Ph.D. Octopus

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

Zinn redux

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I admit feeling quite sad about Howard Zinn. Its not, as David says, that he’s a great historian. There are hundreds of better ones. But A People’s History was the first non-textbook history book I ever read. If much of the history in it was one-sided, or more likely simplistic, it taught me the valuable lesson that history is political, and how we understand it matters.

I think its best not to think of Zinn as a historian, or at least not as we think of history, but as a propagandist. I don’t mean that as an insult at all. It can be quite noble to be a propagandist. Lord knows the other side has plenty of them. Ultimately, most people can’t have the time to do the type of parsing and complex research we do. And when it comes down to it, it hardly matters whether most people have a perfect understanding of the Homestead Strike. But if they take away the message that you can’t trust economic elites, I’d say job well done.

More importantly, nothing can be as bad as the rightwing version

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Written by Peter Wirzbicki

January 29, 2010 at 04:26

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