Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Words of Howard Zinn

"To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places-and there are so many-where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory."

Friday, January 29, 2010

NPR Balancing Historical Truth with Petty Slurs

I have been an NPR listener, and almost always a local station member, since 1974, but I was deeply disappointed yesterday afternoon to hear the coverage on All Things Considered of the legacy of the historian Howard Zinn, who passed away this week.

I have heard Professor Zinn speak many times, and was particularly moved a few years ago by a broadcast of "Voices of a People's History of the United States" - a presentation of readings by well-respected actors of writings or teachings of historical figures, from Zinn's companion book to his A People's History of the United States.

That is what makes a great historian -- the willingness to search for the less told stories, so that we get a deeper insight to history. Otherwise, the easy "history" that is passed forward is the one that is written by those in power -- the "winners".

There was a time that public broadcasting could be trusted to bring the same quality to journalism that we need in our historians - the willingness to look deeper and give us greater insight.

But the story on Howard Zinn, "Historian Howard Zinn Remembered" would have been more accurately titled, "Historian Howard Zinn Denegrated" because NPR brought in an extremist conservative pundit, David Horowitz, to make unusually rude remarks about Zinn, particularly in a segment that should have been honoring the professor. Mind you, Horowitz didn't even present a logical reason for his position of complete disdain for the Professor, who was not merely an intellectual, but was a long time civil rights and peace activist, courageous and caring. Horowitz did not provide a logical retort to the information Zinn has highlighted and/or taught. It was a cowardly slur, not logical criticism -- just mean-spirited grumbling from a petty hack.

Your "Comments" section provides the opportunity to "Report Abuse". Well, I'm reporting it. NPR, once a noble public radio broadcaster, has shown that it has become a dark, fearful character, willing to sell out to the bullies, to throw one of the Best under the wheels, undoubtedly in the name of "balanced" reporting.

Shame on you. There is no need to balance the truth.

Is NPR still intimidated by Kenneth Tomlinson, or whoever else has taken that role?

Your audience, and Howard Zinn, deserve an apology. And NPR deserves some quiet time with "The Voices of A People's History of the United States". You can find it at Democracy Now. Maybe then it will remember what kind journalism it was created to provide.