Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Sean Wilentz Rebuts Jake Silverstein's Mendacious Defense of the "1619 Project"

Well, this is devastating.
   Of course the subordination of truth to dogma is the central characteristic of political correctness, itself the central phenomenon of the contemporary left... So I doubt that Silverstein, Hannah-Jones et al. will care much that they're wrong...except insofar as it thwarts their political efforts.
   Unfortunately, Wilentz ends with this:

   The specific criticisms of the 1619 Project that my colleagues and I raised in our letter, and the dispute that has ensued, are not about historical trajectories or the intractability of racism or anything other than the facts—the errors contained in the 1619 Project as well as, now, the errors in Silverstein’s response to our letter. We wholeheartedly support the stated goal to educate widely on slavery and its long-term consequences. Our letter attempted to advance that goal, one that, no matter how the history is interpreted and related, cannot be forwarded through falsehoods, distortions, and significant omissions. Allowing these shortcomings to stand uncorrected would only make it easier for critics hostile to the overarching mission to malign it for their own ideological and partisan purposes, as some had already begun to do well before we wrote our letter. 
  Taking care of the facts is, I believe, all the more important in light of current political realities. The New York Times has taken a lead in combatting the degradation of truth and assault on a free press propagated by Donald Trump’s White House, aided and abetted by Vladimir Putin’s Russia, and spun by the far right on social media. American democracy is in a perilous condition, and the Times can report on that danger only by upholding its standards “without fear or favor.” That is why it is so important that lapses such as those pointed out in our letter receive attention and timely correction. When describing history, more is at stake than the past.

Starts off well...but quickly degenerates into a fairly standard confusion: suggesting that the real reason to oppose lies by the left is that they can be exploited by non-leftists. Wilentz shows clear regard for the truth, so I doubt he really believes that wholeheartedly...I wish he'd have just stuck with: you are advancing falsehoods, and that's wrong.
   And as for the NYT "taking the lead in combatting the degradation of truth..." My God...could anything be further from the truth? And again with Putin and Rooskies under the bed... The Times isn't defending truth against Trump. They're defending their political position and social hegemony against him. He's a piker compared to them with when it comes to sophistry and propaganda. And he's got the dial turned up to 11 when it comes to manufacturing bullshit. So that's saying something. And "far-right social media" barely exists compared to radical leftist social media--and the Times. American democracy is in a perilous condition...but not because of Trump. He's the output of democracy. He's freaking democracy in action. Maybe you don't like democracy. But that's a different point. It's the left that's threatening democracy by trying to undo the '16 election. Even if they were doing the right thing, it'd still be antidemocratic. And I'm not sure you can say that the "1619 Project" is a lapse by the Times... More like: the culmination of its recent trajectory.
   But I shouldn't be complaining about this stuff. We owe Wilentz a debt of gratitude for refusing to be bullshitted and worn down to a standstill by Silverstein's sophistry.


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