This past Friday, I attended the Oliver Stone-Peter Kuznick roadshow at its Washington, D.C., venue — the national conference of the Popular Culture Association and the American Culture Association, held in the grand ballroom of the Washington Marriott-Wardman Park Hotel. (It was once an apartment complex, in which Henry A. Wallace lived when he was vice president during FDR’s presidency. Kuznick evidently was not aware of this; he might have dedicated the venue as a shrine.)
Their presentation, offered to a clearly leftist and liberal audience that greeted them as conquering heroes waging a battle against the supposedly right-wing establishment, was important for one major reason. It offered us insight into the mindset held by leftists such as the two presenters, and into how they depict themselves in order to gain an audience’s sympathy — how they make them believe their message is the sole truth.
Before it started, I, Roger Aronoff of Accuracy In Media, and historian Richard Raack stood outside the door handing out announcements of our own counter-session to be held the next morning, at which we intended to — and did — offer a rebuke to the Stone-Kuznick book and TV series. Attached to the announcement was my own Weekly Standard article that offered a critique of the first episodes of the Showtime program.
I haven’t leafleted anything as an act of protest in many a year, and believe me, it felt good. I only hope that many who took the leaflets actually took the time to read my article.
Following is what both Stone and Kuznick had to say, and my comments about what I learned from listening to them.
Kuznick, who did most of the talking, announced that they showed the episode about the origins of the Cold War. This is the one which ended with Henry A. Wallace: Kuznick pointed out once again that had Wallace been president instead of Harry S. Truman, the United States would have avoided the Cold War, turned to the left domestically, and had generations of peace with Stalin’s Soviet Union. Kuznick made this argument despite it having been answered in detail not only by me in various publications including PJM, but by Sean Wilentz in the New York Times Review of Books.
Kuznick simply ignored all of the detailed critiques of their argument, as if they had never been made, as if he and Stone had nothing to respond to.
Knowing full well that their audience probably had not read the critiques and had no knowledge of whether anyone had answered them, Kuznick was able to claim in his best voice that he alone dared to tell this truth about Wallace which no one else had ever dared to say.
He placed great emphasis on the phony story of how the Democratic convention of 1948 almost nominated Wallace but was stopped by party bosses — by the way, a story torn apart by Wilentz — and of how Wallace stood for peace while no one else did.
Kuznick ignored as well the evidence of Wallace’s covert meeting with the NKVD station chief in Washington, D.C., while he was still in the president’s cabinet.
Nothing was offered that would contradict the narrative both were sticking with — facts be damned. Both Stone and Kuznick understand that gullible audiences who know nothing will think they are telling the truth.
Next, they used a second ploy: playing the victim.
This time it was Oliver Stone’s turn to talk. Stone actually expected the audience to believe that they were two truth-tellers who had no podium with which to make their case. The media was controlled by the right wing, he said, and they had to battle against a media that essentially blacklisted them and in which they never could have a voice.
Did Stone really believe this? Especially if, as we will see, the evidence he bragged about literally denigrated his own argument?
He failed to mention that both he and Kuznick have been on scores of major TV and radio talk shows to hype their project. Indeed, they have been universally received as brave soldiers for the truth — even on conservative programs like Mike Huckabee’s radio show.
Not only has the media not avoided them, its bookers have bombarded them with endless opportunities to peddle the Showtime series and their book.