The War over Ken Burns’ “The War”

Ah, the wonders of the vast Interbloggentubes. Now that Ken Burns’ giant WW II project is close to airing on PBS, interest is heating up. I posted back in May on the protests raised by some Hispanic activists who were angry that Burns did not focus on any Hispanic soldiers for the project.

Now, all these months later comes a long, acerbic  manifesto from Karen, a  reader who is disgusted with Burns. I don’t agree with all her  points about Burns’ intentions and his  reaction to the protest, but we do agree that government funding for the arts, while well intended, sometimes makes problems like this inevitable:

Sorry, but any entity that funds projects, including PBS, requires its filmmakers to adhere to certain standards of quality. Nobody is given a blank check without some oversight.  Burns is a trained historian and he calls his works documentaries, which implies that they are factual.

Before this controversy, PBS advertised “The War” as the definitive history of WWII, with plans to distribute the movie in schools across the country.Why should Latinos sit still while more than 20 million tax dollars—yes 20 million– are used to give everybody the false impression that Mexican-Americans and other Latinos did not fight in WWII?

Nobody is asking Burns to make it a Latino dominated film, just that it be inclusive. 500,000 Latinos fought in WWII. He includes other minority groups, so why not Latinos?And once this omission was brought to Ken’s attention, his response was arrogant and patronizing. He said that he wanted to tell a universal story, and that he wasn’t attempting to chronicle any one ethnic group’s experience in the war. (Yeah, every group except Latinos.)

He implies that Mexican-Americans had a ‘different’ experience, one that is not universal. What nonsense. There was only one WWII, and Mexican-Americans fought alongside everybody else, in all theaters of war. They were not segregated. After, they were awarded eleven Congressional Medals of Honor by FDR and Truman for their service.

What isn’t universal about that? Nice try Ken.

The real problem is that he doesn’t view Americans of Mexican descent as truly American.  These soldiers fought and died defending America’s freedom, the freedom of some arrogant jerk to make government funded movies that dismiss the very people who helped secure that freedom. Sickening.

Thankfully, Congress and the advertisers stepped in.

Will the series exclude other groups besides Latinos? I’d say that’s almost unavoidable, so we probably haven’t heard the end of this squabble.

 Any other thoughts? Jump in if you like. “The War” begins on Sept. 23

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One thought on “The War over Ken Burns’ “The War”

  1. This is the same story of always. The nation is presented with the white man as the super hero. Why? I don’t know. What are they afraid of? I can’t support the idea of my tax dollars being spent on a PBS documentary that did not represent my race. BTW, my family, on both sides, have been represented (including now) in the military since WWII . You better believe it that Hispanics should have been represented in the so call documentary, we earned it.

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