Lying Media Bastards

February 27, 2005


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Working at a library as I do, I get to see what books are popular, which are newly in print, etc. Sadly, a noticable amount of book traffic is composed of right-wing screed-a-thons by our favorite jackasses– O’Reilly, Limbaugh, Hannity, Coulter, etc. But today one caught my eye that pissed me off even more.

A Patriotic History of the United States

You can tell from the cover that it’s a riff on Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States.” And the name of this new book manages to imply that Zinn and his book are traitorous dogs. Here’s how it describes itself”

For at least thirty years, high school and college students have been taught to be embarrassed by American history. Required readings have become skewed toward a relentless focus on our country’s darkest moments, from slavery to McCarthyism. As a result, many history books devote more space to Harriet Tubman than to Abraham Lincoln; more to My Lai than to the American Revolution; more to the internment of Japanese Americans than to the liberation of Europe in World War II.

Now, finally, there is an antidote to this biased approach to our history.

What the hell?

I took my high school history classes about a dozen years ago, which falls within that 30 year range. When we learned about the history of the world, we first learned about the “Fertile Crescent”, Mesopotamia, the “cradle of civilization” between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers (which, I don’t think anyone ever bothered to point out, is in modern day Iraq). Once we were done with Mesopotamia, we never, ever spoke another word about the region. What happened to the Mesopotamians, how did their civilization develop? The people in my history class will never know.

We then learned about Ancient Egypt, and the pyramids and the Pharoahs. Then Ancient Greece, again casting the previous culture to the dustbin of history. After Greece, Rome. From Rome, the Dark Ages, with a subtle, unspoken shift to Western Europe. We followed Western Europe through the Dark, into the Middle Ages, into the Renaissance, and then into the Age of Exploration. We then hitched a ride with the conquistadors into the Western Hemisphere, and pretty much ignored Western Europe from there on out, except as the setting for World Wars 1-2.

We then followed American history, from Columbus to the pilgrims, to the colonies, up into the mid 1950s. At this point, my history teachers invariably realized that there was little time left in the school year, and we hastily covered the remaining 40 years, arguably the ones most relevant to us. It’s no wonder American kids care so little about American politics, with no knowledge of the most recent past, they’re left trying to tie current events to Cotton Mather and the Teapot Dome scandal.

Where were Asia, Africa, Australia, and pre-Columbian North and South America in my world history class? We didn’t get any of that.

My world history classes seemed to be a clear narrative about civilization, progress and modernity. We followed human society from its primitive birth, to, apparently, its pinnacle: the US. And even when telling us about the dark stains of America’s past, these problems were either overcome (sort of), or were slowly dissolving naturally. Progress was a natural evolutionary process; so although sexism and racism still exist, we don’t need to worry about them because they’ll go away on their own. Just sit back and enjoy the ride to inevitable human perfection.

That’s what I learned growing up, that Americans are higher up the evolutionary ladder than other people of the world. And the patriotic jackasses above are condemning it because it’s too “PC”?

Zinn has always described his book as a project or supplement, independent of a real history ciriculum. He’s never said “my book is the Truth, it should be read instead of regular textbooks.” He’s always said that his book was just a look at American history through different sets of eyes– usually the eyes of the people getting the most fucked over in a given time period. That is evidence of a bias, as he could just as easily told the story of through the eyes of other “people”, instead of telling the story of the Civil War through the eyes of slaves, he could’ve told it through the eyes of, I dunno, milkmaids or steamboat captains or church ministers. He made a choice, a valid one, with a purpose.

But no, we get Mr. Patriot America here to save us from the mighty Zinn and his “history has many points of view” ilk as Stalinists, who have imposed their will upon the nation. Huzzah to the brave patriots, huzzah!

Just to jab those guys again, let me invite you to read this new piece by Zinn, about the process of positive social change by exposing reasonable people to factual evidence that might make them change their political stances.

It was an effort to deprogram myself of my schooling. Sometime during college, after some re-education and introspection, I wrote a nice response: a tiny, bitterly satirical history book, combining the patronizing tone of my elementary school textbooks, with the “American evolution” theme that permated high school, sprinkling liberally with jabs at American racism, sexism, and nationalism, and then threw in some eccentric stuff that probably lives just in my head. I posted it on my first website, “Jake’s ‘Wacky’ Page of Politics and Nihilism”, in a super bare-bones html format.

Then I lost the file for about 4 years.

But now, now I have found it again, and here is that history book in all its plain, boring, bitter glory. It’s… old. Hope it still stands up.

Let “Freedom” Ring

(I also thought of naming it “Let Freedom Wring”, but I didn’t know if everyone would catch the joke).


Posted by Jake on February 27, 2005 11:30 pm


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    I loved checking that amazon page and viewing the “Customers who bought this book also bought…:” section. What tripe.

    Comment by michele. — February 28, 2005 @ 12:17 am

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    Yeah, I grew up in South Carolina. Enough said. Granted, I was not the most attentive student, but I don’t even remember covering half of the stuff that you mentioned! The history that we did cover was undeniably biased. We barely even studied the geography of the middle east much less the history! Slavery and African American history in general was covered during black history month, and the whole “Manifest Destiny” thing was justified somehow. I remember in middle school, students were even picked on by our history teacher for supporting Clinton instead of Bush in the 1992 elections. Those of us who had divergent opinions kept pretty quiet. The entire educational system caters to these narrow minded assholes. What are they afraid of? I guess if those damned commie liberals get their way, America might have to admit fault for something.

    Comment by Robin — February 28, 2005 @ 10:29 am

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    Jake, did we had World History together
    freshman year? Mr. Aster, second period? I
    only ask because I don’t think we even got into
    20th century history, let alone all the way up to
    the fifties.

    Comment by Lafe Vittitoe — February 28, 2005 @ 12:18 pm

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    All due respect- I think Jon Stewart has mentioned the link (perhaps too obliquely) between Iraq and Mess-o-potamia.

    Comment by everyman — February 28, 2005 @ 7:06 pm

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    James Loewen’s “Lies My Teacher Told Me” (aka Zinn for Dummies, in a non-pejorative way) has a sound explanation, IMHO, about why the last forty years of American history are never taught in high school — the historymakers, famous and not, are still alive, or at most, recently dead. Not until they are truly dead (in Swahili, “zamani”) can they be spoken of reverently. As we all know, irreverence has no place in the American classroom, so only the Revered (Paul et al) are taught.

    When I used to substitute teach American history, I brought in Zinn and Loewen and read them aloud to the kids, quite angrily. But that’s how I get when I see their textbooks’ version of the Vietnam War: two pages of text and a picture of a SMILING soldier wading through a rice paddy. There ya go, kids — for homework, don’t show that to your “crazy uncle.”

    Man, I can’t believe they let me be a sub for so long. I was teaching at my old high school — they should have known that I hadn’t changed a bit.

    Raise your hand if you loved Detention.

    (My hand is raised.)

    Comment by N — February 28, 2005 @ 7:39 pm

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    Wow, cool, finally some American history which forcefeeds the commonly held belief that the good ol’ US of A has not, nay cannot do wrong, no matter how fucked up they make they rest of the world. Phew, glad we can now relegate the Middle-East, Africa, SouthEast Asia and of course Afghanistan and Iraq, to their proper places in history; total obscurity. Finally, ignorance is proudly on the march once again.

    Comment by pjr — March 1, 2005 @ 10:34 pm

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    Here is a possibility to fight Carnivor or DCS-1000, Echelon, or what ever they called this thing. The spyware is reaching your computer on its own frequency, different from dial-up, DSL or cable. It could be filtered out by relatively simple electronic devices, but the Big Brothers do not allow selling these filters, so you have to make them for your self. The simplest one is just a capacitor 0.01-0.03 uF range, like this in RadioShack store: 0.01µF 500V 20% Hi-Q Ceramic Disc Capacitor Pk/2 Model: 272-131 | Catalog #: 272-131.

    Connect red and green wires in your phone socket with this capacitor. Your computer also can be reached through the AC power line by one of dear neighbor terminal operators, so protect your power divider. Open its cover and use three of these capacitors to connect plus and minus, minus and ground, plus and ground pairs of wires in the AC divider. Disconnect any radio frequency devices, like Wi-Fi adaptor, Wireless router.

    Now the spyware will have a substantial interference in getting you information. Nothing will happen first, but after a while your Internet will going slow, sometimes very slow. This thing is going to use your Internet channel to intercept your activities. And it needs a lot of traffic, much more than the target computer uses for itself.

    Verizon on-line traffic analyzer used to show that my ”traffic is used by unknown application.” When I started to ask questions to tech support on slowing my Internet, they simply removed this option from their speed report. They blamed wires, my WLAN card, my software and possible virus infections. They played a fool. I have spent many hours talking to my ISP tech support. But I have saved the speed reports for one year and I can go to the court. They have a right to spy on me, but I am still not obligated to pay for this from my pocket.

    Comment by target — December 23, 2008 @ 10:53 am

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