I don’t like to reflexively blame the news media and it biases for my blog’s misinformation and wrong turns, but in this case, it’s justified. In yesterday’s post “Wait: Why Did It Take A Congressional Commission To Point Out That A KKK Plaque Wasn’t Appropriate At West Point?”
I expressed amazement that a Congressional commission had to protest the presence of a bronze artwork apparently commemorating the Ku Klux Klan that had been hanging in a West Point building for decades. “Finding out that a Klan plaque was on display all this time at West Point is like discovering that St. Paul’s Cathedral had a statue of Satan hanging around for centuries without anyone objecting,” I wrote, endorsing the commission’s clear belief that the plaque should be taken down.
My source was the New York Times, which yesterday professed that the origins of the plaque were shrouded in mystery, and which also provided no context or explanation for why the Klan made it into halls of the academy at all. Nice reporting there, Times! Today, in the same article, this appeared:
The three plaques, each of which are 11 feet high and 5 feet wide, were created by Laura Gardin Fraser, an American sculpture, and dedicated in 1965 to West Point graduates who had served in World War II and the Korean War and were created to tell the history of the United States, according to an email from a Military Academy spokeswoman on Wednesday afternoon.
“As part of the second panel titled ‘One Nation, Under God, Indivisible,’ there is a small section that shows a Ku Klux Klan member,” the spokeswoman said, referring to one of the plaques. “Among many other symbols, the triptych also includes individuals who were instrumental in shaping principal events of that time, and symbols like the Tree of Life that depict how our nation has flourished despite its tragedies.”Those figures include Clara Barton, who founded the American Red Cross; Francis Scott Key, who wrote the national anthem; and William Lloyd Garrison, an abolitionist and editor of the antislavery journal The Liberator, who appears directly above the Klan member.
The figures on the plaque that include the hooded K.K.K. figure were chosen to tell the history of the United States “through formation of the two-party political system and the expansion of the nation in area, industry, commerce and culture,” according to West Point’s historical guide.
Oh! Now you tell us. The original Times story implied that there was a bronze plaque only portraying the KKK, not three massive bronze tablets with many and diverse images from U.S. history. Then never mind: the Klan image is a small part of an overview of U.S, history that includes the Salem Witch Trials, King George III, the Confederacy, Prohibition Era bootleggers, and other figures and events in our history that are less than admirable. This means that the Congressional suggestion that the Klan plaque should be erased is exactly what I said it was not yesterday (before I knew what I was talking about): historical airbrushing and censorship…that is to say, unethical and wrong.
It also means that the Times story was misleading, incomplete, and inflammatory, probably because the Times staff doesn’t like the armed services and is happy to tar West Point as a den of racism. Bias makes you stupid, after all.
Were the members of the Naming Commission aware of the sweep and intent of Fraser’s remarkable creation? Did they bother to do the research before they fingered the panel as racist, or did they just not care? My guess is it was a lizard-brain verdict that “Klan BAD” without sufficient knowledge, thought or analysis. You know. Congress.
What is so ironic and hypocritical is that the same people advocating the removal of the KKK plaque probably are fans of Critical Race Theory-style history in the public schools. If your objective is to show America is racist, there are few better mediums than the Klan.
The Commission won’t, and the Times won’t, but I want to apologize for putting out a completely false portrayal of what’s going on here, and for impugning West Point unjustly. For Ethics Alarms, it was an example of garbage in, garbage out.
Ethics Alarms wants to extend special praise and admiration to commenter JPC, who pointed out the missing context in his comments on the original post, directing readers here.