June 13, 2016

Ken Burns uses his commencement address to tell Stanford students they must oppose and fight against Donald Trump.

Here's some very heavy-handed rhetoric — ironically against another man's heavy-handed rhetoric — that shouldn't be imposed on the captive audience of a graduating class and the guests who want to celebrate them, but I can see that he thinks it's such an emergency that the normal rules do not apply — which, again ironically, is why Donald Trump must think he's got to talk the way he does.
So before you do anything with your well-earned degree, you must do everything you can to defeat the retrograde forces that have invaded our democratic process, divided our house, to fight against, no matter your political persuasion, the dictatorial tendencies of the candidate with zero experience in the much maligned but subtle art of governance; who is against lots of things, but doesn’t seem to be for anything, offering only bombastic and contradictory promises, and terrifying Orwellian statements;
a person who easily lies, creating an environment where the truth doesn’t seem to matter; who has never demonstrated any interest in anyone or anything but himself and his own enrichment; who insults veterans, threatens a free press, mocks the handicapped, denigrates women, immigrants and all Muslims; a man who took more than a day to remember to disavow a supporter who advocates white supremacy and the Ku Klux Klan; an infantile, bullying man who, depending on his mood, is willing to discard old and established alliances, treaties and long-standing relationships. I feel genuine sorrow for the understandably scared and—they feel—powerless people who have flocked to his campaign in the mistaken belief that--as often happens on TV--a wand can be waved and every complicated problem can be solved with the simplest of solutions. They can’t. It is a political Ponzi scheme. And asking this man to assume the highest office in the land would be like asking a newly minted car driver to fly a 747.

As a student of history, I recognize this type. He emerges everywhere and in all eras.
We see nurtured in his campaign an incipient Proto-fascism, a nativist anti-immigrant Know Nothing-ism, a disrespect for the judiciary, the prospect of women losing authority over their own bodies, African Americans again asked to go to the back of the line, voter suppression gleefully promoted, jingoistic saber rattling, a total lack of historical awareness, a political paranoia that, predictably, points fingers, always making the other wrong. These are all virulent strains that have at times infected us in the past. But they now loom in front of us again--all happening at once. We know from our history books that these are the diseases of ancient and now fallen empires. The sense of commonwealth, of shared sacrifice, of trust, so much a part of American life, is eroding fast, spurred along and amplified by an amoral Internet that permits a lie to circle the globe three times before the truth can get started.

We no longer have the luxury of neutrality or “balance,” or even of bemused disdain. Many of our media institutions have largely failed to expose this charlatan, torn between a nagging responsibility to good journalism and the big ratings a media circus always delivers. In fact, they have given him the abundant airtime he so desperately craves, so much so that it has actually worn down our natural human revulsion to this kind of behavior. Hey, he’s rich; he must be doing something right. He is not. Edward R. Murrow would have exposed this naked emperor months ago. He is an insult to our history. Do not be deceived by his momentary “good behavior.” It is only a spoiled, misbehaving child hoping somehow to still have dessert.

91 comments:

campy said...

In other news, the sun rose in the east and a dog bit a man.

damikesc said...

Did they at least have the decency to boo and pelt him with garbage?

Gusty Winds said...

I wonder what Ken Burns collected from Stanford and their graduates for his speaking fee?

damikesc said...

When my kids go to college (K hope they do not and choose tech schools instead, where they will learn to actually do stuff), if the speaker pulls this shit, I will boo and make a scene.

Commencement speeches shouldn't be an invitation for mental wankery by the speaker.

YoungHegelian said...

the dictatorial tendencies of the candidate with zero experience in the much maligned but subtle art of governance

If we had been seeing much expertise from our leaders in this "subtle art of governance", Donald Trump would still be finding apprentices & managing his properties, & not the Republican candidate.

Sebastian said...

Trump sure has all the right enemies. He should propose a law that prevents a penny in public funds going to PBS as long as it airs Burns, or to Stanford as long as it stages anti-GOP campaign contributions.

Amadeus 48 said...

Meh. Makes want to vote for Trump. Donald is a New York Democrat who has huckstered his way to be the opposition to the statist, in your face prim conformity of the "progressive" left that wants to continuously stomp their boot on your face. I see little danger from Trump, and more from Team Obama/HRC.

David Begley said...


At a minimum tell Burns no politics or require advance approval.

The only disappointment at the Carleton graduation was a global warming harangue by an alum.

Gusty Winds said...

As a student of history, I recognize this type...Edward R. Murrow would have exposed this naked emperor months ago.

Ken Burns can't recognize that Edward R. Murrow was a liberal who didn't actually care if communists during his time has actually infiltrated the State Department.

chuck said...

Orwellian? Huckster perhaps, but Orwellian isn't the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Trump. The Democrats, OTOH...

Fred Drinkwater said...

"forces that have invaded our democratic process"
by "forces" he means the demos and that can't be allowed in a democratic process.

David Begley said...

Burns is such a dunce that he probably doesn't know that Churchill described Islam as the most retrograde force in the world.

Rumpletweezer said...

As much as I dislike Trump, his election can't do nearly as much damage to the country as Obama's election.

Carol said...

the prospect of women losing authority over their own bodies, African Americans again asked to go to the back of the line, voter suppression gleefully promoted

What, what? What does that have to do with Trump? When did he advocate any of that?

Ah he's just a "type," from History, to which we can attribute All Bad Things that ever happened.

Also, he's going to take away welfare, and push granny over a cliff, etc.

tim in vermont said...

Yeah, my daughter's graduation speech including attempts to get the graduating class to give a rousing cheer for Obama. Didn't work though, they were all scared shitless about how they were going to get a job.

shiloh said...

So Althouse, are you sayin' Burns isn't being politically correct?

Are you against free speech!

Althouse, I may not agree w/what your spewing on a daily basis, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

Thank goodness your boy Trump never ruffles any feathers ...

EDH said...

I feel genuine sorrow for the understandably scared and—they feel—powerless people who have flocked to his campaign in the mistaken belief that--as often happens on TV--a wand can be waved and every complicated problem can be solved with the simplest of solutions. They can’t. It is a political Ponzi scheme. And asking this man to assume the highest office in the land would be like asking a newly minted car driver to fly a 747.

Worked for Obama.

campy said...

"Worked for Obama."

That'll leave a mark!

surfed said...

That kind of thing is the exact reason why fourty years ago I had my University mail me my diploma and shined pomp and circumstance. The diploma was waiting for me at my parents house when I returned from a surf trip to Central America. I scored some tasty waves and didn't have to listen to anyone's drivel from across yet another podium. Adter five years I was tired of podiums.

Mike Sylwester said...

The university invitations to prominent Scientific Progressives to harangue captive audiences at graduation ceremonies is the fitting conclusion to the university experience.

Gusty Winds said...

As a student of history...we know from our history books that these are the diseases of ancient and now fallen empires

Really Ken? History teaches us that empires have fallen because they:

>stretched themselves to thin invading other countries,
>could not balance debt with constant infrastructure needs,
>allowed dwindling societal moralities,
>were invaded by outside forces,
>relied to heavily on slave labor (which our imported illegal workforce is basically not far above)
>and were infested with rampant government corruption (See US gov't, and State of Illinois gov't)

The United States seems to be infected with all of the above. But let's not tell the graduates about that.

rhhardin said...

Erving Goffman said that the speaker who says he's tearing up his prepared speech to speak to the audience directly has torn up the wrong speech.

coupe said...
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Bob Boyd said...

Like kids telling each other scary stories and spreading gossip about other kids they don't like. Welcome to the national slumber party.

chickelit said...

One day too, Ken Burns can set the Trump story to maudlin fiddles.

CWJ said...

A top tier school like Stanford invited Ken Burns to give the commencement address? Is Ken Burns still a "thing"? I thought his 15 minutes were up a couple decades ago.

But I see that he's still a douche.

Jon Burack said...

Ken Burns did one good thing - his civil war series. After all, it was one era of history where slavery and racism were vitally relevant. After that, he has marred his work by being Jonny One-Note. For example, instead of lecturing Stanford students on Trump, he could have used the occasion to apologize for so dramatically contributing to the totally unfair depiction of Ty Cobb as a racist. But he needed that to mar the story of baseball by transforming it into the story of race, his only story. Cobb was a prickly guy, for sure, but the mythology about him has been totally debunked. He came from a Southern family of abolitionists who in fact could probably teach Burns a thing or two about how to make American more humane. But for people like Burns, there no longer is anyone who needs to teach them anything. They know it all.

ndspinelli said...

chick, LOL! Burns needs an editor to cut his documentaries in half. He's a pompous, preening, girly man. Jon Burack is correct in his assessment of Burn's baseball polemic.

traditionalguy said...
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traditionalguy said...

Burns is in the Liberal Elite that defines its own realty with zero care for the common folks. To Burns and friends Trump is the threat of all threats.

But to Stanford graduates without Family Trust Funds, Trump is their only hope for a prosperous life in America Those Family Foundations ARE Burns' big donors. They pay for his Films. And they want no new successful outsiders. So they are in panic over Trump's movement giving Jacksonian
Democracy the Presidency.

Clyde said...

Almost everything Burns said applies equally if not more so to Hillary Clinton.

mccullough said...

Ken Burns calls himself a student of history. What an ignorant asshole.

Rick said...

People should have walked out.

MayBee said...

Where did this idea that Trump is some new kind of fascist Hitler come from? I can see thinking he's a dick, or that he doesn't have what it takes to be president, but this is just bizarre.

But then I guess GWB was also Hitler, as was Cheney. So it's just more of the same.

(ps I have friends on Facebook who write things like Obama is the best president ever and can't we just keep him? I don't get it. I can see thinking he's ok, but why would anybody think Obama is a great president?)

Chris N said...

Whoa, at least throw up some grainy photos and narrate 4 hours of 'bottom-up' history.

These kids need to learn.

Meeeea said...

We are just too damn polite. A few years ago at my daughter's graduation, the speaker was some broad that went on and on about protecting the oceans. While she was singing the virtues of Obama, she wove in how she was the first person to get the govt to declare protected areas of the ocean--I KNEW it was Bush that did that, not Obama, and quickly looked it up to be sure--I was right. I was fuming, and wanted to stand up and shout it out, but family held me back (literally).

We need to start calling out bullshit whenever and wherever we see or hear it, to hell with being polite.

Brando said...

Trump may not be Hitler, but I'm not going to let the histrionics of some of his critics affect my own thoughts on him.

buwaya puti said...

Another boy in a plastic bubble.
Well, I suppose they all are in the same bubble.

BDNYC said...

Ken Burns has a history of doing this. His 2004 address to the Yale graduating class was about the dangers of the Bush administration and how the Iraq War was all one big lie. Barbara Bush was graduating that year. This man oozes class.

Chris N said...

'And then Big Union John made sure no more children were whipped on Sundays, while politically active Suffragette Sally foresaw that dolphins and weevils probably should have rights, too.'

Yessiree those were the days...'

Gahrie said...

Ken Burns is the boomer generations pajamas boy.

Wilbur said...

I, too, was impressed by and enjoyed Burns' series on the Civil War. I'd have graded it an A to A-.

I eagerly anticipated his Baseball series. Sadly, I'd have given it a D-.

It takes an ego larger than Trumps to inflict such a screed on a captive audience. But I also blame those foolish enough to attend.

I went to my high school graduation because it seemed like the thing to do. With that experience in my pocket, I skipped both my junior college and university ceremonies. My parents and siblings really wanted to attend my law school graduation, so I gladly attended for them.

Why do they call them "commencements" when they come at the end of a school career? Shouldn't they come at the beginning?

EDH said...
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Roughcoat said...

I'm curious: when Burns gave his speech, did he use a tinkling piano playing the same three or four songs over and over as his soundtrack, and did he show the same three or four photographs several hundred times (moving the camera in and out, in and out, in and out) to illustrate his points? Did his speech go interminably, and did he have a fusty pompous old pipe-smoking blowhard to provide commentary?

LYNNDH said...

"to fight against, no matter your political persuasion, the dictatorial tendencies of the candidate with zero experience in the much maligned but subtle art of governance; who is against lots of things, but doesn’t seem to be for anything, offering only bombastic and contradictory promises, and terrifying Orwellian statements;
a person who easily lies, creating an environment where the truth doesn’t seem to matter; who has never demonstrated any interest in anyone or anything but himself and his own enrichment"

Isn't he really talking about Hillary?

EDH said...

chickelit said...
One day too, Ken Burns can set the Trump story to maudlin fiddles.

LOL!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kZASM8OX7s

The Cracker Emcee said...

Knowing college kids, he probably created more Trump voters than he deterred.

Roughcoat said...

Ken Burns did one good thing - his civil war series.

I know it's heretical in some circles (certainly not this one!) to say this, but I found Burns's Civil War series to be an interminable bore. I quit watching it after about the fourth episode. It became sheer torture, like watching paint dry to a nightmarishly repetitive and sappy soundtrack. By the time I decided I was done with it I wanted to put out a mafia hit on Shelby Foote, or at least take that pipe of his and shove it up his wrinkly old ass.

EDH said...

"Ashokan Farewell" is a piece of music composed by Jay Ungar in 1982. It has served as a goodnight or farewell waltz at the annual Ashokan Fiddle & Dance Camps run by Ungar and his wife Molly Mason, who gave the tune its name, at the Ashokan Field Campus of SUNY New Paltz (now the Ashokan Center) in upstate New York. The tune was later used as the title theme of the 1990 PBS television miniseries The Civil War,[1] as well as the 1991 compilation album Songs of the Civil War.


ARCHIVAL VIDEO: July 27, 1982: Donald Trump Celebrates Completion of Trump Tower."

Ed Koch: "May these walls withstand the winters of endless years...

http://abcnews.go.com/US/video/archival-video-july-27-1982-donald-trump-celebrates-37222805

Clayton Hennesey said...

No matter what Burns has to say on any topic, he will go down in history for immortalizing the great Moe Howard.

M Jordan said...

Ken Burns should be able to afford a decent haircut hy now yet he refuses. Why?

Larry J said...

the dictatorial tendencies of the candidate with zero experience in the much maligned but subtle art of governance

Those with experience in the "subtle art of governance" have successfully enriched themselves and their cronies while leaving the country massively in debt with a weakened economy and hollow military. Race relations are, if anything, far worse now than they were 10 years ago. So, by all means, we should keep reelecting the same people to run things. Sooner or later, they're bound to get things right. And the room full of manure must have a pony or puppy in it, so let's keep digging.

Fred Drinkwater said...
"forces that have invaded our democratic process"
by "forces" he means the demos and that can't be allowed in a democratic process.


Actually, I think he means voters who don't toe the line and vote in ways he wants.

EDH said...

Clayton Hennesey said...
No matter what Burns has to say on any topic, he will go down in history for immortalizing the great Moe Howard.

Three Stooges Ken Burns-Style Mockumentary

https://youtu.be/oEQpIFUuCug?t=33s

RNB said...

James Cromwell, the actor, delivered the address at my older son's commencement. Instead of saying anything relevant, he fulminated about Florida voter ID laws and 'The One Percent.' It was such a bust that neither the local newspaper nor the local TV news quoted him or ran any footage.

As we were filing out, my wife mused, "If he'd just once said, 'That'll do, graduates. That'll do,' they would have loved him forever."

rehajm said...

Normally this would be an opportunity to point out it's impolite for an invited guest to shit on the carpet but given Burns' history it's hard to believe it was not the desired result.

mockturtle said...

The most thoroughly bigoted speech I have ever read. The groupthink left is telling us to throw out the rules of political engagement and to do anything and everything to stop this tyrant from being elected. If Trump gets slain, the perp will be a leftist hero. Like von Stauffenberg. These are very scary times--and not just because of Islamic terror.

ganderson said...

Jon Burack- You are correct sir- Burns is obsessed with race. "Baseball is too long, too NY and Boston centric, too race obsessed, and still manages to leave out Harmon Killebrew. The Civil War is pretty good- although the format sounds really dated these days. I liked (at least the first half, about the construction) "Brooklyn Bridge". I'd be pissed if I were a Stanford parent. Was Richard Sherman too busy to speak?

Comanche Voter said...

Who knew that Ken Burns was a special snowflake?

Well based on this speech, he's just a flake.

Matthew Sablan said...

"But then I guess GWB was also Hitler, as was Cheney. So it's just more of the same."

-- As were Romney. And McCain. Though, just like Bush, they have magically become "the sorts of Republicans we yearn for" now that they don't oppose the Democrats electorally. It's the same tired old argument I've been hearing about Republicans for nearly 20-years.

tim maguire said...

He could easily be talking about Obama, who he undoubtedly voted for.

-OR-

he thinks it's such an emergency that the normal rules do not apply

A liberal thinks the rules don't apply to him? STOP THE PRESSES!

Fernandinande said...

I thought Burns' first name was "Montgomery". Turns out it's really Charles".

Unknown said...

Working class heroes came from the working-class communities. Even in celebrity circles we have our working-class heroes such as the Beatles, Springsteen, Elvis, Ali, Brittany and thousands more. Never mind all the thousands of militants and unionists who took on the fight for the working-class.

But, today the working-class look to Trump as their hero. Trump who was born with a silver spoon and has lived all his life in the bubble of the richest 0.1%. Trump the billionaire is now the hero of the working-class, the one who is going to make it all right. Right on, brother.

damikesc said...

Thank goodness your boy Trump never ruffles any feathers ...

Did Trump hijack a commencement to do so?
Did Trump hijack a day meant to celebrate students' achievements to politicize stuff?

No?

Then why are you even mentioning it?

chick, LOL! Burns needs an editor to cut his documentaries in half.

He's the Spike Lee (who made a boring as hell documentary about Malcolm X somehow) of documentaries.

Roy Jacobsen said...

He's a liberal. The rules don't apply to them.

Roy Jacobsen said...

On account of their hearts are pure and their intentions are good, you know.

Anglelyne said...

MayBee: Where did this idea that Trump is some new kind of fascist Hitler come from? I can see thinking he's a dick, or that he doesn't have what it takes to be president, but this is just bizarre.

But then I guess GWB was also Hitler, as was Cheney. So it's just more of the same.


Boomers shaped contemporary public culture. The niche for middle-brow public "intellectual"/artist/people-who-get-called-on to give-commencement-addresses is therefore filled with people in sync with the essentially adolescent Boomer mindset: parochial, solipsistic, and intensely "presentist". (I.e., past events seen only as precursors to present events and present mores, otherwise meaningless; present mores and world-views seen as absolute. This didn't originate with millenial SJWs, it's just reaching its end-stage with them.)

So it's always Hitler this and Hitler that with such people, because that narrowness of historical reference and easily understood moral lesson suits the adolescent mind. Likewise, contemporary leftists probably never read and certainly don't understand the leftist Orwell (if they did they would stop doing what they're doing). Instead their use of "Orwellian" is merely a feelz-association with a book on their middle-school required-reading list.

cubanbob said...

Unknown said...
Working class heroes came from the working-class communities. Even in celebrity circles we have our working-class heroes such as the Beatles, Springsteen, Elvis, Ali, Brittany and thousands more. Never mind all the thousands of militants and unionists who took on the fight for the working-class.

But, today the working-class look to Trump as their hero. Trump who was born with a silver spoon and has lived all his life in the bubble of the richest 0.1%. Trump the billionaire is now the hero of the working-class, the one who is going to make it all right. Right on, brother.

6/13/16, 11:23 AM"

Strange isn't it that a billionaire carnival barker is the more authentic hero of the working-class than the champagne communist felonious traitor. Do tell us how the grifter and traitor is going to make it all right.

jeff said...

Who's Ken Burns? George Burns son?

eddie willers said...

Burns leans on the "Magical Negro" trope even more than Stephen King.

William said...

History doesn't repeat. Itself. Historians keep making the same damned mistakes........Why are we always warned about neo-Hitlers and never about proto-Lenins or nascent Maos........The Civil War documentary was pretty good, partially because Shelby Steele gave such a cool presentation of the southern view.......I'd like to see an intelligent documentary made about why artists and intellectuals were so enamored of Napoleon and militarism in the 19th century and Lenin and Marxism in the 20th. For people who claim to be introspective and analytical, they are notably ignorant of their own past mistakes.

pst314 said...

"he thinks it's such an emergency that the normal rules do not apply"
In the minds of the left, it's always an emergency.

Curious George said...

"jeff said...
Who's Ken Burns? George Burns son?"

Bobby Goldsboro's commie brother I think.

Anthony said...

But not radical Islam.

Got it.

William Chadwick said...

Not a Trump fan, but lockstep Eloi like Burns and Stephen King saying the kind of stuff they say makes me more inclined to support him. If this crowd of sadomasochistic State-f*ckers are closing ranks against him, he can't be all bad.

Roger Sweeny said...

That Hate was more than Five Minutes.

Johnny Sokko said...

EDH posted it first but it should be repeated.

. It is a political Ponzi scheme. And asking this man to assume the highest office in the land would be like asking a newly minted car driver to fly a 747.

This describes what we did in November of 2008.

Joe said...

The weirdest thing is that for the most part, Burns is describing Obama to a 'T'.

Projection anyone?

(I liked the Civil War series, though it struck me last time I watched it a few months ago, just how much it depends on Shelby Foote. Foote clearly heavily influenced the show to its betterment in both attitude and historicity. Unfortunately, the show still makes many errors.)

wholelottasplainin' said...

Fernandinande said...
I thought Burns' first name was "Montgomery". Turns out it's really Charles".

*****************************

In full, it's "Charles Montgomery Plantagenet Schicklgruber Burns".

Dude1394 said...

Amazing how self-delusional leftists are. As if obama and the democrats truly have not divided this country along identities every chance they have gotten. To get elected.

Disgustingly, horribly, stupid, yet "mainstream".

Rob McLean said...

Ken Burns uses his commencement address to tell Stanford students they must oppose and fight against Donald Trump.

...when they're not busy raping each other and stuff.

ndspinelli said...

If you Google "Preaching to the choir," this speech pops up.

rcocean said...

Ken Burns' the Civil war was good because (1) the subject was interesting and important (2) Shelby Foote (3) good music (4) most of the talking heads were historians (4) Burn's tedious SJW views were irrelevant.

pst314 said...

"The weirdest thing is that for the most part, Burns is describing Obama to a 'T'."
This.
Ken Burns never recognizes leftist extremism. Obama could be closely connected to an unrepentant Stalinist terrorist and Ken Burns would not noticed anything wrong. Oh wait, Obama is and Ken has not.

shiloh said...

"If you Google "Preaching to the choir," this speech pops up."

Much like Althouse kowtowing/catering to her 95/5 con majority daily.

Hey, you have to know your audience and keep them happy!

Big Mike said...

So before you do anything with your well-earned degree, you must do everything you can to defeat the retrograde forces that have invaded our democratic process, divided our house, to fight against, no matter your political persuasion, the dictatorial tendencies of the candidate with zero experience in the much maligned but subtle art of governance;

He's too late. The elections of 2008 and 2012 are over and the candidate with dictatorial tendencies and zero experience in the subtle are of governance already won.

Paul said...

As long as Trump does not DO anything stupid (keep in mind, Trump says some stupid stuff, but Hillary HAS DONE lots of crooked stuff) then I'll vote for him.

I voted for Cruz here in Texas, but Trump is what we've got. I hope he builds a real wall, kicks a lot of illegals out, blows ISIS back into the stone age, and gets this economy moving.

This shit has got to stop!

Alex said...

The old guard PC crowd is scared shitless.

chickelit said...

Alex wrote: The old guard PC crowd is scared shitless.

The "old guard" conservative crowd is scared shitless too.

I haven't seen a round-up or an analysis yet, but there is a lot of parallel change occurring on the both the right and the left.

Paul Snively said...

I absolutely agree we must keep fascists out of the White House at all costs, which is why I'm doing everything in my power to ensure Hillary Clinton is not elected.

Jack Tors said...

Last time I checked, "The Art of the Deal" isn't reminiscent of "Mein Kampf." Ken Burns refers to himself as a "student of history" but fails to admit that he's at best a D student. Notwithstanding that fascism has largely emanated from leftist quarters since the Enlightenment, Burns reference to Nazism in his critique of Trump reaffirms the validity of Godwin's Law.

Swede said...

Ken Burns is an insufferable twat.