Congratulations to Nikole Hannah-Jones for parlaying the intellectual imposture of the 1619 Project into a job for life. Hannah-Jones has been hired by Howard University as a professor in Race & Journalism. Both of these fields are rife with dubious standards and historic embarrassments, so she should fit right in.
There are those on the pipe-smoking right who object to allowing a mountebank like Hannah-Jones onto the verdant lawns and into the stinky precincts of the institutions of what used to be the higher learning. They protest about academic standards, as if they still exist. They cite the history professors whose criticisms of the 1619 Project obliged Hannah-Jones not just to reduce her hyperbolic claims about the sinful conception of the American republic, but to deny that she had ever expressed them at all – an exercise in airbrushing that goes against the principles of Race & Journalism, should they be found to exist.
The grumblers are wrong. The Hussman School of Journalism & Media at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill was wrong, too, when it initially denied Hannah-Jones tenure in addition to a lucrative five-year contract. It attempted to right that wrong through the further wrong of surrendering to mob protests by then offering Hannah-Jones tenure, but she was right to say the first wrong was more wrong than the second wrong. Right?
She was right because she understood her value. It is an iron law of business that you should never interrupt a customer who is in the middle of paying over the odds. Journalism is still a business, just about. Race is most definitely a business. And so is selling six-figure degrees in journalism.
If the historically black parents of historically black Howard University students want to burn their historically black life savings on completely worthless degrees in Race & Journalism, let them. If Barnum and Bailey College wants to place Nikole Hannah-Jones in sole charge of its nuclear reactor and give courses in splitting the infinitive, let it. What could be more American than slinging every penny you have at the bait-and-switch that calls itself the ‘liberal arts’ in the hope that your child will return from a four-year finishing school a howling snob with the right connections? Isn’t it heartening that, after the horrors of slavery and the disgraces of Jim Crow, historically black parents get to buy into the same hustle as historically white parents?
But what, the naysayers say from their leather armchairs, about the effect on society? Well, the collapsing enrollments for liberal arts courses, and the unemployable entitlement of the little princes and princesses they produce, suggests that society in general has no use for arcana like Race & Journalism. This kind of course doesn’t exist to produce journalists. It exists to produce budding functionaries of the left-leaning media-political blob in Washington DC and New York, who then retire early to become professors of Race & Journalism and add more debt-soaked layers to an academic pyramid scheme.
It is, though, important for society that we recognize the decay of the university and the collapse of independence in journalism. They cannot be repaired, if repair is possible, without an honest assessment of the damage. The liberal arts are neither liberal nor artistic in our universities. They are illiberal and imaginatively barren. There’s not much humanity in the humanities either. The sciences still produce useful things like medicines and gadgets, but the scientists keep their heads down, because they still believe that Homo sapiens is biologically dimorphic, and they don’t need the trouble.
The academy promotes mediocrity and false history, and trades in credentials when it should be teaching the spirit of enquiry. Most of the media now function as voluntary publicists for their party of choice. These might not be original sins, but they’re certainly inventive ones. Just as it takes imagination to cook up a 1619 Project, it takes imagination to undermine a democracy.