Vodou Economics on the NYT on Haiti

From Craig Palsson, an expert in the economic history of Haiti and also fluent in Creole.  Here goes:

My main argument is The New York Times is trying to expand from the paper of record to the academic journal of record. This is not the first time NYT has done this. The 1619 project had the same ambitions and similarly ignored academic standards. While I am an academic, I don’t see this as an existential threat. But I do think it has consequences. The 1619 project is now influencing academic work and school curricula…

To me, the biggest problem with the articles is a shocking lack of nuance and too much causal language for conclusions we cannot make. We can see this in the article titled, Invade Haiti, Wall Street Urged. The U.S. Obliged. Even that title lacks nuance and uses strong causal language…

The NYT article barely even considers the other motivations for invading Haiti. It alludes to political instability, but do you come away from that article understanding that the caco forces that resisted the Occupation were the same ones overthrowing the government before the invasion? It mentions the US paranoia that Germany might try to take over Haiti. But do you read the article and understand that Germans controlled about 80% of Haiti’s commerce? Or that the invasion happens during World War I, when Europe warned about German businesses operating in Latin America?

There is much more at the link, and Craig shows how the articles are geared to deliver a particular kind of selective moral message about guilt and blame, not to give the reader a decent understanding of Haiti and its history.  A lot of the series focuses on the terrible French decision to extract reparations from Haiti, starting in the 19th century.  You will not be taught, however, that Haiti and the Dominican Republic have diverged significantly since 1960, and since then the DR has become one of the wealthier nations in Latin America and Haiti has collapsed politically and is mired in extreme poverty, probably the worst in this hemisphere.  Perhaps that divergence since 1960 needs to be addressed and cannot simply be reduced to much earlier imperialist crimes.  There is even a massive Haitian decline since the 1990s, a time of relative hope.

I am not a “New York Times hater,” and would readily admit and indeed emphasize that significant parts of the newspaper are much, much better than anything else out there.  But on particular topics, you just know you are being taken for a ride.


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