But remember, this power of the people on top depends on the obedience of the people below. When people stop obeying, they have no power. — Howard Zinn
David Horowitz in ATC obituary with substance-free attack
When progressive historian Howard Zinn died on January 27, NPR’s All Things Considered (1/28/10) marked his passing with something you don’t often see in an obituary: a rebuttal.
After quoting Noam Chomsky and Julian Bond, NPR’s Allison Keyes turned to far-right activist David Horowitz to symbolically spit on Zinn’s grave. “There is absolutely nothing in Howard Zinn’s intellectual output that is worthy of any kind of respect,” Horowitz declared. “Zinn represents a fringe mentality which has unfortunately seduced millions of people at this point in time. So he did certainly alter the consciousness of millions of younger people for the worse.”
Horowitz’s substance-free attack contributed nothing to an understanding of Zinn’s life or work, other than conveying that he’s disliked by cranky right-wingers. (Horowitz has been best known in recent years for his race-baiting and Muslim-bashing–Extra!, 5-6/02; FAIR report, 10/1/08.) He seems to have been included merely to demonstrate that NPR will not allow praise for a leftist to go unaccompanied by conservative contempt.
Needless to say, it is not the case that NPR has a consistent principle that all its obituaries be thus “balanced.” Take its coverage of the death of William F. Buckley, a figure as admired by the right as much as Zinn was on the left. Upon his death in February 2008, NPR aired six segments commemorating him, none of which included a non-admiring guest. In two segments, All Things Considered (2/27/08) presented the remembrances of Rich Lowry (Buckley’s successor at National Review), his son Christopher and his biographer Sam Tanenhaus.
One of the All Things Considered segments did include a soundbite of Noam Chomsky debating with Buckley: “No, I don’t believe that…. In fact I think that…” But what Chomsky did not believe was unclear, let alone what he actually thought.
Talk of the Nation (2/27/08) featured admirer William Kristol, while Day by Day (2/27/08) had an extended interview with protegee David Brooks. Morning Edition (2/28/08) just quoted Buckley himself.
The celebration of Buckley culminated with Weekend Edition host Scott Simon (2/29/08), who turned the cause of death into a eulogy: “Emphysema, such an unseemly thing for a man who was so often a breath of fresh air.”
In fact, there was much to criticize about Buckley, who was a supporter of, among other things, white supremacism in the U.S. South and South Africa, McCarthyism, nuclear war against China and the tattooing of AIDS patients’ buttocks (Extra!, 5-6/08). Reporting his death, however, NPR didn’t think it was worth bringing on a critic who would take a negative view. Why the same outlet took a different approach when the subject was an intellectual on the left rather than the right is perhaps something the NPR ombud could answer.
ACTION: Please ask the NPR ombud why All Things Considered brought on David Horowitz to trash the late Howard Zinn when NPR’s extensive coverage of William F. Buckley included no critical guests.
You can contact NPR ombud Alicia Shepard through this web form:
Or call 202-513-3245.
You can post a copy of your message to NPR here:
Horowitz Questions Zinn Legacy on NPR
by David Horowitz
[…] UPDATE: David Horowitz’s comments to NPR were edited into soundbites. They cut out his main point which was this:
David Horowitz: The important part of my commentary that they cut was that this man was a Stalinist and a lifelong supporter of America’s enemies up to and including the Islamic terrorists.
Howard Zinn’s last advice to America – and to me by Rabbi Arthur Waskow
Bill Moyers Journal: SCOTUS and Campaign Finance + State of the Unions + Remembering Howard Zinn
Remembering Howard Zinn: Legacy + Personal Philosophy + World Today
Howard Zinn 1922-2010: A Tribute to the Legendary Historian with Noam Chomsky, Alice Walker, Naomi Klein and Anthony Arnove
The people’s historian by Alan Maass
Rest in Peace Howard Zinn by Cindy Sheehan
This piece is maddening. The saturation of everything by the warmongers and american exceptionalists, it’s unbearable. Thanks nevertheless Lo.
One thing is calling Zinn a historical revisionist… well, after all, he *did* set out to fundamentally alter the way history was being framed. There is substantive debate about how well he told that story, with socialists like Michael Kazin arguing that even on its own terms A People’s History was flawed.
Zinn certainly deserves credit for breaking the ground with an unflinchingly populist history from the perspective of the oppressed. It is a framework that, no doubt, will be improved upon, as criticisms from the likes of Kazin demonstrate. Nonetheless, popularizing this conceptual shift in our understanding of history remains a lasting credit to Zinn.
On the other hand, as you all are undoubtedly troubled by, bringing a crank in to “balance” an obituary is quite another thing.
LEWIS LAPHAM did a scathing critique on PBS and NPR years ago . no one can take what they say as anything serious . look at where their funding comes from .
Nicely said, Steve. What also happened on NPR was that on Friday, the show “On Point” devoted TEN lousy minutes to Zinn’s legacy, AND introduced him as an “historical revisionist”. Idiots. Thanks for posting this, Lo.
Perhaps what bothers this Horowitz so much is, that in the future long after he is dead himself; he will be viewed as just another collaborator who sold his soul for money and a seat on a propagandists’ “think tank”… who helped turned the word “Journalist” into an epithet of derision and disgust.
Meanwhile, Dr. Zinn will be hailed as one of the few in this age who got it right.
NPR, and Public television, can no longer be trusted… They are GONE to us. We knew this back in 2008 when they refused to mention the Articles of Impeachment that Rep. Kucinich read into the Record before the House of Representatives.
THINK ABOUT THAT FOLKS. Do they deserve our donations? We need to support those who are REALLY on our side… They get all the money they need for “Corporate America” anyway …
The Republicans are sinking to new lows.