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Once Again Oliver Stone Hypes his New TV Documentary: Time to Tell CBS to Cancel It

A few years ago, I wrote on these pages about a forthcoming documentary series for Showtime, produced and directed by Oliver Stone and co-authored by American University left-wing historian Peter Kuznick. You can find what I wrote here and here. I also took Stone on about this project in the pages of the Wall Street Journal, and you can also look at my op-ed.

Now, in an interview appearing in the January issue of Rock Cellar Magazine, Stone announces that the 10 part series will air on the network this coming May, and in late April, the companion book written by Stone and Kuznick will be published by Gallery Books, the same publisher that ironically published Dick Cheney’s memoir.

Now, Stone argues this history documentary will be “a liberal progressive history of the U.S.” Titled The Untold History of the United States, the information Stone offers us about it first shows how disingenuous the title is. Rather than never being told before — at least the title was changed from the first version that it would be the “unknown” history -- it is a repeat of a very old and now stale leftist version of our past that dates not from the work of the late Howard Zinn, but from the old CPUSA “scholars” like the late Herbert Aptheker and the secret KGB agent and American Communist activist Carl Marzani, who in the early1950s wrote a book titled We Can Be Friends, the very first “Cold War revisionist” account that blamed the then-ongoing Cold War not on the aggressive policy of Joseph Stalin, but on American imperialism and the warlike anti-Soviet policy of the “fascist” president, Harry S. Truman.

Here is Stone’s message, in his own words:

The Cold War itself.  The whole concept we grew up with in school is that we have been aggressed by the Soviets since World War II; that they started the Cold War, and we responded. We deal with that very in depth, and it’s important because it sets up the mindset that has infected America since then.

Stone continues to say that the U.S. thought “we had to respond to communism because it was seeking to dominate the world. I think that’s a very important thing to overcome.”

To Stone, the well-grounded view that John Gaddis spelled out so thoroughly in his 1998 book Now We Know: Rethinking Cold War History (which I reviewed here) in which Gaddis wrote that “Once Stalin wound up at the top in Moscow, and once it was clear his state would survive the war, then it looks equally clear that there was going to be a Cold War whatever the West did,” appears nowhere in Stone’s repertoire of all those books he claims to have read for his series.

In fact, Gaddis wrote his book as a corrective not only to his own earlier thinking, but to all those who were mis-educated in precisely the kind of history Oliver Stone is again going to present to us. Most Americans who have gone to college from the 1960s on have learned precisely the kind of history Stone is presenting -- the Cold War revisionist account that is only now beginning to be challenged by writers like Gaddis and the Notre Dame University historian, Wilson B. Miscamble.

Among other surprises in  Stone’s documentary, he reveals, is the portrayal of FDR’s first Vice-President and then Secretary of Commerce Henry A. Wallace, whom he says “emerges as one of the unsung, forgotten heroes of our history.” Again, for decades, Wallace has not only not been forgotten, but has been continually resurrected by the American fellow-travelers of Communism as a hero. In 2000, we had John C. Culver and John Hyde’s American Dreamer: The Life and Times of Henry A. Wallace (which I reviewed for TNR), in 1973 the Communist historian Norman J. Markowitz’s The Rise and Fall of the People’s Century:Henry A. Wallace and American Liberalism,  and in 1976 Richard J. Walton’s Henry Wallace, Harry Truman and the Cold War, all of which argue precisely what Stone claims is going to be a new argument in his documentary. Most recently, we had the documentary about Pete Seeger shown on PBS, filmmaker Jim Brown’s Pete Seeger:The Power of Song, which goes out of its way to treat Wallace as one of America’s great unsung heroes.