Friday, July 09, 2021

1619 Project: Falsification To Obtain Power - What Lengths To Retain That Power?

WSWS  |  On August 14, 2019, the New York Times unveiled the 1619 Project. Timed to coincide with the four hundredth anniversary of the arrival of the first slaves in colonial Virginia, the 100-page special edition of the New York Times Magazine consisted of a series of essays that present American history as an unyielding racial struggle, in which black Americans have waged a solitary fight to redeem democracy against white racism.

The Times mobilized vast editorial and financial resources behind the 1619 Project. With backing from the corporate-endowed Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting, hundreds of thousands of copies were sent to schools. The 1619 Project fanned out to other media formats. Plans were even announced for films and television programming, backed by billionaire media personality Oprah Winfrey.

As a business venture the 1619 Project clambers on, but as an effort at historical revision it has been, to a great extent, discredited. This outcome is owed in large measure to the intervention of the World Socialist Web Site, with the support of a number of distinguished and courageous historians, which exposed the 1619 Project for what it is: a combination of shoddy journalism, careless and dishonest research, and a false, politically-motivated narrative that makes racism and racial conflict the central driving forces of American history.

In support of its claim that American history can be understood only when viewed through the prism of racial conflict, the 1619 Project sought to discredit American history’s two foundational events: The Revolution of 1775–83, and the Civil War of 1861–65. This could only be achieved by a series of distortions, omissions, half-truths, and false statements—deceptions that are catalogued and refuted in this book.

The New York Times is no stranger to scandals produced by dishonest and unprincipled journalism. Its long and checkered history includes such episodes as its endorsement of the Moscow frame-up trials of 1936–38 by its Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent, Walter Duranty, and, during World War II, its unconscionable decision to treat the murder of millions of European Jews as “a relatively unimportant story” that did not require extensive and systematic coverage. [3] More recently, the Times was implicated, through the reporting of Judith Miller and the columns of Thomas Friedman, in the peddling of government misinformation about “weapons of mass destruction” that served to legitimize the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Many other examples of flagrant violations of even the generally lax standards of journalistic ethics could be cited, especially during the past decade, as the New York Times—listed on the New York Stock Exchange with a market capitalization of $7.5 billion—acquired increasingly the character of a media empire.

The “financialization” of the Times has proceeded alongside another critical determinant of the newspaper’s selection of issues to be publicized and promoted: that is, its central role in the formulation and aggressive marketing of the policies of the Democratic Party. This process has served to obliterate the always tenuous boundary lines between objective reporting and sheer propaganda. The consequences of the Times’ financial and political evolution have found a particularly reactionary expression in the 1619 Project. Led by Ms. Nikole Hannah-Jones and New York Times Magazine editor Jake Silverstein, the 1619 Project was developed for the purpose of providing the Democratic Party with a historical narrative that legitimized its efforts to develop an electoral constituency based on the promotion of racial politics. Assisting the Democratic Party’s decades-long efforts to disassociate itself from its identification with the social welfare liberalism of the New Deal to Great Society era, the 1619 Project, by prioritizing racial conflict, marginalizes, and even eliminates, class conflict as a notable factor in history and politics.

The shift from class struggle to racial conflict did not develop within a vacuum. The New York Times, as we shall explain, is drawing upon and exploiting reactionary intellectual tendencies that have been fermenting within substantial sections of middle-class academia for several decades.

The political interests and related ideological considerations that motivated the 1619 Project determined the unprincipled and dishonest methods employed by the Times in its creation. The New York Times was well aware of the fact that it was promoting a race-based narrative of American history that could not withstand critical evaluation by leading scholars of the Revolution and Civil War. The New York Times Magazine’s editor deliberately rejected consultation with the most respected and authoritative historians.

Moreover, when one of the Times’ fact-checkers identified false statements that were utilized to support the central arguments of the 1619 Project, her findings were ignored. And as the false claims and factual errors were exposed, the Times surreptitiously edited key phrases in 1619 Project material posted online. The knowledge and expertise of historians of the stature of Gordon Wood and James McPherson were of no use to the Times. Its editors knew they would object to the central thesis of the 1619 Project, promoted by lead essayist Hannah-Jones: that the American Revolution was launched as a conspiracy to defend slavery against pending British emancipation.

 

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