The Better Angels Society
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The Better Angels Society.
“The mission of The Better Angels Society is to further the extraordinary creative and educational legacy of Ken Burns. The Society is “…dedicated to the preservation of American history...[by]…introducing and educating Americans to multiple aspects of their history.” Historian Stephen Ambrose has said, "More Americans get their history from Ken Burns than any other source."
Ken Burns, Better Angel?
Does Ken Burns preserve the facts of the history of the Vietnam War or rewrite them to fit his own perspectives on America?
Burns history is critical of the War in Vietnam and of America from his progressive perspectives of peace, social justice, race, class, ethnicity. If one’s purpose is social change, a completely factual history will not do.
In episode 1, the narrator says the Vietnam War was “begun in good faith, by decent people.” Yet ten episodes and 18 hours later, those “better angels” do not show up. Indeed, in Burns details, in his selection of facts, the Devil shows up in the persons of American and South Vietnamese leaders. At best, these leaders have “fateful misunderstandings,” of the really, decent communists, better angels, in North Vietnam.
What “multiple aspects,” what facts, does Burns show on his screen, tell in his story of Vietnam?
“Multiple Aspects.” Burns “Vietnam” with iconic music and horrific pictures tells an emotionally stimulating story of a war not worth waging. Burns omits, passes lightly, or dismisses some crucial aspects of the Vietnam War. Burns artfully omits historical facts contrary to the caricatures drawn on his storyboards. Burns covers up falsehoods far more subtly than the “lies” Burns says U.S. Presidents.
Burns, the storyteller says, the Vietnam War was a Vietnamese anticolonial war to “reunite’ Vietnam. Besides Vietnam, how about Hanoi’s reuniting the colonial empire of French Indochina, Laos, Cambodia, perhaps Thailand? Burns witnesses for the prosecution of America dismissively declare the war was “misread” or “misunderstood” as a battle in the Cold War, 1945-1989. In doing so, Burns summarily dismisses plain facts: the Cold War, its presidents, communist conquered countries, hundred million murders. Where’s Churchill’s iron curtain speech? JFK’s “We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” Ken Burns glorifies Ho Chi Minh as a nationalist, a patriot like George Washington, only incidentally an internationalist communist. Burns neglects to mention Ho Chi Minh was on Joseph Stalin’s Comintern payroll for 20 years and for decades Ho systematically slaughtered noncommunist nationalists. South Vietnamese leaders were all crooks and their troops all cowards all the time, while the Viet Cong were selfless, fearless volunteers. He neglects Diem and Thieu’s reforms and South Vietnamese ARVN victories in 1968 and 1972.
Though 90% of Vietnam Vets were proud of their service, Burns chases down and interviews the rare antiwar vets thoroughly disillusioned with the war and with their leaders.
Burns “multiple aspects” of the history of the war do not preserve history as it was. Instead, Burns rewrites history from the perspectives of contemporary progressivism, an ideology of pacifism, appeasement, and identity group diversity. Burns progressive America is defined by diversity, the division of America by race, class and ethnicity rather than "E pluribus Unum,…out of many, one.” Burns America in Vietnam fought an illegal, immoral, unjust, racist, unwinnable war in Vietnam. This America, lacking better Angels, is implicitly illegitimate, unworthy of public support and needs to be radically changed. “Historian” Burns neglects to inform his viewers progressives seek to radically transform an America they regard as racist, sexist, imperial. War bad, America bad. Change good.
Ken Burns. Progressive Democrat. Open Secrets, compilers of Federal Election Commission, FEC, reports of political contributions to federal candidates and PACs shows Burns disclosing a few political donations, just 11, but they are all Democrats. What’s missing in his pocket is made up in his passion. Burns declares, “I am, in fact, what is called a yellow dog democrat,” meaning, “I’d vote for a yellow dog before I’d voted for any Republican." Preoccupied with race in most of his documentaries, Burns airbrushes racism out of the history of the Democrat Party. Burns hates Republicans and capitalism and worships the progressives of history, e.g. the Roosevelts, Ted Kennedy, Obama (Burns’ Lincoln). Burns says current day Republicans represent “the narrow interests of a moneyed few…[and] an “extremism… against nearly every precept of our inclusive, knowledge- seeking, generous Judeo-Christian ethic. Republicans [Wants to] “invade the bedrooms of every marriage,…[and squander] the natural wealth and beauty of this great land for … the bottom line of a select few men of privilege?”
According to historian Amity Shlaes, Ken Burns “ennobling the Roosevelts as if they were true monarchs, gods. …also enthrones …progressivism.” Catholic Democrat candidate for president Al Smith said of progressives "they…disguise themselves as Norman Thomas or Karl Marx, or Lenin,” [socialists and communists]. Al Smith did not consider progressives Democrats.
In November 2017, Buns launched UNUM, a new digital destination. Its premiere issue, UNUM will focus on the themes from THE VIETNAM WAR. What does it mean to be a patriot? Do we understand our enemy? What does war reveal about human nature? What forces divide us? Are political leaders being truthful with the public? Watching eighteen hours of Vietnam answers these questions. Patriot? You oppose the war and cheer for the enemy. You can hate your country and be a patriot. Understand the Enemy? Ho Chi Minh was George Washington even though he killed fellow nationalists. Bring a communist was incidental, unimportant. What does the war reveal about human nature? We lust for peace. What forces divide us? Race, ethnicity, Ken Burns documentaries. Truthfulness of Leaders? No American leader can be trusted. Communists are misunderstood good guys.
Rightfully sold on the value of the lessons of history, it is unclear just how many of Burns financiers fully understand Burns’ progressive political agenda demonstrated in omitted or distorted “aspects” of his interpretations of the war let alone his hatred of Republicans and capitalists. What do we know about the sponsors of “Vietnam?” Can we distinguish the duped capitalists from the worshipful progressive?
Who Sponsored Burns “Vietnam?”
Better Angels Society. The first sponsors listed for Ken Burns 18-hour documentary “Vietnam” are members of Burns very own BETTER ANGELS SOCIETY. The first two members of the Society, each giving over $5 million, were Jerome & Catherine Debs II and the Fullerton Family Charitable Fund.
Other sponsors--$ 1-5 Million to Better Angels Society.
Others giving the Better Angels Society $1-5 million were Jonathan and Jeannie Lavine (the Crimson Lion Fund), Amy and David Abrams, Diane and (Harold) Hal Brierley, Lynda and Stewart Resnick, the Perry and Donna Golkin Family Foundation, the Montrone Family, the Roger and Rosemary Enrico Foundation, Len & Emily Blavatnik.