Friday, December 22, 2017

Henry Ford, America's hateful square dance instructor


     Strange.
     Social media is awash in conspiracy theories — another word for confused persons trying to window-dress reality into something they can understand and accept. The dust hadn't settled after Amtrak's Washington State crash before right wingers were blaming it on their bogeyman of the moment, the anti-fascist movement Antifa.
     Then an actual real-life conspiracy gets unearthed and people just shrug on hurry on. If it doesn't buff their biases, they don't care.
     I was flitting around Twitter this week when I happened upon an article by Chicago freelancer Robyn Pennacchia on Quartz, a web site run by The Atlantic Magazine.
     I don't like to echo the work of others. But OMG.
     The headline says it all — "America’s wholesome square dancing tradition is a tool of white supremacy" — and explains the reason countless kids in countless gym classes have been swinging their partners round-and-round for the past 90 years. It is not — as I supposed — some vestige frontier tradition that lodged in public school physical education and somehow survived the lash of time, but a direct result of ... well, better let Pennacchia explain it:

     To understand how square dancing became a state-mandated means of celebrating Americana, it’s necessary to go back to Henry Ford... Ford hated jazz; he hated the Charleston. He also really hated Jewish people, and believed that Jewish people invented jazz as part of a nefarious plot to corrupt the masses and take over the world—a theory that might come as a surprise to the black people who actually did invent it.
     I knew that the inventor of the Model T was a poisonous anti-Semite, an inspiration to Adolf Hitler and the only American mentioned by name in Mein Kampf. But the jazz stuff is new. Pennacchia quotes volume three of Ford's The International Jew, written in 1921:

To continue reading, click here.

14 comments:

  1. Telling the truth? How unimaginative!

    Think outside the box: cheat a bit, lie a bit, create your own version of events. It's the Age of Trumpery*, don't forget.


    john


    * look it up.

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  2. Just noticed the rope in the photo. Not exactly a noose, but kind of close, don't you think?

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    1. Funny, I noticed that too. I considered whether using the photo was unfair -- a musical group at a barbecue in southwestern Colorado. But their act had definite racist overtones, so I felt it was apt.

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  3. I always learn something interesting when I read a Neil Steinberg column. Reading this makes me think that Ford might have lived with Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder. It makes sense that the man who envisioned the repetitive predictability of an assembly line would also embrace an organized, repetitive style of dance. His brain was probably unable to process the free-flowing sounds of jazz. I would guess that it sounded like cacophonous traffic noise.

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  4. My favorite conspiracy theory is that people in Russia we're able to ensure that Donald Trump was elected president by placing ads and false posts on Facebook

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    1. Do you dispute that they did so, or that their efforts were effective enough to make a difference in the outcome?

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    2. "Ensure"? Of course not. Did the ads and false posts help Trump? Who knows? Did the Russians do it? Maybe. Probably. Intelligence services think so. But they've been wrong before.

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    3. Clearly they made the effort yes affected the outcome? very unlikely especially in the specific ways necessary to have changed the Electoral College. If they did then the next candidates for President should certainly hire those people because that's quite a trick. I'm also very suspicious that Trump himself or his minions were directed to cooperate with this effort that the Russians were engaged in on his behalf. Of course anything is possible and I'm glad that were investigating it and I'm looking forward to the outcome of that effort until then acting like we're certain that this is what happened seems ill-advised.

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    4. Facebook is making it possible to see if you were potentially influenced by these guys or passed along their posts (I'm in the clear):

      https://www.facebook.com/help/1991443604424859

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  5. Delighted to see you name-check Robyn Pennacchia, who is one of my favorite writers at Wonkette, which is my favorite blog (alongside EGD, of course).

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  6. Though I imagine that your counterpart at the Trib, Mr. Zorn, may have been rocked by that jazzy headline, your observations in defense of square dancing probably put his mind at ease, one would hope. "So if Hitler did not spoil Wagner, Ford should not spoil square dancing." Indeed. But whether or not we may still enjoy movies and TV shows made by or starring now-disgraced creeps seems like an even more pressing question, these days...

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  7. Very informative. About an activity I never mastered: kept bumping into people. Actually Ford wasn't entirely wrong about the origins of jazz. Although jazz origins were black most of the popular music of his time was the work of Jews, and many of the white musicians who popularized it were Jews. As for the great lyrics they created, Yip Harburg once acknowledged their "master" to have been an Englishman, W.S. Gilbert. Shows the folly of slapping labels on things.

    Tom

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    1. Bingo...we're talking about the era when Tin Pan Alley was at its zenith, both before and after World War I. Funnily enough, most of the musicians and composers were Jewish...Irving Berlin, the Gershwin brothers, and the rest of that crowd. Jews did contribute somewhat to the origins of jazz, when they incorporated klezmer into the genre, that sprightly eastern European music so popular at the weddings and bar mitzvahs of my youth. One jazz guy who got his start in klezmer did pretty well for himself...a Chicago fella named Goodman.

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    2. That's true. I was going to comment on that in the column by pointing out that the first talkie was called "The Jazz Singer" and was the story of a cantor's son, Al Jolson, singing songs like "Waiting on the Robert E. Lee." Not what we would consider jazz, though they certainly did. Though there is a danger that pointing out the speck of truth in bigoted delusions somehow validates the outlook. Ford also thought Jews controlled the banks, and there were Jewish bankers, but that really isn't a relevant observation, just as listing crimes by immigrants doesn't support Trump's assertions that Mexicans are rapists.

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