SocraticGadfly: The 1619 Project AND its opponents are all wet

January 09, 2020

The 1619 Project AND its opponents are all wet

I'd read bits and pieces from the New York Times' ongoing project to claim that 1619, not 1776, is the real beginnings of America.

Neocentrist mush-pulper Conor Friedersdorf of the Atlantic is the latest to call out the old black lady, citing "enemy of my enemy" support such as World Socialist (who are generally Trots) and Ibram X. Kendi, who bats around something like the black nationalist world. (Contra what you might think on the X, though, he's not a black Muslim.) They can't agree with one another why the 1619 Project is wrong, just that it is. I could tell the others are wrong from reading; I'd read snippets of 1619 pieces and knew it was less than fully right at the time it was breathlessly announced.

So, they're ALL wrong, at least to some degree. Wrong enough to set off a Tweetstorm on my part which I will expand into a blog post.

Let's start!
Friedersdorf may not have directly chosen the header, but it accurately reflects his take. And it's wrong right from the header.

The Somerset decision? Writing from memory, I got the year wrong. It was 1772. But, fear of it was behind fear of Dunmore's Declaration about freeing Virginia slaves once the Revolutionary War started. So, ONE cause? Indeed. WSWS mentioned Dunmore but not Somerset; Friedersdorf mentions neither.

And, I blogged about that issue in much detail, plus a follow-up. It eventually led Reed flak and flunky Doug Henwood to block me on Twitter and vice versa. (Several months before that, possibly not wanting to believe that red states, on average, have less income inequality than blue ones, Henwood got the order backward on state Gini coefficients, not realizing that Utah has the least income inequality in the union.)

Next, let's kick the 1619 Project itself:
Was Lincoln perfect? No, but he did "evolve," and evolve indeed, on race issues throughout his life and through the Civil War. Frederick Douglass knew that.

Meanwhile, would Trots be hypocritical? Does the Pope shit in the woods? Is a bear a Presbyterian? 
I once was a member of its Yahoo group. But, for years, I don't waste my time on Trots, any more than on conspiracy theorists.

I promised more on Reed:
Just a throwaway, but fun. (I'll have yet more below.)

Now to Kendi:
I've called out James Loewen for promoting this BS before. And, if you do it willingly, after being called out? You're promoting racism. I don't care if you're black. Stop it.

Friedersdorf is bad enough to get two tweets, even at the 280-character length:
and then:
I easily could have tweeted more about him. Friedersdorf epitomizes everything I don't like about The Atlantic and I'll be fine if Steve Jobs's widow puts him behind a paywall.

Now, back to Adolph Reed (and the Trots).

World Socialist interviewed him about the 1619 Project. He takes the typical left-Socialist and Communist tack of trying to reduce race — and culture — to class.


A study of human evolutionary development shows xenophobia, which often became articulated in race or culture stances, existed long before capitalism. Capitalism may have intensified it, but it didn't start it. And, beyond Marxism being a pseudoscience (it is; crappy philosophy used as the framework for even a marginal social science like economics pushes you into pseudoscience), Reed's take epitomizes one other problem with it — dialectical materialism usually turns into not just reductionism but greedy reductionism. That's why it's funny, until we call it hypocritical, for him to call out critical race theory for being reductionistic.

It's not just Trots, though. Jacobin, whose editorial content sprawls the gamut between DSA Democrats and Sovietskis of some sort, of not necessarily Trotskysts, does the same as Reed and WSWS on capitalism and antisemitism.

I will give Reed credit for cooking the goose of both Kendi and Ta-Nehisi Coates.

I will also say that Reed is almost certainly right in thinking there's an element of capitalist career-hiking here. Certainly with the 1619 Project writers themselves and almost certainly with Kendi. Probably with Coates. I am reminded of the allegedly environmentalist SJW Instagram influencers last year who played High Country News for fools. (Actually, it was about 50-50 between that and a self-own by HCN, which was one of several reasons I quit subscribing.)

Teh stupidz, it burns!

And, when all is said and done, it burns least stupid, by a decent margin with Reed, but only for calling out the capitalist motives. Setting that said, it's a tie for the bottom between him, WSWS in general, 1619 folks, and the likes of Kendi.

No, it's a tie for second-bottom. Friedersdorf's gelatinous crap is still at the bottom.


Now, what do the opponents get right? Even more, opponents that Friedersdorf mentions but that get less airplay?

First is that the first blacks, arriving in 1619, like certain whites, were indentured servants, not slaves. Related to that is that a majority of Virginians at that time were indentured servants but that the majority was white. Nell Irvin Painter, author of "The History of White People" and other books, is one pointing this out. But, all Friedersdorf can do is attack her for not signing the letter against the project, then attack her for why she didn't sign, when instead, it's a reason plausible and logical.

If one wants a "turning point" year or years and bases it on Virginia, per Painter's piece, it would be 1676-77 and Bacon's Rebellion. The ruling class, after eventually putting it down, hardened slavery and made it more race focused, to break the ties between indentured servants, more and more of them white, and slaves, mainly black.

And, that maneuver worked. It eventually led to "poor whites" becoming "mudsills," like President Andrew Johnson and like many Trump voters. I discuss that issue in a full 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 part series.


Update, Jan. 16: At Washington Babylon, Andrew Stewart tries to spin for the project by referencing Gerald Horne. Horne is quoted as indicating 1619 Project is in trouble with "the ruling class." Hey, Stew? Hey, Horne? The Trots and Reed aren't exactly "ruling class." And Painter's criticisms, as noted above, which Stew doesn't mention, are still correct.

Update, March 3: A really not-bad-overall opponents-side piece is from John McWhorter.

1 comment:

Gadfly said...

Note to readers: This "Lincolnbible" website and the 2019 project's blog, the "1619 project," neither actually have anything to do with the 1619 project. You can skip them. And, I may delete that post.