Media Criticism

New York Times Union Hits Times Columnist Bret Stephens for Daring To Criticize the 1619 Project

"It says a lot about an organization when it breaks it's [sic] own rules and goes after one of it's [sic] own," the union tweeted. "The act, like the article, reeks."


Bret Stephens is a conventionally conservative columnist for The New York Times who tends to write about many of the same issues I cover for Reason: free speech on college campuses, illiberalism and incivility, cancel culture, etc. (I am occasionally critical of his columns, even when I agree with their general thrust.)

On Friday, he wrote a long piece about the 1619 Project, the Pulitzer-winning series of New York Times magazine articles spearheaded by Times reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones. The articles re-envisioned 1619—the year that African slaves first arrived in the English colonies in North America—as the America's true founding. The project has drawn praise for calling attention to the country's original sin of slavery, but also much criticism for factual errors and rhetorical exaggerations. Most notably, the 1619 Project wrongly claimed that preserving slavery was an important reason for the colonists' rebellion against the British.

Stephens' column takes great pains to praise Hannah-Jones for all that she was able to accomplish with the 1619 Project, which he hails as "ambitious" and "unabashedly patriotic." But he also knocks Hannah-Jones for her mistakes, and he calls her out for committing a rhetorical slight-of-hand: Both Hannah-Jones and Times magazine editor Jake Silverstein have denied ever claiming that they proposed 1619 as an alternative date for the true American founding. This is simply false: As I have shown in two recent articles, they absolutely billed the 1619 Project this way. In fact, Hannah-Jones claimed that this was the point of the 1619 Project as recently as September 15.

Stephens presents yet more evidence:

I emailed [Hannah-Jones] to ask if she could point to any instances before this controversy in which she had acknowledged that her claims about 1619 as "our true founding" had been merely metaphorical. Her answer was that the idea of treating the 1619 date metaphorically should have been so obvious that it went without saying.

She then challenged me to find any instance in which the project stated that "using 1776 as our country's birth date is wrong," that it "should not be taught to schoolchildren," and that the only one "that should be taught" was 1619. "Good luck unearthing any of us arguing that," she added.

Here is an excerpt from the introductory essay to the project by The New York Times Magazine's editor, Jake Silverstein, as it appeared in print in August 2019 (italics added):

"1619. It is not a year that most Americans know as a notable date in our country's history. Those who do are at most a tiny fraction of those who can tell you that 1776 is the year of our nation's birth. What if, however, we were to tell you that this fact, which is taught in our schools and unanimously celebrated every Fourth of July, is wrong, and that the country's true birth date, the moment that its defining contradictions first came into the world, was in late August of 1619?"

So Stephens' criticism is solid. But some at the paper are evidently unhappy about it. On Saturday, the Twitter account for the newspaper's employee union took a cheap shot at Stephens, tweeting that his article "reeks."

"It says a lot about an organization when it breaks it's own rules and goes after one of it's own," the account tweeted. "The act, like the article, reeks."

The tweet references the fact that Times writers are usually supposed to refrain from explicitly criticizing each other in public. It's true that this is a rather irregular column, and Stephens acknowledges as much in his concluding paragraphs, noting that he "thought long and hard about the ethics of writing this essay." A general prohibition on colleagues savaging each other's work makes sense as a policy.

But the union's interest in this principle is not exactly consistent. When opinion editor James Bennet dared to publish a controversial op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R–Ark.), Times employees attacked him—with the full support of the union, which coordinated talking points that recommended using the language of workplace safety to argue that the words in the Cotton piece literally put Times staffers in danger. They also castigated opinion writer Bari Weiss, in public as well as private, for continuously publishing pieces with which they disagreed. The results included the exits of both Weiss and Bennet from the paper.

When the Times subsequently published an abominable piece of Chinese Communist Party propaganda defending the government's crackdown on Hong Kong, there was no public outrage from staffers. No one complained about lapsing editorial standards. The union did not fret about the safety of Hong Kong–based journalists.

Criticizing Stephens for breaking Times rules and "going after" a colleague is yet another hypocrisy on the part of the union representing Times staffers—because that's exactly what they did to Bennet and Weiss. Defend at all costs those who agree with the ideology represented by Hannah-Jones, and punish or purge the dissenters: That's the only principle in play here.

Late Sunday night, the account deleted the offending tweet, writing:

This is probably evidence that they got in trouble for the tweet, rather than evidence that they realized the sentiment behind it is self-serving and selectively applied. In any case, it's the double standard that reeks, not Stephens' column.

NEXT: Why Can't They Both Lose?

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  1. When writing about the 1619 lies, please be sure cite the fact that there were no slaves on the ship to Jamestown.
    And oh by the way, don’t write about the NYT. They are banned forever.
    “The first group of 20 or so Africans were brought to Jamestown in 1619 as indentured servants. After working out their contracts for passage money to Virginia and completing their indenture, each was granted 50 acres (20 ha) of land (headrights). This enabled them to raise their own tobacco or other crops.”

    So they were capitalists, not slaves.
    Not sorry.

    1. Thanks for that. Had not known they were just ordinary indentured servants, and how long it took for slavery to take hold.

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    2. Dream on. Without the New York Times, this website would virtually be a blank screen these days.

      1. Not at all they would still have Vox to steal from

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  2. “…breaks it’s own rules…”

    This, from our erudite betters at the paper of record.

    It’s “its,” people. “It’s” = “It is.” I know, I know, the English language and syntax are merely a construct of homophobic colonizing white male racists, so therefore we must accept whatever They/Them/Xe tell us the proper usage is.

    1. Most people are skilled enough readers to recognize the meaning from context and move on. The obsession that tiny nothing of an error always recieves is mind-boggling.

      And yes I understand the Times should be better. The Union, however, is just a bunch of cronies and thugs.

      1. The union is made up of journalists and editors who should understand basic grammar. Then again it is made up of young, mostly white, journalism graduates which means they are generally the dumbest of college graduates. Their focus in school having been victim hood and politics instead of journalism and English.

        1. How do they compare to education majors?

          1. Probably both are better than basket weaving gender identity majors.

        2. “The union is made up of journalists and editors who should understand basic grammar”


          But that’s not their Twitter feed.

            1. They’re Journolists they were hacked.

              1. By other hacks.

          1. “its” as the possessive is not basic grammar though. the apostrophe s signifies ownership in most other cases. adding an apostrophe s to signify plural is a much more common grammar error.

            “its” to mean ownership and “it’s” to mean “it is” is arbitrary, and I would argue, wrong-headed. They should both be “it’s”

            1. Yeah, it’s typography or possibly spelling, not grammar. If you are going to be all pedantic, at least properly identify the area in which you are being all pedantic.

            2. Well, “it” is a pronoun. Other pronouns do not use an apostrophe to indicate possession: my, your, his, her, their, our, whose. So it makes sense for the possessive to be “its”.

      2. Pedantry is always a great way to show just how superior you are. Speaking of which, Robby states in the article:

        When the Times subsequently published an abominable piece of Chinese Community Party propaganda

        Good job, Reason. How many editors work here again?

        1. Many editors and no proofreaders.

      3. Journalists should at least be literate. They are in the business of selling words. Yes, to the ‘dems, dese, and dos’ crowd maybe it goes unnoticed but those of us get more than free toilet paper from the NYT, such basic errors are like vandalism to our language.

        You misspelled ‘receives’

    2. Props to Robby for putting that in the byline……

      It was a pretty sic burn.

    3. Oh No! A Grammar Nazi Racist!

    4. Yeah, you’re right, I’m tilting at windmills and it doesn’t change the substance of the message. But you gotta be able to shake your fist at something.

      1. Shake harder, boy.

  3. I read the column and my only take on it was “holy cow, either the NYT is doing an about-face on this 1619 crap or Bret Stephens just decided he didn’t want to work at the NYT any more”. And then I ordered 12 extra cases of popcorn, because I don’t want to miss a second of this shitshow.

  4. The NYT is garbage and should be ignored.

  5. NYT = New York Tweets

    There are no journalists who work there.

    1. I thought it was “New York Twats”

    2. The NYT hasn’t rid itself of reporters yet, but they’re working on it.

  6. Irrational, emotional tribalisms gotta tribe.

  7. The new york times has bed bugs.

  8. “A general prohibition on colleagues savaging each other’s work makes sense as a policy.”

    Makes it pretty difficult to push a narrative, otherwise.

    1. you can’t say “savaging” — it’s racist.

    2. But are they not savaging a colleague’s work?

  9. New York Times Union Hits Times Columnist Bret Stephens for Daring To Criticize the 1619 Project

    In Chicago, this title carries a very different connotation.

    1. Yeah, there the headline is “Bret Stephens Missing”

  10. Didn’t Africans sell their own into slavery? Does 1619 mention that?

    1. Yes. No.

    2. Unpossible! The only slaves ever were in the evil USA, where evil white people gathered from around the world to invent racism and sexism and guns and cigarettes.

      1. And no white people were ever enslaved , especially no evil white crusaders enslaved by peace-loving followers of Mohammed.

        1. Yep. The Slavs are, uh, something other than white….

    3. i saw on Roots where a couple of white guys took a rowboat in and threw a net over the first black dude they saw in the jungle

      1. Sounds legit.

      2. I don’t remember whether Roots the movie showed something like this, but IIRC the book made it plain that Kunte Kinte was captured and sold by other Africans. A more historically accurate account might have shown his village chief arranging this kidnapping for profit and/or to get rid of a possible rival.

        The first Portuguese exploring ships kidnapped a few Africans from near the coast and sold them as slaves back in Portugal, but the numbers could not have been large – the crews took up most of the space on these tiny ships. Nor was it practical to fill many slave ships by kidnapping people from the beach, because soon no one would be living near the shore. And white men who went deep into the jungle with evil intentions generally didn’t return.

        The trans-Sahara slave trade supplied the Arab world with slaves for many centuries before European ships first went south of the desert belt, and the trans-Atlantic slave trade depended on Africans and Arabs establishing slave-trading ports where the ships could dock and swap trade goods for slaves, who had been purchased or seized from the inland.

  11. In any case, it’s the double standard that reeks, not Stephens’ column.

    Ninety-nine percent of Soave’s articles could be reduced to a single sentence like this. He is the most one-trick of one-trick ponies.

    1. Not with Shikha’s border jumpers and ENB’s hookers in the running.

  12. After subscribing to the NYT and the Wall Street Jrnl for 33 years, and after witnessing the gradual decline on the NYT, I unsubscribed from the NYT in 2017 (due to the dozen anti Trump headlines, articles, editorials and op/eds every day).

    Although its been very nice to not read the anti Trump, anti Republican, anti capitalist, and anti American propaganda in the NYT anymore, I’ve notice that most other formerly mainstream news outlets (AP, Washington Post, USA Today, NBC, ABC, CBS and even Wall St. Jrnl.) have also become purveyors of left wing dogma very similar to traditional left wing news outlets (including the NYT, Huff Post, NPR, Politico, MSNBC, CNN).

    And for the past several years, Reason has also gone from libertarian to mostly left wing.

    Is there any objective journalism left?

    1. Despite what some commenters say, I think Reason remains clearly libertarian in its message. Libertarianism should be neither of the right nor the left, but a different way, which happens to align with the left on some issues, and with the right on others. Please don’t change.

      1. Reason remains clearly libertarian in its message

        Explain stuff like this then:

        Trump Still Doesn’t Have a Health Care Plan

      2. Thank you for writing this. I agree that Reason tries to make its own way, attempting to consider each issue on its own merits rather than following a right or left agenda. I am constantly challenged to think, not to just agree or disagree. And I am particularly grateful for its avoidance of the breathless “hair-on-fire” attitude of so many other publications. Glad that I found the Reason website and its podcasts!

    2. Probably not at the enterprise level. Try individual independent journalists. Recently, I like Matt Taibbi, even if I don’t always agree.

      And especially sad to see the WSJ get woke. Example: in the report on the Nobel economics prize, the editor had to include a gratuitous graphic on prizes won by men vs. women, which was not even mentioned in the text.

  13. Actually, a case can be made that 1619 is the year that what would become the United States got its start. In that year, “the first representative assembly in America, the General Assembly, convened in the Jamestown Church.” Today’s Virginia General Assembly traces its origin to that event. What had been the James Fort may also have been formally designated James Towne in that year. The arrival of black slaves that year, on an English privateer vessel which captured them from a Dutch ship, was a minor incident by comparison.

    1. “The arrival of black slaves that year, on an English privateer vessel which captured them from a Dutch ship, was a minor incident by comparison.”

      Citation? says the opposite.

  14. Our schools teach White students that they are immoral and contemptible if they don’t support the White Genocide that is being carried out by mass 3rd world immigration and forced diversity in Every White country and Only White countries.
    Their teachers never tell them, “White self-hatred is SICK!!!“
    Those teachers claim to be anti-racist. What they are is anti-White.
    Anti-racist is just a code word for anti-White.

  15. How do they avoid feeling shame for teaching known falsehoods to children?

    1. They believe in means to an end, whatever those means are.

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  17. Once upon a time, liberals were champions of free speech, and tolerated and even encouraged open debate among competing viewpoints. Or so I’ve heard, I’m not that old.

    1. That was before they could envision themselves calling the shots and not asking for tolerance

    2. Which is why you should not refer to the fascists running the democratic party at this time as liberals.

  18. “When the Times subsequently published an abominable piece of Chinese Community Party propaganda defending the government’s crackdown on Hong Kong, there was no public outrage from staffers. No one complained about lapsing editorial standards. The union did not fret about the safety of Hong Kong–based journalists.”

    We understand where the Times stands. People don’t do what they want, there needs to be rules, and they must be enforced. The prog creed.

  19. “When the Times subsequently published an abominable piece of Chinese Community Party propaganda defending the government’s crackdown on Hong Kong…”

    Chinese Community Party, what’s that?

    1. Googles autocorrect for “Communist”?

  20. The New York Times was always racist, here’s what they wrote about in a 1906 editorial when clergymen were trying to get the Bronx zoo to stop exhibiting pygmies:

    We do not quite understand all the emotion which others are expressing in the matter … It is absurd to make moan over the imagined humiliation and degradation Benga is suffering.

    The pygmies … are very low in the human scale, and the suggestion that Benga should be in a school instead of a cage ignores the high probability that school would be a place … from which he could draw no advantage whatever.
    The idea that men are all much alike except as they have had or lacked opportunities for getting an education out of books is now far out of date.

    They’ve only swapped their hostility to blacks for paternalism. The racist mindset remains.

  21. The NYT is a cesspit of backbiting racist lefturds. Why should anyone care about the details of how they attack each other?


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  23. Reason’s copy editors drive me nuts. The possessive form of singular nouns that end in s is “S+apostrophe+S. Not “S + apostrophe.” Simple example: we don’t say James’ book. We say “James’s book”. Same with Mr. Stevens. The plural has three syllables, not two. The written language should reflect the spoken language here.

    1. Unless it is Jesus’ or Moses’ for some reason.

  24. This is just another reason why the New York Times has no credibility left. The “newspaper of record” is now the “newspaper of bullshit”. Their only readers are the sheep who already toe the party line.

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  27. The NYT is garbage and should be ignored.

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