Saturday, March 28, 2009

Howard Zinn: Liar

Ok, I Don't Really Believe This Title.
Just Using it for Dramatic Effect.


Here at American Creation, we've been debating ad nauseum the "scholarly" works of Christian Nation Apologist David Barton. In her most recent post, fellow blogger Lindsey Shuman used the excellent work of author Chris Rodda to debunk many of Barton's claims. In addition, Ms. Shuman capitalized on these allegations by labeling David Barton as an outright liar, and many of our contributors/readers have agreed. And while there is no doubt that Barton has clearly "twisted" the historical record to fit his own agenda, some of us (who are NOT Barton apologists by the way) have been reluctant to jump on the "Liar, liar, pants on fire" bandwagon. In addition, a number of David Barton and Christian Nation apologists have come out of the woodworks to defend the man against the onslaught of attacks that I am sure Barton has learned to live with.

In light of this recent topic here at our fair little blog, I thought it would be fun to apply these same standards to the other side of the extremist revisionist coin and see what happens.

Historian and author John Fea of Messiah College has written an excellent post on his blog that deals with Howard Zinn, one of the secular left's biggest extremist. Dr. Fea writes:

In this course we have been reading some of the writings of those who defend the notion that America was founded as a "Christian nation," including the works by David Barton and Marshall and Manuel. (We have also read Mason Locke Weems's Life of Washington--a 19th century work of Christian nationalism). I have tried to make the argument that these writers are really more political activists or theologians than they are historians. Yet, their writings often pass as history to thousands of conservative Christians and are used as history textbooks in Christian schools and among Christian homeschoolers.

[...]

A few weeks ago one of my students asked me privately if there are writers on the left who are comparable to these Christian nationalist writers. Howard Zinn immediately came to mind. I am always amazed at the popularity of Zinn's "A People's History of the United States." Several years ago I decided to lurk on an internet forum for Advanced Placement U.S. History teachers and found that Zinn is used by many of them as the primary textbook in their classes. Last month I was talking to a group of history majors at a big university and they all wanted to know "what I thought of Howard Zinn." Many of my more lefty students at Messiah College read Zinn--his books work well with the kind of social-justice Anabaptism one finds at such an institution...

Zinn writes well and is quite inspiring, but his book is bad history. In fact, I would not even call it history. A People's History of the United States is a political tract that uses the past to promote a presentist agenda. It is basically, to paraphrase the words of Bernard Bailyn, political indoctrination by historical example. Now I have no problem if Zinn wants to use the past to advance his leftist agenda. In fact, there is a lot I can agree with in Zinn's criticisms of his country. But please don't call this history and pass it off to students as a model of how to write history. Zinn's book violates virtually every rule of good historical thinking [my emphasis].

Personally, I couldn't agree more with Dr. Fea's summation of the "historical" works of Howard Zinn. In his best selling book, A People's History of the United States, Zinn attempts to portray American history (and for our purposes the founding era) as a masterful attempt by the founding fathers to dupe the former British American colonists into accepting a new kind of crowd control that was obscured by the clever camouflage of "liberty" and "independence." Zinn writes:

"They [the founders] created the most effective system of national control devised in modern times, and showed future generations of leaders the advantages of combining paternalism with command" (59).
Such a portrayal of deceit and cunning on the part of the founders is every bit as appealing to the hard-core secular leftist, who is always looking for examples of national treachery, as Barton's work is to the Christian conservative, who is in constant need of reassurance that America is indeed "Jesusland."

And make no mistake about it, Zinn most certainly is in the business of rewriting history. As he stated at a 2004 town meeting of the Organization of American Historians (which met to honor Zinn's work interestingly enough):

"The mountain of history books under which we all stand leans so heavily in the other direction--so tremblingly respectful of states and statesmen and so disrespectful, by inattention, to people's movements--that we need some counterforce to avoid being crushed into submission."
If that doesn't reek of historical revisionism than what does?

I guess my point is this: political, religious, secular activists on the fringe of either side are rarely if ever credible sources. They clearly use (and manipulate) history to gain notoriety for their respective causes. And while I was happy to see the thorough debunking of David Barton in the post below, I would hate for us to adopt a de-facto policy of only exposing and debunking Barton and his fellow right-wing "shock-jock" artists. It would be hypocritical to denounce the Christian Nationalists while giving the secular revisionists a free pass. And make no mistake, they are every bit as cunning and inaccurate.

So, to all those who proclaim David Barton as a liar (I will agree that his history is complete crap but that I am unwilling to call the man a liar) I now call on you to do the same for Zinn. After all, it seems that this standard MUST be applied across the board. Any takers???

To read a very thorough debunking of Zinn's People's History click here.

68 comments:

Kristo Miettinen said...

Hi Brad!

Very funny that you should pick Zinn for the counterpoint. Just as I have learned alot from Barton that has opened my eyes to how defective my previous education had been, so also 20+ years ago I learned alot from Zinn that I had not previously known or suspected.

I would never hold Zinn up as the authority on American history, nor Barton on the founding, but to this day I still check Zinn from time to time to see what he had to say on some topic, just as I have learned to do for Barton.

Brad Hart said...

Hey Kristo!

Yes, I too enjoy "checking in" with Zinn, Barton and others to see what the "fringe" is saying about a particular issue. However, I also agree that niether is a legitimate source. I instead prefer historians like Marsden, Noll, Hatch, Wood, Appleby, Nash, Ellis, etc.

Lindsey Shuman said...

Well, I should have know that a post like this was coming. I am glad you chose Howard Zinn because his book is just terrible. I think most "left-wing secularists" (though I don't consider myself as such) will agree with you.

Where they won't agree is on the issue of lying. Barton clearly lied. Rodda caught in red-handed on several points. Where has Zinn been caught with his pants down? Now, his interpretation may be terrible, much in the way that D. James Kennedy's interpretation is terrible. But Kennedy and Zinn are not guilty of lying, they are guilty of being stupid. Barton, on the other hand, IS a flat-out, no doubt "liar, liar, pants on fire" as you put it.

Brad Hart said...

Lindsey:

I had a feeling that this rebuttal was coming. The reason I chose Zinn is because, like Barton, his INTERPRETATION of the historical record has been brought into question. Zinn also has been confronted by the historical community, which has informed him of his errors, but Zinn continues to stick by them. Isn't that EXACTLY THE SAME THING that everyone is bashing Barton for?

To me, it seems like the passionate "anti-Bartonians" are wanting to have their cake and eat it too. Now, I certainly don't begrudge them for attacking Barton on his research. If you are going to write books, have a television and radio series and a website devoted to defending your "Christian Nation" thesis then you better be prepared to handle the thunder that is sure to come. Like the old saying goes, "If you can't stand the heat get the hell out of the kitchen."

Yes, Zinn, Kennedy AND Barton (along with others we have yet to mention) have been exposed for their shoddy research. This is a clear fact that very few will dispute. But again, why are we labeling one a liar while the others get a pass for doing the same damn thing? It makes no sense to me...no sense at all!

Pinky said...

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The professor Jon Fea is quoted as saying, "A People's History of the United States is a political tract that uses the past to promote a presentist agenda".

Presentist, noun: a theologian who believes that the Scripture prophecies of the Apocalypse (as in the Book of Revelations) are being fulfilled at the present time.
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Brad Hart writes, "Personally, I couldn't agree more with Dr. Fea's summation of the "historical" works of Howard Zinn."
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???

John Fea said...

Pinky: Thank you for the comment on my original post. I would prefer this definition of presentism: "Presentism is a mode of historical analysis in which present-day ideas and perspectives are anachronistically introduced into depictions or interpretations of the past." Or, as David Hacket Fischer has noted, "…the fallacy of presentism is a common failing in historical writing by men who have never been trained in the discipline of history.” --*Historian's Fallacies*, p. 137.

Pinky said...

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Dr. Fea, I sincerely appreciate your response. Thank you.

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Brad Hart said...

Pinky writes:

Brad Hart writes, "Personally, I couldn't agree more with Dr. Fea's summation of the "historical" works of Howard Zinn."

???


Again, where is your confusion coming from? I do not understand what you are trying to say.

Pinky said...

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Dr. Fea answered my confusion.
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Thaniks.

Naum said...

I don't see any "debunking" in that HNN linked article… …lots of baseless allegations and namecalling, but nothing of real substance, other than Zinn's perspective and summation of various events.

Which are sanitized and washed over in nationalistic friendly/all about American allegiance texts.

Granted, Zinn's works are directed at those missing/undertold stories, and asks many more questions, not to condemn, but to present an "underdog" side, the "side" that actually represents 95% of the population throughout U.S. history…

Sorry, cannot equate Zinn (who's upfront with his biases and doesn't present them as "authoritative") with individuals that purposefully twist the truth and assert that what was not is what was.

Objectivity and neutrality are not mutually compatible. One can be "neutral" and still shade by what is included and what is excluded (or embellishing or exaggerating) and by adopting a proper narrative tone. One can be biased and still be objective…

Nowhere in this article and in the HNN cited article, did I see any evidence of what Zinn got wrong — just criticism of his tone and "editorial inserts"… …to, again, which he is clear and upfront about, announcing that such a bias is present in any historical telling…

Brad Hart said...

Naum:

This post was meant, more or mess, as a parity with an earlier post done on David Barton. I really could care less about specifics surrounding Zinn's work. The overwhelming majority within the historical community sees his work as "bad history." Having read most of his book, People's History I am in agreement with that general assessment. However, I have not gone through Zinn's work with a fine-toothed comb, nor does such an undertaking interest me. Again, I am simply trying to make a comparison between fringe "historians" on both sides of the isle. Zinn clearly has a skewed objective and so does Barton. I have no problem with that. The problem is that both of these gentlemen write lousy history, which many Americans, for whatever reason, accept as amazing, trailblazing history.

If people want to waste their time reading such nonsense then fine. It's not my time they're wasting. Just don't pass it off as groundbreaking history/research (not that you are guilty of such).

Pinky said...

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I hate to be making this comment; but, it is necessary--in my thinking.
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After a reasonable period of time spent in following the blogs and commentary threads at this site, a conclusion comes to the follower.
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There are some criticisms can be made.
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I am an admitted amateur and profess no expertise in the study of history. In fact, I do not study history to gain any expertise. I study it to learn how my fore bearers dealt with the exigencies of their life.

Howard Zinn, whatever else he may do, presents a side of the coin that some idealists would most certainly like to see left unsaid. Further, Zinn provides perspective that causes audiences on any side to search out deeper understandings of this or that item, event, or action.
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Brad Hart wrote, "If people want to waste their time reading such nonsense then fine. It's not my time they're wasting. Just don't pass it off as groundbreaking history/research (not that you are guilty of such).", Geez, Brad, as long as we have you, why would anyone ever want to learn anything anyone else might ever have to offer.
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If there weren't "historians" like Barton, perhaps we wouldn't have Harvard professors like Zinn?
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Why do we study history anyway if it's all just about some competitive effort by some academicians wouldn't it be better if we just put them in some box all by themselves.
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Give the Devil his due.
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I just saw an interesting program on C-Span2.
Check it out..
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Franklin claimed that the study and writing of history is of the utmost importance. To shut someone down, might not be the best idea.
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Maybe Barton does some good? What, pray tell, would that be?
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After all, why do we need common people around anyway?

Kristo Miettinen said...

OK, I can see that I'm wrong to not tackle the "David Barton sucks" theme head on. I'm answering here rather than on that thread because this seems to be where the action is today.

I just spent half an hour, with pen and paper, watching the first Rodda video three times to try to understand where the "lie" is.

After all, Barton is recalling events without the benefit of audio or video recordings (the fact that Rodda set up such an ambush, including giving a gift that she herself admits was sarcastic rather than sincere, is worse than anything that I heard from Barton in the radio snippet).

As I listened to Barton, I understood him to claim four specific things: that Rodda accuses him of making stuff up, and of rewriting history, and that he inspired her book, and that he had just finished a presentation where he showed documents.

Rodda's claim of a "lie"? That Barton used words like "beg" and "implore" when she really just thinks she said "I really hope", with both parties agreeing on what Rodda asked/implored (that he stop lying, stop making stuff up). And Barton's version of the story is longer, but differing only in what Barton did or did not say, not in anything that Rodda did or did not say.

Under the circumstances, Barton comes off much better than Rodda.

First, understand the setting on the radio show: this is Christian radio, with an audience that sees no sign of weakness in flowery language like "I beg you to X" or "I implore you to Y". Was Barton lying here? Technically yes, but it does Rodda no service to point it out, because Barton's lie is that he was portraying Rodda as courteous, whereas the video and general ambush flavor of the whole thing clearly shows she was not.

As for the part where Barton may or may not have said he was showing all this stuff? Clearly, he did show all this stuff, and Rodda knew it, so he need not have said many words to make his point at the time, but it may take many more words to convey that point to a radio audience that didn't just see the presentation. Besides, this could have been what Barton was thinking during the remainder of the song, en esprit d'escalier, and after three months it's not so clear what occured to him before Rodda left, as opposed to immediately afterwards.

As an accusation of "lying", this is lame. This blog deserves better. David Barton deserves better.

Brad Hart said...

Pinky writes:

Howard Zinn, whatever else he may do, presents a side of the coin that some idealists would most certainly like to see left unsaid. Further, Zinn provides perspective that causes audiences on any side to search out deeper understandings of this or that item, event, or action.
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Brad Hart wrote, "If people want to waste their time reading such nonsense then fine. It's not my time they're wasting. Just don't pass it off as groundbreaking history/research (not that you are guilty of such).", Geez, Brad, as long as we have you, why would anyone ever want to learn anything anyone else might ever have to offer.


Uh, isn't that EXACTLY what Barton is doing? Presenting another side? And I do believe YOU had a problem with that. So why aren't you attacking Zinn?

Pinky, you act as though I am THE ONLY PERSON IN HISTORY to consider Zinn a poor historical source. Equating me to being arrogant for calling Zinn’s work "nonsense" shows just how out of touch you are with history. I would argue that THE OVERWHELMING MAJORITY of historians believe as I do. In fact, I gained most of my distrust of Zinn from the historical community, which effectively pointed out his mistakes. I wish I could take credit, but I’m not the “trailblazer” on this matter…not even close.

So, for you to insinuate that I am somehow arrogant or "holier than thou" for calling Zinn's work "nonsense" is...well...laughable.

Thanks for the joke!

Pinky said...

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I don't know either Barton or Zinn on any personal level, Brad. And, I don't want to insult anyone--least of all any contributor to this blog site. I appreciate the work you do.
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I do know that Barton has purposely twisted information in his book on Freemasonry and the Founding Fathers. I referenced in a post that was made here recently. I think Chris Rodda shows the same in her videos.

Anyway, my point regarding you was more about how you seem to think every person should take "your word" for the claim you make that reading his books is a waste of time--not yours but theirs.
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I think that was a little much just like your comment about me being a joke. My point was clear enough.
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As far as the "...OVERWHELMING MAJORITY of historians..." are concerned, are you saying that they study history for their own purposes and don't care about the messages they send to the OVERWHELMING MAJORITY of citizens?
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Like him or not, Zinn has earned a very high place in academia. Are you his peer?
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Brad Hart said...

Hmmmm...well, I have no idea where you got those ideas, Pinky, but I could care less about continuing this pointless tangeant.

You were as clear as mud my friend...as clear as mud.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Mr. Hart explicitly answered that his distrust of Zinn's scholarship comes from historians, not his original research.

As for Zinn's status as a scholar, one must ask whether his "high place in academia" is for his scholarship or his radical method of engaging history. [And, of course, his conclusions.]

Zinn's scholarship was disputed by a leading Harvard historian, Oscar Handlin in 1980. This is the only fragment widely available on the internet:

"It simply is not true that “what Columbus did to the Arawaks of the Bahamas, Cortez did to the Aztecs of Mexico, Pizarro to the Incas of Peru, and the English settlers of Virginia and Massachusetts to the Powhatans and the Pequots.” It simply is not true that the farmers of the Chesapeake colonies in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries avidly desired the importation of black slaves, or that the gap between rich and poor widened in the eighteenth-century colonies. Zinn gulps down as literally true the proven hoax of Polly Baker and the improbable Plough Jogger, and he repeats uncritically the old charge that President Lincoln altered his views to suit his audience. The Geneva assembly of 1954 did not agree on elections in a unified Vietnam; that was simply the hope expressed by the British chairman when the parties concerned could not agree. The United States did not back Batista in 1959; it had ended aid to Cuba and washed its hands of him well before then. “Tet” was not evidence of the unpopularity of the Saigon government, but a resounding rejection of the northern invaders."

Quite a roster of errors. Yet Zinn's book is used in schools. Should we call him a liar yet?

And lies are not simply fabrications. I take Zinn at his word that his book is "buttressed by historical fact," although Handlin puts at a number of Zinn's "facts" into question.

But there can be lies of omission as well. Zinn on his method of scholarship:

Jon Stewart: What has been the reaction of other historians to your work?

Zinn: "Well … my book is a book with a particular point of view. I very clearly and bluntly state what my point of view is. I tell readers that this is not going to be objective. History cannot be objective. History is always a selection out of an infinite amount of material and the selection is according to what the historian thinks is important. And so I am going to write about what I think is important: the social struggles of people, the class structure in the United States, the racial problem, the problem of sexual equality, the problem of war. Those are the things that are going to guide me in writing this."

"History cannot be objective." Yet Zinn's book---apparently error-filled---is used in schools.

Is it accompanied by rebuttals like Handlin's? Doubtful.

This thread [and compliments to Mr. Hart for wryly posting it as a thought experiment] seems not to have attracted the vast audience of its Barton twin, and certainly little of its vitriol. This might be probative as to the roles of emotion and fact.

"History cannot be objective," says Zinn. Buyer beware.

Brad Hart said...

TVD:

This thread [and compliments to Mr. Hart for wryly posting it as a thought experiment] seems not to have attracted the vast audience of its Barton twin, and certainly little of its vitriol. This might be probative as to the roles of emotion and fact.

Yep...couldn't agree more. AMAZING how we can assault a Barton but give a Zinn a pardon.

Naum said...

… I gained most of my distrust of Zinn from the historical community, which effectively pointed out his mistakes. I wish I could take credit, but I’m not the “trailblazer” on this matter…not even close.

Please show me where Zinn is "mistaken"? I've read enough of the criticism of Barton to see how he embellishes and paints a picture other than what it is…

…which is in total contrast to Zinn exposing stories that were told or slanted in nationalistic light prior to his telling (or at least in popular knowledge)…

…the article(s) you cite show no such thing — they are riddled with name calling and baseless allegations showing Zinn guilty of nothing more than inserting editorial commentary (for which he openly acknowledges, as opposed to somebody in Barton's vein, who paint history in their own way).

Your article is titled "Zinn: Liar" but you fail to show what exactly Zinn lied about. I understand the parallels to Barton, but there I've seen a number of articles where quotes Barton has presented are outright false or as egregious disingenuously taken out of context.

Sorry, but Zinn striking against nationalistic allegiance and cowering submissively to "the powers" in a general vein is simply not equivalent to Barton (or any other historian who acts as such) spearheading a *specific* partisan issue agenda.

Again, what did Zinn *lie* about? How has he *manipulated* history for his cause? Other than bringing to light what has hitherto been shoved underneath, out of sight.

The chapters of PHotUS are taken right from the actors themselves — indeed the opening chapter cites Columbus own log and Las Casas History of the Indies. Is that inferior to a high school textbook coverage that glosses over such affairs and harkens back to an age where Columbus is venerated as a hero?

Please. When such an analogy is made, there is no credibility, whatsoever.

We all have biases. We pick and choose what we see. At least some of us (like Zinn) are open and honest about it, while others continue to propagate a charade that all history is told from objective NPOV, with no consideration of the cultural context the historian is framed in.

Pinky said...

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To be perfectly clear.
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I never have given Zinn a pardon.
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I simply stated that his work is of value.
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And, I made some reference to academic conceit.
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But, what do I know being just an amateur--a consumer of what historians produce.
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Are there those who are worthy enought to censor what I read and hear?
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My purpose here is not to teach; but, to learn.
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Would David Barton be one of those censors?
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Naum said...

Zinn's scholarship was disputed by a leading Harvard historian, Oscar Handlin in 1980.

A supporter of the Vietnam war and a President Nixon devotee takes issue with Zinn? An apologist for empire spits venom at a counterculture critic! Stop the presses…

Brad Hart said...

Ugh, Naum!

Did you not get it the first time I explained things? I'm simply trying to make an analogy between the extreme hatred of Christian radicals (namely Barton) and the fact that the same feelings don't seem to be reciprocated when a left-wing radical does the same exact thing.

The title was simply a parody of the earlier post. You'll note that below I indicate that I DONT BELIEVE IT but used it only for dramatic effect.

I haven't spent any time trying to seriously "debunk" either Zinn or Barton because I DON'T CARE! I think both of them are barking up the wrong tree. The sad thing is that so many people DO consider it to be history. As Dr. Fea and Van Dyke pointed out, Zinn’s crap is used in a lot of high school history classes. Are you ok with that, because I sure as hell am not. You mean to tell me that teachers can’t find ANYTHING better than Zinn? And on the flip side, Barton’s junk being used in home schooling situations is every bit as laughable. Doesn’t anyone actually look into the material they present to students?

I know this is hard for you so I'll just make it simple: I think ALL FRINGE history is nonsense (Pinky can assault me later for that). I would much rather read someone who isn't out to take such a dramatic, over the top approach to history simply to prove a bogus point or make a buck. Do I begrudge those who read it? No. But I do not like it when it's passed off as "cutting-edge" history.

Simply put, Howard Zinn and David Barton are NOT mainstream history. Call me arrogant, call me crazy, but I do prefer to follow mainstream historical interpretation, NOT because I am a blind follower but because it has MUCH more credibility.

You can have your Zinn. Go right ahead and defend him.

Pinky said...

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"(Pinky can assault me later for that)."
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Since when does taking exception constitute an assault.
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Does your endeavor allow for criticism?
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Brad Hart said...

BTW, has everyone simply chosen to ignore Kristo's most recent comment above? I think it has some validity. He makes some good points.

Brad Hart said...

Heh, yes Pinky. No prob. You can disagree all you like. No offense taken here...I hope you feel the same.

Hatchet is buried!

jimmiraybob said...

...seems not to have attracted the vast audience of its Barton twin...

Sometimes it takes a bit to read through a post and links.

From my perspective it is perfectly reasonable and necessary to apply the same standard to Zinn as to Barton. Zinn actually came to mind in the earlier post you reference but since I only know his work by reputation (exactly why I've avoided it to date) I didn't bring it up in my comments.

I think both Zinn and Barton have every right to advance their agendas honestly and I tried to make my earlier comments at the other post more about methodology and patterns of behavior rather than the content of Barton's work. There's a line that gets crossed when data is consistently manipulated to create false and misleading impressions upon which larger conclusions are drawn.

If data is intentionally manipulated or falsified to create deception in order to advance an agenda then I would call it lying - especially if it is a pattern of uncorrected error.

Michael Kazin @ History News Net - "But to make sense of a nation's entire history, an author has to explain the weight and meaning of worldviews that are not his own and that, as an engaged citizen, he does not favor. Zinn has no taste for such disagreeable tasks.
The fact that his text barely mentions either conservatism or Christianity is telling."


If Barton were only guilty of favorably weighting his evidence and was forthright in warning his audience that he was doing so I don’t think that he would be getting the liar’s treatment (O.K., yes, some would) and might not get such prominence in Chris Rodda’s book. But I see selectively weighting in order to favor your argument as being different than manipulating the data in order to manufacture the evidence used to weight the argument. If Zinn is as provably dishonest with the data as Barton then he's a liar.

I do agree that intentional omission alone can be as dishonest as tampering with the evidence - but Zinn seems to somewhat mitigate this by giving fair warning.

I agree that Zinn is an advocate with an agenda (apparently he's at least forthright in presenting himself as such) for a cause and by presenting advocacy history should be used with extreme caution.

As advocacy history his work shouldn't be used as a primary text in class, maybe as subsidiary reading for comparative discussion as I've seen other controversial texts used. I'd even be in favor of using Barton's work in class if it were presented along with Rodda's work in a comparative sense. Zowey, that would be some class.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Mr. Naum, welcome. However, you commit the genetic fallacy, and discard the factual objections of a prize-winning historian because you don't like his politics. This will not do.

If "Zinn gulps down as literally true the proven hoax of Polly Baker and the improbable Plough Jogger" as Handlin says he does, this has nothing to do with Richard Nixon or Vietnam.

You asked, "Please show me where Zinn is 'mistaken.'" [Scare quotes yours.] Those were over a half-dozen examples of Zinn being mistaken [no scare quotes], and Handlin's full rebuttal is unfortunately not easily available online. There are likely many more examples.

I suppose Zinn should have his own Javert, his own Chris Rodda, as it were, but I share Mr. Hart's disinclination to pore over bad history and rebut it, when there is so much good history to be read.

Also for the record, under his title with the word "liar," Brad Hart explicitly wrote

Ok, I Don't Really Believe This Title.
Just Using it for Dramatic Effect.


Since he was disinclined to call David Barton a liar, he extended the same civility toward Howard Zinn. To quote Mr. Spock, I believe Mr. Hart has been completely logical about the whole affair.

Brad Hart said...

jimmyraybob states:

As advocacy history his work shouldn't be used as a primary text in class, maybe as subsidiary reading for comparative discussion as I've seen other controversial texts used. I'd even be in favor of using Barton's work in class if it were presented along with Rodda's work in a comparative sense. Zowey, that would be some class.

Agreed, especially if you had a bunch of wierdos like us in the class! Our Founding Truth having it out with J. Rowe...with only a desk to separate them....SCAAAAARY!!!!!

Perhaps such a class is NOT a good idea! =)

Kristo Miettinen said...

Brad,

Thanks for the plug of my comment, but I'd rather that they comment on my Jefferson post than this lame-o stuff!

Indeed, the whole point of holding my nose and watching the Rodda video four times (I watched once more after composing the comment to make sure I didn't mess up) was to spike this whole line of discussion.

I have to admit that the shallow unintellectualism with which claims like Rodda's are taken to be definitive and exclusive of counterpoints (Barton is supposedly left with NO ground to stand on) are part of what has turned me off to this blog for a few months.

If nothing else, give Barton credit for being slippery. Anytime anyone claims to have definitively sunk Barton once and for all, they're probably wrong.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Indeed, Kristo. I for one would never assert that Zinn would be completely wrong about things. That would be the genetic fallacy as well. I have no doubt that he's frequently right.

However, the problem with "advocacy history" is that, for example, Hiroshima has no historical context without The Rape of Nanking.

As for your Jefferson post, his advice to Peter Carr holds here as well: read everything for yourself, take no one's word for anything, and make up your own mind.

Naum said...

@tom van dyke:

those were NITs, not in themselves, minor irrelevancies which don't distort at all the bigger landscape of history…

…as opposed to sticking to false quotes, despite the weight of evidence to the contrary where Barton's case is comprised of.

And I'd say a historian indeed is tainted by his allegiance and justification of illegal, immoral invasions and defense of such a dominator culture mindset… …he sees that which he wishes to see, just like Zinn…

Naum said...

When I see Zinn guilty as this, I will grant you your point:

http://members.tripod.com/~candst/boston2.htm

AFAIK, Zinn has never been that steadfast in defending his case against false and/or questionable quotes… …indeed, the stuff I've read quotes the sources themselves directly…

Pinky said...

.
TVD wrote, "...Hiroshima has no historical context without The Rape of Nanking.
"
.
The Hell you say.

bpabbott said...

Brad: "Yep...couldn't agree more. AMAZING how we can assault a Barton but give a Zinn a pardon"

Brad, I've never encountered Zinn before. Thanks for correcting that for me.

Zinn will get no pardon for me, but I'll have to read catch up on him before I can conclude where he is willfully dishonest (a liar) or just a nut.

In either case he does share one thing with Barton, they both are more interested in the promotion of their activism than in the study and promotion of history.

Pinky said...

.
We absolutely have to have a learned article on religiosity and its effect on our thinking about the various social institutions of society throughout our American history.
.
It needs to be done--minimally--at the post graduate level.
.

John Fea said...

Wow! I never expected the original post at my blog to trigger this kind of debate and discussion. Thanks! I have decided to post another piece on all of this at The Way of Improvement Leads Home. www.philipvickersfithian.com

Brad Hart said...

Heh...John, if you think this one was a big debate you should scroll down a few posts to "David Barton: Liar." It has 140 comments and counting.

People took the gloves off on that one!

Tom Van Dyke said...

We absolutely have to have a learned article on religiosity and its effect on our thinking about the various social institutions of society throughout our American history.

Y'know, Pinky, that's exactly what Jasper Adams said in his famous sermon.

Exactly what we try to do here, most of the time. Unfortunately, the Bartons and Zinns distract from that purpose. [Yes, yes, fine---Zinn is an advocate who unfortunately makes mistakes, Barton is a liar. We got it, we got it.] But defining any debate by its extremes is death for intelligent and principled inquiry. Everybody digs in and starts lobbing grenades.

"Post-graduate level," unfortunately, is far more work and far less fun for most people, who find it boring. Marksmanship is difficult and demanding, but anyone can throw a grenade.

Kristo Miettinen's latest post on the Jefferson Bible meets the standard you just asked for, and presents ideas neither I nor any of us have ever read anywhere else. Not just months or years of work on Kristo's part, but requiring a lifetime of learning to even attempt such a thing.

Me, I find that completely exciting, not boring in the least. This blog at its very very best.

Brad Hart said...

TVD writes:

Yes, yes, fine---Zinn is an advocate who unfortunately makes mistakes, Barton is a liar. We got it, we got it.

HAHAHAHAHA, ROFL, LOL...whatever else is used to suggest laughter.

I guess even double standards have their humorous components!

Pinky said...

.
Go for it, Tom.
.
You could do an excellent job in less than 1,000 words.

Brad Hart said...

Abbott writes:

Brad, I've never encountered Zinn before. Thanks for correcting that for me.

To be honest, I wouldn't bother. I rented his book from the library (which gives you the standard three weeks). I read his first four chapters on the first night and gave up...found it to be a waste of paper.

Needless to say, the book was returned before the three week requirement...with PLENTY of time to spare I assure you.

Pinky said...

.
I saw this author give a lecture on Booktv.org today..
.
He made a couple of statements that truly impressed me.
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One was that social pressure inhibits our intellectual development.
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I hate to see pressure applied to people for the reason of influencing their ability to make choices.

bpabbott said...

Brad: "I read his first four chapters on the first night and gave up...found it to be a waste of paper."

*Four* chapters? ... you've got a lot more patience than I ;-)

Tom Van Dyke said...

Go for it, Tom.
.
You could do an excellent job in less than 1,000 words.


Dang, Pinky. If I could score a doctorate with 1 1000-word essay, I'd already have one.

But keep reading, because although since this blog seems to some people a waste of time, I think the arguments keep getting more refined. There's a flow here, even a "progress."

[Hint: I do think "natural law" lies at the heart of it all, which is why we discuss it so much. From that, we arrive at "human rights," the freedom of conscience, and liberation of man to pursue his telos, excellence, a subject dear to your own heart. All functions of "liberty," as we Americans call it, which the Founders defended not just as a practical matter, but as a theological imperative as well---Liberty being the political manifestation of the natural law, and in the Founding era at least, as God's will.]

Explicit Atheist said...

Brad Hart said...

"I had a feeling that this rebuttal was coming. The reason I chose Zinn is because, like Barton, his INTERPRETATION of the historical record has been brought into question. Zinn also has been confronted by the historical community, which has informed him of his errors, but Zinn continues to stick by them. Isn't that EXACTLY THE SAME THING that everyone is bashing Barton for?"

No, its definitely not. We are bashing David Barton for systematically making factual statements that David Barton knows are false. Its called lying.

Lie #1 David Barton made up a conversation between himself and Rhodda that didn't occur and presented it as factual.

Lie #2 Then there is the bottom paragraph of the John Adams letter where Barton edits the text to make it appear that Adams was expressing very conservative Trinitatiran beliefs and leaves out Adams final words the reveal Adams strongly rejected just the beliefs he had been describing thusly "Although this all Artifice and Cunning in the secret original in the heart, yet they all believe it so sincerely that they would lay down their lives under the Ax and the fiery Fagot for it. Alas the poor weak ignorant Dupe human nature". So when David Barton presents those beliefs as Adam's own David Barton is LYING. This isn't about interpretation, its about falsely claiming Adams expressed support for beliefs that Admas in fact was clearly expressing antipathy against in that letter.

Lie #3 David Burton habitually falsely claims Congress printed a bible in 1782 "for the use of schools" by citing what he falsely calls "an early historian" that his footnotes reveals is a book published by the American Bible Society in 1849 even though Barton asserts that, unlike most other historians, he relies on "original documents" to support his claims. The bible was published by Aikin starting in 1780. Congress did endorse that Aikin's bible was accurate in 1782 because American books had a reputation for having errors and Congress wanted to promote the domestic book industry. The "for the schools" document was written by Aikin and sent to Congress. Requests to Congress were routinely published in the Congressional record, even when Congress rejected the requests. David Barton falsely insinuates that the "for the schools" statement was written by Congress.

Lie #4 David Barton habitually falsely asserts that 29 signers of the Declaration had "seminary or bible degrees and were ministers or minister trained individuals". Only John Witherspoon was a minister. Two others studied to become a minister but didn't finish.

etc., etc.

Now, if you have a similar list of false factual assertions by Zinn then be my guest. It sounds like Zinn makes foolish judgements that go beyond what is reasonable is to conclude and I don't think his writing should be part of public school history curriculum because it sounds like it is too opinionated for a public school history textbook.

Pinky said...

.
The problem as I see it.
.
It is the same today as it was at the Founding. Christianity was not having an affect on the religiosity of the people--nor does it today. But, the religiosity of the people was what was affecting their understanding of Christianity and so it is today. And, so it is here in this blog.
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That's my position.
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As of now.
.
:<)

Brian Tubbs said...

Bless you, Brad! You and I are on exactly the same page here.

I thought of doing exactly what you did - posting a blog titled "Howard Zinn: Liar." You beat me to it. :-)

Brian Tubbs said...

My thoughts on Barton....

I've been observing this whole Barton Bashfest at a distance. Didn't want to get into it too much, because - given the tone of things - I didn't think my involvement would be that constructive. Since this thread is a little more civil than the other, though, I'll wade in witha few thoughts....

1) David Barton was apparently inaccurate on radio about his conversation with Rodda. I will not defend him for that, as the evidence APPEARS to show him as being guilty of falsifying that conversation.

2) Did Barton intentionally lie about the Rodda conversation? Probably, but I'd really like to hear Barton respond to this thread. It's POSSIBLE that Barton was doing what Hollywood screenwriters do all the time - combining several conversations into one "composite" event. In many movies, based on true events, screenwriters take multiple characters and turn them into ONE composite character and/or they'll take several events and merge them into one. Happens all the time, and we accept it. My hunch is that this is what Barton did. STILL...

Having said that, I support Ms. Rodda's right to come out and set the record straight. I have no problem with her doing those videos or Lindsey posting them.

Whether Barton intentionally lied or simply combined conversations or forgot...whatever his reason... he was wrong, and Rodda has a right to correct him.

3) Why did Rodda have to present the book to him and set up what was an "ambush"? Why? Why can't she just stick to writing and selling her own books, publishing her own videos, etc. Why not challenge him or some of Barton's supporters to a public debate? Why "ambush" him with a video camera going and a tape recorder playing? Why?

There are quite a few public figures that I don't care for, but I would not treat any of them with that kind of hostility or disrespect. I'm not interested in setting people up to look bad or anything like that.

My advice to Rodda....stick to your own books and videos. Criticize Barton all you want, but do so fairly and with civility.

4) In all this hullabaloo (sp?), did ANY of Barton's accusers think to send an email or make a call to Wallbuilders to ask Barton for a response?

In fact, the amount of times that Barton is attacked on AC, I think it only fair and courteous that we submit an interview request to his office.

I did that (once), but didn't get a response. Can't say I blame him. I'm not sure he'd get a fair shake here.

But, if I'm wrong and if he WOULD get a fair shake, then maybe we could send an official request for an interview.

Since this blog talks about Barton so much, why not invite the man himself?

If we're not willing to do that, then we need to stop talking about him.

Brad Hart said...

Brian:

To be honest, I think it would be awesome to invite Barton, though I doubt he would accept. Since you know how to invite him, would you be up for extending an official invitation explaining all that has been discussed here? You are right, the man deserves a chance to respond, though I am not expecting him to do so on this forum. Perhaps he will on his website, radio show, etc. That seems to make more sense for someone with the resources that Barton has. But hey, you never know. Maybe he would come pay us a visit!

I'm glad you appreciate the Howard Zinn Parity. I too thought it appropriate! =)

bpabbott said...

Brad: "To be honest, I think it would be awesome to invite Barton, though I doubt he would accept."

I know .. that you know, the following question is coming ...

Will you be inviging Howard Zinn? ;-)

Tom Van Dyke said...

Barton does not appear in neutral debate fora. Period. Ms. Rodda has constantly challenged him to a showdown, and he ignores her requests. Which is why she ambushed him, I suppose. Unless Barton meets her as an equal, she has no standing. She needs Barton but he doesn't need her. There's no advantage for Barton to grant her standing, especially given her tone that has trouble getting through a paragraph without the word "lie." There's no percentage in according anyone parity status who calls you a liar.

As for Howard Zinn, although several have begged for criticisms of his scholarship, the substantive criticisms by the eminent scholar Oscar Handlin have been ignored, waved away, or missed in the fog of battle here. Which was predictable. But apparently the concern for truth isn't the primary operating factor here, or else the scandal that Zinn's work is being fed to our children in schoolrooms would meet with greater outrage.

Now, there's also no percentage in any of the rest of us defending these advocates as human beings, for we shall surely go down with the ship: all men have feet of clay, and some worse than others. And Barton's drama with Chris Rodda has zero zip nada zilch to do with religion and the Founding.

As for Barton's technique, he reminds me of the OJ Simpson prosecutors, who presented every piece of evidence and every possible argument, good or bad. The jury acquitted Simpson based on their rejection of the bad arguments. But that didn't mean OJ wasn't guilty.

And neither would I ever want David Barton as my lawyer. Or as Paul Newman says to the judge in "The Verdict, "If you're going to try my case for me, I wish you wouldn't lose it."

Brian, perhaps this thread is more civil because those of us on the other side of Zinn, et al., aren't really interested in polemics or hunting down the errors of the "other side." This may be a practical matter; since the academy embraces and elevates advocates like Zinn and indeed affords them status as "scholars," one cannot expect to roll back the sea.

Better to make your stand with affirmative arguments and try not to get washed away.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Ben, per my comment above, I would also object to using this blog to posting videos of a Zinn critic and calling him toejam. I suppose you'll just have to take my word for that.

I praised Brad's posting only as a counterpoint to the Barton posting, not on its content but as a thought experiment, which is how he intended it.

In fact, I found it distasteful to even have to poke through the internet to find scholarly disputations of Zinn's work. However, to defend Brad's thought experiment, I was obliged to since people demanded such evidence. [Although they ignored or dismissed it, as one might expect of polemicists.]

Me, I don't give a hoot about Zinn in the context of this blog, which is sustained by original thought and research based on the original unabridged documents of the Founding. Sometimes we do a really good job and this is our value.

bpabbott said...

Tom,

I enjoyed your analysis of the Barton/Zinn discussion.

To be clear, my comment to Brad was intended to poke fun.

Brad Hart said...

TVD writes:

But apparently the concern for truth isn't the primary operating factor here, or else the scandal that Zinn's work is being fed to our children in schoolrooms would meet with greater outrage.

Here, here!

Brad Hart said...

Ben:

Yes, I'd love to see Zinn stop by. My guess, however, is that he has better things to do with his time...like writing "textbooks" for high school history teachers to use.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Thx, Ben. I enjoy the occasions when we understand each other. Good will goes a long way toward that end.

Agreement is secondary. ;-)

Brian Tubbs said...

Inviting Howard Zinn isn't a bad idea. Someone better, though, would be Ray Raphael, who is kind of a Zinn protege, and who focuses on the founding era.

Actually, I think all blog contributors should be encouraged to interview whatever founding era expert they can. Such interviews would add to the blog.

Brian Tubbs said...

I have zero connections with David Barton and Wallbuilders. But I will send another email. Won't hurt to invite him, but I seriously doubt anything will come of it.

What WOULD be interesting is if American Creation offered to "host" a debate between David Barton and someone he perceives to be his equal. (I'm thinking of Tom Van Dyke's comments about how Barton chooses his venues carefully).

Kristo Miettinen said...

Jon would be the logical candidate to debate him...

Jonathan Rowe said...

A few years ago, David Barton was already asked to debate me on Jim Babka's radio program but declined (through his organization). They offered to put on someone who Jim had never heard of. I could have been Rick Green, his second in command. I'd be willing to debate him as well or anyone for that matter Wallbuilders might choose to send.

Our Founding Truth said...

Jon:I'd be willing to debate him as well or anyone for that matter Wallbuilders might choose to send.

Jon, if you can't defeat my words, how are you going to get David Barton to debate?

Jonathan Rowe said...

OFT,

You are delusional. You are like Don Quixote. If you don't understand what I mean by that; you go around thinking that you are a knight slaying dragons, when in reality you are just using your sword to attack windmills. That's all you are, chasing windmills. Everyone else can see that but you. You are living in an imaginary world. Wake up!

Our Founding Truth said...

Delusions?

You mean claiming The Law of Nature and The LAWS of Nature's God refers to the same thing, not the two different aspects of God's revelation to His creation, espoused by Aquinas, Locke, Puffendorf, Hooker, and the Founding Fathers? That's not delusional, it's grade school.

Or how about the "Key founders" doctrine, eliminating the majority, to exalt the subjectve intentions of three guys for your own discriminatory agenda in determining our heritage? When Jefferson and Madison said who matters most is the ratifiers of Law. That is delusional!


Should I go on, with your delusions? You haven't rebuked one concept I've brought on this blog, and I doubt you ever will. Feel free to try.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Actually, Mr. Goswick, the word wouldn't be rebuked, it would be rebutted, and more precisely, refuted. And if Jon hasn't, I certainly have, and on your own terms.

Jon, I don't think there's much danger of Jim, et al., swaying the masses into establishing a theocracy here in America. Just an educated guess. Don't let it cost you any more sleep.

Pinky said...

.
OFT wrote to Rowe, "You haven't rebuked one concept I've brought on this blog, and I doubt you ever will.".
.
It seems to this observer that he has soundly rebuked you and quite often. Maybe you meant to claim he hasn't Refuted you? .

Brad Hart said...

Pinky writes (when speaking of Rowe and OFT)

It seems to this observer that he [Rowe] has soundly rebuked you [OFT]and quite often.

Here, here! I like Jon's analogy of OFT as Don Quixote, but might I add, Don Quixote with too much caffiene!!!

Pinky said...

.
My son, the actor, plays Don Quixote on the professional stage. I have studied Don Quixote.
.
OFT doesn't come close even though he tilts at windmills.
.
The question is, "When will OFT meet his
Knight of The Mirrors?"..
.

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