Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The '1619 Project' at the New York Times

This is really a lot, I'll tell you.

I read the hard-copy "1619 Project" at the New York Times Magazine yesterday.

I was actually looking forward to it, and it's interesting and impressive.

It's also wrong.

The main problem is with the central goal and agenda of the entire enterprise, "to reframe American history by considering what it would mean to regard 1619 as our nation's birth year."

That is, to "rewrite" history with America's "original sin" as the singular variable that explains all consequent history of the United States, from the landing of the first black slaves sold in Virginia to the present day of political polarization, incessant racist recrimination, and the politics of Twitter call-out culture. Racism, slavery, white supremacy --- this is the "master" paradigm to understand where we are today, and of course, the master variable that implies only one way forward, the leftist Democrat way, the progressive big-government way, that demonizes and destroys the history of the tremendous courage and sacrifice of all Americans in making this nation --- and our exceptional national experiment --- the greatest in human history.

Like I said, there's a lot on this.

Start with Damon Linker, at the Week, "The New York Times surrenders to the left on race":

This [project] turns historical scholarship into propaganda for a left-wing political movement.

Saying so doesn't at all imply that journalists should refrain from drawing on the work of historians. But it does mean that when they do draw on that work, they should do so with caution and a fair amount of historiographical sophistication, realizing that no single narrative of the past is the indisputably right one, and that new interpretations that break sharply from a past consensus often go too far. That's especially true when the new claims advance a radical political agenda.

And the 1619 Project is all about advancing a radical political agenda. The message it aims to convey is clear: The United States is and always has been, from its very origin, a racist country infected by a white supremacist ideology that has birthed and nurtured institutions and systems — from Congress to capitalism — that systematically disadvantage black Americans. Political actors of the present have a simple choice: They can either embrace (invariably left-liberal or socialist) policies that will begin the process of dismantling these pervasive forms of structural injustice — or they can oppose doing so and ensure that the injustices continue, with toxic racism remaining where it has been for the past four centuries, at the very center of American life. Those are the choices.

You're either part of the solution or part of the problem.

That line is a paraphrase of Eldridge Cleaver, an early leader of the Black Panthers, the revolutionary black nationalist organization founded in 1966, and it's fitting to refer to him here, since the publication of the 1619 Project represents the definitive triumph of left-wing activism over journalistic skepticism, circumspection, and restraint at The New York Times — and not just at the NYTM, since the newspaper has promised to publish more contributions to the 1619 Project in the coming days and weeks. As if the content of last Sunday's paper wasn't evidence enough of this development, the leaked transcript of a recent town-hall meeting at the Times gives us an added glimpse of how reporters and editors now think and talk about race. Here is a representative comment addressed to executive editor Dean Baquet:
Staffer: I just feel like racism is in everything. It should be considered in our science reporting, in our culture reporting, in our national reporting. And so, to me, it's less about the individual instances of racism, and sort of how we're thinking about racism and white supremacy as the foundation of all of the systems in the country. And I think particularly as we are launching a 1619 Project, I feel like that's going to open us up to even more criticism from people who are like, "OK, well you're saying this, and you're producing this big project about this. But are you guys actually considering this in your daily reporting?" [Slate]
Racism is in everything. White supremacy is the foundation of all of the systems in the country. Those are fairly extreme, unmodulated statements. Did Baquet respond by pointing out that, while racism exists and needs to receive coverage in the paper, there are many other ways to talk about America and its history — by placing it in international context, by highlighting aspects of the American past that go beyond race, by raising issues of class and ethnicity and gender, by engaging with contrary intellectual, cultural, and economic currents, social trends, and ways of understanding?
Also very good is Rich Lowry, at the New York Post, "The left's vile smear of America's founding."

Plus, Dan McLaughlin has an incredible Twitter thread, which would be better for students to learn in school that NYT's slavery project --- and I don't exaggerate.

At Twitchy, "Class is in SESSION: Dan McLaughlin’s thread on American history makes New York Times look even more desperate."

Also, via Memeorandum, at Slate, "Who Got the Maddest About the New York Times’ Slavery Coverage?"

The Pulitzer Center has the pdf of Sunday's magazine, so no worry about the Times' paywall.