by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
I’ll never read the whole thing, and not because it’s a left-wing screed full of slimy distortions about the evils of the United States (though that doesn’t help). It’s that it’s boring.
Stone and co-author Peter Kuznick call their book “The Untold History of the United States,” except, again, it isn’t. This story has been told countless times before. As the Daily Beast’s Michael Moynihan notes in a devastating review, Stone and Kuznick offer no new research, and much of the old research they rely on has been rendered moot by more recent discoveries since the Berlin Wall came down.
Still, what vexes me about the book isn’t really the substance. What bothers me is the manufactured rebelliousness, the kitschy nostalgic play-acting of the thing. The 66-year-old Stone can be an original filmmaker, but he is a stale old Red when it comes to politics.
In a sense, that’s fine. We’re all entitled to our opinions, even to commit them to paper in book form. But spare me the radical pose. Among the hilarious blurbs is this encomium from the octogenarian radical Daniel Ellsberg. “Howard [Zinn] would have loved this ‘people’s history’ of the American Empire. It’s compulsive reading: brilliant, a masterpiece!”
Ellsberg is right about one thing: The late Howard Zinn, a wildly left-wing historian, probably would have loved it — in no small part because he wrote so much of it already in his decades-old and endlessly recycled A People’s History of the United States.
Zinn’s work, along with Noam Chomsky’s, Michael Moore’s, and, now, Stone’s, is seen as boldly transgressive and subversive. Intellectually, there’s some truth to that of course. If you’re dedicated to subverting the free-enterprise system and traditional patriotism, then you’re a subversive.