Henry Ford on the Dearborn Historian cover

By JN Staff

“Let the discussion begin.”

With those words, Dearborn Historian Editor Bill McGraw hoped to start a conversation last month about Henry Ford and how, 100 years after he purchased the Dearborn Independent newspaper, its virulently anti-Semitic content is very much alive today and being used to fuel hate sites across the web.

And via the Detroit Historical Commission’s modestly distributed quarterly publication (it has no digital platform), McGraw was advancing a fundamental concept – “telling the whole truth about our past, no matter how unpleasant, and connecting local events to what’s happening in the greater world.”

The discussion ended before it began. Dearborn Mayor John O’Reilly impounded the approximately 250-copy press run with the explanation that “…we want Dearborn to be understood as it is today – a community that works hard at fostering positive relationships within our city and beyond. We expect city-funded publications like The Historian to support these efforts.

It was thought that by presenting information from 100 years ago that included hateful messages – without a compelling reason directly linked to events in Dearborn today – this edition of The Historian could become a distraction from our continuing messages of inclusion and respect.”

The Dearborn Historical Commission adopted a resolution objecting to Mayor O’Reilly’s actions and the respected McGraw’s role as editor would be no more. For 24 hours the story went viral, appearing in publications and on media sites around the world.

Was this a violation of the First Amendment and its free speech and press provisions?  Or an attempt to sanitize history? Was it a politically calculated move to not offend the city’s large Middle Eastern population?

It was likely all of these. But at a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise, and when fingers are pointed largely at right-wing extremist groups, Mayor O’Reilly’s claims of just wanting to be inclusive and respectful while promoting unity and understanding ring hollow.

Heaven forbid exclusively calling out anti-Semitism for what it was and is! One need look no further than the problem Congressional Democrats are having in addressing anti-Semitism in their own caucus, especially among their left-wing extremists.

While the news cycles may be short, Mayor O’Reilly’s impoundment of the Dearborn Historian, his feeble efforts at justifying his actions, and his “going radio silent” on the subject will endure at least as long as the content in the Dearborn Independent.

 

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