Oliver Stone’s America

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Sean Wilentz tears into Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick’s The Untold History of the United States, especially its hagiographic treatment of JFK and Communist-sympathizer Henry Wallace:

With a few twists, above all its defense of the liberal anti-Communist (and Stone’s longtime personal hero) John F. Kennedy, The Untold History of the United States, both the book and the televised series, is a quirky summa of the old Progressive rhetoric, as proclaimed by Stone and Kuznick’s other hero, Henry Wallace, but presented as brand new. They fail to say that in 1952 Wallace published his article “Where I Was Wrong,” writing that he had been inadequately informed about Stalin’s crimes and

did not see…the Soviet determination to enslave the common man morally, mentally and physically for its own imperial purposes…. More and more I am convinced that Russian Communism in its total disregard of truth, in its fanaticism, its intolerance and its resolute denial of God and religion is something utterly evil.

He supported Dwight Eisenhower and, in 1960, Richard Nixon for president. Although the book by Stone and Kuznick is heavily footnoted, the sourcing, as the example of Wallace’s 1952 article suggests, recalls nothing so much as Dick Cheney’s cherry-picking of intelligence, particularly about the origins and early years of the cold war. The authors also devote many thousands of words to criticism of such destructive American policies as Ronald Reagan’s in Central America and George W. Bush’s in Iraq, but much of this will be familiar to readers of these pages, as will their objections to Barack Obama’s use of predator drones. This book is less a work of history than a skewed political document, restating and updating a view of the world that the independent radical Dwight Macdonald once likened to a fog, “caused by the warm winds of the liberal Gulf Stream coming in contact with the Soviet glacier”—but now more than twenty years after the dissolution of the Soviet empire.