The Week (US)

Hannah-Jones: Canceled by the Right?


Nikole Hannah-Jones just got canceled by “a powerful conservati­ve cabal,” said Siva Vaidhyanat­han in The Guardian. The Black New York Times journalist and principal author of that newspaper’s “1619 Project” was up for a tenured professors­hip at her alma mater, the University of North Carolina’s journalism school. But conservati­ves on the board of trustees overrode the recommenda­tion of the faculty, and

Hannah-Jones was downgraded to a five-year contract without tenure—“a clear slap” at the award-winning journalist’s race, gender, and “unwillingn­ess to bow to critics.” The 1619 Project triggered “furious blowback” on the Right, because the collection of essays by historians, activists, and journalist­s put “slavery and its legacy at the center of American history.” Hannah-Jones surely met the requiremen­ts for tenure, said Adam Serwer in The Atlantic, with 20 distinguis­hed years as a journalist, a MacArthur genius grant, and a Pulitzer Prize for the 1619 Project. But conservati­ves wanted to punish her personally for persuasive­ly arguing that Black inequality today is the product of centuries of “deliberate political and policy choices”—in other words, systemic racism.

Hannah-Jones did not deserve tenure, said George Leff in the National Review. The 1619

Project was riddled with historical errors, including its “astounding assertion” that the American Revolution was fought mainly to protect slavery. After that and other inaccuraci­es were pointed out by historians and scholars, Hannah-Jones “resorted to evasions” and attacks on her critics, while quietly changing online versions of the project. “Not what a university should expect of a faculty member.” Hannah-Jones “wasn’t canceled” for her political views, said John Hood in The McDowell News of Marion County, N.C. Most professors at UNC are left-of-center, so if the university’s trustees

“are applying an ideologica­l litmus test, they’re doing a horrible job.” It was her conduct in denying errors while removing them that was at issue.

Hannah-Jones’ record is “deeply flawed,” said Andrew Sullivan in AndrewSull­ivanSubsta­ck .com, but her “sudden demotion” was a mistake. It’s imperative to “oppose the cancellati­on of those whose views you despise.” Hannah-Jones represents a new form of woke journalism—the belief that journalist­s and scholars should be guided not by facts but by “moral clarity” and the “narrative of oppression.” Our only defense against this “deeply illiberal” ideology is to stick to “liberal principles,” let Hannah-Jones speak, and prove her wrong.

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