Childhood's (refusal to) end: Last Thursday morning—and yes, it was Thanksgiving Day—the New York Times was schooling the nation well.
In print editions, Professor Silverman adopted a scolding tone in a scolding op-ed column. It appeared beneath a scolding headline:
The Vicious Reality Behind the Thanksgiving MythTo our ear, a condescending tone pervaded the professor's piece from its first paragraph onward. He closed on a silly, supercilious note—one which, to our ear, defines our failing modern tribe's instincts all too well.
On line, Charles Blow offered reinforcements. His dolorous column bore this headline:
The Horrible History of ThanksgivingProfessor Silverman and columnist Blow were schooling the readership well.
Much as the professor had done, the journalist complained about "the [historically inaccurate] story" he first learned in kindergarten and believed for the bulk of his life.
The journalist wrung his hands, and writhed. His attempt at a good solid debunking of all those myths got started, rather weirdly, like this:
BLOW (11/28/19): I thought it was such a beautiful story: People reaching across race and culture to share with one another, to commune with one another. But that is not the full story of Thanksgiving. Like so much of American history, the story has had its least attractive features winnow away—white people have been centered in the narrative and all atrocity has been politely papered over.In that passage, Blow demolishes what he calls "the first myth." Ever so briefly, though, might we back up from there at this point?
So, let us correct that.
What is widely viewed as the first Thanksgiving was a three-day feast to which the Pilgrims had invited the local Wampanoag people as a celebration of the harvest.
About 90 came, almost twice the number of Pilgrims. This is the first myth: that the first Thanksgiving was dominated by the Pilgrim and not the Native American. The Native Americans even provided the bulk of the food, according to the Manataka American Indian Council.
Fellow citizens, can we talk? To our ear, the story of that first Thanksgiving sounds like a fascinating human story, even as Blow has told it.
Are we reading his text correctly? In November 1621, 90 members of the local Wampanoag tribe and roughly 45 English settlers came together and spent three days feasting together? In what imaginable way is that not a remarkable human story, with "people reaching across race and culture to share with one another?"
Those English settlers hadn't grown up speaking Massachusett, the language of the Wampanoags. Along the same lines, Wampanoags hadn't grown up speaking English, and the two groups of people who feasted together had grown up in vastly different cultures. (We'll highlight some basic tomorrow.)
The English settlers had already seen more than half of their original party die from disease and malnutrition. A few years earlier, the Wampanoags had been decimated by one of the epidemics which devastated native populations throughout the Americas following first contact with Europeans.
(Professor Silverman: "In 1616, a European ship conveyed an epidemic disease to the Wampanoags that over the next three years took a staggering toll on their population." Is it just our imagination, or has the professor possibly shaded his langusge in such a way as to let us imagine that this was perhaps a deliberate action on the part of the Europeans? Within our own pitiful, failing tribe, it can feel good to believe or suggest that.)
Let's return to Blow. In what way is his recitation not a remarkable human story in which "people reach across race and culture to share with one another?"
As everyone except the dolorous Blow has pretty much known for a very long while, a great deal of deeply unfortunate history was going to transpire in the decades and centuries which followed. But good lord! The story he tells in that passage strikes us as astounding—and the actual history behind this and other early encounters is as fascinating as any topic we know about at this award-winning site, a site which is actively doted on by future top anthropologists.
Blow describes a fascinating human event. But then, the modern "journalist" takes control of his brain, and we're handed the childish piddle which constitutes so much of our own tribe's failing diet.
Good God! What bothers Blow about that story? He wants to argue about which of these two human groups brought the bulk of the food! In the small, tiny mind of the modern-day Times, it's nonsense like this which will be marshaled to knock down those horrible "myths!"
Modern liberals face an existential question at this particular point. That questions goes like this:
How stupid are we willing to be in pursuit of our own tribal narratives? Because when we read the modern-day Times, we are constantly and forever "with Stupid," as the iconic t-shirt relates.
How dumb does it get at the modern-day Times? To what extent are we liberals "with Stupid" when we ingest its scribblings?
Let's move ahead to Blow's sourcing. In this case, he sources his pointless claim about who brought the food to an organization called the Manataka American Indian Council.
We'll be honest! We'd never heard of the Manataka American Indian Council, whose somewhat peculiar principle web page can be surveyed here.
As it turns out, Google has barely heard of this organization either. It isn't entirely clear whether the group, which is or was apparently based in Arkansas, is still in existence.
Let's move on from there! If you click the link which Blow provides, you're taken to these rudimentary performances of first Thanksgiving history.
We have no idea why Blow would have assumed that the representations he found at that site were actually accurate. That said, the pointless, invidious claim that "the INDIANS, possibly out of a sense of charity toward their hosts, ended up bringing the majority of the food for the feast" seems to be sourced to the Pilgrim Edward Winslow's December 1621 letter, which doesn't establish the accuracy of that claim.
We have no idea why the claim in question would actually matter to anyone, or how it would serve to debunk a Thanksgiving "myth." We have no idea why Blow would think that the rudimentary attempts at history to which he links constitute a reliable source of historical knowledge.
We don't know why an editor at the glorious Times would let such childish reasoning or such shaky sourcing stand. That said, this is the modern-day New York Times, a highly unreliable enterprise. Consider a truly ridiculous passage which Blow soon presents:
BLOW: [M]any of those native people not killed by disease would be killed by direct deed.Blow presents a long passage from Donnelly's Fortune magazine piece ("Thanksgiving Myths, Legends and Lies"). Behind that selection lies a sad, but instructive, modern-day tale.
As Grace Donnelly wrote in a 2017 piece for Fortune:
The celebration in 1621 did not mark a friendly turning point and did not become an annual event. Relations between the Wampanoag and the settlers deteriorated, leading to the Pequot War. In 1637, in retaliation for the murder of a man the settlers believed the Wampanoags killed, they burned a nearby village, killing as many as 500 men, women, and children. Following the massacre, William Bradford, the Governor of Plymouth, wrote that for “the next 100 years, every Thanksgiving Day ordained by a Governor was in honor of the bloody victory, thanking God that the battle had been won.”
Just 16 years after the Wampanoag shared that meal, they were massacred.
Donnelly was one year out of college when she wrote her "lies and legends" piece (Georgia, class of 2016). Her report wasn't anywhere near as silly or incompetent as other Turkey Day debunkings have been. Inevitably, though, the lengthy passage quoted by Blow made no sense on its face.
Stating the obvious, Governor Bradford couldn't have issued the statement Donnelly attributed to him. The author of that statement is offering an opinion about what happened over the hundred years following 1637. Governor Bradford, one of the original Plymouth settlers, died in 1657.
Donnelly bungled that attribution; that was obvious from her text itself. That said, it was "close enough for Fortune magazine work," and then for the New York Times.
(If you want to discover who actually seems to have made the statement in question, we'll only say this: Good luck!)
Beyond that lies a more ridiculous error, in which Donnelly asserted that the Pequot War was waged against the Wampanpoags. As almost anyone might have guessed, the Pequot War was actually waged against the Pequots, a separate group which lived in modern-day Connecticut.
In that unfortunate conflagration, the English were joined by the Narragansetts and the Mohegans in waging war on the Pequots. One year out of college, Donnelly apparently got confused and presented a recitation which made no sense on its face.
Still and all, her doubly-nonsensical presentation made enough sense to be published by Fortune. Two years later, Blow didn't notice that Donnelly's pair of presentations made no sense on their face, and some stumblebum New York Times editor waved his work into print, perhaps as he or she rushed out the door on his or her way to the Hamptons.
Two years after Donnelly's piece appeared, the quotation which made no sense went into the New York Times. Also, the Wampanoags were massacred in the Pequot War, trusting Times readers were told.
If it's insults to indigenous people you like; if insults to American history amuse you; if you're aroused by open insults to the intelligence of the modern New York Times reader—Friend, if these are the tides which float your boat, then Charles Blow's ridiculous, dolorous column is just the work for you.
That said, this kind of half-asped, insulting "journalism" is the modern foodstuff of the Times. We've been fed this meal for decades now. Dating to Gene Lyons' Fools For Scandal, this fact very plainly helps explain why Donald Trump lives where he does.
The Times invented the Whitewater pseudo-scandal, then spent two years inventing tall tales about Candidate Gore. The paper's crazy treatment of Hillary Clinton's emails is part of modern lore.
The "Creeping Dowdism" Katherine Boo warned us about came to us via the Times. These are ridiculous, overpaid, hapless people, and they've functioned as Donald J. Trump's top enabler over the past twenty-seven years.
(It started in 1992, five hundred years after Columbus.)
That column by Blow was classic D-minus work. Rather plainly, the piece was "all script, no research," with a genuine lack of curiosity about what has actually gone on in the world, much of which has long been known to have been thoroughly gruesome.
It was standard myth-busting piddle, written for those who continue to function with with tiny small tribalized minds.
That said, this is the way the New York Times rolls. Our tribe is unable to understand the nature of this modern disease, and decimation may await us.
Tomorrow: 2500 calories per day; plus, Silverman scolds the herd