Saturday, June 18, 2005

Weekly Jackass Number Twenty-Seven: Howard Zinn

This week, Senator Dick was such - ahem, excuse me - Senator Dick Durbin was such an obvious choice that I really had to pass him by; what could I say that hasn't already been said, and said well, about this cretinous excuse of a public servant? Besides, he is already the Judge Elihu Smails Buffoon of the Week, and has issued a classic Leftist non-apology claiming his intentions were misunderstood by the uneducated idiots like ourselves who just can't understand historical analogies.

Historical analogies remain the topic de jour, though, as we instead honor a perennial also-ran, always a bridesmaid, never a bride - until today - Howard Zinn. Zinn is made from the same mold as former Jackass Noam Chomsky, a type we have come to know all too well - the 'I really love America, much more than you, so much more that in fact I will spend the rest of my life opposing its policies and slandering its memory, that's how much I love it' progressive.

Zinn is best known for his People's History of the United States, a 'revisionist' history of America that focuses, naturally, on all our numerous crimes against humanity. Indeed, 'revisionism' is no more than a code word for propaganda; when one hears a work described in such a way, you can be sure that it was written not as a history, but as a polemic. The authors of the majestic Denying History: Who Says the Holocaust Never Happened, And Why Do They Say It?, Michael Shermer and Alex Grobman, point out that all historians are revisionists, and see no need to call themselves such; it is the nature of scholarly work to expand upon, and sometimes contradict, those who preceded you.

No, the revisionist is not interested in history, but in winning converts, and Zinn is no exception. His most recent written atrocity thrust upon an unsuspecting world is a case in point. The Power and the Glory: The Myths of American Exceptionalism, from the Boston Review, should be required reading for all who are interested in how much the academic Left continues to be dominated by the Marxist worldview.

Indeed, in his very first sentence, Zinn provides a case study in the tactics of the propagandist:
The notion of American exceptionalism - that the United States alone has the right, whether by divine sanction or moral obligation, to bring civilization, or democracy, or liberty to the rest of the world, by violence if necessary - is not new.
Notice that Zinn has provided a definition of American exceptionalism that makes failure to disprove it impossible. That's not the definition of American exceptionalism, though, and of course Zinn knows it. A more proper definition that conforms to what is usually meant would be: the notion that America, uniquely among the major nations of the world, was founded upon principles of freedom and equality as enshrined forever in the majestic phrasing of Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self-evident:..." As such, America as a political entity carries the burden of judging its actions by a strict moral standard, and sometimes fails to meet the exacting standard (as the current brouhaha over treatment of prisoners in the War on Terror would indicate). Far more often, though, America serves as a beacon to the poor, disenfranchised, and dispossessed of the world.

You won't hear about that America from Zinn, however; let's continue:

The idea of [America as] a city on a hill is heartwarming. It suggests what George Bush has spoken of: that the United States is a beacon of liberty and democracy. People can look to us and learn from and emulate us.

In reality, we have never been just a city on a hill.
Note that Zinn has now totally denied that the conventional view of America even exists; strange how all these immigrants ended up here, then, no?

Zinn then presents a picture of America as a horde of rampaging Huns, before moving on to the next strawman: the religious zealot.
Divine ordination is a very dangerous idea, especially when combined with military power (the United States has 10,000 nuclear weapons, with military bases in a hundred different countries and warships on every sea). With God's approval, you need no human standard of morality. Anyone today who claims the support of God might be embarrassed to recall that the Nazi storm troopers had inscribed on their belts, "Gott mit uns" ("God with us").
Beatifully done: a totally irrelevant reference to our nuclear stockpile and a Nazi comparison in the same paragraph! Chomsky must be consumed with jealousy.
The existence of the Soviet Union, even with its acquisition of nuclear weapons, did not block this expansion [i.e., the alleged imperialism of the U.S.]. In fact, the exaggerated threat of "world communism" gave the United States a powerful justification for expanding all over the globe, and soon it had military bases in a hundred countries.
Again, a 10.0 for sheer chutzpah; you would think from Zinn's description that it was the U.S., not the Soviets, bent on global domination, and that we were responsible for the Iron Curtain that oppressed millions.
After the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, terrorism replaced communism as the justification for expansion. Terrorism was real, but its threat was magnified to the point of hysteria, permitting excessive military action abroad and the curtailment of civil liberties at home.
Yes, it's all about imperialism, never mind that pesky 9/11 that Zinn doesn't even deign to mention. Wait, I spoke too soon; here's Zinn on 9/11:
The terrible attacks of September 11 gave a new impetus to the idea that the United States was uniquely responsible for the security of the world, defending us all against terrorism as it once did against communism. President George W. Bush carried the idea of American exceptionalism to its limits by putting forth in his national-security strategy the principles of unilateral war.
Unilateral war? What were the 9/11 attacks? A peace gesture? No, Howard, this is sophistry of the worst sort; war was brought to us, we didn't impose it on others.
We might note that the Bush doctrine also violates the principles laid out at Nuremberg, when Nazi leaders were convicted and hanged for aggressive war, preventive war, far from self-defense.
There it is, stark and bold: the clearest parallel between Bush and Hitler I have ever seen, and drawn in such a way that it cannot be mistaken. The undeniable assertion is that Bush should be hanged as a war criminal.

Zinn goes even further, though, and clearly implies that the same fate should await every American president:

Bush's national-security strategy and its bold statement that the United States is uniquely responsible for peace and democracy in the world has been shocking to many Americans.

But it is not really a dramatic departure from the historical practice of the United States...
Now, there are those who say words do not matter; I am not one of them. They matter more than almost anything; and Zinn has clearly slandered the memory of every American who has ever fought for his or her nation; to deny it is to assert that Zinn is merely clattering away at the keyboard, oblivious to the larger message he is conveying.

There is no need to continue, it cannot be more plain; I challenge any sober thinker to present an interpretation of Zinn's statement that differs from the one I have offered here. Howard Zinn is clearly in a class far beyond that of Dick Durbin; only the Great Noam could be this contemptous of his own nation. A Jackass, not just for this week, but for all seasons: that's Howard Zinn.

UPDATE 12:42 p.m. central: After posting this, I noticed, via a link from the great Tim Blair, that Zinn's latest has been noticed elsewhere...and thanks to the aforementioned Mr. Blair for the link, as well as the generous Betsy Newmark...

UPDATE 2 06/19/05 10:07 a.m. central: A great big thank you to Arthur Chrenkoff for the link, also...

UPDATE 3 06/19/05 11:07 p.m. central: Many thanks to Jon Henke for the link, as well...

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