SEARCH FOR TOMORROW: Stephens extends the search for the past!

MONDAY, AUGUST 26, 2019

The 1519 Project:
Bret Stephens displayed a bit of cheek in Saturday's New York Times.

His famous newspaper is now involved in a major search involving—among other things—the brutal American past. In Saturday's column, he decided to go his paper exactly a hundred years better:
STEPHENS (8/24/19): When Hernán Cortés and his men landed on the coast of Mexico, in 1519, they encountered a world of utter barbarity: incessant warfare, endemic slavery, and human sacrifice on an immense scale. They, in turn, inflicted their own barbarities: massacres, epidemics, forced labor and religious intolerance.

Whether one barbarity was better than the other is not a particularly interesting debate. The conquest of Mexico was another chapter of history as it usually is, a contest for power with little hope for progress.
You read that year correctly! Cortés began his conquest of the Aztec empire in 1519 [sic], when he was 34.

This occurred in the part of the world now known as Mexico. According to the leading authority on his life, Cortés "was part of the generation of Spanish colonizers who began the first phase of the Spanish colonization of the Americas."

Last weekend, in its Sunday magazine, the occasionally self-involved New York Times launched a self-described "major initiative." To review that edition, click here.

This major initiative is called "The 1619 Project." A sensitive observer could almost imagine a bit of overweening pride on the part of the New York Times as the routinely ludicrous newspaper built a framework around its new undertaking:
THE NEW YORK TIMES (8/18/19): In August of 1619, a ship appeared on this horizon, near Point Comfort, a coastal port in the British colony of Virginia. It carried more than 20 enslaved Africans, who were sold to the colonists. No aspect of the country that would be formed here has been untouched by the years of slavery that followed. On the 400th anniversary of this fateful moment, it is finally time to tell our story truthfully.
That text refers to a photograph of an ocean "horizon"—one which looks exactly like every other ocean horizon everywhere in the world. That said, those were the first words a reader encountered if he or she decided to tackle the Times' new quasi-journalistic project.

At any rate, finally! Finally, after all these years, someone was finally going "to tell our story truthfully!" And sure enough:

According to the New York Times, that truth-telling entity was going to be the New York Times itself!

After this initial reveal, editors from this occasionally silly newspaper extended their words of self-praise. Mercifully, these self-impressed souls went unnamed as they offered this description:
THE NEW YORK TIMES (continuing directly): The 1619 Project

The 1619 Project is a major initiative from The New York Times
observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.
Finally! A persistently silly, incompetent newspaper had finally decided to "reframe our history!" Newly describing 1619 as the year of "our true founding," the persistently incompetent paper was going to reconstruct "the story we tell ourselves," the one "about who we are."

We don't mean to prejudge the value of any work the Times will publish as part of this self-ballyhooed project. And of course, everyone but the persistently silly have long understood that our nation's brutal racial history lies at the heart of the American experience, such as it has been.

We don't mean to prejudge the value of any work the Times will publish. That said, we will suggest this:

When an entity like the Times undertakes a "major initiative" on so deeply important a topic, readers would be well-advised to check their wallets every step of the way.

Was Atlanta's traffic jam this morning a result of that brutal history? Did we put too much sugar in our coffee as a result of that history?

Everything is possible! But it's also true that everything can be "reframed," and made the object of our focus, to the possibly unhelpful exclusion of everything else.

At any rate, Stephens observed his employers' year of departure and saw them a century more. As he continued, he left no doubt—his citation of Cortes' year of entry into what is now Mexico was, at least in part, meant to be ironic:
STEPHENS (continuing directly): The Conquistadors and their successors also imported millions of African slaves. Seen in the overall context of the Western Hemisphere—or, for that matter, most of the pre-modern world—the arrival of more than 20 slaves in Virginia a century later was abominable, but not unique.
The 1619 Project is named for the year when those first twenty enslaved persons arrived, against their will, on the shores of our own Virginia. But just for the record, and as Stephens notes, this was part of a hemisphere-wide—indeed, world-wide—system of "barbarities" which had already been underway for a long time at that point.

Does it matter if this constellation of barbarities was already well underway? Does it matter when people like Stephens place the events of 1619 (and beyond) in a wider historical context?

It's pretty much as you'd have it! Personally, we think it's unhelpful and unwise to approach this matter as the Times is doing, though our basic reasons for thinking that seem to be somewhat different from the reservations Stephens goes on to express.

In thinking that way about the Times' project, we could always be wrong. But then again, there was the latest front-page report in that Saturday morning Times, in the same edition which carried Stephens' column.

That front-page report wasn't part of The 1619 Project, except perhaps in spirit. It was the latest front-page report about New York City's public schools—a report which again suggested that "desegregation," and virtually nothing else, will affect the lives of the 1.1 million kids attending those schools today.

Just for the record, the kids attending those public schools weren't alive in 1619. They were all born in the past twenty years. In some cases, they have a younger brother or sister who was born on this very day.

Those brothers and sisters will attend Gotham's public schools too. They'll enter kindergarten in the late summer or fall of 2024, in what a sensate human might even think about calling "The 2024 Project."

What kinds of schools will those children attend? How much happiness will they find in those schools?

To what extent will they end up being equipped to play rewarding roles in the American future, to the extent that such a future exists? How much pleasure will they take from their the various things they do in public school classrooms? How much pleasure will they take from their personal reading?

We ask these questions because the New York Times won't. At that frequently fatuous newspaper, a traffic jam in Atlanta calls 1619 to mind, and the lives of 1.1 million Gotham kids are about only one thing—a "desegregation" which goes unexplained and, absent some sort of explanation, can't necessarily be imagined by sensible human beings.

The Times' ongoing treatment of this topic involves what may be the worst print journalism we have ever seen. It also involves a strange devotion to the past. Also, a refusal to come to terms with the future which rivals Mister Trump's persistently crazy claims concerning climate change.

On its front page this Saturday morning, the New York Times was humping some imagined form of "desegregation" again. Its lengthy report made no earthly sense, in all the standardized ways.

On its front page, the Times was discussing this unexplained god. On page A24, that annoying person, the columnist Stephens, was suggesting that his brutally woke employers may suffer from a type of tunnel vision concerning affairs of this type.

In our view, that front-page report validated the skepticism Stephens seemed to be shopping around. Babies are being born today. What will their histories be?

We'd call that The 2024 Project; it's a bit of a search for tomorrow. Will the tragically woke, obsessive Times ever clamber aboard that sputtering bus?

This project takes place in the future. It involves milk-drinking children born far from Atlanta on this very day.

Tomorrow: As (finally) seen in paragraph 32...

34 comments:

  1. Eh, Bob, let 'em be. One virtue-signaling zombie "project" more, one less, who cares.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We need virtue signaling nowadays. This is the United States of America, you can't just assume the person standing next to you doesn't support facism.

      Delete
  2. "a report which again suggested that "desegregation," and virtually nothing else, will affect the lives of the 1.1 million kids attending those schools today."

    I haven't seen anyone saying that desegregation is a panacea, nor that it is the only thing that will close the racial gap, in NYC or anywhere else.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @11:33A comments, “I haven't seen anyone saying that desegregation is a panacea, nor that it is the only thing that will close the racial gap, in NYC or anywhere else.”

      To be charitable, I’m going to assume that by “racial gap” you mean the racial disparity in test scores and not the demographic gap in school attendance. And you’re right. No one actually says the words “desegregation is a panacea,” but then again TDH doesn’t claim that anyone says that. He’s claiming that when the NYT reports on education in NYC, it talks almost exclusively about segregation. Quibble if you wish about whether that “suggests” what TDH claims it suggests, but below (emphasis mine) I’ve quoted what you apparently failed to glean from the piece.

      Given the emphasis in the reporting and the words of the school system’s Chancellor, do you really regard TDH’s characterization as wrong?

      ~~~~~~~~
      Soon after he took the helm of the nation’s largest school district last year, Richard A. Carranza made his top priority clear: desegregation.

      At an event for student activists this spring, he [Chancellor Carranza] slapped the side of a podium and shouted: “No, we will not wait to integrate our schools, we will not wait to dismantle the segregated systems we have!”

      New York is home to one of the most segregated school systems in the country.

      Even some of the most avid proponents of integration have acknowledged that the system’s demographics make school-by-school diversity daunting, and have focused on ways to desegregate schools….

      … [A]ctivists and academics have offered proposals that they say could begin to chip away at segregation:….

      Brad Lander, a Democratic councilman from Park Slope, Brooklyn, which will implement its own integration effort in September, said that even incremental change on desegregation is meaningful.

      The schools chancellor and the mayor have taken modest steps to integrate slices of the city. They set aside $2 million for more of the city’s 32 local districts to create desegregation plans….

      And … the chancellor has supported several desegregation plans in diverse neighborhoods with segregated schools….

      The mayor and chancellor approved recommendations made by an integration task force….

      As Mr. Carranza faces the start of the school year, he still lacks any significant integration policies of his own.

      The NYT reporter did note that the Chancellor claimed to have helped students in ESL programs, put in place a better discipline code, and “announced” GPS tracking on buses. All without checking on the claims, of course.

      ————
      We hope you enjoyed this example of uncultured impudence and lower middle class ignorance™

      Delete
    2. It isn't true that the NY Times talks only about segregation when it discusses school issues. A few weeks ago, someone posted a series of recent articles that covered a range of school-related topics. I've even seen Somerby discuss Times articles that are not about segregation here -- most they are about NAEP scores.

      Delete
  3. There is a difference between the slavery practiced by the Aztecs, Mayans and Incas. In Mexico and Latin America, slaves became slaves for losing in war, committing some crime or sold themselves into slavery due to debt. They could get themselves out of slavery by paying their purchase price. Their children were born free and slaves could marry.

    In the USA, people became slaves by being captured in Africa and sent on ships, against their will, to a foreign country. Their color marked them as slaves. They could not marry, were discouraged from acquiring literacy, could not buy their freedom without their master's consent, and their children were born into slavery. They had committed no crime but were slaves because they were set upon in their own villages by strangers who kidnapped them for financial gain.

    In Mexico, the entire economy did not depend on slavery. In the USA, it did. In Mexico, as Stephens notes, Incas volunteered to be slaves. In the USA, no one did that. The proper comparison between black slavery and Mexican slavery is that Mexican slavery is more like indentured servitude, something whites were bound in during the early years of the USA.

    The entwining of color, race and slavery is American, not Mexican. The denigration of black people comes from this fusion of race and status from 1619 and that endures, up to the present because even when slavery was outlawed, the low social status of black people persisted and that still contributes to the self image and treatment of black children today, even though neither they nor their parents ever served as slaves.

    Somerby should know this. He should never have been permitted to teach black kids in Baltimore without understanding this. Teaching is not only about imparting knowledge but also about motivating kids, encouraging them to reach their full potential. Without understanding why kids struggle, a teacher cannot do that. I wouldn't let Somerby within 10 feet of any child I cared about.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for sharing. Now tell me how any of your undisputed claims are relevant.

      Then tell me how you know anything about TDH’s teaching abilities.

      Delete
    2. Deadrat, Somerby had no training to become a teacher except the inadequate indoctrination provided by Teach for America. He was not an education major in college. I doubt he was certified -- in the past, many teachers without credentials were assigned to inner city classrooms because the districts were desperate for teachers who would work there and because black parents were less likely to complain about inadequate training.

      Then we have the things Somerby himself has said. His discouragement about the abilities of kids who are way behind grade level speaks volumes about his teaching abilities.

      Delete
    3. I’m not vouching for Somerby’s teaching abilities. I have no idea whether he was a good teacher. I’m not vouching for Somerby’s teaching credentials. The fact that he wasn’t a product of the educationist apparat is a plus in my book, but I’ll admit that’s just my prejudice. My knowledge of Somerby’s teaching career is the exact equal of yours. The only difference between us is that you’ve reached conclusions based on your ignorance.

      You can’t quote a single thing that Somerby has written to disparage the abilities of kids who lag behind their grade level. And that speaks volumes about your own cognitive abilities.

      ————
      We hope you enjoyed this example of uncultured impudence and lower middle class ignorance™

      Delete
  4. Yesterday Somerby praised Andrew Sullivan. Today he praises Bret Stephens, another conservative. I am eagerly awaiting Somerby's announcement that he is changing political parties. He behaves like a conservative, he might as well acknowledge his affinity with the right.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nowhere does TDH “praise” Bret Stephens. He asks you to consider a different point of view about what he thinks the NYT’s is going to report for its “1619 project.” (TDH writes, “We don't mean to prejudge the value of any work the Times will publish,” but that’s a transparent whopper of an untruth.)

      TDH isn’t a conservative. He thinks Trump is an idiot, and he wants people to seriously consider that Trump is insane. Actual conservatives, on the other hand, excuse placing children in unsanitary concentration camps to defer parents from seeking asylum.

      Odd that you can’t tell the difference.

      Delete
    2. He pretends to think Trump is an idiot while urging us to show compassion for him and to be nice to Trump supporters. Then he attacks Stormy Daniels for inconveniencing Trump and support Roy Moore, and echoes a bunch of conservative talking points, daily. Today, he gives a platform to Stephens, who is described by Wikileaks as a conservative.

      TDH uses mental illness as an excuse for Trump's bad behavior, to get him off the hook for it, help him evade responsibility. In doing so, he minimizes Trump's crimes, equating them with acting out beyond Trump's control instead of evil done in the name of greed and power.

      TDH never mentions those kids in the camps. Odd since Somerby claims to care so much about those beautiful black children. Maybe it is because they are Hispanic? Or maybe he doesn't really give a shit about any kids.

      Delete
    3. You not only claim to know what TDH thinks. You claim to know what he pretends to think. Quite the skill you’ve got there Kreskin.

      TDH has pointed out that Stormy Daniels is a low-rent grifter, which makes her a perfect match for Trump.TDH doesn’t think that consensual sex acts should be grist for our political mill. If you can’t stop yourself from sniffing the soiled sheets, then fine, but don’t misrepresent TDH’s position.

      You’ve been warned before to stop bearing false witness about TDH and Roy Moore. TDH doesn’t think that legal, consensual relationships are grounds for political attacks. If you can’t stop yourself into prying into these relationships, then fine, but quit pretending that TDH “supports” the Gadsden Mall Creeper.

      I don’t give a shit what Wikileaks thinks of Stephens. Stephens’ ideas stand or fall based on their merits and not on whether he’s a “conservative” or whether Wikileaks calls him a conservative. Can’t you do your own thinking and come to your own conclusions? (He asked rhetorically.)

      Nothing TDH has written about Trump’s mental illness excuses him. That’s why you can’t quote a single thing to the contrary.

      It’s not odd that TDH doesn’t discuss the ICE concentration camps. In case you haven’t noticed, this isn’t a blog about current events in general. Seems you should have picked up on that by now.

      Maybe you’re right that TDH hates Hispanics. Or maybe you’re right that “he doesn’t
      really give a shit about any kids.” Or maybe you should restrict yourself to comments about what you can know?
      ————
      We hope you enjoyed this example of uncultured impudence and lower middle class ignorance™

      Delete
    4. deadrat,
      You don't need to be Kreskin to notice Somerby repeats Right-wing nonsense memes on a daily basis.

      Delete
    5. You need to be Kreskin to read TDH's mind to guess his motives. You need to be clueless to think TDH repeats right-wing nonsense. He may say things you disagree with, but that's different.

      HTH.

      Delete
    6. Yeah. It must be that I'm a close-minded coastal elite who looks down on flyover country that I thought that.
      Or perhaps it's because my calling out the obvious bigotry of the David in Cals of the world is getting Trump re-elected.

      Delete
    7. What are you carrying on about?

      If you think that TDH is a right-winger or he spews right-wing memes, then you’re clueless. That’s my polite way of saying you’re not very bright, which has nothing to do with your coastal affinities or your elitism.

      Wouldn’t the plural of David in Cal be Davids in Cal? Neve mind; not important.

      David in Cal is this commentariat’s Village Idiot, both intellectually and morally. It’s both cruel and pointless to highlight the failings of David in Cal and his ilk because we don’t ascribe agency to idiots: they can’t help the way they are and they can’t learn to be any different.

      If you want to point out the obvious bigotry of Republicans and supporters of Trump, be my guest. TDH thinks that’s incorrect as a gross generalization and counterproductive politically. I’m agnostic on the latter point, and I think he’s wrong on the former. In fact, I think that although feral Trumpers walk amongst as human, they’re not.

      The difference between us is that I can disagree with TDH without labeling him as “the other.”

      ————
      We hope you enjoyed this example of uncultured impudence and lower middle class ignorance™

      Delete
    8. Other? Same? Regardless, Somerby repeats Right-wing nonsense memes on his blog.

      Delete
    9. Regardless, you can't name one such meme.

      (And just for my curiosity, then why are you here reading right-wing memes. And why do you capitalize right-wing?)

      Delete
  5. Stephens column is behind the NY Times paywall, so we cannot discuss it without paying for a subscription. We cannot evaluate whether Stephens is proposing an equivalence or trying to say that those nasty Mexican immigrants were first to bring slavery to America, or that it was the Spanish who founded an institution that goes back to biblical times, or some such nonsense. I'm not sure why Stephens brings up Cortez at all, since he is acknowledged in all textbooks as a thoroughly bad guy and beyond that no one much knows the history of Mexico or Central America or Peru.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do not ever subscribe to the Times. You are paying Dowd's and Stephens salary.

      Delete
    2. Well, let me fix that for you. Here's Stephens' point:

      This has always been one of the astonishments of America: The origin story of the ruling class does more to undermine than bolster its claims to power. Take that origin story away — the one that traces a line from Mayflower Compact to the Declaration of Independence to the Battle of Gettysburg to the Freedom Riders — and you lose this.

      Evaluate that at you leisure.

      Delete
  6. Does Somerby understand that Mexico was very far away from Virginia, that it was a different country and thus is not relevant to our history of slavery? Is the NY Times saying that the US was uniquely responsible for slavery -- I don't think so. Does the existence of slavery elsewhere excuse what happened in the US and does it excuse the continuing mistreatment of black people in our country?

    If Stephens had guts, instead of maligning immigrants, as his discussion of Latin American slavery must do, he would focus on slavery in ancient Greece, the enslavement by the British of the Irish and the enslavement by the Irish of the British, the lengthy discussion of how to treat slaves found in the Old Testament, the enslavement of white people in the USA as indentured servants, and so on. Slavery is nothing new, that's true, but that doesn't excuse it, nor does it mean that all slaves everywhere were treated alike, or that Mexico and Latin America do not have lingering race problems because of their history of slavery. They do.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Relax, Sparky. No one is excusing slavery then or the mistreatment of black people now.

      Slavery in Latin America isn't relevant to today's immigrants, so -- big surprise -- they aren't mentioned in Stephens' piece.

      Delete
    2. As I said above, those who don't own a subscription to the NY Times can read neither Stephens nor the 1619 project pieces.

      Delete
    3. What's that mean, Sparky? Ya think I'm lying to you about the Stephens piece?

      Delete
  7. “we think it's unhelpful and unwise to approach this matter as the Times is doing”

    What is their approach? It is:
    “placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.”

    Why does Somerby think it is “unhelpful” and “unwise?”

    Is it because “everything can be "reframed," and made the object of our focus, to the possibly unhelpful exclusion of everything else.?”

    Is it because it represents “a refusal to come to terms with the future?”

    In what way does “placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves” exclude everything else? It does not, of course. It simply places an emphasis on a particular aspect of history. When Somerby asks “Was Atlanta's traffic jam this morning a result of that brutal history? Did we put too much sugar in our coffee as a result of that history?”, the answer depends on your understanding of our history. Our country would not be what it is without the fact and contribution of chattel slavery. That may be an “unhelpful” fact, but it depends on what you mean by “unhelpful.” Why is this fact unhelpful, and who feels “unhelped” by it? The answer to those questions is revealing.

    As far as a “refusal to come to terms with the future”, it isn’t clear how a study of the past with an emphasis on black America represents a “refusal to come to terms with the future”. We would suggest that a refusal to come to terms with the past is a way to ensure a failed future, and the notion that “everyone but the persistently silly have long understood that our nation's brutal racial history lies at the heart of the American experience” is not demonstrably true, or, at the very least, Somerby vastly underestimates the number of the persistently silly.

    We would suggest that Somerby feels that white people will feel uncomfortable with the 1619 project, and that that is a bad thing. Those Trump voters must never be made to feel uncomfortable. We disagree.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We would suggest that Somerby feels that white people will feel uncomfortable with the 1619 project, and that that is a bad thing. Those Trump voters must never be made to feel uncomfortable. We disagree.

      We disagree”? My, but aren’t all of you a veritable profile in courage.

      It’s not possible to know what TDH’s objections will be to the NYT’s 1619 project for the sufficient reason that the project hasn’t been published yet. TDH writes, “We don't mean to prejudge the value of any work the Times will publish” in possibly the biggest lie (or untruth, if you prefer) he’s ever published. But it’s clear he’s betting the Times will screw up their assignment, and that seems a sure bet given the paper’s history of plagiarism, fabrication, toadying, laziness, and addiction to scandal and trivia. Not to mention their ceding their opinion pages to the the execrable likes of Maureen Dowd, David Brooks, and Ross Douthat and their education beat to a string of incompetent tyros.


      ————
      We hope you enjoyed this example of uncultured impudence and lower middle class ignorance™

      Delete
  8. There's something sick about finding a very bad thing that the US did, a long, long time ago, and focusing on that bad thing, while ignoring the many good things our country did. There's no reason to dredge up the horrors of slavery. Hundreds of thousands of Americans died to end slavery. Everyone knows about. There's nothing really new to discover.

    Over the centuries, the US has been a wonderful country. Arguably the US has done more for the world than any other country, e.g., providing the model of democracy. Defeating fascism in WW2. The Marshall Plan. Defeating the Soviet Union while avoiding a nuclear war, leading the fight to eradicate various diseases, providing food to needy people in various parts of the world, etc.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You forgot Obamacare insuring an additional 23 million Americans.

      Delete
    2. I saw David's first paragraph being written by a Conservative, the moment Conservatives accused college students of being intolerant snowflakes addicted to their safe spaces.

      Delete
    3. There is no reason to dredge up Right-wingers being racists. Everyone knows it. There's really nothing new to discover.

      Delete