is an award-winning, internationally known American political scientist, historian, and culture critic who has been writing on a wide range of both scholarly and popular subjects for over forty years. He has taught at several universities and colleges and has been a frequent guest lecturer before campus and community audiences. In addition, he has played an activist role in political struggles, most notably various anti-war movements. Included among the subjects he addresses are American politics, world affairs, news and entertainment media, ideology, historiography, ethnicity, and religion.
Parenti received his Ph.D.
A Ph.D. is a Doctor of Philosophy, an academic degree.Ph.D. may also refer to:* Ph.D. , a 1980s British group*Piled Higher and Deeper, a web comic strip*PhD: Phantasy Degree, a Korean comic series* PhD Docbook renderer, an XML renderer...
in political science
Political Science is a social science discipline concerned with the study of the state, government and politics. Aristotle defined it as the study of the state. It deals extensively with the theory and practice of politics, and the analysis of political systems and political behavior...
from Yale University
Yale University is a private, Ivy League university located in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Founded in 1701 in the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States...
and has taught at several universities, colleges, and other institutions. He is the author of twenty books and many more articles.
His works have been translated into at least eighteen languages. Parenti lectures frequently throughout the United States and abroad. He wrote The Assassination of Julius Caesar
, He is the father of Christian Parenti
Christian Parenti is an American investigative journalist and author. His books include: Lockdown America: Police and Prisons in the Age of Crisis , a survey of the rise of the prison industrial complex from the Nixon through Reagan Eras and into the present; The Soft Cage: Surveillance in America...
, an author and contributor to The Nation
The Nation is the oldest continuously published weekly magazine in the United States. The periodical, devoted to politics and culture, is self-described as "the flagship of the left." Founded on July 6, 1865, It is published by The Nation Company, L.P., at 33 Irving Place, New York City.The Nation...
Parenti's writings cover a wide range of subjects: U.S. politics, culture, ideology, political economy
Political economy originally was the term for studying production, buying, and selling, and their relations with law, custom, and government, as well as with the distribution of national income and wealth, including through the budget process. Political economy originated in moral philosophy...
Imperialism, as defined by Dictionary of Human Geography, is "the creation and/or maintenance of an unequal economic, cultural, and territorial relationships, usually between states and often in the form of an empire, based on domination and subordination." The imperialism of the last 500 years,...
Fascism is a radical authoritarian nationalist political ideology. Fascists seek to rejuvenate their nation based on commitment to the national community as an organic entity, in which individuals are bound together in national identity by suprapersonal connections of ancestry, culture, and blood...
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...
, democratic socialism
Democratic socialism is a description used by various socialist movements and organizations to emphasize the democratic character of their political orientation...
, free-market orthodoxies, conservative judicial activism, religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...
, ancient history
Ancient history is the study of the written past from the beginning of recorded human history to the Early Middle Ages. The span of recorded history is roughly 5,000 years, with Cuneiform script, the oldest discovered form of coherent writing, from the protoliterate period around the 30th century BC...
, modern history
Modern history, or the modern era, describes the historical timeline after the Middle Ages. Modern history can be further broken down into the early modern period and the late modern period after the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution...
Historiography refers either to the study of the history and methodology of history as a discipline, or to a body of historical work on a specialized topic...
, repression in academia, news and entertainment media, technology, environmentalism
Environmentalism is a broad philosophy, ideology and social movement regarding concerns for environmental conservation and improvement of the health of the environment, particularly as the measure for this health seeks to incorporate the concerns of non-human elements...
Sexism, also known as gender discrimination or sex discrimination, is the application of the belief or attitude that there are characteristics implicit to one's gender that indirectly affect one's abilities in unrelated areas...
Racism is the belief that inherent different traits in human racial groups justify discrimination. In the modern English language, the term "racism" is used predominantly as a pejorative epithet. It is applied especially to the practice or advocacy of racial discrimination of a pernicious nature...
Homophobia is a term used to refer to a range of negative attitudes and feelings towards lesbian, gay and in some cases bisexual, transgender people and behavior, although these are usually covered under other terms such as biphobia and transphobia. Definitions refer to irrational fear, with the...
Venezuela , officially called the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela , is a tropical country on the northern coast of South America. It borders Colombia to the west, Guyana to the east, and Brazil to the south...
, the wars in Iraq
and Yugoslavia, ethnicity, and his own early life. Perhaps his most influential book is Democracy for the Few
, now in its ninth edition, a critical analysis of U.S. society,
economy, and political institutions and a college-level political science textbook published by Wadsworth Publishing.
Parenti lectures across the United States, Canada and abroad. In recent years he has addressed such subjects as "Empires: Past and Present," "US Interventionism: the Case of Iraq," "Race, Gender, and Class Power," "Ideology and History," "The Collapse of Communism," and "Terrorism and Globalization."
Michael Parenti was raised in an Italian-American working-class family and neighborhood in New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...
about which he has written. For many years Parenti taught political and social science at various institutions of higher learning. Eventually he devoted himself full-time to writing, public speaking, and political activism.
In Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....
, in 2003, the Caucus for a New Political Science
gave him a Career Achievement Award. In 2007, he received a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition from U.S. Representative Barbara Lee
Barbara Jean Lee is the U.S. Representative for , serving since 1998. She is a member of the Democratic Party. She is the first woman to represent that district. Lee was the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and was the Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus...
and an award from New Jersey Peace Action. For several years in the 1980s, he was a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies
Institute for Policy Studies is a left-wing think tank based in Washington, D.C..It has been directed by John Cavanagh since 1998- History :...
in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....
He served for some 12 years as a judge for Project Censored
Project Censored is a non-profit, media criticism and investigative journalism project within the Sonoma State University Foundation. It is managed through the School of Social Sciences at the university....
. He also is on the advisory boards of Independent Progressive Politics Network
, and Education Without Borders
Education Without Borders or “Educación Sin Fronteras” , founded in 1988, is an NGO focused on development, its goal being to use education to craft a more just caring world...
; as well as the advisory editorial boards of New Political Science
and Nature, Society and Thought
Social and political analyses
Parenti has covered many subjects in 45 years of teaching, writing, and speaking. The broad outlines of some of these are summarized below.
Parenti argues that western racism is systemic and historical in nature and should be regarded as more than just an attitudinal problem. He identifies the origins of western racism in imperialism and slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...
: To justify the colonial
Colonialism is the establishment, maintenance, acquisition and expansion of colonies in one territory by people from another territory. It is a process whereby the metropole claims sovereignty over the colony and the social structure, government, and economics of the colony are changed by...
plunder of another nation or entire continent (as in the case of Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...
) as well as the enslavement of conquered populations, imperialists and/or slave traffickers dehumanize their victims and define them as moral inferiors and subhuman.
Parenti maintains that racism serves several functions for ruling interests in the United States:
- It divides the working class
Working class is a term used in the social sciences and in ordinary conversation to describe those employed in lower tier jobs , often extending to those in unemployment or otherwise possessing below-average incomes...
against each other.
- It creates a "super-exploited" group of people who are forced to work at below scale wages thereby depressing wage levels for the entire workforce.
- It distracts the (United States) white population from its own legitimate grievances by providing an irrelevant scapegoat in the form of minority populations
Culture and social structure
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, becoming increasingly critical of the existing socio-economic system, Parenti argued that images of the United States as a pluralistic, democratic society were more ideological than accurate. He did not deny the existence of a vast plurality of social, ethnic, and regional groups in America, but he felt that this group pluralism did not translate into a democratic pluralism in political life. Only limited portions of the political process are accessed by the general populace. Power in America is not broadly distributed, according to Parenti, but is highly concentrated in a social structure dominated by corporate moneyed interests, whose influence predominates in most mainstream institutions and major policy areas.
Parenti maintains that the resources of power are lodged in the social structure itself, the culture, institutions, and established social roles, and that ruling elements maintain their dominant positions not only by raw economic power but by attaining “cultural hegemony,” a concept formulated earlier by Antonio Gramsci
Antonio Gramsci was an Italian writer, politician, political philosopher, and linguist. He was a founding member and onetime leader of the Communist Party of Italy and was imprisoned by Benito Mussolini's Fascist regime...
(whom Parenti cites).
Role of US media
With respect to the US media Parenti has maintained that, while news coverage can be marred by problems of deadlines, space, and ordinary human error, much of the misleading coverage is the result of carefully honed ideological production. Reporters, he says, often exercise much skill to avoid the more important points of a story or news analysis so as not to offend anyone who wields substantial political and economic power, including their own bosses and corporate advertisers. Parenti concludes that their goal is to avoid fishing too deeply into troubled waters thereby maintaining an appearance of objectivity and moderation. Their careers, he suggests, depend in part upon their ability to equate centrist views with “objectivity,” and to stay within the prevailing ideological orthodoxy.
Parenti’s treatment of entertainment media (movies and television) continues the argument that the media are not neutral and favor elitist interests. Exploring a wide range of films and programs, he has attempted to demonstrate that the entertainment media do more than entertain; they indoctrinate by propagating values in keeping with their corporate ownership and corporate advertisers. Most recently, he wrote the foreword to Matthew Alford's Reel Power: Hollywood Cinema and American Supremacy
Reel Power: Hollywood Cinema and American Supremacy is a 2010 book by Matthew Alford, which argues that cinematic output from Los Angeles routinely endorses the notion of American Exceptionalism and that even many of the most liberal films provide surprisingly favourable mythology for the United...
(Pluto Press, 2010).
Parenti often attacks specific examples of the misleading coverage provided by the US media.
In Blackshirts and Reds
he cites historian J. Arch Getty
John Archibald Getty, III is an American historian and professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is noted for his research on Russian and Soviet history, especially the period under Joseph Stalin and the history of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.-Life and career:Getty was...
's figures to demonstrate the exaggeration elsewhere in the US media of the executions effected by Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...
in the Great Purge
The Great Purge was a series of campaigns of political repression and persecution in the Soviet Union orchestrated by Joseph Stalin from 1936 to 1938...
Parenti critically reviews Slobodan Milosevic and the Destruction of Yugoslavia
in "The Demonization of Slobodan Milosevic" and To Kill a Nation: The Attack on Yugoslavia
, finding similar exaggeration of war crimes in the breakup of
the second Yugoslavia.
In "Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth" he observes, "western news media, travel books, novels, and Hollywood films have portrayed the Tibetan theocracy as a veritable Shangri-La" then goes on to detail what he feels were its negative aspects.
Culture across the globe
Parenti maintains that, far from being neutral, culture is often ideologically driven in a highly skewed system of social power, benefiting some groups at the expense of others. “Growing portions of our culture are increasingly commodified and mass marketed.” “So we buy more and more of our culture and create less and less of it.” Rather than being accepted at face value, Parenti says that all cultures should be subjected to critical investigation to be judged by “universal human rights standards” and by the criticisms voiced by those who are victimized within the various cultures of the world. Parenti gives extensive attention to those who are regularly victimized by their own cultures, providing examples in chapters entitled “Custom Against Women,” “The Global Rape Culture,” and “Racist Myths.”
Role of voting fraud in US elections
Parenti is among those who have cited a variety of studies claiming that the 2004 presidential election was fraudulent. In an essay entitled "The Stolen Election of 2004" he argued that modern voting technology allowed powerful corporations to manipulate the electoral results. He concluded the article by observing, about the forthcoming US election, "Given this situation, it is not likely that the GOP will lose control of Congress come November 2006. The two-party monopoly threatens to become an even worse one-party tyranny." In an updated analysis of the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, he adds a postscript explaining why—despite the massive crossover reported in the polls away from the GOP-—the Democrats won only a slim victory in the Congressional 2006 elections.”
Class and class power
Parenti stresses the role of class in all societies, particularly the purportedly classless US one. He extends the definition of class as a demographic trait relating to status, education, lifestyle, and income level to include the effects of social interrelationships. He observes that there can be no rich slaveholders without poor slaves, no powerful feudal lords without serfs, no corporate bosses without workers. The interrelationship is highly asymmetrical. It centers on the organized wealth of the society.
Parenti also believes that there is a third factor involved in class relationships, specifically the productive resources (land, agriculture, herds, natural resources, factories, technology, etc.). The dominant group in class relationships owns or controls these economic resources. The weaker class historically has had only its labor to sell. Hence the “dominant money classes” exercise a preponderant influence over workforces, markets, major investments, consumption patterns, media, and public policies. Parenti concludes that when discussing class, class power—how it is used, for whose interests, and at whose expense—must also be discussed.
US downplay of class
Parenti has repeatedly criticized the tendency among many who profess to be progressive to downplay the importance of class and class power as a formative force as compared to race, gender, and culture. He allows that each of these other categories of social experience have imperatives that are distinctly their own, sometimes of a life-and-death urgency. Still they should not be seen as being mutually exclusive of, or in competition with, considerations of class power in society, he argues, and should not be used as a means of evading class analysis.
Democracy and capitalism
From the late 60s well into the 80s, Parenti was one of many radicals and socialists who questioned the validity and value of what they called “bourgeois democracy,” seeing it more as a charade to mislead the people into thinking that they were free and self-governing. By the late 80s, however, he noticeably modified his position, arguing that democracy should not be thought of as merely a subterfuge or cloak created by ruling elites, although it certainly can serve that purpose. More often, Parenti claimed, whatever modicum of democracy the people attain in any society is usually the outcome of genuine struggle for a more equitable politico-economic order. He asks why the corporate class should be credited with giving people a “bourgeois democracy,” when in fact the ruling plutocrats furiously opposed most democratic advances in U.S. history, such as the extension of the franchise or the struggle for ethnic and gender equality, more direct forms of representation, more room for dissent and free speech, greater accountability of elected officials, and more equitable socio-economic domestic programs.
According to Parenti, reacting to mainstream commentators who turn every systemic vice and deficiency into a virtue, leftist critics of the status quo, seeing no real victories or progress in the centuries of popular struggle, have felt compelled to turn every virtue into a vice. To counter this trend, he says, people should recognize that real gains have been made, democracy refuses to die, and both at home and abroad popular forces, continue the democratic struggle, even against great odds.
For Parenti, democracy has two basic dimensions, the procedural and the substantive, both of which are equally important. Procedural democracy consists of the basic political forms: free speech and assembly, the right to dissent, accountability of officeholders, the right to vote in regular and honest elections, etc. Substantive democracy consists of egalitarian socio-economic outputs that advance the well-being of the populace, protect the environment, and curb the abuses and often untrammeled powers of great wealth. Parenti quotes the German sociologist Max Weber
Karl Emil Maximilian "Max" Weber was a German sociologist and political economist who profoundly influenced social theory, social research, and the discipline of sociology itself...
who remarked almost a century earlier that it remains to be seen whether democracy and freedom can exist under the dominion of a highly developed capitalism.
Parenti concludes that “there is no one grand, secret, power elite governing this country, but numerous coteries of corporate and governmental elites that communicate and coordinate across various policy realms. Behind their special interests are the common overall interests of the moneyed class,” which is not to say that differences never arise among these elites.
Technology, money, and deficit spending
Parenti believes that people's thinking about past and present developments needs to be contextualized, that is seen in a social context of power and ideology. He gives the examples of technology and money. Both are seen as neutral entities that are inherently neither good nor bad. This may be true hypothetically, he writes, but, in reality, both technology and money have been developed within specific historical contexts by powerful interests that gained great advantage from their development. Almost all technology, he argues, is devoted to advancing the interests of higher circles, maximizing profits and corporate production, or in the case of government, maximizing surveillance, communication, and military striking power. New advances in technology are not neutral things. They impact upon us and our environment in ways that can advantage some and hurt others, according to Parenti. He writes similarly about money: "Like technology, money has a feedback effect of its own, advantaging the already advantaged", liquefying wealth, making it easier to mobilize and accumulate. With the growth of moneyed wealth comes a greater concentration and command over technology by the moneyed class.
Few phenomena in the social order can operate with neutral effect even
if supposedly pursued with neutral intent, according to Parenti. The national debt is a good example. Considered merely as a “problem” of excessive government spending, the national debt in fact works well for certain interests, specifically the moneyed class, Parenti claims. By 1977,he noted how the national debt brought a transfer of income from the taxpayers to the wealthy creditors, the holders of government bonds. The greater the debt, the greater the upward transfer, as the government continues to borrow money from those they should be taxing (the big money interests). Parenti concludes it is no accident that the biggest deficit spenders have been conservative presidents like Ronald Reagan
Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States , the 33rd Governor of California and, prior to that, a radio, film and television actor....
and both George H. W. Bush
George Herbert Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 41st President of the United States . He had previously served as the 43rd Vice President of the United States , a congressman, an ambassador, and Director of Central Intelligence.Bush was born in Milton, Massachusetts, to...
and George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....
. The national debt is in effect a way of privatizing public spending and defunding the federal budget, Parenti argues. The bigger the debt, the less money available for domestic programs, and the more money that goes from the pockets of ordinary taxpayers to rich creditors.
Parenti’s treatment of fascism differs from that of the many writers who stress the irrational features of fascism: its state idolatry, nationalistic atavism, and leadership cult. While not denying that these are key components in the propagation of fascism’s appeal, he invites us not to overlook the “rational politico economic functions” that fascism performed. “Much of politics is the rational manipulation of irrational symbols,” he claims. The emotive appeals of fascist ideology have served a class-control function, “distracting the populace from their legitimate grievances and directing their frustrations at various scapegoats.”
Most of the immense literature on the subject of fascism and Nazism focuses on who supported Hitler’s rise to power. Relatively little, Parenti writes, is said about whom the Nazis supported when they came to power. In both fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, he points out, wages were cut drastically, domestic programs were rolled back, huge subsidies were given to heavy industry, labor unions were broken, taxes on the very rich were greatly reduced or eliminated altogether, and workplace safety regulations were ignored or abolished. Fascism, he concludes, has a much overlooked politico- economic agenda; it involves something more than just goose stepping.
U.S. foreign policy is neither confused nor bungling, according to Parenti. It is quite consistently directed toward certain goals, and is largely successful. For the most part, U.S. leaders have maintained friendly relations with those governments that have opened up their countries to Western corporate investors, and have shown hostility toward those countries that have tried to use their land, labor, natural resources, and markets for their own self-development, Parenti believes. Iraq was targeted for “having committed economic nationalism,” with a state-run economy that pretty much shut out Western investors. The same holds true for Yugoslavia, he claims. Both countries were bombed and invaded, and their public economies were shattered. Parenti believes that Yugoslavia was transformed from a viable social democracy to a cluster of little right-wing mini-republics.
Parenti's beliefs led him to become head of the United States chapter of the International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milošević
Slobodan Milošević was President of Serbia and Yugoslavia. He served as the President of Socialist Republic of Serbia and Republic of Serbia from 1989 until 1997 in three terms and as President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia from 1997 to 2000...
, in which capacity he added to the criticisms of bias in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
The International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia since 1991, more commonly referred to as the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia or ICTY, is a...
Parenti also maintains that the U.S. empire feeds off the U.S. republic. The empire’s expansion abroad entails increasing costs for the republic. Ventures that are profitable for military contractors and overseas investors have to be paid in blood and taxes by the American populace. The many third world countries that are the targets of colonial intervention pay the highest price, he writes. They suffer not from underdevelopment, but from “maldevelopment,” a result of generations of overexploitation
Overexploitation, also called overharvesting, refers to harvesting a renewable resource to the point of diminishing returns. Sustained overexploitation can lead to the destruction of the resource...
Many on the left continue to deliver impassioned and blanket condemnations of deceased communist countries, Parenti states. “Those of us who refused to join in the Soviet bashing were branded by left anti-communists as ‘Soviet apologists’ and ‘Stalinists,’ even if we disliked Stalin and his autocratic system of rule and believed there were things seriously wrong with existing Soviet society.”
Parenti did in fact make a number of criticisms of the Soviet Union. In 1986 he wrote: "In the USSR there exist serious problems of labor productivity, industrialization, urbanization, bureaucracy, corruption, and alcoholism. There are production and distribution bottlenecks, plan failures, consumer scarcities, criminal abuses of power, suppression of dissidents, and expressions of alienation among some of the population."
More recently he wrote that the state-owned economies of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union suffered “fatal distortions in their development” because of the years of “embargo, invasion, devastating wars, and costly arms buildup; excessive bureaucratization and poor incentive systems; lack of administrative initiative and technological innovation; and a repressive political rule that allowed little critical expression and feedback while fostering stagnation and elitism.” Some on the left heavily criticized Parenti for what they saw as his defense of such regimes, however, in his book Blackshirt and Reds. http://flag.blackened.net/revolt/freeearth/ice_pick.html
Parenti argues that “despite the well-publicized deficiencies, crimes, and injustices, there were positive features about existing communist systems that were worth preserving, such as the free medical care and human services; affordable food, fuel, transportation, and housing; universal literacy; gains in women’s rights; free education to the highest level of one’s ability; a guaranteed right to a job; free cultural and sporting events, and the like.”
He supported Gorbachev’s campaign of perestroika and glasnost until 1990 when it became evident to him that the Gorbachev reforms were leading to the implantation of free-market capitalism and were, as he saw it, bringing hardships to the common people.
Parenti maintains that the structural problems of free-market transnational capitalism will only worsen the living standards of people in the United States and abroad, while deepening the environmental crises.
He advocates a greater measure of public ownership in the USA. Parenti asks “can socialism work? ... Is it not just a dream in theory and a nightmare in practice? Can the government produce anything of worth?” He goes on to point out that it already does citing publicly owned transportation systems, utilities, banking, education, and health services that are run efficiently by the governments of the USA and various social democracies
Social democracy is a political ideology of the center-left on the political spectrum. Social democracy is officially a form of evolutionary reformist socialism. It supports class collaboration as the course to achieve socialism...
and at a far lesser cost than their private counterparts.
Parenti points to the increasingly catastrophic droughts, storms, floods, and abnormally high temperatures in many parts of the world to justify a hypothesis that the widely discussed ecological crisis of global warming will not be upon us “by the end of the century” or “in the lives of our grandchildren,” but is already happening today. He builds on this in an essay, "Why the Corporate Rich Oppose Environmentalism," to argue that immediate and immense profits that come at a cost to the environment are of more concern to corporate investors than the diffuse and long-run damage done to the global ecology.
History and historiography
Much of Parenti’s work draws upon history. In his History as Mystery
name="history"> he takes the old adage that history is written by the victors and fleshes it out with examples drawn from ancient and modern times. In regard to early Christianity, for instance, he maintains that, contrary to popular notions, the “Jesus worshipers” did not gather most of their followers from the poor and downtrodden but from the more affluent strata. Some Christian leaders discouraged slaves from converting to Christianity. Slaves were prohibited from becoming church deacons or priests, he maintains. Contrary to conventional US notions, he argues that the Christians were not the keepers of learning and scholarship during the Dark Ages but played a relentless role in destroying all the advanced learning and all the libraries of antiquity that were in their reach.
In The Assassination of Julius Caesar
, he states that many historians, both ancient and modern, have treated popular insurgencies and the common people with fear and loathing, depicting them as mindless rootless mobs of ne’er-do-wells. He also argues that Caesar and other popular reformers of the Roman Republic before him were assassinated not because they were violating the Roman constitution but because they were advocating reforms that benefited the commoners at a cost to the aristocracy. He does not draw a link between Caesarism and the eventual descent of the Republic into the despotism of the Empire.
Appearances in Film and Television
Apart from several recordings of some of his public speeches, Parenti has also appeared in the 1992 documentary Panama Deception and the 2004 documentary Liberty Bound as an author and social commentator.
In addition, he was interviewed for two episodes of the Showtime series Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, speaking briefly about the Dalai Lama (Episode 305 - Holier Than Thou) and patriotism (Episode 508 - Mount Rushmore).
Michael Parenti's articles