Spyhopping the Right.
David Neiwert is a freelance journalist based in Seattle. He is the author of Strawberry Days: How Internment Destroyed a Japanese American Community (Palgrave/St. Martin's Press, June 2005), as well as Death on the Fourth of July: The Story of a Killing, a Trial, and Hate Crime in America, (Palgrave/St. Martin's, 2004), and In God's Country: The Patriot Movement and the Pacific Northwest (1999, WSU Press). His reportage for MSNBC.com on domestic terrorism won the National Press Club Award for Distinguished Online Journalism in 2000. His freelance work can be found at Salon.com, the Washington Post, MSNBC and various other publications. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
Sara Robinson has worked as an editor or columnist for several national magazines, on beats as varied as sports, travel, and the Olympics; and has contributed to over 80 computer games for EA, Lucasfilm, Disney, and many other companies. A native of California's High Sierra, she spent 20 years in Silicon Valley before moving to Vancouver, BC in 2004. Her lifelong interest in the social effects of authoritarianism have most recently led her to pursue the MS in Futures Studies at the University of Houston. She's also a student member of the Association of Professional Futurists, and member of the Accelerated Studies Foundation advisory board on social and cultural issues. For fun, she raises kids and travels. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sara's recent series:
Cracks in the Wall: Parts I, II, and III.
Tunnels and Bridges: Parts I, II, III, and IV, plus a Short Detour.
Dave's recent series:
The March of the Minutemen
Intro: Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.
Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.
Other books by Dave [limited availability]:
"The Rise of Pseudo Fascism": An essay
Available in Adobe PDF format here
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Original posts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7.
"The Political and the Personal"
"Bush, the Nazis and America":
Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4.
Rush, Newspeak and Fascism: An Exegesis
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[In HTML: Parts I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X,, XI, XII, XIII, XIV and XV. See explanatory note.]
[Also available in HTML, and with art, at Cursor.]
Orcinus Principium No. 1
Orcinus Principium No. 2
Ms. Malkin's facts
Saturday, August 14, 2004
Semi-responding to her critics, Michelle Malkin complains about a CBS anchor named Julie Chen, who administered the following "cheap shot" during a press conference with President Bush:
- I wanted to ask you about protecting all Americans, as well. There are many Arab Americans and Muslims in this country who find themselves unfairly scrutinized by law enforcement and by society at large. Just yesterday we had arrests in Albany, New York. Immediately afterwards, some neighbors in the community said they feared that the law would come for them unfairly next. We have a new book out today that suggests perhaps we should reconsider internment camps. How do we balance the need to pursue and detain some individuals from not well-known communities, while at the same time keeping innocent people from being painted by the broad brush of suspicion?
Just a reminder: The book's title is In Defense of Internment. It clearly calls for a reassessment of the meaning of the World War II internment, evacuation and "relocation" process.
Does anyone else see a "cheap shot" there? Hm. Me neither.
In any event, as you can see, Michelle promptly fired off a letter to Julie Chen -- who among other slots at CBS, is the host of the game show "Big Brother" -- outlining her thinking. Evidently, Michelle believes that writing a defense of the Japanese American internment and linking it to post-9/11 racial profiling should not lead anyone to conclude that she was suggesting that internment is an appropriate response in the current "war on terror". Heavens no. She's only laying down the dots. God forbid anyone would connect them.
Well, in any event, before firing off her nasty letter, Michelle forgot to perform one of those good ol' Journalism 101 functions: Double-check your source.
Does this sound familiar? It should. Because this is the kind of approach to basic standards of factuality we've come to expect from Malkin.
Malkin was clearly working from the White House transcript, which as it turns out, misidentified the questioner.
Had Malkin taken the time to, say, review the tape or double-check by placing a quick phone call with UNITY officials, she'd have discovered that the questioner was none other than CBS's Joie Chen.
Now Malkin has two more letters to write: An apology to Julie Chen. And a nastygram to Joie Chen. Though she might want to forget the latter, since A) Chen's question was eminently reasonable and fairly put, and B) the more she continues with this "but I didn't mean to defend internment!" (or: "I'm just defending internment then, I'm not defending it now!") line, the more ridiculous Malkin makes herself appear (a real feat in itself).
But hey -- that hasn't stopped her yet.
Racism and the 'relocation centers'
Thursday, August 12, 2004
A little background
I have a little bit of professional background with Michelle Malkin. Back in 1994, I was working at the Bellevue Journal American as the editorial-page assistant, having an extended background in copy editing prior to that (I was just coming off a 3-year stint as the paper's news editor).
The JA was -- in keeping with the Republican-dominated Eastside -- a pretty conservative paper, and Michelle was one of our stable of columnists. We had picked her up from the L.A. Daily News, and were one of the few daily papers to do so. I had the job of editing Michelle's column, and occasionally had to phone her up with questions about factual issues.
Back then, she was really pretty responsive to such queries. If I happened to spot a factual problem with her piece, she was quite good about correcting it before we went to print. And if issues arose later (as they sometimes did with her work), she was reasonably straightforward, if occasionally evasive.
In any event, her stint with us evidently helped serve as a springboard for her being hired (by Mindy Cameron, a longtime friend and colleague) as a full-time columnist for the Seattle Times in 1996. She made a name for herself as a bit of a controversialist over the next three years. As her tenure progressed, there were increasing concerns raised over the professionalism and accuracy.
In early February of 1999, Malkin was really on a roll. First came a column attacking the state's Democratic attorney general for allegedly allowing drug criminals to get off scot-free. Then came another column attacking a local news-talk TV program for its failure to handle her in the high manner to which she was accustomed.
The former inspired, in short order, a letter from the state Attorney General's office pointing out that Malkin failed to even contact that office before attacking it (which those of us in the business knew constituted a Journalism 101 violation of basic ethics). It also pointed out several major errors of fact.
The latter column brought a lively response from her intended victim at the news-talk show, also pointing out the Malkin's version of "facts" are not always aligned with reality.
Malkin's journalistic standards (or lack thereof) clearly were a problem, and were remarked upon widely, especially in area newsrooms. I have no idea whether it affected her status at the Times, but Malkin announced in August she was moving on (though the paper continued running her occasional columns filed from her new home in Washington, D.C.).
She got in her own departing licks a little while after that. In the wake of the WTO riots that November, Malkin penned a singularly nasty column telling the city it deserved everything it got. As numerous respondents pointed out, Malkin couldn't even get her facts straight again -- but she sure was good at playing the vengeful loser.
[For an excellent and quite thorough examination of Malkin's career after leaving Seattle, be sure to check out Matt Stoller's lengthy exegesis about Malkin and the people who are behind her.]
Bad roots, bad fruit
In any event, it really is not any surprise to see Malkin once again hoist on the petard of the bad journalism that is the inevitable product of the ideologue -- having written an entire book attempting to defend one of the great historical blots on America's past, a book so misbegotten it should permanently stain her career.
Malkin, in keeping with her history here, has produced an ideological work that discards basic standards of truthfulness, accuracy and fairness -- not to mention basic decency -- all in the pursuit of "proving" a thesis whose factual basis is nearly nonexistent. And in the process, she's attempting not just to revise but to falsify history, just like David Irving and the Holocaust deniers, or Steve Wilkins and the slavery deniers. It is a contemptible enterprise.
In Defense of Internment: The Case for 'Racial Profiling' in World War II and the War on Terror is not just a deeply flawed book, it is a deeply dishonest one. As Tim Wu (posting at Lawrence Lessig's blog) observes, this text is a case of Orwellian "Blackwhite":
- ... or "a willingness to say black is white when party discipline demands this." In its advanced form it leads to "the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know black is white, and forget that one has ever believed the contrary."
Michelle Malkin, a journalist, has released a book that is does just this: it defends the eviction and incarceration of more than 70,000 American citizens during World War II. Her book "In Defense of Internment," takes the position that the Government was right to round up the Japanese then, and Arab-Americans now. The mainstream position that the internment was wrong (expressed in Ronald Reagan's apology), Malkin attributes to a "conspiracy."
It is true that, on rare occasion, something everything takes for granted is wrong, like, say, the Bohr model of the Atom. But more often, moral sense is restored by rebuttal --- we remember that black is, in fact, black, and regain our senses. This time sense is restored by this week's must-read Volokh Conspiracy which features two historians who destroy the book in every aspect. Malkin, it turns out, is more Ahmad Chalabi than Albert Einstein.
The first of those two historians is Eric Muller of Is That Legal? and the author of Free to Die for Their Country: The Story of the Japanese American Draft Resisters in World War II, who was guest-blogging at Volokh. He wound up producing seven posts of his own material there:
- Part 1
Joining Muller in the fusillade was Greg Robinson, a highly regarded historian and author of By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans, who contributed four posts' worth of rebuttal as well:
- Part 1
Over at his own blog, Muller continued the argument, responding to Malkin's tepid rejoinders at her blog. These exchanges produced five more posts from Muller:
- Part 1
And two more from Robinson:
- Part 6
These posts generally cover most of the flaws in Malkin's text -- as well as her responses to the criticism -- thoroughly and accurately. Indeed, they were so thorough that, having read Malkin's book, there isn't a great deal to add. Certainly, it isn't necessary; Muller and Robinson's critique is devastating and nearly complete. My comments, as such, are only intended to be complementary.
My only difference with their responses (and it is a slight one) lies in how civilized and polite both of them were in responding to Malkin. My own experience in reading Malkin's tome was one of continuously rising outrage at the utter mendaciousness and viciousness of spirit it reveals in the author and those who chose to publish this tract. I have no inclination to remain so constrained.
Undoubtedly, my response is due to having come to know, on a personal level, many of the 25 or so Nisei internees -- and the dozen of their Caucasian contemporaries -- I interviewed in the process of compiling and writing Strawberry Days: The Rise and Fall of a Japanese American Community (due out next spring from Palgrave/Macmillan). I consider many of them my friends (though in the 14 years since I began interviewing them, many of them have passed away), and I still feel somewhat keenly the monstrousness of the injustice they endured. For a self-aggrandizing hack like Malkin to trivialize it as an "inconvenience" -- as she does throughout her text -- frankly makes my blood boil. The callousness of her dishonesty puts her beneath contempt. There is a moral component to Malkin's misbegotten enterprise that cannot and should not be overlooked.
The giveaway, really, comes on the book's flyleaf, which announces:
- Everything you've been taught about the World War II 'internment camps' is wrong:
-- They were not created primarily because of racism or wartime hysteria
-- They did not target only those of Japanese descent
-- They were not Nazi-style death camps.
Malkin largely reproduces this argument in the Introduction, and she deploys it throughout; yet a relatively simple examination of these three core points makes clear the fundamental dishonesty of her argument. Malkin -- as is her wont -- examines only a narrow spectrum of facts, embroiders them with speculation and non-facts, and presents them as reality.
Malkin's handling of "facts" throughout her text follows this trend. She refers, for instance, to "thousands of Nisei in the Japanese army," when in fact the American-born Japanese to which she refers actually were Kibei, or returned nationals. She emphasizes frequently that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who opposed the internment, "was not privy to the MAGIC cables" -- and falsely reports that Hoover "occasionally received MAGIC-derived information about Japan's espionage networks attributed to 'highly reliable sources.'" In point of fact, as Greg Robinson points out, Hoover actually received regular, detailed summaries of the MAGIC intelligence and was aware not only of their contents but their source. She also neglects to note that the Office of Naval Intelligence -- which gathered the entirety of the MAGIC cables -- also opposed the internment.
The second point of the three above ("They did not target only those of Japanese descent") is a crystalline example of Malkin's approach to "factuality". She's quite right in pointing out that Italian and German nationals were also placed in internment camps during the war. What is omitted from this point is the fact that only Japanese American citizens were rounded up en masse in what Malkin generically refers to as the "internment" -- which was not the case, of course, for Italian American or German American citizens. But this omission points to an underlying confusion between American citizens and foreign nationals which so proliferates Malkin's text that one must reach the conclusion that it is intentional.
The core of Malkin's thesis, in fact, relies on a rhetorical trick that is rooted in precisely this confusion -- namely, her frequent use of the phrase "ethnic Japanese" to describe her subjects. As Greg Robinson has already observed, this phrase is so broad that allows Malkin to lump American-born citizens in with Japanese-born spies. Which is precisely what she does: After repeatedly referring to American-born Nisei as "ethnic Japanese", she uses the same phrase to describe Japanese spies and operatives working from inside consulates. "Ethnic Japanese" is Malkin's handy umbrella term for erasing the differences between enemy nationals and American citizens. (I haven't been able to count up every use, but my guesstimate is that the phrase appears in her text roughly 100 times.)
This was, of course, exactly the confusion that prevailed in 1942 and which was deliberately spread by racists and hatemongers in arguing for incarcerating Nisei citizens, summed up in the popular phrase, "A Jap's a Jap."
You can see how Malkin dishonestly manipulates the term, for instance, her attempt to rebut the point I raised previously regarding the contents of the MAGIC cables -- namely, that the cables consistently showed that Japan actually distrusted the Nisei and preferred, for a number of reasons, to recruit Caucasians and blacks to do their spy work:
- The MAGIC messages do indeed provide definitive evidence that Japan sought or used ethnic non-Japanese for espionage activities -- a fact that was well known to U.S. intelligence agencies at the time. But MAGIC also showed diplomats discussing Nisei and Issei agents by name, asserting that "absolutely reliable" ethnic Japanese agents [ed.: these were spies from Japan working for the consulate] were monitoring shipments of war materiel and airplanes in Southern California, and reporting that "our second generation draftees in the U.S. Army" were collecting intelligence on matters pertaining to the U.S. military. There was no mention of "absolutely reliable" white or black agents; nor was there any mention of white or black agents in the U.S. military.
This is, of course, a lot of thrashing about logically in hopes of evading the main point, which is that if we were to follow Malkin's logic and use ethnic profiling for those most likely to be committing espionage and sabotage for Japan, based on the MAGIC cables, Caucasians and blacks would have been the first groups chosen. Malkin never does get around to addressing this issue.
This is, by extension, one of the main logical flaws in Malkin's larger argument in favor of racial profiling. The reality is that -- as I've argued previously (several times) -- over the past 10 years, there have been many more acts of real terrorism planned and committed on American soil by white fundamentalist Christians than by radical Islamists of Arab extraction. If we're going to commit to racial profiling based on known terrorist threats, then whites, once again, would be the first logical choice.
Trashing the scholars
This flaw characterizes the entirety of Malkin's approach to history: Whatever evidence that exists which might undermine or even militate against her conclusions is hastily and summarily discarded. This includes nearly the entirety of the past half-century's scholarly work regarding the internment, which Malkin airily disregards as the product of a liberal acadame. So, rather than engage their evidence, Malkin simply dismisses a whole host of serious historians with the kind of smear-laden rhetoric we've grown accustomed to from the likes of Fox News (where Malkin, of course, is a contributing pundit).
Tetsuden Kashima is dismissed as using "recycled" and "crafty" arguments. Malkin complains that Kashima only devotes a brief section to the MAGIC cables; but ignores the fact that Kashima's work is based on a thorough review of all the available prewar intelligence, of which MAGIC was only a small and relatively insignificant part. She dismisses Greg Robinson on similarly shaky grounds. Eric Muller is relegated to a footnote, and likewise ignored because he evidently was too sympathetic to Nisei draft resisters.
Even historical figures who provided counter-evidence are trashed. Hoover is accused of being motivated by turf consciousness. Curtis Munson, who conducted a prewar investigation of the Japanese American communities and mostly exonerated them, is smeared as a "blowhard."
Perhaps her worst treatment is reserved for a real lion among historians of the internment, Roger Daniels, whose works are widely considered landmarks in Asian American studies. Malkin attacks Daniels in the process of trying to prove that critics of the internment -- a la the third of the bullet points on her flyleaf -- regularly compare the Japanese American "relocation centers" to Nazi death camps. She cites (on p. 96 and on her Web site) a passage from Daniels' Prisoners Without Trial as proof of this:
- The American camps were not death camps, but they were surrounded by barbed wire and by troops whose guns were pointed at the inmates. Almost all the 1,862 Japanese Americans who died in them died of natural causes, and they were outnumbered by the 5,918 American citizens who were born in the concentration camps. But the few Japanese Americans who were killed "accidentally" by their American guards were just as dead as the millions of Jews and others who were killed deliberately by their German, Soviet, or Japanese guards.
Daniels' meaning -- Malkin's purposeful misreading notwithstanding -- could not be more clear: No, the Japanese camps were not death camps. But they were not all that different from the Nazi camps, either.
They were, in fact, concentration camps, no matter how much Malkin may dislike the term. The American government herded entire populations of people by the thousands into barbed-wire enclosures with the guns pointed inward, and forced them to dwell in degrading and miserable circumstances -- tarpaper shacks with no privacy, unclean living conditions, horrendous climates in godforsaken locales -- for years on end.
The Nazi camps are properly called "death camps," because that was their purpose. A "concentration camp," in contrast, is primarily for the purpose of incarcerating large numbers of people. That certainly describes the Japanese American camps as well. If confusion exists, it's mostly in the minds of sloppy thinkers like Malkin.
More to the point, there is not a single serious scholar extant who argues anywhere that the Japanese American camps "were Nazi-style death camps." Malkin can't cite any, either, resorting instead to cites like Daniels' above. She later explained this at her Web site thus:
- No, I did not quote anyone making a specific comparison of “Manzanar to Auschwitz” or "Manzanar to Buchenwald." The analogizers are a little more slippery than that. Those who use modern "concentration camp" rhetoric when discussing the evacuation/relocation/internment measures meekly disavow a direct moral equivalence between relocation camps and death camps, but then proceed to indulge in the offensive moral equivalence that they say they reject.
Of course, she fails to find any instances in which such equivalence appears -- the Daniels cite being her foremost example. And as anyone can see, his meaning cannot be more straightforward: the fact that they were not death camps does not exonerate the government morally.
Of course, Malkin's whole purpose is exactly such exoneration. But the best she can hope for is vindication by propaganda; for her entire method is to narrowly select evidence and embroider it, while distorting and ignoring serious scholarship. It will never be taken seriously outside the realm of blinkered conservative-movement dogmatists -- a bloc of the population, unfortunately, that appears to be growing.
It's about racism
But Daniels is right. The American concentration camps, relatively benign as they were, represent the darkest side of the national psyche. Because it is ultimately impossible to explain the existence of the camps without coming face to face with racism and bigotry in its ugliest guises.
And it is in dealing with this aspect of the matter that Malkin's work -- in attempting to claim that the internment was "not created primarily because of racism or wartime hysteria" -- is at its shoddiest, both scholastically and morally.
I have posted on several occasions -- notably here here
and here -- on the many cultural antecedents that led to the internment, particularly the half-century's worth of anti-Japanese agitation that laid the foundation for white Americans' paranoid attitudes toward Japanese Americans, including the belief that they were innately loyal to Japan and were secretly in cahoots with a plot to invade the Pacific Coast. I've also discussed the wartime hysteria that was unmistakably a direct product of this bigotry (as well as how it's manifesting itself again today).
The event that truly seals the case for racism as an ineluctable and decisive factor in the internment, in fact, is one that Eric Muller explores in depth with Free to Die For Your Country: the decision by the Western governors (notably Idaho's Chase Clark) to refuse to accept the "relocation centers" in their territories unless the government could guarantee that the camp residents would remain confined within the camps and under armed guard at all times. Their pronouncements in this matter, of course, were rife with the whole litany of "Yellow Peril" stereotypes and the white-supremacist beliefs that were commonplace back then (insisting, for instance, that the Japanese and whites could never successfully intermingle socially or sexually).
Prior to that point, War Relocation Authority officials held out the vague hope that the "relocation centers" could truly be just that -- a stopping-off point for Japanese Americans en route to new lives elsewhere in the interior. Instead, the decision transformed the enterprise into one of forced and prolonged confinement, and transformed the term "relocation center" into bureaucratese for "concentration camp."
And of course, that same bigotry was a constant throughout the entire internment experience, including the return at war's end. Malkin makes a great show of explaining how the conditions at the camps were "uncomfortable" but in the end only an "inconvenience."
Yet what she omits from this picture is another harsh reality: the camps were only run humanely because of wisdom and restraint by the people running them (especially WRA directors Milton Eisenhower and Dillon Myer). Outside the camps, there was considerable political agitation precisely because conditions in the camps weren't harsh enough. If many Americans had had their way, we'd have had little ground for boasting that the conditions in our camps were superior.
I describe this in Chapter 6 of Strawberry Days. Among other things, the chapter previously features an anecdote about one of my interviewees -- a 442nd Battallion veteran named Joe Matsuzawa -- visiting some friends in rural Bellevue in his uniform. (Matsuzawa, who died only two years ago, was in between actions, having been part of the Lost Battalion rescue in the Vosges; he was to return to action in the Po Valley campaign in Italy.) Evidently his visit raised eyebrows around town, and wound up playing a role in a mini-panic ("The Japs are coming back!") that followed in Bellevue.
It's an amusing story, really, but there was a serious side to all this:
- The absence of the Japanese from their longtime communities during the war had not necessarily made hearts grow fonder for them. Indeed, though the frequency of the hysteria was certainly lessened by the fact the Japanese were no longer present and visible, the war-born hatred of all things "Jap" had transformed them into demon-things in the popular mind, and the dearth of daily, real-life examples to the contrary only made things worse.
Headlines reporting on the war front regularly referred to the enemy "Japs" -- as did headlines reporting on events in the WRA's relocation centers. Consistent with popular sentiments prior to the war and during the evacuation debate, letters to the editor as well as political pronouncements made no differentiation between the citizens who once had been their neighbors and the foreign enemies their sons were fighting.
Washington's congressional delegation had a particular propensity in this regard. In addition to the damage already wrought by Democratic Senator Mon Wallgren, who had chaired one of the early congressional committees recommending evacuation in 1942, then-Rep. Henry Jackson, a respected Everett Democrat, took up the anti-Japanese cause with particular relish for the war's duration. Not only was he an enthusiast of the evacuation, he was a stern advocate of the campaign to keep the Japanese from returning to the Pacific Coast—both during and after the war. He was often seconded in this regard by his Seattle colleague, then-Rep. Warren Magnuson, who had a habit of raising groundless alarms about an imminent invasion of the Pacific Coast by the Japanese.
But it was otherwise anonymous men like Joe Matsuzawa who spurred Jackson to headline-grabbing action. In May 1943, Jackson began protesting in Congress against the Army's policy of allowing Japanese-American soldiers to visit the Pacific Coast on furlough; apparently, wearing an American uniform wasn't assurance enough of Nisei loyalty. Jackson sponsored a resolution calling for a complete investigation of "the Japanese situation," and his congressional colleagues were critical of the use of any Japanese-Americans in combat. Rep. John Costello of California sounded the familiar refrain that "you can't tell a good Jap from a bad Jap."
Jackson penned a speech that he never delivered on the subject, but it was clear he was opposed to Japanese-Americans ever returning to his home district:
- What is to be the eventual disposition of the Japanese alien and native ... is the second aspect of this problem of the Pacific. Are we to return them to their former homes and businesses on the Pacific Coast to face the active antagonism of their neighbors? Shall they again, as happened in World War I, compete economically for jobs and businesses with returning war veterans?
The House Committee On Un-American Activities chaired by Texas Democrat Martin Dies also joined in on the action, partly at the urging of Jackson and others. A New Jersey Republican named J. Parnell Thomas flew out to Los Angeles and, without visiting a camp, declared that the WRA was pampering the internees. Thomas also demanded the agency halt its policy of "releasing disloyal Japs" -- that is, end its policy of relocating evacuees in jobs outside the camps.
The Dies Committee hearings provided a steady stream of scandalous headlines for a few months, bolstered by the reports of the unrest at Manzanar and Tule Lake. The most sensational of these reports involved a former motor-pool driver named Harold H. Townsend -- described in press reports as "a former official of the Poston, Ariz., relocation center" -- who told the credulous congressmen that Japanese subversives were secretly conducting Army training drills inside the relocation centers so that evacuees could spring to the aid of an invading Japanese army when it attacked the coast. What the reports also neglected to mention -- besides the lack of a shred of evidence -- was that not only had Townsend been present at the violence in Poston, but had been fired for panicking and fleeing the scene.
Dies himself held press conferences demanding that the WRA bring back all the Japanese it had relocated out of the camps and keep them interned for the duration of the war, claiming he had evidence that race riots in Detroit the week before had been the secret handiwork of an officer in the Japanese Army. Subsequent headlines detailed more wild allegations, including tales of elderly Issei secretly plotting a kamikaze attack on local forests, setting the West ablaze; caches of food being buried in the desert in a plot to aid the invading Japanese; and claims that the Japanese internees were being fed better in the camps than were American G.I.s (which may have been true, since much of the camps' food source was the farms that were operated at each of the camps by evacuees). Dies wrapped up his exploration of the "Japanese question" later that summer by reiterating its demands the WRA alter its policies -- but besides making headlines in the press, these pronouncements had little apparent effect on the changes that were already in motion at the WRA. And the Dies Committee would soon be more stridently focused on the looming "Red Menace."
The interest groups chimed in as well. The American Legion joined in on the rising anti-Japanese sentiments with its denunciation of the WRA’s policy of "coddling the Japs," and longtime anti-Asian groups like the Native Sons of the Golden West (whose demeanor historically suggested vigilantism) became active in agitating alongside newer groups like the Pearl Harbor League. Some of these groups distributed signs proclaiming: "We don't want any Japs back here -- EVER!" These signs gained prominence in places like Kent, in the heart of what had been a thriving Japanese community in the White River Valley; the town's mayor, a barber, displayed the warning prominently in his shop, and earned a Time magazine appearance for it, pointing at the sign.
One of Michelle Malkin's major themes -- her chief claim on the flyleaf -- is that racism was an insignificant factor in the decisions that led to the internment. (Her trump card is the MAGIC cables, the significance of which Robinson thoroughly debunks; but even then it seems to have eluded her that racism might have played a role in how government officials interpreted that intelligence.) And as you can see, there is an abundance -- an overabundance, really -- of evidence that racism played a decisive role in the internment drama at nearly every step of its unfolding.
How does Malkin deal with this evidence? By ignoring it, of course.
As Muller points out:
- What does Michelle offer to discredit the copiously documented influences of nativism, economic jealousy, racial stereotyping, rumor-mongering, and hysteria on the series of decisions that constituted the program Michelle defends?
Nothing. Literally not one single thing. Not a sentence.
Greg Robinson likewise sums up her response to this criticism:
- [I]n response to my point that Malkin does not address the role of the long history of anti-Japanese American racism on the West Coast in events, she responds dismissively:
"As I explain above and in the book, there have been hundreds of books and dissertations on this topic. Why repeat what has already been said hundreds of times?"
It is ridiculous to say, as the author does, that because there is a preponderance of evidence of hysteria racial hostility towards Japanese Americans on the West Coast -- and that the pressure from West Coast political figures and commercial groups in Washington pushed the Executive branch in important ways -- that this need not be factored into the decision. It is for this reason that I stated, and I repeat, that Malkin's work is based in bad faith.
The case against 'racial profiling'
If Malkin hoped, in the end, to justify racial profiling by "debunking" the broadly accepted history of the internment, she failed miserably. Indeed, the internment episode remains stark evidence of the utter failure of racial profiling as a policy. The internment of Japanese Americans was, as I've noted previously, an unfathomable waste that is unlikely to have prevented a single case of sabotage or espionage:
- It demonstrably undermined the war effort, and proved not to be worth a penny of the billions of taxpayer dollars it wasted.
In addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars the actual enterprise itself cost -- rounding up 120,000 people by rail car and shipping them first to "assembly centers"; building ten "relocation centers" in remote locales, and then shipping the evacuees into them; maintaining and administering the centers for another three years, which included overseeing programs to help internees find work outside the camps; feeding the entire population of internees during this time; and then helping them to relocate near their former homes once the camps closed -- there were millions more in initial reparations costs, and then hundreds of millions more in the later reparations approved by Congress in the 1980s.
At the same time, the Japanese population on the Pacific Coast actually was responsible for the production of nearly half of all the fresh produce that was grown for consumption on the Coast (the Japanese also shipped out a great deal of produce to the Midwest and East). Indeed, Nikkei farms held virtual monopolies in a number of crops, including peas, green beans and strawberries, and a nearly 80 percent of the lettuce market.
When these farmers were rounded up and interned, a handful of enterprising whites decided to try running their farms with the hope of making a killing from the crops. But labor was so short that not one of these enterprises lasted beyond about five weeks, and none of them had a successful harvest. Nearly all of these farms lay fallow for the next four years. This major loss of production of fresh vegetables clearly harmed the national war effort, and played an important role in triggering the rationing that came during the war years.
Would racial profiling of Muslims and Arabs really gain us anything, security-wise, in the long run? And would any of it be worth the price?
Michelle Malkin would have us think it would. Her case, though, is built on faulty method, faulty logic, faulty "facts", and an obviously faulty moral compass. Her book is best left shunned, untouched, and eventually, ignored.
Unfortunately, it will not be, at least as far as the "conservative movement" is concerned. Even if utterly discredited, Malkin's meme will continue to recirculate among the Fox News right, as well as more extremist elements. At some point it will become "received wisdom" as a talking point for right-wing pundits and radio talk-show hosts.
It is all, of course, yet another step -- following, you might say, in the footsteps of Ann Coulter's defense of McCarthyism in her screed Treason -- in the growing radicalization of the American mainstream right. I've written about this trend previously, and I hope to return to the subject again soon.
Tuesday, August 10, 2004
Quoth the Perfesser:
- I feel certain that if President Bush were being denounced by an equivalent number of people who served with him, we'd be hearing a lot more about it.
Problem is, Bush can't seem to find anyone who even remembers serving with him for the last two years he was in the Guard -- let alone denounces him.
Not, of course, that we're hearing about that.
Home to roost
Why is it unsurprising that the latest racist embarrassment in the coming election involves another Republican?
- Racism still wins votes in Tennessee
This case involves a 60-year-old real-estate agent named James L. Hart, who claims Republican affiliation, even though the party officially disavows him. He's running for Congress in a district that is safely Democratic; running as an independent in 2002, he garnered only 2.6 percent of the vote.
Here's his platform:
- Hart calls himself an "intellectual outlaw."
Hart supports the pseudoscience of eugenics, once used to sterilize people to purify the white race.
If eugenics was practiced, "unfit" people would not have children, thus, making the world a better place. Thirty-three states passed eugenic laws sterilizing about 65,000 people.
As a result, Nazi doctors -- under the auspices of the Third Reich and using America's eugenics example -- wrote eugenic-based textbooks. The terrible textbooks justified sterilization programs for a superior race and millions were killed.
Hitler praised eugenics. Hart does, too.
"Why does Detroit look like it was hit by a nuclear bomb and Hiroshima look like it was on the side that won the war? Everyone knows the answer but is afraid to say so," said Hart. "The reason for Detroit's decline is there are less-favored races in Detroit and more-favored races in Japan.
"The poverty gene of less-favored races, which are spread by welfare and immigration, are destroying our cities no less than if they were hit by a nuclear bomb . . . unless we stop welfare and immigration polices, the U.S. will look like one big Detroit. I will save our cities . . . If an individual demonstrates the ability to produce and contribute to society, he or she would be encouraged to have more children. People on welfare would not."
Hart refers to "less-favored races of sub-Saharan Africa, which Hollywood continues to call black."
Of course, mainstream Republicans are shocked -- Shocked! -- to find that racism is going on in here.
State GOP officials have denounced Hart and urged voters to support his Democratic opponent. So far, we've heard nothing from national Republicans, but it'd be safe to assume they would maintain the same pose. A few conservative commentators in the blogosphere have also weighed in, claiming that "Hart is no more a Republican than Lyndon LaRouche is a Democrat."
This may be somewhat true -- Hart's positions on eugenics and race only dimly, at worst, resemble any recognizable mainstream Republican position. The problem, however, is that Republican voters have put Hart in this position. As the article goes on to explain:
- Now, before you spit out your morning coffee and yell, "Who the hell voted for this idiot?"
Well, thousands did.
Bertrand, a former military officer who served in Iraq, received GOP support but not their votes: Hart had 7,913 votes compared to Bertrand's 1,654.
There's a reason that Hart is running as a Republican: He knows the Republican base will cast its votes for him. And he knows that because the GOP, in the South especially, has pandered to sentiments like his without openly embracing them.
One of the places this was pointed out, incidentally, was at American Renaissance, the hate group run by "academic racist" Jared Taylor:
- This is so typical of conservative whites--we are scared to death to stand up for what we really believe in. We talk privately about being against one thing or another, but out in public we go along with the "liberal" talk.
It would be much simpler if the GOP made any kind of genuine effort to denounce and discredit the racists who have taken up residence in their ranks. But at best, the party provides only lip service and token gestures.
In the meantime, it continues to play footsie with the neo-Confederate movement. It trades in radical memes that originate on the extremist "Patriot" and even neo-Nazi right. Guys like Jared Taylor show up on nationally broadcast mainstream conservative talk shows and are treated as though they were themselves mainstream authorities.
The Republican base is willing to vote for people like James L. Hart because it constantly receiving signals like these from the "conservative movement" (and only feeble counter-signals, if any at all).
Playing with rotten meat brings the vultures home to roost.
Good Christian hate
Another disturbing hate crime, this time in Texas, involves a University of Texas student and three other young men who evidently wielded scripture even as he was inflicting violent harm on a gay man:
- Jacobs said the suspects met the victim at Oilcan Harry's, a gay bar in Austin's Warehouse District, and accompanied him back to his home at about 2 a.m.
Once there, the four men allegedly forced the victim to sodomize himself with an object at knifepoint while they used homosexual slurs and denounced gay marriage. She also said the men made references to Old Testament verses dealing with homosexuality while they beat the victim with their fists. About two hours later, she said, the suspects robbed the man and left his home. She said the victim suffered minor cuts from the knife but was not stabbed.
Worth noting: The chief perpetrator in this case is a man named Darrell Gay. This sounds reminiscent of the Danny Overstreet killing in 2000, where a man named Ronald Gay walked into a Roanoke, Va., gay bar and began firing randomly.
Gay, as it turned out, told authorities he was largely motivated because he felt deep humiliation over what he considered the hijacking of the meaning of his surname by the homosexual community. He also liked to call himself a "Christian soldier."
Shades of Kristallnacht
Monday, August 09, 2004
There was a particularly creepy hate crime recently in San Francisco, according to this report from the San Francisco Examiner, in which some 50 or so businesses with signs for a Jewish candidate for the city's Board of Supervisors in their windows had swastikas scrawled on them:
- The target of the anti-Semitic vandalism spree was David Heller, president of the Geary Boulevard Merchant Association and first-time candidate for supervisor in District 1.
Upon arriving to work Monday morning, Heller was inundated with messages from business owners whose windows had been defaced with swastikas over the weekend. In each reported incident, the campaign sign, which features Heller's picture, was taped to the inside of the store window and the vandal used a black marker to superimpose a swastika and a Star of David symbol in front of Heller's face on the outside of the glass.
While the Heller campaign has suggested that as many as 50 windows may have been vandalized, some were quickly cleaned off. As of Tuesday, police were looking into 11 incidents along Geary Boulevard and another 11 between 12th and 30th avenues, in which the property owners called police and evidence of the hate crimes were gathered.
The vandalism was particularly disturbing for Heller, who is Jewish and whose four grandparents were killed by Nazis in Poland during World War II. Heller's own parents left Poland for Israel in 1937, and Heller said the neo-Nazi smear represented the first time he could remember being the target of anti-Semitism.
That a crime like this would crop up in a traditionally "enlightened" district like Richmond is especially disturbing.
Just like the Klan
I happened to have the TV on in my hotel room tuned to the exchange between Bill O'Reilly and Paul Krugman on Tim Russert's CNBC show.
What was especially striking about it (and isn't really clear in the transcript) is the way O'Reilly behaved during the whole interview. O'Reilly is big on insisting on placing his remarks "in context," and the context here was significant. He didn't argue: he bellowed, he jabbed his finger, he threatened and intimidated. Krugman looked a little shaken, and frankly, I don't blame him. This wasn't debate -- it was an exercise in verbal thuggery. And the "fair minded" Russert just sat there and watched.
In keeping with this MO, O'Reilly at no point made what could be called a logical argument, engaging instead in what can best be described as a combination of two of the chief logical fallacies, the ad hominem and the appeal to authority. O'Reilly basically berated Krugman for having obtained perfectly accurate information from David Brock's Media Matters -- as though a source's partisanship somehow negated the factual correctness of what it reported. And in this instance, it didn't.
O'Reilly refused to respond to the substance of Krugman's critique or even acknowledge the accuracy of the quotes in question. Instead, he called Media Matters a "liberal hate group" -- the conservative movement's latest Newspeak coinage. Considering that "hate group" as a term refers almost strictly to groups that malign, attack and otherwise engage in efforts to exclude and eliminate entire classes of their fellow citizens from the fruits of American citizenship, usually based on immutable characteristics, Media Matters doesn't even come close to fitting the description. (In contrast to, say, certain cable networks that employ hosts who write books comparing liberals to terrorists as one of the three great evils threatening America.)
This culminated in O'Reilly comparing Media Matters to the Klan. As Pandagon and Atrios have already noted, this is an absurd comparison on its face -- and a deeply troubling one at its core.
Jesse already has remarked on the differences between the two organizations. But it goes beyond mere appearances.
The Ku Klux Klan has existed through multiple incarnations for over 150 years in America. The first of these was, according to Robert Paxton, the first historical emanation of fascism, the Reconstruction Klan. Here is its record, according to Philip Dray in At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America:
- Richard Maxwell Brown's comprehensive study of vigilante violence in America estimates that in the four years 1868-71 there were more than four hundred Klan lynchings in the South, Union general Phil Sheridan calculated that 3,500 whites and blacks were killed between 1865 and 1875, Ida Wells-Barnett, writing in the 1890s, put the number of Negroes killed by whites since 1865 at 10,000, with only three white men executed for crimes against blacks in that period. … Author Dorothy Sterling, who combed through man thousands of documents and oral histories in her preparation of a noted compendium on the Reconstruction era, cited 20,000 as the number killed by the Klan just in the four years 1868-71.
The Klan revived in 1916 after years of dormancy and was responsible for a broad range of lynchings, "race riots" and anti-black purges in the South over the ensuing 15 years or so. It was at the forefront of the so-called "lynching era" (1880-1930), when some 3,400 black people were summarily and brutally killed. And it has continued to be associated even today with an array of hate crimes and heinous acts of terrorism against various minorities.
I'm sure Bill O'Reilly considers his hurt feelings comparable to the deaths of about 25,000 black people. But not many of the rest of us do.
Of course, O'Reilly's analogy is absurd on its face. But it's important to observe what is achieved by putting it out there.
Not only does O'Reilly smear one of his political nemeses -- he soft-pedals what real hate groups stand for. When he compares Media Matters to the Klan, he's not only telling his audience that the former is full of hateful vitriol that poisons the public well, he tells them that the Klan is a reasonably legitimate organization that mostly is engaged in mere political partisanship.
And that makes O'Reilly appear not only ridiculous, but genuinely dangerous.
Sunday, August 08, 2004
Just got back from my 30-year high school reunion in Idaho Falls, Idaho (Skyline, class of '74). This was the first time I've attended any of these functions, and I was surprised by how pleasant and, in a strange way, moving the whole event was.
It was fun to see old friends, but I was most of all touched by some of the quieter stories people had to tell about their lives in the intervening years: the tragedies, the difficulties, the small triumphs. The common story, really, was that we all found a way to persevere, which is a very human story. And this was as true as the formerly "popular" kids as those of us who dwelt more on the edges.
Anyway, sorry for the absence. I thought I'd have Internet access, but it didn't manage to materialize. I should have known better.
Monday's a really busy day. I'll be interviewed this afternoon, between 2 and 3 p.m. PDT, on Seattle's KIRO-AM, on the Dori Monson show. They seem not to have a live Webcast, but hopefully a portion of the show will be featured on their highlights. In the meantime, looks like only Seattle-area listeners can tune in.
Then, of course, I'll give a talk and sign books tonight at Elliott Bay Book Company. Hoping to see some familiar faces tonight, and looking forward to meeting some new ones.