Oliver Stone and his co-author Peter Kuznick are not going to be happy this week. After making scores of media appearances in which he heralded the supposedly great reception for his new TV series and accompanying book, Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States, which airs each week for 10 episodes on the CBS-owned network Showtime, Stone is finally getting the negative response he feared.
First, Stone was hit hard by Michael Moynihan at Newsweek/The Daily Beast. Declaring Stone and Kuznick’s film “junk history,” Moynihan called Stone’s work “swivel-eyed, ideological history,” based on “dubious quotes and sources,” a veritable “marvel of historical illiteracy.” Coming on the heels of my own debunking of Stone, “A Story Told Before: Oliver Stone’s Recycled History of the United States,” Stone and Kuznick received two substantive critiques in one week.
Stone, of course, completely ignored my own substantive article, alluding to it without naming me as an example of “a few far-right diatribes” that do not warrant response. Stone bragged that “the majority of reviews and articles have been positive,” until that is – the piece by Moynihan that he had to answer since it appeared in what he considers a mainstream media venue. Since the original author has the last word, Moynihan hit Stone hard in his own answer, that appears after Stone’s response as an update. Moynihan easily further demolishes Stone and Kuznick, concluding after presenting more evidence that their work “is activism masquerading as history.”
This Sunday, however, Stone and Kuznick will be even more upset. The New York Times Magazine features a story by editor Andrew Goldman, “Oliver Stone Rewrites History-Again.” Goldman’s story, which summarizes Stone’s theory behind the TV series and has many vignettes based on his own interview with the director, notes among other things that Stone never really took back his incendiary comment that there is “Jewish domination of the media” and that Israel’s “powerful lobby in Washington” controls U.S. foreign policy. The apology he supposedly made to the Anti-Defamation League was forced on him to avoid cancellation of “Untold History,” and Stone now told Goldman that he should not have used the word “Jewish,” but that Israel has “seeming control over American foreign policy” and that AIPAC has “undue influence.” He accuses them of “militating for the war in Iraq,” completely ignoring that in fact, Israel did not favor the war, considering Iran its major enemy, and that AIPAC in particular never lobbied on its behalf. Each time Stone explains himself, he further puts his foot in his mouth.
When Goldman eventually gets to the new Showtime series, readers learn that Stone’s accolades come mainly when he presents his film to sympathetic viewers from the far left Nation magazine, as in a forum held in New York after the annual New York Film Festival. Referring to the magazine as “the left’s beloved 147 year-old weekly,” Goldman quotes its editor and publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel, as saying that Stone’s film “is what we try to do at The Nation,” which if anything, is more of a giveaway about its reliability than she imagines. That she sees the film as challenging “the orthodoxy” and the “conformity of our history” is a statement that should, if anything, be very embarrassing to those who think she has any credibility.