— The Erimtan Angle —

‘Abby Martin sits down with three-time academy award winning filmmaker, Oliver Stone and American University Professor and Historian, Peter Kuznick, to discuss their book and Showtime series The Untold History of the United States where they discuss historical revisionism of world events and the indoctrination that breeds American exceptionalism (12 Dec 2012)’.

On the website this can be read: ‘There is a classified America we were never meant to see. From Academy Award-winning writer/director Oliver Stone, this ten-part documentary series looks back at human events that at the time went under reported, but that crucially shaped America’s unique and complex history over the 20th century. From the atomic bombing of Japan to the Cold War and the fall of Communism, this in-depth, surprising, and totally riveting series demands to be watched again and again’.[1]

In The Nation, Jon Wiener writes that the “’’untold history’ here, which starts with World War II and ends with Obama, will not be unknown to readers of The Nation. Many of them already know that the Soviet Union defeated Hitler’s armies, not the United States; that Japan would have surrendered in August 1945 without the use of atomic bombs; that the United States has a long history of backing right-wing dictators around the world rather than supporting democratic movements. But many TV viewers are not Nation subscribers—at least that’s what I’ve been told—and even longtime readers of America’s oldest weekly will find plenty of provocative ideas here. Stone is quick to acknowledge that he is hardly the first to present this kind of alternative, critical view—his illustrious predecessors include, of course, Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, and also the bestselling Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen. But neither of those historians ever had a ten-part series on cable television. Only Oliver Stone has the power to pull that off. If there are no conspiracy theories here, Stone also eschews another line of argument that many might expect from him: that the ruling class is all-powerful, that Wall Street—the subject of one of his most memorable films—controls everything, along with bankers and the corporate elite, leaving ordinary people helpless. The thesis of the Showtime series, as well as its companion volume, is different: that history is not an iron cage, the keys to which are held by the ruling class. At many pivotal moments, Stone argues, history could have taken a radically different course. The missed opportunities, the roads not taken—these are Stone’s central themes, which he argues with energy, passion and a mountain of evidence (the companion volume has eighty-nine pages of footnotes). Case number one: if Henry Wallace had won the vice presidential nomination in 1944, he would have become president when Roosevelt died in 1945, and we probably would not have bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and could have avoided the cold war as well. It’s a startling and intriguing argument. Usually we teach about Wallace as the hopeless, left-wing third-party candidate of 1948, when he split from the Democrats and ran on the Progressive Party ticket. McCarthyism had already taken hold of American politics, and Wallace was redbaited into a crushing defeat. Four years earlier, however, the situation was very different: Wallace was Roosevelt’s incumbent vice president, and the Soviets were our allies. A Gallup poll in July 1944 asked likely Democratic voters whom they wanted on the ticket as veep. Sixty-five percent said Wallace, while Truman came in eighth, with just 2 percent. Roosevelt announced that, were he a delegate, he would vote for Wallace. Claude Pepper, a Democratic senator from Florida, tried to nominate Wallace at the convention, but the conservative party bosses, who opposed him, adjourned the proceedings. ‘Had Pepper made it five more feet [to the microphone] and nominated Wallace’, Stone argues, ‘Wallace would have become president in 1945 and . . there might have been no atomic bombings, no nuclear arms race, and no Cold War’. Case number two: even with Truman as president in 1945, it was not a foregone conclusion that the United States would drop the bomb. Generals Eisenhower and MacArthur both opposed it, along with most of the other top generals and admirals—and they were joined by many of the scientists who had developed the bomb. If only President Truman had listened to them. Case number three: if JFK had not been shot in 1963, Stone is convinced he would have pulled US forces out of Vietnam and negotiated an end to the cold war. Case number four: if George W. Bush had listened to his intelligence agencies in 2001, the 9/11 attacks would not have taken place. None of these hypotheticals, Stone claims, were impossible long shots or hopeless causes; every one of them could have happened. There’s plenty here to argue about— I debated with colleagues about the Wallace scenario for days—but that’s one of the things that make Stone’s work so engaging and rewarding”.[2]

Wiener indicates that, for years, “Kuznick taught a course at AmericanUniversity titled “Oliver Stone’s America.” Stone finally accepted an invitation to come to the class, and at a dinner afterward, he says, Kuznick told him the story of how close Wallace came to getting renominated as vice president in 1944. Stone says that’s what convinced him to do a history documentary for TV, and to ask Kuznick to be his co-author and partner on what would become a four-year project. There’s never been anything like it on television; the prevailing notions of American ‘altruism, benevolence, and self-sacrifice’ have never been challenged quite so effectively for such a wide audience”.[3]

[1] “About the Series” Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States. http://www.sho.com/sho/oliver-stones-untold-history-of-the-united-states/home.

[2] Jon Wiener, “Oliver Stone’s ‘Untold History’” The Nation (03 December 2012). http://www.thenation.com/article/171210/oliver-stones-untold-history#.

[3] Jon Wiener, “Oliver Stone’s ‘Untold History’”.


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