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Dissent


  • Originally published 07/25/2013

    Maura Elizabeth Cunningham: China’s Para-Police

    Maura Elizabeth Cunningham is a PhD candidate in modern Chinese history at the University of California, Irvine.I didn’t notice the apple seller at first. I was walking east on Shanghai’s Changle Street—the Street of Eternal Happiness—mentally making a list of all the things I needed to do to fix up the apartment I had moved into the day before, while the fruit vendor slowly pedaled his tricycle cart in the road ahead of me. Preoccupied, I might never have taken note of the man if not for the white station wagon with a shield painted on the side that slowed down and stopped behind him. Four men jumped out of the car and rushed at the tricycle cart; in a flash, before I could even fully absorb what was happening in front of me, the men had overturned it and knocked the apple seller to the ground. Apples rolled everywhere, scattering across the street like hundreds of billiard balls, while the men briefly yelled at the silent vendor and then got back in their station wagon and drove away. The entire incident lasted under two minutes.

  • Originally published 06/26/2013

    Michael Kazin: Daniel Ellsberg, the Original Big Leaker

    Michael Kazin is editor of Dissent and teaches history at Georgetown University. His latest book is American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation. For decades, Daniel Ellsberg, the leaker of the Pentagon Papers, has used his celebrated past to condemn the present. He has given hundreds of talks about the alleged crimes and deceits of every president from Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama; demanded the impeachment of George W. Bush; called on government employees to leak plans for bombing Iran; and been arrested on several occasions for protesting U.S. foreign policy.

  • Originally published 06/04/2013

    Michael Kazin: The Forgotten President

    Michael Kazin is editor of Dissent and teaches history at Georgetown University. His latest book is American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation.The first liberal Democratic president took office exactly 100 years ago this spring. So why aren’t contemporary liberals bestowing the same praise on Woodrow Wilson as they lavish on Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson? Granted, if he were running today, Woodrow Wilson wouldn’t win a single Democratic primary and would no doubt be heckled out of the race. Raised in the South, he smiled on Jim Crow and did not object when two of his cabinet appointees re-segregated their departments. A crusading Presbyterian, he vowed to “teach the Latin American republics to elect good men” and dispatched troops to Mexico and Haiti when they didn’t follow his advice. During World War I, he enforced new laws that effectively outlawed most dissent from government policy.

  • Originally published 02/22/2013

    Charles L. Ponce de Leon: Review of Douglas Brinkley's "Cronkite"

    Charles L. Ponce de Leon, an associate professor of History and American Studies at California State University, Long Beach, is completing a book on the history of television news.More than thirty years after his retirement as anchor of the CBS Evening News—and over three years after his death in 2009—Walter Cronkite remains an iconic figure. He appears in the opening montage of Aaron Sorkin’s HBO drama The Newsroom, and his name is routinely evoked in laments about the “decline” of broadcast journalism, which invariably remind us that he was the “most trusted man in America,” a courageous truth-teller committed to objectivity and “hard news.”Douglas Brinkley’s long, absorbing biography of Cronkite does little to alter this impression. He tells us lots of interesting things about the man, but relatively little about how he became a mythic figure. Nor does he say very much about the particular kind of journalism that Cronkite and his colleagues produced. This is too bad, since Cronkite was at the center of a fascinating moment in the history of American mass media, and the television news that he came to embody was fleeting and highly unusual—an attempt to produce serious journalism in a medium associated with escapism.

  • Originally published 01/23/2013

    Ruth Rosen: Roe v. Wade and Beyond

    Ruth Rosen, a former columnist for the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle, is Professor Emerita of History at UC-Davis and a visiting scholar at the Center for the Study of Right-Wing Movements at UC-Berkeley. Her most recent book is The World Split Open: How the Modern Women’s Movement Changed America.On the day that Roe v. Wade was handed down, I felt a mixture of elation and panic. A new future loomed in which unwanted pregnancies would no longer send women to quacks, rushing them to hospitals with raging infections and perhaps to their deaths. I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that many lives would be saved.At the same time, I knew that this historic decision had started the culture wars, even though I didn’t have the language to explain my thoughts. As a young historian, I realized that the Supreme Court had given us abortion rights and what the Court gave, the Court could take away. Even more, I understood that we had not received this right through congressional legislation, which would have reflected a greater consensus among Americans. But I also knew that there had not been enough national conversation for legislation that would have legalized abortion, so a Court decision was the only way, at that time, that we could have gained reproductive rights.