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NY Times Columnist Exposes The Deep Deception Of The NY Times’ 1619 Project

NY Times Columnist Exposes The Deep Deception Of The NY Times’ 1619 Project

Bret Stephens has done a public service in exposing the 1619 Project for what it is: An agenda-driven attempt to impose a false and misleading history on our children.

NY Times columnist Bret Stephens, regularly reviled by liberal NY Times readers much as was the resigned Bari Weiss, has written a masterpiece takedown of the NY Times’ 1619 Project.

The 1619 Project is the Times’ attempt to manipulate and recast history to mark the start of the United States as 1619, when the first chattel slave ship arrived. In the Times’ rendering, everything of importance emanates from that event and from slavery.

The central thesis of the 1619 Project, that the colonial rebellion against the British was an attempt to protect slavery against abolition was false, as demonstrably shown by left- and left-leaning historians, and was quietly withdrawn. The rest of the project born of that falsehood pushes on. The Times is pushing this rewrite into secondary and elementary school curricula.

We have covered the sordid travel of 1619 Project many times before, including how its lead author Nikole Hannah-Jones, who won a Pulitzer Prize for the effort, admitted that it is narrative writing, not history:

Stephens masterfully has noted the many flaws of the 1619 Project — the oversimplification, the ideologically determined historical conclusions, and the impropriety of journalists playing historians:

If there’s one word admirers and critics alike can agree on when it comes to The New York Times’s award-winning 1619 Project, it’s ambition. Ambition to reframe America’s conversation about race. Ambition to reframe our understanding of history. Ambition to move from news pages to classrooms. Ambition to move from scholarly debate to national consciousness….

But ambition can be double-edged. Journalists are, most often, in the business of writing the first rough draft of history, not trying to have the last word on it. We are best when we try to tell truths with a lowercase t, following evidence in directions unseen, not the capital-T truth of a pre-established narrative in which inconvenient facts get discarded. And we’re supposed to report and comment on the political and cultural issues of the day, not become the issue itself.

As fresh concerns make clear, on these points — and for all of its virtues, buzz, spinoffs and a Pulitzer Prize — the 1619 Project has failed….

None of this should have come as a surprise: The 1619 Project is a thesis in search of evidence, not the other way around….

The larger problem is that The Times’s editors, however much background reading they might have done, are not in a position to adjudicate historical disputes….

Stephens goes through a litany of problems with the reporting in the 1619 Project quoting historians who have excoriated the project. Read the whole thing, I don’t want to end up reprinting the entire column. Here’s a short example from the column:

[Princeton Historian Sean] Wilentz’s catalog of the project’s mistakes is extensive. Hannah-Jones’s essay claimed that by 1776 Britain was “deeply conflicted” over its role in slavery. But despite the landmark Somerset v. Stewart court ruling in 1772, which held that slavery was not supported by English common law, it remained deeply embedded in the practices of the British Empire. The essay claimed that, among Londoners, “there were growing calls to abolish the slave trade” by 1776. But the movement to abolish the British slave trade only began about a decade later — inspired, in part, Wilentz notes, by American antislavery agitation that had started in the 1760s and 1770s. The list goes on.

Stephens’ most stinging criticisms are beyond the inaccuracies, and to the agenda:

Almost inevitably, what began as a scholarly quarrel became a political one.

About a month before the project’s publication, [NY Times Editor Jake] Silverstein reached out to the Pulitzer Center to propose a 1619 curriculum for schools. Soon thereafter, the project was being introduced into classrooms across the country.

It’s one thing for a newspaper to publish the 1619 Project by way of challenging its subscribers: After all, they pay for the product. It’s quite another to become a pedagogical product for schoolchildren who, along with their parents, in most cases probably don’t subscribe. This was stepping into the political fray in a way that was guaranteed to invite not just right-wing blowback, but possible federal involvement.

That’s exactly what has happened. When “1619” was spray-painted on a toppled statue of George Washington, many people took angry or horrified notice. When Hannah-Jones tweeted that “it would be an honor” for the summer’s unrest to be called “the 1619 riots,” the right took notice again. For many, the 1619 Project smacked of fake history coming from the “fake news” — with results that were all too real. As unbidden gifts to Donald Trump go, it could hardly have been sweeter than that.

But even beyond the inaccuracies and the agenda, Stephens unravels the deceptive (my word, not his) way in which the entire goal of the 1619 Project was quietly altered.

Those concerns came to light last month when a longstanding critic of the project, Phillip W. Magness, noted in the online magazine Quillette that references to 1619 as the country’s “true founding” or “moment [America] began” had disappeared from the digital display copy without explanation.

These were not minor points. The deleted assertions went to the core of the project’s most controversial goal, “to reframe American history by considering what it would mean to regard 1619 as our nation’s birth year.”

That doesn’t mean that the project seeks to erase the Declaration of Independence from history. But it does mean that it seeks to dethrone the Fourth of July by treating American history as a story of Black struggle against white supremacy — of which the Declaration is, for all of its high-flown rhetoric, supposed to be merely a part.

In a tweet, Hannah-Jones responded to Magness and other critics by insisting that “the text of the project” remained “unchanged,” while maintaining that the case for making 1619 the country’s “true” birth year was “always a metaphoric argument.” I emailed her to ask if she could point to any instances before this controversy in which she had acknowledged that her claims about 1619 as “our true founding” had been merely metaphorical. Her answer was that the idea of treating the 1619 date metaphorically should have been so obvious that it went without saying.

She then challenged me to find any instance in which the project stated that “using 1776 as our country’s birth date is wrong,” that it “should not be taught to schoolchildren,” and that the only one “that should be taught” was 1619. “Good luck unearthing any of us arguing that,” she added.

Here is an excerpt from the introductory essay to the project by The New York Times Magazine’s editor, Jake Silverstein, as it appeared in print in August 2019 (italics added):

“1619. It is not a year that most Americans know as a notable date in our country’s history. Those who do are at most a tiny fraction of those who can tell you that 1776 is the year of our nation’s birth. What if, however, we were to tell you that this fact, which is taught in our schools and unanimously celebrated every Fourth of July, is wrong, and that the country’s true birth date, the moment that its defining contradictions first came into the world, was in late August of 1619?”

Now compare it to the version of the same text as it now appears online:

“1619 is not a year that most Americans know as a notable date in our country’s history. Those who do are at most a tiny fraction of those who can tell you that 1776 is the year of our nation’s birth. What if, however, we were to tell you that the moment that the country’s defining contradictions first came into the world was in late August of 1619?”

In an email, Silverstein told me that the changes to the text were immaterial, in part because it still cited 1776 as our nation’s official birth date, and because the project’s stated aim remained to put 1619 and its consequences as the true starting point of the American story.

Readers can judge for themselves whether these unacknowledged changes violate the standard obligations of transparency for New York Times journalism. The question of journalistic practices, however, raises deeper doubts about the 1619 Project’s core premises.

Completely understated, and devastating.

There’s a lot more I haven’t excerpted. Read the whole thing.

The reaction was predictable. The NY Times journalist union attacked Stephens, in a tweet that now has been deleted, for going against others at the NY Times:

There are plenty of predictions that Stephens will go the way of Bari Weiss, quitting in disgust at the hostile work environment. I don’t know if that’s likely or not. Whatever the outcome of Stephens tenure at the Times, and regardless of what else he has written with which I disagree, he did a public service in exposing the 1619 Project for what it is: An agenda-driven attempt to impose a false and misleading history on our children.


After this post went live, the NY Time Editor mentioned in Stephens’ column released a statement from the publisher of the NY Times standing by the 1619 Project.



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notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital | October 11, 2020 at 9:23 pm

Cracker Jones better get back to her native homeland – Scotland……….

They should revoke the 1619 Pulitzer and give it to Bret for exposing it for the garbage it is.

1776? 1619? I always thought it was 1783.

1776 was a bunch of talk; important talk, but still talk.

In 1619 a Dutch ship brought some two dozen “Negros”, origin unspecified, to territory managed by the Virginia Company, itself operating under a charter granted by James I, a Scot who had inherited the English throne on the death of Elizabeth. The Negros’ status is poorly documented, and modern readers can see in it what they want to see. They were probably considered indentured servants at the time, but might be called slaves today. None of which has much to do with America, but more with Dutch and English mercantile practice.

The 1783 date—the Treaty of Paris—remains secure. Before that, the United States of America was a fiction.

    fscarn in reply to tom_swift. | October 11, 2020 at 10:31 pm

    The Treaty of Paris made it stick, but the creation happened seven years earlier. In that those seven years a lot more was done than a bunch of talking. The Revolutionary War was waged and won. That was not fiction.

    And GB really didn’t want to abide by the 1783 treaty; it was not happy losing those colonies. It routinely practiced all manner of intrigue to undermine the new, young nation. GB assaulted us again in War of 1812, during which Washington was invaded (August, 1814), burning the Capitol Building and the then White House.

It opened a new, sorely missing narrative… His opening statement is an equivocation, a hedge, on the rest of his report. Was it present at or after publication?

    n.n in reply to n.n. | October 11, 2020 at 10:52 pm

    re: equivocation, hedge

    Diversity (i.e. color judgment), not limited to racism, and exclusion, breeds adversity.

It’s a trap. Democrats are trying to topple the statues, erase the monuments, clear their close association, with slavery and diversity past, present, and progressive, while simultaneously minimizing the effort and sacrifice of conservatives’ affirmative stand against them.

JusticeDelivered | October 11, 2020 at 11:56 pm

Down through time slavery was very common, it affected most races. And then there is the fact that many generations have passed.

I don’t see any former slaves other than the ones who ended up in America whining.

At this point we have nearly two generations where blacks have had opportunity on a platter. We have had a rash of people being handed degrees who are not competent, and that has to stop.

It is a fact that American black average IQ is 85, and that average means that half will be lower.

As far as I am concerned, we should end all the affirmative stuff, may the best people prevail.

If the original statement of the project’s purpose was so “obviously” a “metaphoric argument,” why change it? Maybe it wasn’t so “obvious”? Or maybe it wasn’t “metaphoric”?

1619 was created by ignoramuses. Complete fools. Dangerous idiots.

    Ignoramuses, perhaps. But not idiots. The creaters are skilled liars, and most likely profited financially. Al Sharpton alone made over 1 million dollars since the riots. That’s chump changed compared to what his handlers in the democrat machine likely swindled.

Those are the numbers that count.
That refers to the 13% of the population that commits 54% of all murder and non negligent manslaughter in the USA. *

* FBI statistics 2018

….and take her culturally-appropriated hair color with her,

I’m going to be frank, which of course one should never do in 2020.

I have always wished Africans well, and I still do. But I’m tired, just bone-tired of listening to the endless litany of complaints about their problems and getting the blame for all their failures.

If their problem really is white racism, and if they can create their own Wakandan paradise, then I’m all for it. I will happily admit that I was wrong. I don’t wish them harm. I just wish them elsewhere. Abraham Lincoln would back me up on that.

    JusticeDelivered in reply to Dantzig93101. | October 12, 2020 at 12:28 pm

    I feel the same way, in that I want to see all people succeed on merit, but I am tired of those who are too lazy or dumb to make the grade. WE do not try to fluff egos of dumb whites or dumb of any other group. I think that telling people they can succeed in a profession where they will never excel is bad for them and society.

    We need rectify damage already caused all through our society by Affirmative incompetence.

    Dantzig : yours is a tempting sentiment but , I think for now, an unjustified one. Here’s why.
    The whole notion of continuing “systemic racism” does not appear to be honestly subscribed by most black americans.
    Its an invention of a collection of dunce-cap-eligible academics, race-baiting industry participants, opportunistic leftist politicians, neo-Marxists and other assorted pseudo-intellectuals.
    All of the above MOSTLY white.
    This is most vividly typified by the many recent videos of half-witted ( but college “educated”) 20-something females angrily.
    shouting epithets toward black policemen.

The Pulitzer Prize used to be worth something; now, not so much.

To quote Battlestar Galactica, “All this has happened before, and all this will happen again.”
Compare these skirmishes with what went on after the Bancroft Prize was awarded to historian fantasist Michael Bellesiles for “Arming America – The Origins of a National Gun Culture.” The debunking — the closing of ranks by biased media, corrupt professional societies, and dogmatic employers — the continued sapping of the narrative by real scholars until the BS can no longer be mudded on thickly enough to make it hold together anymore — and finally, the withdrawal of the prestigious award.