“1776” throws down the gauntlet to NYT’s “1619 Project”

by Greg Mayer

We’ve noted here several times at WEIT the New York Times‘ “1619 Project”, a racialist program to rewrite American history. The notices have been largely critical, and we’ve pointed out that much of the criticism has come from the World Socialist Website (WSWS), an organ of the International Committee of the Fourth International. While the WSWS is a Marxist (and specifically Trotskyist) website, and their own writers have heavily criticized the 1619 Project, what has been most notable about the WSWS’s coverage is the series of interviews they have done with scholars whose own views range widely, including avowed Marxists, but consisting mostly of “average” center-left academics.

Now another center of criticism of the 1619 Project has arisen, this one originating from the right wing of American politics, but, like the WSWS, including a fair diversity among its contributors. The “1776” website states its mission as

“1776” is an assembly of independent voices who uphold our country’s authentic founding virtues and values and challenge those who assert America is forever defined by its past failures, such as slavery. We seek to offer alternative perspectives that celebrate the progress America has made on delivering its promise of equality and opportunity and highlight the resilience of its people. Our focus is on solving problems.

We do this in the spirit of 1776, the date of America’s true founding.

Here’s a video introducing 1776 featuring its founder, Bob Woodson, in which he refers to slavery as America’s “birth defect”. (Notice that they use the same antique font for “1776” as the 1619 Project uses for “1619”!)

The group has a clearly conservative cast to its contributors. Of the eight featured essays on its home page, I was familiar with only two: Clarence Page, a well known columnist for the Chicago Tribune, and John McWhorter, a linguist at Columbia University. Both I would regard as “centrist”, following the usual way of divvying up American political attitudes. Looking at the provided biographies, and a little googling, shows the others to be generally conservative (e.g. Woodson, Jason Hill), although some I’m unsure about (e.g. Stephanie Deutsch). The Bulwark, an anti-Trump conservative site, has also posted a long critique by Cathy Young.  I mention these political leanings to neither praise nor condemn, but to point out the breadth of critical response to the 1619 Project.

Unlike the WSWS, which featured academics and historians, only three of the 1776 front page essayists are academics, and none are historians. (The WSWS did have critiques by its own contributors, who were also neither academics nor historians, but I have focused on the eight interviewees/essayists at the WSWS that garnered the most attention.)

1776 has drawn some notice, including in a commentary entitled “The New York Times Goes All In on Flawed 1619 Project” at Real Clear Politics by Mark Hemingway:

One interesting rebuttal is coming from the newly formed 1776 Project, which seeks to “uphold our country’s authentic founding virtues and values and challenge those who assert America is forever defined by its past failures, such as slavery.” The group of predominantly black scholars and writers was organized by anti-poverty crusader and MacArthur “genius grant” winner Bob Woodson, and features thoughtful essays rebutting the 1619 Project from heavyweight intellectuals such as John McWhorter, Clarence Page, and Shelby Steele.

And in Quillette, one of the 1776 essayists, Wifred Reilly, a political scientist at Kentucky State University, introduces the group in an essay entitled “Sorry, New York Times, But America Began in 1776“:

The United States of America began in 1776, not 1619.

That one sentence is the thesis statement of “1776”—a non-partisan black-led response to the New York Times’s “1619 Project” initiative, which launched last week at D.C.’s National Press Club. I am pleased and proud to be a part of 1776, along with founder Bob Woodson, Glenn Loury, Coleman Hughes, Jason Hill, Carol Swain, John Wood, Taleeb Starkes, Robert Cherry, and many others. From my perspective as a member, 1776 has three core goals: (1) rebutting some outright historical inaccuracies in the 1619 Project; (2) discussing tragedies like slavery and segregation honestly while clarifying that these were not the most important historical foundations of the United States; and (3) presenting an alternative inspirational view of the lessons of our nation’s history to Americans of all races.

He goes on in this essay to cite the work of a number of the historians featured by the WSWS.

The reaction to 1776 by Nikole Hannah-Jones, leader of the 1619 Project, has been, as one would expect, negative. She tweeted this image as a response (Ida Bae Wells is Hannah-Jones’s Twitter name):

Mark Heminway parsed this response for those (like me) who didn’t know what she was getting at with this gesture:

Earlier this week, Nikole Hannah-Jones, a New York Times Magazine staff writer and the driving force behind the 1619 project, took note of the rival effort. “I want to say this is my response to the 1776 project,” she tweeted, followed by a picture of her pointing at her bottom row of gold teeth with her pinky, a dismissive and deeply unserious hip-hop gesture. She followed that up with a “serious” tweet where she suggested that her African-American critics at the 1776 Project didn’t actually care about the enslaved children at the time of America’s founding. (She later deleted the tweets.)

The political diversity of the critics of the 1619 Project shows what I think is a broader point, which is that wokeness is a political axis that is conceptually perpendicular to the traditional left-right axis of American politics. “Anti-wokeness” is found all across the political spectrum. Although wokeness— the fetishization of group identity, with group identity arrayed along a “scala homi“, and position on this scale determining a person’s worth and (allegedly) behaviors— is currently more identified with the political left, I think this is only contingently true in America; the blood and soil populists that contend for power or rule in Europe are the right wing of wokeness.The only difference is that Viktor Orban and his ilk place groups at different places in the scala homi: Hungarians (or whoever) are the most worthy, and at the same time the most oppressed.

64 Comments

  1. Posted February 28, 2020 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for writing this. BTW, the image doesn’t appear for me.

  2. KD
    Posted February 28, 2020 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    Although wokeness— the fetishization of group identity, with group identity arrayed along a “scala homi“, and position on this scale determining a person’s worth and (allegedly) behaviors— is currently more identified with the political left, I think this is only contingently true in America; the blood and soil populists that contend for power or rule in Europe are the right wing of wokeness.

    Its called “National Socialism”, and, of course, any race or ethnicity can play, you just have to find someone else to demonize on the basis of immutable characteristics. The only problem is the real Socialists don’t like it, but you can always set up re-education camps for them.

  3. Historian
    Posted February 28, 2020 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Greg, we have discussed the 1619 Project before and I don’t wish to repeat my previous arguments. However, I will take the time to critique Wilfred Reilly’s piece in Quillette in regard to his historical treatment of slavery and the Civil War, which I find pitifully wrong. This is his argument:

    “All that said, it is not enough merely to critique an opponent’s worldview: A successful movement must provide a worldview of its own. Three core elements of my view of slavery—and, I think it is fair to say, 1776’s as well—are: (1) recognizing that an anti-slavery movement led by white and Black people of goodwill existed in this country as long as slavery did, and won in the end; (2) recognizing that slavery did not “build the USA,” but rather made the pre-bellum South into something of a backwater, due largely to the proud if subtle resistance of the slaves themselves; and (3) recognizing that America paid a diverse butcher’s bill of hundreds of thousands of lives, during the Civil War, in order to FREE the slaves.”

    My response to point (1): Apparently, Reilly does not know that the abolition movement and anti-slavery movement in the U.S. from the Revolution to the Civil War were two distinct groups (with some overlap). It is unclear to what group he is referring to, although he uses the term anti-slavery, but perhaps he means abolition. The abolitionists, led by the likes of William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass in the three decades preceding the war, called for the immediate abolition of slavery. This had no chance of taking place until the actual war. They were a despised minority, subject to physical attacks by pro-slavery mobs, even in the North. On the other hand, the anti-slavery movement was a broader coalition that gained strength in the aftermath of the Mexican War, resulting from a national debate as to whether slavery should be allowed in the territories acquired by the nation in that war. This group, led by Lincoln and many others, who eventually became part of the Republican Party, were concerned with preventing the spread of slavery, not with its presence in the states where it already existed (although most southern slaveholders did not believe them). They thought that by preventing its spread it would somehow fade away sometime in the hazy future. It is wrong to think that all members of this group opposed slavery for moral reasons. Actually, many of them opposed the extension of slavery because they wanted these territories to be for the exclusive use of white people. In other words, one could opposed the extension of slavery and still be racist. One must also keep in mind that in the North there was a sizeable minority of people who really had nothing against slavery. They were called Democrats and led in the 1850s by Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois. All this adds up to the fact that at the time of Lincoln’s election in 1860, slavery was firmly entrenched in the South. If it were not for the war, slavery would have existed for many more decades, at least.

    My response to point (2): It is arguable as to what was the extent that slavery built the nation and whether or not the southern slave system can be classified as capitalistic. We do know that many of the northern merchants were dependent upon southern cotton. I do not consider this a crucial question. What is much more important to recognize that the values of the slave South (racism and the belief in the inferiority of African-Americans) lasted well beyond the war (starting after the end of Reconstruction in 1877), indeed to the present day, in the North as well as in the South. This fact the conservatives find hard to swallow.

    My response to point (3): Reilly doesn’t seem to remember that the war started to preserve the Union, not end slavery. If the Union had achieved a quick victory in the first year of the war, slavery would have still existed. Ironically, it was the fact that the war dragged on that Lincoln saw the opportunity to end slavery. This move did not win him any support from those who viewed the war as simply one to suppress the rebellion. Interestingly, in the 1864 election, with the seceded states not voting, Lincoln defeated the Democratic candidate, former General George McClellan, by 55% to 45% (although Lincoln won handily in the Electoral College. I think it safe to assume that 45% did not approve of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Hence, it is fair to say the war did free the slaves, but the war did not start because of it.

    Finally, Reilly talks about how slavery was widespread in many areas and in many areas and in many time periods. So, why pick on the South as being particularly bad? Reilly seems to have no idea that this argument undermines a core principle of conservative thought regarding American history: its supposed exceptionalism. Conservatives go on and on about how American is different from all other nations. Due to God’s providence, the United States has been blessed with a love of liberty. Now Reilly is saying, “don’t pick on the South; there were a lot worse slavery societies.” This argument is laughable.

    In summary, Reilly’s understanding of the Civil War is profoundly uninformed. It seems to harken back to the views of historians in the first half of the twentieth century. Reilly, as many of the conservatives cited by you, can’t face the truth that slavery and race was and is a major component in understanding the unfolding of American history. I will let others argue whether slavery and race had more impact on the country than, say, economic development. I should also add that I don’t really care what non-historians of the Civil War think about that topic. It is no different than asking evangelicals what they think of evolution.

    • Posted February 28, 2020 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

      Comment by Jerry: This comment is running well on the long side, so I’d ask to keep comments to 600 words or so (or email Greg personally if you want a longer give and take. This is nearly 1000 words.

      See Rule #12 here: https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/da-roolz/

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted February 28, 2020 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

        For some reason, this made me think of an exchange between Miles Davis and John Coltrane at the Blue Note one night. When Miles had his first great quintet together, during live gigs, Miles would give each of the players a chance to solo. Coltrane had a habit of going on interminably. One night, after a particularly long Coltrane solo, Miles pulled him aside between sets and, in his raspy voice, said “‘Trane, you think maybe next time you could cut it down to 32 bars or so?”

        “Aw, man, Miles,” said ‘Trane, “sometimes when I get to playin’ like that, I don’t know how to stop.”

        “Try pullin’ the fuckin’ horn outcha mouth,” said Miles. 🙂

        • ThyroidPlanet
          Posted February 29, 2020 at 8:27 am | Permalink

          The last sentence sounds the most plausible – it’s amusing to think : who but Miles would know when to admonish Trane?

      • Nicolaas Stempels
        Posted February 28, 2020 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

        Yes, clearly infringing ‘Da Roolz’, but at least it was an interesting long comment. I’m still glad to have read it. Thank you Jerry for cutting Historian some slack and not removing it.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted February 28, 2020 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

      Fascinating as usual. Thanks for that historian.

      We have the same strand of conservative revisionism in Britain(unsurprisingly they’re going hog-wild at the moment). Their focus is mainly on whitewashing the British empire, on extirpating ‘negative’ historical accounts of things like the first world war, Churchill’s racism, anything that doesn’t chime with their dismally parochial Blimpish worldview.

      Wherever you have nation states you have these people. Why they find it so injurious to hear the truth about some of the stuff we’ve done I don’t know. I don’t feel personally guilty for the empire, I just want to be informed about the bad as well as the good and be able to have an honest discussion about it.

    • Vaal
      Posted February 28, 2020 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

      Historian,

      Which area of history did you specialize in?

      Thanks.

      • Historian
        Posted February 28, 2020 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

        The Civil War era.

        • Vaal
          Posted February 28, 2020 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

          Ok, thanks, that puts things in context.
          (I didn’t know if your knowledge was peripheral or specialized on this subject).

          Thanks.

  4. aburstein
    Posted February 28, 2020 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    > …John McWhorter, a linguist at Columbia University. Both I would regard as “centrist”, following the usual way of divvying up American political attitudes.

    I’ve listened to many hours of discussions with John McWhorter, and I think he would classify himself as a liberal, not a centrist. Wikipedia’s article on him has a source for that too. (Although he often takes strong issue with many positions and trends coming out of liberal spaces these days.)

    Of course, these days these categorizations have very shifting definitions, so not sure that even matters anyway.

  5. dd
    Posted February 28, 2020 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    The historian Nell Irvin Painter wrote in response to the “1619 Project” the following, which in essence, unravels the weight that anchors Nikole Hannah-Jones’s 1619 US foundation claim:

    “People were not enslaved in Virginia in 1619, they were indentured. The 20 or so Africans [on the ship that’s pictured as the symbol of the “1619 Project”] were sold and bought as “servants” for a term of years, and they joined a population consisting largely of European indentured servants, mainly poor people from the British Isles whom the Virginia Company of London had transported and sold into servitude.

    Enslavement was a process that took place step by step, after the mid-17th century. This process of turning “servants” from Africa into racialized workers enslaved for life occurred in the 1660s to 1680s through a succession of Virginia laws that decreed that a child’s status followed that of its mother and that baptism did not automatically confer emancipation. By the end of the seventeenth century, Africans had indeed been marked off by race in law as chattel to be bought, sold, traded, inherited and serve as collateral for business and debt services. This was not already the case in 1619.”

    I urge you to read the article.

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/aug/14/slavery-in-america-1619-first-ships-jamestown

    • Historian
      Posted February 28, 2020 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

      As long ago as 50 years ago there was a debate among historians whether the Africans that arrived in Jamestown were slaves or indentured servants. I don’t think the answer is as clear cut as Painter depicts it. We know that these Africans were delivered on a slave ship. But, they were listed on the musters of the colonies as servants. Servant is an ambiguous term that can mean indentured servant or slave. The Virginia Encyclopedia of History notes in an extended article on this topic: “The use of the word servant reflects the fact that when the first Africans came to Virginia in 1619, English and Virginia law had not yet enshrined the practice of race-based slavery.” In other words, these Africans may have been slaves in practice, if not in law. The evidence is not clear. Painter is correct, however, that the codification of slavery into law was a process that took several decades. The Virginia Encyclopedia does note that some of these Africans gained freedom. What is not clear is whether the freedom was the result of the term of indentured servitude being over or the master simply freeing a slave.

      https://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/virginia_s_first_africans

  6. dd
    Posted February 28, 2020 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    I have tried to keep up with the 1619 back and forth.

    This essay, by Cathy Young, may be the best synoptic essay, if you will, of all…Really worth your time. I won’t excerpt it.

    https://thebulwark.com/the-fight-over-the-1619-project/

  7. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted February 28, 2020 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    Re. this:

    “the blood and soil populists that contend for power or rule in Europe are the right wing of wokeness. The only difference is that Viktor Orban and his ilk place groups at different places in the scala homi: Hungarians (or whoever) are the most worthy, and at the same time the most oppressed.”

    I feel like pointing out that there is a pretty gigantic difference between left-wing wokeness and right-wing wokeness/identity politics. This difference has been at the root of every argument I have ever had with WEIT.

    Left-wing wokeness is obnoxious, and patronising. And it is sometimes censorious and illiberal on campus.

    OTOH, Right-wing ‘wokeness'(ie. white identity politics) is people like Orban and Trump and Putin, who have turned Hungary into one of the most authoritarian countries on earth, or Trump.

    Their votaries don’t tweet stupid things about whether it’s ok to grow dreadlocks if you’re white: they murder Jews, Muslims, African Americans, their leaders suborn the media and kill journalists. And they are in the ascendance.

    One of these groups is vastly more dangerous than the other, and should be taken much more seriously. That is all wanted to say, although I don’t think Greg Mayer meant to imply otherwise.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted February 28, 2020 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

      *”OTOH, Right-wing ‘wokeness'(ie. white identity politics) is people like Orban and Trump and Putin, who have turned Hungary into one of the most authoritarian countries on earth, or Trump.”

      …That’s obviously syntactically and semantically a bit mental. I think I saw a squirrel through the window halfway through typing it.

      • KD
        Posted February 28, 2020 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

        If you think Left wing wokeness isn’t a problem, why don’t you ask a Tutsi about how overcoming Tutsi privilege in Rwanda worked out?

        If you look at post-colonialism, you have these anti-white anti-colonial movements, and then once they kick out the whites, they turn on each other seeking to grab power for their own tribes and ethnic groups. Nigeria, Algeria, Sri Lanka, Rwanda, ad infinitum.

        Not to mention Zimbabwe.

        And how about that “woke” President of South Africa who knew that the viral theory of AIDS was made up by racist white people and drug companies, so they wouldn’t import anti-retroviral drugs. How many Black bodies died because of that stupidity?

        Sure, Left NatSoc isn’t a problem, as long as they stay in book groups and don’t wield any political power.

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted February 29, 2020 at 5:25 am | Permalink

          “If you think Left wing wokeness isn’t a problem, why don’t you ask a Tutsi about how overcoming Tutsi privilege in Rwanda worked out?”

          What in the name of god does any of that have to do with ‘wokeness’?? That is just deranged.

          • Saul Sorrell-Till
            Posted February 29, 2020 at 5:32 am | Permalink

            Deranged is rude. Sorry about that KD. But I still think that’s a very strange leap.

            • KD
              Posted February 29, 2020 at 9:26 am | Permalink

              How are is wokeness and the Rwandan Civil War related?

              1. Two genetically distinct populations.

              https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2019/09/23/tutsis-are-less-nilotic-than-the-maasai/

              https://www.gnxp.com/WordPress/2020/01/18/the-belgians-did-not-invent-the-hutu-and-tutsi-ethnic-groups-who-have-different-origins/

              2. Belgians extend legal privileges to Tutsis, causing Hutu resentments.

              3. Belgians get kicked out ~1962, legal privileges go away, but Tutsi success relative to Hutus does not.

              4. Obviously, a lack of equality of outcome after 30 years of legal equality means that the Tutsis are conspiring to keep down the Hutus and preserve their Tutsi privilege, and are demonized by power-hungry Hutu politicians.

              5. Hutus take matters into their own hands.

              Can you get more woke than that?

              If you look at historical genocides, it is always the successful minorities who get killed, who are accused “stealing” their success from the majority. Armenians in Turkey, Jews in Germany, Tutsis in Rwanda. These actions were not wars of conquest, they were states turning on their own minority populations. Chinese minorities in Malaysia today faces legal discrimination in favor of Malays, and there are periodic anti-Chinese riots calling for “repatriation” of Chinese minorities that have been in Malaysia for generations.

              • Saul Sorrell-Till
                Posted February 29, 2020 at 10:26 am | Permalink

                If you’re seriously blaming the Rwandan genocide on wokeism then I think you have lost it. That is beyond absurd.

              • Posted February 29, 2020 at 10:28 am | Permalink

                “In a truly free society, we can blame anyone for anything.”

                You can quote me. LOL

              • KD
                Posted February 29, 2020 at 11:55 am | Permalink

                No, the ideological underpinings of the Rwandan genocide preceded “wokeness”, but “wokeness” is its ideological cousin. I guess we’ll see, I think people are playing with gasoline and matches, others think it is some benign or silly ideological construct.

              • Saul Sorrell-Till
                Posted February 29, 2020 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

                @Paul Topping – Like the quote. I’ve always been quite irresponsible and never liked taking responsibility. I blame my parents

            • KD
              Posted February 29, 2020 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

              Here is former South African President Mbeki’s letter from the Washington Post:

              https://web.archive.org/web/20060904112557/http://tmh.floonet.net/articles/mbeki.shtml

              He compares scientists pushing the idea that the HIV virus is the cause of AIDS to Apartheid.

              Independent studies have arrived at almost identical estimates of the human costs of HIV/AIDS denialism in South Africa. According to a paper written by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, between 2000 and 2005, more than 330,000 deaths and an estimated 35,000 infant HIV infections occurred “because of a failure to accept the use of available [antiretroviral drugs] to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS in a timely manner.”[14] Nicoli Nattrass of the University of Cape Town estimates that 343,000 excess AIDS-related deaths and 171,000 infections resulted from the Mbeki administration’s policies, an outcome she refers to in the words of Peter Mandelson as “genocide by sloth”.[15]

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HIV/AIDS_denialism#cite_note-journaids-114

              The same science = white supremacy, “African ways of Knowing” vs. “White ways of knowing”, all the same woke schlock, and 343,000 dead and 171,00 people infected as a result. That is not harmless.

              • Nicolaas Stempels
                Posted February 29, 2020 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

                Yes, from all other points of view, Mr Mbeki was an outstanding president (eg. he got South Africa out of ‘junk’ status).
                His stance on AIDS gained him the nickname of ‘Whacko Thabo’. Sad. It must gave caused the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of thousands indeed.

              • Nicolaas Stempels
                Posted February 29, 2020 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

                Peter Deusberg and some other AIDS denialists should carry much of the blame, Mr Mbeki was heavily under their spell via Internet.

              • Saul Sorrell-Till
                Posted February 29, 2020 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

                You’re just using your own definition of wokeness, and then stretching it back in time.

                And trying to conflate AIDS denialism in Africa with wokeism is just insulting. AIDs denialism has a very long history, and it has been propagated by a vast cast of arseholes culled from all over the political spectrum.

    • Eric Grobler
      Posted February 28, 2020 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

      “who have turned Hungary into one of the most authoritarian countries on earth”

      You cannot be serious

        • Eric Grobler
          Posted February 29, 2020 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

          None of the articles suggests that Hungary is “one of the MOST authoritarian countries on earth”.

          Here is a World Press Freedom index:
          https://rsf.org/en/ranking
          and economic freedom
          https://www.heritage.org/index/heatmap

          I am not saying developments in Hungary is not disturbing, but calling Hungary one of the worst in the world is hyperbolic.

      • Posted February 29, 2020 at 7:46 am | Permalink

        Yeah, I also wanted to comment on this. Saying that I do not like our prime minister and his buds is an understatement, but on a global scale the current Hungary is nowhere near to be “one of the most authoritarian countries on Earth”. Replacing Earth with the EU would make the sentence true, but globally the EU is kind of a flower garden in this regard.

        The same could be said about their racist/supremacist side. Some journalist and other in the “West” were perplexed by Orbán ideological journey in the last 30 years, because they try to define him with ideology. But Orbán and his friends are corrupt populists who use ideology as a tool to obtain money and power. They do not serve the ideology, it serves them. (At the lower level they use people who have ideology of course.) They are not nazi (although some under their umbrella are and they do not mind it).

        It is wrong to imagine Orbán as some kind of mini Hitler, he is much more like the El Presidente of a cliche banana republic from a movie, just with much more restraints (because EU). The situation in the country is nowhere near as bad as in Russia and Turkey for example. (Even those two countries are still not among the literal top authoritarian globally.)

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted February 29, 2020 at 10:17 am | Permalink

          Saying that Hungary is not as bad as Russia doesn’t contradict what I said in my post, which is that it is one of the most authoritarian countries on earth. The fact that there are even worse, even more authoritarian places is besides the point.

          All of which is irrelevant anyway: my post was contending very simply that left-wing wokeism is in no way equivalent to the brand of right-wing identity politics embodied by Viktor Orban and Trump and described by Greg in the article above.

          One side is obnoxious on Twitter and sanctimonious, and likes to wag its finger at people for appropriating kimonos, the other side corrupts the democratic systems of entire countries and engages in political terrorism.

          I see a lot of attempts to sidestep this point but no refutations.

          • BJ
            Posted February 29, 2020 at 11:12 am | Permalink

            “The fact that there are even worse, even more authoritarian places is besides the point.”

            This leads to the conclusion that every country but the least authoritarian country on Earth is “one of the most authoritarian countries on Earth.”

            • Saul Sorrell-Till
              Posted February 29, 2020 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

              I don’t see how that makes much sense. Hungary under Orban is widely acknowledged as an authoritarian country. Most countries are not authoritarian countries. Therefore it seems pretty reasonable to say Hungary is “one of” the most authoritarian countries on earth.

              And of course totalitarianisms like North Korea, arguably China, are a different issue altogether.

          • Posted February 29, 2020 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

            I agree that it is a side point for the whole of your post, but it does contradict what you said, at least in the extent of this side point. If there are numerous countries that are more authoritarian than Hungary (I could say countless more examples other than Russia and Turkey) and some of them are significantly more so, then per definition Hungary is not among the “most authoritarian” countries.
            This of course does not mean than things are rosy here, just that there are a lot of very authoritarian countries around the world and it is not easy to get into the top in that regard.

            Also yes, one could say what they are doing here is a type of identity politics, that is correct.

            • Saul Sorrell-Till
              Posted February 29, 2020 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

              I would disagree that there are ‘countless’ other examples besides Russia and Turkey. But then we might be using slightly different definitions. I don’t think of North Korea, for example, as an authoritarian country. It’s a totalitarian country. Ditto China.

              Since you’re experiencing it first hand maybe you could tell me more: I’m interested in what it’s like over there – how popular is Orban with the general public? Is there any real sense of building resentment?

              If you want to keep it private of course, that’s fine.

              • Posted March 1, 2020 at 12:42 am | Permalink

                Totalitarian is a sub-category of authoritarian, a subset.

                Orbán does not have the support of the absolute majority of the population, he usually gets something like 1/3 on elections. 1/3 of all the citizens of course, more of those who actually turn up to vote. And even a significant part of that 1/3 do not actually like him so much, they just hate alternatives even more or bought into his fear-mongering propaganda and vote to him despite not being happy about him otherwise. I guess his hardcore support is something like 20-25%.
                The reason this is enough is that they are united and well organised (also well financed…), and the opposition is a rainbow coalition of different groups who often hate each other’s gut and plus of course the mass of people who won’t vote. But for example they lost many cities and bigger towns in the last local elections (cities are more liberal, just like in the US).

                There is a sense of building resentment, but only among the people who are strongly against them to begin with. I do not sense an anti-Orbán tension in the air in the majority of the general population.

                Note that they have control of the majority of the media (although there are some strong opposition media still), overwhelming financial superiority to the opposition (I am talking about orders of magnitude here) and complete control of any and every state organisation that have financial supervision authority or any kind of financial or criminal investigation authority and that is pretty much a knife on the throat of the opposition (especially since corruption is present in their lines too).

                And I do not need it keep it private, Hungary is not that bad (yet?), at least if you are not an actively supervised state employee or a government contractor. That is what I said earlier, this is not Russia, I am not in danger for writing things like this.

              • Saul Sorrell-Till
                Posted March 1, 2020 at 9:49 am | Permalink

                I wasn’t implying you were going to get strung up for posting(which wouldn’t happen in Russia either). I just know some people don’t like talking about their personal lives or anything related to them.

                Anyway, thanks for the reply.

          • Eric Grobler
            Posted February 29, 2020 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

            “Saying that Hungary is not as bad as Russia doesn’t contradict what I said in my post, which is that it is one of the most authoritarian countries on earth.”

            With all due respect, it seems Hungary is an emotional topic for you, and you are unable to look at the topic objectively.

            • Saul Sorrell-Till
              Posted February 29, 2020 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

              It seems the other way around to me. You seem to have an emotional issue with my description of Hungary.

              And I stand by my description of Hungary. Of course there are more authoritarian countries, but then I didn’t claim differently.

  8. eric
    Posted February 28, 2020 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    A pox on both their houses. How about you not write history that seeks to uphold any social virtue?

    Look, I know there’s no such thing as bias-free history. But at least try not to consciously tint the glasses worse.

    • Historian
      Posted February 28, 2020 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

      If you want to read history that doesn’t uphold any social virtue then the World Almanac is the book for you.

  9. Posted February 28, 2020 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    One thing about history is the interpretation of it keeps changing according to the times, who is in power and what is in fashion. Where I live we gave a saying that if you don’t like the weather wait fifteen minutes and it will change. I would say the sane about the view if history.

  10. Nicolaas Stempels
    Posted February 28, 2020 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

    What a weird gesture that Ms Hannah-Jones makes.
    I read it is an ‘unserious hip-hop’ gesture, but what does it mean? What is it’s ‘etymology’? Must the teeth be -aesthetically unpleasing- gold or would any lower teeth do?

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted February 29, 2020 at 8:35 am | Permalink

      Yes – please I hope someone more hip among us can explain this “fascinating” dental display…. “fascinating” meaning the display is very effective at distracting and draining my attention from the other written or spoken language on offer.

      • dd
        Posted February 29, 2020 at 9:54 am | Permalink

        I believe it’s a hip-hop way of dissing people. A kind of “f u”.

        • Nicolaas Stempels
          Posted February 29, 2020 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

          So it means F you, but I still want to know the ‘etymology’, how did it become to mean that? Some more detail, or history, in other words. Are these (as mentioned unpleasant) gold teeth necessary? or would any set of lower teeth do?

  11. Grzegorz
    Posted March 1, 2020 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    “Scala hominis”?

    • Posted March 1, 2020 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

      “Scala homi” is what I could come up with using online Latin dictionaries. I’m happy to accept a better translation.

      GCM

      • Grzegorz
        Posted March 1, 2020 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

        I’m no classicist, but if “homi” was meant to be the genitive of “homo” then that’s “hominis”: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/homo#Declension_2

        • Posted March 1, 2020 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

          My intention is a phrase analogous to “scala naturae”: a scale (or ladder) along which humans are arranged in a linear hierarchy. I thought “hominis” would indicate possession or ownership of the scale, but I’m not a classicist either!

          GCM

  12. Posted March 2, 2020 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    I hope they address the dufference between the “SJW” crowd and *actual* social justice activism and activists. Whatever one might think about the merits of the latter two, it is completely different.

    • Posted March 2, 2020 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

      Woops, this belongs on the “antiwoke” site thread.


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