The Ken Burns version, cont’d

I watched all 18 hours of the Ken Burns/Lynn Novick/Geoffrey Ward documentary The Vietnam War. Ten years in the making, it draws on enormous resources to fix our history in falsity. It seeks to endow the war as portrayed by the antiwar left with the status of the authorized version. A credulous consumer of the antiwar literature of the era, I began to get a clue around about the time the NVA had its tanks rolling toward Saigon in 1975. Burns affords us access to views expressed by our Vietnam vets featured in the documentary ranging all the way from A to B.

Burns of course has the suffocating cultural apparatus of the left to support his documentary. Today’s Star Tribune, for example, includes an article on documentary producer Lynn Novick’s appearance with featured documentary talking head Tim O’Brien at Macalester College. Who has the will or knowledge to “resist”? Operating in good Orwellian fashion, the Burns crew seeks to control the future by controlling the past and demonstrate that those who control the present control the past.

Knowledgeable students of the war have begun to talk back. The purpose of this series has been to draw attention to their work. Stephen Morris’s Weekly Standard essay “The bad war” makes an important contribution, as does the two-part essay by Mac Owens that I noted here earlier this week. I quoted Yale’s Professor Charles Hill’s unamused view of the Ken Burns version here. In his ten years working on the documentary Burns somehow never got around to interviewing a vet like Minneapolis attorney Tim Kelly, who speaks for the many expressing simple pride in their service. I quoted Tim in my “Notes on the Ken Burns version.”

City Journal has now posted Mark Moyar’s essay “A warped mirror.” Moyar is a leading scholar of the war. Despite the documentary’s pretense to fairness and detachment, Moyar finds that it “promote[s] an agenda, in ways glaringly obvious to veterans though not readily apparent to those too young to have lived through the war. Burns and Novick wish to show that America fought a war that was unnecessary and unwinnable, and that it did so out of national hubris.” Moyar’s essay embeds useful links (such as this one to John Del Vecchio’s critique) and adds valuable perspective to the literature on the documentary.


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