Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Are Political Questions ONLY About How Government Secures Persons And Property?

WSWS  |  The most obvious error made by the 1619 Project—that the American Revolution was waged to stop British abolition of slavery—became indefensible after the Times’ own fact checker, Leslie Harris of Northwestern University, felt compelled to admit that she had “vigorously” opposed it. Silverstein tried to manage this exposure of the Times’ dishonest suppression of the fact-checker’s objection with a clever “cut and paste” modification of Hannah-Jones’ false claim. The original categorical denunciation of pre-1619 Project historiography had read:

Conveniently left out of our founding mythology is the fact that one of the primary reasons the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery. By 1776, Britain had grown deeply conflicted over its role in the barbaric institution that had reshaped the Western Hemisphere. [Emphasis added]

Silverstein added two words so that the amended version now reads:

Conveniently left out of our founding mythology is the fact that one of the primary reasons some of the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery. By 1776, Britain had grown deeply conflicted over its role in the barbaric institution that had reshaped the Western Hemisphere. [Emphasis added]

In the original version, the defense of slavery is presented as “one of the primary reasons” the colonists decided for separation from Britain. In the 1619 Project version 2.0, the concern over the fate of slavery motivates only “some of”—How many? Who? Where?—the colonists. Presto! Problem solved. Or so Silverstein thought. But the modified statement is still false. Far from being “conflicted” over slavery, until 1833 the British Empire maintained its own lucrative slave plantations in the Caribbean, where Loyalist slaveowners fled, human property in tow of His Majesty’s Navy.

As for the Project’s quietly-deleted “true founding” thesis—which was emblazoned on the Times website and repeated again and again by Hannah-Jones on social media, in interviews, and her national lecture tour—Silverstein now claims that this was the product of nothing more than a minor technical error, the sort of snafu that is an inevitable outcome of difficulties for modern-day editors, such as himself, in managing a “multiplatform” publication and “figuring out how to present the same journalism in all those different media.” With all of these formats to tend to, the beleaguered editors of the Times just couldn’t get the story straight! Silverstein does not seem to grasp that the criteria of objective truth do not change as one moves from printed newspaper to website, or from Facebook to Twitter. What is a lie in one format remains a lie in another.

In addition to chalking up the mistaken “true founding” claim to his far-flung editorial responsibilities, Silverstein attempts to defend Hannah-Jones by implying that readers failed to appreciate “the sense that this was a metaphor.” He should have been more attentive, he says, to “online language [that] risked being read literally.” This is among the most inspired of Silverstein’s excuses. From here on in, whenever Times correspondents like Judith Miller are caught lying, its editors may claim that the journalists are writing in metaphors that are not to be read literally.

Silverstein cites the original, “metaphorical,” version of the 1619 Project. This is the version that was sent out to school children. It read, with emphasis added:

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 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 our defining contradictions first came into the world, was in late August of 1619?

He then quotes the revised passage, that has been made to the online publication only:

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?

Perhaps Silverstein hopes his readers will carelessly jump over this scissors-and-glue work. He writes that the difference in the two passages is “to the wording and the length, not the facts.” But actually, there to be read literally in black and white, the first passage refers specifically to an allegedly false “fact.” If a metaphor is being employed in the original version, it is very well concealed.

Silverstein repeats Hannah-Jones’ conceit that historians have ignored the African American experience. Such a claim exposes both Silverstein’s and Hannah-Jones’ ignorance of historical literature. The 1619 Project is as much a falsification of historiography as it is of history.