When, at long last, will people understand that the left is boring?
The question came to mind as I was dipping in and out of Oliver Stone's miasmic 700-plus-page tome. I'll never read the whole thing, and not because it's a left-wing screed full of slimy distortions about the evils of the United States (though that doesn't help). It's that it's boring.
Stone and co-author Peter Kuznick call their book "The Untold History of the United States," except, again, it isn't. This story has been told countless times before. As the Daily Beast's Michael Moynihan notes in a devastating review, Stone and Kuznick offer no new research, and much of the old research they rely on has been rendered moot by more recent discoveries since the Berlin Wall came down.
Still, what vexes me about the book isn't really the substance. What bothers me is the manufactured rebelliousness, the kitschy nostalgic play-acting of the thing. The 66-year old Stone can be an original filmmaker, but he is a stale old Red when it comes to politics.
In a sense, that fine. We're all entitled to our opinions, even to commit them to paper in book form. But spare me the radical pose. Among the hilarious blurbs is this encomium from the octogenarian radical Daniel Ellsberg. "Howard [Zinn] would have loved this 'people's history' of the American Empire. It's compulsive reading: brilliant, a masterpiece!"
Ellsberg is right about one thing: The late Howard Zinn, a wildly left-wing historian, probably would have loved it -- in no small part because he wrote so much of it already in his decades-old and endlessly recycled "A People's History of the United States."
Zinn's work, along with Noam Chomsky's, Michael Moore's and, now, Stone's, is seen as boldly transgressive and subversive. Intellectually, there's some truth to that of course. If you're dedicated to subverting the free enterprise system and traditional patriotism, then you're a subversive.
I guess what bothers me is the whole pretense that these people are bravely speaking truth to power in some way. Zinn has been on college syllabi for decades. Moore wins Academy Awards and is treated like royalty by the Democratic Party (he sat in Jimmy Carter's suite at the 2004 Democratic Convention). Chomsky has been a fixture on the campus paid-lecture circuit since before I was born.