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.
Next, Stone informed the audience that when Showtime’s repeat of the series comes to an end, the contract with them is up. At that time, Time Warner will pick up the series, and will release it on their cable systems in major cities as well as on DVD for purchase and for use in college courses. Since Showtime is a cable network and Time Warner is a cable service, he emphasized, it now would get a much wider audience than it did while aired only on Showtime’s premium cable service.
In addition, Stone told us that the program is set to air next week in Britain. “The British are anti-Soviet,” Stone said, “and it might be harder for their audience to accept it, but we’ll see.”
With those words, Stone revealed that being anti-Soviet is to him a very bad thing, and that he finds it hard to believe in this day and age that anyone could ever have had such a position.
Not only was the program to be aired in Britain, he informed us, but it was soon to premiere in both China and Turkey! It did not occur to Stone, evidently, why both of these nations might want to air a program whose main thesis is that American imperialism is an evil result of a vicious American empire that wants to rule the world and hold down “progressive” nations like Communist China, with its state-controlled media, and Islamist Turkey.
Most of the Q and A was handled by the on-stage moderator, who was friendly to both of them and asked them softball questions meant to not challenge them. At one point, she asked them how the series and book were received, to which Kuznick replied that they had overwhelmingly favorable responses from TV reviewers, and that the book had received blurbs from respected mainstream historians who all said how essential and important it was.
Kuznick, of course, knows full well that the blurbs are all from left-leaning scholars, all of whom have the same point of view he has, and none are from any truly mainstream historians like John Gaddis of Yale University, Alonzo Hamby of Ohio University, or others who, if asked, would more than likely think their book a farce, as does Wilentz and David Greenberg of Rutgers University.
At that point, Kuznick went on to say that there was some criticism from “defenders of the American Empire” – he mentioned Wilentz in particular, whom he blasted as being in the same school as Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., the late highly regarded historian who, of course, was of the broad mainstream left, but whom Kuznick termed a “Cold War liberal,” to leftists a derogatory term.
He went on to say: “These Cold War liberals have joined conservatives in attacking us,” thereby putting his critics in one bag, all defenders of — as he said more than once — “the American Empire.” Indeed, he added that “Wilentz, like Schlesinger, defends the American Empire.” That, I guess, is one way of dealing with the devastating blast that Wilentz had written.
At that moment, I had had enough. I stood up — I shouted in a loud voice but without a microphone, and perhaps only those in my immediate area heard all I had to say – and made known that one of the critics he was attacking was right there. I said that both of them were liars and cowards who refused to debate, that everything they were saying was false and could be answered. I urged those in attendance to come to our session the next morning, as it would provide a major criticism of the arguments they were listening to and which they saw in the episode that had just been screened.
At first, there was total silence, and looks of confusion on Stone and Kuznick. Then Stone proceeded to start talking as if nothing had happened, and did not comment at all on what I had said.
It is more than clear, after attending this lecture, that on the issue of history Kuznick is the sole culprit.
Stone talks largely on how he decided to deal with doing the film — dispensing with talking heads and using footage bolstered by his own stentorian voice, using music and other emphasis at various points to show approval or disapproval of what was depicted in the footage used.
On the issue of historical truth, he again gave his usual pitch that the film had been thoroughly vetted for accuracy. Although one thinks he must really know that CBS lawyers do not go over a film for its treatment of history, but only to see that nothing libelous is said about any living figure. If one could sue for distortion of history, I guarantee that there would be a lot of people standing in line to bring charges.
When asked later what he hoped to get out of the series and book, he answered that “our hope is that our book replaces all existing college textbooks.”
He mentioned that some professors already were assigning it as the textbook for their classes. Kuznick added that even Stone’s daughter used a textbook that said the bombing of Hiroshima was necessary and was done to save American lives.
Finally, the moderator said that there would be a few questions from the audience in the remaining time. Most of course were approving, but one stood out for me because of the answer Kuznick gave to the question: What did they think, the two were asked, of Kim Jong-Un’s warlike blustering and his threat of using force against South Korea and even brandishing the threat of using nuclear weapons?
Any rational person, of course, would immediately condemn North Korea’s current dangerous actions.
Not the two of them, however.
Kuznick replied that although he did not approve of what Kim Jong-Un and the North Koreans were doing, “it was understandable because it was a response to the United States military actions aiding South Korea in recent days.”
He then went on a tirade about how the U.S. decimated both South and North Korea in the days of the Korean War, used napalm as they did later in Vietnam, and generally harmed the people of Korea, something that he thought the North Koreans well remembered, which is why they view the United States and the South Koreans in a hostile fashion.
As usual with leftist ideologues, any bad things said by Communist rulers is excused and explained as a just or understandable response to American aggression. Clearly, to both men, the U.S. is “the evil empire.”
The next morning, we appeared to a rather small group at our counter-session. I was pleased that those who came did so because they got our leaflet, and there were defenders of Stone and Kuznick with whom I was able to argue with and show at length how they distorted history to use it as a vehicle to implement a leftist political agenda.
The video of our session will be available soon at the AIM website, and I will add a link to this post when it appears in a week or so.
As I have argued before, in the presentation you can see at Frontpagemag.com, winning the fight for the culture is a critical issue. Once Stone and Kuznick get their essentially old-line Communist film into all regular cable outlets and the book is adopted as a text, it will begin to have the same insidious effect that Howard Zinn’s propagandist screed had on high schools students as well as young college students.
The goal of Stone and Kuznick is to distort our history in order to indoctrinate students and to turn them into opponents of the United States — essentially, to create a new generation of activists who will help bring down the free nation we live in.
To them, history is not a tool to understand our past, but a mechanism of indoctrination in which lies — about the Cold War, in this case — are used to turn the young against their own country. That is why opposing them is important, and why we cannot stop in waging the fight against those who help spread their lies only because they see money in it.
Lenin famously quipped that the Bolsheviks would “sell the capitalists the rope with which we will hang them.” In sponsoring Stone and Kuznick’s lies, Showtime and now Time Warner are proving Lenin prophetic.