In a Washington Post article on February 9, 2017, Fareed Zakaria compared Steve Bannon and Howard Zinn, concluding that,
In a strange way, Bannon’s dark, dystopian view of U.S. history is closest to that of Howard Zinn, a popular far-left scholar whose “A People’s History of the United States” is a tale of the many ways in which 99 percent of Americans were crushed by the country’s all-powerful elites. In the Zinn/Bannon worldview, everyday people are simply pawns manipulated by their evil overlords.
In response, two letters to the editor of the Washington Post were sent. The authors have given us permission to publish them here.
February 10, 2017
To the Editor:
In his piece from February 9, Fareed Zakaria made a disturbing parallel between the worldviews and beliefs of Stephen Bannon and the late historian Howard Zinn. Specifically, he said that Bannon’s dark, dystopian view of U.S. history is closest to that of Howard Zinn, a popular far-left scholar whose A People’s History of the United States is a tale of the many ways in which 99 percent of Americans were crushed by the country’s all-powerful elites. In the Zinn/Bannon worldview, everyday people are simply pawns manipulated by their evil overlords.
Let me be very clear: There is no “Zinn/Bannon worldview.” Stephen Bannon embraces an ethno-nationalism Zinn abhorred. Bannon’s rejection of multiculturalism and demonization of Islam is anathema to all principles for which Howard Zinn fought.
Further, while Stephen Bannon may indeed, in Zakaria’s words, embrace a view that “everyday people are simply pawns manipulated by their evil overlords,” Howard Zinn advanced a critical view of history that saw the people as a force to be reckoned with, a “power governments cannot suppress.” For Zinn, such power has often been and must continue to be a force for good that advances the freedoms and dignity of all Americans, all humanity, regardless of the political and social borders that envelop them.
Unlike Bannon, Zinn never lived by the adage of “do as I say, not as I do.” He lived his beliefs, and fought for justice everywhere. Mr. Zakaria should look into Howard Zinn’s life’s work before he ever again considers putting Zinn and Bannon in the same political hemisphere.
Michael J. Swogger, D.Ed.
Adjunct Faculty in Education
Penn State Harrisburg
February 10, 2017
To the Editor:
Imagine our surprise at reading Fareed Zakaria’s Feb. 9 op-ed, “Stephen Bannon’s words and actions don’t add up,” falsely equating the late historian Howard Zinn’s world view with that of Steve Bannon. We were both students of Zinn and knew him for almost 35 years. Zinn’s dedication to social justice and freedom of speech inspired us to devote our legal careers to represent whistleblowers. When we helped form the National Whistleblower Center in Washington, D.C., Zinn became a founding board member.
While Zinn was a refreshing critic of “American exceptionalism” and militarism, he was also an optimist. Unlike Bannon, Zinn would say we are better off today than we were in the 1950’s. Zinn often quoted Albert Einstein on peace, Mahatma Ghandi on non-violence, and William Lloyd Garrison on human equality. He also liked to quote the masthead of Garrison’s Liberator that said, “Our Country is the World, our Countrymen are all Mankind.” By contrast, Bannon’s world view is based on a form of nationalism, rejected by Zinn.
There was nothing “dark” or “dystopian” about Zinn’s view of U.S. history. He was a brilliant dreamer.
Stephen M. Kohn and David K. Colapinto
National Whistleblower Center