Debunking Howard Zinn’s Amerikkka
Paul Kengor
by
Matt Damon in a pro-Zinn scene in “Good Will Hunting” (YouTube screenshot)

“That’s the scumbag that has been screwing up all my friends!”

So said Zach, a student who walked into my office and noticed the copy of Mary Grabar’s new book, Debunking Howard Zinn: Exposing the Fake History That Turned a Generation Against America. The title reflects Zach’s complaint. Twenty years old, Zach has watched many of his generation be turned against America by the dubious history of Howard Zinn.

In a way, the fault is less Zinn’s than the impressionable suckers in the educational system that swallow his tripe hook, line, and sinker and then dish the swill to the masses (a word Zinn would like) in the classroom. A whole generation of educators have used Zinn’s books to indoctrinate countless young people — the same youth who today speak fondly of socialism, “democratic socialism,” and even communism, while intoning darkly about the evils of free markets, of anti-communism, and of America.

“There is not a country in world history in which racism has been more important, for so long a time, as the United States,” averred Zinn, billowing the Kultursmog that pervades today’s Left.

Mary Grabar’s book focuses at length on Zinn’s mighty racial agitation, his epic smears of America from the time of Columbus and the Indians through the civil rights movement and 1960s. Of course, any honest historian of America shouldn’t ignore this country’s past sins, but what Zinn did was weaponize those sins to reconstruct and frame an America that is the ugly embodiment of those sins — a nation rampant with Indian killers and slavers. Grabar deals with this Zinnian approach in her chapter “America the Racist.” It’s a painful read, but it’s now part of the educational fabric of America.

When the likes of Boy Beto O’Rourke assert on the campaign trail, “This country was founded on white supremacy, and every single institution and structure that we have in this country still reflects the legacy of slavery,” he’s showing himself not only a shameless demagogue and stoker of racial animosity but also a pupil of Howard Zinn.

Other modern children of Zinn’s America include the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, probably almost the entire 40,000-plus membership of the Democratic Socialists of America, and no doubt more than a few youthful members of old Communist Party USA. Grabar doesn’t shy away from Zinn’s support for socialism and communism. She writes:

Zinn denied that he was a Communist Party member, but he avowed his belief in the statement by Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto: “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle.” That principle was, for the young Zinn, “undeniably true, verifiable in any reading of history. Certainly true for the United States, despite all the promises of the Constitution….” He believed that what he called the “socialist vision” of Marx and Engels would lead to a “rational, just economic system [that] would allow a short work day and leave everyone freedom and time to do as they liked — to write poetry, to be in nature, to play sports, to be truly human. Nationalism would be a thing of the past. People all over the world, of whatever race, of whatever continent, would live in peace and cooperation.”

That utopian sentiment of Zinn had an uncanny resemblance to this infamous utopian sentiment of Karl Marx:

[I]n communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic. (Marx, The German Ideology, 1845)

Now there was a dystopian picture of paradise — one that Zinn was snookered by. As Marxian socialism spread its wings around the world, nationalism and war would have no place. Peace would flower everywhere. It would be, according to Marx, a “leap from slavery into freedom; from darkness into light.” Howard Zinn was on board, and he spread the Marxist gospel to the gullible masses in the education system.

The degree to which Zinn succeeded in that regard is scary, and thus the need for Mary Grabar to write this exposé.

As Grabar notes, this race-class divider, this dead white male (a favorite term of derision and disqualifier for leftists if the guy is a conservative), is a veritable rock star to modern progressives. He’s an icon, an ideological soothsayer and saint, revered by much of the Left. A case in point: In April 2019, Zinn’s defining work and legacy, his awful A People’s History of the United States, was “the sacred object” (as Grabar puts it) upon which newly elected Oklahoma City council member JoBeth Hamon chose to place her hand for her oath of office. The Gospel of Zinn had replaced the Bible. Such is his “cultish following.”

How bad and wide has been Zinn’s influence?

Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States is the nation’s bestselling American history survey book as both a trade book and a textbook. Grabar cites data showing that Zinn’s book is the “best-known work of American history” and the “best-selling survey of American history.” It has sold more than 2.6 million copies, a truckload of big bucks for the capitalist-hater.

In 2013, the train wreck that is the disastrous Philadelphia City Council passed a non-binding resolution urging the school district to make A People’s History of the United States required reading among its helpless student population.

Nice job, Philly folks. Keeping working that pedagogical magic.

The poison is spreading abroad, as Zinn’s A People’s History has been translated into over a dozen languages. The French, Spanish, Italians, Germans, Chinese, and even the Arab world can learn courtesy of Zinn how much America sucks. Surely they’ll be puzzled at why their ancestors ever yearned to emigrate to this racial cesspool.

Perhaps a telling anecdote illustrating Zinn’s iconic status among our cultural brain trust — particularly America’s grandest fools of all, in Hollywood — is a moment that Grabar shares from the movie Good Will Hunting. The main character, Will Hunting (Matt Damon), says (fittingly) to his therapist (Robin Williams), “If you want to read a real history book, read Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. That book will knock you on your ass.”

Yep, it sure will.

Paul Kengor
Paul Kengor
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Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College in Grove City, Pa., and senior academic fellow at the Center for Vision & Values. Dr. Kengor is author of over a dozen books, including A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Communism, and Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.
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