It appears that this week, the New York Times, the so-called paper of record, upon whom the self-directed spotlight of smug superiority ever shines – has now taken that final, irrevocable step from the business of reporting news and current events, matters cultural and artistic to becoming a purveyor of progressive propaganda. Of course, as characters in British procedural mysteries often say, ‘they have form’ when it comes to progressive propaganda; all the way from Walter Duranty’s reporting on famine in the Soviet Union through the drumbeat of ‘worst war-crime evah!’ in coverage when it came to Abu Ghraib, and the current bête noir – or rather ‘bête orange’ man bad. It seems that it has now become necessary for the Times to make the issue of chattel slavery of black Africans the centerpiece, the foundation stone, the sum and total of American history. Everything – absolutely everything in American history and culture now must be filtered through the pitiless lens of slavery.
Never mind that as a human institution, slavery has existed at least as long as war, prostitution, and agriculture itself. Never mind that black slaves from Africa went largely to the middle east, to the Caribbean and to South America, where they labored in such horrible conditions that few survived, let alone reproduced. Never mind that at least as many English, Irish and Scots arrived in those English colonies in North America as indentured servants laboring under the same brutal conditions. Never mind that at least half of the founding fathers had strong objections to chattel slavery, and less than a hundred years into the great experiment in self-rule, sufficient numbers of Northerners felt strongly enough about it to fight a brutal civil war in order to bring it to an end. And never mind that slavery itself kept the South inefficient, relatively poor, largely inhospitable to industrialization and unattractive to poor and working-class immigrants.
No, all must be reframed and ret-conned; the concept of the United States is fatally stained with the new version of original sin; slavery and racism. There must be nothing left of our traditions and culture in which we can take honest and openly expressed pride. Not throwing off the last ragged remnants of feudal rule, and establishing a democratic republic, wherein the common, ordinary citizen could, by voting, exercise political control of his or her own life. Industrial innovation and creativity in everything from weaving cloth to taming the wild atom, setting up trade networks, exploring and settling a continent, reaching out into space, encouraging social mobility in a manner practically unknown to any other nation … no, all of that and more. Everything about America – that part of it occupied by the United States of – is now marred by the stain of slavery, in the eyes of the NY Times. All because better than half of us who live in it and honor those traditions had the temerity to vote for the ‘bête orange’.
The NY Times, the so-called, duly anointed and authoritative ‘paper of record’ has now taken up the heavy job of entirely re-writing American history. Will they have any luck at this, given the death-grip that the establishment media has on current culture? Or are there enough of us still left who actually read history that we can pull pop culture the other way? Discuss as you wish.