The “1619 Project” Learns from Mussolini

Contrary to what many think, fascism is not based on the belief in absolute truth. Fascism is based on the belief that there is no truth; that is, on relativism, or nihilism. This position is actually built on a fatal contradiction: a relativist says there is no truth, but in so doing, he is asserting a truth which then becomes the basis for what he intends to impose on everybody else. 

Everybody else has been so polite as to let the relativists go on instead of pointing out that they are proceeding from a premise that contradicts their own premise and therefore they don’t deserve to be listened to. But that’s where we are and where we’ve been for some time in the relativistic postmodern worldview.  

Take the “1619 Project”—a group of essays pushing the thesis that American ideals were false when they were written and that the American Revolution was fought to protect and perpetuate slavery.  

Prominent historians, liberals and conservatives alike, including Gordon Wood, James McPherson, James Oakes, Victoria Bynum, Clayborne Carson, Allen Guelzo, and Sean Wilentz have enumerated the many factual errors in the essays (including at the 1620 Project of the National Association of Scholars). Yet the lead essayist, Nikole Hannah-Jones, has responded mainly by mocking the idea of objective history altogether, as when she tweeted, with irony, “LOL. Right, because white historians have produced truly objective history.” She and her defenders fall back on the idea that they are offering a different “interpretation” or “re-framing” of the facts, or that they are simply generating debate. 

“I think my point was that history is not objective,” she has said. “And that people who write history are not simply objective arbiters of facts, and that white scholars are no more objective than any other scholars, and that they can object to the framing and we can object to their framing as well.”

This can fairly be described as a fascist attitude. As Benito Mussolini helpfully explained, “If relativism signifies contempt for fixed categories and men who claim to be the bearers of an objective, immortal truth . . . then there is nothing more relativistic than Fascist attitudes and activity . . . From the fact that all ideologies are of equal value, that all ideologies are mere fictions, the modern relativist infers that everybody has the right to create for himself his own ideology and to attempt to enforce it with all the energy of which he is capable.” 

The historians who protest “1619,” however, resist the “framing” idea and take issue with the project’s clear misrepresentation of well-established facts

“These errors, which concern major events, cannot be described as interpretation or ‘framing,’’’ some of them declared in an open letter. “They are matters of verifiable fact, which are the foundation of both honest scholarship and honest journalism. They suggest a displacement of historical understanding by ideology.” 

Sweeping aside such objections, Hannah-Jones is energetically enforcing her “interpretation,” as Mussolini directed, in her case with the help of institutions that also have been corrupted by ideological thinking—the New York Times, the Pulitzer Committee, and the public school systems that teach the “1619” curricula designed for K-12.

While the historians were waiting for some accountability, Hannah-Jones won journalism’s highest honor, the Pulitzer Prize. Her prize was in commentary, not history. Was that a backhanded way for the Pulitzer Committee to admit that the “1619 Project” cannot be dignified as history? 

But if that is so, why have professional educators accepted curricula based on the “1619 Project” for teaching in public schools, despite its being faulted by experts and scholars and exposed as mainly ideological? 

Which is the worst wound inflicted on the body politic by the “1619 Project?” 

  • The original compiling of a malicious pack of falsehoods about our country’s founding?
  • Snubbing the demand for historical accuracy and by extension rebuffing any concept of reasoned deliberation as the basis of our common life?
  • Piping this poison into the schools, goading children through misinformation to hate their country? Encouraging minority children to hate their white classmates and white children to hate themselves? 
  • Seeing Hannah-Jones awarded the Pulitzer without any effort on her part to correct her work?   
  • Using white guilt to extort reparations? Hannah-Jones has said, “When my editor asks me, like, what’s your ultimate goal for the project, my ultimate goal is that there’ll be a reparations bill passed.” “I write to try to get liberal white people to do what they say they believe in. I’m making a moral argument. My method is guilt.”

 The “1619 Project” is a genuine and instructive exercise in the “fascist attitudes and activity” Mussolini described—how a false ideology created by modern relativists can be advanced by force of will and contempt for truth on a populace deprived of reason.

Thanks, Duce, for making that clear.

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About Carol Iannone

Carol Iannone has written on literature, education, and culture for a variety of publications.

Photo: Xinhua/Wang Ying via Getty Images

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