Writing in the American Spectator, James Bowman finds some things to like about Dinesh D’Souza’s new documentary, America: Imagine the World Without Her, and some things to dislike as well. Bowman starts with the compliments:
The exhortation in the title of Dinesh D’Souza’s new movie — America: Imagine the World Without Her — suggests that it is going to be an exercise in what they call “counter-factual” history. In other words, imaginary history. History as it didn’t happen. And the opening of the film appears to bear this out, since we watch as an actor (John Koopman) portraying George Washington is shot and killed by a British sniper. Thereafter, however, the alternative history of our country, a history in which (presumably) the Revolutionary War was lost and the United States as we know them never came into existence as a single country, is forgotten, along with all other forms of idle speculation. Instead, we are taken straight into quite a different movie, one consisting of a rapid survey of real American history, organized so as to constitute a refutation of the late Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States.
It should be said that Mr. D’Souza’s movie is all the better for abandoning the counter-factual. Every unfortunate student who has been assigned by some left-wing professor to read Zinn’s deplorable and politically tendentious book should see this movie in order to detox. It takes up and answers, one by one, five heads of the progressive indictment of America, as popularized by Zinn, according to her supposed victims. They are, in order, the Indians, Mexico, African slaves — who, after slavery, were also victims of segregation — and the worldwide multitudes suffering to this day under the yoke of American “colonialism” and “capitalism.” Together, they make up what Mr. D’Souza calls “the Zinn narrative of American shame,” and he’s here to prove to us that there is no need for us to be ashamed of it after all. On the contrary, America’s history is something for us to be proud of, just as it was once usual for people to think before the ideologues began writing it.
Bowman then brings the hammer down, arguing that D’Souza ventures unnecessarily into conspiracy theorizing:
If he had stopped there, I would have no hesitation in recommending this film as an excellent introduction to what had much better be called the shame narrative of American historiography and, thus, to real American history. But he does not stop there. Instead he goes on to yet another movie which bears remarkable similarities to his earlier film, 2016: Obama’s America (2012). In fact, that movie and the second half of this one really belong together under some such title as “Obama’s Secret Plan for America.” And my review of the earlier film could also serve for the latter part of America: Imagine the World Without Her. It boils down to approximately this: since we already know what Mr. Obama’s non-secret plan for America is and since, further, we also know how damaging that plan already has been and is likely to be in the future, why are we dissipating the energies that ought to be expended in opposing the known plan in order to expose what must remain the rather dubious unknown one?
I don’t think that this part of the film is annoying or destroys the credibility of the rest of the movie, but I agree that the structure of the film makes it less successful as a movie than it would otherwise be. I would have preferred that the entire film consist of D’Souza’s countering of the Zinn narrative, as that is the heart of the film and what makes it definitely worth watching. The ventures into counterfactual history and mild conspiracy theorizing are hardly optimal, but in no way do they ruin the film.
In fact, I would go rather farther than Bowman does and say that America: Imagine the World Without Her is essential viewing despite its structural flaws. Howard Zinn’s distortion of history, which Bownam aptly refers to as the “shame narrative” of American history, has been immensely influential over the past several decades and has been the impulse behind much of the political and cultural mischief of the post-Reagan years—political progressivism, educational decline, cultural relativism, and so on and on. It is a disgraceful lie, and one that did not fully originate with Zinn but which he conveyed with great effectiveness by aiming it at the nation’s schoolchildren.
It is important that this American shame narrative be countered and rooted out of its central position in the nation’s culture, and D’Souza is to be praised for doing so in this powerfully inspiring film. Despite its flaws, America: Imagine the World Without Her is a must-see for anyone who wants to help preserve what is great about the United States of America while fostering a future of positive change and reform in the years to come.
I am dropping Dorin Goodwin. If you say she’s not part of this, then she isn’t part of this.
As to your emailed question regarding whether there is an off-topic comment area on this site, no, there is not. We will give the idea due consideration.
Do you know any authors about who wrote about Italy between 1860 and 1883? I read about a novel called “The Leopard,” and saw the chapter headings somewhere online. I was wondering about non fiction sources.
Bradley, you write “If he despised her, when she agreed with him, that is weird.” Not at all. They may not have agreed on anything, even if they shared an overall point of view. And as I noted above, there are other perfectly sensible explanations for Zinn’s dislike of her. Again, Goodwin is a red herring here, as her existence and/or popularity in no way proves that Zinn was not a big influence on American society. That is simply an impossible jump to make, and there is no sense in further belaboring the matter.
—Goodwin is only “a red herring” if she was in agreement with Zinn. The “PracticallyHistorical” guy, in the above thread wrote that Goodwin “was the perfect example of a writer” Zinn dispised. If he despised her, when she agreed with him, that is weird. If he despised her, because she disagreed with him, that would make sense. And if all of her publicity on TV and NPR radio were promoting something Zinn disagreed with, then her influence has to be placed in the same place as his influence.
Precisely. Goodwin is a red herring in this discussion.The issue is the influence of Zinn, and it has been immense.
—Granted, she may never have written a negative review. I went over to the bookstore and found “People’s History,” and Goodwin’s name is not in the index.
The obvious motive for his denigration of Goodwin was jealousy over her success (not just financially but also, and perhaps more importantly, in status and respect from the media) and a feeling of offense that he was not getting enough personal credit for her ideas.
—What is not here are the words “Zinn wrote that Goodwin was wrong when she said…”
—Or the words “Goodwin, who’s negative review of “People’s History” was published in 1990, wrote that the book…”
I get your point, but it doesn’t apply here.
Man goes to a priest, and says. “I’m dead. I need to be buried.”
Priest says: “No your not, your alive.”
Man says: “No, I’m dead.”
Priest says: “Do dead men bleed?”
Man says: “No, of course not, dead men do not bleed.”
The Priest reaches into his own pocket, pulls out a jack knife, and cuts the back of the man’s hand. Blood flows out.
Man says “Oh! it turns out dead men do bleed!”
As was well-known, Zinn was highly territorial and egotistical. The obvious motive for his denigration of Goodwin was jealousy over her success (not just financially but also, and perhaps more importantly, in status and respect from the media) and a feeling of offense that he was not getting enough personal credit for her ideas. That is sufficient to explain his reaction.
—If Goodwin was copying Zinn, there would be no criticism of Goodwin by Howard Zinn.
—Unless I am missing something.
—But if she disagreed with him in print, she was not following his narrative? Why would Zinn argue against Goodwin if Zinn’s books were an extension of Zinn’s own work?
Bradley, you’re right to note that Goodwin is a purveyor of the Zinn narrative, thus proving my point that his influence is far, far bigger than his direct readership.
Doris Kearns- Goodwin is the perfect example of a writer Zinn despised, yet she fawns over his legacy… the New Left has its lock-step. Michael Kammen, the great historian at Cornell University, summarized Zinn succinctly …
—Wait, Zinn wrote that Goodwin was wrong? And she liked him anyway?
—So what about Doris Kearns Goodwin’s influence?
—What is a proper measurement of her influence?
About 11,100,000 results (0.36 seconds) —Sherlock Holmes, Doesn’t even exist?
Thanks for all of this information, Bradley. However, Zinn’s full influence results from his ideas being taught in schools and also in the thousands of books by his followers and others influenced by him and the latter. Googling Howard Zinn’s name is not a proper test of his influence: those who are googling Ebert and Lennon have already been taught Zinn’s view of history in the public schools and in college or university throughout their education, though they may not know his name.
707,000 results—googling Doris Kearns Goodwin name
775,000 results (0.42 seconds) — Howard Zinn google results
505,000 results (0.54 seconds) Barbara W. Tuchman google results
About 1,350,000 results (0.46 seconds) —Martin Scorsese results (not known as a book author, although has written some books)
About 4,830,000 results —googling Rodger Ebert
About 5,430,000 results (0.51 seconds) —googling John Lennin (not known as a book author.)
My apologies for getting John Winston Ono Lennon’s name wrong!
Regardless of what Zinn’s narrative is, the history books the public actually reads are JFK and Jackie themed, and Doris Kearns Goodwin.
I have never heard what the actual books sales statistics are for Goodwin, or Zinn. I do know that NPR does not mention Zinn, and Doris Goodwin is on often.
Comments are closed.