Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 01/26/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
The Untold History of the United States
By Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick
Simon & Schuster, 750 pages, $35
Oliver Stone, the lion of left-leaning popular culture in America, has done it again.
In the U.S., patriotic hearts are seething and patriotic teeth are gnashing.
In this polemic, the film director who gave the world Platoon, The Fourth of July and Wall Street has gone all out to convince Americans they don't know who they are, where they've been, or where they are going -- and that they'd better find out.
Fast, before it's too late to change. The book also answers the poignant question bewildered Americans asked after the shock of 9/11: why do they (strangers on the other side of the globe) hate us?
Stone, along with eminent historian Peter Kuznick, produced this 750-page volume as a companion to their 10-part documentary film series of the same name. It was introduced on Showtime in the U.S. late in 2012, and has aired in eastern Canada on premium cable, but is not yet scheduled for release west of Ontario.
Together, the two works "challenge the basic narrative of U.S. history... of American altruism, benevolence, devotion to liberty and justice," a myth Stone says is consoling and comforting, but only a small part of a much larger story, and one that is "harmful, noxious and polluted" leaving Americans in the dark and incapable of meaningful action.
Stone and Kuznick's bold counter-narrative actually covers much of the same ground as the late Howard Zinn did earlier in A People's History, but with infinitely more resources and much longer reach. Given Stone's proven power to capture and popularize the unthinkable (think JFK) the resulting cries of bias, propaganda, socialist drivel, etc., can be no surprise.
But Stone and Kuznick say the facts stand. Defending their work, they note that they not only checked the facts, they checked the fact-checkers as well, and hired only the politically antiseptic variety.
The facts, alas, read like the devil's checked-off to-do list. They include the unnecessary and indefensible atomic bombing of Japan in the Second World War, the secret funding of Islamic extremists, the overthrow of countless democracies, the assassination of unacceptable leaders, flaunting international law, and imposing poverty on millions in pursuit of oil or trade supremacy.
As many critics have said, these things are not entirely untold, in fact, since 9/11, they have become part of conventional wisdom, at least outside of the U.S.
Stone and Kuznick agree, but add that the truth has not been told in the right places at home: movie screens, schools, churches, and the local newspaper.
Stone describes U.S. media as "a giant missile shield."
Canada, whether as historical victim, opponent or accomplice, is scarcely mentioned.
Among the enthusiastic and vocal readers of The Untold History is Mikhail Gorbachev, who has praised it for its comprehensive overview of foreign policy. "At stake," he responds," is whether the U.S. will now choose to be the policeman of a 'Pax Americana,' which is a recipe for disaster, or partner with other nations on the way to a safer, more just, and sustainable future."
Stone writes that many of his compatriots have lost the ability to imagine a world that is different from, and better than what exists today. It is for them that The Untold History was written.
Whether it can fight its way past the initial deluge of denial, and into their hands, only time will reveal.
Lesley Hughes is a Winnipeg-based writer and broadcaster.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 26, 2013 J9
Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories? Please use the form below and let us know.
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
Doerr, Guirgis among Pulitzer winners in arts
Clinton dismisses allegations of favouritism at foundation
David Baldacci's latest thriller is engaging
Review: 'Pleasantville' has gripping, believable plot
A masterful new biography of artist Isamu Noguchi
A colorful account of the birth of modern art in Paris
Canadian Toy Testing Council sells off toys
Author believes walking's healing powers can change the world
Stranded hikers face their demons in provocative novel
A royal mess
Winnipeg author recounts the history of hockey's kooky collectibles
George VI shone through Royal Family's tensions
Spiritual healing: Religion and science not always at odds, author discovers
Psychiatry a much-maligned, misunderstood field
Churchill's war cabinet a focused, feisty bunch
Holmes hits the road with unlikely companions
New in Paper
Promising Winnipeg YA author delivers
Jazz singer shares her letters to late love
On the Night Table: Lloyd Axworthy
Kristin Hannah says novel 'The Nightingale' is her favourite
Puppies Attack: Hugo Awards reflect sci-fi/fantasy divide
Court monitor: Apple antitrust co-operation has 'declined'
WALL STREET JOURNAL-BEST SELLERS
USA TODAY Bestsellers
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY Bestsellers
Phil Klay, Leslie Jamison among PEN award nominees
Terry Gould wins J.W. Dafoe Book Prize
Gould wins Dafoe prize for book on Canada's police-training missions abroad
Posthumous book by Charlie Hebdo chief slams 'Islamophobia'
Documentary filmmakers' memoir gives backstage peek at stars
Review: Narrative of 'Adult Onset' feels intensely personal
'The Girl on the Train' tops Maclean's fiction list
Agent says Harper Lee's new book sold in 25 territories
Review: A search for true love in 'The Beekeeper's Daughter'
Eduardo Galeano, a leading voice of Latin America left, dies
Review: New Jo Nesbo thriller reads like extended poem