NY Times Lashes Out at ‘Brutality of American Capitalism,’ Connects to Slavery

August 20th, 2019 10:15 AM

Forget 1776 and all that: The New York Times wants to "reframe" your benighted understanding of the nation's founding, which they date to 1619, when the original sin of slavery first began to spread, as the first Africans were brought to North America as slaves. PJ Media said it “may be the most ambitious left wing propaganda project in history.”

This year marks the 400th anniversary of that event, and the Times is primed to put slavery in the center of the American story, and redefine capitalism as slavery while they’re at it.

The first salvo came on Sunday, in the 100-page special edition (“The 1619 Project”) of the Sunday magazine, plus a 16-page special print section (mostly photos and historical explanations). The magazine was stuffed with left-wing opinions, each more radical than the last, plus original poetry for the occasion, from the economy to junk food to medical care to the political system and traffic jams in Atlanta. Everything tied back to slavery. The cover included the line, “On the 400th anniversary of this fateful moment, it is finally time to tell our story truthfully.”

As opposed to all the lying that came before?

The Times clearly wants this magazine edition entered into the historical record: “...we have printed hundreds of thousands of additional copies of this issue...for distribution at libraries, schools and museums.” They credit “the generous support” of, among others, the N.A.A.C.P. Legal Defense and Educational Fund. It’s an unalloyed left-wing anti-capitalist perspective under the guise of objective fact-finding about slavery.

Newsbusters provided an overview yesterday, but some of the individual pieces are too wrong-headed not to delve into. Gross generalizations abound.

From Jake Silverstein’s “Editor’s Note”:

Out of slavery -- and the anti-black racism it required -- grew nearly everything that has truly made America exceptional: its economic might, its industrial power, its electoral system, diet and popular music, the inequities of its public health and education, it’s astonishing penchant for violence, its income inequality, the example it sets for the world as a land of freedom and equality....”

And so it goes, for 100 endless pages.

Among the lowlights was Matthew Desmond equating slavery with capitalism, in defiance of economics and history: “In order to understand the brutality of American capitalism, you have to start on the plantation.” Desmond wrote:

This is a capitalist society. It’s a fatalistic mantra that seems to get repeated to anyone who questions why America can’t be more fair or equal....When Americans declare that “we live in a capitalist society”....what they’re often defending is our nation’s peculiarly brutal economy. “Low-road capitalism,” the University of Wisconsin-Madison sociologist Joel Rogers has called it. In a capitalist society that goes low, wages are depressed as businesses compete over the price, not the quality, of goods; so-called unskilled workers are typically incentivized through punishments, not promotions; inequality reigns and poverty spreads....

Those inequality and poverty figures would improve if we closed the borders and stopped poor people from coming in, but that may not be popular among liberals.

Desmond made a ridiculous comparison between accounting procedures and slavery:

When an accountant depreciates an asset to save on taxes or when a midlevel manager spends an afternoon filling in rows and columns on an Excel spreadsheet, they are repeating business procedures whose roots twist back to slave-labor camps....

He concluded by condemning:

...a racist capitalism that ignores the fact that slavery didn’t just deny black freedom but built white fortunes, originating the black-white wealth gap that annually grows wider -- one reason is that American capitalism was founded on the lowest road there is.

Opinion writer Jamelle Bouie laid blame at the feet of today’s GOP (and, offensively, racist Democratic pre-Civil War politician John C. Calhoun) in “American democracy has never shed an undemocratic assumption present at its founding: that some people are inherently entitled to more power than others.”

If you want to understand American politics in 2019 and the strain of reactionary extremism that has taken over the Republican Party, a good place to start is 2011: the year after a backlash to Barack Obama’s presidency swept Tea Party insurgents into Congress, flipping control of the House.

Bouie explained how “Calhoun popularized the concept of ‘nullification’: the theory that any state subject to federal law was entitled to invalidate it....” then shamelessly applied the concept to current Republican Party politics. A photo caption of Calhoun called him “an influence on modern right-wing thinking.”

....It is striking how much this echoes contemporary arguments against the expansion of democracy. In 2012, for example, a Tea Party congressional candidate from Florida said that voting is a “privilege” and seemed to endorse property requirements for participation.


The past 10 years of Republican extremism is emblematic. The Tea Party billed itself as a reaction to debt and spending, but a close look shows it was actually a reaction to an ascendant majority of black people, Latinos, Asian-Americans and liberal white people....


To stop this change and its political consequences, right-wing conservatives have embarked on a project to nullify opponents and restrict the scope of democracy. Mitch McConnell’s hyper-obstructionist rule in the Senate is the most high-profile example of this strategy, but it’s far from the most egregious.

The Times is trying to slip this propaganda “journalism” into schools, as shown by the back blurb, “The 1619 Project In Schools,” hosted by the Pulitzer Center (not connected to the Pulitzer Prize).

We were warned. On August 13, New York Times editorial board member Mara Gay tweeted “In the days and weeks to come, we will publish essays demonstrating that nearly everything that has made America exceptional grew out of slavery.”

A quick skim unearths factual errors (contra Bouie, the Republicans did not take over the Senate in 2010) and important omissions. America is not the only country where slavery ever existed, but it did fight a bloody civil war to overthrow it. Countries in Africa and the Middle East have slavery today without being capitalist powerhouses.The horrible examples of Jim Crow and state discrimination were of course enforced by the governments of those states, not by those wicked private capitalists. And if slavery invariably equals capitalism equals ill-gotten wealth, how did the North overpower the South during the Civil War?