Monday, December 23, 2019

Historians Call Bullshit On The NYT's "1619 Project"; Times's Response: Hey, We're Journalists Not Historians

   The Times goes on to offer an extremely long-winded and unpersuasive response. The historians note that the "project" is based on provably false claims. The Times responds, basically, that, hey, there's a little bit of evidence for something in the vicinity of their false claims, so...
   Which is how propaganda works. It's usually not just fabricated out of whole cloth. You find a little truth here or there, you spin it up, you dye it the color you want it to doesn't take much such stuff to produce this sort of thing.
   Look, the "1619 project" is leftist propaganda. Maybe--maybe--slavery is more central to American history than is commonly acknowledged. But there's simply no way to make it the central fact of that history. Citing Jill Lepore's recent popular history of the U.S. doesn't impress me much. After listening to most of it, I drifted away from it largely because of the non-stop drumbeat of slavery racism SLAVERY RACISM...
   Needless to say, it's hard to be objective about American slavery. In some moods, its awfulness seems beyond comprehension. But it was far from unique. Which doesn't make it less than awful...but you simply can't understand it without understanding it as one component of a world that was, in most ways, more brutal than our own. Slavery wasn't unique to America. We didn't invent it. We planted seeds that helped destroy it. Except, of course, it isn't destroyed. But, according to the Times, slavery still conducted by non-Americans is less worthy of attention than slavery eliminated by us nearly 150 years ago... Wonder why that is?
   Furthermore, the Times's response makes clear that its "project" was largely based on work by "scholars of African-American history and related fields." Those sectors of academia are well-known for leftists political bias. If you want to write an objective history of the U.S., you might want to include such perspectives--but if you make them central, you're not going to end up with an objective account.
   But, of course: an objective account is not what the NYT wants.
   They conclude:
That, above all, is what we hoped our project would do: expand the reader’s sense of the American past. (This is how some educators are using it to supplement their teaching of United States history.) That is what the letter writers have done, in different ways, over the course of their distinguished careers and in their many books. Though we may disagree on some important matters, we are grateful for their input and their interest in discussing these fundamental questions about the country’s history.
No...that's not what you have said the "project" is supposed to do. That's not the explicitly-stated point of the thing. Their point is that slavery is the central fact about American history. They seek to convince people of that claim--that false claim--not merely to "expand the reader's sense of the American past." That latter, very general goal is easy--even the most incompetent history can sometimes do that. The former, much more specific, goal amounts to this: they aim to convince people that a politically correct falsehood is true.


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