Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The truth again seems to be lost

I found this New York Times post very disheartening:

If you're going to call a book 'The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History,' readers will expect some serious carrying on about race, and Thomas Woods Jr. does not disappoint. He fulminates against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, best known for forcing restaurants and bus stations in the Jim Crow South to integrate, and against Brown v. Board of Education. And he offers up some curious views on the Civil War - or 'the War of Northern Aggression,' a name he calls 'much more accurate.' The introduction bills the book as an effort to 'set the record straight,' but it is actually an attempt to push the record far to the right. More than a history, it is a checklist of arch-conservative talking points. The New Deal public works programs that helped millions survive the Depression were a 'disaster,' and Social Security 'damaged the economy.' The Marshall Plan, which lifted up devastated European nations after World War II, was a 'failed giveaway program.' And the long-discredited theory of 'nullification,' which held that states could suspend federal laws, 'isn't as crazy as it sounds.' At the start of the "Politically Incorrect Guide to American History," Mr. Woods says he is not trying to offer "a complete overview of American history." That frees him to write a book in which major historical events that do not fit his biases are omitted, in favor of minutiae that do. The book has nothing to say about the Trail of Tears, in which a fifth of the Cherokee population was wiped out, or similar massacres, but cheerfully points out that "by its second decade Harvard College welcomed Indian students." The "Politically Incorrect Guide" is full of dubious assertions, small and large. It makes a perverse, but ideologically loaded, linguistic argument that the American Civil War was not actually a civil war, a point with which dictionaries disagree. More troubling are the book's substantive distortions of history, like its claim that the infamous Black Codes, passed by the Southern states after the Civil War, were hardly different from Northern anti-vagrancy laws. The Black Codes - which were aimed, as the Columbia University historian Eric Foner has noted, at keeping freed slaves' status as close to slavery as possible - went well beyond anything in the North.
It's high time we move away from the leftist ideology now permeating our history books but, if Adam Cohen, who authored the NY Times article is correct, Mr. Woods has produced something just as bad. History, of course, always belongs to the victor, in that the victor gets to put the spin on events. The problem is honest reporting and balance about the underlying events. While I'm willing to bet I disagree with Mr. Cohen's view of history, I suspect he's right that Mr. Wood's is equally slanted (I guess it takes one slanted historian to recognize another!). Somewhere out there, there's got to be an honest history book!