Howard Zinn – You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train- A People’s History

Howard Zinn – You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train- A People’s History

Welcome to books of our times produced by the massachusetts school of law today we shall discuss two books by one of america’s
most famous historians of any political stripe and certainly the most famous american
historian from the left howard inn the two books are you can’t be neutral
on a moving train a personal history of our times and failure to quit reflections of an optimistic historian professors zinn is also the author of one
of the most famous and in the schools one of the most widely adopted works of
american history called a people’s history of the united
states which has sold over a million copies howard thank you very much for coming up here you know on this show howard
i’ve had people uh… or this and other shows i’ve had
people as famous as uh… eugene mccarthy and the famous federal judge
richard posner and uh… I want to say that it’s a
real privilege to have you because what you have done you have
worked something of an intellectual revolution in this country no less than posner has in a different
field and and no less than uh… than eugene
mccarthy worked a revolution in politics uh… in nineteen sixty seven and eight so i’m delighted to have you here and
let me start out by asking you this as a man of the left as they used to say in the
britian one would think that that that somebody
with your views uh… would be extremely disappointed with the way history has
gone and uh… with the way in which you might foresee that it could go in the
future and yet you’re not you are a very optimistic guy and you talk a lot about uh… things
always change and uh… the importance of small acts which cumalativley mount up
why don’t you get into all these reasons why you’re so optimistic about american
history in the future for the future ok probably probably the word optimistic is a little misleading because it… suggests something that i don’t really believe
and that is things will be ok tomorrow
next week next month i’m optimistic in the long run in the short run i see what everybody
sees i see all the things that make people depressed i see all the things that make people
pessimistic i see the wars i see the starvation
i see the of the uh… the terrible violence that is going on the sickness of society i see all of
that but uh… but i think the reason that i am
optimistic for a long run is that i’ve also in my lifetime i don’t like to say this but my lifetime
has now spanned many decades and in my lifetime i’ve seen enough
change to suggest that more change is possible i was in world war two i saw a victory there when it looked impossible i was in the
civil rights movement involved there for seven years living in the south and saw marvelous developments and triumphs that nobody ever expected i was in the
movement against the war in vietnam and there too it seemed impossible but the war finally ended and we had a great movement against that war and uh… and also maybe more important even today as we are in the midst of a war a war which is very depressing because we see no end to it and we see an administration in power which seems determined to have war after
war after war in order to maintain american supremacy
in the world and yet in the midst of the situation
today i see signs in the united states and certainly all over the world of people who are aware of what is
happening and who do not go along with it then they’re not going along with it
doesn’t mean that that they have yet succeeded in changing our policy right howard I want to go back to that the
whole question of war in just a moment but before we before we get there and and i think that what i’m about
to ask relates to it you talk a lot about the importance of what you call
small acts that do not receive national publicity and the way in which those acts show that there’s
something stirring underneath and ultimately cumulatively cause people in
the nation to change and you’ve seen a lot of this in your
own history why don’t you elaborate about that when i was talking about that i guess i was thinking primarily about
my experience in the south moving to atlanta georgia in nineteen fifty six before there was a civil rights movement
the montgomery bus boycott had taken place but now things were quiet and there was no real expectation
of a tumultuous change in the south but uh… i saw it in atlanta signs of unrest of dissatisfaction my students at spellman college were quite
reserved polite you might say controlled yeah at the
same time it was and is a woman’s college it was a woman’s spellman college
is a woman’s college at the same time it was obvious that these
students although they were not get breaking out of they’re controlled situation had enormous resentment inside at the segregation in the south at the humiliation the people of color endured every day
in the south and uh… and they began to act in small
ways that were not noticed and i was involved with them though they the social science club at spellman
college decided uh… we’ll try something small we’ll try desegregating the atlanta
public library and they carried on a campaign which ultimately succeeded yeah it’s the kind of thing that
didn’t make headlines n like the sit-ins or freedom rides and so on
but these little forays and these later on I discovered these had
taken place will over the south to put it another way before the famous nineteen
sixty sit-ins there were many sit ins that
didn’t attract attention yeah before the freedom rides they were attempts at freedom rides
which didn’t lead to anything big right so i came to the conclusion that it’s very important that people engage in even the smallest of actions even if they don’t seem to bring any
immediate results because its these small actions that build
and build and build that eventually come to fruition you talk a lot on a related subject about the need of human beings in
this democracy and i suppose it would go to any
democracy to seize the day as it were and if
necessary in the street and build a democracy themselves because you say democracy will not be handed to you by
the courts by the congress by the executive by the governors it is not
given to you by the constitution and therefore people must go out
and sometimes in the streets earn democracy themselves why don’t you elaborate on
that point of view that you express i think the way you express is is
an accurate representation not everybody expresses accurately what i
say but you’re doing it funny i have
the same problem on my point is that we grow up we go to school we got a junior high school and the teach us about uh in my day they used to call it civics
I don’t know if they still do yeah but they teach us about government they teach us about democracy they talk about the three branches of
government and the you know the checks and balances and they give you the impression that
this is what democracy is about that you can put democracy on the blackboard
yep and make a diagram and show the
executive and the judiciary and the legislative and the arrows going well of course historically that’s not how changes come
about the experience of black people is one striking example of it even after the fourteenth and fifteenth
amendments were added to the constitution after the civil war it didn’t matter the law wasn’t going to be enforced by
the president of the united states and so in order to make the fourteenth
and fifteenth amendments come alive black people had to take it unto
themselves which is what they did in the fifties and sixties yeah yeah and this is also true of
the labor movement with the labor movement perhaps even more dramatic because the
labor movement didn’t even have amendments to the constitution that gave
them rights in a way that black people finally got rights in the fourteenth and fifteenth
amendments and working people with no
constitutional rights the constitution after all is not a
document that favors the economic needs of people roosevelt saw
that that’s why he proposed at one point an economic bill of rights no the constitution does not provide
a right to health care or to housing or to food and so our working people had to go out
and strike and boycott face the police face the national guard they had to do it themselves that’s how
the eight hour day was won you know you make a point that i
find very striking because it’s exactly the same point made by the most capitalistic of people
but they make it from the other direction you make the point that that people
overvalued the present and extrapolate that the future will be exactly like the
present and taint so which is one of the
reasons that you are optimistic in your love for the long term and the funny thing is you read about
the stock market and they say yeah that’s exactly the problem that people have on
the stock market day they think whatever’s going on today is just going
to keep going on and its not true it’s just a a sort of a typical uh… human
typical human thing but let’s talk just a little bit
about the war since you did bring it up and then we’ll go back to a couple other
things you say that the some method of well i’ll put it this week doing away with
what if we can is is the central issue of our time your not a pacifist as i
understand it but you do have a great revulsion uh… at war as do some of the rest
of us what caused you to develop to develop this revulsion let me say for the audience’s
sake you’ll elaborate this that actually in in world war two when
you were a young kid you were eighteen you just graduates from high school you had a job in a shipyard building american naval
which would have deferred you from combat and from joining the service in fact you worked on the u_s_s_ iowa
which is one of america’s most powerful battleships it the one that the turret blew up
just a few years ago and yet you you went off you took
one of the most dangerous jobs in the war you were flying i think a
bombardier if i remember correctly b-17s those people did not have a long life
span there was the worst casualty rate probably in that then them in the infantry so you started off as sort of gung
ho in favor of our
military and you’ve gone a hundred and eighty in
the other direction why don’t explain what what motives what has motivated you and
what continues to motivate you when i was gung ho as you say and enlisting in the force in world war they called it the army air corps at that time in world
war two it wasn’t because i was a militaristic general it was because i
believed that this war this specific war world war
two was absolutley necessary in order to defeat you know what
seemed the most horrible phenomenon of modern times and that is fascism nazism and so enthusisastically i joined and and i flew bombing missions over europe
and but what happened is that at the end of the war uh… i began to have more
complicated thoughts about war i say more complicated thoughts because
it’s not that i went simply from being pro or to antiwar it’s just that it seemed to me looking back on the world war two as
i did shortly after it was not simply a good war you may notice that studs terkel in his oral history which is entitled a good war puts
quotation marks around the good war so many other people he interviewed
who were in world war two later expressed doubts about the purity of
that war if I may interject something we’ve had a historian a fellow who wrote a history of
world war two on these shows howard and there seems to be
absolutely no question whatsoever that in the pacific on both sides it was a
race war joh i dont know if you had john dower on
no we had donald miller on you had donald miller i said i see well john dower hum wrote a book about that fact just what your talking about there were atrocities on both sides and history is always written almost always written from a
nationalistic point of view and so when we write our history or when journalists talk about world war two it always the japanese cruelties the bataan
death march and so on which is true of course but what they omit of course is our cruelties and our atrocities and uh… so in john dower wrote a book called war
without mercy which deals with that redresses that balance in fact what begins my thinking rethinking about war was right after the war when i read john hersey’s hiroshima
mmm-hmm and john heresy had gone to hiroshima after the bombing and he interviewed the people who were the
victims of that bombing and who were still alive and his account of it was so personal so human so harrowing that i who had accepted thee bombing of
hiroshima when it happened in our world i don’t have to go in the pacific now
yeah the wars over yeah and i didn’t think about the human
consequences of that bombing and that made me rethink my own missions and realize that i had never understood the human consequences of the bombing missions that i was
flying yeah i didn’t realize that i was bombing really indiscriminately and all this talk about which they still talk about you
know precision bombing accurate bombing we only bomb
military targets was all nonsense it was nonsense then
and its still nonsense now they started
saying that in those days because of what was then a big new device but
norden bombsite that’s right and actually we were engaging as were the british
in area bombing to a large extent you know when you talk about hiroshima
there are people who can say and its not my purpose to get into that discussion
here but merely to point out that there are people who say that that that the
atomic bombs may have saved millions of lives on both sides but be that as it may you participated in the bombing of rouen
afterwards you could find no legitimate excuse for that
bombing at all and it took hundreds as i understand it of uh… allied french lives on the
ground yes I don’t want to bypass hiroshima
ok because it is still one of the great myths in
american culture that we saved lives by bombing hiroshima and nagasaki we did not i’ve done a lot of
research on that the most elaborate research
job on that done by gar alperovitz and a crew of scholars makes it clear we did not save lives japanese were about to surrender
we killed several hundred thousand people unnecessarily and i want to say something else about that
which goes not only to hiroshima but to bombing in general i think i would ask people who say we had to do it in order to save lives i would say well if it was in august nineteen forty five and you knew that we could end the war with japan more quickly
because that’s what it was about ending it more quickly not ending it we knew it would end the japanese were on their way to defeat but ending it more quickly by dropping a bomb would you be willing to kill a hundred
thousand american children to end the war more quickly well the answer to that is obvious nobody would
say yes but you’re willing to kill a hundred
thousand japanese children in order to and the war the war more quickly what does that mean what does that say about the way we think about other people what does that say about war was it say
about a willingness to kill other people because their lives are not
as important as ours okay i i know you didn’t want to hiroshima
but i couldn’t let that go because it’s such an
important myth in american culture what what that brings me to is this and i must say i think there should be more writing on one side
of the other about the question of whether the japanese were about to surrender and
what would the casualties have been but putting that to one side for a moment my understanding is that and
i think you probably agree with this and my intent here is to ask why you
think it’s true is that that much of the rest of the
world much is an ambiguous wrod i don’t know what other word to use much of the rest of the world considers
america as the premier terrorist in the world today and uh… and the as i understand
that has a lot to do with our use of bombs and other kinds
of really vicious weapons whether it’s uh… better or worse to
kill people one way or another that’s another question but uh… an i right in thinking
that that you yourself because of the massive bombs because because of the fact that you inevitably kill
civilians thats what i’m trying to say you inevitably kill civilians
do you think that it’s fair to say that and americans certainly don’t want to hear
this we certainly don’t want to hear this do you think it’s fair to say that much of
the rest of the world considers us major terrorists i think there’s no question
about it but i mean recent polls of the past few years have have shown that people of other parts of the world consider president bush more dangerous then osama bin laden more dangerous than saddam hussein now why is that i mean to american ears that’s unimaginable but what they see they see the united states having suffered a terrorist attack nine eleven terrible terrorist attack they see the united states responding by
its own terrorism not by focusing upon who did this attack let’s
find a not treating it like a police operation or an international
police operation but simply going ahead and bombing
afghanistan killing three thousand or more civilians in afghanistan without any particular effect on
al-qaeda osama bin laden terrorism and then they see us going into iraq and now i have not just recently seen
figures by an organization that has worked very hard to compile figures on the civilian dead in iraq as a result of this very short
war and they come up with figures like ten
fifteen twenty thousand civilians americans don’t even know this because all we
focused on is the fact that everyday we lose another two one three soldiers you know several hundred by now
but when the rest of the rest of the world
knows this better than we do they get better news than we do they don’t listen to fox television they don’t listen to c_n_n_
they have much better news sources they know what the united states has
done and also i think this is also true they have a memory of vietnam which is being lost in the united states
yeah to me it’s interesting that in our culture and on television
and in the movies they’re bringing back world war two in
a very heavy way saving private ryan you know and and the the stories of d_-day and the hundred and first airborne bringing back world war two why because world war two immediately conjures
up the image of a just war and the enemy as hitler they don’t bring up vietnam and and but among europeans and i think
lot of people in the world who opposed the american war in vietnam to a far greater extend and earlier than
americans did they still remember that the united
states was responsible for killing several million people in vietnam they can’t forget that they see the history of
the united states in vietnam central america supporting death squads in central
america results being hundreds of thousands of
lives being lost in guatemala el salvador they know this in a way that american’s
don’t you know there were three million people dead in
vietnam and i suppose had we not intervened the figure would have been a few
hundred thousand perhaps as many as a million but
three million not a chance not a chance and people don’t remember
the havoc that our sanctions wrought in the last ten years on iraq putting aside the question whether
saddam hussein is a good man or a bad man nobody’s going to say anything but
saddam hussein is horrendously evil but it was children who basically bore the brunt as i understand it
who basically bore the brunt of our sanctions there heres another instance of how the media have kept the american people really
ignorant of what has been going on because what you talked about the
sanctions of going on for ten years and by the way under both democratic and
republican administrations you know before people get to idealistic and romantic about the democrats these sanctions according to the u_n_ perhaps a million people and several
hundred thousand children we
take a quick break for a public service commercial we’ll come right back and we’ll continue
discussing this this subject stay with us we’ll be right back with
howard zinn those of you who watch books of our time
know that many of our programs are about books that deal with history this
reflects not just might own interest in history but also the widespread belief
that we would do better if our leaders knew more about history this belief is one of the most important reasons the
massachusetts school of law is starting a new and unique college called the
american college of history and legal studies a c_h_ ls a c_h_ ls will be a senior college
offering only the junior and senior years of undergraduate education it will focus entirely on american
history including the history of some important fields of american law it will offer specific pathways to law
school for those who choose to become lawyers including entrance into law school
after the junior year for those who do well at achls and and education which
rigorously prepares those who choose other fields than law it’s teaching will be entirely by the
discussion method in which all students participate as it msl itself and other fine law
schools if will have very small classes of only fifteen
to twenty students it’s tuition will be only ten thousand dollars per year much lower than almost any other college
offering a bachelors degree you can view ACHLS’s catalogue on
line at the web address on your screen achls will be opening in salem new
hampshire which is on the new hampshire massachusetts border
in august of two thousand ten if you would like further information
about achls or would like an application call write or email maureen mooney at the phone number or address
on your screen welcome back howard before the break you had mentioned that a we had both
mentioned americans don’t like to hear certain things about our society because we tend to
grow up with a view of america as being almost solely a righteous and virtuous
country and to some extent i think that
that comes up from the media and to some extent it comes from the vast miswriting for
should save one-sided writing of american history and uh… i take it
that that this had something to do within a your decision to write the book that’s called a
people’s history of the united states am i my right in that and
wanting i’m right or wrong why don’t you explain how you came to write that book and what
impact it has had it has after all sold a million copies which for and history uh… book is pretty amazing you know i think i came to write that
book because i was looking for a book like
it and couldn’t find it and i suspect that a lot of books are written for that
reason you know if if you’re looking for a certain kind of book it’s not there so i’ll
sit down and write it take a few
days out of my life but why were you looking for a book like
that well i was looking for a book like that
because and i think this came from my experience
in the south here i was in the midst of all sorts of incredible dramatic events
going on from atlanta and my students involved in the sit-ins
and myself involved too in demonstrations picket lines and then i left atlanta and went down to albany
georgia to cover the demonstrations in albany georgia i became involved with sncc the student
non-violent coordinating committee they invited me to be on their executive
board and i went to selma alabama and various
towns in mississippi and and all these amazing things happening you were right in the middle of some of the most
i mean that was like being at all the big battles of world war two
so to speak yeah i felt like i was john reed writing ten days that shook the
in the midst of those crowds at leningrad and so and so i i noticed that so many things that we’re going on were
simply not being reported and uh… and I realized and extrapolated
from that and i said in every year there must be all sorts of amazing things
happening that never get into the newspapers that never get into the history
books now and what they are mostly are the doings of ordinary people and the resistance of ordinary people and that our historians is like our newspapers
and like our television tend to focus on the important people you watch public television and public
television is supposed to be better more broad minded then commercial television when you
watch commercial television public television and
you see let’s say the lehrer news hour certainly spending more time on important subjects
than commercial real estate but who do you see on the news hour you see important people uh… you know you see experts you se secretaries of state you see
congressmen and senators the big shot theory of leading history
exactly and history in the history books
what are history books written on their writton on presidents this is the age of lincoln this is the age
of roosevelt this is the age of jackson here are the founding fathers well instead of the talking about the founding
fathers how about talking about shay’s rebellion how about talking about the
farmers in western massachusetts who rebelled against the rich in boston instead of talking about george
washington and the great victories in the revolutionary war or i should say not instead of but in
addition to yeah how about talking about the soldiers in
washington’s army who mutinied against the officers who mutinited because they were being treated like dirt and the officers were getting these
resplendent uniforms and all this food etc and high pay where are those soldiers and those new mutinies in the history books and so i extrapolates from all of that
than came to inclusion that doings of ordinary people what happens
to ordinary people their victimization and also their
rebellions aren’t there in the history books so i want
to write about that i wanted to for instance the history books stress the economic miracle of the united states
especially after the civil war that period after the civil war the united states becomes a great
industrial power the railroads spanning the country and the steel mills
going up but i wanted to read about and hear about the people who
worked in the steel mills the people worked on the railroads the irish immigrants the chinese immigrants
who worked on the transcontinental railroad who died in large numbers and i want to hear about the strikers of
the eighteen seventy seven and the pullman car strikers and here’s an interesting thing interesting
to me course after i began to read on my own and read the history of labor struggles
in this country here and saw that they were not there in the history books i have a p_h_d_ in history
went to graduate school as a history major and none of my history books today talk
about the colorado coal strike of nineteen thirteen fourteen
the ludlow low massacre yeah woody guthrie wrote a a song about the
ludlow massacre but it was not in the history books one of the most dramatic events
in american history the lawrence textiles strike here we
are sitting we are in lawrence aren’t we near lawrence
yeah we are in lawrence great textile strike in lawrence in nineteen
twelve women immigrant women who seemed hopeless striking against the great you know textile companies yeah and winning wasn’t there in the history books so i wanted to bring that and and i take it uh… what you’ve done has had uh… a
dramatic impact in the last ten to fifteen years because if i understand right high school teachers and
college teachers all over the united states adapt your book as supplemental reading to sort
of offset I think the key
phrase is what you said in addition to not instead of but in
addition to all the laudatory stuff that we read
about america and our leaders here were all these other problems and here is what
some of the small people were thinking and we’re doing and we’re suffering while all this was going on it’s interesting that when my book first
came out high school teachers were very reluctant
to use it not for themselves but you know they sort of school
committees looking over their shoulders you know what are you giving our kids in
fact some schoolteacher high school teacher
in on on the west coast in wrote to me lajolla california wrote to me and
said she was in trouble because she had used my book and kid brought my book home parents look at looked at the first chapter
of the book which deals with columbus and of course there it’s a very different story i give of columbus
not the great hero but the murderer the kidnapper her parents looked at this and said her mother was horrified you know columbus is a hero this must be a communist
book right and she asked for an investigation of this teacher well that’s what happened then but over the years more and more high school teachers have begun to use
my book and it has become i hate to say this respectable to use my book your done yes so it’s used in our schools and of course colleges all over the
country but high schools are more difficult to enter because high schools are kind of
totalitarian institutions yeah things are so controlled in
high schools here but uh… i think you’re right that there’s been a change in education not enough of a
change still but there’s been a change in now I would say that
there are hundreds of thousands of teachers all over the country who are teaching in a different way they’re teaching the story of columbus they’re doing
more black history more women’s history and i don’t attribute it simply to
my book I attribute it to the movements of the sixties with many people more
conscious of race sex all these people the sixties have gotten a really terrible
rap from the conservative movement in this country in the last ten to twenty
years and i i think the sixties are really
responsible for much of a good that has gone on in the country you know in
the last forties years its interesting what you say about the
treatment of the sixties they’re trying to present the sixties and when i look at the sixties treated on television’s what
i’ve seen emphasis on crazed kids yeah drugs yeah huh you know wild violence of course there we’re there but the sixties by and large a marvelous time in
american history of when millions of people became involved
in social movements non-violent social movements for change in a time of the flower children a time when generosity seemed to be a more
prevalent when you’d stop on the road and give a
ride to hitch hikers and people don’t do that anymore= the sixties were a
wonderful period of new consciousness and social change and when
people where much more cognizant of equality whether it’s for gays
whether it’s for a racial minorities and women you name it end of the controlling
nature of so much of what we have been taught you yourself seem to feel that
education has been largely used in this country by the powers that be whoever they may
be people with money people with position to uh… more or less brainwash i hate to use george romneys words
brainwash children into accepting a place in the
society as these people wanted to be and they gave all kinds of uh… holy toledo to teachers who would
teach something different and that do you think there’s been any a
diminution in this use of education aand the media to control control what the american
people think and what the next generation thanks well it’s still still going on i just
read about the teacher in school in north carolina who lost her job who was simply dismissed
because she brought up in class the war she wanted to her students to discuss the war and no if you mustn’t talk about that and soon she got a letter
saying you know this is unacceptable you’re out you
know theres something the matter with that carolina because the state
university down there and i’m only half kidding the university of north carolina
has this new program where incoming freshmen read a particular book and then
everybody in university discusses it during the first and two straight years now they’ve just caught
hell because people haven’t liked the book
that i don’t know even remember what the books were that were chosen but uh… the university just caught
hades throughout the state for choosing whatever book they chose because
these books didn’t reflect only well on our society it’s interesting that education in our country has always been pro-war pro-war in the sense of exalting military heroism these are our heroes these are the
statues in our cities statues of military heroes kids
grow up from elementary school on with kinda reverence for know the people who won the
war yes can I ask you aquestion howard about that you make the most striking comment in
one of the two books that uh… are the subject of today’s program maybe in both you say that there are leaders are
addicted to war addicted to war why do you say that well sign of an addiction i suppose is when somebody keeps coming back to something
that’s bad for you and can’t seem to get out of it and somebody who sees for instance a drug as a solution to their
problems you know not looking for other solutions
because a drug drugs are quick solution to problem that you have you know you you’re unhappy or depressed you know or you’re in pain and yes the drug will be a quick fix but war is a
quick-fix war is a quick fix you’re attacked uh… her you know as in nine eleven oh what do we do instead of stopping and thinking
intelligently about what caused this act what was behind it what can we do to eliminate the causes of it you go to that drug which you have
always used and and war was the way to solve howard i was talking to
somebody the other day and i was making some of these points that you are
making and the person said to me and i’m interested
in your response to this the person said to me look its kind of
like a a play on the poor you will always have
with you you will always have people in
this world who want to attack us no matter what we do or how nice we try to be and therefore we we have to attack these
people first or vitally or whatever what’s your response to that will first when they say there will always be
people there will always be government’s i think that’s an important
distinction must be made a lot of i think there’s a lot of
thinking that goes on which puts the blame for war on people and you know even find biological
impulses to violence and aggression and uh… i think that’s a lot of
nonsense if that were true that is if people had an inherent desire to go to war nations would not have to compell them nations would not have to draft armies
they would not have to seduce people with propaganda and persuade them that
this is a just cause no no people’s natural tendency i think is not to engage in wars you know when they say well we must be
engage in war because other countries engage in war well of course that
creates the vicious cycle and they are not asking the question how can we
get at the roots of war its like the present isreali palestinian situation you know the the palestinians are you know sending suicide bombers you
know so we have to then attack palestinian territory and destroy
homes and then the palestinians say well you
see what they’re doing to us it’s a cycle and the united states has
contributed to that cycle can i interrupt you for a sec
excuse me i’m getting wild waves here that i have
to break for the second commercial we’ll be right
we’ll be right back with more with howard zinn those of you who watch books of our time
know that many of our programs are about books that deal with history this
reflects not just my own interest in history but also the widespread belief
that we would do better if our leaders knew more about history this belief is one of the most important reasons the
massachusetts school of law is starting a new and unique college called the
american college of history and legal studies a c_h_ ls a c_h_ ls will be a senior college
offering only the junior and senior years of undergraduate education it will focus entirely on american
history including the history of some important fields of american law it will offer specific pathways to law
school for those who choose to become lawyers including entrance into law school
after the junior year for those who do well at achls and an education which
rigorously prepares those who choose other fields than law it’s teaching will be entirely by the
discussion method in which all students participate as it msl itself and other fine law
schools if will have very small classes of only fifteen
to twenty students it’s tuition will be only ten thousand dollars per year much lower than almost any other college
offering a bachelors degree you can view ACHLS’s catalogue on
line at the web address on your screen achls will be opening in salem new
hampshire which is on the new hampshire massachusetts border in august of two thousand if you would like further information
about achls or would like an application all write or email maureen mooney at the phone number or address
on your screen came out has massachusetts school of law at andover offers an accessible affordable legal
education to both full-time and part time law students when making admissions decisions
msl looks at all aspects of the candidate’s qualifications and does not
consider the flawed lsat at tuition of less than half of all the other
law schools in new england it is by far the most affordable our
teaching and standards are rigorous students learn to think clearly to write well and
to advoate effectively for others decide today to make a difference welcome back to our discussion with howard inn
howard you have taken the position which is awfully hard to argue with
really that the media act as the handmaiden handmaidens to war with the latest example perhaps being
this embedding of troops so american television was rah rah as we’re going forward in riding in the
tanks and so forth but why don’t you elaborate
historically and currently on your view of the media in this country being the
handmaiden to war first of all its important to understand
that the media the major media little
media i’m not going to small newspapers small radio stations but major media have always been owned
controlled by the people of wealth and uh… and therefore the the editorial positions the choice of news items has always been determined by the those people who control the press i think was a j liebling the writer
who said freeing the press belongs to whoever
owns the press and so back in the in the in the early part of twentieth century
upton sinclair wrote a book called the brass check the brass check was something used in houses of
prostitution in paris and he was talking about the press as
prostitutes the press as selling out for money the press has well in fact at that very
time talk about a press being pro war you know the hearts news papers and the
pulitzer papers revved up the country for war with spain you provide the reporting i’ll
provide the war exactly the uh world war one again the press played up the german atrocities
and some of them turned out to be false you know the lusitania has been sunk a harmless passenger ship
later turns out it was carrying war munitions and playing up the atrocities of the
germans not saying anything about the british
empire and that’s been going on today what we see is in this in when the war started in afghanistan to call it a war is actually a
misnomer i mean this is the war between two equal
parties the united states and afghanistan afghanistan is a helpless miserable
country in the united states bombs afghanistan’s and its called a war what happens then is that executives in c_n_n_’s send out word to their reporters
and i’ve seen this it was leaked by people in c_n_n_ sent word to the reporters saying let’s not reports civilian casualties
in afghanistan we were bombing and we were killing
civilians they were not to be reported and c_n_n_ began festooning the band the
the stand of anchors c_n_n_ with american
flags and and the media have been going along with war for
a very long time actually the rest of the the rest of the world as i understand it apropos of that you know vietnam was in a sense
different because reporters were investigating the truth and their editors
and publishers at least didn’t block them from publishing
from publishing it but the editorial and publishing publishers positions at least
early in a war were world’s different from what you were
reading from the uh… reporters at the new york times in time
magazine and so forth but so that’s an interesting point in the early nineteen sixty eight the boston globe did a survey of something like twenty nine major american dailies not one of them called for the united states to get out
of vietnam I’m particularly conscious of this because in
nineteen sixty seven i wrote a book called vietnam the logical withdrawal
and and and uh… suggesting strongly the united states would get
get no major in nineteen sixty eight supported the idea of getting out
of vietnam and you know this this really hasn’t
changed but the rest of the world sees it
sees it thru television see’s a very different war than americans
see on fox and c_n_n_ c_b_s_ they see the civilian casualties they
see the bombs falling and uh… so on so so you have a real disconnect i
think between the way we thinking we’re a virtuous country see the war
and the other countries see the war thats interesting you may remember that in
the in the afghan war and in this war in iraq the united states bombed the offices
of al jazeera the mid eastern television network they did not want that network too be able to show pictures of the results of our bombing i mean is this is the kind of thing that
happens in a totalitarian state the soviet union nazi germany they shutdown newspapers
shutdown televisions stations they want to control everything this the way the united states
government has behaved in these wars howard what is your response to those
people who say that that you and that people who
believe as you do in include myself to a large extent
in that we don’t see eye-to-eye on everything but i see eye to eye with
you on an awful lot uh… what do you say to people
who say well you’re being unpatriotic will you know i i think this also as part of our culture
i think and that is a miss guided notion of what patriotism is i think that we grow up in
this country very often with the idea which is inculcated from the beginning
you pledge allegiance to the flag and say the star spangled banner and exalt military heroism you get an idea to be patriotic means to support
whatever the government does and if you oppose the government if you criticize
government your being on patriotic to think that way is a violation of
basic democratic principles the declaration of independence establishes the democratic principle
governments are artificial creations governments are set up by the people to
ensure certain rights equality life liberty the pursuit of happiness when governments become destructive of
those rights that’s what the declaration of independent says it is the right of people to alter or
abolish the government if it’s the right of the people to alter or
abolish the government then certainly it is the right of the people to criticize the government the government and the people you know i see on
television young fellows going off to war as i did way back i see the television interviewer asks well young man how do you feel about going off to iraq well i feel that i owe something to my
country it’s not your country that you’re
fighting for when you go to war it’s your government mhm it’s halliburton it’s the great corporations it’s the people who benefit from war
it’s the politicians it’s the industrialists it’s not the country would it be fair to say howard that you think that i know lincoln thought this it loads it up by my having said that
but would it fair to say that you think that
patriotism essentially consists of loyalty for the underlying principles of the
united states and that to some extent at whole notion of patriotism has been
hijacked by those who believe in uh… military action lincoln had it right mark twain had it right mark twain said this notion my my country right or wrong is absurd no and patriotism shouldn’t mean adhering as you were just saying to the principles of the country and i would i would suggest that one of our
principles although we haven’t followed it through one of our principles should be to behave in the world like a peace-loving country not to initiate wars we have initiated wars it’s one
thing when we’re attacked it’s another thing we initiate wars we
initiated war in vietnam we initiated wars in panama and
grenada in afghanistan in iraq twice we initiated those wars and tthe mexican the spanish word
for the record the mexican war the spanish-american
war no question about it the war in the philippines we initiated and uh… that we should consider that to go against
principles our country should stand for howard do you think uh… the writing of
history is fundamentally such subjective not only in the way that the things
are said you know know what your stress in the first
part of a sense versus what the tale of the sentence says not only in a way that things are said
but also in a sense of what is put in and what is left out of the history books i think that that is the most important way in which
history is distorted if you say something false in a historical description it can be verified or not verified
be counteracted but if you leave something out the
person reading it has no idea that you’ve left it out and if you you know if it’s tell the the
story of the civil war and it’s all battles then you leave out the fact that during
the civil war the u_s_ army did not only fight against
the confederacy but it fought against the indians out west
mmm-hmm committed massacres during the civil war and during the civil war more land was
taken from the indians than any comparable period in american history that is left out of the books and native americans know what is left out
black people know what is left out people interested in labor struggles
know what is left out and they certainly leave out when they talk about world war one they leave out the huge movement against world war one that took
place at that time howard we have to wrap this up this
is why i wanted to do two hours rather than one but we cant so we have to warp this uh… i want to
thank you very much for coming up here go and uh… recommend to everybody that these books are just intensely
interesting failure to quit and you cannot be
be neutral on a moving train and again i thank you for what uh you
know you’ve opened the eyes of a lot of people in this country over the
last fifteen twenty years thank you larry

52 thoughts on “Howard Zinn – You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train- A People’s History

  1. @shirankao69 we will be posting the entire video when we finish the excerpts. Stay tuned

  2. @plumsuck – Punic wars, 7 yrs war, War of the roses, 100 yrs war, Crusades, Inquisition, ww1, ww11, Viet Nam,
    revolutionary War, Civil War, Persian Gulf War, Afganistan War, (poppy seed) Shock & Awe, Drones bombing Pakistan, all the un-declared attacks around the world. see: The Economic Hitman, John Perkins on TY, makes you wonder huh?

  3. You can tell it's the truth, cuz of that little sting you feel for being a complacent fool. I've been feelin' it for a yrs. nah.

  4. You can tell it's the truth, cuz of that little sting you feel for being a complacent fool. I've been feelin' it for yrs. nah.

  5. This man STARTS to lose me when he starts talking about rights to "food, shelter, and healthcare"…

    I believe the founding fathers were intelligent enough to realize that they couldn't promise rights that impose DUTIES on OTHERS.

    If someone has shelter for free, how does the heat get paid? Who pays the construction workers?

    Now, I wouldn't mind it if the government essentially refused to enforce the law when it comes to loaning money..

    The prices of things may not be that high then..

  6. Looks like the principle of concision is in play here: not sure whether it was the manager or his own conscience, but whenever Zinn was doggedly pursuing a good point, the interviewer interrupted or went to a commercial break…

  7. Marvelous fellow, clearly given to truth and justice instead of the usual self-justifying crap of Big Money, Big Weapon producers, Big Corporations and the usual redneck nonsense so beloved of the dipstick so-called conservatives.

  8. Howard Zinn is one of the few people who see things clearly, unlike those who are brainless conservatives who suck up to anything the 'wheels' want them to think is 'correct'. I love Howard's 'Incorrectness' because it is nothing other than the ethical and rational truth that, if seen and acted on, can benefit us all.

  9. i started reading dee brown's "bury my heart at wounded knee" and it didn't take long to remind me of zinn's "a people's history…" i began to wonder who influenced who, turns out dee brown influence howard zinn. "bury my heart…" was written first. both classics no doubt.

  10. You give the ineluctable reason that left-wing political systems lead to authoritarianism.
    The other week I was arguing with a relative who kept insisting that healthcare in Canada is free. I kept trying to visualize some gulag with armed guards forcing doctors and chemists to work for free. He was really just distorting the language. The difference is only in the way it is paid for. And as anywhere, if the economic system crubles, so does the "right".

  11. What?? I can't have an opinion about the interviewer?
    You grow up douche. That type of behavior is terrible behavior for an interviewer and I didn't enjoy it.
    Fucking Idiot.

  12. It is noted that the most of you think Howard Zinn walked on water.. Don't insult the fucking interviewer, get a fucking priority list. Why do you followers of people feel the need to break down anyone that interviews that person? It's as if all interviewers must interview their subject as of he or she is Christ Himself.

  13. you know he passed away, right? he was a great man. up there with chomsky (although i think better in a way) but he won't be writing anything or giving lectures any more. RIP Howard Zinn.

  14. Interesting video, but I disagree with Prof. Zinn that Americans don't know about many of the unfortunate things he discusses. I don't have a decree in history but I have read about many of the things he discusses – they are in fact in the books if you want to find them. He is right that you have to do your own reading after you finish formal education, but the purpose of formal education is to prepare you to learn on your own after you get that degree.

  15. Although the purpose of proper education is to teach a person how to learn, if the subject matter a person practices on is narrow both in matter and perspective, then the student can become so. The student might not even think there is another perspective. There is a perspective that history can be shaped as much by Wat Tyler, John Brown, Emily Davidson Wilder, Henry Wallace and Emma Goldman, as by the Kings and captains of industry who are given all the credit.

  16. I agree completely with the last sentence. Everybody has his or her own perspective of history. Often the "offical version" is written by those kings and captains of industry.

  17. It would be a shame for you not to earn extra cash fast when these other normal people accomplish it easily using Smarter Money Maker (Look it up on google).

  18. @DOC JOHN Interviewer: YUP,YUP,YEAH,YEAH, UHUH! I cant concentrate on what howard was saying with the nonstop murmuring of the interviewer!

  19. Howard Zinn: a true warrior with the biggest heart…wish you had lived another 100 years..but then I guess you WILL live forever in every person you touched with your words..Thank you for posting this although the title is misleading…

  20. Howard Zinn is awesome, sites his sources, writes truth. The right are so under propaganda currently in our times. Wake up fellow Americans. Stop believing propaganda. You think that propaganda was only a thing that happened in the past, no you are it. 50 years from now our children will talk of how stupid and influenced we were, as we do about our grandparents, duh.. even thou we did have the tools on how to research facts that past generations didn't. Baby boomers have much to blame for this.

  21. Howard Zinn comes across as a fine historian and critic. I also find Noam Chomsky and Norman Finklestein equally engaging. Thanks for the video.

  22. The 2 atomic bombs were a grand total of about 40kilotons of TNT equivalent. We dropped over 3.5 megatons on the Third Reich! We deliberately created firestorms in civilian neighborhoods to (quote) "terrorize and demoralize" the German citizens.

  23. "Before you start a relationship with a guy online, think about how it could end"? What kind of sexist man hatting scumbag would put something like that on a video like this? I demand you remove this from the video or I am going to flag it as hate speech.

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