The Economist withdrew a nearly comically misguided piece of writing from its website on Friday, admitting that a book review that called for a more objective treatment of slavery should never have made it through the editing process.
The magazine had published the review of Edward Baptist's book “The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism” on Thursday. The review, which, like nearly everything in The Economist, did not carry a byline, lamented that all the white people in the book—namely, the people who owned the slaves—were portrayed as bad for some reason:
Mr Baptist has not written an objective history of slavery. Almost all the blacks in his book are victims, almost all the whites villains. This is not history; it is advocacy.
Since even the most casual observer might imagine that a book about the mass enslavement of black people would inevitably portray the slaves as "victims," the assertion that such a study required a "fair and balanced" approach drew near-universal befuddlement. The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates had one of the more pointed responses:
Read a book about the Holocaust. Must be unfair because it painted all the Nazis in a bad light.
— Ta-Nehisi Coates (@tanehisicoates) September 4, 2014
By Friday morning, the magazine had revised its opinion and apologized:
There has been widespread criticism of this, and rightly so. Slavery was an evil system, in which the great majority of victims were blacks, and the great majority of whites involved in slavery were willing participants and beneficiaries of that evil. We regret having published this and apologise for having done so.