Ken Burns Hysterically Warns of ‘Authoritarianism,’ ‘Nationalism’

Political News

Documentarian Ken Burns took his book tour to PBS’s Amanpour and Company on Tuesday where he hysterically warned that “authoritarianism” and “nationalism” are on the rise in America putting everything from elections to the independent judiciary in trouble. With analysis such as that, it should not be surprising Burns was both short on facts and hypocritical when making his assessment.

Conducting the interview was Walter Isaacson who led Burns with a request that was not nearly as dramatic, “You titled the book Our America and the pictures show the great diversity of our America. But the title also implies that there are things that we share. Tell me what that — you’re trying to show that we share.”

 The book is Burns’s attempt to tell the history of the country through photography, but Burns appeared to put that aside and launch into an attack on GOP education policy, “Well, I think, you know, Walter, everybody’s talking about, oh, we can’t teach our kids the sad stuff. We can’t do this. We can’t do that. We can’t talk about this. I mean — and I just realized, these are the hallmarks of a tilt towards a kind of an authoritarianism in which you suddenly take, you know, the nationalist approach which is, you know, all human beings do horrible things, you know. Every culture everywhere, you know. It’s a litany.”

Burns may have said “everybody” but the truth is nobody is talking about that, even Republicans who pass laws against Critical Race Theory and The 1619 Project aren’t against teaching “the sad stuff.”

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After waxing poetic about how diversity is our strength, Burns continued, “And at the same time, we can know that the ongoing struggle for freedom has always been complicated and is ongoing. And the fragility of that republic, that Franklin fought that — you know, would be — you, know if you can keep it, it goes along for 250 years, almost.”

Warning that we may not be able to keep it, Burns added, “And yet, now, the things we taken for granted through the first crisis, the Civil War, the Depression, the Second World War, you know, of free and fair elections, of the peaceful transfer of power, of an independent judiciary now all seem, kind of, up for grabs. And we, kind of, can sense the tenuousness. You know, we’ve been through this stuff before. We’ll go through it again. We just have to periodically re-remind ourselves of that complexity and let’s celebrate that complexity.”

We just had an election that will result in politicians entering and leaving office peacefully and the judiciary is still independent, but Burns was really just lamenting that it is independent of his preferences and liberal outrage.

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Here is a transcript for the November 29-taped show:

PBS Amanpour and Company

11/30/2022

1:44 AM ET

WALTER ISAACSON: You titled the book Our America and the pictures show the great diversity of our America. But the title also implies that there are things that we share.

KEN BURNS: Yeah.

ISAACSON: Tell me what that — you’re trying to show that we share.

BURNS: Well, I think, you know, Walter, everybody’s talking about, oh, we can’t teach our kids the sad stuff. We can’t do this. We can’t do that. We can’t talk about this. I mean — and I just realized, these are the hallmarks of a tilt towards a kind of an authoritarianism in which you suddenly take, you know, the nationalist approach which is, you know, all human beings do horrible things, you know. Every culture everywhere, you know. It’s a litany.

What you want to do is say, let’s own it all. The hallmark of a great country is to embrace its diversity. And understand that in the case of the human resource of it, that diversity has been a strength. As Pete Hamill said, that’s an alloy, much stronger than its constituent parts.

And at the same time, we can know that the ongoing struggle for freedom has always been complicated and is ongoing. And the fragility of that republic, that Franklin fought that — you know, would be — you, know if you can keep it, it goes along for 250 years, almost.

And yet, now, the things we taken for granted through the first crisis, the Civil War, the Depression, the Second World War, you know, of free and fair elections, of the peaceful transfer of power, of an independent judiciary now all seem, kind of, up for grabs. And we, kind of, can sense the tenuousness.

You know, we’ve been through this stuff before. We’ll go through it again. We just have to periodically re-remind ourselves of that complexity and let’s celebrate that complexity.

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