Talk:Howard Zinn

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This Historians related article has been awarded BRONZE status for quality. It's getting there, but could be better with improvement. See RationalWiki:Article rating for more information.


Blatant Misrepresentation/Selective Reading

Considering the accusations made against Zinn here, you should have done better than this.

The line: “he did voice a certain approval of Joseph Stalin's arguments on the necessity of killing peasants in the name of industrial progress” is a flagrant distortion, not at all supported by the cited page.

The context (pg. 17, A People’s History):

Was all this bloodshed and deceit—from Columbus to Cortes, Pizarro, the Puritans—a necessity for the human race to progress from savagery to civilization? Was Morison right in burying the story of genocide inside a more important story of human progress? Perhaps a persuasive argument can be made – as it was made by Stalin when he killed peasants for industrial progress in the Soviet Union, as it was made by Churchill explaining the bombings of Dresden and Hamburg, and Truman explaining Hiroshima. But how can the judgment be made if the benefits and losses cannot be balanced because the losses are either unmentioned or mentioned quickly?

That quick disposal might be acceptable (“Unfortunate, yes, but it had to be done”) to the middle and upper classes of the conquering and “advanced” countries. But is it acceptable to the poor of Asia, Africa, Latin America, or to the prisoners in Soviet labor camps, or the blacks in urban ghettos, or the Indians on reservations – to the victims of that progress which benefits a privileged minority in the world?

Zinn is quite clearly saying that the justifications employed by the middle and upper classes (ie, Stalin, Churchill and Truman) may not be sufficient from the perspective of the dispossessed, the perspective from which Zinn claims to write. This page is selectively quoting a rhetorical question and suggesting it represents an expressed opinion. In one paragraph Zinn states a position – as devil’s advocate – and in the next condemns it. The intent is really quite clear and only a deliberately obtuse reading could take the section as supporting Stalin (or Churchill or Truman). He is saying ‘arguments can be made’ but that whether you buy those arguments depends on your point of view, pretty much the essence of Zinn’s entire approach to history.

The distortion is further compounded by linking the phrase to a page on the Holodomor, which isn’t referenced in the text at all, placing a more extreme and controversial position in the mouth of Zinn than can be justified by reference to his writing. This is either deliberate misrepresentation or the page author(s) is/are relying on someone else’s critique of the book and didn’t bother to check the text to make sure the allegation could be substantiated – the same charge levelled against Zinn.

The whole page is full of little jabs that reflect an unkind bias, for example suggesting that since Zinn criticises certain democratic institutions that he is actually hostile to democracy, rather than allowing the possibility that he perhaps thinks the existing institutions are insufficiently democratic, a far more likely position for an anarchist (ie, anarchists think ‘representative democracy’ invites corruption, they prefer ‘direct democracy’).

You also might want to point out that, to the extent that Zinn elides certain information that would tend to portray those he criticises in a positive light (a distortion, to be sure) he is doing so in an effort to counterbalance what he sees as the biases, elisions and distortions that permeate almost the entirety of what he describes as ‘establishment’ history. Now, sure, criticise him for that, but why hide from giving his own explanation for his approach? As it is, the page is implicitly suggesting that Zinn’s criticism of a dominant upper/middle class bias in accepted history is groundless – if not dismissing the idea as a ‘conspiracy theory’ – without providing any evidence.

Those categories[edit]

Category:Extreme moonbattery should be for people like John Zerzan and Pentti Linkola, not serious historians like Howard Zinn. Category:Conspiracy theorists should be for people like Alex Jones and David Icke. Category:Denialists should be for people like David Irving. In the case of Zinn (also Chomsky) it is certainly possible to find wrong things in their work. Doing so and then using it to dismiss their entire work is cherry picking. Discuss. Secret Squirrel (talk) 07:42, 27 September 2013 (UTC)

Whoever wrote this article has a huge hate-on for Zinn, evidently, and on the whole seems to want to portray him as a conniving propagandist, rather than as a legitimate historian who takes certain perspectives on history that they disagree with, and really the whole article needs to be rewritten from the ground up- it reads like a Conservapedia-level hackjob focused totally on A People's History rather than a reasoned, informative biography of the man, along with an overview of his work, and potential problems with it. Googoogjoob (talk) 23:49, 7 April 2014 (UTC)
It's a fuckin' mess alright, product of a slow moving edit war. I removed the Extreme Moonbattery cat. --MtDNotorious Sodomite 00:09, 8 April 2014 (UTC), take your issues here and defend your edits[edit]

Please set forth the reasons and support for your proposed edits. On their face,they don't persuade several others. So, if you want to defend them, this is the place to do it. I may (or may not) find some of your edits persuasive, but you have to make your case.---Mona- (talk) 17:13, 26 October 2015 (UTC)

More nonsense in PHUS section[edit]

It's claimed here that Zinn "outright fabricated" about the Vietnamese, insisting the NLF weren't involved with the North. You can see here Zinn acknowledged that "Hanoi gave aid" and men to the NLF. This mess has gotta go. -RPG5 (talk) 22:47, 16 January 2018 (UTC)