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E-Pluribus | February 24, 2023
History isn't history if it isn't true; a war everyone loses; and the lie that is DEI.
A round-up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Frederick Hess: Debunking the ‘True History’ Canard
It is said history is written by the winners, but at The Dispatch, Frederick Hess suggests that, in any case, it should at least be written by the honest. Too often those purporting to offer “true history” doth protest too much over alternate versions of events offered by their ideological and political opponents because the goal is victory, not truth.
The attempts to repackage high academic fashion as factual history are bad enough, but worse is that advocates give the impression that they just don’t care that much about factual accuracy, at least when it doesn’t comport with their larger agenda.
Perhaps the nation’s most prominent “anti-racist” scholar is Ibram X. Kendi, the MacArthur Genius award winner and bestselling author of How to Be an Anti-Racist. In his September 2020 cover story for The Atlantic, he wrote, “The motto of the United States is E pluribus unum—‘Out of many, one.’ The ‘one’ is the president.” It’s kind of remarkable: This staggeringly influential historian managed to get two historical facts wrong in the space of 19 words. The national motto has in fact been “In God we trust” since 1956. More notably, the “one” of “E pluribus unum” is not the president but the union of 13 colonies. Kendi’s little historical fiction was just one of many he uses to “document” the white supremacy of American institutions. Kendi, of course, famously holds that every single action, idea, thought, and policy is either racist or anti-racist, which is why the niceties of the historical record matter less than how Kendi and his acolytes choose to construe them.
Then there’s the New York Times’ celebrated, Pulitzer Prize-winning 1619 Project, which originally explained that its aim was to displace the “mythology” of 1776 “to reframe the country’s history” and posit the 1619 arrival of slave ships “as our true founding.” (Along with a slew of other stealth edits, this passage was quietly scrubbed from The New York Times‘ website in 2020.) The exercise was rife with inaccuracies, including the startling assertion that the American colonies revolted against Great Britain “in order to ensure slavery would continue” (rousing even the fustiest of scholars to collectively bark, “What?!”). As five eminent historians wrote to the Times, “If supportable, the allegation would be astounding—yet every statement offered by the project to validate it is false.” The project also attributed modern accounting practices to antebellum slavery—although such practices actually date back to Italian banking of the late Middle Ages. The whole thing was too much even for the World Socialist Web Site, which concluded that the exercise was “a politically motivated falsification of history.”
Read it all.
Robert Tracinski: The Culture War We All Lose
In his latest post at his Symposium Substack, Robert Tracinski reflects on Hamline University’s treatment of a professor over images of Mohammed used in an art history class. Tracinski says when institutions lack courage and back down in the face of intolerance and intimidation, there are no winners.
[W]hen we focus on outright attacks on academic freedom, I think we might be missing a much bigger picture: the destruction of university humanities programs as such. Consider that while the Hamline case is being debated, another small school, Virginia’s Marymount University, announced that it is eliminating nine humanities majors.
We can debate how history should be taught, what should be taught, and who should be hired to teach it. But what if the question is whether it will be taught, and whether schools will hire anyone at all?
[. . .]
[U]niversities have hired thousands more administrators while cutting back on full-time, career positions for actual teaching. “Professors have been sacrificed on the altar of vice deans.” The US government has poured billions of dollars of subsidies and government-backed student loan money into the universities, and it has all been absorbed by a bloated bureaucracy.
[. . .]
If culture warriors in the universities have begun to view fields like history as merely a battleground for partisan political activists—whether on the left or the right—then the academic study of history will seem to be non-essential, and the field will be left entirely to the activists.
Read it all here.
Nate Hochman: The Left Already Knows That DEI Is a Lie
Nate Hochman at National Review writes that when Diversity, Equity and Inclusion proponents say they want diversity, equity, and inclusion, one thing you can be sure of is that they are not looking for… diversity, equity, and inclusion. Not only that, Hochman says, the advocates themselves know that DEI is just a smokescreen for larger political and social ends.
It should come as no surprise that the stated intention of DEI is at odds with its material effects. But that dissonance has been evident from the start. In reality, DEI is only a more blatant iteration of a project that predates the newest round of buzzwords, and arrived under the guise of other catchphrases — few, if any, of which actually meant what progressives claimed.
[. . .]
Just as the formal claims of DEI are very different from the true nature of the ideology, the Left’s invocation of “academic freedom” was never really about a pluralistic attitude toward the expression of different views on campus. It was a convenient argument to make, for a time, to demand a tolerance of progressive values in previously conservative institutions. Once those institutions complied, progressives were all too happy to leave “academic freedom” by the wayside, and quickly set about establishing new orthodoxies and dogmas that brooked no dissent.
In the same way, DEI isn’t about authentic “diversity” or “inclusion.” Nor is “equity” really about equal opportunity or treatment, at least as conservatives — and probably most Americans — understand those terms. Last year, two education writers “watched nearly 100 hours of leaked videos from 108 workshops held virtually” in 2021 by a flagship equity conference that “sets standards for more than 1,600 independent schools in the U.S., driving their missions and influencing many school policies,” and reported on their findings in a Wall Street Journal essay: “Equity requires dismantling all systems that Bipoc members of the community believe to cause harm,” they concluded. “Justice is the final stage of social transformation to ‘collective liberation.’” One quote they captured from a “DEI practitioner” at one of the sessions summarized the real purpose of DEI — a stark contrast with its friendlier, corporate-buzzword iterations: “The ongoing act of deconstructing, dismantling, disrupting . . . colonial ideologies and the superiority of Western thought.”
Read the whole thing.
The Foundation for Individual Rights & Expression on revelations that Twitter under Elon Musk has stopped publishing a report on governmental demands for censorship:
Via the Institute for Free Speech, a story from Georgia: who is censoring who?
And finally, professor and historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. discovered that the ancestors of militant Communist and Black Panther member Angela Davis came over on the Mayflower. The 1620 Project, anyone?