This section of Discover The Networks delves into historians and other figures who have endeavored to depict American history as an unbroken narrative of evil and oppression.
Particular attention is given to two individuals—filmmaker Oliver Stone and the late history professor Howard Zinn—who gained great fame by advancing the notion that the United States, through its traditions and actions, historically has caused immense misery for countless millions of people both at home and abroad.
The influence of these two men cannot be overstated. Stone, for his part, is one of the world’s most prominent movie directors and a vehement critic of American foreign policy. He uses the medium of film as a political tool, pushing leftist agendas while expressing his overt contempt for American culture generally. In 2012, Stone released the 10-part documentary mini-series The Untold History of the United States, supplemented by a 750-page companion book bearing the same title. The documentary and book alike depict the U.S. as the principal wellspring of earthly evil and human suffering.
Zinn, meanwhile, is best known for writing A People’s History of the United States (1980), a Marxist tract that describes America as a predatory and repressive capitalist state—sexist, racist, imperialist—run by a corporate ruling class for the benefit of the rich. The book claims to present American history through the eyes of the nation’s many victim groups: workers, American Indians, slaves, women, blacks, and populists. A People’s History has sold more than a million copies, making it one of the best-selling history books of all time. Moreover, it is one of most influential texts in college classrooms today—not only in history classes, but also in such fields as economics, political science, literature, and women’s studies.
Throughout his adult life, Zinn—wherever he looked—saw evidence of American evil; e.g., a nation engaged in “the poisoning of the air, the seas and rivers”; a nation beset by profound economic injustice against “poor and non-white” people; a nation that spent far too much money on its weapons of war, but far too little on the teeming masses who had been dealt a most unfortunate hand by capitalism’s unpredictable caprices; a nation overrun by “a class of criminals” who had been “bred by economic inequity” and “the contrasts of wealth and poverty” that epitomized America’s “culture of possession”; and a nation “stratified by financial and educational inequities” that led “naturally to envy and class anger.”
This section of Discover The Networks takes an in-depth look at the anti-American views, values, and agendas that inform the historical narratives advanced by Oliver Stone, Howard Zinn, and others of their ilk.
Back to School and Howard Zinn in the Classroom
By Mary Grabar
August 19, 2019