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From the Pen of David Horowitz: December 10, 2009

Posted on December 10 2009 4:39 am
David Swindle is the Managing Editor of NewsReal Blog and the Associate Editor of FrontPage Magazine. Follow him on Twitter here
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The scope of this cult is indicated by the proliferation of lesser Chomskys who feed the hungers of movement activists for anti-American litanies and rationales. Most prominent among these is Chomsky’s intellectual twin, the popular historian Howard Zinn. Like Chomsky, Zinn has produced a corpus of work that is a cartoon version of American history in which the nation is pilloried as an evil empire. Zinn has even published a Chomsky-like tract of table talk on 9/11, blaming America and its alleged crimes in the Third World for the terrorist attack and characterizing the victim as a terrorist state.

Less bitter than Chomsky, Zinn is an equally rambling and unimpressive speaker, and a pedestrian writer who has attained an intellectual celebrity few of his intellectual betters can match. His signature book, A People’s History of the United States is a raggedly conceived Marxist caricature that begins with Columbus and ends with George Bush. It has sold over a million copies, greatly exceeding that of any comparable history text. Like Chomsky’s rants, Zinn’s book has been embedded by leftist academics in the collegiate and secondary schools curricula. The New York Times Sunday Book Review gave it this imprimatur: “Historians may well view it as a step toward a coherent new version of American history.” The reviewer was Eric Foner.

Like Chomsky, Zinn’s readership extends far into the popular culture as well. He was invoked as a “genius” by the lead character in the Academy Award winning film Good Will Hunting (the film’s co-writer and star Matt Damon grew up as a Zinn neighbor and enthusiast) and is an intellectual “guru” to movie and music celebrities. Both Chomsky and Zinn have been heavily promoted to rock music audiences by mega-bands Rage Against the Machine and Pearl Jam even while they are also icons of intellectual journals like The Boston Review of Books, which is edited by an MIT professor and Chomsky disciple.

The political agenda of A People’s History of the United States is already announced in its historical method. In an explanatory coda to his book Zinn explains to the reader that he has no interest in striving for objectivity, and that his intention is to view American history as a conspiracy of rich white men to oppress and exploit “the people.” The so-called “people” are naturally Indians and other minorities, especially blacks (“There is not a country in world history in which racism has been more important, for so long a time, as the United States”), women and the industrial proletariat.

Zinn begins his narrative not with the settling of North America, or the creation of the United States as one might expect, but with a long chapter on Columbus’s “genocide” against the native inhabitants, an event – which even if it had happened as Zinn describes it – was an act committed by agents of the Spanish empire more than a century before the English settled North America and nearly three centuries before the creation of the United States, which is also geographically well-removed from the scene of the crime. It is Zinn’s unintended way of announcing the tendentiousness of his entire project, which is really not a “history” of the American people, but an indictment of white people and the capitalist system.

Unholy Alliance

Tomorrow’s From the Pen of David Horowitz will feature another quote critiquing Zinn as NewsReal prepares to critique “The People Speak” after it airs on Sunday on the History Channel.

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