By Jarrett Stepman
The war on history is about overturning America’s constitutional system.
So says Mary Grabar, a resident fellow at the Alexander Hamilton Institute and author of the book “Debunking Howard Zinn: Exposing the Fake History That Turned a Generation Against America.”
Zinn was a radical historian whose book, “A People’s History of the United States,” has been widely influential since its first publication in 1980.
Grabar spoke at a Heritage Foundation event in late August on “The Perils of Revisionist History” as a part of an ongoing series of presentations called “The Power of Trial and Triumph.” The event’s hosts were Angela Sailor, vice president of Heritage’s Feulner Institute, and Allen C. Guelzo, a visiting fellow at Heritage’s Simon Center for American Studies.
Grabar laid out how Zinn portrayed himself as a truth-teller who was debunking myths created about American history using newly uncovered sources.
“He claimed to be revealing new evidence, everything from Christopher Columbus’ diary to a Harper’s Magazine article about Japanese internment camps published at the end of World War II to the Pentagon Papers,” she said. “But what I discovered in going through Zinn’s book is, he did no such thing.”
Instead, according to Grabar, Zinn distorted his sources to fit his narrative, took subject matter out of context, and frequently outright lifted his material from other authors.
“In terms of Columbus, he mostly copied from passages quoted in a book he plagiarized, a book for high school students written by a fellow Marxist and anti-Vietnam War organizer who was not a historian, but a novelist, by the name of Hans Koning,” Grabar said.
Columbus’ diary was quoted deceptively, she said. Zinn added ellipses to sentences while also clipping out entire sentences or pages to change their meaning, she said. This made Columbus seem ruthless and cruel, but the actual direct passages from Columbus tell a different story.
The missing passages, she said, show that Columbus tried to convert the Indians “through love, not force, and certainly was not intent on murder or genocide as is claimed.”
It wasn’t just the story of Columbus that Zinn distorted, Grabar said. He engaged in revisionism about the Vietnam War in much the same way.