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The 10 Big Lies About America: Combating Destructive Distortions About Our Nation Hardcover – Bargain Price, November 18, 2008

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About the Author

MICHAEL MEDVED is the host of one of the most popular talk-radio programs in the country, reaching more than four million loyal listeners. He is the bestselling author of ten other books, including Right Turns, Hollywood vs. America, and What Really Happened to the Class of ’65? A member of USA Today’s board of contributors, he also writes a weekly column for For more than a decade he served as cohost of Sneak Previews, PBS’s weekly movie-review show. Medved graduated from Yale with departmental honors in American history and attended Yale Law School as well. He lives with his family in the Seattle area.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

A Tainted Legacy


Why do so many Americans find it so difficult to celebrate their nation’s achievements and blessings?

How did cherished occasions of joy and gratitude become the focus of anguish and controversy?

I confronted these uncomfortable questions in my own backyard when Seattle’s notorious “Thanksgiving Letter” became a brief, embarrassing media sensation.

On November 8, 2007, the stern missive went out to all teachers and staff of the city’s public schools insisting that they should “struggle with these complex issues” surrounding the yearly celebration and avoid, at all costs, “teaching about Thanksgiving in traditional ways.” The bureaucrats who signed the letter worried that without their timely intervention, thoughtless educators might arrange precisely the sort of outmoded, one-dimensional observance of Turkey Day that emphasized inappropriate elements such as pride and reverence.

“With so many holidays approaching we want to again remind you that Thanksgiving can be a particularly difficult time for many of our Native students,” warned the officials (led by a school district honcho who identified herself with the intimidating title of “director of equity, race, and learning support”). To achieve a more appropriate perspective, they directed all staff in the Seattle public schools to consult a list of “Eleven Thanksgiving Myths” prepared by the radical “Native” Web site The letter urged the educators to “take a look?.?.?.?and begin your own deconstruction,” specifically citing Myth #11:

Myth: Thanksgiving is a happy time.

Fact: For many Indian people, “Thanksgiving” is a time of mourning, of remembering how a gift of generosity was rewarded by theft of land and seed corn, extermination of many from disease and gun, and near total destruction of many more from forced assimilation. As currently celebrated in this country, “Thanksgiving” is a bitter reminder of 500 years of betrayal returned for friendship.

As soon as I read this alarming letter, I began to wonder how earnest teachers might take its suggestions to heart and begin to commemorate this festival of destruction and betrayal with, say, their kindergarten charges. My own appallingly innocent 1950s childhood offered shamelessly sentimental Thanksgiving pageants, complete with tacky Pilgrim and Indian costumes and, on one occasion, a live turkey. On my nationally syndicated radio show I speculated on the way such sweet but silly extravaganzas might be updated to accommodate the hip sensibility of contemporary Seattle. Perhaps the nervous kiddies could now parade onto the stage, appropriately costumed as little Pilgrims and Pilgrimettes, and then, after enumerating the countless crimes of their forebears, they could lash themselves (or each other) with miniature leather whips and wail together in regretful agony. The proud parents would no doubt rise and applaud in tearful, self-righteous appreciation.

Much to the humiliation of those of us who choose to raise our children in the Great Northwest, the story of Seattle’s idiotic effort to turn Thanksgiving into a “day of mourning” became a subject for national debate. After I discussed the issue on the air, the Fox News Channel contacted me to provide a local perspective, and they also sent camera crews to interview local Indian tribes. The Tulalips, who occupy a prosperous, well-organized reservation about a half hour north of downtown (complete with high-end shopping center, resort hotel, and, inevitably, casino), emphatically affirmed their pride in the annual November holiday. Tribal spokesman Daryl Williams explained that “most Native Americans celebrate Thanksgiving in the same way that many other Americans do—as a way to be thankful for abundance and a chance to spend time with families.” The Tulalips love to stage festive communal Thanksgiving feasts at which, in a bow to regional traditions, they serve alder-smoked salmon rather than turkey. Williams told the press: “The spirit of Thanksgiving, of people working together to help each other, is the spirit I think that needs to grow in this country, because this country has gotten very divisive.”

He’s right, of course. The divisiveness, shame, and self-hatred have spread far beyond the damp and moody precincts of Seattle. In fact, the year before our “Emerald City” launched its controversial assault on Thanksgiving, the Associated Press featured an account of an innovative educator at an elementary school in San Francisco, yet another city known for brain-dead trendiness:

Teacher Bill Morgan walks into his third-grade class wearing a black Pilgrim hat made of construction paper and begins snatching up pencils, backpacks and glue sticks from his pupils. He tells them the items now belong to him because he “discovered” them. The reaction is exactly what Morgan expects. The kids get angry and want their things back.

Morgan is among elementary school teachers who have ditched the traditional Thanksgiving lesson.?.?.?. He has replaced it with a more realistic look at the complex relationship between Indians and white settlers.

Stealing backpacks and glue sticks provides a “realistic look” at a “complex relationship”?

Across the country, too many Americans have developed a complex, even tortured relationship with their own past. And like all deeply dysfunctional bonds, this frayed connection rests on a series of destructive lies—sweeping distortions that poison our sense of who we are and what our country means.

Consider, for example, the oddly apologetic May 2007 commemoration of the four hundredth anniversary of the first permanent British settlement in the New World. With both the queen of England and the president of the United States journeying to Virginia to mark the occasion, federal officials took grim pains to tamp down any sense of merriment in the festivities. The National Park Service invested taxpayer money in new exhibits at its “Historic Jamestowne” visitor center, and these displays explicitly shunned the congratulatory messages of prior tributes. “Past Jamestown anniversaries were referred to as ‘celebrations,’?” warned a prominently posted introduction to the Park Service exhibition. “Because many facets of Jamestown’s history are not cause for celebration, like human bondage and the displacement of Virginia Indians, the Jamestown 400th Anniversary is referred to as the Jamestown 2007 Commemoration.”

Another display in the same facility struck Edward Rothstein of the New York Times with its remarkably unbalanced approach: “The Indians, we read, were ‘in harmony with the land that sustained them’ and formed ‘an advanced, complex society of families and tribes.’ English society—the society that gave us the King James Bible and Shakespeare along with the stirrings of democratic argument—is described as offering ‘limited opportunity’ in which a ‘small elite’ were landowners; in London, we are told, ‘life was difficult,’ with social dislocation, low wages, unemployment, etc.”

While official observances scrupulously avoided any overtly festive messages, small crowds of protestors denounced even the subdued themes of the “commemoration.” Demonstrators from groups such as Black Lawyers for Justice and the New Black Panther Party announced their intention to “crash this illegitimate party and pursue the overdue case for Reparations and Justice for the victims of slavery, mass murder and genocide.” The protest leader, Malik Zulu Shabazz, cited “crimes committed at Jamestown which resulted in America being originated on the corrupt foundation of racism, population removal, mass murder, slavery and a litany of crimes against divine law and humanity.”

Mr. Shabazz not only rejects the long-cherished view that American society arose in fulfillment of some powerful, providential purpose but proudly advances the opposite perspective: that the nation’s origins involved a “litany of crimes against divine law and humanity.”

“It’s not just Jamestown,” he told the Associated Press. “It’s what started in Jamestown.”

And what started in Jamestown? Our distinctive civilization. Malik Shabazz and other America haters view the nation itself as a vicious, criminal enterprise that requires radical transformation if not outright termination. In June 2006, Jake Irwin, a student at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, and an outspoken supporter of Venezuelan demagogue Hugo Chávez, told the Wall Street Journal: “My political belief is that the U.S. is a horrendous empire that needs to end.”


Though few of our fellow citizens share this overt hostility to our national project, the big lies about America still circulate so widely that they feed an insecure and angry public mood. Grotesque distortions about the nation’s origins and institutions poison our present and threaten our future. But any attempt to challenge the prevalent slanders will draw scorn as a sign of simple-minded jingoism, while those who teach or preach the worst about America earn fulsome praise for their “sophistication” or “courage.” As a result, our universities and public schools eagerly endorse the cynical assumptions about the country, and alarmist mass media recycle hysterical accounts of imminent doom and corruption.

We worry over anti-Americanism abroad but parrot its primary charges here at home. While objective indications identify residents of the United States as among the most fortunate people in human history, much of the public refuses to acknowledge our blessings be...

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Forum (November 18, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307394069
  • ASIN: B004JZWU96
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (138 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,757,101 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Medved is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host, best-selling author and veteran film critic. His daily three-hour program, emphasizing the intersection of politics and pop culture, reaches close to 5 million listeners in over 200 markets, coast to coast. For twelve consecutive years, he's been listed by Talkers Magazine as one of their "Heavy Hundred" most important American talk show hosts, and for seven of those years his show has also been listed as one of the ratings top ten.

Born in Philadelphia, raised in San Diego, Mr. Medved graduated with honors from Yale and then attended Yale Law School-where his classmates included Bill and Hillary Clinton. After working as a screenwriter in Hollywood, he reviewed movies for CNN, and later as chief film critic for the New York Post. He also served for twelve years as co-host of "Sneak Previews," the nationally televised weekly movie review show on PBS-TV.

Mr. Medved is the author of twelve non-fiction books, including the national bestseller "What Really Happened to the Class of '65" (the basis for a popular TV series on NBC), as well as the definitive history of the White House chiefs of staff, "The Shadow Presidents". His most influential-and controversial-work was a best-selling indictment of the entertainment industry, "Hollywood Vs. America". England's prestigious Guardian newspaper wrote: "Just Occasionally, a book changes the way the world thinks. Michael Medved's Hollywood Vs. America is such a book." Mr. Medved then collaborated with his wife, Dr. Diane Medved, a clinical psychologist and author in her own right, on "Saving Childhood: Protecting Our Children from the National Assault on Innocence". In October 1998, the Wall Street Journal wrote: "If Saving Childhood isn't an important book, I don't know what one would look like." His book, "Right Turns" (Crown Forum/Random House, January, 2005) drew rave reviews for its "lively and intimate" description of his transition from "punk liberal activist" to "lovable conservative curmudgeon."

Most recently, Michael's book "The 10 Big Lies About America," spent twelve weeks on the New York Times extended bestseller list, and became a Main Selection of the Conservative Book Club. The follow-up volume, "The 5 Big Lies About American Business," was published by Random House/Crown Forum in December 2009.

Mr. Medved has been a frequent guest on all the major TV talk shows, including Larry King Live, Nightline, Oprah, David Letterman, Good Morning America, CNN's Reliable Sources and countless others. His columns on media and society appear regularly in USA Today, where he serves as a member of the Board of Contributors. The Medveds live in the Seattle area where they've raised their three children.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

177 of 226 people found the following review helpful By Jose Luis on November 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
As European (Spaniard), I have enjoyed the most peaceful period in our 2000 + years of History... thanks to those vilified Americans. You helped us getting rid of fascism and communism (well, maybe you helped Franco to stay in power more than desired, but when he died, your Government was a good mediator in our transition period to democracy). And thanks to your protection, we didn't have to spend that much in weapons to scare off the soviets, thus establishing our so much well-liked welfare society(sorry, not as good as many American lefties think it is). You have been a bargain to Europe. Thank you. I will buy this book as a vaccine against the lies I have to endure in Spain regarding USA and its noble people.
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29 of 36 people found the following review helpful By David McCune VINE VOICE on January 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This quote, from the end of Michael Medved's "10 Big Lies About America", best sums up his goal in writing the book. The end result is a veritable ammunition depot of information for the culture wars.

I confess that I've been a fan of Medved's Seattle-based radio show since I moved to Tacoma, WA, in the 90's. Medved always impressed me with the breadth of his historical knowledge and his willingness to have callers and guests on his show with opposing viewpoints. Though many would consider it an oxymoron, Medved was always the thinking person's talk radio host. He is a man who signs off every day declaring this "The greatest nation on God's green Earth", and his book is a full throated defense of that great nation.

I imagine that the many years of talk radio discussion formed the basis for the construction of the 10 Big Lies that Medved deconstructs. As some have pointed out, the lies are described in the book fairly absolute terms (i.e. - "The United States is uniquely guilty for the crime of slavery and based its wealth on stolen African labor."). Where some would call this the creation of straw men, I'd plead to a lesser crime of good marketing. The lies are really just chapter headings. When reading the actual chapters, Medved's arguments are both comprehensive and nuanced. Reading the 1-star reviews, many are objecting to the most superficial reading of the table of contents, not Medved's actual writing.

The writing itself is quite good. Medved strikes a balance between textbook and conversation. This allows the many factual citations to seem less like a history lesson, more like a discussion at a dinner table. If there is a problem with Medved's comprehensive debunking of these myths, it is that it probably leaves less room for leavening humor.
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26 of 32 people found the following review helpful By C. W. Burt on December 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover
As a frequent listener to Michael's radio show, I looked forward to the release of his book. Whether you agree with his point of view or not , it is impossible to deny that the man is a brilliant, entertaining and engaging individual. And when he directs that substantial intelligence to the subject matter described in the title, the result is a very engrossing read. I enjoyed so many "Ah Ha!" moments as I read the book.
THIS IS NOT A FLUFF PIECE. The arguments are remarkably well researched, supported and footnoted. You can check his work. I for one, appreciate that trail of bread crumbs, if you will, to the supporting documentation and work of other historians. In the end, Michael is very persuasive. It will create debate (and often settle it as well) among your friends when you gather and any of these subjects come up. I came away educated and entertained. I highly recommend the book.
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123 of 169 people found the following review helpful By David Marshall on December 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Recently, I was sitting in a pub in Oxford with a friend from India. He seems to find me, an American who did not share in the general "euphoria" in the UK over Obama's election, a rather exotic creature. But he made an interesting suggestion: why not look at the election of Obama, even if you don't welcome it, as a chance to reinvent what it means to be an American Christian, in a way that will connect more deeply with the world at large?

His challenge was still in the back of my mind when I read this book.

The years of American hegemony are now ending, and China and India will soon take positions on the world stage in some proportion to their vast populations. Witnessing how broadly many of the "lies" Medved describes are believed outside the US, I'd love to give Chinese and Indian friends a book like this and say: "See what America has been, at its best, for the world. As your power grows, try to emulate what you can of our successes, or do us one better."

Most of Medved's arguments are solid. He cites leading experts as well as opponents to make his case, and I think generally gets his facts right. (Notice that critics so far generally depend on vague complaints, unable it seems to point to specific errors.) Among other things, he argues that: America has seldom been as nasty to the Indians as is often claimed. The Founding Fathers were less secularist than supposed. (I wish he'd given both sides here, though -- as Steven Waldmon does in Founding Faith.) Big Business does help the country. America has seldom been truly imperialist, and has done the world a lot of good. And morality rises and falls; "a dizzying roller coaster of steep ups and downs, zigzags, climbs and reverses, and even loop-the-loops.
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