Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Howard Zinn died last January at a ripe old age, and in his latest column for "Truthdig," Chris Hedges writes about the extensive FBI file that had been amassed on Zinn from 1949-74. For those of you who haven't read about him here before, Zinn was an activist historian, a key member of the New Left school of American historians, whom, as I recall, were pooh-poohed by the more staid members of the profession when I was in grad school.

But the point here is that Zinn was for many years considered an enemy of the state, a danger to the rest of the citizenry. At one point he was being followed by five--count 'em FIVE--agents. What an absurdity. Zinn was non-violent, a pacifist. What made him a danger was what he thought, and the fact that he had the courage to speak out and tell the truth, which is sometimes ugly and always threatening to a society's ruling class. Consider: he was a danger because he refused to become an FBI informant (bizarre, but true), because he was an anti-Vietnam War protester, because he was a civil rights activist, because he loathed McCarthyism.

What's really disturbing to me is finding out about something called "Reserve Index, Section A." This is a classification for people in whom the FBI has interest who will be arrested immediately and held in the event of a national emergency. Does that not give you the creeps? If a harmless soul like Howard Zinn can be on this list in the 1960s, how many people do you think are on it in our paranoid, Tea Party times?

Of course, I'm not surprised to learn of all this. But it's just creepy being reminded that Big Brother is always watching, and you better be thinking what he wants you to think.
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