September 19, 2007


This just in. A very thoughtful and balanced review of PBS’ upcoming “the War” documentary in the New Yorker Magazine seems to indicate that Ken Burns failed to adequately represent the more than 500,000 Latinos who fought, died or were injured during WWII. After describing the back and forth between PBS and Burns and several Latino activist groups and members of the Congressional Hispanic Congress, New Yorker reviewer Nancy Franklin, who got to preview the film, said

“Burns eventually added twenty-eight minutes to the film, which, however, do not add much; the scenes—the extra material throws a Native American veteran into the mix, as well as two Hispanics—feel tacked-on, because they are. Burns had originally said that reëditing the film “would be destructive, like trying to graft an arm onto your child.” It turns out that not reëditing the film was also like grafting an arm onto your child.”

In anticipation of already announced protests, potential boycotts and other actions by thousands of Latinos across the country in the next two weeks, Burns and PBS, which spent an unprecedented $10 million dollars to promote “the War”, and its affiliates have already started their own PR blitz to counter potential damage. KOCE, the Orange County, California PBS affiliate, for example issued a statement saying that “the vast majority of of concerned groups and individuals have found the PBS response and additional materials produced for the series to be a good solution to the matter” and added that “there are still a couple of fringe groups who refuse to be satisfied”. It’s also rumored that “War” sponsors Bank of America, Anheuser Busch and General Motors are also deploying big executives and other resources to try to mollify actions against the film- and themselves.

In response, Maggie Rivas, the UT Austin scholar who uncovered the PBS exclusion of Latinos and organized the “Defend the Honor”campaign said, “that they call the thousands upon thousands who are taking actions “fringe” shows how out-of-touch and desperate they are. History tells us that whenever civil rights groups demand their rights, the inevitable response is that they are called “fringe” and “deviant.”

Let’s watch, wait, see – and then act. Lots more to follow on this one.


  1. Barry Says:

    “Tacked on” is the exact phrase I used when I watched the episode last night. There was that usual coda about how many people died, etc, fade to black, you think it’s over and then it starts up again. It feels like the afterthought that it was, which is a shame, as the segment was actually very good and would have been a highlight of the episode had it been better integrated. Which is sort of ironic if you think about it.

  2. Sam Carde Says:

    oh get over it.

  3. […] In 2007, Latino pressure groups successfully exploited Burns’ notorious lack of interest in nonblacks by raising a stink over the shortage of Hispanics in his WWII documentary The War. He ended up caving in and inserting an extra 28 minutes of Latino Lore, that, in the words of a New Yorker reviewer, felt “tacked-on.” […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: