Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The 10 Big Lies About America by Michael Medved

As a historian, I take rather a morbid interest in the increasing popularity of 'revisionist history' - the reinvention of commonly accepted history to advocate a particular political position.

That's what turned me on to conservative talk show host Michael Medved's latest book, '10 Big Lies About America.' Does this book have valid points to make about the history of the United States? Or is it just a cynical attempt to lift the 'White Man's Burden' of politically correct guilt?

In '10 Big Lies', Medved outlines the 'truth' behind America's history. He reexamines the slave trade, the genocide of the Native Americans and America's secular roots.

He accuses 'universities, public schools' and the old favorite, 'the liberal elite' of popularizing historical accounts that 'blame America' for some of the more controversial chapters in this nation's history.

As Random House boast: "In The 10 Big Lies About America, Medved pinpoints the most pernicious pieces of America-bashing disinformation that pollute current debates about the economy, race, religion in politics, the Iraq war, and other contentious issues."

I will admit, I am immediately suspicious of any book penned by a 'conservative talk show host' that has the word 'America' in the title. But do Medved's theories hold any water?

The book kicks off by attacking the accusation that white men committed genocide against the Native Americans, wiping out over 12 million 'Red Indians' as they settled out west.

Medved certainly debunks a few commonly accepted myths, like the story of the 'smallpox infected blankets' handed out by British troops to the Delaware and Shawnee Indians during the Siege of Fort Pitt.

However, even he can't change the historical facts - and his cynical observation that the Native American population has exploded since 1900 (after the survivors were neatly billeted in their twee reservations) comes across as smug and unrepentant.

The most controversial chapter of Medved's book addresses slavery. He angrily attacks the perception that America was uniquely guilty of the crime of slavery, pointing out that America was responsible for less than 5% of the 'slave trade.'

However, that statement ignores the fact that America removed itself from the slave trade by breeding it's own 'property class.' America then continued the abominable industry long after the rest of the civilized world had abandoned it.

Medved even goes as far as to suggest that slaves were 'better off in America than Africa.' How any readers could fail to find that statement offensive is beyond me!

Further on his list of 'big lies,' we find some of the popular conservative positions being touted, like attacking claims that America was founded as a secular nation.

Medved quite rightly points out the Christian convictions of many of the founding fathers. However, like with his attacks on slavery and the plight of the Native Americans, he's quickly reduced to simply ignoring further evidence, which disproves his dogmatic theories.

For example, he ignores that fact that the founding fathers ratified: "The Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion."

Medved similarly fails to point that that, while the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights make reference to 'God' and a 'Creator,' they never once make reference to Christianity or Jesus.

In the end, Michael's Medved's book reads like a shopping list of conservative political opinion, mixed with rather distasteful 'white pride' style propaganda. I guess I can see where he's coming from - in modern America, political correctness has rendered the 'White Man's Burden' to that of guilt. However, it still leaves rather a nasty taste in my mouth.

But if you're a white, Judeo-Christian American looking to feel better about your nation's history, this book will tell you everything you want to hear.

It's only if you have the remotest interest in real history that this book will leave you feeling icky. As a former history student, I think Michael Medved picked a very appropriate title when he chose to call his book: 'The 10 Big Lies About America.'

That's exactly what he's written.

The 10 Big Lies About America: Combating Destructive Distortions About Our Nation by Micheal Medved is available from Crown Forum for $26.95. ISBN-13: 978-0307394064


Expat mum said...

I don't think I will be buying it. I wonder what he says of the internment of Japanese Americans during WW2? Or perhaps that's not mentioned because you can't actually deny or defend that.

Rebecca said...

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I bet your wife would really love reading something about how you met her. I wasn't expecting my boyfriend to write his side of the story, but I was completely blown away by what he wrote. I fell in love with him all over again!

Wonderful World of Weiners said...

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Hallie :)

EmmaK said...

oh dear oh dear how do these things get published? In times of economic recession people like to hold onto bizarre historical facts that make them feel better I suppose. Cults are also getting an upswing in new recruits these days.

Coffee Bean said...

I've really been thinking a lot about our founding and what the original intent was... and the whole freedom of religion and what that really meant and what it means today. You really do need to consider the world view that authors are coming from when reading their material.

One Salient Oversight said...

One of the great tragedies of our age is that people prefer to read and propagate fiction as fact when they can quite easily discover fact through simple research.

Anonymous said...

The lies in textbooks that Thanksgiving is due to Americans being thankful for the Indians help isn't what Thanksgiving is about. This nation is based on Judeo-Christian beliefs that is dispised in the courts. This book is fact. Sorry that you don't want to hear about the facts that this nation was founded on...but I guess you don't like the truth.

Roland Hulme said...

Anonymous - I'd take what you said with less scorn if you weren't hiding behind an anonymous identity and you learned to spell.

"I guess you don't like the truth."

In this case, I wouldn't know. Just like Medved's book, what you wrote is very far from it.

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