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146 of 178 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Propagating truth
The word "propaganda" has an almost universally negative connotation. Whenever we use it, we generally mean to refer to systematic and deliberate misinformation. But it's worth remembering that the word is etymologically derived from the same root as the word "propagate," to increase or grow. Propaganda, as the word was originally used, is simply a means of spreading...
Published on April 4, 2008 by Kerry Walters

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21 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Decent (but One-Sided) Alternative View
This book should have been better; if you squint just right it becomes a wonderful breakdown of the so-called 'dark side' of American history. It serves as an effective gut punch to anyone who grew up indoctrinated by history textbooks portraying the U.S. as an unrivaled model of decency and equality. We the readers are presented with a breakdown-by-era of our failings as...
Published on May 22, 2011 by M Chapman


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146 of 178 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Propagating truth, April 4, 2008
By 
Kerry Walters (Lewisburg, PA USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A People's History of American Empire (American Empire Project) (Paperback)
The word "propaganda" has an almost universally negative connotation. Whenever we use it, we generally mean to refer to systematic and deliberate misinformation. But it's worth remembering that the word is etymologically derived from the same root as the word "propagate," to increase or grow. Propaganda, as the word was originally used, is simply a means of spreading the news, of getting the word out to large numbers of people, of disseminating information that needs to be disseminated.

It's in this original sense of the word that A People's History of American Empire is propaganda. Using the medium of the comix or graphic novel, Howard Zinn, Mike Konopacki, and Paul Buhle get the word out about a side of U.S. history that almost never gets taught in public schools, and about which many Americans even today remain clueless. Their treatment is entertaining and accessible--which means that it has a potentially huge audience--but neither patronizing nor simplistic--the book contains an extensive bibliography, and references both graphics and narrative claims. It's ideal for folks who have neither the time nor inclination to read Zinn's bulky classic A People's History of the United States, from which much of the volume is mined.

The format is ingenious. Zinn (wonderfully drawn, by the way) is the up-close narrator of the book. He begins by expressing bewilderment that the U.S. response to 9/11 has followed the same old violent pattern that the U.S. (and, of course, not only the U.S.) has typically adopted when threatened. This response, Zinn argues, ultimately only makes matters worse because it does nothing to get to the root causes of unrest. It is "an old way of thinking," one that tragically keeps following the same destructive script, and Zinn proceeds throughout the rest of the book to chronicle its many historical manifestations, ranging from the Wounded Knee massacre to the invasion of Cuba, Hawaii, the Philippines, and Central American nations such as El Salvador and Nicaragua (according to a list published by the State Department in 1962, the U.S. militarily intervened 103 times in foreign countries between 1798 and 1895). Zinn also discusses governmental and big business response to domestic workers' strikes (the Pullman strike and the Ludlow massacre, for example), and draws a connection between this "internal" imperialism and the "external" variety.

Of particular interest are Zinn's treatments of what he calls the "cool war," a culture and ethnic battle over black music in the 1950s, and the current Iraq War.

Another especially interesting feature of the book is its inclusion of Zinn's life story (derived from his autobiographical You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train) which traces his childhood poverty (and tenderness for his parents), his radicalization, his repudiation of violence following his service in World War II, his activism at Spelman College (which led to his dismissal), and his anti-war work--including the famous peace mission to Vietnam--during the Vietnam conflict.

Although the story of the insidious partnership between state and money is shocking and even horrifying at times, Zinn ends the book on an upbeat note. There's much to be hopeful about, he insists, when one considers the extraordinary achievements of the last fifty years. Legal racial apartheid in the U.S. was ended; the Vietnam war was stopped by public protests; velvet revolutions throughout Europe and South Africa succeeded in overthrowing tyranny in relatively bloodless fashion. So "to be hopeful in bad times is not foolishly romantic," Zinn concludes. "It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness" (p. 263).

Both of those messages deserve propagation.
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30 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History the way it should be told for those who don't have time to read a dense history book!, April 15, 2008
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This review is from: A People's History of American Empire (American Empire Project) (Paperback)
This book absolutely blew me away. I'm a big Howeard Zinn fan and remember using his book "A People's History of the United States" in high school for research projects.

This book takes Howard Zinn's arguments and presents them in a graphic adaptation that makes history come alive. There's real emotion in this book and it's a true page turner. During much of our own history we have been imperialistic and have taken advantage of the rest of the world to advance our own agendas, without regards to the suffering these actions have caused in many countries around the world. Let's turn back to compassion, collaboration and start promoting real sustainable development. In an election year this book should be convincing enough!
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44 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant! The truth must be known!, April 5, 2008
This review is from: A People's History of American Empire (American Empire Project) (Paperback)
I just picked up this book today, and I don't often just start reading a book then buy it, but this one was well worth it. A brutal expose of the injustice going on in America, and perpetuated by it. Not just an expose of the "Rich Elite" and their hold on our supposed Democracy, but all those they've hurt to make an extra dishonest dollar as if they did not have enough already.
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21 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Decent (but One-Sided) Alternative View, May 22, 2011
This review is from: A People's History of American Empire (American Empire Project) (Paperback)
This book should have been better; if you squint just right it becomes a wonderful breakdown of the so-called 'dark side' of American history. It serves as an effective gut punch to anyone who grew up indoctrinated by history textbooks portraying the U.S. as an unrivaled model of decency and equality. We the readers are presented with a breakdown-by-era of our failings as a nation, both on the domestic and international front, ranging on topics from racism to all-out genocide. With this much needed historical alternative and all the potential it embodies, why didn't it score higher?

First, Mr. Zinn's tale presents a world of absolutes. There seems to be no room for grey morality in this history; historical figures are either upstanding and pure of heart or dastardly bigots hellbent on destruction and profit. The black and white morality is further exaggerated by the artist's deliberate emphasis on giving the hero figures martyred, compassionate expressions while the villains scowl, cackle maniacally and all but twirl their mustaches with evil gusto. This might be excused in a children's title, but for something clearly written for adolescents and adults it comes off as insulting, as if they felt readers would be unable to comprehend their message without knowing exactly who you should be rooting for on any given page. If we're already pandering, why not take it one step further and give the respective figures halos or devil horns to remove any and all doubts in our minds?

Second, while the book makes an excellent case in presenting its alternative viewpoints, it takes great pains to ensure that its views are the only ones on display. For example, Zinn lauds President Truman's work in preventing Britain from launching an invasion of Iran to install a more West-friendly ruler, but strangely omits his recognition and assistance to the state of Israel and its ensuing consequences for Middle East diplomacy. One might suppose that doing so would run the risk of taking Truman out of the 'white morality' camp, and as we've seen, Zinn seems to have an aversion to anything but a 'black and white' portrayal of history. He also spends many pages lamenting American involvement and atrocities in the Vietnam War and paints the Viet Cong as humble underdogs who simply wanted peace for their country and would happily leave American soldiers alone if they did the same. After putting forth these various theories (as well as the implication that the My Lai massacre was ordered and encouraged by U.S. high command) he leaves the story of Vietnam with the inevitable fall of the corrupt, U.S. puppet government in the South. Curiously, he fails to mention the North's subsequent removal of 1 million 'enemies of socialism' (including intellectuals, such as people like, well, Zinn) in the South to re-education camps where some 165,000 perished. Nor does he mention the 2 million Boat People that fled the South upon its collapse, of which 500,000 died in the attempt. I suppose those particular atrocities didn't quite match his definition.

Finally, the work as a whole comes off as smug and arrogant. Zinn frames this history as a lecture during an anti-Iraq War rally, and makes much of drawing parallels between the U.S.'s earlier colonial escapades and that more recent flub. But who exactly is he writing this history for? It seems aimed at people already firmly in his camp of thought, which defeats the entire purpose unless his point was to make his supporters pat themselves on the back and say, I told you so. The purpose of history is to educate and inform, not tell us something we already know.

The History of American Empire does much to break down our conventional thinking of the United States as a moral pinnacle on the world stage, and should certainly be read by everyone raised on a steady diet of propaganda. That being said, read it with the proverbial grain of salt and remember that while it presents a needed point of view, you are reading this history very much on his terms and carefully spoonfed to you.
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21 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How long has this been going on?, June 18, 2008
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This review is from: A People's History of American Empire (American Empire Project) (Paperback)
It takes a while to get through the book, because you can't take too much at one sitting. Make sure you've got your meds. We killed the Indians, but you know that, and dominated the Chinese of the canneries and the railroads, and enslaved the blacks, and shot the people who joined unions, locked up the Japanese ... hey but that's only in this country. You should see what we've been doing in the rest of the world.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Fusion Of History And Art., May 26, 2008
By 
Robert Blake (Santa Monica, CA, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A People's History of American Empire (American Empire Project) (Paperback)
Howard Zinn, best known for his excellent "A People's History Of the United States," here dives into the graphic novel format with "A People's History Of American Empire" which looks at the long history of U.S. aggression going back to 1898. Some reviewers are already crying fowl, claiming Zinn is some sort of anti-American Liberal, but if you actually read the material you realize Zinn is a champion of American values and is simply documenting a side of American history that is not readily discussed or explored in your average textbook or in the histories written by those who march step by step with rigid. traditionalism.

"A People's History Of American Empire" uses stunning illustrations, classic texts and recorded history in photos and documents to compile a chronicle of America's role in the world through the years. Zinn, Mike Konopacki and Paul Buhle begin with massacre of America's indigenous population, then they look at America's early imperial adventures in the Philippines and Cuba, always with a great eye for capturing key moments with epic visuals and clear, precise dialogue. The information and facts are nicely processed and presented, any reader will easily be able to digest historical events with both clarity and insight.

What is so great about Zinn's work here is that he gives the Third World a real voice. Some nationalist reviewers are probably angry or confused because this isn't a book giving the usual pomp and glory to figures like Teddy Roosevelt, Churchill or Kennedy, instead the book allows us to meet giants of history that sadly, most Americans have no idea existed. We learn about Nicaragua's liberation icon, Augusto Sandino and Iran's Mohammed Mossadegh, who nationalized his nation's oil, provoking a CIA-backed coup. Through pictures, dialogue and illustrations, we see history through the eyes of those we usually consider "backwards" or "underdeveloped," when in fact, their countries of full of heroic titans and great struggles for freedom and democracy. We are raised to only believe in the greatness of the red, white and blue, but we never bother to listen to what the citizens of the nations we intervene in have to say. We like condemning Soviet crimes or aggression, but we never bother to look at our own history in places like Central America or Iran.

The book also looks at little-known U.S. history as the struggles of immigrants, anti-war activists during World War 1 and the writings of characters like Emma Goldman are explored. We meet heroic domestic characters who again, are brushed aside in general histories like the black soldiers who refused to fight in Vietnam, this again makes the work a valuable resource.

"A People's History Of American Empire" might anger readers for what it has to say, but it is all supported by facts. Consider the sections on Reagan's brutal wars in Central America, the Mozote massacre carried out by U.S.-backed troops in El Salvador is well documented as well as the Contra terror war against Nicaragua's elected Sandinista government. Equally well-documented is the CIA's coup against Iran's elected government which is expertly documented here in a clear, visual style that allows the reader to understand what happened and how events lead to the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Zinn does not make excuses for radical Islamists, but he does look at how U.S. foreign policy aided in inflaming regional tensions.

This is a valuable illustrated work because it doesn't just give us wonderful art, it presents ideas, information, facts and history with that art. "A People's History Of American Empire" is no less than the secret history of the United States, secret only because nationalism or ignorance keep us from fully discussing our history. Like the best works, it entertains and illuminates, informs and moves. A valuable teaching tool and a must for collectors of pop scholarship.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A People's History for the ADHD set, August 7, 2008
This review is from: A People's History of American Empire (American Empire Project) (Paperback)
YES, this is a People's History for those with short attention span, but who doesn't have a short attention span these days? A fast and entertaining read. It's interesting, even if you have read Zinn's original Magnum Opus and/or its spawn.

Adding Howard Zinn's personal experience to the tie the stories together really works well, and gives the book a personal element.

This is definitely a PG comic....as in requiring Parental Guidance. I think this would be a great way to introduce alternative history to your children, when they are ready (like studying the same stuff at school), but this book can be quite graphic. It at least warrants discussion.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars KINDLE version: CAUTION about images and readability., July 29, 2014
I hardly ever have any serious complaints about Amazon purchases or Kindle products and offerings. But, here is an exception.

The images and text on this book can not be enlarged. The pictures are acceptable but the text is too small. Even if you succeed reading a few sentences your eyes tire out after about 1-2 minutes of focusing. The Mayday associate was helpful, but he, too, could not get the cartoons to enlarge.

I would caution against purchasing the Kindle edition. The hard copy is, of course, excellent both in terms of readability and contents.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A real eye opener, April 23, 2013
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This review is from: A People's History of American Empire (American Empire Project) (Paperback)
If we were taught truthfully Christopher Columbus would/should be just another ruthless money mongering genecide committing explorer. And that's in the first 10 pages.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better in pictures!, April 22, 2013
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This review is from: A People's History of American Empire (American Empire Project) (Paperback)
Loved it as text; even better in graphic format. Makes one's blood simmer and finally come to a boil! Well done.
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A People's History of American Empire (American Empire Project)
A People's History of American Empire (American Empire Project) by Howard Zinn (Paperback - April 1, 2008)
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