Conversations on Creativity

7:00 p.m. Tuesday, March 30, 2004
Madison Public Library Sequoya Branch 513 S. Midvale Blvd.

History Channeled

Stanley Kutler
Professor of History Emeritus, UW-Madison

In November, 2003, during a week-long series marking the 40th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, The History Channel aired a documentary called The Guilty Men. The film elicited angry responses from former members of the Lyndon Johnson administration, Johnson family members, and scholars. Accusations of irresponsibility poured into the History Channel as government, academia, and the public responded to the film's conclusive assertion that the Johnson Administration and the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover had engineered the murder of John F. Kennedy.

This controversy has raised the persistent issue of the nature of public rendering of our history. In his contribution to the Conversations on Creativity series, UW-Madison historian Stanley Kutler will examine the creative liberties often taken by broadcasters, filmmakers and journalists in presenting history. His talk will explore the nature of our obligations to find and present "the truth," and ask whether these obligations are compromised by the search for profits, ratings or "creative packaging." Professor Kutler's talk will be based, in part, on his recent experience as a consultant to The History Channel.

About the Presenter:

Stanley I. Kutler is the E. Gordon Fox Professor of American Institutions at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and also Professor of Law. He is the author of Abuse of Power: The New Nixon Tapes (Free Press, 1997); The Wars of Watergate: The Last Crisis of Richard Nixon (Knopf, 1992); Privilege and Creative Destruction: The Charles River Bridge Case (Norton, 1978); and Judicial Power and Reconstruction Politics (University of Chicago Press, 1968). He recently edited the new edition of the Dictionary of American History , (Scribner's 2002), which was awarded the American Library Association Best Reference Book Award. He also edited the four-volume work, Encyclopedia of Twentieth Century America (Scribner's, 1995), and The Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War (Scribner's, 1995). Kutler has been a Guggenheim Fellow, holder of the Fulbright Chair in Political Science, University of Bologna, 1991, Distinguished Exchange Scholar for China in 1982, and Fulbright 40th Anniversary Distinguished Lecturer, Peru, in 1987, Bicentennial Professor, Tel Aviv University, Israel, in 1984, and Fulbright Lecturer, Japan, 1977.

Kutler has written op-ed pieces and reviews in The New York Times , The Wall Street Journal , Washington Post , Los Angeles Times , Chicago Tribune , The Nation , Chronicle of Higher Education , Times Literary Supplement , Slate , and Salon , among others. He has appeared as a commentator on National Public Radio, and has worked as a consultant on a number of film projects, including the Emmy Award-winning BBC-Documentary Watergate . He was advisor for the Showtime film, The Day Ronald Reagan Was Shot . His recent books, Abuse of Power and The Wars of Watergate , have been adapted for a Broadway play.