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Kerstein on Howard Zinn

Polemical literature has long has reserved a certain tolerance for the ruthlessly critical obituary. The dictum against speaking ill of the dead is not absolute. There is always someone, somewhere who feels very strongly that death should provide no protections against the perfidies committed by so-and-so in life. In other words, the promotion of civility is a very fine thing; but a finer thing still is the promotion of truth, even of the stern and ungenerous sort.

Benjamin Kerstein has penned a memorable entry into this tradition here. His target is the late Howard Zinn, and if I may say so, few writers have deserved it more. My favorite part is when Kerstein notes a certain irony in the commercial success of Zinn’s most famous work:

[An obituary by the Associated Press] pronounces that Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States “was, fittingly, a people’s best-seller, attracting a wide audience through word of mouth and reaching 1 million sales in 2003.” In fact, as the article goes on to state, “his book was taught in high schools and colleges throughout the country” meaning, for those who can put two and two together, that the book became a bestseller largely because a generation of professors forced their students to buy it — a fitting metaphor for Zinn’s view of “the people.”

Indeed. Read the whole thing.

Comments (27)


Thanks so much for that link. The New Criterion also took note of Zinn's death by linking to an older, shorter piece they had written about his bile here:


I wish I could find the Handlin article they mention for free on the internet but alas, it was written so long ago that every website that has it wants actual money to grant me access!

I also did some additional research on scholars who looked critically at Zinn's book and found this article:


However, other than these articles I didn't turn up much more (although I admit I was only searching for about 15 minutes). Don't you think that part of the problem of Zinn's popularity is that more scholars didn't forcefully and repeatedly write about the problems with his book?

Historical revisionism began with the serpent's question. Thus, we can all it Original Zinn.

Same thing goes for Salinger's book. It is no small irony that his book is ubiquituosly assigned by all of the "phonies".

Criticize people the moment they die for political reasons. What good Christians you all are. Really, you "people" are such pieces of shit. Yup, total shit. Feel free to edit that, deformed piece of shit.

Truly, the bravery of Anonymous is boundless.

Really, for all of Zinn's work, a little post mortem name calling is the best that could have happened to him.

This may not be the best thing that could have happened to him:


Criticize people the moment they die for political reasons.

I thought he died of natural causes rather than political reasons. What was it, term limits, the original position, state of nature, separation of powers?

Really, you "people" are such pieces of shit.

Which make us an untidy consequence of one of your sexual conquests.

Somehow I highly doubt that the courageous Anon is troubled by harsh obituaries when the deceased is not a progressive. It would be interesting to witness his lack of faux outrage at something like Hunter S. Thompson's obituary for Nixon.

It's different for right-wingers; they're awful people, in virtue of being right-wing. Therefore, criticizing them when they're dead is a way of honoring their victims. Left-wingers are good people, though, so criticizing them can be only be political.

That said, I don't think we should criticize leftist thinkers like Zinn when they've just died, even if they regularly did the same to others.

I hope everyone realizes that the first paragraph of my previous comment was sarcastic.

Howard Zinn was an evil man, since he lied about history and many, many dead people. He's as bad Tom Nagel and his stupid comments about intelligent design creationism propounded by the Texas Taliban that wants to starve children and resist Ho Chi Mihn.

Zinn is just Hitler with a pen rather than a concentration camp.

I hope Lydia isn't reading this thread.

This should make Anon's head explode. Here's David Horowitz's take on the late Stalinist, Howard Zinn:

The other day a reporter from NPR called me and asked me for my comments on the death of the lifelong Stalinist and propagandist Howard Zinn. I was a little reluctant because I knew that whatever I said, legions of unscrupulous myrmidons on the left would jump on it and say I had spit on Zinn’s grave. I also knew that while I was interviewed for ten minutes, out of what I said only a 20 second sound-bite would make it onto the air. I don’t begrudge NPR this selection. That’s what their obit was and would have to be, a collection of sound-bites.

Sure enough the bottom-feeders at FAIR pounced on my bite and accused me of spitting on Zinn’s grave. So here’s what I said that was cut from the interview. I’m not putting quotes around it because it’s from memory, but it’s pretty close to some of my remarks and captures the sense of others: No one should celebrate the death of another human being unless they are child-molesters or murderers. Howard Zinn lived to a ripe old age (87), and bad human being that he was, I wouldn’t begrudge him an extra few years; he’s done about as much damage as he could.

Howard Zinn was a Stalinist in the years when the Marxist monster was slaughtering millions of innocent people and launching his own ‘final solution’ against the Jews. Put another way, Howard Zinn was helping Stalin to conduct those slaughters and to enslave all those who had the misfortune to live behind the Iron Curtain. Howard never had second thoughts about his commitment to leftwing totalitarians and never flagged in his political commitment to freedom’s enemies. In the years since Stalin’s death, Zinn supported every enemy of the United States in every war, and devoted his writing talents to every socialist tyrant including Mao Zedong who killed 70 million Chinese in peacetime because they got in the way of his progressive agendas.

When the Cold War was over and freedom had won — thanks to all the political forces and figures (e.g., Reagan and Thatcher) that Zinn opposed – Zinn continued his malignant course. He supported America’s enemies right to the end including the Islamic Nazis whose first agenda is to finish the job that Hitler started and then to impose a totalitarian theocracy on the infidel world.

Zinn’s wretched tract, A People’s History of the United States, is worthless as history, and it is a national tragedy that so many Americans have fallen under its spell. It is a political cartoon which even the socialist magazine Dissent described as an intellectual fraud, which it is. All Zinn’s writing was directed to one end: to indict his own country as an evil state and soften his countrymen up for the kill. Like his partner in crime, Noam Chomsky, Zinn’s life’s work was a pernicious influence on the young and ignorant, with destructive consequences for people everywhere.


"Somehow I highly doubt that the courageous Anon is troubled by harsh obituaries when the deceased is not a progressive."

Why do you people constantly change the subject? Whether it's right or wrong for you to speak ill of the dead (five minutes after they're in the ground) has nothing to do whether a liberal would do the same to a conservative. Two wrongs don't make a right, What's Wrong with the World. Just thought I'd point that out, since it seems to occur in virtually every thread.

Whether it's right or wrong for you to speak ill of the dead (five minutes after they're in the ground) has nothing to do whether a liberal would do the same to a conservative.

Zinn wasn't a liberal. He was a Stalinist.

BTW, whose to say that "two wrongs don't make a right?" Looks like you're trying to force your imperialistic "western logic" on us, just like Columbus's genocidal programme against the Indians (according to the Great and Wonderful Zinn).

Leiter honored Zinn the other day. It doesn't get any richer than that. Zinn, a defender of mass murderers, gets a pass from the Brian because he didn't have the gumption to condemn George Tiller.

Exactly what happend with Al Gore Tuna's book Earth in the Balance - our property law professor forced us to buy it, even though it had nothing to do with the subject matter we were supposed to be learning.

I first read "A People's History of the United States" in the year 2000, and was overwhelmed by it. As a student of history for as long as I can remember, I regarded it as a sort of "appendix" to more conventional US histories, and a most necessary one. I immediately recommended it to everyone I could. I kept a copy of the book in my desk drawer at work (in the Defense Department (!) where I worked for 34 years) to help keep me sane. Howard Zinn was a great, thoughtful, and caring man, and a true patriot in the finest sense of the word. I believe our country is immeasurably the poorer for his passing. Now, perhaps more than ever (especially after the most recent Supreme Court decision), we need the likes of him.
(And as an honorably discharged US Army veteran, who also served in Kuwait as a DoD civilian, as well as in Korea during the 1994 nuclear crisis, when EVERYONE thought the North would be coming over the border, I dare anyone responding to this post to question my own patriotism!)

Whether it's right or wrong for you to speak ill of the dead (five minutes after they're in the ground) has nothing to do whether a liberal would do the same to a conservative.

I didn't say it did. I just like pointing out one-sided phony outrage.

Mr Prokop -- your patriotism is not in question. Howard Zinn's emphatically is. The man's antipathy for the country of his birth was palpable in almost everything he wrote.

Bob, no one is saying that someone with your military accomplishments cannot be duped by propaganda. No serious historian takes Zinn's book seriously. It is a Leftist fairly tale, a narrative for people who wet their pants when they hear the words "Hegel" and "Marx."

Zinn, unable to prove his views by reality, decided he would try to change reality to prove his views. That is an academic variation on sociopathology.


Criticize people the moment they die for political reasons.

Tony Aquino:

Your grammar is bad. Lol. And that's a sufficient reason to reject your claim. Lolz.


Really, you "people" are such pieces of shit.

Tony Aquino:

You're gay! That or we're fetuses. Or something.

Mr Aquino, what prodigious wit! And what rigorous argumentation! Sir, you've outdone yourself again.

By the way, your grammar is just as bad as Anon's. Take a look.

Tony Aquino:

BTW, whose to say that "two wrongs don't make a right?

Whose or who's? Possessive or contraction? Idiot. Methinks the Christian warrior would do well to take another look at John 7:53-8:11 before firing up the keyboard next time.

Replace "Tony" with "Tommy" above. The font on the posting information is awfully small....

It would be interesting to witness his lack of faux outrage at something like Hunter S. Thompson's obituary for Nixon.

A real masterpiece of the style. The first paragraph was sufficient to establish the justified theme of exorcism.

Richard Nixon is gone now, and I am poorer for it. He was the real thing -- a political monster straight out of Grendel and a very dangerous enemy. He could shake your hand and stab you in the back at the same time. He lied to his friends and betrayed the trust of his family. Not even Gerald Ford, the unhappy ex-president who pardoned Nixon and kept him out of prison, was immune to the evil fallout. Ford, who believes strongly in Heaven and Hell, has told more than one of his celebrity golf partners that "I know I will go to hell, because I pardoned Richard Nixon."

Those mongers at this website call themselves "christians" but in no way I recognize them as followers of Christ. Killing and lying in the holy name of Christ is not honouring Him. Blessed are the peacemakers, not the war mongers

saludos desde Colombia, idiotas

To the Editors

Why did you allow the vulgar, mindless comment posted by Anon at 5:56 pm on 1/29 to remain? It should have been summarily deleted. Name-calling not accompanied by any intellectual content has no business on a civilized blog. If Anon wants to make a constructive comment, make him earn the right to be heard.

I have not read Mr. Zinn's tome and perhaps he was not the man for the job but someone of greater ability ought to explain how a country that ought to be peaceful and happy is so glaringly not! We have not had a powerful enemy on our borders in ages, we have an abundance of resources and a large, relatively well-educated populace. At one time we had the most productive industrial plant in the world. Now we are broke and chronically at war. Our families are a mess, are youth underachieving cretins, our mass entertainment a scandal, our abortuaries busy. Could it be that the elite members of our society had something to do with this situation? If so, they have more to answer for than even Mr. Zinn could allege.

Howard Zinn's magisterial tome is the best way to get started on a history of the United States, leaving behind the panegyrics and hagiographies. Zinn can be faulted for many things, he did not develop a theory, he did not propose solutions, he did not criticize people enough - especially when it is the people ho elected a doofus like Reagan and today gooble up trash put out by poseurs like Dinesh D'Souza and worse and actually believe that our President is an African Muslim Communist. But he can never be faulted for his essential humanitarianism and his unshaken integrity. It is no wonder that the right wing chorus is going apoplectic over his writings. And uniformly every piece of invective that has been flung at him is fact free. Because what Zinn has condemned cannot be defended. There was a time when our elected leaders could talk genocide, very matter of factly as did Thomas Jefferson that the Indians should be pursued until each tribe “is exterminated or is driven beyond the Mississippi” or John McDougall governor of California who in 1951 declared "A war of extermination will continue to be waged between the races till the Indian race becomes extinct." And of course it is very difficult to defend a bloodthirsty scoundrel like Christopher Columbus who butchered the Caribs of Hispaniola for sport - which Stephen Kimball informs us was his "derring do." Or how Fr. Junipeiro Sera who will be beatified this year by the Vatican who ran slave camps that worked 1000s of Indians to death?
So rather than working yourselves up into paroxysms of rage over Zinn, read his work calmly and question yourself - you'd be surprised - you will find something within - your conscience.

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