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The ‘Spirit’ of Howard Zinn at Boston University

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
AP Photo/Dima Gavrysh

These are Orwellian times when a pro-American speaker who advocates for freedom and Constitutional principles is charged exorbitant “security” fees by a major university (along with 29 other Kafka-esque demands) while another speaker who openly advocates for violence against political opponents (such as pro-American Constitutionalists) is invited by faculty to speak at another.


I speak of Boston University vs. Bucknell University.

The first speaker is Ben Shapiro, the second Mark Bray, a one-time lecturer at Dartmouth College who espouses violence against those he deems “fascist,” including “pinstripe fascists” (i.e., capitalists) and “tuxedoed fascists” (Trump supporters attending the “Deplorables Ball” during the inauguration).

This is in Bray’s book, The Antifa Handbook, a fake history that claims that the Weimar Republic descended into fascism by giving Nazis free speech rights. Donald Trump’s very utterances against disruptive protestors at rallies (instead of curling into the sweaty embrace of Michelle Obama a la George W. Bush) are signs of imminent death camps. It provides justification to the black-masked terrorists who gang up and physically attack anticommunists.

It’s about as accurate as Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.

For Bray, world history consists of the clash of two forces of good and evil, communism and fascism/capitalism, respectively.

For Howard Zinn, American history consists of the clash of two forces of good and evil, communism and capitalism, respectively. And America is fascist.

Just as Howard Zinn, an immensely popular professor at Boston University (1964 to retirement in 1988) because he handed out A’s like candy and asked that students only participate in classroom “rap” sessions, follow him on protests, journal, and interview prison inmates (all considered “political prisoners”), Mark Bray combines “scholarship” with activism. Half of the profits from his book are going to Antifa.


As Katie Pavlich pointed out, Boston University is the alma mater of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who majored in international studies and economics—or international socialism. Ocasio-Cortez’s attendance intersected for one year with one of the interviewees for my book, Debunking Howard Zinn: Exposing the Fake History That Turned a Generation against America. Unlike Ocasio-Cortez, my interviewee has gone on to do something useful, i.e., start her own company and a family. She described her horrific experience, after having been subjected in high school not only to Zinn’s book, but a lecture by the old lecher himself. She told me Zinn was still worshiped on the campus of BU.

Zinn made visits back to campus, including in 2009, the year before he died. He appeared with Ellen Goodman and Mary Gordon at the “Howard Zinn Lecture Series,” endowed by one of Zinn’s former students, Alex MacDonald, and his wife. Another student, William Holtzman, used part of his fortune to cofound the Zinn Education Project that spreads Zinn’s propaganda in workshops and downloadable lessons for teachers.

BU president Robert A. Brown, upon Zinn’s death, described him as an “’iconic writer and educator who impacted generations of students at Boston university.” You can say that again! “'Hopefully'” [sic] said Brown, “'his spirit will live on at the University through the Howard Zinn lecture series in the College of Arts & Sciences. . . .'”


Other past speakers have included Zinn’s admirer Eric Foner (who has inherited his sympathy for communism from Party members of his family) and Bob Herbert (Fidel Castro champion for the New York Times).

So it is not surprising that Boston University would put every obstacle in the way to prevent Ben Shapiro from speaking, including exorbitant security fees and forcing the talk into a too small venue. A YAF spokesman rightfully complained about the demands for ensuring security—not for Shapiro, but for the protestors who would mob him—by “the powers that be at Boston University.” The “powers that be”—surprise—include the same president who spoke glowingly of Zinn in 2010.

Robert A. Brown provides a marked contrast to John Silber who began his presidency of BU in 1971, and who insisted on high academic standards and did everything he could to try to get rid of Zinn. (There is no John Silber lecture series at BU.) Contrary to accepted wisdom, Zinn did not write “a bottom-up” history of the “people” who weren’t the “winners.” His people are well-known revolutionary leaders and anonymous mouthpieces spouting Marxist slogans. Indeed, half of Zinn’s chapter on the Vietnam War is about the protest movements Zinn led at BU and elsewhere. The other half is pro-North Vietnam propaganda with Ho Chi Minh presented as the one truly embodying the principles of the Declaration of Independence. The takeaway is that Amerikkka can never be reformed in its republican, capitalist form. Hope glimmers only when blood is flowing from rioting and the deaths of martyrs like John Brown and members of the Black Panthers.


Indeed, the writings of Zinn provided revolutionary inspiration to Occupy Wall Street protestors and their “Cop Watch” punks, which morphed into Black-Lives-Matter, which made common cause with Antifa, a movement imported from Europe, where apparently getting kicked out of an apartment where one is “squatting” is taken as a sign of fascism. One American Antifa martyr left instructions in his manifesto to read Zinn’s tome.

There was little fanfare when Bucknell University’s Humanities Center invited Bray to give the kickoff talk (on the eve of the 9/11 anniversary) in the “Confronting Fascism” series, revealed by three brave professors in their letter to the student newspaper as “tied to political resistance to the Trump administration.” Even Nancy Pelosi had condemned Antifa’s violence, they noted. The Humanities Center does not list past or future speakers. Why not? Nor was Bray’s appearance advertised or even covered by a student reporter.

Bucknell is in central Pennsylvania, “a fairly red [Republican] part of the country.” Unlike YAF events which are open to the public, this event seems to have been limited to supportive faculty and students and is being kept under wraps. Why? And why does Boston University want to stop someone who wants the whole world to hear his message?



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