[Howard Zinn raw #88: Zinn receives an award from French newspaper]

In a speech at the French newspaper, La Monde Diplomatique, Howard Zinn explores his understanding of government and history.

00:35Copy video clip URL The film opens with a shot of Howard Zinn and his wife Roslyn standing and speaking with a man and a woman.

01:13Copy video clip URL The video cuts to a sign in French, dated 2003. The name of a French newspaper, La Monde Diplomatique, is displayed on the sign.

01:40Copy video clip URL Zinn can be seen speaking with various people gathered around him. Many greet him in French, with Zinn responding via a translator. He asks one man to tell him about his upcoming projects.

04:00Copy video clip URL A man stands a podium and speaks in French. The name of the French newspaper, La Monde Diplomatique, can be made out in his remarks.

05:00Copy video clip URL The shot cuts to show Zinn looking on upon the man speaking. A man stands next to him, translating the French for Zinn.

06:30Copy video clip URL A different man begins speaking, and he can heard saying, “Howard Zinn.” The man speaks for several minutes, and throughout he can be heard speaking of Zinn.

10:55Copy video clip URL The man exits the stage, and a woman begins speaking in French from the podium. She speaks for several minutes as well.

13:30Copy video clip URL The woman exits the stage, and the first man to speak returns to the podium to briefly introduce Zinn.

14:00Copy video clip URL Zinn begins speaking — saying a couple French sentences before switching back to English and allowing a translator to speak French beside him. He says thank you for the award he’s been presented with,

14:30Copy video clip URL Zinn begins to thank people specifically, starting with the director of La Monde Diplomatique, Ignacio Ramané — as well as everyone else who has worked with the paper. He thanks them for bringing a progressive and international view to the people of France.

15:00Copy video clip URL Zinn thanks several La Monde Diplomatique writers, and lauds their writing.

15:55Copy video clip URL Zinn then thanks the man who translated his book into French, presumably referring to A People’s History of the United States, as well as the publisher of his book in France.

17:00Copy video clip URL Zinn then thanks the jurors who were “kind enough” to choose his book as worthy of this award. He also takes time to recognize his fellow nominees for the award.

18:00Copy video clip URL Zinn thanks his American publicist and editor, and finally his wife.

19:15Copy video clip URL Zinn then shifts gears, saying he’d “like to say something about how [he] came to write the book.” He pinpoints the beginning of the project as the late 1970s, when he had been teaching history for about 20 years, and involved with the Civil Rights movement for about a decade. After those years at Spelman College, Zinn says he endeavored for another decade or so to fight agains the Vietnam war. All of that is to say, Zinn notes, he is not exactly a neutral party.

20:30Copy video clip URL Zinn also mentions his upbringing in the New York City working class, his time as a shipbuilder, and fighting in World War II as a bombardier as being huge factors in the formation of his political leanings.

21:30Copy video clip URL Zinn continues with his life story, telling of ow he went to college under the G.I. Bill. He notes that he received a Doctorate of History from Columbia University. It was in earning that doctorate, he says, he felt strongly that the history he learnt was an incomplete one.

22:30Copy video clip URL Zinn explains his allusion to objectivity; he says that he understands that anybody “telling a story,” be it a historian or a journalist, is choosing from an infinite number of organizations of the facts. They must choose what to omit and what to represent.

23:35Copy video clip URL Zinn explores the “insistence” among educators and policymakers in the U.S. that American students must learn “facts.” He says that this reminds of the Charles Dickens character Grad Grind, who admonishes a younger teacher, saying: “teach nothing but facts. Facts, facts, facts.” Zinn goes on to say that as soon as interpretation starts, there is no such thing as a true fact. When that interpretation starts, a judgement has been made — a judgment on which parts of the story are important, and which are not.

25:10Copy video clip URL Zinn explains that “orthodox histories” omit pieces of the American past. He cites the impact of these omissions as an attempt to not only cloud the past, but also to mislead the populace about the present.

24:50Copy video clip URL “For instance,” Zinn says, “there is the issue of class.” He says that the dominant culture of the U.S. pushes the American people to believe that the U.S. is a classless society. They instill in the American population this idea that we are one united mass. Zinn says that’s just not true; he points to the U.S. Constitution itself as proof. The document “was written by 35 rich white men,” Zinn says, who established a strong central government to serve their class’s interest.

27:10Copy video clip URL Zinn continues in the vein of class, saying that the use of the government for class’s purposes is something that “has continued down the centuries.” “It’s disguised,” he says, by the language of history which shapes our societies as having a common interest. For example, the president describes the economy as oureconomy. He will describe it as “sound,” Zinn says, even when it is not serving the needs of some 40% of the population — but is serving those of the top 1% and their 40% of the nation’s wealth.

28:30Copy video clip URL “National interest,” Zinn says, is the veil behind which a government hides their more dubious actions. He points to how presidents have used “national interest” or “national security” to explain away millions of deaths in countries around the world.

29:45Copy video clip URL The film goes black.

29:52Copy video clip URL The film ends.

 

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