One of the unwritten laws of opinion journalism is to never kick a man when he’s dead, at least, not until an appreciable amount of time has passed. The question is whether this can or should hold true for those who make their living by doing precisely that. The death at the age of 87 of pseudo-historian Howard Zinn raises this issue all over again, since very few academics have made a better living defaming the dead, with everyone from Columbus to Ronald Reagan, and thousands in between, being accused by the jocular old harpy of any number of hideous crimes, not one of whom, needless to say, being alive to answer the charges. It is, of course, the job of the historian to examine the acts of the deceased; and some consider it an equal part of their profession to pass judgement upon them. In the case of Zinn, however, he passed judgment with such slothful ease, and such obvious sadistic pleasure in issuing his condemnations, that one cannot muster up much sympathy at the prospect of the man’s memory dying by his own sword.
There seems to be some awareness of this fact even among his many admirers in the media. The major outlets have proven surprisingly tardy to mark the man’s passing, as if they were at a loss to find a way to describe him and his work without arousing the ire of their readership. This shouldn’t come as much a surprise, since the entire industry of Zinn (and it is an industry) tends to do everything within its power to cover up the man’s anti-Americanism, authoritarianism, and his flagrant abuses of his ostensible profession. Any display of the deceased’s actual beliefs and accomplishments, they seem to fear, might expose the fact that the emperor wore no clothes.