespectful, by inattention, to people’s movements—that we need some counterforce to avoid being crushed into submission.” Perhaps the reason they lean so heavily in the other direction is that they are based on facts, not leftwing prejudice.
“I wanted my writing of history and my teaching of history to be a part of social struggle,” Zinn remarks in an interview conducted long after the release of A People’s History of the United States. “I wanted to be a part of history and not just a recorder and teacher of history. So that kind of attitude towards history, history itself as a political act, has always informed my writing and my teaching.” Indeed it has. Only let’s not call it history. Howard Zinn is a master of cheap Marxist propaganda. His book is a dagger aimed at the heart the country that has given him more freedom than most of the writers who have ever written and made him a millionaire in the process.
The anniversary volume of A People’s History of the United States comes with an encomium from one of the academic profession’s most honored figures, Eric Foner the DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia College. A former president of the American Historical Assocation, Foner reviewed Zinn’s book for the New York Times. A quote from Foner’s review is featured on the cover of the anniversary edition: “Historians may well view it,” writes Foner, “as a step toward a coherent new vision of American history.” This makes a kind of sense because Foner himself is an unreconstructed leftist, whose judgments are evidently colored by his “social aims” as well.
This slanderous tome and its popular and academic success are monuments to human credulity and delusion, and to the disgraceful condition of American letters.
This article was appeared in frontpagemag.com and is reprinted with permission.
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Peter N. Kirstein - 4/14/2011
Wow! A student led me to this, a comment made eight years ago! I stand by my correction of the article's erroneous citation of the first line of the Manifesto. A preamble is considered part of a document so I was right there: it does begin with "A spectre is haunting Europe..." I agree in part with Ms McMillin: People's History is opinion and does not profess to be "objective." It has errors as do all works but it is "factual" enough to merit usage. Yet most historical writing emanates from ideas and biases contained within the author. I did write a HNN piece on Professor Zinn recently if you are interested:
The People's Historian and the FBI Zinn Files.
Albrecht Kübler - 3/7/2011
"Since you acknowledge in your response Zinn is a biased writer, do you think it is appropriate to have biased content given to students? Is this not indoctrination?"
It would only be indoctrination, if Zinn claimed that his statements are the only truth and condemn everybody who disagrees. But he does not! And if any teacher uses his book and makes this claim, that would be inappropriate.
I could imagine giving students a "traditional", i.e. solely positive account of the time of the founding fathers to compare to Zinn's account and have them research and discuss both sides.
The truth can probably be found somewhere in the middle.
Theresa McMillin - 2/21/2011
Hey Peter...you're comment:I have used Professor Zinn's, "A People's History" for many years and students find it very provocative and readable. In fact his teachings and writings were formative events in my life and I can assure Mr Flynn that opposing American militarism, racism and imperialism is in keeping with a democracy's need for vital and sustained criticism of public and foreign policy.
Let's get a couple of things straight. Foreign policy should be about protecting our interests, not some PC crap that leftists love to sight at the expense of our own Nation. We're not here to hold hands and sign 'Kumbya' when other countries are using terror and killing our own people. Or entering our country illegally along with illegal drugs and killing innocents. And if you 'use' the book, I hope you also explain that the book is not based on fact, but opinion. Let's not get the two confused.
Theresa McMillin - 2/21/2011
And I guess that Zinn's own admission that the information in the book is his own OPINION and BIASED and not based in fact doesn't leave you scratching your head wondering why any classroom would use this book as historical fact. I'm all for opposing opinions, but let's label the book what it really is and not as the 'ethical' Zinn would describe it as "A People's History of the United States". Let's instead label it "A Marxist's View of History of the United States". DON'T teach my children this nonsense unless it's accurately identified as someone's opinion and fact.
Kylw Treadwell Svendsen - 2/3/2011
Since you acknowledge in your response Zinn is a biased writer, do you think it is appropriate to have biased content given to students? Is this not indoctrination?
Also, you say that this is only one book who shows the peoples views and many other history texts show the "oppressors" view. What good does making your own biased opinion public do? Two wrongs do not make a right.
Thanks for the help with my clarification.
-Kyle Svendsen (17)
Reid Reynolds - 1/31/2010
It's been a long time since the comment was posted, but in case Zinn's protege Mr. Kirstein ventures here again, "A Spectre is Haunting Europe--the spectre of Communism," is actually the first line of the preamble. The first line of the first section, "Bourgeois and Proletarians" is, indeed, "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles."
Robert Avant - 12/7/2009
I can assure you Mr. Kirstein that whatever Hitler's failings were the Nazis were avowed socialists" in the mode of Mussolini. I am sure your students whisper "tres tres amusant" when you show how close hitler was to Reagan and Thatcher. Yes, the fruit of the Zinn tree falls not far away. Hoisted on your own petard,sir!
Randll Reese Besch - 1/26/2009
The side normally hidden or glossed over so what is the problem? You certainly haven't studied the climate change question or you wouldn't have made the inflammatory statement,"I havent fully “investigated” Mr. Zinn and checked up on all that he represents, but I still think im entitled to my opinion just like global warming wakos that have no clue about the subject and use a movie ( an inconvenient truth)..." suggests a reason why you put quotes around "investigated" was a good idea. But it must be understood that some of us have better more informed opinions (of analysis) than others. We must use our intelligence to discern the difference.
Randll Reese Besch - 1/26/2009
Homer where do you get your point of view. Marx had nothing to do with Russia, Germany or China in any way except those who appropriated some of his words to distort for themselves as they talked about 'helping the volk or 'common man' as they helped themselves to absolute power. Read some history some time, maybe Marx and Engles too would help. Marx.com is one such place.
Just look at the results of Capitalism uncontrolled both here and abroad as too the death toll and slavery for that?
Randll Reese Besch - 1/26/2009
Well Homer if you do you need to have the crayon removed from your brain forth with!
Hitler was as far away from Marx (who declared he wasn't a 'Marxist') but was a right winger who had no problem mixing church/state and corporation not to far from Reagan and Thatcher. Corporations had free reign in Germany. Marx was for the end of lassaize faire capitalism who he declaimed would "purchase the rope they would hang themselves with" when the people became tired of rampant unregulated businesses destroying everything around them. Much like now. The workers were to unite and take over the businesses and run them by themselves as the owners. No Nazism/Bolshevism there.
Stalin and Hitler controlled the corporations in getting benefits from their labor. Both suppressed labor unions and allowed corporate soveringty from labor but not from the gov't. [They wanted their cut too.]
NH Teacher - 12/21/2008
"Howard Zinn is a master of cheap Marxist propaganda."
I AGREE. And the sad part is our kids may never learn the truth about the founding of this country or why they have been free, up to now.
NH Teacher - 12/21/2008
Not hardly. Zinn scares me.
NH Teacher - 12/21/2008
This is what you get for American History in the International Baccalaureate program, a stealth program to indoctrinate children to the world government, created and controlled by the United Nations from Geneva, Switzerland.
All the good things you hear about this program are self-laudatory and inaccurate -- IBO.org is quite open about their social agenda. TOK is a philosophy course that teaches students that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter... etc... and there are many pornographic books used in the literature part.
We will never be a free people if we allow the government to control our educational system. The DOE must be stopped and dissolved.
Heriberto Tovar - 8/4/2008
When I took the second part of History this summer, my professor required the supplemental readings of “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn. I was perplexed as to why the supplement was necessary, however, after reading the first few chapters I soon realized Zinn’s “biased” views of history. The course consisted of the traditional objective textbook readings along with the corresponding chapter of “A People’s History”. Interestingly, reading both chapters added some depth and better interpretation to the events in history.
My professor is among the growing number of educators across the nation that believe that Zinn’s works should be “required reading for students”. I agree with my professor’s decision to use Zinn as a supplemental reading, however, I do not believe it should be the single source of information for any history class. I am in accord with Daniel J Flynn’s critique that “A People’s History of the United States” provides the “author’s familiar reaction to every major event in American history proving that his is a captive mind long closed by ideology”.
Flynn believes that Zinn and Marx interpret society in much the same manner by incorporation class struggle and greed into every event in history. Flynn critiques Zinn’s work on two case studies; The Pequot War and The Founding. In the Pequot War incident, Flynn claims that Zinn summarizes the incident as “a story of native American innocence versus rapacious and evil white settlers”. The facts of the incident are both the Native Americans and the white settlers each experienced horrible atrocities. He argues that not all bloodshed was done by the settlers and they too had to defend themselves from the evils of the Native Americans. Flynn graphically describes atrocities by the Native Americans where they mutilated and even roasted alive and rationalizes the settler’s needs to defend themselves with any violent means necessary.
As stated above, Zinn justifies many of America’s historic events with an ulterior motive; greed. Flynn points out in an excerpt for “A People’s History”, that when “certain important people” were founding the English colonies, they found an ingenious way to create a country not for the pursuit of happiness but the pursuit of profit. Slavery is another issue where Flynn tries point out irregular stance on an issue. Zinn believes that profit is at the heart of slavery and profit too is at the heart of the emancipation of slaves. Whatever the US did either to tolerate or eradicate slavery, profit was the motive.
Flynn claims that not all information found in Zinn’s chapters are factual. Zinn claims that George Washington was the richest man in America however, Flynn discredits that by the anecdote that George Washington had to borrow money to pay for his travel to New York when elected to the presidency. Again during the Reagan years, Zinn claims that unemployment grew in the Reagan years, however, Flynn points out that unemployment had fallen 2.1 percent at the time he left office.
Flynn argues a very important point that “A People’s History” omits important events in history such as important presidential addresses like the Washington’s farewell address and milestone events like the first walk on the moon and even successes in America like Alexander Hamilton.
Zinn admits that his work is of a “biased account” and justifies his work by “…wanting to be a part of history and not just a recorder and teacher of history”. Zinn’s biased views and Marxist tone provide just that. As I mentioned before, I enjoy his work, however, I sometimes feel depressed and disgusted at the actions America has taken to be what we are today.
Chelsea Ann Handy - 8/3/2008
Critic on Howard Zinn
There is a man whom is remembered in his thought on history of the America’s, one I might say is “A People’s History of the United States”, Howard Zinn. My opinion is a negative one for Howard zinn because of his “cruelidity and disillusion” as Daniel J. Flynn once said opinion on all history.
An author named Daniel J.Flynn was an inspiration to me, he showed the negative side on all Howard Zinn’s point of views and things he would mention in history books. He saw Howard zinc a pro-communist, is a man that “plagued with inaccuracies and poor judgment” he does not have the will nor should he be a famous writer whom critics are American history. Much of his opinions amongst history in the United Sates are never well back up. As he mentions the Clinton Year in the 2000 election and the 9/11 had no kind of resemblance to the reality his current readers have lived through. We young readers who are pushed to read and remember to learn about Howard Zinn, have a difficult time to understand him, since much of his things he talks about do not relate to much of the things we in the year 2008 are living through. There is also Zinn’s un- researched opinion on violent crimes, “violent crime continues to increase.” As to the Department of Justice report released in September of 2002, the violent crime rate has actually been cut in half since 1993.
Howard Zinn divided the mankind into oppressors and the oppressed. Describes and utterly distorts the early settlement of North America. The Pequot War serves as his example, as it will ours. . Here are some examples not to be found in Zinn::“[T]hey took two men out of a boat, and murdered them with ingenious barbarity, cutting off first the hands of one of them, then his feet,” writes 19th century historian John Gorham Palfrey about the Pequot’s’ assaults upon settlers. There is a much needed writer who has the courage to actually put out the truth and mention every little aspect of the things we went through in the past times. Daniel J. Flynn said “Forget about all men are created equal, forget about liberty and the pursuit of happiness, America’s founding can be reduced to the pursuit of exploitation and profit. Well maybe for academics with lifetime subsidies and rock stars with drug-fried brains.” It is not just self minded but also very true. It something like this man who should be replaced and very much remembered for are sake to learn the truth about are history.
Zinn was later killed because of his opinions upon the Mumia abu-Jamal’s and his criticism against the Philadelphia police. He was sentenced to death row in 1980.Zinn’s book contains not a single source citation. Howard Zinn is a master of cheap Marxist propaganda. His book is a stab to the back on his “country that has given him more freedom than most of the writers who have ever written and made him a millionaire in the process”. Where is all that American history that mentions the “first in flight, first to fly across the Atlantic, and first to walk on the moon?”
Are necessity to learn are history of the United States is crucial to understand why we have government established and regulations? Howard Zinn is a powerful man “This slanderous tome and its popular and academic success are monuments to human credulity and delusion, and to the disgraceful condition of American letters” think about it, do you want learn not well backed up evidence?
christina quinter - 8/3/2008
Howard Zinn as a historian who is still selling 128,000 for twenty years. Zinn’s articles are taught in colleges and high schools around the world. Daniel J. Flynn is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia and is also an author for Why the Left Hates America: Exposing the Lies That Have Obscured Our Nation’s Greatness. Daniel Flynn thinks of Howard Zinn as a man who can’t really back his evidence up on what he’s publishing. Daniel thinks that since Zinn discussed politics with Pearl Jam and Rage Against The Machine had Zinn on their reading list that people should be beware of rock bands that issue reading lists. Flynn emphasizes that the New York Times reviewer declared Zinn’s book to be “required reading,” only because Jayson Blair, the New York Times reviewer, is Zinn’s cousin. Flynn believes that Howard Zinn’s book is so crucial and seems to mess up the minds of developing young students. Flynn thinks that Howard Zinn always wants people to believe him and his rhetoric is always opposite of what he says. Howard Zinn had an equivalence towards the 911 terrorist attacks and uses phrases that he dislikes, according to Daniel J. Flynn. Howard Zinn does not seem to have a good impression on Daniel at all because Daniel believes that Zinn only tries to make his stories sound clear and tries to put in evidence that has nothing to do with what Zinn is publishing just to make it sound better. For example, Zinn suggests that “George Washington was the richest man in American,” he really wasn’t the richest man but the idea of it made the story for the Marxist sounds better. Also, Reagan did not have an impact on unemployment according to Zinn, statistics show otherwise. Daniel Flynn points out these small things out because he thinks that it is not fair for Howard Zinn to put these ideas into people’s minds without any true evidence to back it up.
I definitely agree with Daniel J Flynn because I wouldn’t want to read about somebody’s publishing that is not backed up with true evidence. I agree with Flynn because of the fact that he points out that Howard Zinn did not have any single sources of citations. That proves to me that if you can’t put at least a citation then you are obviously make things up. Also, according to Zinn, the Pequot violence had two massacres on both sizes, but in the book he only talks about one side, the Puritans. If I was reading a book and read this information I would want to know about the both sides, not only the side that the author wants to tell me about.
Kimberly Cantergiani - 8/3/2008
Howard Zinn, Professor Emeritus at Boston University, and author of the widely read and notoriously challenged volume, A People’s History of the United States, has been hailed, according to Daniel J. Flynn as “the most influential historian in America”. However, according to Mr. Flynn, Zinn is nothing more than an “unreconstructed, anti-American Marxist” whose “captive mind long closed by ideology” is rooted in “conspiracy theory with a vengeance”.
Flynn begins his critique with his disturbance that Zinn’s work has reached such “massive sales figures” which he believes is based on the skewed requirements of liberal-minded college educators and journalists, who all share the “social aim” of indoctrinating America’s youth against capitalist business and foreign profiteering. Flynn postulates if “the million or so copies sold have been done so via coercion” and that “the commercial success of A People’s History…is a case of simple ideas for simple minds.
It is intriguing that a well-read historian of the 21st century such as Flynn would have such vehement opposition to the possibility of revisionist history. Surely, it must be conceded that tremendous substantiation for many historical accounts, both domestic and abroad, are unearthed on an on-going basis, providing a more well rounded and balanced perspective of what truly occurred throughout American history. It is a shallow and narrow-minded view to assume that the traditional view posed by academia is in any way complete and to ignore the possibility that it in fact, it was entirely constructed with the very same intent for which Flynn accuses Zinn - that of slanting and tainting the minds of the youth of America.
Further, Flynn attributes some of the work’s notoriety to that of endorsement and affiliation of Hollywood celebrities and musicians. In his mention of Pearl Jam and Rage Against the Machine, Flynn advises the reader to “beware of rock bands that issue reading lists” and to remember that they are “rock stars with drug-fried brains”. It is the height of condescension to imply that due to one’s employment, affiliation, or artistic capability they are precluded from forming thoughtful, introspective and intelligent opinions regarding weighty political issues or that they must participate in the use of recreational or mind-altering drugs. To the contrary, for Flynn to resort to such infantile, and humorous, accusations it reduces his credibility as a mature and logical professional. One must speculate on the possibility that Flynn is jealous of Zinn’s accomplishment’s and, barring any original proposition of his own, is condemned to the deprecation of others.
Flynn also resorts to the use of government issued statistics for the purpose of countering Zinn’s contentions. For example, in response to Zinn’s statement that despite the initiation of President Clinton’s crime bill “violent crime continued to increase”, Flynn offers that “according to a Department of Justice report…the violent crime rate has been cut in half since 1993”. This is a weak argument attempting to validate information as provided by the government, which naturally would like the public to believe that its programs are effective. It is preposterous to assume biased figures as facts and also naïve to overlook the likelihood that the manner in which statistics are compiled and reported is inconsistent. What may have been considered a “violent crime” in one year may have been redirected to another data group in another. Additionally, it was not necessary for Zinn to quote specific numbers, as even a casual observer of the news and human events can see that crime and corruption continue to escalate, despite supposed government intervention.
Moving on Flynn utilizes a “case study” of the Pequot War, attempting to discredit Zinn as “brushing aside” the “Pequot atrocities” and focusing solely on that of the Puritans. From the limited review by Mr. Flynn it would appear that Zinn has “simplistically divided mankind into two groups: oppressors and oppressed” when it should be immediately evident from the most superficial reading of Zinn that he is a humanist with compassion, integrity and ethics at his core, which provide the foundation for his passion regarding the obstacles of class in the struggle for equality. With the existing body of traditional history recounting the detail of barbarism among the Pequot’s, the relevance of delineating again is eliminated. Flynn does not seem to consider the actions of both groups within the context of societal and cultural structure either. Natives had long depended upon what might be considered primal tactics today for the mere process of survival as compared to the Puritan’s whose civilized, God-fearing beliefs and values should have easily conveyed into a more sophisticated mechanism for problem solving.
With absolutely no regard, compassion or intelligent thought for the merciless persecution and carnal savagery endured for generations by black America, Flynn states that “the fact that America was half free and the site of an anti-slavery crusade…goes unnoticed” and that “rather than welcoming emancipation, Zinn is depressed by it”. Flynn dismisses slavery and black issues as minor challenges in the history of mankind and eliminates the consideration that race and class issues are as ever present as they once were, but wrapped in a different package. The explanation as offered by Zinn, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and many other notable historians and political spectators is clear that efforts at national growth and expansion have always come through the oppression of minority groups and divisions along class lines. It has occurred both through the use and exploitation of laborers and through the use of diversionary tactics designed to draw the focus away from genuine issues, which might actually encourage a colossal revolution in America that would overthrow the government and bring true and lasting change.
On the subject of the Communist movements’ collaboration in the case of the young, black Scottsboro boys in Alabama, Flynn charges that although they were “associated with the defense…in reality the Communists merely used the embattled youngsters” to “bring the Communist movement to the people and win them over to Communism”. While this utterance was intended to tarnish Zinn’s account of the matter, in fact, Zinn has already noted that the Communists and blacks had different agenda’s and the blacks were very aware of them, choosing regardless to align themselves for the strength which the party provided.
Flynn’s critique of Howard Zinn is at best a wildly speculative and a far reaching attempt to disparage both his reputation and his account of history. Zinn boldly proclaims that A People’s History is a “biased account” indicating that he has no “trouble with that because the mountain of history books under which we all stand leans so heavily in the other direction”. As an intellectual scholar, Mr. Flynn should be capable of considering alternate viewpoints and be able to follow the rational position that Mr. Zinn represents. His claims to prove otherwise are lacking credulity in every sense of the word.
jose alberto lopez - 12/6/2007
This is my interpretation of the Howard Zinn being biased article. First off… the writer did point out certain key areas that really do put Zinn on the spot, and makes a former ( even if it were the first time) reader of Zinn question and doubt all of his statements. Certainly every writer, reporter, news organization ,teacher ,or professor for that matter, has a certain agenda and/or point of view that changes the teaching or preaching style of that individual. I most certainly agree with Daniel Flynn that a major reason for the huge sales figures is the requirment by the instructors to purchase the book. I havent fully “investigated” Mr. Zinn and checked up on all that he represents, but I still think im entitled to my opinion just like global warming wakos that have no clue about the subject and use a movie ( an inconvenient truth) and celebrities ( sheryl crow for example ,with her proposition to use one square of toilet paper tissue to wipe your ass in an effort to save trees) to back up theyre claims. But back to the subject at hand. After reading the Zinn materials that were assigned to us in class, its obvious that Zinn does have a built in mentality of how America is/was. His vocabulary offends in now way, and the way he illlustrates the topics are done very well to the point where it makes you want to read more , but… It isnt my nature to believe anyone or anything that continuosly shows one side. Zinns sounding to be as regarding as America as nothing but Bad. Another anti american, living in america. Seems a bit contradictory considering how if someone really disagrees with how america is or is disgusted by its history, then why stay here?
donna nonya - 1/28/2007
I wonder if anyone would consider our forefathers Marxists, or unpatriotic. Thomas Jefferson? James Madison, perhaps? I think not.
Nor do I believe that they were puppets on a string, blowing in the wind to all atrocities those in power commmited.
Govermental powers are not absolute, but are given to them by those they govern...
If you have any doubts, might I remind everyone what they stated in the Declaration of Independence (and also why Madison wrote the Bill of Rights for our rights and protections from those in power):
"WHEN in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.
WE hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness—That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security."
Hmm...not only were they not unpatriotic, they stated it IS OUR RIGHT, IT IS OUR DUTY!!!!!!!!!!
Joseph Caramello - 8/3/2005
Zinn did fight in World War II in the U.S. Army Air Corps. After all, the Soviet Union was our ally in that war so why should he have not fought the Nazis. The question is who was he really fighting for us or the Soviets.
John Brent Hiller - 5/18/2005
What are you talking about??? You have missed the point in such a dangerously ignorant way that I can't believe you're literate. You compare Zinn's book with traditional history and call one fact, and the other biased fiction? I challenge you to disprove one sentence in Zinn's book. The premise of the book (and you don't have to read beyond the title to know this) is to report history through the eyes of THE PEOPLE. NOT the traditional approach that tells history by stating for example "in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue." Is this the sort of FACT that you cherish as so valuable. Is this the sort of fact that inspires people. Is this as far as our history teachings should probe into the past. This is a glossed over biased report through the eyes of rich white men, and leaves out anything controversial (and controversial does not mean fiction as you seem to indicate). We have been lied to about these rich white men. They are not the heroes our traditional history teachers have made them out to be. Traditional history books are government approved loads of propaganda written to create narrow minded good little patriots. But, I suppose you're a better citizen than I am. You tell it like it is. You're a real patriot with unblemished love for our heroes. Well, God bless you, because you, unlike most of us, are worthy of God's blessing.
Michael A. Bourbina Jr. - 1/6/2004
This is to Daniel J. Flynn:
I read some of what you wrote about Howard Zinn. Basically what you did was say he didn't tell the whole story. He never claimed to tell the whole story. He even admits that the whole story can never be told. He even offers to tell you that he is only telling you the history of the United States from the voices that don't usually get heard. I think he's done it. And I think all you've done is call him names, progoganda writer and biased. He admits to bias. I read a few of his books. I can't remember thinking that he thought Fidel Castro was a great guy or anything like you quickly joted down there. What I remember about Cuba I mostly learned from a Venezuelan, who admitted to Cuba's faults, but also told of how terrible-- how much worse in fact-- it was before Fidel Castro when the United States' rich buddies and citizens were allowed to rape the country or its natural resources, while the majority of Cubans were terribly poor, great numbers of them dying from poor medication, from diseases that were nothing to our country. Ernesto "Che" Guevara and Fidel Castro at least took it upon themselves to improve the overall state of health there and to help the people there get food and jobs. I agree that it was a terrible thing the way they killed homosexuals and dissenters, but were there more dissenters against them or against Cuba before 1959-- this is the underlying question to what you were talking about, and I think you misrepresent the truth about that country-- and about Howard Zinn in this case.
Really what I have to say has little weight on you, on Howard Zinn, on the world we live in. But I just wanted you to know that I've read Zinn's books. I think he's a wonderful writer. I think I've learned a good deal from him. And I think he makes a good case that the world is in the hands of the rich, the powerful, always has been, and still is, but should not be. You fail to mention Howard Zinn's take on violence, however. While you like to do all but call him a communist-- you fail to mention that he is non-violent, that he was a part of the Civil Rights Movement in the South, that he was a soldier in WWII before he changed his mind about the way the world was.
Howard Zinn is a great man. He is not God and he doesn't claim to be. He only asks his readers and students to see what power is-- who has it-- how do they use it-- how do they get away with using it to destructive ends? That is what Howard Zinn does. We could all use a little more Zinn in our lives.
. - 1/5/2004
What makes you say that Howard Zinn has a "virulent hatred for this country"? From reading the book, I gained a completely different perspective: That Zinn actually cares about his country, its people, and the directions it's heading in. The reason he is pointing out the misdeeds of the U.S. government is to present an alternative view of the glorified history we have been commonly led to accept. While the book is guided by certain biases and ommission of certain facts while selecting certain others, he is not writing the book simply to express hatred towards America. He obviously cares greatly about America and its people to take such pains to write the book. Just because he attacks the government doesn't mean he's Anti-American. It is evident that he cares about the well-being of the PEOPLE of this country, that is why it is called a PEOPLE's history.
Jerry Ku - 12/8/2003
Zinn fought as a US bomber gunner in World War 2, and did so proudly. Part of his radicalisation even came from a fellow gunner who talked about radical politics, who was a Communist. That Communist gunner was later killed on a mission...
Zinn might not like the concept of patriotism in the same way most do. And that Communist probably didn't like it either. Afterall, Communists oppose the very concept of nation-states. Still, Zinn fought for America at one point.... that's gotta be worth somethin.
Davis D. Joyce - 10/31/2003
I'm new to HNN. I'm surprised by the ranting and raving going on here, including by Flynn. All of you interested in this will, I hope, read my book, HOWARD ZINN: A RADICAL AMERICAN VISION, just published by Prometheus Books. Somehow Flynn's characterization of Zinn as "anti-American" bothers me most. See my sub-title. I argue that Zinn's vision is radical in the sense that it calls for fundamental change in the political/economic order (see your dictionary), American in the sense that it is based on the very ideals the country itself was based upon (see the Declaration of Independence), and a vision because it is not yet reality (look around you). Howard Zinn's PEOPLE'S HISTORY obviously continues to resonate with increasing numbers of people almost 25 years after its publication; maybe it can contribute to the on-going struggle to live up to our best American ideals. If Flynn is correct that Zinn is "the most influential historian in America," I find that very encouraging indeed!
J.Caramello - 10/21/2003
On the day after the 9/11 attack I read a piece in the San Diego Union that was written by Mr Zinn. As usual he bashed this country for what had happened. To say that his timing was a little insensitive is probably the understatement of all time. Mr Zinn certainly has his right to his opinions but so do the rest of us. The people that died on that day will probably be remembered in a future Zinn "history" as oppressors of the Middle East.
John - 10/21/2003
First of all, Daniel J. Flynn, misses the point of Zinn's book and this makes his so-called review misleading an not worth the time it took to read it. Zinn himself repeats several times in lectures and in his book that oppressed individuals often become the oppressors and vice versa. This point, although a major point in Zinn's book is ignored by most of the posts on here as well as the so called review.
Furthermore, many people will claim Zinn is exaggerating the truth or just plain lying. However, in almost every argument that claims this they base it on what the dominant culture has recorded as our history. Many of us not only see this as misleading, but realize that the recent history has already been recorded in a misleading way especially concerning 9/11 and the actions of an incompetent president. I have not verified every case in Zinn's book. The ones I have chosen to have shown that there is at the very least evidence that what Zinn says is the truth or a version of one of the many possible truths. To openly accept everything in the book is absurd but to reject it entirely is just plain closeminded.
J. Caramello - 10/17/2003
Yes he may be a "patriot" but in whose country? It's certainly not this one. Incidently I have researched some of the more strident claims he makes in his screed and found for the most part that his versions are gross exaggerations of actual events. All have an obvious slant showing that the United States is the most evil, vicious and contemptible nation on earth. Mr Zinn is a former Communist Party member and is now a Socialist. Mr Zinn should take his books and emigrate to the former workers paradise and try to pull some of his stunts in that environment.
William Goldberg - 10/14/2003
I assigned sections of Zinn to a class on Peace and Justice in America. We are focusing on "what makes a patriot" and if it is possible to be a patriot and disagree with your country.
Zinn may not have all of his facts perfect, and I don't like per chapter bibliographies with no internal citation, but it definitely gives a different history than I learned in high school. It is worth reading just because it sometimes makes you say "that couldn't have really happened" . . . and then you go and research that topic. Perhaps you find that it did happen, perhaps you find that it mostly happened like that.
All in all, I would say that Zinn is needed to counter some of the skewed history we teach our children in high school, all of the niceness of history written by those victorious in a war.
As for patriotism, As for patriot, http://www.m-w.com defines patriot as "one who loves his or her country and supports its authority and interests". I have taught my students that loving your country so much that you question its policies and how it treats its people and its history make them patriots, even if society currently disagrees. Zinn is a patriot to me.
Joe Caramello - 9/15/2003
I had to read Zinn's Peoples History as part of a history class. After finishing the book, I came to the conclusion that Mr Zinn has a virulent hatred for this country. This was the most biased book purporting to be history that I have ever had the misfortune to read. This man literally despises the United States and everything that it stands for. If it were up to him the country would have never been founded. This person more than most personifies the "Loony Left" at its most extreme.
Steven Malcolm Anderson - 8/17/2003
You are right. I am lucky to have been born in the United States of America. I am proud to be a loyal supporter of my country and her Constitution, including _all_ of the Bill of Rights. I am proud to have as my countrymen those two heroic men John Geddes Lawrence and Tyron Garner, who stood up for their freedom and mine. I am lucky to have had a man like Justice Anthony Kennedy on my country's Supreme Court. Now we can all enjoy the unalienable right to privacy in our own homes, along with other vital freedoms such as free speech and the right of the people to keep and bear arms.
Barrie Bracken - 8/15/2003
Howard Zinn is idolized by the general population of readers because the facts are boring compared to the fantasy that belittles the good effect the existence of the U. S. has had on the world. Howard Zinn as an historian is equal to the "journalists" who compose the tabloids found at the supermarket check-outs. As a young man I was as left as Zinn, maybe, to my stand, he was on the right, but maturity has left me with a deeper understanding of the workings of history. History is, after all, the interpretation, not just the telling, of the past of humanity. An historian viewing the revolutionary era in this country and the world today must see the time in the eyes of the participants, not in the eyes of some 19th century philosopher alone. Should the ideas of Marx be considered? Certainly. But in their proper context. Zinn would take us back in religion to say the Judeo-Christian philosophy must consider only the admonision to take an eye for an eye.
Is it the job of the historian to point out the errors of our past and warn of the errors being repeated in the future? Yes. Is the job of the historian to present the world as nihilist? No. Whatever worth Zinn has to civilization is minimal, at best.
Joshua Chernin - 6/27/2003
Ok, last time I checked, history occured in a political context. In other words, yes, history is political, and pretending that it is not is doing it injustice, as Zinn so himself put it, becasue the purpose of looking at the past in the first place is to learn from what we have done wrong and to prevent similar mistakes in the future. Of course Zinn focuses on the parts of our history we're ashamed of, that's the point. So we can learn from it. Ignoring it, and just saying our country's great is like randomly waving a flag and saying THAT makes you patriotic when you don't even have a clue what this country is about...
NYGuy - 6/20/2003
I appreciate your comments. Issues have to be in context, be balanced, benchmarked and have a frame of reference.
Please tell all your friends. We may have done somethings wrong, but we are lucky for those who made this the great country it is.
Cheers and good luck.
LAGuy - 6/20/2003
That comment about Babe Ruth was excellent. I will tell everyone who tries to defame this great nation that analogy.
Also well put about the Japanese internment camps of World War II. I too think this policy was wrong; however, I never thought about it the way you put it.
James Lambert - 6/19/2003
You obviously have no real criticism of Daniel Flynn to offer, nor do you seem to have a good grasp of the English language.
1) The fact that “slander” has a legal definition, which is different from common usage is neither here nor there. Everyone, including you, knew what Mr. Flynn meant.
2) Your closing sentence is simply pathetic:
>>But else beside rank stupidity can anyone expect from a Reed Irvine apparatchik?
But know you bad communicator.
Josh Greenland - 6/18/2003
"This slanderous tome and its popular and academic success are monuments to human credulity and delusion, and to the disgraceful condition of American letters."
How can a tome be slanderous. Isn't slander spoken and libel written?
But else beside rank stupidity can anyone expect from a Reed Irvine apparatchik?
Horatio - 6/17/2003
When are we going to get a smear piece on Paul Johnson? Don't let Daniel Pipes be the only one spewing invective.
NYGuy - 6/16/2003
The problem is not the history, its the predjudices of the history teachers who should have been trained better. Unless of course they were trained to twist the facts to their own political philosophy. But, then, that is what history has become.
After reading about Babe Ruth's strikeouts I have now lost another hero.
Josh Greenland - 6/16/2003
Could you recommend any histories that do the things you describe?
This is a separate question: are there any you could recommend written by authors whose politics you strongly disagree with?
NYGuy - 6/16/2003
No one said the U. S. was perfect. But, what is so "goofy" about the analysis of Babe Ruth? As a trained historian you should be able to give a better answer to this analysis than it is "Goofy” Yet you accept Zinn at face value. What is factually wrong in the Babe Ruth comments? As you say we have to look at the bad with the good. You are not suggesting that your ”Goofy” remark means that you are subjective and believe and teach only what you want others to believe and this is what you teach your students?
1.” The extermination of Indians.” Indians are still a part of our population and were heroes in defending our country in the Second World War.
2. “The lynchings, averaging two a week, of African Americans starting in the 1890s.” I don’t want to sound callous about this statement but that is 104 deaths a year, which in the total scheme of the U. S. and world History is very small. In Russia alone the Pogroms killed more people. The Jews had no place to turn but to the U. S. and there was a large immigration of East Europeans into this country around the turn of the century. Meanwhile slavery was still a part of the world and vicious crimes were being perpetrated against citizens of just about all countries.
3. “The end of immigration in the 20s on eugenecist grounds.” The U.S. was in a deep depression, veteran’s marched on Washington for jobs, farmers had the dust bowl and college graduates sold apples on the street. Your solution, bring in more mouths to feed and put more American’s out of work.
4. The internment of the Japanese Americans.” I will not defend this policy but we were at war and many civil liberties were curtailed. Do you also teach about the Bataan death march, the rape of Nanking, the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, the Bund meeting in NYC and elsewhere by those who supported Hitler? Do you tell your students that Canada had the same fears as the U. S. during this time of war and had similar policies to the U. S? Do you also tell your students that we were at war? That there were spies in this country trying to help the enemy and supplying them with information that got people killed. Do you know why they used the phase, “A slip of the lip can sink ships.”
Meanwhile the civil liberties of all Americans were suspended during WWII when people could not buy gas, meat and other products at will. They had to cover their windows at night, or shut their lights off so submarines off shore could not use cities as a guide for navigation. Some citizens were prevented from continuing their schooling and put into the Army or Navy with all its restrictions. My grandmother had to register since she was not born in this country. The list goes on. The widows of those KIA for putting their lives on the line probably got a lot less than the settlements received by those interned. And, as far as I know, all those interned remained in the U. S. after many American’s were killed defending these people and saving the world. I understand many Japanese families were separated. Do you tell your students that many more American families were separated during this war and many were killed.
The reason the Babe Ruth story bothers you is because you understand the key defect which is, as Heretous says, this is not a balanced report. It is not benchmarked against anything and has no frame of reference. When we accept such analyses without these considerations we get very biased teaching and propaganda.
Herodotus - 6/15/2003
"I'm serious--what sort of history do you people think it's ok to teach?"
That's easy: balanced history. One free from bias and as objective as possible. One that distances the problems of the present from the analysis of the past. One that is dispassionate, but still engaging.
That's so hard?
Hepatitus - 6/14/2003
Look you two--be as proud as you want. There's lots to celebrate. But you two are supposed to be historians. Should historians just ignore things that aren't pleasing?
There are some nasty aspects to American history--the extermination of indians, the lynchings, averaging two a week, of African Americans starting in the 1890s, the end of immigration in the 20s on eugenecist grounds, the internment of the Japanese Americans--there are many nasty aspects to Us history just as there are many nasty aspects to all countries' histories. What are we supposed to do--just ignore these facts? Should i teach course on the 1890s, and pretend that the JimCrow laws were never passed? I'm serious--what sort of history do you people think it's ok to teach?
Les Milton - 6/13/2003
Why do you assume I'm a leftist (let a alone a Marxist)?
Do only leftists criticize U.S. foreign policy?
I'm getting the feeling you're actually some kind of primitive computer program, capable of issuing only rote, meaningless phrases. Addressing a specific question in a rational manner would help convince me that you are, in fact, a human being.
Homer Simpson - 6/13/2003
This guy makes sense. This rarely happens here. I applaud. God bless America.
Somebody tell me why, in the wake of the fall of the Soviet Union, Marxism has infected the supposedly intellectual class of America? What happened to make so many who consider themselves so bright so damned stupid.
God didn't did. Marxism did.
Homer Simpson - 6/13/2003
You see it on this board all the time.
Judging from the tortured responses, you'd never understand that the past 40 years has been a landslide of comment denouncing the U.S. for the crimes of imperialism, racism, etc.
This point of view is hackneyed. It's been said a million times.
The era of every citizen holding his or her own foreign policy is over.
I'm calling the people one this board who think this hate the U.S. rhetoric novel "morons" because they are. The leftists who dominate this board keep insisting that this analysis is fresh and courageous. It's just the same old drivel.
Here's the problem the left needs to confront. God didn't die. Marxism did. This has gutted the left.
NYGuy - 6/13/2003
Babe Ruth struck out many times. The actual number which I don't remember is a fact.
I was just reading a book about the "Babe", titled, "Babe Ruth was a loser." The author focuses on his number of strikeouts and concludes that the "Babe" was not really a good player and has no place in the Hall of Fame.
The author points out the many times when the babe had men on base and he struck out. He even struck out with no men on base, one man on base and two men on base. He never struck out with women on base because they were not permitted to play at time. Still the Babe was a chauvanist and never fought for women's rights. He was also a racist who never played against teams that had non-whites on it. Many other examples are given to show the "Babe" was self centered and only played to make money and get rich, for his own pleasure and amusement and really if ever did anything to improve the plight of the poor and downtrodden. He also cheated the management and bosses of the Yankees with all his strikeouts.
The fans in the stands were cheated when this happened, as well as the man in street who worshipped the Babe. These strike outs happened thousands of times and the Babe did nothing about them, but continued on with his sloppy way.
This book reminded me of Zinn's portrayal of America. No wonder we can't be proud, particularly when we can't even have a hero in baseball.
Les Milton - 6/12/2003
Calling critics of the U.S. "morons" implies you have no intellectual response to their criticisms. You wouldn't want people to think that, would you?
How is it against one's self-interest to take responsibility for one's mistakes?
The president is also a representative of our country and to say that there are no circumstances which merit an apology from us, is to admit to such arrogance and absence of honor as to tarnish the moral land intellectual reputation of the U.S..
You have to be pretty defensive to take criticisms of the U.S. as saying how "awful" the country is. Is it impossible to criticize your parents and still love them? Does pointing out a flaw in your spouse mean you think he/she is absolutely worthless? Of course, not. Try to relax.
Les Milton - 6/12/2003
I don't think I ever implied that George Bush Sr. was less credible a historian than Zinn, because he's not. He was our president, our leader, and our representative to the world.
One only has to look objectively at U.S. foreign policy over the last 50 years to see that there are many mistakes made by the U.S. government that cost innocents their lives. Anyone with any honor whatsoever knows that when one makes a mistake that hurts others, one apologizes. And what's worse, Bush Sr.'s comment implies that there are NO circumstances which merit apology. This is a position devoid of honor or courage.
I've never heard Zinn or any other leftist say that the U.S. is the "worst country in the world". Only that it has yet to take responsibility for its mistakes.
And it's rather silly to be proud to be an American, unless you're an immigrant. I feel lucky to be an American, but I had nothing to do with being born here. One might as well be proud to have a certain eye color.
David Salmanson - 6/12/2003
Thanks Caroline. I remember reading several book reviews on recent work on the Pequot war but couldn't locate which titles were the better ones. Although a typical "leftist academic" I do not think of Zinn as a particularly good historian. He is, however, an extremely talented polemicist and that is why his writing teaches so well. Whether they agree with him or not, students are forced to confront their own assumptions and construct coherent responses. This results in better thinking by all students.
Caroline Ward - 6/11/2003
For anyone reading these exchanges interested in the most recent scholarship on the Pequot War (which accords fully with neither Howard Zinn--not an expert on colonial history by any measure--nor Mr. Flynn's tirade [good grief! couldn't he find a better, more accurate, and less biased source on the war than John G. Palfrey, who has all the racist prejudices of other 19th c. authors]), I suggest Alfred Cave's recent eponymous and probably definitive book, The Pequot War. It is far more even handed than either Flynn or Zinn. Yes, the Pequots were aggressors vs. other tribes; yes, they initially attacked the settlers (but the first English men to die, it is now believed, were NOT killed by Pequots); but yes, also, the burning of the Mystic fort, with hundreds of women & children (not warriors) inside, was a great atrocity, one so terrible it horrified the Narragansett allies of the English.
Nicholas Freedman - 6/11/2003
Why is HNN printing this kind of rhetorical nonsense? There are many rightist academics who could supply a counterbalance to the arguments of Professor Zinn. While I probably wouldn't agree with many of them, it would further the historical discourse that this site is supposed to be about.
Come on, HNN, you can do better. And you are trying to fundraise?
There is plenty of genuine scholarship from across the politcal and ideological spectrum. Why go to the pseudo-intellectual punditry that passes itself off as scholarship in the popular media?
Homer Simpson - 6/11/2003
No, he's the president and commander-in-chief. His job is to represent the self-interest of our nation to the best of his ability.
You morons can gas about how awful the U.S. is. Evidently some of you get paid to make a nuisance of yourselves in this fashion. And, it's not like this gassing has been in short supply. We've been fed a nauseating diet of it for four decades.
No, Prez Bush is absolutely right. He shouldn't apologize for anything. He should fight for the self-interest of the U.S.
That's his job.
Homer Simpson - 6/11/2003
Why won't leftists worship the real god? The false god of Marxism continues to tempt our moral betters. Even after the 100 million executions.
And, then the morons want to lecture the rest of us. Astonishing!
The Marxists used the social movements you've mentioned in the hope that they could spread chaos, hatred and violence in the U.S. That those movements had value has nothing to do with the Marxist attempt to subvert the U.S. This has always been the Marxist ruse, and here we have another bunch of morons falling for it. Useful idiots of the world, keep belching out the fumes!
Arnold, why don't you get some real religion, instead of the fake Marxist religion? Well, that would entail revealing your motives. Marxism isn't called the politics of envy for nothing.
Marxism is Nazism. Marxists are Nazis. The result is what counts. How does this idiocy continue?
Homer Simpson - 6/11/2003
I'm glad he finally admitted it.
God didn't die, Kirstein. Marx did.
Marxism is Nazism. There is no difference.
Kirstein is a worshipper of the False God. He missed the primary moral lesson of the 20th century.
How's that arm, Peter? The patting yourself on the back has got to be painful.
I knew you were completely ignorant. Wasn't aware that you are without any moral compass as well.
Arnold A. Offner - 6/11/2003
Sorry Mr. Flynn, but the truth is that if Howard Zinn did not exist, it would be necessary--and my pleasure--to invent him. Since the 1940s he has has served as one of this nation's moral consciences in addressing the great issues of our life time: civil rights, the dreadful war in Vietnam, and all the social welfare issues you might care to list. We are all the richer for his contributions to our society. May they continue ....
dan - 6/11/2003
“Objectivity is impossible,” Zinn once remarked, “and it is also undesirable."
In that one sentence, Zinn has proven himself infinitely more capable of holding a reasoned discourse (AND more objective) than ANY of the current wave of hate-America-first right wing pundits pandering to the ignorant masses in our country today. No wonder they fear this guy so much!
NYGuy - 6/11/2003
What is the difference between these two statements?
GW Said: "The promise of our Constitution and our ideals are doomed if we adopt the attitude of George H.W. Bush when he said, "I'll never apologize for the United States. I don't care what the facts are."
I agree with him. Facts have to be weighted to reach a good conclusion. I don't believe the negative facts overwhelm GW's observation. What period in history was the US a less worthy country than others in the world. Every country experienced fighting, violence and many supported slavery, particularly in Africa.
This is what you said about Zinn: "Obviously, his ideology does interfere with his objectivity." What makes him more creditable than GW. And when you weigh his statements about our problems or weaknesses, do you come out with an opinion that the US is the worst country in the world and therefore we have no right to feel proud?
Hepatitus - 6/11/2003
Everyone is--"bias" is the reason we provide footnotes.
The great thing about zinn's book is it has a strong argument and makes a provocative point. I use it in class, and even the most conservative students like its anti elite, egaltarian focus. There are any number of texts which teach history as cheerleading, and students find them tedious, as they have hear dit all before. zinn's book provokes--it provokes conservative students into strengthening their arguments, among other things. I don't agree with everything in it, but then I don't agree with everything in ANY book
This is a dumb piece, but sadly, it's well calculated to ride the wave of cheerleading books by Hannity, Savage et. al. The authors pat themsleves on the back for being bold and contrary, but as is often observed, it takes no particular courage to tell people they are great. People like to here that. Getting them to understand that greatness is mixed with baseness, virtue with venality, success with failure, is harder, but it would be easier if dumb books like this weren't out there.
Herodotus - 6/10/2003
to have phrases like this:
"The New York Times?s reviewer (no doubt a cousin of Jayson Blair) declared that the book should be ?required reading? for students"
if you're trying to encourage accuracy in recounting events. Is the review a cousin of Jayson Blair? Is he not? Is it just a cheap shot (clearly it is) and does it weaken the importance of the sentence (absolutely).
Peter N Kirstein - 6/10/2003
Actually the first line of Marx and Engels's Communist Manifesto is, "A Spectre is Haunting Europe--the spectre of Communism," and not “The history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggle.” Perhaps had Mr Flynn been as fortunate as I was to matriculate in Professor Zinn's Marxism course at Boston University, he would have avoided the error.
I have used Professor Zinn's, "A People's History" for many years and students find it very provocative and readable. In fact his teachings and writings were formative events in my life and I can assure Mr Flynn that opposing American militarism, racism and imperialism is in keeping with a democracy's need for vital and sustained criticism of public and foreign policy.
Paul - 6/10/2003
Mr. Flynn's writing takes a cluster bomb approach to argumentations: spray enough bad stuff around and hope it hits something worth hitting. It is this essay that is a monument to credulity and delusion. What a pathetic diatribe.
Les Milton - 6/10/2003
I don't agree with Howard Zinn on a number of topics. Obviously, his ideology does interfere with his objectivity and I don't think one can argue that his scholarship is flawless, but it's humorous to have this pointed out by someone like Mr. Flynn who has written a book with the hilarious title, "Why the Left Hates America: Exposing the Lies That Have Obscured Our Nation’s Greatness".
Maybe I'm just ignorant, but which Americans on "the Left" hate America? Most of them? Certainly not all, because, though I'm not a Leftist (finding them as frustrating as I do the Right), I have many friends who are and they all LOVE America.
And which lies, exactly, have obscured America's "greatness"? I mean besides Nixon's and Reagan's and Bush's and Clinton's?
Mr. Flynn claims that the Contras' candidate won the first free elections in Nicaragua after the Sandinistas took control. But Daniel Ortega won the first free elections in 1984 which were monitored by representatives of scores of countries and found to be free and fair by all of them, except one, of course (care to guess?). I'm no fan of the Sandinistas, but the facts of the matter are more important than my opinion of the Sandinistas. I wish Mr. Flynn understood this.
I tend to agree with Mr. Flynn regarding Zinn's opinions of Castro, Mumia Abu-Jamal and even some of the sloppy arguments against our war in Afghanistan, but to say that "Readers of A People’s History of the United States learn very little about history" is even more ludicrous than Zinn's most ludicrous assertions. The fact is that readers of Zinn's book have learned and will learn many, many things about American history that they didn't learn in high school. Things that are absolutely necessary in order to grasp the complexity of what the U.S. has been and what it is today.
As an aside, I'm pretty sure most historians believe that the Americas were unpopulated by humans when Asians crossed the Bering strait.
I think that Mr. Flynn has missed the point of this book, which (horror of horrors) is not to celebrate America. It's not meant to repeat the stories of greatness we've been told time and again (lest we forget how great we are), but rather to point out the weaknesses we've experienced. Arrogance and deceit mark as much of our history as ingenuity and strength. But our strength will never increase until we, as a nation, have the courage to look back and take responsibility for the lives (at home and abroad) we've destroyed. It's easy to look at the accomplishments and puff up our chests, but it takes something more to look at our faults honestly and admit them. I mean, I don't know of any winning football teams that only review the plays that went right on the Sunday before. That's because improvement doesn't arise from focusing only on what went right.
There are many who despise those who point these things out. They bristle at the notion that America might not be the greatest nation in the history of civilization. And while I think it's possible that our Constitution might be the greatest governing document ever created, to suggest that our government or our citizens have been somehow superior to all other governments and all other citizens is to engage in the same kind of ideological myth-making of which Howard Zinn is regularly accused.
The promise of our Constitution and our ideals are doomed if we adopt the attitude of George H.W. Bush when he said, "I'll never apologize for the United States. I don't care what the facts are."
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