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July 25, 2007

Economist Magazine Endorses Henry Ford’s Anti-Semitism


In reviewing Amity Shlaes' The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression in its July 21st issue, the Economist Magazine actually seems to endorse the notorious anti-Semitism of Henry Ford.

While Ms. Shlaes in her book charges that President Roosevelt's economic policies only made things worse, the Economist approvingly quotes Henry Ford to point the finger at another villain — the Jews. Here's the somewhat shocking passage:

Ms Shlaes tends to look at the Depression in terms of the conflict between business (good) and politics (bad). At the time, though, Roosevelt's view that the “lack of honour of men in high financial places” was at the root of the trouble seemed like a statement of the obvious, rather than a political pose. Even Henry Ford had been uttering warnings that “the Jews of Wall Street”, as he so nicely called them, had stored up trouble in the 1920s. The Depression appeared to prove him right.

Posted by MK at July 25, 2007 05:07 PM


Nice. Even Ford's own children have distanced themselves from their father's sick obsession.

Posted by: GradualDazzle [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 25, 2007 11:29 PM

The Economist is guilty of shoddy journalism in a number of areas, especially the Arab-Israeli conflict, and of recycling misinformation, including stock anti-Israel distortions. These then get presented to its readers in articles and opinion pieces often written in a style which conveys the impression that the journalists of the Economist in question consider themselves superior to the common run of journalists.

I do not think that the author, or authors, of the review in question are trying to get their readers to endorse Henry Ford's anti-Jewish views. They just know how well-informed they are and, whether or not all their readers are as well-informed about Ford's widely shared prejudices and about their baselessness - in this case about "Wall Street Jews" - do not feel any need or obligation explicitly to refute them or even to put in any historical context. This can be said to be irresponsible - and, alas, all too many journalists are guilty of this.

Posted by: Paul at July 26, 2007 06:04 AM

I think that the use of the word "appeard" seems to absolve him. I think he was refering to attitudes of the time, not what he believes

Posted by: Henry Lazarus at July 26, 2007 08:53 AM

Good point, Paul. It's indeed possible that the writer felt no need to refute Ford's statement because, in his mind, proper, educated Brits will clearly understand Ford's views to be false and worthy of condemnation. (If so, I'd guess his assumption is way off base.)

But regardless of what the elite should or do already know, I think this passage is more than merely "irresponsible." At a time when UK anti-Semitism is described as being at a "record high" and "obsessive"; when in major European countries a quarter to half of poll respondents feet that Jews have "too much power" in the business world and in international financial markets; such a comment is reckless, if not dangerous.

Henry also makes a very good point. When one pauses to look at the language, it becomes more evident that the writer isn't necessarily agreeing with Ford. It "appeared" to prove him right, but that's just how it appeared then. Fair enough. But again, that the writer for some reason chose to cite the Ford example -- an absolutely unnecessary example, I'd say -- and that he chose not to clearly disagree with Ford is still cause for concern, especially in today's climate.

Posted by: george at July 26, 2007 10:42 AM

I don't think that says what you're implying it says.

The way I read it, Henry Ford, in a slander against Wall Street traders in the 1920s-1930s, called them "Jews."

What Jews were on Wall Street in the 1920s? Most of us were just getting off the boats from Russia at the time...

Posted by: Mobius at July 26, 2007 10:43 AM

I am hyper-sensitive to anti-Semitism masquerading as scholarship or neutral reporting, and I admire CAMERA for its tenacious and excellent work in this area. This passage certainly can be read, like CAMERA suggests, as endorsing Henry Ford's anti-Semitic views. But might the "infraction" here really be unintended ambiguity: Who is it that the Depression appeared to prove right? Setting Ford's comments apart with parentheses would answer that question in a less controversial way (at least on the subject of Ford's anti-Semitism): it would be Roosevelt. Syntax aside, that the offending sentence begins with "Even Henry Ford..." suggests that it is intended to modify the earlier point, about Roosevelt. The inclusion of the quote may still be regarded as gratuitous (though not so much in the greater context of the full review), but I fail to see the offense (other than being reminded once again of Ford's nefarious views) if the reviewer intended to write that the Depression proved Roosevelt right.
I mean, after all, Jimmy Carter didn't write the review, did he? If so, ignore the above.

Posted by: BJ at July 26, 2007 05:53 PM

Yes, Lazarus made a good point, but the Economist writer is a little vague, perhaps on purpose. A version that would make both Lazarus and me happier would begin, "At the time, the Depression appeared...."

Posted by: Larry@27N at July 26, 2007 06:10 PM

BJ and Larry observantly hit on something that is central to this issue, namely, the issue of "ambiguity" or "vagueness," though they seem to disagree whether this was "unintended" or "perhaps on purpose."

If unintended, it's bad writing. If on purpose, it's really a most unforgivable type of playing with fire.

Posted by: george at July 26, 2007 11:27 PM

I alluded to this in my first post, but after reading the review in its entirety once more (it's quite short), I am more certain that the writer intended to state that the Depression proved Roosevelt right, not Ford. After all, The book really is about Roosevelt and the Depression (I gather), not Ford. The style and tone of the rest of the review is consistent with the cavalier posture of the sentence quoting Ford. Once again, some might see it as gratuitous. I write once again to recommend the full review. It becomes evident from the review that the book is critical of Roosevelt. The comparison of his views with Ford's, particularly on an issue regarded by the writer to be obvious, is consistent with that criticism. It may be that CAMERA is beating this drum too hard. (Unless, of course, Messrs. Walt and Mearsheimer wrote the review, in which case, ignore both of my postings.)

Posted by: BJ at July 27, 2007 12:51 PM

That is a very bad reading of a snippet within a pitiful review. Shame on "seems."

Posted by: Jim Brotherton at July 28, 2007 04:20 PM

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