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What would you think if a major newspaper published an elaborate, fanciful conspiracy theory? And it implicated one ethnic group with racial guilt, such that we shouldn't trust its members? And if major national institutions colluded in creating the conspiracy theory to whip up racial resentment and gain political power?
Let's say that this theory got important facts wrong or simply made them up in the hope that no one would check them. It cast a whole nation in moral disgrace. It contributed to a campaign to dehumanize one race — asserting that this was acceptable because that race was rich, privileged and habitually wicked? What if then this theory was lapped up by ethnic nationalist zealots and used to warp the minds of children in school?
This is not fantasy. I'm describing two real but separate documents, more than 100 years apart. I mean The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and The 1619 Project.
Each document pretended that it had unearthed historical secrets. The Protocols claimed to be the transcript of a global Jewish conspiracy to afflict Gentile nations with all the evils of modernity. That's right, everything from sexual promiscuity and disruptive capitalism to revolutionary movements. The 1619 Project pretends that it can explain America's whole history as the fruits of a White racist conspiracy. Start with the European settlement, then the American Revolution, and then the rise of capitalism. In fact, the authors of the Project assert that America's true founding came not in 1620 with the Mayflower Compact, nor in 1776 with the Declaration of Independence, but in 1619 when the first black slaves arrived in Jamestown, Virginia.
The Protocols claimed to expose systemic Jewish subversion as the motor of world events. The 1619 Project makes similar claims, but for systemic White racism. (This though slavery was practiced worldwide in 1619, but didn't seem to generate capitalism or constitutional government in, say, the Ottoman Empire.) The Project's most shocking claim? That the 13 colonies declared independence mainly out of fear that King George III planned to free their slaves. Which is strange, since he freed none in any of Britain's other colonies. Nor would Britain free them for another 56 years.
The Protocols were a forgery, of course, quite possibly by the Tsar's secret police — who wished to discredit revolutionaries as tools of "the Jews."