Ph.D. Octopus

Politics, media, music, capitalism, scholarship, and ephemera since 2010

Howard Zinn R.I.P.

with one comment

So I suppose I should say something about the State of the Union, but since we’re historians here, I’ll mourn the passing of another historian, Howard Zinn. I was never crazy about Zinn, always thought he too conspiratorial, too anti-American and and anti-Israeli, too simplistic in his historical analyses overall. But I remember seeing him speak several years ago, and I felt that he at least had a decent sense of humour. I sort of thought of him as Noam Chomsky lite, but really light might have been the better sense of the word. He seemed more light hearted, less negative than the old linguist who he was frequently paired with. I think Christopher Hitchens once referred to the Chomsky-Zinn-Finkelstein axis (referring to Norman Finkelstein), three Jews who liked to stir trouble. Of those three, Zinn’s the one I would have wanted to get a beer with. I know that’s the Dubya test of likeability, but maybe it means something. I recognize that the voice of dissent needs to be shrill to be heard, but Zinn’s shrill voice always sounded a little more pleasant than the rest. Rest in Peace old man. Oleh V’Shalom.


Written by David Weinfeld

January 29, 2010 at 02:23

One Response

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  1. I don’t think there’s really anything even close to ‘objective history,’ and along that line of thought, I mean, story’s right on in the word. I do believe reading Zinn spoke more to American History than anything I read certainly up to high school. I do think he played a vital role in bluntly exposing the very nature of human history, and I also think Zinn played a vital role by providing a narrative that’s all too often ignored…I guess I’d rather see the scales tipped more to the way Zinn tipped them than the way they are tipped at least 9 out of 10 times (maybe not in academia, but without a doubt the media’s and the general public’s perspective on history). I could list all the bullshit we’re taught and all the bullshit National Myths that have been woven into peoples’ psychologies. I guess maybe in a very roundabout way I’m getting to my point which is that Zinn adds an emotional intelligence (empathy?) to the human constructed narrative that is history.


    February 2, 2010 at 09:46

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