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The Michael Shermer Show

A series of conversations between Dr. Michael Shermer and leading scientists, philosophers, historians, scholars, writers and thinkers about the most important issues of our time.

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EPISODE # 217

Mary Grabar on the 1619 Project, Howard Zinn, Historical Revisionism, and Pseudohistory

Debunking the 1619 Project: Exposing the Plan to Divide America (book cover) Debunking Howard Zinn: Exposing the Fake History That Turned a Generation Against America (book cover)

According to the New York Times’s “1619 Project,” America was not founded in 1776, with a declaration of freedom and independence, but in 1619 with the introduction of African slavery into the New World. According to Mary Grabar, celebrated historians have debunked this, more than two hundred years of American literature disproves it, parents know it to be false, and yet it is being promoted across America as an integral part of grade school curricula and unquestionable orthodoxy on college campuses. This is a sequel, of a kind, to Grabar’s previous book Debunking Howard Zinn, whose A People’s History of the United States sold more than 2.5 million copies, is pushed by Hollywood celebrities, defended by university professors, and assigned in high school and college classrooms to teach students that American history is nothing more than a litany of oppression, slavery, and exploitation. According to Grabar, contra Zinn:

  • Columbus was not a genocidal maniac, and was, in fact, a defender of Indians.
  • American Indians were not feminist-communist sexual revolutionaries ahead of their time.
  • The United States was founded to protect liberty, not white males’ ill-gotten wealth.
  • Americans of the “Greatest Generation” were not the equivalent of Nazi war criminals.
  • The Viet Cong were not well-meaning community leaders advocating for local self-rule.
  • The Black Panthers were not civil rights leaders.

Mary Grabar was born in Slovenia when it was still part of the Communist Yugoslavia and grew up in Rochester, New York. She earned her Ph.D. in English from the University of Georgia in 2002 and taught at a number of colleges and universities in Georgia until 2013. While teaching, she wrote widely on political, cultural, and educational topics, and founded the Dissident Prof Education Project, a nonprofit reform initiative. In 2014, she moved to Clinton, New York, and became a resident fellow at The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization. She taught at the college level for twenty years, most recently at Emory University, and her work has been published by The Federalist, Townhall, FrontPage Magazine, City Journal, American Greatness, and Academic Questions.

Shermer and Grabar discuss:

  • her personal journey from Slovenia and communism to America and capitalism,
  • her experiences with early cancel culture for teaching Shakespeare and Mark Twain,
  • If the 1619 Project was published in the Santa Barbara Independent newspaper would we be having this conversation? Would you feel the need to write this book?
  • What are the specific claims made in the 1619 Project and why are they mostly wrong?
  • empirical truths vs. mythic truths,
  • historical revisionism vs. denial: what is pseudohistory?
  • David Irving as a case study in pseudohistory,
  • motivation behind the 1619 project,
  • slavery 1619–1776,
  • Why did the colonies secede from Great Britain?
  • Thomas Jefferson, slavery, and Sally Hemings,
  • What was the Civil War about (slavery or states rights or the right of states to own slaves)?
  • Abraham Lincoln,
  • How did whites in the 19 century and earlier think of blacks?
  • a brief history of slavery,
  • slavery, serfdom, indentured servitude,
  • Would slavery have ended without the Civil War?
  • What is the most accurate economic history of the United States?
  • Did African Americans own slaves?
  • truth and reconciliation commissions,
  • reparations,
  • Howard Zinn and the distortion of history
  • moral equivalency arguments (Auschwitz but Hiroshima, Treblinka but Dresden),
  • methodology of Holocaust denial:

    1. Concentrate on their opponent’s weak points, without saying anything definitive about their own position. (e.g. eyewitness accounts).
    2. Exploit errors made by scholars who are making opposite arguments, saying that because of a few mistakes their opponents are always wrong. (e.g., human soap story).
    3. Use quotations taken out of context said by famous people to make it sound like they too are denying the Holocaust. (e.g., Holocaust scholars & leading Nazis).
    4. Mistake genuine debates between scholars for a dispute about the existence of a field of study. (e.g., intentionalism vs. functionalism debate).
    5. Focus only on the unknown rather than what is known. (e.g., gas chambers/crematoria).
  • Richard Evans, Lying About Hitler:

    • “There is a difference between, as it were, negligence, which is random in its effects, i.e. if you are a sloppy or bad historian, the mistakes you make will be all over the place. They will not actually support any particular point of view…. On the other hand, if all the mistakes are in the same direction in the support of a particular thesis, then I do not think that is mere negligence. I think that is a deliberate manipulation & deception.”

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