Top critical review
16 people found this helpful
on March 9, 2005
That one can be biased and still tell the truth can be a troubling assertion to many, but it is true nevertheless. For example, a reporter sympathetic with the current administration and assigned to Iraq may decide to report only the "good" news he encounters there, such as hospitals and schools being built, and so on. The fact that the reporter omitted the news of people dying does not erase these "good" facts. The reporter is simply not reporting the entire story because of personal bias and political sympathies. The reporter is still telling the truth however, namely that hospitals and schools are indeed being built.
The reporting of facts that occurred in long periods of time is what we call history, and like "ordinary" reporting, it too can be done honestly, even though a great deal of bias exists in the historian's mind as to what is important enough to include in his work. For example, the historian Howard Zinn emphasized what he considered to be the bad events in American history. Many readers of his works are angered by his assertions, and claimed that they are not truly representative of American history.
This book, like the one by Zinn, views American history with a large degree of political bias. Its title alone is a good illustration of this, for it immediately alerts the reader that the facts to be reported will be those that the author considers to be "politically incorrect." Like the term "liberal", the designation of some dialog as being "politically incorrect" has taken on a vague connotation in recent years, but one could perhaps use it in a general sense to be the type of dialog that those with a conservative political philosophy would be sympathetic with.
The book is fast reading, and as a scholarly work it needs a lot of fleshing out. There are many places in the book, like other history books, where the author does not justify his assertions. Some of these include:
- That charitable giving in the 1980s grew at a 55% percent faster annual rate than the rate it had during the previous 25 years. The author quotes a source for this claim, but does not include the statistics or analysis in the book unfortunately. In addition, the author implicitly assumes that "greed" is immoral. One could debate this at length, but it reflects the author's bias towards a particular doctrine of morality. But again, the author's claims will motivate inquisitive readers to find out the facts for themselves.
- That Ronald Reagan "defeated Communism," forgetting the contributions of reformers in the former Soviet Union, such as that of Mikhail Gorbachev. Both Reagan and Gorbachev played a role, and it would have been helpful for the reader if the author had discussed the degree that each contributed to the dissolution of the Soviet regime.
- The reference to "dishonest reporters and political commentators". Who are they? The author should have given examples of their dishonesty and commentary.
- That during the Clinton administration, the Pentagon apparently required special permission for promotions of all white men without disabilities. How does he know this? He should have included copies of the relevant documents or gave references supporting this assertion.
- That Clinton helped spread Islamic radicalism into Europe because of the Balkan campaign. This is a difficult thing to prove, requiring extensive statistical sampling and research. How much did Islamic radicalism spread and what countries in Europe were most affected? Most importantly, how does one distinguish Islamic radicalism from "ordinary" Islamic philosophy?
- That Clinton bombed the pharmaceutical factories in the Sudan to distract the American public from the Lewinski scandal. This assertion claims to knowledge of Clinton's frame of mind, and can never be proved with certainty. Such speculations should be left to a book on political aesthetics, not a serious book on history.
- That the poor in America are better off in actuality than any other people in previous ages. To prove this would be extremely difficult, taking an entire book in itself, and a huge amount of statistical data.
- That 1960s liberalism discouraged all the "right" things and encouraged all the "wrong" ones. As to what is right or wrong for a human being is a value judgment, and so the author should have spent considerably more time elaborating on just what he meant. Not only that, the word "liberalism" has been kicked around a lot in the last few decades. The author needs to be more careful in how this word is used and to what group of people the word "liberal" actually describes. Will the real liberal please stand up?
There are many assertions however in the book that are very interesting, and deserve further investigation. Some of these include the assertion that there was a net increase in taxes in the 1980s. Another is the claim that Clinton ordered the military overseas 48 times during his tenure as president.
The book therefore is well worth reading, in spite of its inherent bias. It could serve as a counterweight to the book by Zinn and others written on American history. With enough books on American history written by many different authors, each with distinct and various degrees of personal and political bias, one can gain a truly accurate view of the subject. Of course, the reading of these works will require long periods of time, and some amount of filtering or bias will be needed to sift through the enormous number of facts. Thus for both author and reader, bias is a fact of life, occurring in various degrees depending on the person, and determining what information will be held in memory.