Through Oliver Stone’s Looking Glass

A Showtime morbid fantasy world on Roosevelt, Truman, & Wallace.

Editor’s note: The following is the second installment of a series of articles Frontpage will be running in the days ahead in response to Oliver Stone’s neo-Communist documentary series, “The Untold History of the United States,” currently airing Mondays on Showtime. Frontpage will be reviewing each episode of the Stone series, exposing the leftist hateful lies about America and setting the record straight. Below is a review of Part 2 of Stone’s series.

Oliver Stone talks of the Soviet Union “liberating” nations during World War II in his new history series. But Joseph Stalin didn’t free any nations. He conquered them, just as his erstwhile ally Adolf Hitler had done. The lion that has scared the hyena away from your body hasn’t liberated you. He’s freed himself to feast on you alone. Surely the Czech or Polish people didn’t view Stalin as their liberator. But pay-cable viewers seven decades removed from the fact learn that he was.

Showtime claims that its ten-part Oliver Stone documentary The Untold History of the United States “demands to be watched again and again.” The question is: how should it be “watched again and again”? From the inside of a barbed-wire enclosed campground? Strapped into a Ludovico technique apparatus? On a state television loop?

In the series’ second installment, “Roosevelt, Truman, & Wallace,” Stone alleges a grand conspiracy to deny Henry Wallace a second term as ailing Franklin Roosevelt’s vice president. Forgetting that the American people largely agreed with Wallace’s predecessor’s assessment (“not worth a bucket of warm piss”) of the office, Stone depicts the replacement of Wallace on the ticket with Missouri Senator Harry Truman as a subversion of the democratic process. But neither the democrats, nor the Democrats, cared at the time as much as Stone does now. In judging the ticket switching consequential, Stone surely isn’t in crackpot territory. Within six months of 1944’s election, President Roosevelt would be dead. Wallace, whose “dear guru” letters to a cult leader, employment of Alger Hiss and other Communists at the Agriculture Adjustment Administration, and pursuit of wholesale pig slaughter and crop destruction to inflate farm prices all pegged him as a flake, would have made a frightening commander in chief (and not just to farm animals). But Stone thinks otherwise.

The documentary posits that Wallace was Roosevelt’s true heir, and his replacement on the ticket with the rube from Missouri perverted the course that the 32nd president intended for America. If Wallace had remained vice president, then the Cold War, the Korean War, and much unpleasantness would have been avoided. Counterfactual history seduces so thoroughly because it proves impenetrable to counterfactuals. It’s easier to defend what we wished happened than what did happen.

Since Roosevelt, unlike Wallace, was an actual rather than a pretend president, Stone spends much time defending many of the least defensible aspects of his twelve-year reign. “In truth,” Stone claims about the Big Three negotiations, “the United States and Britain had lost their leverage by failing to open up a second front until very late in the war. So at the end of the day FDR didn’t give anything at Yalta that Stalin didn’t already have.” He judges Roosevelt as “unfairly attacked for capitulating to Stalin.” He never mentions the Stalinists advising Roosevelt to capitulate to Stalin in the shaping of the postwar world. Such influence is incomprehensible to Stone, despite the filmmaker’s insistence that ravenous advisors, rather than the sick and weary president, were to blame for decisions such as ditching Wallace from the presidential ticket.

Stone imagines the cabal behind jettisoning Wallace as behind the bellicose policy toward the USSR that emerged following the war. “It is important to note that many of the most vociferous critics of the Soviet Union shared a similar class background and a deep hatred of anything that smacked of socialism,” Stone asserts as a grainy graphic displays aristocrats dancing many decades earlier. He notes that Averell Harriman was the “son of a railroad tycoon,” James Forrestal “made a fortune on Wall Street,” and Edward Stettinius was “chairman of the board of the nation’s largest cooperation.” Stone ominously claims that the trio joined in a conspiracy with “wealthy international bankers” to derail socialism. The film notes that Truman inherited these men from Roosevelt’s cabinet, an inconvenient truth dismissed with the assertion that the 32nd president didn’t pay any mind to the men whom he casts as controlling Truman’s mind.

Heroic music rings in the background when Franklin Roosevelt appears. The music turns dark and ominous when the discussion turns to Harry Truman. The filmmakers intend these sonic cues to induce the audience to think Truman=bad, Roosevelt=good. Instead, they make us judge the filmmakers as crude propagandists. Watching a documentary about the 1940s doesn’t require us to adopt the age’s political naivety.

The documentary cites everything from Truman’s height to his poor eyesight to explain his antipathy to Communism. It contends that “Truman did not seem capable of comprehending the pain and suffering of the Soviet people or their motives.” But it’s the documentarian who seems incapable of comprehending this. Nowhere in part two of Stone’s documentary—I have not watched the rest—does he mention Stalin’s Show Trials, the famine he manufactured in the Ukraine, or even the Gulag. No doubt the Missouri haberdasher had these cruelties in mind when he sought to stop Communist expansion. Truman, like all Cold War presidents who followed, also discerned the difference between the Communist ruling class and the “Soviet people” that Stone strangely credits for the expansionary policies of one Soviet person, Stalin. Certainly “the motives” of an ordinary Russian and the bloodthirsty Georgian differed greatly. But Stone speaks of national motives as if they encompassed the people outside of the Politburo, as well.

The Untold History of the United States is a misnomer. This history of the United States has been told again and again—in Russian.

Related articles on Stone’s series:

1. Bruce Thornton’s introduction to this Frontpage series.

2. Matthew Vadum's review of Stone's first episode.

3. Daniel Greenfield’s review of “The Bomb,” the third episode.

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