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Shameful, self-promotional Howard Zinn death tie-in

January 27, 2010, 11:29 pm

Whatever we might offer on the merits of Zinn’s signature work, I think we can all unite around the knowledge that it beats A Patriot’s History of the United States like a rented, red-headed step-mule. I don’t ordinarily have favorite paragraphs in anything I write — preferring instead to focus on paragraphs I hate slightly less than all the rest — this one was a lot of fun to produce:

Worse, in their chapters on recent U.S. history, the authors make claims that are not even remotely endorsed by the footnoted sources. In excoriating the Great Society, for instance, Schweikart and Allen observe that one “malignant result of AFDC’s no-father policy was that it left inner-city black boys with no male role models” (p. 689). In support of this Gingrichian pronouncement, the authors cite a single 1989 study from Social Forces— an article that makes no mention of AFDC, inner-city black youth, or role models and indeed has almost nothing to do with the argument to which it is attached. In the same paragraph, we read further that after the 1960s, “gang leaders from Portland to Syracuse, from Kansas City to Palmdale, inducted thousands of impressionable young males into drug running, gun battles, and often death” (p. 689). For this dramatic observation, the authors rely on two broad studies of family structure and drug use, each published eight years apart in the Journal of Marriage and the Family. Among the phrases that do not appear in either study: “Gang leaders,” “Portland,” “Syracuse,” “Kansas City,” “Palmdale,” “impressionable young males,” “drug running,” “gun battles,” and “death.” With little effort, this reviewer has identified nearly a dozen such cases in which the authors have tortured their sources to score points against social programs they oppose, political philosophies to which they object, or historical actors whom they do not like.

Wow, that was a shitty book.

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