The old totalitarian nations understood the importance of history. They believed, as Orwell wrote in 1984, that those who controlled the narrative of the past would be better able to rule the present and the future. That is why the Soviets continually rewrote the “Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” airbrushing out of the record former Bolshevik leaders who had been purged, and rewriting accounts of their own revolution to weed out positive references to the likes of Leon Trotsky, Nikolai Bukharin, and other old Bolsheviks. That is why the Chinese Communists have to perpetuate the myth of Mao, whose leadership role has to remain firm, less their own legitimacy to rule China be questioned by their own people.
In their own way, Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick are attempting the same kind of rewrite for their own country. Clifford May writes that “these days, documentaries, too, often are weapons of mass indoctrination. In addition to airing Homeland, Showtime has been broadcasting Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States, a series that re-litigates the Cold War, finding Truman more to blame than Stalin, telling audiences that Americans not only aren’t ‘the good guys,’ but that we are ‘the wrong side.’”
“This debate is of far more than academic interest,” May adds:
It is hugely consequential at a time when Americans are trying to decide whether we should be robustly defending America and other free nations from those who proclaim themselves our enemies, or whether we should be attempting to address the ‘legitimate grievances’ of those we have supposedly wronged.
Hence, if you believe that the Cold War was caused by America’s imperial outreach, and that Stalin and his henchman took a tough line because of U.S. policy, you are likely to believe today that those who say our nation has very real enemies who have to be recognized are arguing on behalf of a myth, and that what the United States should do is unilaterally disarm, cut our military budget drastically, and reach out to our Muslim enemies, who would become friends if we only showed them respect and deference and, of course, put great pressure on Israel, whose provocative policies oppress the Palestinians and Israel’s Arab neighbors.
PJM readers know that I have been on a campaign to expose and challenge the so-called history offered to our countrymen by Stone and Kuznick. Aside from my many articles on this site, I penned an op-ed that appeared last week in The Wall Street Journal, which I wrote because I knew Stone and Kuznick would not ignore an article that appeared in a major newspaper, unlike those that have appeared here as well as the series in David Horowitz’s Frontpagemag.com. I am glad to report that now Conrad Black has joined in presenting his own major critique of the series, and now his readers will understand how important it is to challenge their account. In “The Real Henry Wallace,” Black successfully demolishes the account of the principal hero of the TV series.