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Get the facts right, and cut the BS
on March 8, 2010
I would like to note that as PBS spent public money on this thing, both donations and tax dollars, that it is infuriating when they spend the money on the presentation of wrong information.
They have an historian, Walter LaFeber (a guy at Cornell, good grief!), who states that the US wanted the Philippine islands in order to project US business into China. He makes no mention of the strategic situation, which should be obvious to anyone who looks at a map and remembers the situation in 1899-1900. If the US had left the Philippines in 1899, the islands would have been ripe for a quick takeover by Japan, China, France (whose Indochina colony was right across the water). LaFeber too quickly dismisses the notion that McKinley decided for the US to stay in the Philippines for as long as it took to inculturate them in Democracy and Free Trade (two of the essentials in Michael Mandelbaum's trio of essentials, with the US providing the islands with the third, security).
Later, LaFeber makes the erroneous claim that the Spanish-American War was the USA's first conflict outside of the Western Hemisphere; it was not, that was the Tripolitan War in the early 1800s.
LaFeber also makes a big deal, in what is not much more than a moot point, in McKinley ordering US forces into China to rescue Americans from captivity by the Boxers. He states this is the first time a US president had done this without consulting with Congress. Was Congress even in session when this was done? No mention by him or in the film. Congress was not in session in the Spring of 1861 when Lincoln suspended habeas corpus, and he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, a policy statement bound to war strategy, as an executive order.
Somehow, I think the impending harm of Americans qualifies as the type of decision described above.
There also is no mention in this film of McKinley's pronouncement of an "Open Door" policy with regard to western nations trading with China. No mention at all, of a key policy proposal, made in the interests of fair play by President McKinley. Why is that?
Throughout, they make a big deal out of the growing appearance of light bulbs, phonograph record players, movies. But they do not mention, not even once, the guy who invented these things, Thomas Edison. They talk long and hard about a labor union leader, Marshall, but captains of industry, inventors and the like are kept invisible or in the back seat. They are only mentioned when someone is apparently needed to support a point that seems to fit a historical revisionists/political thrust, as when Andrew Carnegie is cited for being "anti-imperialist" and opposed to the conflict in the Philippines with the insurrectionaries there.
At the end, the narrator makes the claim that America in 1900 was "the wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth." Well, in 1900 the first claim is debatable, the last is absurdly fallacious. If "powerful" refers to military power, than the United States had at least two world powers ranked ahead of it in 1900, Great Britain and Germany of the Second Reich. France of the Third Republic may have been a close fourth, perhaps even in a tie for third with the USA. But PBS producers, particularly those who contribute programs to this series, American Experience, seem to love to indulge in this particular act of hyperbole, as the same claim "most powerful nation on earth" was made for the USA of 1890 in the documentary The Way West.
Can someone just please get them to cut the B.S. and check their facts?