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"the disgraceful Howard Zinn" Topic

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doc mcb09 Jan 2022 1:06 p.m. PST

I note that Zinn died in 2010 so this should fall outside the "current politics = last ten years" zone.


There is a good discussion of Zinn's treatment of Lincoln.

14Bore09 Jan 2022 1:31 p.m. PST

He did destroy history knowledge

doc mcb09 Jan 2022 1:46 p.m. PST

Zinn's treatment of Columbus was dishonest. If one looks at C's logs, and then at the passages Zinn extracted from them, you will see just how dishonest. In brief, C was interested in EVERYTHING, and particularly in the natives he encountered. Zinn essentially charges that C saw them immediately and only as slaves, but in fact C saw them first and most as potential converts to Christianity. He did call them good potential servants but Columbus himself was a servant to the king; one can interpret the statement as coming from evil or from benign intent. In effect, "these people can become part of our society."

doc mcb09 Jan 2022 1:49 p.m. PST

Numbers of the people of the island straightway collected together. Here follow the precise words of the Admiral: "As I saw that they were very friendly to us, and perceived that they could be much more easily converted to our holy faith by gentle means than by force, I presented them with some red caps, and strings of beads to wear upon the neck, and many other trifles of small value, wherewith they were much delighted, and became wonderfully attached to us. Afterwards they came swimming to the boats, bringing parrots, balls of cotton thread, javelins, and many other things which they exchanged for articles we gave them, such as glass beads, and hawk's bells; which trade was carried on with the utmost good will. But they seemed on the whole to me, to be a very poor people. They all go completely naked, even the women, though I saw but one girl. All whom I saw were young, not above thirty years of age, well made, with fine shapes and faces; their hair short, and coarse like that of a horse's tail, combed toward the forehead, except a small portion which they suffer to hang down behind, and never cut. Some paint themselves with black, which makes them appear like those of the Canaries, neither black nor white; others with white, others with red, and others with such colors as they can find. Some paint the face, and some the whole body; others only the eyes, and others the nose. Weapons they have none, nor are acquainted with them, for I showed them swords which they grasped by the blades, and cut themselves through ignorance. They have no iron, their javelins being without it, and nothing more than sticks, though some have fish-bones or other things at the ends. They are all of a good size and stature, and handsomely formed. I saw some with scars of wounds upon their bodies, and demanded by signs the of them; they answered me in the same way, that there came people from the other islands in the neighborhood who endeavored to make prisoners of them, and they defended themselves. I thought then, and still believe, that these were from the continent. It appears to me, that the people are ingenious, and would be good servants and I am of opinion that they would very readily become Christians, as they appear to have no religion. They very quickly learn such words as are spoken to them. If it please our Lord, I intend at my return to carry home six of them to your Highnesses, that they may learn our language. I saw no beasts in the island, nor any sort of animals except parrots." These are the words of the Admiral.

Col Durnford09 Jan 2022 2:09 p.m. PST

Zinn hated everything about this country with a passion.

BigfootLover09 Jan 2022 2:49 p.m. PST

"We were not born critical of existing society. There was a moment in our lives (or a month, or a year) when certain facts appeared before us, startled us, and then caused us to question beliefs that were strongly fixed in our consciousness embedded there by years of family prejudices, orthodox schooling, imbibing of newspapers, radio, and television. This would seem to lead to a simple conclusion: that we all have an enormous responsibility to bring to the attention of others information they do not have, which has the potential of causing them to rethink long-held ideas."

Personal logo Cardinal Ximenez Supporting Member of TMP09 Jan 2022 4:05 p.m. PST

A Communist who didn't have the courage to admit it even in the face of overwhelming evidence.

doc mcb09 Jan 2022 4:10 p.m. PST

Bigfoot, yes, and we all have the stage when we think our parents are idiots. In a healthy family we grow out of that.

When I was 17, my father was so stupid, I didn't want to be seen with him in public. When I was 24, I was amazed at how much the old man had learned in just 7 years.
Mark Twain

Zinn evidently never grew up.

Col Durnford09 Jan 2022 4:38 p.m. PST

+1 doc mcb

Gray Bear09 Jan 2022 5:16 p.m. PST

Thank you dc mcb for your posts and links.

Personal logo Narratio Supporting Member of TMP09 Jan 2022 6:27 p.m. PST

+1 doc mcb
You can rely upon Twain for common sense.

DJCoaltrain09 Jan 2022 7:42 p.m. PST

A few decades ago I slogged my way through "One Dimensional Man" by Herbert Marcuse. And, several other radical American writers. I read, then metabolized what each author had to say. My conclusion – none of them offered a practical path forward for all Americans. All these decades later I still haven't found a practical path forward for all Americans. I'll keep looking.

"We were not born critical of existing society."
We were not born adoring of existing society either. And, we don't truly become physically sentient until our early twenties. popcorn

doc mcb09 Jan 2022 7:49 p.m. PST

Feel free to argue the opposite, if you can. The OP cites quite a number of other scholars' criticisms, so is hardly one person's view. But let us hear YOUR view.

doc mcb09 Jan 2022 8:31 p.m. PST

The OP references this review on the World Socialist site. It has a number of good things to say about Zinn, before making some devastating criticisms.


35thOVI Supporting Member of TMP10 Jan 2022 5:29 a.m. PST

Can someone explain what is in all these deleted posts, that cause them to be deleted? I see deleted and don't get a chance to read them. I am sure they oppose each other.

I enjoy seeing the opposite view on subjects. It tells me, based on response, if they allowing themselves to restrict their news sources to only those from one side, or have opened themselves up to news from all sides, be it network, radio and web.

Or are these personal attacks on an individual on TMP?

I am new to this site. But it would be nice if note stating the reason the post was deleted we could all learn from would be educational.


doc mcb10 Jan 2022 5:44 a.m. PST

Clem and Biped are locked accounts, which means sock puppets.

Bob was snarky to me about what miniatures tro use to game this topic and I snarked him back. Not sure why either needed to be deleted, though. Both were sarcastic but not personal attacks.

Don't know about the last one.

35thOVI Supporting Member of TMP10 Jan 2022 6:08 a.m. PST

Thank you. I had seen 2 of them comment in other topics, and then deleted. Both individuals accounts show from overseas. Their sources of news, based on their statements, seem to be from only one side and sound like one source of news I am familiar with in the US. I won't mention a channel, but is that the only US source of news overseas, unless you pay for a streaming channel? Sad if true, as you will never understand the beliefs of the other side. I have been in Ireland twice, but did not watch TV. Too busy enjoying the Country, Pubs, Celtic Music and people.

Col Durnford10 Jan 2022 7:05 a.m. PST

I saw most of the deleted posts.

Seemed like a case of attack the messenger (source) if you can't contest the content.

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP10 Jan 2022 8:14 a.m. PST

Some opinion on Zinn… Just terrible as history. He raised issues and pointed out some historical facts, but did not give the whole story or puts things into context, just jumped to a one sided conclusion.

Zinn was not much of a communist, and was probably right when he said that Marx would neverhave supported the Soviets, Mao, Castro, etc. as they were brutal dictatorships. I always think that even Marx must have realized that Marxism did not work. His writings are a real slog, not a practical blueprint.

Zinn is kind of his own thing. He attacked American class structure based on personal wealth, but he never really explained the land of opportunity we have mostly been, IMO. I thought he was more like an anarchist than a communist. IMO Communist is someone who fakes being a Marxist, because it doesn't work for running a nation, instead uses Marxism to cover plain old dictatorship.

His only contribution may have been to get people to realize that there is more to our story than the sanitized stuff we got fed in school in the old days. Like the best selling Mark Levin, his negative vision of America was definitely not objective. The whole picture is missing, his is a cherry picked narrative to fit his ideas, IMO.

Zinn is history like Levin is history. Two writers I read and will never read again. They are entitled to say what they think under the First Amendment and have exerted much influence on people. Part of living in a free society is listening to opposing points of view …. and sometimes holding your nose when you don't agree.

doc mcb10 Jan 2022 9:20 a.m. PST

Tort, have you read the review on the World Socialist site? It makes many of the same points.

I expect we'd be paying more attention to women and minorities than 50 years ago, with or without Zinn.

Shagnasty Supporting Member of TMP10 Jan 2022 10:20 a.m. PST

Glad to have my negative opinions of Zinn supported.

BBT202010 Jan 2022 1:33 p.m. PST

I find this defaming of a WW II veteran repugnant.

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP10 Jan 2022 5:54 p.m. PST

Understood BB. Zinn was a combat veteran in the AAF and deserves respect for that. I gave my personal opinion of of him purely as an historian.

Repiqueone10 Jan 2022 7:44 p.m. PST

He was a bombadier in the AF in Europe. 42-45. He also was heavily involved in the civil rights effort in the early days. He wrote novels, plays, and many essays that were well received, even when not totally agreed with by the reviewer. He was one of a kind.

He also had immense impact on how history is used by the majority, as at that time, it was too often a crude propaganda tool for nationalistic purposes. His "revisionist" history provoked a lot of thought about our purposes as a nation. It had some inaccuracies, but less than, say, our cowboy and Indian recitation of the Native American Genocide, the lie of the Lost Cause, the complete fabrication of the Christian Nation myth, or the portrayal of the terrorist night riders as redeemers of the South during the Carpetbagger period. You Twain buff's should look up MT's writing on the Philippines subjugation. As damning as anything Zinn wrote.

Anyone attempting to drag us back to the hagiographic BS of the 19th and early 20th century American History will have to burn a lot of books that put the lie to their effort. I find that a common theme in all these recent threads is the need for a real positive history of America, which Doc is happy to remind you is now for sale on line. He'll have to sell a lot of copies to catch Zinn.🥸

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP10 Jan 2022 8:11 p.m. PST

Rep, I think I echoed a bit of what you said regarding provoking a lot of thought re history. And a great point about Twain writing about one of our less than shining periods. But Zinn needed to give more context to make his points credible. He came across as too extreme, even when he was right.

BigfootLover10 Jan 2022 9:10 p.m. PST


35thOVI Supporting Member of TMP11 Jan 2022 5:52 a.m. PST

1) how did Howard Zinn treat veterans of Vietnam who backed the war? Afghanistan, Iraq? To be due respect, one must respect those who also served, in my humble opinion.
2) It sounds like, from reading on the web, he was disgusted by his own participation in WW2 and sent his medals back after the war. So he himself did not respect what he did.
3) looks like his final worth was at least 16 million dollars. He had risen high in academia. So for as bad as he seemed to believe things are here, he did well. Could he have done the same in the countries his parents originally came from?
4) His Father was Jewish from Austria/Hungary, so if he had stayed and Zinn born there, I dare say life would have ended in a concentration camp in WW2.
5) I was unfamiliar with this man until this, but from what I read, I would not have wanted to know him. If he felt the same about me, then we both would have remained happy.

Repiqueone11 Jan 2022 6:30 a.m. PST

Tortorella, I really don't know what you mean by context in terms of his writing. He certainly took an axe to the "context" of his day which was bathed in bad history and a refusal to even address issues concerning women, minorities, and labor rights. In the late 40s and early 50s some of the establishment history was being enlisted in the Cold War against "Godless Communism" and various campaigns to seek out enemies of the U.S. His purpose was to expose the contradictions, hypocrisies, and harmfulness of that bad history with a strong corrective. His success in that regard is obvious. So much so, that a counter-attack against its impact is the stated purpose of some new, often right wing, histories and the recent assault on high school and college teachers and curricula.

His being labeled "too extreme" is part of this reaction by the right to the effectiveness of his writings in presenting the entire story, and the often ignored or suppressed aspects of our "narrative." It was all the more effective when the facts were undeniable.

Repiqueone11 Jan 2022 6:56 a.m. PST

1) how did Howard Zinn treat veterans of Vietnam who backed the war? Afghanistan, Iraq? To be due respect, one must respect those who also served, in my humble opinion.

I know of no instance where he mistreated a veteran of Viet Nam, but he was certainly strongly against the war and its policies, which many people, including those who served, came to see were not defensible.

2) It sounds like, from reading on the web, he was disgusted by his own participation in WW2 and sent his medals back after the war. So he himself did not respect what he did.

He was disgusted by the policy of fire and carpet bombing, and it's continued use when the war was decided and essentially over. Dresden is the most obvious case. Most modern examinations of that strategy and its implementation share his criticisms. He was a man of conviction and followed through by actions such as the return of the medals.

3) looks like his final worth was at least 16 million dollars. He had risen high in academia. So for as bad as he seemed to believe things are here, he did well. Could he have done the same in the countries his parents originally came from?

That 35th, is not relevant and is a misstatement of his critiques. He was trying as a citizen should, to change the actions of a government that he felt were wrong. He didn't believe America was bad, but that it had followed policies that were harmful to its own standards. He also believed that the whole truth had not been told about why those policies were pursued.

4) His Father was Jewish from Austria/Hungary, so if he had stayed and Zinn born there, I dare say life would have ended in a concentration camp in WW2.

Just because you have a disagreement with your government about certain actions, does not mean you agree with the enemy, or see the nation as bad. In fact, it is only because you believe in the good in the American system that you critique it to achieve change. You have to believe it can change.

5) I was unfamiliar with this man until this, but from what I read, I would not have wanted to know him. If he felt the same about me, then we both would have remained happy.

There is no reply to that, though Zinn was always attempting to reach out to more people, and was known to encourage heated discussions in his classes. He was described as a great teacher by his students.

35thOVI Supporting Member of TMP11 Jan 2022 8:19 a.m. PST

As far as 1) neither of us do, one way or the other. But having grown up through Vietnam ( I graduated as the war finally closed out) and saw how the anti war College Professors and students treated the returning vets, my belief(and this mine only), is based on the averages, he would not have respected them.

As far as 2). Who makes the decision as to when a war is almost over? Who really knows that answer? For all we knew, Hitler might have been on the verge of a super weapon, to be released any day. He wasn't, thank God, but he might have been. Would the Japanese have surrendered without the Atomic bombs? My belief and many of the veterans I know who fought them on the islands did and do not believe they would have. My father would have been sucked into that invasion, as would have my Uncles who had fought in both theaters. How many more Japanese civilians would have died in a prolonged continuation of that conflict? Yes civilian deaths are sad, but all wars cause civilians to die, in all wars, all countries and in all times. We just now have more ability due to modern weapons to do so then ever before. In my belief, we in our most recent wars have gone out of our ways to minimize civilian casualties, even to the death of our own soldiers.

3) is I believe relevant, only because of the espoused beliefs of the man. To my understanding he was a Socialist, although I have read a Marxist Socialist and even a Communist in some reading. To me it always seems to me that they practice the philosophy of: What is mine, is mine and what is yours is negotiable. Why not take all that money, while alive and give it all away? Rebuild those homes you carpet bombed in Europe. Pay it out in reparations to the great grandchildren of the slaves. Give your land to those exploited Native Americans you claim it was taken from. Otherwise it is all talk.It's easy to take the money and property of others to fulfill your social agenda, but another to take one's own.

4) From what I have read in the last 2 days on the web of his writings, he was not really thrilled with the US. Every nation on earth and every people on earth, are guilty of the same cruelties he accused the US of. We are not perfect. We will never be perfect. We have done good and bad, as has everyone else in the world, (many much more so). I don't feel guilty nor do I feel a responsibility for it.

lloydthegamer Supporting Member of TMP11 Jan 2022 8:32 a.m. PST

Thank you Repiqueone for writing what I have been thinking since this was first posted. I find it amazing that people are piling on Zinn for being a rotten historian and not a word written about Deleted by Moderator

Repiqueone11 Jan 2022 8:46 a.m. PST

35th, There really is no reply to your first three points, other than your knowledge of Zinn seems to be from what other people wrote about him rather than what he wrote and professed. It also seems to be divorced from the times he lived in. It is easy enough to find exaggerated statements on the web, especially on some sites.

As for point number 4, we are not perfect, but in out founding documents, and the public protestation of our country's mission in history, we have set ourselves a higher standard than many other nations. We should strive to meet those standards and call out any failure to do so lest we be seen as hypocrites.

It's not guilt that is needed for good men to see and pursue the right thing for our nation, but a dedication to our stated goals,and part of that is an openness to admitting where we have failed, and increase our committment to honor those goals and, yes, a responsibility to correct our errors when we can. If you are a citizen, you do have a responsibility to do just that.

Repiqueone11 Jan 2022 8:58 a.m. PST

Ps-Books on Dresden and the bombing issue are plentiful and debates are easily found. So, yes, we can know who ordered it. The rules of war and the morality of actions in war have to be discussed. It is a core ingredient in certain nation's selection of strategies and tactics, and basis for military men to apply morality and religious beliefs to their decisions and feel some shred of humanity in the midst of chaos and death.

35thOVI Supporting Member of TMP11 Jan 2022 9:28 a.m. PST

Does it not seem like all that guilt and remorse is written only in relation to one country? If we were truly that horrible, millions would not be coming here legally and millions more illegally.

When I see millions of our citizens fleeing to some other Country, then I will believe the opposite.

I have written my thoughts and you yours. Let others determine how they feel and which side they fall in on.

doc mcb11 Jan 2022 10:02 a.m. PST

Bravo, 35th! Bravo!

I think it is very reasonable to question the morality of the Dresden bombing. I think Paul Johnson is correct in MODERN TIMES that FDR and Churchill, good men, fell prey to the temptation of the "Jupiter Syndrome", gods on the mountain top hurling thunderbolts to destroy cities. It is also good to note that democracies are notoriously sensitive about their OWN casualties while being relatively INsensitive to the enemies; hence the transition away from "bottleneck" bombing strategy after Schweinfurt, into night-time or high-altitude raids that were safer for the bombers but could only hit mass targets.

I DO think Hiroshima was necessary and saved millions of lives, mostly Japanese.

As to the native American "genocide" -- no. But if you really feel that way you should return your share of the country to the nearest tribe; they can build another casino on it.

Repiqueone11 Jan 2022 10:37 a.m. PST

To my knowledge, Doc, American citizenship comes with no guarantee of land ownership, but merely demands participation in the democratic experiment and certain inalienable rights.

Quite obviously,35, many other countries have confronted their guilt about certain historical acts. South Africa, Germany after WWII, Japan in Korea, Belgium in the Congo, it has not been just the US. In fact, the US has been notoriously slow with any real reflection on some policies and actions as we see with many belated official statements about the Cherokee, to slavery, to Japanese internment, or the McCarthy witch-hunts.

Again, this isn't a love it or leave it proposition, but a love it enough to demand it meet its own words honestly.

Deleted by Moderator

Repiqueone11 Jan 2022 11:09 a.m. PST

One more thought, 35. I don't think Zinn fits a neat box on his politics. He is probably closest to socialism, but so are most of our Allies in the Western World. I'm sure you know that they are not communists. In fact, if you lumped the remaining old line communists in with, let's say all of Antifa, you might fill the end zone seats at a Jets game.

BTW I don't know where you got the idea that socialism involved a vow of poverty. I suppose the owners of Volvo are allowed a profit.

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian11 Jan 2022 11:35 a.m. PST

Can someone explain what is in all these deleted posts, that cause them to be deleted? I see deleted and don't get a chance to read them. I am sure they oppose each other.

Unfortunately, several banned members are in the habit of creating 'sock puppet' accounts so they can return to TMP to harass doc mcb. These accounts are locked when detected, and the posts removed.

doc mcb11 Jan 2022 12:23 p.m. PST

Bob, I started the new thread about DeToqueville and the natives with you in mind. What occurred was horrible but inevitable. Or can you demonstrate otherwise?

35thOVI Supporting Member of TMP11 Jan 2022 1:14 p.m. PST

I think you misunderstood my statement. I am saying the attacks seem to always aim at the United States, as if no other Country has the same "sins". How many times do we need to apologize for slavery? Were we alone responsible for it? Did it not exist on this continent under the British, Spanish, Iroquois, Maya, Aztec… etc.? Was slavery not practiced in Africa? How about the Middle East? What about the Chinese current treatment of the Uyghurs? To my understanding they are being treated no better. Most of my ancestors were Celts, I have yet to receive reparations from the current ancestors of the Romans. Nor honestly would I expect either an apology or reparations. You live with it and move on.

Did we wrong the Indians? Sure. Did the Indians wrong other Indians? Of course. Ask the Erie how they felt about the Iroquois? Those conquered and sacrificed by the Aztec, how they felt. The Crow and Arikara how they felt about the Sioux.

I did not refer to them as native Americans on purpose. They are no more or less native than I am, unless history is incorrect. They just happened to migrate here before we did. I was born here, they were born here.

Like the Celts, they had the misfortune to be defeated. It is sad, but as we know all over the world, part of history.

My point is, I feel no guilt for either issue. I had relatives who both fought and died for the Union. I my have had some I don't know who fought for the Confederacy. I had a relative killed by the Indians of "The Prophet" in Indiana. If others feel the need for guilt, by all means feel so. That is your choice.

35thOVI Supporting Member of TMP11 Jan 2022 1:34 p.m. PST

Yes I am aware most of our Allies have swung to forms of socialism, sadly.

Yes poverty is not the prerequisite for Socialism, but you understand the dichotomy of calling for the redistribution of wealth and having 16 million dollars in assets?

Deleted by Moderator

But I am now digressing.

doc mcb11 Jan 2022 2:32 p.m. PST

35th, and all: see Migrations And Cultures: A World View Paperback February 21, 1997
by Thomas Sowell (Author)

America is by no means unique in this. Sowell's analysis is masterful.

And yes, vicarious guilt is easy and worthless.

35thOVI Supporting Member of TMP11 Jan 2022 2:34 p.m. PST


Blutarski11 Jan 2022 6:22 p.m. PST

Zinn was not a "rotten historian"; he was an historian with an openly socialist agenda. As an interesting experiment, investigate how extraordinarily widely his "Peoples' History of the United States" is distributed among America's public secondary schools (and for how many years). Zinn, broadly speaking, arguably represents the voice of American history for the recent generations of high school students in this country.

Interestingly enough, Zinn (Boston University) and Noam Chomsky (MIT) worked more or less right across the Charles River from one another during most of their respective, comfortably tenured ivory tower careers.

Terribly few people today understand or appreciate the real stories of the experiences of their immigrant forebears in this country. Too many assume that America = an easy, absolutely guaranteed path to comfort, wealth, lifelong health, happiness and retirement with no contributions required from the beneficiaries thereof.

That is not what America ever offered to anyone. What it used to offer, in better days, was an opportunity to make a life for oneself and family, earn a living to the extent one was willing/able and keep the fruits of one's labors under a code of laws and inalienable rights that applied equally to each and every citizen.

As I said, that was in our better days. Too many people nowadays seem to prefer a status equivalent to that of livestock.


doc mcb11 Jan 2022 6:37 p.m. PST

Blut, I assume you've read THE UPROOTED?

The Uprooted: The Epic Story of the Great Migrations That Made the American People Paperback February 20, 2002
by Oscar Handlin (Author)

First published in the 60s, iirc. Used to be part of the standard reading list, may still be.

Blutarski11 Jan 2022 8:06 p.m. PST

Hi doc,
I confess that I have not read this book (nor ever actually knew of it before your post). However, as the grandson of immigrants from Greece and Asia Minor who made their way to this country during the decade of WW1, I know my family's history very well indeed it reads like a Dickens novel.

Happy to fill you in if you are interested.


Murvihill12 Jan 2022 10:02 a.m. PST

So Zinn's solution to his perception that American History was right-wing was to write a left-wing history?

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP12 Jan 2022 10:51 a.m. PST

Yes, this is kind of my point. And in this case , I used context to mean a broader, inclusive look at different viewpoints.

Murvihill13 Jan 2022 6:14 a.m. PST

Historians should pursue objectivity. Any slant, regardless of intent will echo through centuries as people read the old books. Just look at Siborne's Anglocentric work on Waterloo. Even blatant lies like Holocaust denial gain unwarranted attention.
The study of history is an objective search for the Truth. Any other pursuit (like raising awareness) is misguided.

Tortorella Supporting Member of TMP13 Jan 2022 6:58 a.m. PST

I mostly agree with this, although the ways and reasons history becomes distorted are also history. The rise and fall of the Lost Cause narrative is a story in its own right, as is Siborne's work.

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