Howard Zinn is great. He is well read, entertaining, has a suitable lower class upbringing and is Jewish. When he talks politics and you are left-leaning, you listen. If you are not left-leaning you probably also listen and then say ‘bah! what does he know?’ When he is interviewed by Barsamian, it’s always a good read and I hesitate to say anything bad about him, but these sorts of interviews seem to be to be one of the reasons that more conservative folks despise the left. Barsamian and Zinn are friends, Barsamian seems to know more about Zinn than Zinn himself, so these ‘interviews’ are really just Barsamian lobbing softball questions at Zinn so Zinn can come back with more of his witty repartee, ingenious political analysis and stories of growing up in the 'hood.
Not that conservative interviews are anything different, but I think those tactics are inherently not good ways to be convincing. To be informative, sure, but without any meaty back-and-forth on issues of substance [even if it were only to be straw man arguments along the lines of 'but surely you can’t be saying that the US government is corrupt? 'yes, that’s exactly what I am saying'] it becomes tough to understand just how tricky the issues of globalization and social change really are to the non super-genius populations. Zinn does a wonderful job of explicating how all history is politicized and if you want to be a faithful activist, choosing the version of history you support should be an early step you take. I just wish I could hear him up against someone who wasn’t so convinced of the righteousness and correctness of his ideas as barsamian is.