When it comes to endowing the past with a sentimental glaze, few organizations have more expertly dispensed the pink-colored spun sugar than the Public Broadcasting Service. The latest example of politically correct history at the taxpayers’ expense is a nine-part, twelve-and-a-half-hour orgy of liberal myth-making called The West, which was shown nationwide on PBS in September. Directed and co-produced by Stephen Ives—a protégé of Ken Burns, who made his name bringing PBS’s special brand of saccharine to the Civil War a few years ago —this “documentary” about the settling of the American West is reviewed below by James Tuttleton. As Mr. Tuttleton shows, The West, though cinematically striking, is a congeries of PC clichés starring noble Indians (or “Native Americans”) who were at one with the land and themselves versus nasty white frontiersmen whose greed, rapacity, and spiritual shallowness are veritable prodigies of obtuse evil. (Perhaps our favorite moment in the first episode came when one academic expert smugly explained that one tribe of Indians had no words for I, me, or mine, but only “we”: the Indians, you see, were Communists avant la lettre.)

We think that Mr. Tuttleton says all that needs to be said about this sentimental travesty of American history—even if, with his customary gallantry, he is only too kind in his assessment of the defects of the series. We mention The West here only to point out that its early reception by The New York Times was the perfect politically correct journalistic correlative to this example of PC melodrama. In neither of the two pieces that the Times ran to announce the series—a Saturday television review by Walter Goodman and a Sunday Arts & Leisure feature by Caryn James—is there the shadow of an adumbration of a hint that The West is anything other than responsible history (“fiercely and brilliantly rooted in fact,” in Ms. James’s memorable mischaracterization). In other words, The New York Times has once again demonstrated how far it is hostage to the radical multicultural agenda that has done so much to deform the teaching of history. In this, The New York Times’s centennial year, perhaps their motto ought to be amended: not “All the News That’s Fit to Print,” but “All the News That Fits Our Myths.”

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 15 Number 2, on page 3
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