X Close

How the New York Times rewrites history The 1619 Project is part of a cynical quest for influence

Is Nikole-Hannah Jones the next Walter Duranty?(Mario Tama/Getty Images)


November 16, 2021   7 mins

In the world of infotainment, every media brand needs its star. And nowhere is that more true than with one of today’s most influential outlets, the New York Times. In the space of just five years, the Times has succeeded in propelling its stellar asset, Nikole Hannah-Jones, to the rarified heights of celebrity journalism, lending her magnum opus, the 1619 Project, a sanctified glow. But just over two years since 1619 was launched, all that threatens to come tumbling down: the Project has become tainted by a series of errors and inaccuracies — some of which seem to have been committed wilfully.

There’s something uniquely fascinating about the persona of the journalist who betrays his or her professional ethics. There is no medical malpractitioner of historic notoriety, no lawyer so inept or corrupt that their infamy elicits international derision a century later. In fact, it might be only in the field of espionage that we find a parallel. The reason is that, like a nation’s spies, a citizenry loans journalists its most precious asset: trust. This is even more true in secular societies where social institutions take on the characteristics of religious bodies, guiding belief and shaping public perception of reality.

In this context, no American journalist has endured the same level of historical contempt as Hannah-Jones’s most notorious New York Times predecessor, Walter Duranty. One of the reasons Duranty’s name still echoes in the halls of ignominy is because his betrayal was of such an epic nature. He was not only the Times’s top Russia correspondent during the most important period of Russian-American relations in a century (namely, the very early days of the Soviet regime) but a celebrity intellectual.

Duranty’s star had risen so high that when the United States government officially recognised the Soviet Union in 1934, he was chosen to accompany its soon-to-be ambassador to the US — and escorted the newly minted American ambassador from DC back to Moscow. Indeed, it was Duranty himself who had advised Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt, then at the end of his presidential campaign, that US recognition of the new Soviet regime was the correct course of action.

But that was no shock. Three years earlier, around the time that international headlines were beginning to report on a famine unfolding in the Ukraine, Duranty had reported the very opposite. It wasn’t simply that he downplayed the famine, which Robert Conquest estimated killed upward of five million people in two years; he actively denied it.

What’s often missed when discussing Duranty, however, is the intentional nature of his malfeasance. When the Times came under pressure from the Ukrainian-American community in the early Noughties to return the “Duranty Pulitzer”, the paper’s publisher, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., went against the recommendation of a historian hired by the Times to assess the matter. The historian recommended (unsurprisingly) that the Times should return the prize. Sulzberger refused, chalking Duranty’s cover-up to nothing more than “slovenly” reporting.

But Duranty, an Oxford-educated polyglot, was anything but slovenly. The truth of the matter could be far more disturbing, and can be found in a statement Duranty had made years earlier. In June 1931, while visiting the US embassy in Berlin to renew his passport, Duranty made a remark to a State Department official so significant that the official recorded it verbatim and entered it into the State Department record: “In agreement with the New York Times and the Soviet authorities,” Duranty told the American diplomat, “[Duranty’s] official dispatches always reflect the official opinion of the Soviet government and not his own.”

We might be tempted to think that a correspondent of a previous century would have little to do with the most celebrated journalist of the present day. Certainly, it is inconceivable that anything can compare with Duranty’s attempts to deny the Ukraine famine — and the deaths that followed. But the parallels between Duranty and Nikole Hannah-Jones seem hard to ignore. Like Duranty, Hannah-Jones has become the New York Times’s marquee reporter, her public profile taking on celebrity proportions. Hannah-Jones, like Duranty, is as often the subject of headlines as the creator of them. And, of course, there’s the Pulitzer Prize both she and Duranty won relatively early in their respective careers. But perhaps more than any of these factors, the tone and tenor of the subject matter each reporter covered set the stage for a spectacular rise and, at least in Duranty’s case (for now), an equally precipitous fall.

In her first major piece for the New York Times Magazine, where she was a staff writer, Hannah-Jones focused on school segregation — and did so through the lens of her own experience as a mother of a school-aged child. The 2016 article, “Choosing a School for My Daughter in a Segregated City”, placed Hannah-Jones herself squarely at the centre of the all-encompassing topic of race relations in America.

The 10,000-word piece launched Hannah-Jones into that rare elite which consists of reporters who become the focus of a larger reportorial arc. Just a week after it was published, the Times covered Hannah-Jones in an article that was part of a “Times Insider” series. Called “‘Surreal’: A Reporter Is in the Center of a Story She Covered”, the piece was written in the first person by Hannah-Jones and offered a look into the sausage factory of producing a culturally resonant piece for the New York Times. By October 2017, the Times was trumpeting Hannah-Jones in rockstar-like terms, running pieces about her with headlines such as “The Best of Nikole Hannah-Jones”.

And then came 1619, which made her as close to a household name as a journalist can in America. From an Oprah-backed film and TV production deal to appearances on NPR’s Fresh Air and The Daily Show, a talk with Moonlight creator Barry Jenkins to a 1619 book and accompanying children’s book, Hannah-Jones experienced the dazzling embrace of America’s corporate culture machine.

Crucially, like that of Walter Duranty, Hannah-Jones’s celebrity has had the effect of coating her journalism with a lacquer which shields it from the buffeting forces of criticism. What unites that criticism, from both sides of the political aisle, is something fundamental to any work of journalism: accuracy. While some conservative outlets have attacked the 1619 Project on ideological grounds, the dozens of academics and many journalists who joined the debate intoned with a simple and hard-to-dislodge idea: the 1619 Project was not simply factually flawed, but deliberately, as Phillip Magness, one of the Project’s most vocal critics, put it, it amounts to “the sacrifice of scholarly standards in the service of the ideological objective”.

In the New York Times Magazine issue dedicated to the 1619 Project, there are the subtle but significant problems, such as the mischaracterisation of America’s early economy, which the Project emphasises was built on slavery, when, according to scholars who participated in the debate, slavery played a relatively minor role compared to the Northern industrial and commercial economy. Then there are the arguments that, when taken at face value, are simply absurd, such as the causal connection the Project draws between slavery and modern-day traffic jams in Atlanta or America’s love of sugary treats.

It’s the deeper claims of the Project, however, and specifically those made by Hannah-Jones herself, which are the most problematic — and which most closely tie Hannah-Jones to Duranty. The publication of a piece by Politico by Leslie Harris, a professor of African American history at Northwestern University, months after the 1619 Project was launched, identified the rot at the heart of the Project: “On August 19 of last year I listened in stunned silence as Nikole Hannah-Jones, a reporter for the New York Times, repeated an idea that I had vigorously argued against with her fact-checker: that the patriots fought the American Revolution in large part to preserve slavery in North America.”

This claim, that the American Revolution was fought to preserve slavery, is the fulcrum on which Hannah-Jones’s argument swings. The reason is that the 1619 Project was not simply predicated on the idea that slavery was of consequence to American history; that is a claim most (if not all) of the Project’s most vociferous critics would not have objected to. Instead, the thesis of the 1619 Project is that America is rooted in slavery. In pursuing this mission, what Hannah-Jones attempted to do is not simply “reframe” American history (as one of the introductions to the 1619 Project claimed) but rework reality.

It’s this attempt to edit history that most closely unites Hannah-Jones’s project with that of Walter Duranty. In both cases, historical realities were tarred over in order to make way for a new narrative. But beyond the personal failings of Duranty and Hannah-Jones, there is a larger and more significant connection between the two journalists. And that, of course, is the New York Times.

It is no coincidence that two largely successful attempts to alter history and edit reality have been carried out under the aegis of the New York Times. While Duranty and Hannah-Jones took centre stage, the platform essential to each was provided by America’s self-described paper of record.

As with any corporate-backed endeavour, a costly investment such as 1619 is undertaken only when there is a likely outcome of commensurately rich rewards. This is what we so often miss about major corporate news organisations such as the Times, which is far less significantly a newsroom built on a system of editorial practices than it is a reputation, a social construct, that produces trust — as well as a business mechanism that monetises that trust and processes it into power.

This model applies equally to the denial of the Ukraine Famine and the creation of the 1619 Project. The case of the former is explained by the drive to be positioned at the very centre of the swirl of power, influence and profit presented by the nascent, rapidly industrialising economic power of the Soviet Union that was quickly modernising the agrarian economy of tsarist Russia. The USSR was a massive market of 150 million people that for nearly two decades since the revolution had been restricted to US corporate interests.

With the 1619 Project, the New York Times’s business interests are just as decisive a factor. The Times’s management is well aware that it has to replace its audience of ageing liberals with young adherents of progressive ideologies impassioned enough to pay for the digital subscriptions that are at the heart of its business model. For the Times, this is a matter of existential significance. As a New York Times Company vice president has explained, one of the aims of 1619 is, according to NiemanLab, to “convince more of its 150 million monthly readers to pay for a subscription”.

This makes good sense considering that over a third of the Times‘s revenue now comes from digital subscriptions — and nearly two-thirds of the Times’s American audience is made up of millennial and Gen Z readers. Print subscriptions, meanwhile, are in “steady decline”; advertising is falling by close to (and sometimes more than) double digits each year.

Like all dynasties, the Sulzbergers, the billionaire family that controls the New York Times, are, in part, motivated by financial self-interest. But in the current cultural environment, where a movement of ideological upheaval is at work, it is power as much as money that lies behind what is the most significant journalistic endeavour of the past decade. The Times’s progressive turn (like that of so many American brands) is more top-down than bottom-up; it is a quest for influence rather than principle. The Times knows which way the wind is blowing and in a raging storm why not sail downwind?

The only problem with this approach — in business as much as in life — is that it doesn’t work. As Captain MacWhir in Joseph Conrad’s novella The Typhoon shouts through the raging storm to the story’s young protagonist: “They may say what they like, but the heaviest seas run with the wind.” In its cynical embrace of progressive politics, the Times runs the risk of capsizing in storm waters it mistakenly believes it can control.

The same may well be true about Nikole Hannah-Jones. To her credit, unlike Walter Duranty, Nikole Hannah-Jones does not appear to be a passenger enjoying the cushy ride of celebrity. From all appearances, she is a true believer who is not just willing but eager to make the necessary sacrifices to bring about her vision of justice in the world. Whether that makes her more or less problematic than Duranty, only time will tell.


Join the discussion


Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

57 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

“Print subscriptions, meanwhile, are in “steady decline”; advertising is falling by close to (and sometimes more than) double digits each year.”

The writer says this like it has some financial needs in the situation. The Guardian model is there if ever subscriptions cannot float the expenses. (The Guardian loses money every issue, but more than makes it up by its money streams from other than advertising and subscriptions.)

Zuckerberg spent over $400,000,000, almost half a billion, on the democrat vote harvest machine. Soros is a hugely deep pocket for every kind of election for hard left campaigns. The owners are Billionaires. Money has nothing to do with it all – just the appearance of the NY Times not being a paid for propaganda, if the subscribers are seen to be funding it, and not just the Neo-Marxist Elites footing the bills.

Hi*l er funded Lord Haw-Haw, Tojo paid for Tokyo Rose, Stalin had Pravda, and the USA Left elites have The New York Times and CNN, they just pretend they are actually news, and not agenda, but we know that is not true.ï»ż

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

First of all, subject to my inferior knowledge of the USA, I agree with everything you say.

If you take people with money (Soros, rock stars like Bono, footballers who kneel for political reasons, TV celebs) they seem to go through a barrier which makes them feel guilty about their wealth. Some take things very seriously, learn to read and read history. Of course, reading history means reading a certain kind of history, which shows that poor people are victims and rich people are evil and privileged. But this analysis does not include themselves.

If all of the rich people who actively support left-leaning ideas were to give away half of their riches before they started to preach, perhaps it would show that they meant it. Perhaps half would not be enough.

But this attitude is often found on UnHerd as well. Maybe those who see the problem as The Left or The Right are missing something. Perhaps the problem is inside themselves and is called ‘Human Nature’. Whatever the problem, constantly redefining it can’t be the issue. Solving it has to be more important and this comes back not to politics but the political system itself. Perhaps the USA needs an alternative to Congress, Senate, President. Perhaps the whole federation has to be broken up.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

OK thanks. Can’t look at the moment.

Samuel Gee
Samuel Gee
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

they seem to go through a barrier which makes them feel guilty about their wealth. 

I’m not sure that is quite right. Some may do, but the ubiquity of a whole cohort of professional footballers genuflecting at the bell and reciting the credo, seems less about individual conscience and more about conformity to the prevailing media orthodoxy than anything else. All this, lest they have their head above the parapet and place that enormous wealth and career in jeopardy. Just going along to get along.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago
Reply to  Samuel Gee

You are probably correct but somebody has to start it. A couple have tried to stop it, to no avail. It is difficult to imagine that most of them would even think about the meaning of the gesture anyway.

The whole thing is very like MaCartheyism in the States. Everybody denounces everybody else hoping that the finger won’t hover over them. Until a very powerful, confident personality suddenly appears saying, ‘Stop, this is silly.’ Then it stops.

Jerry Jay Carroll
Jerry Jay Carroll
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

I stopped reading it when it began to denigrate Tucker Carlson, about the only sane voice on the tube. The writer strikes me as something of a crank.

Jerry Jay Carroll
Jerry Jay Carroll
2 years ago

Which echo chamber do you frequent? CNN is planning some severe cuts in its talking heads so you might not be as comfortable there.

Emre Emre
Emre Emre
2 years ago

Recently a movie came out about Holodomor (this Terror-Famine in Ukraine) called “Mr. Jones” (2019). I found it a well-made introduction to the story:
https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6828390/
It’s worth mentioning this famine was intentionally done by the Soviets, and is today recognised as a genocide by many countries.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holodomor

Karl Schuldes
Karl Schuldes
2 years ago
Reply to  Emre Emre

You beat me to it. I was going to suggest the same movie. It got mixed reviews but I thought it was excellent. George Orwell makes an appearance, and it shows how truly depraved Duranty was.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
2 years ago

I really can’t stand the use of the word “narrative” to define what, in fact, are lies.

Matt B
Matt B
2 years ago

Good point. Narrative conveys the idea of a more carefully constructed story to an end that may or may not be lies but a question of nuance and emphasis. Both truths and lies use it, and notably wnen addressing the less provable facts than scientific evidence. That’s the problem; It’s a “Gray” area.

Last edited 2 years ago by Matt B
David Batlle
David Batlle
2 years ago

They are lies in furtherance of The Narrative.

AC Harper
AC Harper
2 years ago

What unites that criticism, from both sides of the political aisle, is something fundamental to any work of journalism: accuracy. 

The media used to use accuracy to build trust, and sell papers. Now they use ‘star’ journalists to build followers and provide entertainment. And sell papers/pixels.
Expecting accuracy is likely to result in disappointment.

Tony Taylor
Tony Taylor
2 years ago

The Times is doing what so many media outlets are doing – planting its flag in its favourite corner of the agora, and stuffing wax in its ears.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
2 years ago

It’s clear that almost all of the traditional outlets are competing for roughly half the viewers in the country, the ones on the left. To compete, they try to outflank each other on the left. As they move further left, they depart further from reality, and reduce the overall market for leftist propaganda. They end up playing musical chairs in a declining market.

Meanwhile, new web based outlets, like Unherd, are rapidly expanding to serve the market for accurate news and rational opinion.

The over concentration on the left doesn’t seem to make economic sense to me, this article not withstanding. The NYT may be able to win at it, but CNN is obviously losing badly. It would seem to be a triumph of ideology over economic interest.

As Abraham Lincoln once said, you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. There’s a limit to the number of billionaires willing to subsidize declining traditional outlets. With the Russia Hoax unravelling, and the Rittenhouse trial on TV exposing the previous coverage as a complete fabrication, trust in traditional outlets is in free fall. The Times, they are a changin’.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago

I don’t know what argument Ms Hanna-Jones used to prove that independemce and slavery are inextricably linked, but I do know of a theory put forward a long time ago which postulated that the Somerset Case was a catalyst for the independence movement. This case was in 1772 when a High Court judge in London ruled that slavery was “so odious” that it could not exist in common law; his ruling led to something like 15,000 slaves in England being freed.

Now, the theory goes that this decision reached American slaveowners and scared the hell out of those subject to British law, and to preserve slavery, the southern colonies joined the north in its rebellion against Britain. In fact, at the First Continental Congress in 1774,John Adams promised to support the Southern slave-holders’ right to keep slavery. I must confes that when I first read about the Somerset Case I did wonder if there might be some link, but I wasn’t sufficiently interested to look into it more deeply. True or not, though, it seems that these arguments are being used as a cudgel in this “culture war” rather than being confined to historical debate.

I shall see if I can find Leslie Harris’ refutation – assumiing of course that the Somerset Case is what this what Ms Hanna-Jones was using, otherwise I’ve just wasted my time posting this here.

George Wells
George Wells
2 years ago

Your post isn’t a waste of time, Ms H-J might be correct for the wrong reasons, and I’ve just learnt the name of the Somerset Case (which I had heard of, but hadn’t read the details of). This should be taught at school.

David Morley
David Morley
2 years ago

This is covered, and dealt with, in the piece by Harris (linked to in the piece above). The biggest problem is the reduction of a complex situation to a simple, ideology driven, narrative.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
2 years ago

The 1619 Project is an Orwellian lie from the starting date, 1619. When the slaves landed in Virginia in 1619, there was no legal framework for slavery. Initially, at least some black slaves were treated as labor indentured for 14 years.

“It’s rather clear that Virginia did not have a set way of dealing with these folks, and it got worked out over time,” Scott says. “They had indentured people in Virginia, and some people may have seen Africans just like they saw other indentured people. We know some people became free, so it looks like they were treated like every other indentured person.”

Quoted from:
USA Today article: “1619: 400 years ago, a ship arrived in Virginia, bearing human cargo”

Lifetime slavery didn’t begin until 1641, in Massachusetts. Slavery wasn’t inherited by the children of slaves until 1662, in Virginia. Why wasn’t it the 1641 project, or the 1662 project?

The 1619 project says the American Revolution was strictly to protect slavery. To say this, the 1619 project ignores all the advocacy for the Revolution, none of which mentioned slavery, and also ignores that Great Britain didn’t abolish slavery until 1833.

The purpose of the 1619 project was not accurate history. The purpose of the 1619 project was to discredit the foundation of the US government, to make it easier for Marxists to rule by decree, contrary to law.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
2 years ago

Usually, overlooked in American History is that 2/3 and maybe even more Europeans arrived in the New World as indentured servants, often taking 10 years or more to pay off their debt. Clearly, servitude is not slavery, but young people don’t realize that getting to the Americas and thriving thereafter was a struggle for just about everyone.

Mel Shaw
Mel Shaw
2 years ago

I think that in effect what Lord Mansfield, the judge, said was that the nature of slavery was such that it required specific English legislation authorising it in England. Overseas legislation wasn’t sufficient. As there was no legislation authorising it in England, James Somerset was free. I think Portugal and Spain had legislation. Did the then American colonies? I am assuming they didn’t if English law applied there.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
2 years ago
Reply to  Mel Shaw

In 1619 they did not. Lifetime slavery didn’t begin until 1641, in Massachusetts. Slavery wasn’t inherited by the children of slaves until 1662, in Virginia. Please see my comment above for more information.

Mel Shaw
Mel Shaw
2 years ago

Thank you. Are there any sources you would recommend?

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
2 years ago
Reply to  Mel Shaw

I got this information from internet searches. A lot of my information about pre Revoloutionary Colonial America comes from my general reading of history, bolstered by family interests. Both sides of my family have revolutionary war veterans. One of my ancestors, Capt. Audley Paul, served with Col. Washington in the Virginia militia in the French and Indian War. Some of my ancestors came to America as early as 1640. Others came as late as 1890.

My personal theory of the revolution is based on the Scots Irish background of a lot of my family. Most of them came to America from Northern Ireland. When the British Crown started to play fast and loose with property rights in the colonies, many of them must have remembered the abuses of the period in Ireland.

The British Parliament imposed religious restrictions on the ownership of land, weapons and even horses on Ireland, without Irish consent. I think the fear that arbitrary restrictions on property ownership were possible, contributed directly to the revolution. The restrictive laws in Ireland were revoked, if I remember right, in 1778, probably as a reaction to the American Revolution.

John Locke’s reference to life, liberty and property may have been edited to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the Declaration of Independence, but the underlying idea stayed the same. Since slaves were property, it had a little to do with them, but it mainly had to do with general property rights for everyone. That’s why the Revolution started in Boston, and not Virginia and Georgia, where there were many more slaves.

Crispus Attucks, a freed black man, is generally regarded as the first man Red Coats killed in the 1770 Boston Massacre. His race didn’t dampen the outrage in Boston at all.

Last edited 2 years ago by Douglas Proudfoot
Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago

this decision reached American slaveowners and scared the hell out of those subject to British law, and to preserve slavery, the southern colonies joined the north in its rebellion

Interesting. If that is in fact what the claim is based on (and I don’t know), though, I’d suggest it falls short of persuading.
First, it apparently concedes that the rebellion was going to happen anyway. Second, evidence is needed that American slaveowners had the necessary clout to involve all the southern colonies in a rebellion in defence of their interests, and also that this was their motivation for doing so. And third, if this was their rationale for involvement, why didn’t they get it written into the DoI?

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
2 years ago

While a glimmer of truth in the Somerset case, the founders wrestled with the issue of slavery. A cornerstone of liberty is protection of personal property and slaves were a capital investment that couldn’t be waived away. In order to secure the slave states votes they agreed to the 3/5th compromise in counting people so as to reduce southern population. They also created a very odd clause in the constitution that effectively ended any further import of slaves after 1808.
The date 1619 represents the year blacks arrived. They were not slaves nor treated as such. Readings at the time tell the true story of the difficulties in admitting non-English migrants who were hampered by language and basic ‘modern’ living skills. Some blacks later became land owners with voting rights. The NYT story ignores that truth to build a false story of the time.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
2 years ago

In suggesting that 1619 was the birth of America, the 1619 Project dehumanises the inhabitants of North America prior to 1619.

Lillian Fry
Lillian Fry
2 years ago

The GrayLady Winked documents nearly 100 years of lying by the New York Times. Should be required reading.

James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago

Too bad the author didn’t mention Jason Blair. Jason Blair was not a typical hire–public uni, not yet a college graduate, but his melanin content was so high that The Times just had to have him. He was hired, put on the fast track, won the Pulitzer Prize…
Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. Surely he would have won the Pulitzer Prize if it weren’t for systemic racism, white supremacy, patriarchy, and the fact that he was a serial fabricator. He made up his stories, his sources, and because he was the Golden Boy (a term, not meant to be racist), this was overlooked for quite some time. Finally, it had to come out.
Jason wrote a book explaining how systemic racism and all the other things mentioned above conspired to bring him down. BURNING DOWN MY MASTER’S HOUSE. Don’t bother reading. Rubbish!

Jerry Jay Carroll
Jerry Jay Carroll
2 years ago

The NYT is angling its coverage for the badly-educated younger generations shaped by left-wing academics like potters do clay. In this it is like Corporate America cynically lending a hand to the methodical destruction of our cultural and historical values because there is money in it for them in the form of goodwill. Both remind me of the Marxist-Leninist apercu that capitalists will sell their customers the rope that will be used to hang them. You can’t keep moving left and remain sane. That the 1619 hoax finds ready buyers among the young and the left proves the point. Their ahistorical admiration for socialism will circle back, as they say in the White House these days, to bite them squarely where it hurts the most.

Gunner Myrtle
Gunner Myrtle
2 years ago

Sometimes it is ideology not marketing. The new editor of the Lancet – which you would hope is committed to objective truth – has had several embarrassments. The most disturbing was having to retract a paper about hydroxyquloroquine. The paper was used as a reason to halt trials of the drug – which was a potential (cheap) treatment for Covid. The paper was based on entirely fabricated evidence – which they might have noticed if they weren’t so keen to show up Donald Trump (who talked about the drug). https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/04/covid-19-lancet-retracts-paper-that-halted-hydroxychloroquine-trials

Their latest stunt is to refer to ‘bodies with vaginas’ instead of using the term ‘women’. How they think this helps their credibility is beyond me.

Last edited 2 years ago by Gunner Myrtle
Richard Powell
Richard Powell
2 years ago

A small point, but I’ll make it as accuracy is central to this otherwise excellent article: Walter Duranty was educated at Cambridge (Emmanuel College) rather than Oxford. He took a Second in Classics in 1906. [Source: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry on Duranty]

Adrian Maxwell
Adrian Maxwell
2 years ago
Reply to  Richard Powell

So preceding the Cambridge 5 by just a few years. Although Duranty was knocking around Russia when Sir Anthony went there in the 1930s talent spotting. I wonder if by chance …… Still Duranty can’t have been all bad, he was a friend of Alistair Crowley, so obviously he had a sense of humour.

Arild Brock
Arild Brock
2 years ago

SELLING A STORY – OR A CONTROVERSY?
Informative article.
Even worse than selling a non-accurate story in order to win the culture war, would be promoting the story in order to make the “war” last longer. The more doubtful the public, I guess, the more subscriptions you can sell.
Having said that, let’s not turn cynical. We should pursue truth before power and so remain human. 

Matt B
Matt B
2 years ago

Some history was wrongly written on purpose and needs correction, just as historians need jobs. And papers, long written on the back of adverts, need editors of sorts. Nothing new. The problem with substituting marketing for accuracy, if this story is right, is that the latest target audience, seemingly expecting better, will realize too over time that they have been duped. Since democracy has only blinking regard for truth, and feeds off money, perception and bias, papers play and catalyze the game. The NYT and others may adjust sails to navigate the ‘darkness’, before trying other tacks as the wind shifts again. The US as a beacon of light is, meantime, left to itself, flickering on a blasted shore with baying crowds crashing to either side and paper boats surfing the tide.

Last edited 2 years ago by Matt B
Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt B

Talk about being duped?! We could give myriad of examples of this, starting with the lie that Hillary Clinton was a slam dunk to be POTUS back in 2016. Add the Russian collusion hoax, the burial of the Hunter Biden laptop story, the Covid-19 lab leak conspiracy and the sanctification of George Floyd and you have a lovely chain of complete alterations of reality. Yet, the left continues to drink from the fountain.

Last edited 2 years ago by Warren T
Matt B
Matt B
2 years ago
Reply to  Warren T

What troubles me is how the UK has become a go-to place for dodgy evidence. Iraq, and now Steele?

Last edited 2 years ago by Matt B
Charles Lawton
Charles Lawton
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt B

Matt I suggest you read Luke Harding’s Shadow State on the Steele dossier which reveals who it was written for and the fact that for political reasons it was undermined by the American establishment.

Matt B
Matt B
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Lawton

It’s an interesting book but without clear evidence, while the US case against a Russian analyst involved in the Steele ‘dossier’ has only just begun. There is still a burden of proof requirement: the kind that would withstand legal scrutiny beyond crowd, media or kangaroo ‘justice’. Reserve judgement perhaps?

Last edited 2 years ago by Matt B
Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt B

It’s the result of letting the Soviet elite who have used their usually ill-gotten gains to buy up posh London townhouses and sprinkle their money around various groups in the UK. It’s all about the excessive ‘funny’ money which fertilizes the corruption in British Society going back to the 1950’s at least.

Last edited 2 years ago by Cathy Carron
Matt B
Matt B
2 years ago
Reply to  Cathy Carron

Doesn’t help, for sure. It has a deeply corrupting influence.

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
2 years ago

Against the 1619 Project I present my 1584 Project. That was the year that the first shipload of “white trash” arrived off the coast of Virginia.
See, ever since the Autumn of the Middle Ages the feudal lords had a problem with the “beggars and vagabonds” that they kicked off their estates in the interest of “improvement” and the vital importance of an income to support a nice big house in London.
Where to send this “waste population” but to the Americas?

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
2 years ago

At this point, the best use of the NYTimes is at the bottom of a litter box. Bereft of facts & news and seething with ideological purity, it’s hard to imagine why anyone of sound mind would subscribe to it now.

Frederick Hastings
Frederick Hastings
2 years ago

Truth crushed to earth shall rise again:
   The eternal years of God are hers;
But Error, wounded, writhes with pain,
   And dies among his worshipers.
—William Cullen Bryant 

Alan Hawkes
Alan Hawkes
2 years ago

Some contributors below seem to be falling into the trap of ignoring the points to debate the personalities involved. It doesn’t matter how much of a celebrity someone is: if they say that 2+2=5, they are wrong. The important question is: are Nikole Hannah-Jones’ assertions correct, or not.

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
2 years ago

The claim that the American Revolution was about preserving slavery is just an outright lie and disproven by the fact that starting as early as 1776 every colony/state north of the Mason/Dixon line used its newly declared independence to start taking steps toward gradual emancipation.

While a hypothetical, there is a decent argument that had the slaveholding volonies still been in the Empire, the British abolition of slavery in the 1830s might have been delayed, perhaps by many years.

A better case can be made that the Texas revolt from Mexico in the 1830s was not wholly but in significant part about preserving slavery. Given the status of the Alamo in Texan and American iconography, that would be a weighty claim and one that has some real support.

William MacDougall
William MacDougall
2 years ago

The role of slavery in America is not some modern notion. At the time Samuel Johnson wrote ‘How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of Negroes?’ And the British authorities freed slaves who fought for the British union. Perhaps Nikole Hannah-Jones goes too far, but it’s ridiculous to say she’s as bad as Duranty.

Rod McLaughlin
Rod McLaughlin
2 years ago

She’s only ‘as bad as’ Duranty in that she’s a completely dishonest journalist, defending dangerous left-wing ideology. She’s not responsible for covering up mass murder, true.
Much worse was the NYT’s Judith Miller, who told lies which led to massacres in recent times.

Last edited 2 years ago by Rod McLaughlin
Lillian Fry
Lillian Fry
2 years ago

These two incidents are not the only lies perpetrated by the NYT. READ Rindsberg’s book: The Gray Lady Winked; how the NYT’s misreporting, distortions. & Fabrications radically alter history. There are few major events in the last hundred years in which the NYT has not played a questionable role. And in which their reporter has not been a major player and a subsequent celebrity.

Rod McLaughlin
Rod McLaughlin
2 years ago

“…according to scholars who participated in the debate, slavery played a relatively minor role compared to the Northern industrial and commercial economy…”

Not quite. Slavery was a very important part of the economy. The problem is that Hannah-Jones claims the USA is *based* on the racial oppression of African people. Although it is difficult to construct an alternative history of North America without genocide, capitalism would have done *better* without slavery. She’s got the wrong racism.

Diana Durham
Diana Durham
2 years ago

What is strange about all this is also that an interpretation of 17th century history should become an article in a newspaper whose job is primarily the coverage and analysis of and comment on current affairs. Normally the journalist would write a book first, an in-depth account of their particular interpretation of history. Only then, if a case was to be made about its relevance to the present, might it provide a focus for an article in a newspaper. But also by then, given the need to be at least somewhat accurate in a book-length argument, the flaws and myopias would be on display enough to be critiqued. But in this case, it was the other way round. The paper went to bat for an article and its assumed relevance to modern day, before sufficient perspective and overview were available from perusal of the theory. Perhaps we are seeing here the rebirth of the importance of books!

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
2 years ago
Reply to  Diana Durham

Who’d thought that the NYTimes would to put out reinterpretations of history? Such a Marx-ian activity.

John Riordan
John Riordan
2 years ago

“The USSR was a massive market of 150 million people that for nearly two decades since the revolution had been restricted to US corporate interests.”

I was most interested in this assertion. Does anyone know the background to it?

More generally on this subject though, the notion that the American War of Independence was fought to prevent the abolition of slavery is extremely silly because it can be defeated purely on the dates alone. The War took place from 1775 to 1783. The Abolitionist movement, conversely, famously started in 2 George Yard in London in a modest print shop in 1787, did not achieve the Parliamentary vote until 20 years later in 1807, and the eradication of slavery as a legal institution in the Empire was not achieved until 1833. Slavery then of course was progressively eradicated in most of the rest of the world through a combination of diplomatic effort, economic sanctions, and the threat of military force, and since the USA was not part of the Empire and didn’t take orders from Britain any more, it took the Civil War of 1865 to settle the matter.

It is true, admittedly, that the inspiration for the British anti-slavery movement came from the American Quakers, and it is possible therefore that some sort of anti-slavery movement existed in the USA prior to the war of Independence. What cannot be claimed, though, is that Britain itself represented any sort of threat to the slave trade during the War of Independence. The dates simply don’t match and the proposition is complete bunk.

Last edited 2 years ago by John Riordan
Jacques Rossat
Jacques Rossat
2 years ago

A couple of examples and the reasons why the 1619 Project has – according to the author – twisted the reality would have helped giving some weight to this rant.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Jacques Rossat

I had never heard of the 1619 project until this article and there were definitely examples given of twisted reality. Wasn’t that the thrust of the article?

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
2 years ago
Reply to  Jacques Rossat

There is an immense amount of material out there, just Google ‘1619 project controversy’. It is fair of the writer and editor to not make this piece even longer by detailing what most readers are at least aware of and is easily found with a few keystrokes

John Riordan
John Riordan
2 years ago
Reply to  Jacques Rossat

The examples were given in the article. You clearly didn’t read it properly.