The United States is in the grip of a crisis of bad history. Distortions of the past promoted in the conservative media have led large numbers of Americans to believe in fictions over facts, making constructive dialogue impossible and imperiling our democracy. In Myth America, Kevin M. Kruse and Julian E. Zelizer have assembled a team of fellow historians to push back against this misinformation. The contributors debunk narratives that portray the New Deal and Great Society as failures, immigrants as hostile invaders, and feminists as anti-family warriors—among numerous other partisan lies.
The book brings together outstanding historians who draw on rich, often surprising recent research by themselves and others to present a much more complicated and less congratulatory picture of many of the most contentious issues in the nation’s history. Moreover, these essays treat readers to wonderfully accessible, jargon-free historical writing ... Interestingly, almost all of the essays depart in a significant way from the premise laid out by Kruse and Zelizer — that trafficking in untruths and spinning myths about the past in service of a political agenda are products of the Trump years.
Resurrects both fading pundits and flagrant, largely forgotten falsehoods ... While any refutation of a myth needs to name some myth spreaders, the book’s best essays operate on their own terms ... It’s tough to identify this book’s target audience. Progressives already agree with much of what’s written in these pages, and the Right, having embraced the identity politics it supposedly reviles, is apt to dismiss anything written by its contributors.
In its attempt to explode particular myths, however, Myth America engages in its own mythmaking. The book fundamentally misunderstands the crises facing the U.S. and the world. By implying that misinformation is the principal cause of the partisan rancor, violence, and general dysfunction that mark our current political moment, the collection obscures our much bigger problems. And by localizing the threat of misinformation and disinformation almost exclusively within certain far-right segments of the conservative movement and the Republican Party, Myth America absolves not only other stripes of conservatism, but also the milquetoast technocratic liberalism that helped set the stage for this moment. It’s not a total wash ... But the political project that birthed Myth America is ultimately a dead end—one that will only reproduce and exacerbate our present crises.