Paul Johnson's review of Gertrude Himmelfarb's "The Old History and the New" (The Book Review, Sept. 27) is a compendium of neoconservative cliches.
In a tone of high-minded objectivity, Johnson endorses Himmelfarb's accusation that leftist scholars do not write "traditional history at all" but "covert left-wing propaganda," while he ignores the major leftist premise that the writing and teaching of traditional history (as well as other subject areas) has embodied covert right-wing propaganda.
He makes bizarre overgeneralizations about "fanatics and doctrinaires, especially those academics who got tenure during the big university expansion in the 1960s." Is everyone who has gotten tenure since the '60s a leftist, and is every leftist a fanatic undeserving of tenure? See Russell Jacoby's "The Last Intellectuals: American Culture in the Age of Academe," which documents some of the many cases of discrimination against unfanatic leftist scholars since the '60s.
Johnson distorts the leftist position to the point of travesty, without citing a single quote from a leftist that substantiates his or Himmelfarb's allegations. (What scholar in the "dominant form of study now treats the major political events and constitutional development of national history as unimportant"--rather than merely asserting that the history of ordinary men and women is also important enough to warrant scholarly attention compensating for earlier neglect?)