Over the weekend, the New York Times rolled out the printed version of The 1619 Project, a sprawling historical-journalism project devoted to changing the way Americans currently understand and discuss the legacy of slavery in this country. The premise was that slavery was not a passing and painfully corrected mistake, but a foundational feature of all aspects of life in this country—and that therefore the black experience is at the center of the American experience.
Conservative pundits were not happy to see this. Right-wing intellectual heavyweights such as Newt Gingrich or right-wing intellectual junior middleweights such as Erick Erickson spent the past few days obsessively tweeting or yelling at you from your TV screens to make sure America knew that the New York Times was trying to—well, that part was not entirely clear.
For white conservatives, accepting that the United States wouldn’t exist without slavery would mean acknowledging that the Founders were not the creators of an infallible civic religion, which sets the limits on all modern claims for justice. It would mean that liberty was, in practice, as much a matter of exclusion as inclusion, and that success and prosperity owe more to centuries of exploitation than to God’s blessing of an exceptional people.
But their political project depends on not even considering those possibilities. And so their response was equal parts furious and vague, a barrage of arguments that discussing this country’s history is the last thing this country needs: the Times was being divisive, or it was being nihilistic, or it was implementing a secret scheme to make Americans vote against Trump by claiming that racism was an ongoing problem.
Mostly, they wanted to express that they were very personally angry. The fact that they took a wide-ranging examination of slavery’s lasting ills as an attack on themselves was a fairly obvious confession. Here are a few of the different categories of criticism under which they spent the weekend telling on themselves, in the name of complaining about the project:
It makes me feel bad about my country.
Facts don’t care about your feelings except when they do, and the fact is that it’s divisive to make conservatives feel bad.
From a radio host and the guy behind this:
From the director of the Cato Institute’s Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies:
From a senior contributor to the Federalist:
Everyone’s already heard of slavery.
Or, how dare a newspaper try to further inform its readership.
From a Georgetown Law professor:
It’s a plot against the presidency, and also helps Trump.
From the Washington Examiner’s chief political correspondent:
From a former speaker of the House and noted wife enthusiast:
From Sen. Ted Cruz:
It’s being rude to white people.
Have you considered the real victims of slavery?
From an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute:
It’s doing what it said it would do, and that’s bad.
I’ve been told America is good, and this would seem to imply the opposite. How dare you, and no further questions.
From a contributor at the Daily Signal: