This page includes, in addition to news about historians, news about political scientists, economists, law professors, and others who write about history. For a comprehensive list of historians' obituaries, go here.
A year before his grandmother died, Scott Sandage sat down with a tape recorder and asked her to talk about her life. She told him how she used to hear her husband crying at night.
Sandage's grandfather was an immigrant kid whose parents pulled him out of
school to work in the brickyards in Mason City, Iowa. Surviving the Depression
as a traveling salesman, he then started making mattresses, one at a time. He
made mattresses for 35 years, taking custom orders in a small shop, scraping
by. He would tell his wife he felt like a failure -- I'm not smart enough to
keep the family together; you graduated from high school, I didn't even graduate
from grade school -- and she would always try to buck him up. Still, she would
hear him weeping.
After telling this story, Sandage says, his grandmother was quiet for a long time.
Then she said: "He was a darn good man."
Sandage was 19 at the time. He went off to college, part of the first generation in his family to do so, and ended up as a historian at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. His book "Born Losers: A History of Failure in America" is out this month from Harvard University Press. A serious work of cultural history, built on a decade of research, "Losers" uses the stories of forgotten Americans to offer a new perspective on our conventional national narrative of striving and success.
Strip away the academic trappings, however, and "Born Losers" starts to look like something very different.
It's a self-help book for stressed-out Americans. The problem Sandage is trying
to help us with is: Why are we never satisfied with the life we've got? Why
do we always want more? ...
Candles, balloons and gifts. This weekend, Duke can expect much birthday cheer as the campus celebrates distinguished John Hope Franklins 90th birthday.
The celebration of the James B. Duke professor emeritus of history will feature two photography exhibits chronicling his life, a panel discussion with two of Franklins former students, and culminate in performances by the Fisk University Jubilee singers.
After publishing his first work at 23, Franklin has since chronicled American history in his 20 books and 100 articles. His current research deals with runaway slaves from early southern plantations.
After 70 years of study, Franklin has covered a large variety of subjects but still believes there is more to be discovered. Id like to see more exploration of obscure subjects. There is history all aroundright here, a history of Durham, he said.
Not only does Franklin study history, but over his distinguished career, he has become a part of history as well. Recently, Governor Brad Henry of Oklahoma declared Dec. 1 John Hope Franklin Day and named him a cultural treasure of Oklahoma. Other honors include the first W.E.B. DuBois Award from Fisk University, the Cosmos Club Award, the Trumpet Award from Turner Broadcasting Corporation, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
In 1947, Franklin established himself as a premier historian with his book From Slavery to Freedom: A History of Negro Americans.
Although Franklin is well-known for his extensive work in African-American history, it is not his only focus. I write all over the field, he said. He pointed out that his work on runaway slaves is about white people as slaveholders as much as it is about black people.
Due to Franklins ability to analyze history objectively, his research became influential during the period of civil rights legislation and race relation examinations in the United States. For example, in 1954, then Legal Counselor for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Thurgood Marshall, selected Franklin to write a series of articles for the Brown v. Board of Education case. More recently, former President Bill Clinton chose Franklin to chair the advisory board for One America: The Presidents Initiative on Race. This initiative sought to create constructive dialogue and develop actions that addressed racial disparities in education, economic opportunity, housing, health care and the administration of justice.
While traveling the nation and speaking with community groups and student leaders to get a sense of race relations in the United States, the advisory board faced opposition. Some said we were bad choices and it was a bad idea to discuss race, Franklin said. But even without complete support, the board accomplished its task to begin a dialogue about race in America and start education programs for community groups. We had more than 500 campus organizations involved in carrying on dialogue, and some are still in existence today, he pointed out....
You are the author of ''Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: Aug. 27, 1883,'' as well as a coming book on the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 -- what went through your head when you first learned of the tsunami?
I was on holiday in England at the time. I heard the 5 o'clock news, and I have to confess: I thought, Should I go? Should I ring up The Sunday Telegraph and go? English friends of mine called and said, ''Are you sure you are not exploiting this?''
How odd. Do they think you exploited Krakatoa by publishing a book about it?
Krakatoa has passed into history, so it has historical validity. But to write about this current event, and to do it with enthusiasm, you're advancing your career on the back of a tragedy.
You Brits are so anxious about advancing your station in life that it's amazing you get can out of bed in the morning.
That is one reason I like to live here in America. I am ambitious. I like success. Here it is not something to be ashamed of.
You began your career as a geologist, after studying at Oxford.
All I wanted to do was wander around the world. But I was a bad geologist.
How, exactly, would you define a bad geologist?
They're the ones who don't find the copper deposits they are sent to find.
Are you suggesting you were too anxious about advancing your career to find any copper?
Not quite. I had been sent to Uganda by a mining company and, to be fair, the area where I was sent didn't have any copper.
In an apparent victory for radical Muslims and the left wing of the American foreign policy establishment, President Bush has failed to take any action to renominate Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes to the board of the United States Institute of Peace.
Bush appointed Pipes, a conservative Middle East analyst and syndicated columnist who has drawn the ire of some Muslims, to the publicly funded institution on August 23, 2003, after a Senate hearing on the matter ended without the presence of a quorum necessary for a confirmation vote. The controversial recess appointment ended in early December with the closing of the previous Congress. The institute has removed Pipes's name from the list of board of directors posted on its Web site.
Pipes told the Forward that he has not asked to be renominated by the president and that he had not queried the White House about its intentions.
"My time there is finished," he said of the institute.
The White House had nothing to add on the matter.
"When there's an announcement, we'll go ahead and make one," spokeswoman Maria Tamburri said.
Pipes said that he "tried to be helpful to the USIP," but he acknowledged that "at certain times I was frustrated."
The nomination of Pipes, who has made a career out of identifying and denouncing what he sees as radical Muslim penetration of American institutions, was opposed by senators Edward Kennedy, Tom Harkin and Christopher Dodd, all Democrats; Arab and Muslim groups, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee; and Middle East analysts Judith Kipper of the Center for Strategic and International Studies and William Quandt of the University of Virginia.
Many conservative-leaning newspapers, including The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and The New York Sun, supported it. Several Jewish communal agencies, including the American Jewish Committee and the Zionist Organization of America, supported Pipes.
David Harris, executive director of AJCommittee, said he still holds out hope that Bush will renominate Pipes. "We're looking into it," Harris said. "We're eager to see him remain."
Pipes did not have a peaceful tenure at the institute, which was created by Congress "to support the development, transmission, and use of knowledge to promote peace and curb violent international conflict," according to USIP's mission statement.
Last March Pipes clashed with the organization, lambasting it in his column for hosting a conference with a group, the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy, that Pipes charged employs personnel who are Muslim "radicals." ...
A good friend of mine,
John Allen Gable - distinguished Theodore Roosevelt scholar and longtime executive director of the Theodore Roosevelt Association, Oyster Bay, NY - is quite ill with cancer. Over the past two weeks, I oversaw an effort to collect tributes from his various friends. Bound into a small book on a fast schedule, these were presented to John on Tuesday. Hopefully the collected essays will prove good medicine. Contributors include David McCullough, Edmund Morris, Theodore Roosevelt IV, Tweed Roosevelt, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., and others. I'm not free to reprint what other people had to say, but here is my entry:
Paul Theroux once wrote:"If a dream is pure enough, and the dreamer unselfish, the dream will come true." The modern, dynamic Theodore Roosevelt Association is very much the dream — the vision — that our friend John Gable had when he came into the executive directorship more than three decades ago: a dream now reality.
Ever since hearing of John's diagnosis a few days ago, I've had the tune"Onward Christian Soldiers" running through my brain. In fact, I haven't been able to get that old battleship of a hymn — so resoundingly associated with the Progressive TR, of whom John has written more eloquently than anyone — out of my head. John has always been a devout soldier for wisdom, reason, civility and truth. Now he is embarking upon a new fight, and doing so bravely and uncompromisingly, in an upright manner that surprises absolutely no-one who knows him well.
I first encountered John, his good-spirited exuberance, and the TRA eleven years ago during the summer of 1994. A member, Chris Volpe, had reviewed my John Burroughs: An American Naturalist in the pages of the Journal. In turn, John — whom I'd never met, and who'd gotten my address from Tweed Roosevelt — sent it round to me along with a note suggesting that I might want to join the Association.
I'd previously had only a nodding acquaintance with"the Tedheads" — a flirtation that involved my helping Bill Harbaugh and Tweed with some Burroughs-related research regarding the cabin at Pine Knot. Personally, I was at a crossroads. I'd just cashed in my chips in Manhattan after devoting five intense years to a successful publishing start-up. After relocating to coastal Rhode Island with my family, I looked forward to finally being able to give the bulk of my time to writing histories and biographies. I was up to my eyeballs in a book about John Brown and the Harpers Ferry raid, and was well ahead of any thought of writing anything at all with regard to Theodore Roosevelt. Nevertheless, John's genial invitation — combined with my childhood memories of growing up in Nassau County and making frequent, awed visits to Sagamore Hill with my history-loving father — made for a chemistry that caused me to dash off a check and sign up.
A year or so later, when I began to contemplate a book concerning Theodore Roosevelt and his family during the First World War, John led the charge of those encouraging me. (Bill Harbaugh, Jim Roosevelt — the inimitable P. James — and Tweed brought up the rear.) With some frequency, as I worked away on the project, the phone would ring and there would be John dishing up one more key anecdote or insight, or pointing out yet another obscure cache of papers that needed to be scrutinized. When I eventually had drafts, John read, critiqued, challenged and — when appropriate — applauded them. Then, as the book drew to a conclusion and I found myself still without an adequate title, he provided a great one, The Lion's Pride. Later on, John boosted TLP in print and in conversation with an almost missionary zeal. Talk about support.
I'm sure I'm not the first to notice that John has a way of luring people. During 1997, as I labored on TLP, he recruited me to co-chair the annual meeting of the TRA at Newport, RI, a stone's throw from my home. In '99 he recruited me again to speak at the 80th annual dinner in Norfolk, this just before he maneuvered me onto the Board of Trustees and then the Executive Committee. Part of the inescapable magnetism was Theodore Roosevelt, to be sure, but part was also John: his irresistible charm and his infectious (TR might have called it"strenuous") charisma. If I had the space here I'd rattle off a long list of names: accomplished and busy men and women who find themselves busier still thanks to John, all of them quite happily immersed in various TRA committees and projects. Each knows exactly what I'm talking about.
Last year, as John turned 60, Philippa Roosevelt solicited letters from his friends and colleagues to mark the occasion. I'm looking over what I wrote at that time."Dear John: Allow me, on the occasion of your 60th birthday, to express my profound gratitude for your help and friendship through the years. It is no wonder that the Roosevelt descendants and cousins love and are devoted to you. But I hope you realize the same can be said of your fellow TR scholars ..."
John, I consider it an honor to be counted amongst your numerous friends. You have made my life richer in more ways than one; and I am very glad I met you at the crossroads.
The international tribunal for Rwanda was criticised yesterday for its failure to charge Tutsis suspected of killing Hutus in the 1994 genocide.
Filip Reyntjens, a Belgian historian and expert witness on the genocide, said he would stop cooperating with the tribunal because no Tutsis from the Rwandan Patriotic Front rebel army had been indicted.
Professor Reyntjens said that prosecuting only Hutus amounted to victor's justice, because the Tutsi force which ended the genocide by overthrowing the extremist Hutu regime also committed atrocities. The UN-mandated tribunal, which sits in Arusha, Tanzania, was supposed to foster reconciliation but was doing the opposite because its one-sided approach alienated ordinary Hutus, he said.
"The ICTR (tribunal) risks being part of the problem rather than of the solution. I cannot any longer be involved in this process," he wrote in a letter to prosecutors made available to news agencies.
There was no response from the tribunal.
The killing of an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus by Hutu militants is well known; less so are the crimes of Tutsi rebels who subsequently took power and still rule the country.
A former prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, promised to charge members of the RPF but before doing so she was removed from her post by a unanimous vote in the UN security council in August 2003. Her successor, Hassan Bubacar Jallow, showed no such zeal.
Ms del Ponte, a former Swiss attorney general, blamed her removal on Britain and the US, both allies of the Tutsi-led government of Paul Kagame in Kigali, Rwanda's capital.
Prof Reyntjens has revived Ms del Ponte's complaint that the victors are not being held accountable."These crimes fall squarely within the mandate of the ICTR, they are well documented - testimonial and material proof is available, and the identity of RPF suspects is known." He did not specify the crimes but they may include three RPF massacres investigated by Ms del Ponte and the slaughter of women and children documented by Human Rights Watch."The crimes committed by RPF soldiers were so systematic and widespread and took place over so long a period of time that commanding officers must have been aware of them," the New York-based advocacy group said in its report on the genocide.
There has been speculation that President Kagame, who led the rebel sweep through Rwanda, and was behind the subsequent incursions into the Democratic Republic of Congo, might have been indicted himself were it not for his links with Washington and London. He denies wrongdoing.
More than 80 Hutus leaders have been indicted for their role in the genocide. But such is the sensitivity of alleged Tutsi crimes that commemorations for the genocide's 10th anniversary last April did not mention them. Hutus did not speak out for fear of provoking the authoritarian government. (Their sense of grievance is likely to be compounded by a Hollywood film, Hotel Rwanda, depicting horrors perpetrated by Hutu militias.)
Next month Rwanda is due to open a nationwide system of local courts - known as gacaca , a traditional form of village-based justice - to put on trial genocide suspects, with the aim of clearing the backlog of cases in the conventional judicial system. Government officials suggest 500,000 suspects could be tried like this.
Jacob Laksin, at frontpagemag.com (1-18-05):
Criminal justice is not, strictly speaking, H. Bruce Franklin’s bailiwick. But that hasn’t stopped the professor of English and American Studies at Rutgers University from becoming one of the most prominent exponents of the radical Left’s tales of the supposed “horrors” of the American penal system.
In one recent contribution to the unabashedly leftist internet newsletter Historians Against the War, Franklin contended the torture that took place at Abu Ghraib prison is actually “commonplace” in U.S. prisons. But despite what such inflammatory rhetoric may suggest, Franklin is no mere fringe left-wing activist. Besides holding an endowed professorship at Rutgers, Franklin is a habitué at colleges and universities; according to his biography, he has delivered some 500 speeches on campuses across the country. A media favorite, Franklin also frequently appears on radio and TV, where he is generously described as “one of America's leading cultural historians.” His 18 books (which include 1972’s The Essential Stalin—an anthology of the dictator’s writings for which Franklin penned an affectionate introduction—as well as several book-length screeds against the Vietnam War) are highly esteemed by a sympathetic commentariat.
As his vitriolic attack on the U.S. prison system indicates, however, public prominence has not tempered Franklin’s radicalism. Opposed as a matter of principle to incarceration, Franklin holds that criminalization of criminals is a crime: “Imprisonment itself, even when relatively benign, is arguably a form of torture,” Franklin writes in his article for Historians Against the War. Mindful of the possibility that this view has its skeptics outside the peripheries of the Left, Franklin proceeds to tick off a damning rap sheet of charges against the American penal system: “Beatings, electric shock, prolonged exposure to heat and even immersion in scalding water, sodomy with riot batons, nightsticks, flashlights, and broom handles, shackled prisoners forced to lie in their own excrement for hours or even days, months of solitary confinement, rape and murder by guards or prisoners instructed by guards—all are everyday occurrences in the American prison system,” he insists.
As his source for this allegedly pervasive sadism, Franklin cites an article by one Anne Marie Cusac, which, he explains in his footnotes, appeared in the July 2004 edition of the Prison Legal News. “This monthly journal is an excellent source of information about the routine abuses of the American prison and the myriad legal cases contesting these abuses,” Franklin gushes. How this relates to the Prison Legal News is unclear, however, since that is not the article’s source. In fact, Cusac, a leftist writer and a longtime anti-prison activist, originally wrote the article for the socialist-leaning Progressive magazine, a fact Franklin likely knows. And Cusac’s story had its own shortcomings. In support of her charges of pandemic abuse at U.S. prisons—which she claimed, on no credible evidence, laid the seedbed for the abuses of Abu Ghraib—Cusac could muster only a few reports, from the left-wing Amnesty International, detailing several isolated incidents at only a few prisons
Not that this deterred Franklin from unashamedly maiming the facts. In addition to conflating the reports of isolated abuse in U.S. prisons with the abuse at Abu Ghraib—there were, for example, no instances of sodomy with flashlights at U.S. prisons, as Franklin blithely asserts—and wildly exaggerating the prevalence of other abuses, Franklin could adduce no evidence for his tendentious claim that such abuses were “everyday occurrences.” Franklin nonetheless berated the “American public” for supporting “institutionalized torture.” By this loaded phrase, Franklin meant nothing more than the detention system itself—or as he called it, the “hundreds of Abu Ghraibs that constitute the American prison-industrial complex.”
Franklin was still dealing in these distortions several weeks prior to the presidential election. In one October philippic for the leftist Web site Truthout.org, Franklin argued that the re-election of George W. Bush would amount to nothing less than Armageddon. Foamed Franklin, “Environmental protection will be decimated, legal challenges to the tortures carried out daily in the hundreds of Abu Ghraibs in the American prison-industrial complex will be tossed out, basic Constitutional rights and liberties will be jettisoned, the disenfranchisement of poor people will accelerate, and there will be no legal way to prevent the right-wing forces in power to steal any election they choose, whether by electronic voting machines or more old-fashioned methods such as purging voter rolls or tossing out thousands of ballots.”
The prospect of a George W. Bush reelection clearly contributed to Franklin’s October meltdown. But the proclivity for radical leftist vaporizing, hardly a one-time occurrence, is a hallmark of Franklin’s opposition to the American prison system. For instance, at a speech he delivered at the 2000 Modern Language Association Convention in Washington, DC, Franklin put forth a number of preposterous claims. First, he insisted that the so-called “culture war” was in reality a systematic campaign by whites to strip American minorities of their civil rights. “The Voting Rights Act of 1965 has been effectively repealed by the criminalization of the poor, especially people of color, through the so-called war on drugs, racial profiling, unleashed police, and felony disenfranchisement,” Franklin raged, adding, “Make no mistake about it. The prison-industrial complex is a major component of a strategy in the culture wars. While disintegrating Black and Latin communities, it attracts the white working class with a carrot--prison-related jobs--and a stick--fear of people of color, imaged as a criminal underclass.” Franklin then inveighed against maximum security prisons by claiming, with his standard contempt for logic, that their existence was evidence of their treachery: “Grotesque experiments in dehumanization are being conducted in the form of ‘supermax’ prisons,” Franklin intoned. For his peroration, Franklin reserved the wisdom of a communist dictator. Alleging that Americans were de-funding schools in order to put up prisons, Franklin said,“…we are beginning to become aware that, in the words of Ho Chi Minh eighty years ago, one of the great ‘atrocities’ of the ‘predatory capitalists’ is substituting prisons for schools.”
Franklin’s claims about American schools do not stand up to serious scrutiny—but the eminent professor undoubtedly knows something about communism. In 1972, Franklin was dismissed from his teaching post at Stanford University after inciting a horde of radical students to attack, on at least two occasions, several buildings at the campus. At the time, Franklin didn’t just quote Ho Chi Minh—he openly celebrated him. As an assistant professor of English, Franklin, then an unabashed Maoist, founded the Venceremos (“We Shall Overcome”) Organization, a Maoist splinter of the prominent California leftist group, Students For a Democratic Society. Declaring its commitment to “armed struggle,” the Venceremos cheered Ho Chi Minh and the North Vietnamese forces, urging a Maoist revolution across the globe. Since his days as a co-founder, in 1969, of the communist Revolutionary Union, Franklin had proclaimed that this revolution would take place by the mid-seventies.
Along with many in the front lines of the incipient revolution, Franklin was unwilling to wait. So, in an effort to expedite the onset of the Maoist utopia, Franklin sought out a more militant profile, engineering the break with the RU that would give rise to the Venceremos, whose members were far more amenable to violent tactics. Taking the Black Panthers as their model, the Venceremos called on soldiers in Vietnam to attack their superiors, demanded the sabotage of American war planes, and appealed to activists to attack police officers and “liberate” American prisons. According to some accounts at the time, one Venceremos directive called for members to carry at least four kinds of fire arms, including automatic weapons, a pistol, a rifle and a shotgun; other reports suggested that Franklin went so far as to supply plastic explosives to the Black Panthers.
Having suffered Franklin’s increasingly militant activities for several years, Stanford’s faculty committee finally had enough in 1972. After leading protestors in an occupation of Stanford’s computer center, Franklin exhorted them to resist any attempt by police to clear them from the building, an order they refused to follow. In the aftermath of the incident, a hearing was called. By a count of 5 to 2, the faculty voted to fire Franklin.
Ever the radical, Franklin would not leave without a fight. In June of 1972, Franklin published an attack on the university, which he titled “Where All Freedoms but Stanford's Are Academic.” Protesting that his academic freedoms had been violated, Franklin also sued the Stanford to reinstate him. But after the siege of the computer center, Franklin’s efforts to present himself as a political martyr found few takers among Stanford’s rattled faculty. As Richard W. Lyman, Stanford’s president from 1970 to 1980, later explained, “[Franklin] became the most conspicuous leader of the radical anti-Vietnam movement on campus and he became eventually a self-declared Maoist, which wouldn't have got him fired, although he sometimes said later he was because he was a Maoist. That isn't the case. He was fired because he had, in fact, to use ordinary layman's language, incited people to riot. And that is a crime if you can prove it and we proved it to the satisfaction of the faculty advisory board and then in the courts later.” And, indeed, Franklin has never attempted a defense of his actions, preferring instead to excise all evidence of his role in the extremism that roiled Stanford in the 70s. Franklin’s 2000 anti-Vietnam book, titled Vietnam And Other American Fantasies, presents a strikingly sanitized rendering of his Venceremos days: “Teaching the Vietnam War during the 1960's and early 1970's meant giving speeches at teach-ins and rallies; getting on talk shows; writing pamphlets, articles, and books; painting banners, picket signs, and graffiti; circulating petitions and leaflets; coining slogans; marching; sitting in; demonstrating at army bases; lobbying Congress; testifying before war-crimes hearings and Congressional investigations; researching corporate and university complicity; harboring deserters; organizing strikes; heckling generals and politicians; blocking induction centers and napalm plants; and going to prison for defying the draft. It is hard to convey the emotions that inspired those actions.” Harder still, for Franklin, is acknowledging what those actions really were.
Franklin’s dismissal from Stanford came as a blow to Venceremos, if not a permanent one: Many of its members would go on to form the ranks of the leftist terrorist outfit, the Symbionese Liberation Army. For his part, Franklin emerged unscathed from the affair. Indeed, rather than capsizing his academic career, his reputation for left-wing militancy served to launch it. In January of 1973, Franklin published an attack on “Professors of the U.S. Empire.” Within a year, he was once again one of them. Franklin went on to positions as a visiting lecturer at top-tier institutions like Yale and Wesleyan; in 1975, Franklin joined the faculty at Rutgers University, his salary paid by the same “predatory capitalists” for whose demise he had been agitating just several years earlier, and whom he would continue to revile throughout his career. In 1987, Franklin was accorded an endowed professorship, becoming the John Cotton Dana Professor at Rutgers.
Even as he has eagerly accepted the opportunities proffered by the academic establishment, Franklin has never disowned his radical faith. Not limiting himself to attacks on the U.S. prison system, Franklin has continued to cheer a host of leftist causes. Among them is his enthusiasm for Cuba’s communist dictatorship, a partiality he shares with his wife, Jane Franklin, a leftist writer and longtime apologist for the Castro regime with ties to its New York-based advocacy agency, the Center for Cuban Studies. Though it is Jane Franklin who can more frequently be heard heaping praise on Cuba’s “established system of human rights,” and declaring its health and education systems “a model for the rest of the world,” the husband and wife team jointly insist that Cuba is the victim of U.S. terrorism. When, in June of 2002, a Miami court found five Cubans guilty on charges of spying for Cuba, Franklin immediately denounced the decision. Scoffing at the notion that the “rogue state” the United States had any right to judge Castro’s agents, Franklin hailed them as heroes. “I don’t think there’s any question these people were here to try protect Cuba from various acts of terrorism carried out by people from Florida,” he told one radio interviewer. Warming to this anti-American theme, Franklin further contended that the Cubans were perfectly justified in spying on the United States. “The issue has come back to the fact that the United States government has been engaged in and complicit with decades of acts of terrorism against Cuba. What exactly are the Cubans supposed to protect against this?”
When not volunteering alibis for Cuba’s espionage, Franklin indulges his other penchant: rehabilitating the excesses of the Vietnam-era anti-war movement as a glorious chapter in American history. Advocating a distinctly radical stripe of academic historicism, Franklin argues that the history of the United States can be understood only in the context of the anti-war movement. “Nor can we understand what America is becoming if we fail to comprehend how the same nation and its culture could have produced an abomination as shameful as the Vietnam War and a campaign as admirable as the 30-year movement that helped defeat it,” Franklin has written. To sustain this self-flattering narrative, Franklin has determinedly avoided any mention of the horrors visited on the South Vietnamese by the Communist victory, and his “history” of the Vietnam movement, traced in a number of his books, is a study in moral vacuity. In Franklin’s version of the Vietnam War, the brutal reign imposed on the country by North Vietnam’s communist regime was actually the culmination of Vietnam’s quest for autonomy. “Countless Americans came to see the people of Vietnam fighting against U.S. forces as anything but an enemy to be feared and hated,” Franklin has said. Indeed, according to Franklin, “Tens of millions sympathized with their suffering, many came to identify with their 2,000-year struggle for independence, and some even found them an inspiration for their own lives.”
Franklin made a rare concession to recorded history in a 2000 article for the Nation, in which he allowed that the pullout of the United States had spelled devastation for Vietnam. In keeping with his standard practice, however, Franklin reposed the blame not with the invading Communist forces, but with the United Sates, chiding Americans because they have “forgotten our government's pledge to help rebuild the country it destroyed despite all our opposition.” It is a measure of his commitment to glamorizing the anti-war movement that Franklin, a science fiction aficionado, has conscripted the show Star Trek into his cause. In 1992, Franklin authored an introduction for an exhibit that appeared at the National Air and Space Museum, called “Star Trek and the Sixties.” Invoking an argument that owed more to fiction than science, Franklin wrote that one 1969 episode of the show demonstrated that the deaths of black soldiers in Vietnam were a function of white racism.
Of late, Franklin has pressed his boundless enthusiasm for the Vietnam anti-war movement into the service of adulating the current crop of anti-war leftists. In 2003, he saluted the protestors who demonstrated against the war in Iraq for their greater “consciousness.” What Franklin had in mind was the conspiracy-mongering Left’s conviction that the U.S. foreign policy is secretly conducted by all-powerful corporations. As he declared at the time, “It is now commonplace knowledge that our government and its foreign policy are controlled by multinational corporations, and this consciousness was widely shared only in the very late stages of the movement against the Vietnam War.” That there existed other explanations for the course of U.S. policy struck Franklin as a proposition too incredible to entertain. “Of course no sensible person could possibly believe that the aim of war in Iraq is the welfare of the people of that country,” said Franklin, insisting that, “Our government's motives are blatantly clear. Hence the apt slogan, ‘No blood for oil.’”
By any objective standard, Franklin’s fact-averse assessment of the American prison system, his inveterate willingness to whitewash both the violent tactics and the tragic achievements of the Vietnam-era anti-war movement, and his conception of U.S. foreign policy, which would do justice to the conspiracy theories of the most ardent jihadist, all call into question his competence to teach a class called American Studies. Yet if such questions are to be raised, they will have to come from outside the purviews of higher learning. From the perspective of many of his colleagues, as well as the universities that have seen it fit to employ him after his belligerent days at Stanford, Franklin’s extremist views are hardly deserving of censure.
On the contrary, they are broadly embraced. A recent course on American politics at the University of California in Los Angeles, for instance, included Franklin’s Vietnam and Other American Fantasies as required reading. Explaining his motivations in assigning Franklin’s book, Vinay Lal, a UCLA history professor, made it clear that he was drawn to its radical leftist message. Conveniently glossing over the fact that history, like criminal justice, falls outside Franklin’s area of expertise, Lal noted that his book offered the salutary advantage of depicting the United States as an irredeemable aggressor bent on subjecting the free world to its will. “Though many commentators have unthinkingly rehearsed the cliché that after 9/11 all is changed, our other principal text”—Franklin’s book—“comes from one of the most respected scholars of American history, whose relatively recent inquiry into the meaning of the Vietnam war in American life suggests that nothing has changed, insofar as the US remains on course in exercising its ruthless dominance over the rest of the world.”
Nor is Lal the first to incorporate one of Franklin’s books into the curriculum at a respected university. A 2000 class at the University of Rochester featured Franklin’s “From Realism to Virtual Reality: Images of America’s Wars,” a book that argues that, throughout the Vietnam War, the U.S. waged a propaganda campaign “to reverse the role of victim and victimizer.” Countless other colleges have made use of Franklin’s MIA: Mythmaking In America, which advances, among other spurious claims, Franklin’s belief that the Nixon administration fabricated stories of POWs missing in Vietnam in a bid to deflect public criticism of the war.
An uncharitable observer may point out that Franklin is an expert on none of these subjects. If there is anything to distinguish those of his works that are now mainstays on college curricula across the country, it is the radical leftist politics on which their central themes rest. Unfortunately, far too many educators share Franklin’s values.
An historian who confronted a burglar at her home was stabbed 19 times, an Old Bailey jury was told yesterday.
Amanda Girling Budd, 48, was working alone at her flat in Hackney, East London, in September when she saw a man on her stairwell. He rushed past her into her flat but Ms Girling Budd confronted him in the hallway."He punched her and then stabbed her 19 times. He then searched the study before leaving the flat and Ms Girling Budd slumped on the floor," said Zoe Johnson, prosecuting.
Ms Girling Budd survived. The blood of the defendant, Thomas Read, was found on her trousers and he left part of the knife behind at the flat, the court heard.
Read, 24, from Walthamstow, East London denies attempted murder.
The case continues.
FRITZ STERN, a refugee from Hitler's Germany and a leading scholar of European
history, startled several of his listeners when he warned in a speech about
the danger posed in this country by the rise of the Christian right. In his
address in November, just after he received a prize presented by the German
foreign minister, he told his audience that Hitler saw himself as "the
instrument of providence" and fused his "racial dogma with a Germanic
"Some people recognized the moral perils of mixing religion and politics," he said of prewar Germany, "but many more were seduced by it. It was the pseudo-religious transfiguration of politics that largely ensured his success, notably in Protestant areas."
Dr. Stern's speech, given during a ceremony at which he got the prize from the Leo Baeck Institute, a center focused on German Jewish history, was certainly provocative. The fascism of Nazi Germany belongs to a world so horrendous it often seems to defy the possibility of repetition or analogy. But Dr. Stern, 78, the author of books like "The Politics of Cultural Despair: A Study in the Rise of the Germanic Ideology" and university professor emeritus at Columbia University, has devoted a lifetime to analyzing how the Nazi barbarity became possible. He stops short of calling the Christian right fascist but his decision to draw parallels, especially in the uses of propaganda, was controversial.
"When I saw the speech my eyes lit up," said John R. MacArthur, whose book "Second Front" examines wartime propaganda. "The comparison between the propagandistic manipulation and uses of Christianity, then and now, is hidden in plain sight. No one will talk about it. No one wants to look at it."
Dr. Stern was a schoolboy in 1933 when Hitler was appointed the German chancellor. He ran home from school that January afternoon clutching a special edition of the newspaper to deliver to his father, a prominent physician.
"I was young," he said, "but I knew it was very bad news."
The street fighting in his native Breslau (now Wroclaw in Poland) between Communists and Nazis, the collapse of German democracy and the ruthless suppression of all opposition marked his childhood, and were images and experiences that would propel him forward as a scholar.
"I saw one of the last public demonstrations against Hitler," he said. "Men, women and children walked through the street and chanted 'Hunger! Hunger! Hunger!' "
His paternal grandparents had converted to Christianity. His parents were baptized at birth, as were Mr. Stern and his older sister. But this did not save the Sterns from persecution. Nazi racial laws still classified them as Jews.
"It was only Nazi anti-Semitism that made me conscious of my Jewish heritage," he said. "I had been brought up in a secular Christian fashion, celebrating Christmas and Easter. My father had to explain it to me."
His schoolmates were swiftly recruited into Hitler youth groups and he and other Jews were taunted and excluded from some activities.
"Many of my classmates found the organized party experience, which included
a heavy dose of flag waving and talk of national strength, very exhilarating,"
said Dr. Stern, who lost an aunt and an uncle in the Holocaust. "It was
something I never forgot." ...
He denounces American imperialism on Al-Jazeera Television. A former Zionist, he refers to jihadist suicide bombers as martyrs. He praised Mideast scholars for ignoring the issue of terrorism, and he regularly repeats the most twisted and paranoid claims of Islamist regimes as though they were historical fact. He is Stanford Middle East history professor Joel Beinin, and his influence extends far beyond his classroom.
If one individual can showcase all the flaws of Middle East Studies in academia, Joel Beinin is that man. A former president of the Middle East Studies Association, Beinin teaches Middle East history at Stanford University. This professors politics color his work; the result is mediocre scholarship, baseless conspiracy theories, and partisan classroom instruction.
Beinins biography reads like a parody of an American radical. Born in 1948 to Labor Zionist parents, he experienced an ideological transformation at age 22 while living on Kibbutz Lahav. Beinin joined the New Left at Hebrew University, then migrated to Trotskyite anti-Zionism and finally to Maoism. A Marxist ever since, he received his BA, MA, and Ph.D. from Princeton, Harvard, and the University of Michigan respectively. He has received Ford Foundation funds, and has taught in France, Britain, Israel and Egypt.
Beinin and his wife Miriam support the Jewish Voice for Peace, a Bay area group and reported Palestinian front. The professor appears regularly on radical Radio Pacifica, although he refuses many local invitations to legitimate debate. Beinin blames the United States for major problems facing the Middle East, and he attributes U.S. actions to aggression and ill will. Just a few examples of his most outrageous actions include:
Before the 2003 Iraq war, Beinin appeared on Al-Jazeera to condemn U.S. imperial policy in the Arab world. President Bush, he informed his Middle Eastern audience, planned to establish a puppet regime in Baghdad to benefit U.S. oil interests and force what he called Israeli dictates on the Palestinians.
After the war began, Beinin accused Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and other U.S. policymakers of collusion with Israels Likud Party and asserted that the U.S. and Israel had collaborated with Arab regimes to block democracy and economic development in the Arab world. Beinin insisted that the U.S. was bent on showing the overwhelming military power of the US to make and unmake regimes and guarantee access to oil. American conservatives, in his opinion, wanted to ensure that Islamist forces would forsake legal political action and engage in armed struggle.
Beinin rejects critical thought regarding terror, and with it any opportunity to sensibly evaluate the current U.S. war. He mocks this effort as terrorology. A year after 9/11, he actually congratulated fellow MESA academics for their great wisdom in refusing to examine terrorism, much less address what nearly all agree is the gravest national security threat to the United States. ...