Saturday, July 28, 2007

Mainstreaming anti-Semiitsm

I've recently come across two disturbing examples of mainstream media outlets whitewashing two of the most notorious anti-Semites in American history.

US New & World Report publishes occasional "collectors editions" on special topics for news stand sales. I picked up "Mysteries of History" Secret Societies."

In an article on "America's Cult Culture," Philip Jenkins describes William Dudley Pelley as "a religious activist of the 1930s." Pelley was, in reality, the leader of the Silver Shirts, one of the largest and most active Nazi group in the United States with more than 15,000 members at its peak.

The Economist, in a review of Amity Shlaes book on the Great Depression, seems to vindicate Henry Ford's antisemitism.

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.

IMPORTANT UPDATE (August 15) I've had an exchange of emails with Philip Jenkins. He writes:

USNWR took my description of Pelley from a book in which I wrote at length about his Nazi and anti-semitic activity. The article that appeared under my byline was abstracted from that book, but I do not believe I was consulted about the final text, which left the Pelley phrase out of context. (Nor did I have any idea it was to appear as a separate article). I am trying to find exactly what happened from my publisher.

Your comments about Pelley's Nazi politics are entirely correct, and I share them fully.

In short, this is a bizarre matter, and I look forward to clearing it up.
Prof. Jenkins was kind enough to send me an extract of his writings and I am informed that he has an outstanding reputation as a scholar, so I credit his explanation.

Nontheless, it is troubling that the editorial staff of one of our leading news weeklies would not realize that describing Pelley as a "religious activist" was highly inaccurate and troubling.

Minor Update August 18. In the third paragraph, I originally wrote "Dudley" instead of "Pelley" in the second paragraph.

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