In his new book, Intellectual Morons, author Dan Flynn gives us a handy reference guide to 16 opinion leaders whose own conclusions were dubiously arrived at, and widely accepted, particularly in academia. Flynn gives extensive profiles on all of them: They range, alphabetically, from Noam Chomsky to Howard Zinn.
In his eighties, Zinn still tours the college lecture circuit and his book, A People’s History of the United States, is required reading in many high schools and colleges. But how historically accurate is Zinn’s People’s History? Flynn takes us through Zinn’s history and shows us that the elder statesman of the academic left had a stunning track record for being wrong. Here is Zinn on:
Mao Tse Tung’s China—“the closest thing, in the long history of that ancient country, to a people’s government, independent of outside control.”
Castro’s Cuba—“no bloody record of suppression”
Ronald Reagan’s America—“Unemployment grew in the Reagan years.”
Flynn, characteristically, does his own research, and shows us the millions killed by Mao Tse Tung, the abysmal human rights record of Fidel Castro and the, yes, historically high, job growth in the Reagan years. And this is what happens when we match Zinn’s work against recent history.
His take on the Founding Fathers is that they crafted the “most effective system of national control.” Flynn asks, “If the Founders wanted a society they could direct, why didn’t they put forth a dictatorship or a monarchy resembling most other governments at the time?” Flynn last book was Why The Left Hates America.
Flynn supplies pages of footnotes, using primary sources such as Amnesty International’s human rights reports. Zinn offers no documentation whatsoever for his assertions. Zinn does provide a bibliography but in it he lists overwhelmingly secondary sources, namely books and periodicals.
“For readers who prefer their history to be an accurate retelling of the past rather than marching orders for the present, Zinn’s writings disappoint,” Flynn notes.
Zinn does not do the painstaking research of more reliable historians such as David McCulloch or Thomas Fleming. McCulloch practically lived at the Truman presidential library when he undertook his definitive biography of the late president. Fleming goes right to the scene of the sites that he chronicles, as when he moved to West Point to chronicle that institution’s history.
So why have millions purchased Zinn’s demonstrably wrong history? Flynn offers an explanation: “It is reasonable to wonder when one looks at these facts, whether most of the million or so copies sold have been done so via coercion—that is, college professors and high school teachers requiring the book.”
Flynn is the former executive director of Accuracy in Academia. He puts Zinn’s failures as well as his popularity down to Zinn’s dedication to ideology at the expense of scholarship. Zinn’s predilection is not one that he himself has ever made a secret of:
“Objectivity is impossible and it is also undesirable. That is, if it were possible it would be undesirable, because if you have any kind of a social aim, if you think history should serve society in some way; should serve the progress of the human race; should serve justice in some way, then it requires that you make your selection on the basis of what you think will advance causes of humanity.”
Because many academics agree with Zinn, they continue to push his book, at the expense of the historical record. Dan Flynn’s book is published by Crown Forum, a division of Random House Publishing.