Ken Burns's hatred threatens to destroy his legacy
In 1990, Ken Burns was the great talent behind The Civil War, an epic nine-episode PBS documentary that he made for PBS. It was comprehensive, gorgeous, heartbreaking, and riveting. His later work wasn't as good, but it was still damned good. But Burns, like so many leftists, is now so riddled with hatred for Republicans that he cheapens his every utterance and destroys his own legacy. The latest example is how he's used his upcoming documentary, The U.S. and the Holocaust, to bash modern Republicans and cover for WWII-era Democrats.
The Guardian's David Smith interviewed Burns about the documentary. (Hat tip: Daniel Greenfield.) It's clear that Burns has abandoned the approach he used for the Civil War documentary, which was to tell the story on its own terms — in other words, to give an honest historic account. Nowadays, infected by woke history, Burns sees the past solely as a vehicle by which to settle scores in the present.
Burns isn't hiding this fact. He puts it out there, front and center. Indeed, Smith says the didacticism is the most obvious thing about the film:
It may be Burns's most didactic film yet as it ends provocatively with images of Dylann Roof, who shot and killed nine African American congregants at a church in South Carolina; white supremacists marching with flaming torches in Charlottesville, Virginia, chanting "Jews will not replace us!"; the killing of 11 worshippers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh; and the storming of the US Capitol by a mob of Donald Trump supporters on 6 January 2021.
Yes, a bunch of unarmed grannies and grandpas who were welcomed into the U.S. Capitol by the guards (and quite possibly entrapped by operatives in whom the FBI is surprisingly disinterested) is exactly like the Holocaust.
Image: Ken Burns. YouTube screen grab.
The interview makes plain that it was Trump who broke Burns. Beginning in 2016, Burns transformed from a garden-variety leftist into a person who sees Hitler lurking behind every Republican in America:
Burns has been sounding the alarm about the threat to American democracy since a commencement address at Stanford University in California in June 2016. Six years and one Trump presidency later, he is more worried than ever.
Interestingly, Burns hasn't criticized how Joe Biden, bathed in red light and flanked (probably illegally, given his political speech) by two Marines, gave the most totalitarian speech any president has given in America's history. Just days before, Biden had castigated as "semi-fascists" that half of America that still believes in the values of 20 or more years ago (e.g., functional borders, free speech, no transgender sex ed for five-year-olds, racial colorblindness, a non-partisan military, etc.).
At Independence Hall, Biden let loose with the not so subliminal message that these same people are a threat to "democracy" (read: permanent Democrat party power) and that something must be done about them. As I said, Burns was okay with that.
Last week, though, Burns was back, this time insisting that Ron DeSantis's sending 50 willing and grateful illegal aliens to a wealthy leftist paradise that boasted loudly that it is a welcoming sanctuary for all comers came "straight out of the authoritarian playbook." Burns explicitly said the comfortable flight to a leftist paradise meant DeSantis was using "a human life that is as valuable as yours or mine or Lynn's and to put it in a position of becoming a political pawn in somebody's authoritarian game."
The memes wrote themselves:
This?— Ben Aksar (My Pronouns? I Trust You) (@BenAksar) September 15, 2022
This is Auschwitz? pic.twitter.com/Rywwm53kOy
It's that mindset that permeates Burns's Guardian interview and, it's clear, his documentary. According to Smith, the documentary makes some things clear:
As the Nazi atrocities worsened, America hardened its borders. Senator Robert Reynolds of North Carolina [a Democrat, although the Guardian doesn't mention that] declared: "If I had my way, I would today build a wall about the United States so high and so secure that not a single alien or foreign refugee from any country upon the face of this earth could possibly scale or ascend it."
Building a wall is an undeniable echo of Trump's presidential campaign launch in 2015, repeated countless times since. The film describes anti-immigrant sentiment in the 1930s and 1940s rooted in fear of being "replaced" — a foreshadowing of the "great replacement" conspiracy theory that now animates the far right.
Burns, who is not Jewish, even has the chutzpah to liken Stephen Miller, a very Jewish Trump adviser, to the (Democrat) antisemites in Franklin Roosevelt's State Department.
Trump broke a lot of people. The notion that America could elect a showman who stood for principles that were a completely normal part of American life before 9/11 changed everything (mostly because it unchained the American left) was too much for many, including Burns. It's a shame, too, because Burns is a remarkably talented man when his monomania hasn't filled him to the brim with hatred and ignorance.