Liberal Lies About America

I know that FOX News and Sean Hannity are usually “fair and balanced” but it seems to me that this report about corrupt liberal elite academics and their biased textbooks is missing some important elements of investigative journalism – specifically, the investigative part.  I’ve never heard of Prof. Larry Schweikart or his new book about how liberals are destroying all that is good about American history.  I’m sure it’s filled with all kinds of examples, but what I find curious is that there is no attempt to confirm anything in this FOX report.  It should come as no surprise that I came across this video over at Richard Williams’s site.  It should also come as no surprise that Mr. Williams fails to include any commentary concerning the claims made in this video.  One must assume he believes the report to be an accurate reflection of the most popular history textbooks that are currently being used across America.  It certainly conforms to his own assumptions about higher education.

At one point Schweikart claims that most college textbooks claim that President Roosevelt and the federal government knew that the Japanese would attack Pearl Harbor, but failed to act on that information.  Since the report fails to include one textbook reference it is impossible to connect the individual claims to a specific textbook.  I will start with my own left leaning textbook authored by Eric Foner.  We all know that Eric Foner is one of the most popular of the liberal academics out there so his book should be helpful.

To this day, conspiracy theories abound suggesting that FDR knew of the attack and did nothing to prevent it so as to bring the United States into the war.  No credible evidence supports this charge.  Indeed, with the country drawing ever closer to intervention in Europe, Roosevelt hoped to keep the peace in the Pacific. (p. 850 in Give Me Liberty!)

Perhaps such a claim can be found in Out Of Many: A History of the American People, which was banned in Texas because of its left wing bias:

Confrontation with Japan now looked likely.  U.S. intelligence had broken the Japanese diplomatic code, and the president knew that Japan was preparing for war against the western powers.  Roosevelt’s advisers expected an attack in the southern Pacific or British Malaya sometime after November: General Douglas MacArthur alerted his command in the Philippines. (p. 755)

How about a textbook that includes that other left leaning nut, Gary Nash?

Roosevelt had an advantage in the negotiations with Japan, for the United States had broken the Japanese secret diplomatic code.  But Japanese intentions were hard to decipher from the intercepted messages.  The American leaders knew that Japan planned to attack, but they didn’t know where.  In September 1941, the Japanese decided to strike sometime after November unless the United States offered real concessions.  The strike came not in the Philippines but at Pearl Harbor, the main American Pacific naval base, in Hawaii. (p. 810)

And finally, let’s consider what is arguably the most popular college-prep textbook of the past few decades:

Officials in Washington, having “cracked” the top-secret code of the Japanese, knew that Tokyo’s decision was for war.  But the United States, as a democracy committed to public debate and action by Congress, could not shoot first.  Roosevelt, misled by Japanese ship movements in the Far East, evidently expected the blow to fall on British Malaya or on the Philippines.  No one in high authority in Washington seems to have believed that the Japanese were either strong enough or foolhardy enough to strike Hawaii. (p. 871)

I have five additional textbooks on my shelf that fall into line with what I’ve already referenced.  Perhaps tomorrow I will check out one or two additional claims made by this individual.  Click here for a review of Schweikart’s own texbook.

48 responses... add one

My favorite was his defense of the Robber Barons. Nothing like overlooking things like Bloody Homestead, the Ludlow Massacre, child labor, etc.

You need to check out his profile at the University of Dayton. Here is just the first paragraph:

“Prior to coming to academics, Dr. Schweikart was a rock drummer for several bands, one of which reached the big-time concert level as the opening act for Steppenwolf, the James Gang, Mother’s Finest, and other groups. The group’s single, “Didn’t Want to Have to Say Goodbye to You,” was played on Los Angeles radio stations and was favorably reviewed by “Billboard,” “Cashbox,” and “Record World.” Dr. Schweikart quit the road in 1976, tired of starving and driving. That year, he returned to Arizona State University to obtain a teaching certificate, and in the process took a history class that changed his life. From that moment on, he wanted to be a history professor (even though he still played drums at night all the way through grad school).”

Web address for the entire profile:
http://www.udayton.edu/artssciences/profiles/schweikart_larry.php

Yep. In a way, you could say that Professor Schweikart took Hannity’s audience on a “Magic Carpet Ride.”

Leonard,

Yes, as well as anyone else who decided to post it without asking even the most simple of questions re: the blatant lack of any sources.

Well, I guess they were just “Born to Be Wild,” not “Born to Be Cited.”

This story just keeps on getting better. Check out the added information found, of all places, on the Young America’s Foundation website:

“Throughout high school and college, however, Dr. Schweikart spent most of his time playing drums in a variety of rock bands, and in 1972 upon graduation he joined a band called “Goldmyne” led by John Tatum, formerly of the “Earwigs,” which was the forerunner to “Alice Cooper.” (Tatum has since gone on to a Christian music ministry in California). Tatum and his wife, Alice, currently a jazz singer in Phoenix, fleshed out the band with several other musicians and over a period of about two years the band played clubs in the Midwest, southwest, and Canada. When that group broke up, he played in several other groups before joining “Rampage,” a southern-rock group that opened for “Steppenwolf,” “Savoy Brown,” and “Mother’s Finest.” The band cut several records, one of which had limited release and was reviewed by Billboard and Record World.”

Website: http://www.yaf.org/speakerdetails.aspx?id=1506

“Goldmyne.” Really?

Am I the only one who thinks it strange that he didn’t name the group? Also, saying that their record was played on LA radio stations & favorably reviewed sounds like shorthand for they couldn’t give it away.

Be nice Margaret. The music industry is a tough world. :D I still brag about playing in a band that once opened up for the Grammy Award winning band, “Live”. We were so close. :(

Kevin-Just a statement of fact. Art and music are awful fields to try to make a dent in. Look at what the Beatles accomplished, but, even with all that staggering talent, if it weren’t for a manager who wasn’t really a manager staying persistent in the face of rejection who finally coming across a producer who wasn’t really a music producer, they’d have been a fond memory for Liverpudlians of their generation who frequented the Cavern Club and some fans in Hamburg. It’s just that his bio is a balloon of puffery just begging for a pin. :)

With a band name like “Goldmyne,” no wonder he left that part out of the story.

There are a few badly confused leftists – and I do mean leftists, not liberals – who buy that conspiracy theory. But it’s mainly a rightwing favorite, stemming from the rightwing isolationists who always hated Roosevelt. It doesn’t fit comforably with the narrative of the neoconservatives or of the Cheney-Rumsfeld brand of just plain old warmongers. Except that if That Man Roosevelt “lied us into war” over Pearl Harbor, then maybe lying us into war over Iraq’s non-existent “weapons of mass destruction” is just the all-American way and those libruls are total hypocrites for criticizing Bush for it, and so on and so forth.

But, even though it doesn’t fit the current Republican foreign policy narrative, Kathryn Olmsted in her very interesting book Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy, World War I to 9/11 (2009) writes:

The Pearl Harbor conspiracists looked back with longing to the [pre-Second World War] period before the United States had joined the perpetual war for perpetual peace.

Yet the early Pearl Harbor theories were not merely nostalgic. They also helped to construct a foundational myth of modern conservatism. In the mind of the conspiracists, Pearl Harbor demonstrated everything that was wrong with the New Deal: the “confusion, incompetence, wasteful extravagance, double-dealing and double-talking” of the expansive federal government, the GOP activist George Smith contended. Franklin D. Roosevelt, the double-dealing and double-talking architect of this oppressive government, had “lied” the nation into war.

In college I wrote an extensive annotated bibliography on this specific conspiracy theory. Most of what I found was published in the 1950s. I bet I can find it somewhere at my parent’s home. The problem is that none of them have a textbook currently in circulation.

I saw a documentary debunking many of the 9/11 conspiracy theories. One of the experts talked about the myth of governmental hypercompetence as being at the core of most of them.

The most egregious assertion here is that “All of the people accused by Senator Joe McCarthy turned out to be Communists”. Among the accused by McCarthy were General George Marshall, the man who did the most to win the war besides Roosevelt himself, and Dean Acheson. McCarthy told the Senate that Marshall and Acheson were part of a Communist conspiracy of infamy so immense it surpassed any such venture in history.

I supposed if you stuck “Obama” and “Pelosi” in place of “Marshall” and “Acheson”, Hannity could quite relate to that.

Hey Toby, you are stealing my thunder. That was going to be my next follow-up. Oh well…there are any number of claims I can take up. The claim is quite simply factually incorrect. Even Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower understood that McCarthy had gone overboard.

I have done some extensive research concerning communist infiltration of the state dept and other agencies during the “McCarthy witch-hunt” and have found that the USSR was indeed in cahoots with the CPUSA and had agents who infiltrated said departments. See the Venona cables and the exhaustive files the FBI had on communists in America. Although I do feel that McCarthy went overboard at times, he needs a fair shake in the historical memory.

Tony-McCarthy wasn’t interested in the facts, and a lot of lives and careers were destroyed based on rumor and innuendo, including many people who were never in the US government.

So, McCarthy was right, but he named all the wrong people for all the wrong reasons. This is a definition of ‘right’ with which I’m not entirely comfortable.

@ Bruce Miller: I’ve always wondered why conspiracy theorists are so intent on viewing Pearl Harbor as a consequence of FDR’s machinations, despite the lack of evidence. I suspect that because of the massive death involved, it made it easier to demonize him. I mean, FDR really was looking for an excuse to get the country involved in the European war, and he wasn’t above stretching the facts to accomplish that end, but I suppose the whole Greer incident thing was not quite dramatic enough to serve their ends.

In my experience, most of the FDR/Pearl Harbor Conspiracy Theorists (FDR/PH CT for short) are isolationists who believe that the US shouldn’t have spent “blood and treasure” fighting a foreign war. Buchananites fall into this category: the ones who think we should have stayed out of WWI and WWII because the Germans weren’t that bad (the first time) and the Soviets were worse (the second time).

Why is it that it has to be one thing or another? Regarding, for instance, the end of the Cold War, is it not possible that it was a combination of Reagan’s assertion of power coupled with perestroika and glasnost that led to an easing of tension? The frustrating thing is not the conservative or liberal bias in and of itself, it’s the bias at all. (Obviously, there is no such thing as a work of history with no bias. But, as Eric Foner has demonstrated on multiple occasions, just because you’re a liberal doesn’t mean your writing of history is a way to advance a “liberal agenda.”) This sort of thing is part and parcel of the Texas textbook phenomenon, and it’s absurd.

Politicians: leave the history to the experts! We’ll take it from here.

The problem is that there is no longer a distinction between politics and history in the public discourse. What is frustrating is that political hacks like Hannity and others don’t really understand how historians go about writing history, which is why they stick to the surface language of political partisanship. Yes, Foner is a liberal in terms of his politics, but that doesn’t help us very, if at all, with evaluating his scholarship.

The Reagan/ Gorbachov “who ended the Cold War?” debate is one that will run and run. Reagan deserves credits, but Gorbachov was an effective partner. The film gives the impression that the USSR caved to Reagan’s demands like “Pull down that wall!”. The fact is that Reagan started to make headway when he gave up his “Evil Empire” rhetoric and approached Gorbachov on a human level. Rapport grew between the two men that was indispensable to the process. It is difficult (maybe impossible) to elevate one above the other. Gorbachov probably took the greater risks – and in the end he collapsed the whole system which he headed. But Reagan also took risks – some hawks (Dick Cheney was one) believed glasnost and perestroika were Commie tricks.

History is quite complex and reducing it to set of good guys and bad guys is poisonous.

That you would even reduce this issue down to one or the other is downright silly. Of course, Reagan deserves credit for the end of the Cold War. Gorbachev also played a role in this. Of course, historians will disagree as to the relative weight given to the respective leaders as well as a host of other factors. That’s what historians do. That they may not agree with Hannity or Schweikart doesn’t necessarily say anything about their politics. That we even have to point this out is sad.

The “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” line was one of Reagan’s better dramatic moments as President. But if there is any one thing that Reagan did that contributed even indirectly to the fall of the Berlin Wall, it was concluding the agreement with the USSR on intermediate nuclear missiles. That allowed Gorbachev to be more aggressive in countering his hardliners who didn’t want to lose their East European security cordon. So in 1989, he told East German Communist leader Erich Honeker, you’re on your own now, comrade. But Honeker and the East German leadership were opposed to Gorbachev’s reform course and initially had no intention of liberalizing their regime, much less taking down the Wall. East Germany was a Soviet satellite country, but that didn’t mean Moscow called every shot in East Germany. Building the Wall in the first place was an initiative by the East German leadership. And in the summer and fall of 1989, they wanted to keep it in place.

I don’t know what the actual research shows on what effect if any that speech had on Gorbachev’s thinking. But both the documents and most of the individuals involved in the actual East German decision became accessible to Western historians after 1989. And Reagan’s speech basically had zero effect on the East German Politburo’s decision-making. In fact, the opening of the Wall when it happened actually came about by the official in charge misunderstanding a Politburo decision. Although by that point, it was becoming practically inevitable after Hungary had opened their border to Austria. And the East German rulers didn’t make any effort to reverse the action once it was taken.

I looked at the table of contents on Amazon and found it interesting that some of the chapters sound similar to the areas of “concern” stated by the Texas State Board of Education in their re-writing of their state standards recently.

The difference, however, is that this author is supposed to be a trained historian with a Phd from the University of California at Santa Barbara. Now, I have not read his book on “Liberal Lies” so perhaps it is well documented and includes sufficient examples from textbooks that can be identified as having been written by liberal authors. It would be interesting to know how Schweikart goes about identifying the political affiliations of authors and how he is able to draw a connection between their politics and any particular historical claim.

Just because I’m perverse that way, I looked up Dr. Schwiekart on JStor; as far as I can tell, the last peer-reviewed article he wrote was in the mid-1990s.

His works for the past decade appear to be entirely – to be polite – “popular” (and I use the term very loosely) history (i.e, the stuff one finds on the seconds table at the local Barn o’ Books).

Beyond that, how the hell is Robert Stinnett of Day of Deceit fame a liberal? The “FDR knew” conspiracy theory is a right wing hash that has been around since (roughly) Dec. 9, 1941, and Stinnet himself (at least according to wikipedia – I know) is affiliated with some libertarian group in Oakland, of all places. (I guess Palo Alto is too high rent?)

I wonder what his comments on RMP are like?

Wait, he’s a business/economic historian who, as far as I can tell, has never worked outside of academia, and a military historian who has never been in the military….

Not that you need to write what you know, but it certainly helps.

His RMP reviews run quite the gamut…

Last one, I swear – read this review of Schweikert’s dissertaion-turned-first-book; priceless.

Review: [untitled]
William G. Shade
The American Historical Review, Vol. 94, No. 3 (Jun., 1989), pp. 855-856
Published by: American Historical Association

As a foreigner my concern is not just how the media and the neo conservatives want us to teache students patriotism and pro US ideology, but how they have already succeeded to shape our memory. Particularly, the end of the Cold War is a great example of how memory has been rewritten. While I see that the above comments re: Reagan’s vs Gorbatche’vs role in ending the Cold War were certainly not meant as an in depth analysis, in popular discussion the mere assumption that those were the main players is disturbing. I was 21 and in Germany when the Wall fell and very involved in politics. Looking at today’s believe that Mr. Reagan was responsible for the fall of the Wall, the American right has obviously won in shaping our memory. I have not seen many reports on TV or in newspapers that give equal credit to Reagan, Gorbatchev AND Chancelor Kohl. In the 80′s Dr.Kohl played a major role in pushing for not accepting the division of Germany, while, in fact, more voices against reuniting and expressing anti American sentiments in Germany grew. Today Dr.Kohl has already fallen of the radar because that does not fit the popular American opinion. But even worse, Hungary let 60.000 East Germans escape over their border and continue to West Germany between July and December 1989. They were a major force in undermining the East German government that still pretended “all is well in the State of Denmark”. In addition, every Monday for months preceding the opening of the East German borders a substantial number of East Germans staged a mostly peaceful demonstration, not to reunite, but to ask for a change in regime, the end of the Stasi, release of political prisoners and fair elections. These people were East Germans that put their lives and the lives of their families and friends in great danger. No mentioning of the Monday Revolutions. The fall of the Wall that divided Germany is a story of success how Germans were able to reunite without military force, but with the help of the American, Soviet and Hungarian, and many other governments in Europe. Again, that does not fit the memory of most Americans who show no concern when Mr. Rumsfeld released his uneducated rants about “old Europe”, or commentators on Reagan’s funeral create a love fest of one man’s vision. I wonder if I walked into an undergrad history class reviewing 20th century European history in the US how many students would even know about the Monday Revolution and Hungary’s involvement.
I know this exceeds your point, Kevin, but I think that even our recent memory has already been rewritten.

Michaela,

Your comment fits perfectly into the discussion. What your analysis highlights is not the problem of political allegiance but how we go about analyzing the past. The Schweikart/Hannity line dismisses anything that goes beyond the “great man” view of history. It seems to me that your point reflects little that is conservative or liberal, but what goes into a robust account of an important and complex event.

By missing the opportunity to teach the whole spectrum of forces involved in ending the Cold War, we also missed to teach the next generation that at the end of the 21st century diplomacy and letting the citizens of totalitarian regimes speak was more successful than military invasion. If people had studied the Cold War in its complexity they would refrain from suggesting that we invade Iran. Iran has shown that its people are working towards change. With the resurrection of Cold War politicians such as Cheney and Rumsfeld we missed our turning point. Education is certainly inconvenient, when it potentially could advance us into a new era, where we have to change our views, too. But how is that different from teaching the threat of modern imperialism and capitalism to further the Soviet agenda in 1960 East Germany?

Yes, it is a pity that 1989 is encrusted in myth. The focus on the Berlin Wall leaves out important changes in Poland, Czechoslovakia and the Baltic States that were key parts of the whole avelanche. In particular, the election and subsequent high international profile of Pope John Paul II were critical in supporting the Solidarity movement in Poland.

My main memory of 1989 were the peaceful demonstrators in places like Leipzig & Prague. It was not all about Presidents and Popes – “ordinary people” did put their bodies on the line, and in Romania people died at the hands of the police. The “great men” theory of history does a great disservice.

Ehrhart Neubert, who was a pro-democracy activist in the DDR (East Germany), has written or edited several books about the democratic opposition there, including Geschichte der Opposition in der DDR 1949-1989 (1997), which gives some fairly detailed description of the events and personalities involved. It’s long, but it’s a fascinating story to me. One of the things he points out is that after Willi Brandt managed to stabilize the relations between the two Germanys, both the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats (including the CSU) tended to avoid direct encouragement of the DDR opposition. When the Green Party formed, they actually did interact with the democratic opposition and directly encouraged them, which is presumably a big reason that former DDR oppositionists like Neubert and Vera Langsfeld initially joined the Greens after unification but later switched to the CDU. In that particular instance, the Greens found a way to encourage dissent without at the same time using it to promote a military confrontation or trying to sabotage the detente between the two Germanys.

The story of the democratic opposition in the DDR is actually kind of a difficult one to tell in the American context today. Like Michaela mentions, the most active democratic activists there were people who in some form or another were demanding a liberalized, democratized DDR, not immediate unification. Many of them, like the physicist Robert Havemann or the author Stefan Heym, understood themselves to be committed Communists. (As did Gorbachev.) But once free, competitive election started in 1990, the Western parties had the experience, organizations and funding to run electoral campaigns, and the former opposition groups didn’t. Also, having built up their movement around reforming the DDR, they tended not to be in as much of a rush for unification as most voters were. One of the sad things about the Rush Limbaugh/Glenn Beck form of fanatical ideology which has so much sway among Republicans now – in which socialism and communism and Nazism and fascism and Obama’s mild-mannered brand of corporate-friendly liberalism are all merged into more-or-less the same thing – is that it makes something like the DDR’s democratic opposition literally impossible to understand. Along with the rest of world history of the last century or more.

It was not until I took up residence in the Philippines ten years ago and made a few visits to Corregidor and to Singapore that I realized the extent to which the attack on Pearl Harbor was an integral part of the attacks on the Philippines and Malaya. Attacking Pearl Harbor meant a short term advantage that was gained in a trade off for the long term disadvantage of an outright American declaration of war. The Japanese were not sure how long it would take them to secure control of the Philippines and Malaya. An immediate response from Pearl Harbor to their attack on the Philippines could have jeopardized their immediate goal. People who weren’t alive and listening to the radio from December, 1941, until May, 1942, tend to be unaware that America’s first six months in WWII were spent listening helplessly while Corregidor and Bataan fell into Japanese hands. The attack on Pearl Harbor meant the Japanese needed only six months to secure control of the Philippines and Malaya instead of perhaps two or three years. Without the pre-emptive attack on Pearl Harbor the Japanese could have spent the first six months of the war wondering if and when the Americans were going to respond. A significant portion of the American population had for forty years viewed American bases on Philippine soil as a standing invitation for a Japanese attack.

Excellent points. There were people in the Japanese leadership who argued in vain against Pearl Harbor precisely for the reasons that you outlined. In the rosy haze that has grown around WW II in comparison to the wars (police actions, etc.) that followed it, I’m sure that there are many people today who have no clue as to the strength and fervor of the isolationist opposition, which included very prominent people, to the US entering WW II including America First and the German-American Bund. That opposition collapsed as soon as the news of Pearl Harbor broke.
In addition, the Japanese had one item of game-changing bad luck at Pearl Harbor-the US aircraft carriers were not in port.

Aircraft carriers were still a new concept at the time and the details for actually deploying them in battle weren’t yet fully worked out. We learned the hard way that the effectiveness of aircraft carriers was quite limited beyond the range of land based air support. Abruptly the air strips the Japanese had built with Korean labor on remote and very isolated Pacific atolls took on a paramount strategic importance. I visited Tarawa about fifteen years ago. Imagine what was going through the minds of the indigenous micronesians when the Japanese showed up, expanded the dock, built an airstrip and then planted guns and concrete bunkers all around it. The whole idea was utterly absurd until you factored in the need for the Japanese to extend the effective range of their aircraft carriers.

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