Hitler? A scapegoat. Stalin? I can empathise. Oliver Stone stirs up history

Oscar-winning director announces controversial 10-hour crash course in 20th century for American television

Ed Pilkington in New York
The Guardian [UK]
10 January 2010

…Stone announced yesterday that a 10-hour crash course in the history of the 20th century he is putting together for American TV is designed as an antidote to the inaccuracies and biases he believes exist in the conventional historical narrative dished out in American schools and mainstream media. The title alone gives an inkling of what lies ahead: Oliver Stone’s Secret History of America.

The thrice-Oscar winning director gave a further glimpse into his thinking at a gathering of TV critics in Pasadena on Saturday, when he didn’t so much open up a can of worms as unleash an entire supermarket shelf-load. He began by startling the panel by bringing up the H word.

“Hitler is an easy scapegoat throughout history and it’s been used cheaply,” he said. Then he mentioned the S word. “Stalin has a complete other story. Not to paint him as a hero, but to tell a more factual representation. He fought the German war machine more than any person.”

Then he went on to mention two M words – Chairman Mao and Joseph McCarthy, architect of the 1950s anti-communist purges in Washington, and the T word – Harry Truman’s dropping of the atom bomb in 1945.

Of the many potential storms that could be brewing over his Secret History, which will be broadcast by the cable channel Showtime later this year, Hitler promises to be the most incendiary. Stone told the Television Critics Association that “we can’t judge people as only ‘bad’ or ‘good’. [Hitler] is the product of a series of actions. It’s cause and effect. People in America don’t know the connection between WWI and WWII.”…

…Stone said he would similarly put Stalin “in context”. “I’ve been able to walk in Stalin’s shoes and Hitler’s shoes, to understand their point of view. You cannot approach history unless you have empathy for the person you may hate.”…

The article continues at The Guardian.

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