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21 Sep, 2020 20:10

US NOT founded on slavery after all? #1619Gate trends as NYT project memory-holes its central claim

US NOT founded on slavery after all? #1619Gate trends as NYT project memory-holes its central claim

In what seemed like damage control after President Donald Trump threatened to defund schools teaching the 1619 Project, the New York Times has dropped its claim that US history began with slavery, triggering an immense backlash.

All hell broke loose after the chief author of the 1619 Project attempted on Friday to quietly reverse course on the project’s claim that 1619 – the year the first African slaves arrived on American shores – was the nation’s “true” founding. Critics also revealed that the paper itself had quietly changed its own text. Even one of the project leader's former colleagues ripped into the paper’s lapse in “journalistic ethics” on Sunday, triggering further backlash to the backlash.

Over the weekend, the 1619 Project’s critics painted a damning picture of the erstwhile ‘paper of record,’ muscling the project’s central claim into an Orwellian memory-hole – only to be themselves accused of racism and even stalking.

Times writer Nikole Hannah-Jones was accused of gaslighting by members of the political right and left alike on Friday as she denied the project’s aims had ever been to claim the US was literally founded to protect and prolong the institution of slavery. Even after one journalist targeted by her alleged misrepresentation dug up a snapshot from the Wayback Machine showing that the New York Times itself had cited “1619 as our true founding,” she dismissed it as “ancillary digital intro” – whatever that means. 

While Hannah-Jones won a Pulitzer for being the “staff writer… from whose mind [the 1619 Project] sprang,” she has retroactively attempted to soft-pedal her stated convictions that the US was “founded not as a democracy but as a slavocracy” in an apparent effort to salvage the credibility of her employer. Her Twitter feed, she stated on Monday in the course of a vow to “spend a lot less time on here,” was “not official 1619 Project copy.” She repeatedly argued the Times had never actually claimed the US was founded in August 1619.

But even the link Hannah-Jones shared in her sign-off retort to critics confirmed their claims, affirming Times had labeled the 1619 arrival of the first African slaves as “the moment [America] began” and “the country’s true birth date, the moment that its defining contradictions first came into the world, was in late August of 1619.” Her own tweets contradict her.

Hannah-Jones’ detractors helpfully supplied a plethora of other links containing the original text – and pointed out that until very recently, all criticism had been blamed on misrepresentation by nebulous right-wing evildoers. 

Just weeks after Trump threatened to strip federal funding from any school teaching the Pulitzer Prize-winning series earlier this month, the Times edited the 1619 Project’s intro text on its webpage to soften its historical revisionism. Critics demanded an explanation – which has not been forthcoming – and some even compared the lapse in "ethics in journalism" to GamerGate. 

Meanwhile, Trump has called for a “1776 Commission” to teach “patriotic” American history, triggering further seething from Hannah-Jones and her colleagues.

Also on rt.com Patriotism v revisionism: Trump’s war against the 1619 Project is a battle for the soul of America

The 1619 Project has been controversial since day one, its publication eliciting condemnation by historians who pointed out its missteps on “matters of verifiable fact” and seeming prioritization of ideology over reality. Even historians who celebrated the project’s efforts to shine a light on the role played by slavery in early American history criticized the 1619 Project for playing fast and loose with the truth, all while the Times allegedly ignored corrections submitted by sympathetic fact-checkers. 

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