Donald Trump’s administration is going to start pushing back hard against the 1619 Project, the New York Times‘ alternate history of the founding of the United States that has been widely debunked by historians on the left and the right. It has routinely been criticized for being built on a false premise and using faulty information while also completely ignoring facts that would invalidate many of the claims made within the project.
That’s all well and good. We can quibble about how involved the government should be in pushing back, but it is right and proper to acknowledge that it is a bad re-telling of American history. Even the project’s creator, Nikole Hannah-Jones, was forced to admit that it is not a “history” but a journalism project – something that it also fails at (and probably fails at that even harder).
Curiously, though, when Trump criticizes the project, it appears that journalists who have otherwise not mentioned anything about the 1619 Project at all suddenly mention it only to ask if Trump even read it.
Question for Trump: Which essay in the 1619 Project did you find the least compelling? https://t.co/4NVpyaNvOJ
— ErikWemple (@ErikWemple) September 17, 2020
Wemple, in case you did not know, is a “media critic” for the Washington Post. His job is to comment on the media. However, when a journalism project put out by one of the most influential news outlets in the country got hammered for factual inaccuracies, Wemple apparently remained silent. There is no evidence he has ever written on the subject in any meaningful manner.
Yet, his Twitter bio says that he loves “family, journalism, pushups.” One would think that a love of journalism would also entail calling out when a major outlet is bad at it, because it hurts the field as a whole. But that is apparently not his job. He is content to be like Brian Stelter and Oliver Darcy of CNN and focus primarily on Fox News (although, to Wemple’s credit, he does at least mention other outlets from time to time).
I fail to see, though, why Trump should be expected to have read the 1619 Project. It has been exposed as inaccurate, agenda-driven propaganda. No one should read it because it is a prime example of what I wrote about yesterday — it is journalism that tries to build a narrative rather than report on facts.
Facts can be inconvenient to narratives, as any politician will tell you. The problem is that journalists aren’t supposed to be politicians. They are supposed to focus on the facts and let those facts speak for themselves. Wemple is joining in the narrative by further trying to portray Trump as some sort of unread buffoon.
But you don’t have to read the 1619 Project to know that it does a bad job of being a historical analysis and journalism project. If you have dozens of historians coming forward and saying the central premise of a project is wrong, then its credibility is gone. There is no need to read it.
You could argue that Trump should better articulate what is wrong with it (there are plenty of arguments to choose from), but Wemple (and others on social media) decided instead to attack the man rather than be honest.
That is why there is so little faith in journalism and journalists, and why the industry is better off at this point burning to the ground and being rebuilt. There is very little about any journalism today that is redeeming if all it can do is launch personal attacks on a sitting president and churn out things like the 1619 Project.