Jon Wiener

Picture of Jon Wiener
Professor Emeritus, History
School of Humanities
Ph.D., Harvard University, 1972, Government
University of California, Irvine

Research Interests
Recent American history; Cold War culture.
Research Abstract
'Set the Night on Fire: L.A. in the Sixties," is a movement history of the city where Malcolm X got his start and Angela Davis became America's most famous radical. The spine of the book is the movements of Black and Chicano activists, around which swirled the anti-war movement, women's liberation, gay liberation, and the counterculture.

In 'How We Forgot The Cold War: A Historical Journey Across America' (University of California Press, 2012), I report on visits to Cold War monuments, museums, and memorials to find out how the era is being remembered. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990-91, Democrats joined Republicans in launching an initiative to define those events as a victory comparable to the defeat of fascism — the defeat of the totalitarian enemy by the forces of freedom. The striking fact about this immense effort to shape public memory is that it failed. The monuments weren't built, the official sites have few visitors, and many of the museums have now shifted their focus to other topics. In the book I sort out the range of responses to Cold War commemoration, ranging from apathy to skepticism to resistance.

I've also spent considerable time since 1983 in a Freedom of Information lawsuit against the FBI for their files on John Lennon. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court before most of the outstanding issues were settled in 1997. The story of the litigation, and its fruits, and the subject of "Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files," published by the University of California Press in 2000. Tom Carson wrote in the Washington Post, "As pure courtroom drama, Wiener's account of the fight to get the files released is often fascinating, with reversals and surprises." The London Independent called it "an extraordinary portrait of official paranoia."

I'm also a long-time contributing editor of The Nation magazine, America's oldest weekly, where I write about campus issues, intellectual contrversies, and southern California politics. My articles have also appeared in the New York Times magazine, The New York Times Book Review, and the Los Angeles Times, as well as the American Historical Review and the Journal of American History. My previous book, "Professors, Politics and Pop," is a collection of these essays. "Wiener takes the modern university as his beat, and covers it like a police reporter," reviewer John Leonard wrote. "Wiener's mean streets are the think tank, the scholarly symposium, and the faculty lounge."

At UCI I taught a course on the history of American elections as well as graduate seminars on "Cold War Culture."
Set the Night on Fire: L.A. in the Sixties (co-authored by Mike Davis) (Verso Books, 2020)
'‘Witness to the Revolution,’ by Clara Bingham.' New York Times Book Review, June 8, 2016.
» How We Forgot The Cold War: A Historical Journey Across America (University of California Press, 2012).

» Big Tobacco and the Historians. The Nation, March 15, 2010.

» Out of the Depths: A Weather Underground Memoir. Los Angeles Times Book Review, March 29, 2009.

» “America, Through a Glass Darkly” (on Richard Hofstadter). The Nation, Oct. 23. 2006, pp. 36-40.

» Conspiracy in the Streets: The Extraordinary Trial of the Chicago Seven. Edited with an introduction by Jon Wiener; afterword by Tom Hayden; drawings by Jules Feiffer. New York: The New Press, 2020.

» Historians in Trouble: Plagiarism, Fraud and Power in the Ivory Tower (New York: New Press, 2005)

» Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI File (University of California Press, 2000)

» Professors, Politics and Pop (London and New York: Verso Books, 1994)

» “Civil War, Cold War, Civil Rights: The Civil War Centennial in Context, 1960-1965.” in Alice Fahs and Joan Waugh, eds., Civil War Memory. (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2004.)

» "Pop and Avant-Garde: The Case of John and Yoko." Popular Music and Society 22.1 (1998), 1-18.

» "Thinking in Public." American Literary History 10.1 (1998), 77-83.

» "Radical Historians and the Crisis in American History, 1959-1980," Journal of American History 76 (1989), 399-434; "Rejoinder," 475-78.

» "The Responsibilities of Friendship: Jacques Derrida on Paul de Man's Collaboration." Critical Inquiry 14 (1989), 797-803.
Professional Societies
Society of American Historians
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