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PBS Rewrites World War II

Lowell Ponte By Thursday, 27 September 2007 11:03 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

Watching PBS’s liberal revisionist deconstruction of World War II that began airing a few nights ago oddly reminds me of one of the funniest routines ever done on the satire show Saturday Night Live.

SNL parodied the recording session of one-hit wonder Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper” (, during which each disrupted take of the song was punctuated by the producer (Christopher Walken playing Bruce Dickinson) saying it needed “more cowbell.”

The song quickly devolved into an overbearing, thumping loud cowbell (with Will Ferrell portraying the band’s percussionist Gene Frenkle) that relegated lyrics and other instruments to mere background music.

This is how Ken Burns’ 14-1/2 hour documentary “The War” — at least its first four of seven episodes — sounds to me. Although promoted as “non-partisan,” it keeps up a relentless monotone drumbeat of political correctness, incessantly hammering American mistakes, incompetence, and racism.

Burns claims that his documentary is “the story of four American towns and how their citizens experienced the war,” but he apparently expects viewers not to notice his sleight of hand when he shifts to dozens of other places and people.

Burns’ documentary is a propaganda pulpit, e.g., for activist Black liberal historian John Hope Franklin. Franklin boasts that after a military recruiter told the young Harvard Ph.D. that he had “everything right but color,” he decided to sit out the war because he was “too good” to fight for such a country.

Burns made little attempt to juxtapose Franklin to his documentary’s footage of African-Americans who fought heroically for America as pilots, artillery men, and Marines.

Burns’ camera also gave a stage not to severely wounded World War II veteran, former senator and Republican presidential standard-bearer Bob Dole, but to severely wounded Democratic U.S. Senator from Hawaii Daniel Inouye, who described the discrimination he felt as a Japanese-American. Fair enough, and God knows that Inouye heroically sacrificed while fighting for our country.

But Burns conjures the impression that all Japanese-Americans were sent to concentration camps. Japanese-Americans in Hawaii such as Inouye were not interned in local Manzanars. They comprised a third of the population and an even larger share of Hawaii’s skilled manual laborers, so to round up these loyal Americans would have shut down the islands’ economy.

Burns credits the founder of our present welfare state Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt for what went right in the war. But when loyal Japanese-Americans on the West Coast were forcibly herded into camps like Manzanar, FDR’s responsibility for this racial discrimination is downplayed. Unmentioned is the fact that those on both sides of the Mobile, Ala., racism and race riot recounted by Burns were Democrats who voted for FDR.

Burns avoids altogether giving his audience other politically incorrect information inconvenient for liberals and the Democratic Party, e.g., that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was the one high government official in FDR’s administration strongly opposed to what today we imprecisely call the Japanese-American internment.

Burns’ documentary mentions only in passing that little was done to Japanese-Americans living far inland in places such as Idaho or Iowa. He mentions scarcely at all

that thousands of German-Americans and Italian-Americans (e.g., Joe DiMaggio’s father

in San Francisco) had property confiscated or liberty curtailed through Democrat FDR’s Executive Order.

Burns also scarcely mentions another reason that Japanese-Americans were not alone in losing freedom during World War II. We had a draft, military conscription. Two-thirds of our soldiers were draftees subjected to involuntary servitude, de facto slavery, and it is therefore reasonable to calculate that at least two-thirds of Americans who lost their lives in the war were draftees. The draft also caused many deaths because conscription cheapened the value of American soldier lives, turning our sons into cheaply replaced cannon fodder.

In this coercive, collectivist environment that the late British journalist Alaistair Cooke described as FDR’s version of National Socialism, many others volunteered for the U.S. Navy or to work in vital civilian war jobs to avoid being drafted as foot soldiers.

Why no voice in Burns’ documentary arguing that the war’s conscription violated American liberty as much as did Manzanar? Or that draftees deserve the same kind of reparations paid a few years ago to interned Japanese-Americans?

One could argue that Japanese-American families were merely “drafted” and assigned to live quietly in Manzanars instead of to fight and die in the Pacific’s Mariana Islands or the hedgerows of France. Heroic young Japanese-Americans who chose to fight for America were draft-exempt volunteers. The death rate was far lower, and birth rate far higher, among Japanese-Americans in Manzanar than in other American families whose sons were conscripted into combat.

But note that Burns, in making this documentary with strongly liberal anti-war overtones, has given no airtime to the views of those like German-sympathizing American hero Charles Lindbergh who prior to Pearl Harbor opposed America’s entry into the war. A loud anti-war movement existed back then, too, but you would never know it from Burns’ documentary.

In fairness to FDR, he faced a difficult decision. We had cracked one of the Japanese secret codes and knew that Japanese agents were spying and planning sabotage along the West Coast. If we rounded up only these agents, Japan then would know we were reading its encrypted messages and change its code to one we could no longer decipher. By removing all Japanese-Americans along the Pacific Coast (as Canada and Mexico did), FDR neutralized Japan’s secret agents without tipping his hand. But Burns never lays out this politically incorrect rationale that apparently guided FDR.

Burns’ message is that all war is terrible, and that what radical leftist Studs Terkel called the “good war” (because Stalin’s Communist Soviet Union was our ally) was not good, but at best merely necessary to defeat Nazi and Japanese empires only slightly worse and more racist than America’s.

Instead of exploring mind-expanding fresh ideas and information, Ken Burns has used millions of taxpayer dollars to force-feed viewers more of the collectivist, politically correct, America-denigrating propaganda broadcast every day on PBS. More cowbell. More bull.

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Watching PBS’s liberal revisionist deconstruction of World War II that began airing a few nights ago oddly reminds me of one of the funniest routines ever done on the satire show Saturday Night Live.SNL parodied the recording session of one-hit wonder Blue Oyster Cult’s...
Thursday, 27 September 2007 11:03 AM
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