Racism and hysteria
Friday, August 27, 2004
Did racism and hysteria play significant roles in producing the internment of Japanese Americans? Or can you, as Michelle Malkin would have us think, simply parse the racism from the thinking of those responsible for the decisions?
Judge for yourselves. Here is only a tiny sampling of the representative material available in the press from the months leading up to the internment:
A fairly typical cartoon, this from the March 5, 1942, Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Note the way racist stereotyping is conflated with security concerns.
This was the lead headline in the Dec. 11, 1941 edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (the Seattle Times had a nearly identical story). The hed on the jump page proclaimed: "Fifth Columnists Set Fires to Guide Planes; U.S. Authorities Know Identity of Guilty Parties."
Neither paper had a follow-up to this story. That may be because the "Fifth Columnists" turned out to be white loggers randomly burning slash piles, as they always did on the Olympic Peninsula.
Still, that didn't dissuade them from running headlines like this, from the March 5, 1942 Seattle Times front page:
Or this one, two days later in the Times:
And then there were the advertisers, of course:
A Texaco ad in the March 19, 1942 edition of the P-I.
As I mentioned, this was only a small sample, and fairly representative.
Malkin, dual citizenship and profiling
Wednesday, August 25, 2004
Over at her blog, Michelle Malkin has posted a lengthy response (including a separate Word document) to her critics, primarily Eric Muller and Greg Robinson (your humble correspondent, evidently, has been designated a "lesser detractor" whose posts have been "mostly uninformed and irrelevant noise"; of course, I'll let my readers judge for themselves).
Muller, as always, can more than adequately speak for himself. But something Malkin writes in the response on her blog is especially noteworthy, because it gets to the core of what is wrong with her In Defense of Internment.
Malkin, somewhat correctly, is annoyed that some commentators have referred to her as "self-hating":
- The idea that since I am an Asian-American who has defended the so-called Japanese-American internment, I must therefore hate myself, is absurd. What in the world does my ethnic heritage (Filipino) have to do with the book's thesis?
Of course, she's quite right that the presumption that because she's Asian American she "ought to be" opposed to the Japanese American internment is nonsense. However, the fact that she is of Filipino descent in fact has a great deal to do with her book's thesis.
Malkin, you see, makes great hay of the fact of "dual citizenship" among the Nisei as a clear indicator of "torn loyalties" and a cause to suspect them of potential sabotage or espionage.
But Malkin, as it happens, is a dual citizen herself.
Under Filipino law, any child born to Filipino parents, whether living abroad or not, is reckoned a Filipino citizen. Malkin was born in Philadelphia in 1970 to Filipino-immigrant parents.
This Filipino government site explains the details of this:
- Dual citizenship is the status of a person who is a citizen of two or more states. For example, a child born in the United States of parents who are Filipino citizens is both a Filipino (since his parents are Filipinos at the time of birth) and an American (since he was born in the United States).
The only means by which Malkin could have shed her dual-citizen status would have been by filing for the "express renunciation of citizenship." Perhaps Malkin has done so, but considering the lengths at which she has discussed the significance of the failure of the Nisei to renounce their Japanese citizenship -- and the fact that she has not been shy about dicussing her personal background in the context of the book's theses -- it seems she'd have told us about it by now if she had.
Malkin discusses the dual-citizenship issue in the longer Word-doc response to Muller and Robinson:
- 4. Was dual citizenship among Nisei a "canard," as Robinson asserts? This is false. In February 1942, the overwhelming majority of adult Nisei (U.S.-born American citizens of Japanese descent who were 18 years or older) were dual citizens, meaning they were citizens of both Japan and the U.S. Robinson says the citizenship conferred by Japan on Japanese-Americans was "nominal." The fact that thousands of Nisei served in the Japanese military proves that many Nisei took their Japanese citizenship quite seriously. (See p. 24 of my book: Estimates of how many Nisei ended up joining the Imperial Army and Navy forces range from 1,648 to as high as 7,000, not including those who assisted the Japanese military in other capacities.) Robinson says individuals from many other ethnic groups were dual citizens as well, but provides no evidence to support this assertion.
It might be useful at this juncture to examine more fully exactly what Malkin writes in her book on dual citizenship, particularly pages 23-24:
- Another connection between most of America's ethnic Japanese and Japan was Japanese citizenship. With the exception of a small handful of World War I veterans who were granted citizenship through special legislation, all of the Issei were Japanese citizens because they were precluded by U.S. law from becoming U.S. citizens. For many Issei, the connection to Japan was naturally much stronger than the connection to the United States. [Malkin goes on to cite a couple of anecdotes regarding Issei loyalty to Japan, especially in Hawaii, as support.]
A few words about the Issei: There is little question that indeed many Issei remained loyal to Japan and never had any intention, let alone hope, of ever becoming American. While a certain amount of native loyalty certainly was at play in this syndrome, almost just as certainly the major factor in the persistence of this attitude lay in the very fact that the American government discriminated against all Asian races in refusing them the right to naturalize.
It's a classic one-two setup: Refuse citizenship to an entire nation's immigrants, then suspect them of disloyalty for not becoming citizens. Its use was a commonplace, especially in the letters to the editor, in the spring of 1942; what's surprising is that Malkin manages to dust off this tactic's mouldering corpse and prop it up long enough to make an argument out of it.
It's also worth noting that Malkin utterly ignores the role of racism in creating this situation. The reality is that, for the 40 years preceding Pearl Harbor, white supremacist beliefs about the "undesirability" of allowing "Asian blood to mix" with that of whites dominated American immigration policy regarding Asians. A typical expression of the supposed unassimilability of Asians in America was the phrase, "Oil and water don't mix."
Between the years 1912 and 1924, a concerted campaign by whites on the Pacific Coast to completely drive out all Japanese immigrants and return them to their homeland was one of the major subjects of the public discourse in the West. Riding a wave of "Yellow Peril" conspiracy theories -- which, among other things, posited that the Japanese immigrants actually were secret shock troops sent by the Emperor to act as an immediate fifth column for a long-planned invasion of the Coast -- most of the Western states, beginning with California, passed a series of "Alien Land Laws" which sought to deprive the Japanese immigrants of the right to own land. Even a brief review (and especially a more detailed one) makes unmistakably clear the nakedly racist nature of this campaign. "This is a white man's land!" was one of their chief rallying cries.
Indeed, underlying all of the anti-Japanese campaigns of the early 1900s were the bedrock principles of white supremacism. The widespread belief that white people were the consummate creation of nature, and that they were destined to bring the world civilization and light, went essentially unquestioned. And it was supported by popular literature and self-proclaimed "scientists" who used the questionable methodology of the day to lend an academic veneer to longstanding racial prejudices.
Among the most popular of the time were Lothrop Stoddard and Madison Grant, who boasted credentials from Harvard and Yale universities respectively. They approached the matter of race ostensibly from anthropological and biological perspectives, but in fact largely did little more than clothe white supremacism in pseudo-scientific language. Wrote Grant, in his 1916 text The Passing of the Great Race:
- "We Americans must realize that the altruistic ideals which have controlled our social development during the past century, and the maudlin sentimentalism that has made America 'an asylum for the oppressed,' are sweeping the nation toward a racial abyss. If the Melting Pot is allowed to boil without control, and we continue to follow our national motto and deliberately blind ourselves to all 'distinctions of race, creed, or color,' the type of native American of Colonial descent will become as extinct as the Athenian of the age of Pericles, and the Viking of the days of Rollo."
And as Stoddard would later write in The Rising Tide of Color Against White World Supremacy -- a 1922 work complete with admiring introduction from Grant -- the real threat was not blacks in the South, but Asians: "There is no immediate danger of the world being swamped by black blood. But there is a very imminent danger that the white stocks may be swamped by Asiatic blood."
Both of the men's books were national bestsellers (sound familiar?) that underwent multiple printings. And their core arguments -- which became entwined with deeply cherished beliefs about the nature of race -- provided an intellectual and "scientific" veneer to the campaign to exclude the Japanese. Ultimately the issue was couched, like many racial issues of the preceding century, in the terminology of eugenics, a popular pseudo-science that saw careful racial breeding as the source of social and personal good health. Thus many of the campaigns against non-whites cast the race in question as not merely subhuman but pernicious vermin who posed a serious threat to the "health" of the white race. As James Phelan, arguing for exclusion in California, put it: "The rats are in the granary. They have gotten in under the door and they are breeding with alarming rapidity. We must get rid of them or lose the granary."
These people called themselves "exclusionists," and after passing a succession of Alien Land Laws, they won their greatest victory in 1924 when they succeeded in passing a federal law -- known as the "Asian Exclusion Act" -- forbidding any further Japanese emigration.
The United States Supreme Court seems to have been affected by this mindset as well. Its 1922 ruling in Ozawa v. United States officially sanctioned the exclusion of all Asian races. A Japanese immigrant named Takao Ozawa -- arguing that he had been almost entirely raised and educated in the United States, was a product of its universities, and was a Christian who spoke English in his home -- sought to overturn a district-court ruling that denied him the right to seek citizenship. And though the Court agreed that he was "well qualified by character and education for citizenship," it denied his appeal on the grounds that immigration laws limited naturalization to "free white persons and aliens of African nativity."
The decision was settled well within the parameters of the written law, which were largely inarguable. But even in this ruling -- issued, of course, at the apex of the agitation -- there is a hint of the underlying racism. Near the end of the text, the court says:
- These decisions are sustained by numerous scientific authorities, which we do not deem it necessary to review.
It's a reasonable guess that those "scientific authorities" more than likely were along the lines of Lothrop and Stoddard.
Taken in isolation, these little acts of racial mean-spiritedness may have seemed of little moment. But in fact they had consequences that eventually exploded into the history books. In Japan, the public had been closely watching the passage of the Alien Land Laws with mounting outrage. And when news of the passage of the Asian Exclusion Act was announced, mass riots broke out in Tokyo and other cities. As Pearl Buck would later observe, the then-nascent movement for American-style democracy, which had been slowly gaining momentum in Japan, was effectively wiped out overnight. The military authoritarians who would control the nation for the next 20 years gained complete political mastery, and one of the cornerstones of their rule was a bellicose anti-Americanism that would finally reach fruition in late 1941.
Moreover, the attitudes engendered in America by the 1912-24 campaign remained powerfully embedded in the public mindset in 1941-42, especially the belief in the innate treacherousness of the Issei. Indeed, it was still widely believed they were only mercenaries who intended to return to Japan eventually; and consequently, it would be surprising if they were loyal.
The truth, of course, was a great deal more complicated. The depiction of Japanese immigrants as essentially mercenary probably was true of the first wave of immigrants from Japan, who mostly arrived between 1896 and 1900. These men were largely mizonumi, or lower-class laborers and tradesmen with a very loose and often nonexistent familial structure. But the pattern of Japanese emigration to America proved identical to the internal migration patterns within Japan for the preceding centuries: After the mizonumi came honbyaksho, or middle-class and family-oriented emigrants, who became more settled and turned new commerce centers into actual communities. So in America after 1900, the majority of Issei were people who were far more inclined to see their new home as a permanent one.
Indeed, the reality was that by 1942, the large majority of long-term resident Issei who remained had been here since at least 1924, and likewise the vast majority of those emigrants were loyal to the United States, not Japan. The oral histories are full of stories told by Nisei of their Issei parents' silent hopes that one day their adopted home would finally accept them as citizens. (It finally did, by the way, in 1952, with the passage of the Walter-McCarron Act, which included a section allowing for naturalization of Japanese immigrants.) For an especially moving account of the complextiy of Issei attitudes about America, see Louis Fiset's excellent Imprisoned Apart: The World War II Correspondence of an Issei Couple.
Malkin gives the old mythology about the Issei a fresh life here, and her abbreviated description of the situation of the Issei of course serves a polemical purpose. It's all part of her theme of divided loyalties, which she believes were rampant among Japanese Americans -- including the Nisei.
- The overwhelming majority if Nisei adults were citizens of both Japan and the United States (that is, dual citizens). Children born to Japanese fathers before 1924 were automatically given Japanese citizenship, no matter where they were born. Beginning in 1924, under the Japanese Nationality Law, children born in the United States retained Japanese citizenship only if their parents registered them at the Japanese consulate within two weeks of birth. This same law also made it easier for dual citizens to renounce their Japanese citizenship. By December 1941, few had done so, according to the ONI.
This paragraph is correct, insofar as it goes. However, it must be noted that by limiting her sample to "Nisei adults", Malkin elides the fact that only a quarter of all Nisei were dual citizens.
Now undoubtedly, some Nisei were fully aware of their dual citizenship and what it meant. But the vast majority of Nisei were so Americanized that they scarcely gave it a passing thought. Many remained utterly ignorant of their dual-citizenship status and were stunned to discover that it was something being held against them.
The reality is that most Nisei -- like Michelle Malkin herself -- gave the fact of their dual citizenship little or no thought, if they were even aware of it. Taking the effort to renounce it was unlikely, unless it became an issue under familial or other circumstances -- including, of course, war. (And when asked, later during the war, to renounce their Japanese citizenship, the vast majority of both Issei and Nisei in fact did so.)
I try to describe what daily life was like for the Nisei in Strawberry Days: The Rise and Fall of a Japanese American Community [due spring 2005 from Palgrave/Macmillan]. Here's a brief extract:
- Children being the innocents they are, it was common for Japanese youngsters to play with their Caucasian neighbors. However, the amount that the children mixed tended to depend on how well their parents had acclimated to life in the United States. Those who spoke only Japanese in their homes tended to lead more insular lives, associating only with other Japanese, while those fluent in English or -- like the Matsuokas -- Nisei parents tended to be more comfortable with their neighbors, and their children were more likely to feel integrated.
It wasn't until later, when she was a teenager, that Rae Matsuoka realized that there was something setting her apart from her classmates. "See, I don't think I realized I was different. ... When we went to school, we just considered ourselves American. And, we didn't differentiate between myself and a Caucasian classmate. I guess I realized fairly soon that I wasn't exactly Caucasian, and of course, we found out for sure when the war broke out. But before that I am sure that someplace along the way you get exposed to attitudes and, of course, prejudices. And you learn from that. So we absorbed that, but on the whole, I was more friendly, more close, to some of the Caucasian kids."
Conversely, the youngsters whose parents spoke little or no English often remained cocooned in the Japanese community until they reached school age. Mitsuko Hashiguchi says that when first enrolled, she was acutely aware of her difference from other children: "Like when I first went to school at first grade, I couldn't talk English. I couldn't even write my own name, to tell you the truth. Of course, then, after that, I became an American.
"But we were Japanese until a certain age, and then after that, maybe about second grade, I began to Americanize right away. Because I had my American friends. Oh, there were Japanese girls to play with, but that would be your neighbor friends. As far as activities in schools, I was involved with American friends."
Barriers tended to fall away once the children picked up the language and acclimated to their schoolmates. In school at least, the Nisei in Bellevue felt they were largely accepted as equals.
"Oh, yeah, I was part of the school," says Hashiguchi. "And my neighbor was a German family, over the fence -- it went that way, north of me, were German people, and so we went over there and grew up with Mary all the time. Everything we did was with Mary there. So I think I became Americanized quicker than my other Japanese friends for some reason, I don't know. I really don't know. Our family was that way, I guess."
And in truth, many of their Caucasian neighbors thought highly of their Japanese neighbors. "I think most people admired them because they were so industrious, and they were so honest, and the children -- apparently the parents put a lot of value on education, so the children were very good students," says Pat Sandbo, who returned to Bellevue after she graduated from high school and taught in the Bellevue schools. "I think we admired them. ... They were just as American as the next kid."
... Despite being told at every turn—sometimes even inadvertently, amid acts of kindness -- that they could never hope to really fit in, the young Nisei children wanted desperately to be considered normal Americans like everyone else. They worshipped Gary Cooper and Mary Pickford, Sonja Henie and Babe Ruth, just like their classmates, and wore clothes and hairstyles like them too. And secretly, they wished they weren't Japanese.
"I am very dark compared to most Japanese, and so I was teased about that," says Chizuko Norton. "Well, I have to admit that I did a lot of complaining about being different and also having that called to my attention by my Nisei friends as well. Because to be dark was ... I still think it's not all that much appreciated among the Japanese. And I remember sticking adhesive tape all over my hands. You know, when you tear off the tape, your skin is light. Well, I thought that that would keep light for longer than just a few seconds. And the other thing is ... praying to be white for just one day."
"To be white, that was my thinking," recalls Kiyo Yabuki, who was born in 1923 in Yarrow Point. "Ah, I wished I were white. I put the white on a pedestal. Even though I would criticize or condemn, maybe, I still had that mentality where I wished I were white. It may have been that I was ashamed of my own features."
A dinner at the home of a favorite teacher drove home the point to Michi Nishimura, the daughter of Asaichi Tsushima. When she sat down at the dinner table, she was confronted for the first time in her life with a steak -- and eating such a thing with a new kind of utensil.
"I had never had a steak before," she recalls. "And I had the hardest time cutting it. The kids -- they had children -- they would sit there and snicker at me. Mrs. Cash said something; I remember her talking to them, saying, 'That's not polite.'
"There were so many things like that which -- it's not things that we would think of now as what our children would go through. It was something foreign to us, to eat with knives and forks, because we ate with chopsticks all the time. Things that ordinarily you wouldn't think about, and yet they made us different from our Caucasian friends.
"I think a lot of us were ashamed of our parentage at times. There were times when I must have thought: I wish I weren't Japanese."
The Nisei "dual citizens" rarely thought of themselves as subjects of Japan. Many of them attended Japanese language schools, learned Japanese arts and generally cherished their heritage. However, the desire to Americanize was overwhelmingly part of the Nisei experience.
Along these lines, another "Yellow Peril"-related belief lingered in 1942: The notion that the language schools were centers for "indoctrination" where the young Nisei were disciplined in worship of the Emperor. This was a base canard supported by only the scantest evidence; the vast majority of these schools in fact were simply part of the immigrant communities' internal-support system.
Nonetheless, Malkin resurrects this old nugget:
- Japan's Department of Education supplied Japanese-language schools with textbooks reminding ethnic Japanese youngsters of their citizenship ties to Japan. "The objective of Japanese education, no matter in what country it may be, is to teach the people never to be ashamed of their Japanese citizenship," said one junior high school textbook. "We must never forget -- not even for a moment -- that we are Japanese."
In contrast, I describe in Strawberry Days the real-life nature of these schools. Another extract:
- The Issei were also concerned about the growing gap between them and their children. Since many of the immigrants themselves had little education and were nearly helpless when it came to learning English, their first solution was to educate their children in Japanese language and culture as a way of strengthening communication as well as ties to their heritage. A Japanese language school had been started in Bellevue in 1921, but was shut down amid the Alien Land Law agitation.
Though the main intent of the Issei was simply to close the language and cultural gap between themselves and their children, the schools consistently were a source of suspicion in Caucasian communities along the Pacific Coast, in no small part due to anti-Japanese propaganda claiming that the Nisei children were being indoctrinated into emperor worship and forced to swear loyalty to Japan. Those suspicions, at least in Bellevue, were utterly groundless; none of the Nisei can recall any lessons even remotely approaching such topics, other than geography and history lessons about Japan incidental to learning the language.
A second language school opened in 1925 and held at an Issei home in the Downey Hill area until 1929, when community leaders organized the first Japanese language school at a building in Medina, at 88th Avenue Northeast and Northeast 18th Street. Asaichi Tsushima was the first teacher.
Around the same time, leaders of the Japanese community began making plans to build their own center for gatherings. By 1930, they had built the Japanese Community Clubhouse at 101st Avenue Northeast and Northeast 11th Street and dedicated it in late July of 1930. It had 16-foot-high ceilings to accommodate the basketball court the builders installed as its main floor. Some 500 people, including the leading citizens of Bellevue, attended.
The language schools were consolidated at the clubhouse, which soon became the hub for the segregated community. The Seinenkai meetings were held there. And the language lessons at the schoolhouse, which initially were held only on Saturdays, were expanded to daily hour-long sessions after school.
The sessions weren't always popular with the young Nisei. Many of them, the boys especially, hated trudging the extra mile or so to the schoolhouse while all their classmates got to have the Saturdays or afternoons off. And they weren't really interested in learning Japanese. They, after all, wanted to be Americans. Most of them recall being good students at regular school, but poor students in Japanese.
"I used to pack my lunch, go over there, get in fights, learn how to throw a baseball," recalls Alan Yabuki, whose parents operated a greenhouse in the Yarrow Point area. "That’s what I used to do."
Mitsuko Hashiguchi, however, reveled in the cultural growth the school offered: "I loved the Japanese school. And I went 12 years, and I went to night classes."
Tom Matsuoka did not make his children attend the Japanese school. "He says, 'I want you guys to be able to learn English, speak it well, because this is where you are going to live. Don't want to get muddled up in this' -- a lot of these people speak in mixed idioms once in awhile," recalls Ty Matsuoka.
"Oh, but those kids just go for eating lunch, that's all," says Tom now. "They don't learn nothing. They talk the English all the time back and forth, you know."
Still, Matsuoka chipped in and helped drive the teachers for the school from the ferry dock to the school, since by 1932 he had a car, which was frequently pressed into service chauffering youngsters and their mentors to and from activities of all kinds. "Mrs. Tajitsu and Mrs. Takekawa, they used to come teach at the Bellevue School on Saturday," Tom recalls. "And so they come on the ferry, and somebody have to go on the ferry and pick them up, and take them back to the ferry after the school. [But] I never sent the kids, and had nothing to do with the Japanese school."
Now, I have to point out that my reportage here is hardly groundbreaking. Many hundreds of accounts of the Japanese American experience have been written. It isn't hard to find information that provides a much more complete picture by which to judge both the Nisei and the behavior of the government officials who placed them in concentration camps -- and not merely through hindsight.
But as I've already observed (as have both Muller and Robinson), that is the real flaw in Malkin's methodology. If information exists that might counter, for example, her imputations of "torn loyalties" to the majority of Nisei, or the overwhelming abundance of evidence of the highly significant and at times decisive role played by racism in the unfolding drama that culminated in the "relocation centers" -- well, Michelle simply doesn't even mention it. It's just left out altogether.
Now, this is a kind of meta-dishonesty, but Malkin is hoping to get away with it through a combination of chutzpah and propaganda technique. However, this dishonesty permeates nearly every corner of her text, even on the micro level. See, for instance, what she attempts to pull off in the next half-paragraph:
- A 1941 ONI memo reports that Japan placed considerable pressure on Nisei dual citizens to serve in the Japanese military.
Gosh, doesn't that sound to you like Japan was pressuring all those Nisei kids in America?
Well, yes, unless you go back and check what the memo she cites actually says.
It's right there on p. 236, under the heading "Conscription":
- Considerable evidence exists of such pressure being brought to bear on dual citizens and even expatriated citizens of Japanese ancestry who are in Japan as students or even workers.
That's right. The pressure was being brought to bear on Nisei who were in Japan at the time. In fact, the pressure was so great that many of these same students found themselves (just as the heading suggests) forcibly conscripted into the Japanese army. Under Japanese law, all male citizens -- dual or otherwise -- were subject to conscription in Japan.
The Encyclopedia of Japanese American History mentions this in its entry under "dual citizenship":
- Even after the passage of the law [in 1924 liberalizing renunciation], a good percentage of the Nisei population kept their dual citizenship, many of them just never getting around to ridding themselves of their Japanese citizenship. For a few, this oversight had tragic consequences: some Nisei visiting Japan just prior to World War II were forced to stay and serve in the Japanese army because of their Japanese citizenship.
Indeed, in some cases, the students were virtually shanghaied into service, which in fact Malkin next describes:
- According to the memo, Kazuichi Hashimoto of Terminal Island, California, took a group of forty young ethnic Japanese (presumably Nisei dual citizens) to Japan, supposedly to teach them fencing. "However," the memo states, "it is suspected that these young people were taken to Japan for military duty."
Though critics of the West Coast evacuation and relocation say dual citizenship was of no consequence, the presence of Nisei in Japan's military suggests otherwise. Estimates of how many Nisei ended up joining the Imperial Army and Navy ranges from 1,648 (the official figure given by the Japanese government) to as high as 7,000 -- not including those who assisted the Japanese military in other operations. ...
Forgoing the usual sourcing question about Malkin's upper-end figure regarding the number of conscriptees (7,000 is not terribly likely, and the official number is what is broadly accepted as accurate), it's more important, perhaps, to sit back and ask: What kind of moral reprobate would trivialize what was a real tragedy to many of the victims of this kind of forced conscription? Imputing that people forced into service of the enemy under these conditions are "disloyal" is possible only if you have no sense of fairness, not to mention intellectual integrity. (Malkin goes on to cite the notorious case of Tomoya Kawakita, a Nisei translator who tortured American prisoners during the war and attempted to settle in the States afterward; but she presents not a whit of evidence that the majority of the conscriptees went willingly, and there is considerable anecdotal evidence that they did not.)
So there you have it: The belief that both the Issei and the Nisei were largely disloyal was well grounded, so long as you overlook the fact that they really weren't.
The internment and profiling
This is Malkin's methodology in a nutshell: Find a handful of facts, selectively edit and compile them in a way that ignores countervailing evidence, and present them as representative of the bigger picture. That isn't history; it's propaganda.
Malkin may think of this all as an exercise in polemics, all in the pursuit of "debunking" critics of modern-day racial profiling in the "war on terror." But the truth is that, by defending the indefensible -- which, in the end, is what the Japanese American internment was -- she has replicated almost exactly the mistakes of her forebears in 1942, impugning the loyalty of nearly 80,000 citizens and another 40,000 longtime resident immigrants without a whit of solid evidence to support her.
Even Burl Burlingame -- the author of Advance Force Pearl Harbor, a text she cites, as do I -- had this to say, at the end of a post chastising the critics who have tried (wrongly, I have to fully agree) to shout Malkin down:
- Let me be clear. Although Michelle based much of her "book" (it's actually more of a padded essay) on my original research and upon my book "Advance Force," I personally think relocation and internment was perhaps inevitable given the tenor of the time, but was still wrong and unjustified. No, it goes beyond wrong. It was stupid and counterproductive and continues to embarrass to this day. The ONLY good to come out of it was as an object lesson -- to be vigilant about protecting the Constitutional rights of all. Even that part about free speech.
[It should be noted that Malkin also cites a somewhat complimentary letter from Burlingame at her blog, the full text of which he posted at his site.]
As several of Malkin's critics have already pointed out: If what she wanted was to defend, as ultimately she does, racial profiling in 2004 America as part of the "war on terror," she could not have chosen a more inappropriate example than the internment of Japanese Americans.
Of course, I've said much the same thing on repeated occasions: No matter how you reckon the internment, it was simply an unfathomable waste. It achieved nothing in terms of enhancing national security, it worsened the wartime food supply, and it was extraordinarily costly, both for the taxpayers and the Japanese American evacuees. It almost certainly wreaked harm on the Constitution. And for what?
Moreover, in defending the internment as an instance of an appropriate homeland-security measure in its time and context, Malkin is offering up the very model of why seemingly "temperate" measures such as those she proposes in her final chapter can metastacize wildly into phenomena well beyond the scope of what anyone might originally have envisioned. Internment planners, remember, wanted first to just put the Issei and Kibei into camps; then they decided to simply "evacuate" the Coast of Japanese and help the Nisei to "voluntarily" relocate. But then complications arose, and the next thing everyone knew, there were 122,000 people behing held indefinitely behind barbed wire.
Now, Malkin commends such limited measures as profiling travelers from "Muslim-dominated countries" deemed to be of "elevated concern."
As it happens, one of the "Muslim-dominated countries" currently on that list is the Philippines, which has had more than its share of terrorist activity in the past several decades, and a known Al Qaeda presence as well.
Now, under Michelle's own criteria, her status as a dual citizen of the Philippines might render her a person of high interest were she to travel much. In fact, if dual citizenship is a sign of "divided loyalties," it might be time hold her in serious suspicion of covert terrorist activity. And then, once detained, she might be held under "special rules" and become subject to the same "special courts" she recommends on p. 159 -- you know, the ones that "would allow certain evidence that is not admissible in a conventional civilian court, and for national security reasions, the defendant and his or her lawyer would not be allowed to view certain evidence."
I don't know about Malkin, but that sounds like an Orwellian nightmare to me, and I shudder at the very thought of even creating that kind of machinery, let alone being caught up in it.
Empathy is hardly Malkin's strong suit. But a little reflection on her own rather fragile position, especially when it comes to racial profiling, might lead her to stand back and reconsider exactly what the hell it is she is arguing.
And then, perhaps, she can try applying the same principle to the Nikkei internment. Once again, a little empathy could go a long way.
[Note: Be sure to catch Eric Muller debating Malkin at a Philly public-radio station today from 10-11 EDT.]
AWOL Guardsmen for the Truth
Monday, August 23, 2004
Editor's note: Someone slipped this under the Orcinus newsroom door the other day, if ya know what I mean. Sounds kinda hinky, but hey. If this kind of fact-gathering is good enough for Matt Drudge, it's good enough for me.
Inspired by the nationally publicized exploits of another group of veterans, another secret, shadowy group is now poised to make its mark on the American election scene. Or so some people say.
Calling themselves "AWOL Guardsmen for the Truth," they are constituted of former National Guardsmen who were punished by the military for being absent without leave from their National Guard units during the early 1970s. And they're speaking out because they wonder why President George W. Bush -- who, they say, was guilty of similar or worse infractions than their own -- didn't receive the same treatment.
The group is planning a series of advertisements in which former AWOL Guardsmen speak out about Bush's military record. The ads feature testimony from other men who served in the Guard in the early 1970s along with Bush.
"I served with George W. Bush," says Joe Schlabotnik, a former Washington Air National Guard member. "Well, sort of, anyway. We were both in Air Guard units at the same time, even though mine was up Spokane. For missing four monthly drills, I was booted out of the Guard, drafted and sent to Vietnam. Why wasn't Bush?"
"I served with George W. Bush," chimes in Herman P. Grunt. "Well, OK, I was just in the Texas National Guard. I had a six-year commitment. But around fall of '71, just as I was about to finish up, I decided I had 'other priorities' and stopped showing up for drills for five months. Next thing I knew, I was ordered into active duty for another 24 months. I wonder why Bush wasn't."
"I don't think George W. Bush is telling the truth about his time in the Texas Air Guard," say Klem Kadiddlehopper, a former California Air Guardsman. "I mean, I took off from the Guard in the spring of '73 to pursue business opportunities and skipped out on my physical, just like Bush. Pretty soon I was ordered back to active duty and got reassigned to a paper job as a reserve officer, but I skipped out on that, too. Then they gave me the option of a dishonorable discharge or a court-martial. I took the dishonorable.
"So how did Bush get an honorable discharge? What kind of strings did he pull?"
The AWOL Guardsmen for the Truth were unable to find any other Guardsmen who remember serving with Bush after May 1972, when he first began missing drills. (This is probably not surprising, since no one ever stepped forward to claim Garry Trudeau's $10,000 reward for anyone who could prove they served with Bush in Alabama.) They were, however, able to locate a Guardsman who remembers Bush from a more relaxed setting -- in Chihuahua, Mexico.
"Hey, man, I can't be sure of anything from those days," says Hedley Stonecipher, a former Texas Guardsman. "But I remember like it was yesterday hanging out with W at a cheap little titty bar in Chihuahua, 'cuz that was where we went to get the cheap hookers. Gee, maybe it was yesterday. Wait, no, it was June 21, 1972. Yep. I remember W cuz he was The Man when it came to making it snow there, if you know what I mean."
White House spokesmen denounced the AWOL Guardsmen for the Truth campaign. Press Secretary Scott McClellan repeatedly referred reporters to Bush's autobiography, A Charge to Keep, in which the president stated: "I continued flying with my unit for the next several years."
David Domke, a professor at University of Washington's communications school, had an interesting piece of research published Sunday in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
- Bush weds religion, politics to form world view
The headline is somewhat incomplete, because while the piece provides some important insight into the nature of Bush's political-religious nexus, it also has significant information about how these beliefs were transmitted through the media and became implanted in the public perception of world events.
- That the president -- any president -- is a person of religious faith is generally viewed by the U.S. public in favorable terms, the better to be grounded when facing momentous decisions. I share this view because I know how central the Christian faith is to my life and to many others I know and respect. Invocations of a higher power, when emphasizing inclusive and transcendent principles, seem to me to be legitimate and adroit rhetoric for a leader of 290 million people, the overwhelming majority of whom believe in God in some form. What is deeply troubling about Bush's religiosity, however, is that he consistently evinces a certainty that he knows God's will -- and he then acts upon this certainty in ways that affect billions of humans.
For example, in his address before Congress and a national television audience nine days after the terrorist attacks, Bush declared: "The course of this conflict is not known, yet its outcome is certain. Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty have always been at war, and we know that God is not neutral between them." Similarly, in the 2003 State of the Union address, with the conflict in Iraq imminent, he declared: "Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity." These are not requests for divine favor; they are declarations of divine wishes.
From this position, only short theological and rhetorical steps are required to justify U.S. actions. For instance, at a December 2003 news conference, Bush said: "I believe, firmly believe -- and you've heard me say this a lot, and I say it a lot because I truly believe it -- that freedom is the Almighty God's gift to every person, every man and woman who lives in this world. That's what I believe. And the arrest of Saddam Hussein changed the equation in Iraq. Justice was being delivered to a man who defied that gift from the Almighty to the people of Iraq."
Further, this view of divinely ordained policy infuses the public discourse of several administration leaders, irrespective of their particular religious outlook. I systematically examined hundreds of administration public communications -- by the president, John Ashcroft, Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld -- about the "war on terrorism" in the 20 months between Sept. 11, 2001, and the end of "major combat" in Iraq in spring 2003. This research showed that the administration's public communications contained four characteristics simultaneously rooted in religious fundamentalism while offering political capital:
-- Simplistic, black-and-white conceptions of the political landscape, most notably good vs. evil and security vs. peril.
-- Calls for immediate action on administration policies as a necessary part of the nation's "calling" and "mission" against terrorism.
-- Declarations about the will of God for America and for the spread of U.S. conceptions of freedom and liberty.
-- Claims that dissent from the administration is unpatriotic and a threat to the nation and globe.
In combination, these characteristics have transformed Bush's "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists" policy to "Either you are with us, or you are against God." To the great misfortune of American democracy and the global public, such a view looks, sounds and feels remarkably similar to that of the terrorists it is fighting.
Domke is not necessarily the first to cover this territory. The role of Bush's religious beliefs in determining the direction of his policy has also been well covered in Mark Crispin Miller's new book, Cruel and Unusual: Bush/Cheney's New World Order, which confronts the problem through a largely psychological analysis combined with politics. Another outstanding study along these lines (this time from a psychiatric point of view) is Robert Jay Lifton's Superpower Syndrome: America's Apocalyptic Confrontation With the World. [For a condensed version of Lifton's thesis, see his article in The Nation.]
What distinguishes Domke's work here is his analysis of how these beliefs were transmitted through the media:
- The ascendancy of the administration's political fundamentalism after Sept. 11 was facilitated by mainstream U.S. news coverage, which substantially echoed the administration's views. That became apparent when I analyzed how 20 leading and geographically diverse newspapers and the evening newscasts of ABC, CBS and NBC covered each of Bush's national addresses (15 in 20 months, a remarkable pace) and the administration's push for key "war on terrorism" policies and goals in 2001 and 2002, including passage of the USA Patriot Act, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and congressional and U.N. resolutions regarding Iraq.
This analysis revealed that news media consistently amplified the words and ideas of the president and other administration leaders. They did that by echoing throughout their coverage similar claims made by multiple administration members, thereby having the administration's perspectives establish the terms of public discourse. For example, only two of more than 300 editorials that I analyzed in response to the president's national addresses criticized the administration's description of the campaign against terrorism as an epic struggle of good vs. evil. None questioned his explicit declarations of God's will. With so many around the globe expressing a different view during these 20 months, by echoing these fundamentalist messages within these editorials, the press failed its readers.
To be clear, the U.S. news media did not emphasize the administration's messages to the same extent as the White House did during this time. Such an equation would imply that the commercial, independent news media merely served as mouthpieces, and that is not the case. Disagreement with the administration sometimes appeared in news stories -- either as a presentation of different factual information or of divergent observations by other sources -- and in newspaper editorials. Coverage also included occasional strong criticisms of government policy, in particular in regard to the administration's diplomatic difficulties in early 2003.
The chief failure of members of the mainstream media, though, is that they did not adequately cover the deeply religious motivations to the administration's actions and, as a result, too rarely questioned the administration's religious-cum-political discourses. Once these fundamentalist discourses became consistently amplified -- but not analyzed -- in leading media outlets, the administration gained the rhetorical high ground, and that went far in determining policy decisions.
Sometimes, the road to hell is paved with smug self-certainty.
One of the immediate obstacles facing any effort to reform the nation's media will be the fact that the Foxcists who are now driving our national discourse have no intention of surrendering control.
Just as they stopped at nothing to achieve their current position, they clearly will have no compunction about being every bit as ruthless to maintain it. If anyone fails to toe their line, they'll be threatened with exile from the halls of power. In other words -- and this is especially the case for those working inside the Beltway -- they will be rendered incapable of doing their jobs.
This was made abundantly clear awhile back when Republicans threatened to "boycott" CNN's Crossfire. The boycott never really materialized, but the show decidedly toned down its act in the meantime.
Now they're turning the same guns on Chris Matthews now that he has begun showing signs of departing from the preferred script. According to an item in U.S. News and World Report titled "Blackball", Republicans are putting the clamps down:
- You might notice something missing from Hardball With Chris Matthews soon: Republicans. "Hardball may seem more like badminton during the Republican National Convention," threatens a GOP insider. What's up? The GOP thinks Matthews has gone over to Sen. John Kerry's side and is too critical of the Bush campaign's editing of a Hardball interview with Kerry posted on the party's negative site, www.kerryoniraq.com. As payback, they've stopped urging Republicans to appear on the show. Hardball executive producer Tammy Haddad dismisses charges Matthews is biased: "We beat everybody up." So far, nobody from the White House has told her of the show's being blackballed.
Of course not. They never work that way. They just send out the word through backchannels like this.
This, of course, is only occurring at MSNBC, which despite its obvious predilection over the past few years to attempting a "Fox Lite" approach to programming remains outside the circle of Conservative Media Insiders. That status in the cable biz is largely relegated to Fox News.
And heaven help anyone inside Fox who decides his journalistic integrity is more important than the Agenda.
Take, for instance, the case of Jon Du Pre, the Fox News reporter who made the mistake of appearing in the MoveOn documentary Outfoxed and telling its audience exactly how the "fair and balanced" channel operates.
According to Arizona Republic columnist Richard Ruelas, Fox has been getting even ever since:
- On its Web site, Fox News released a statement about the documentary, saying that any news organizations that run stories on the film "is opening itself to having its copyrighted material taken out of context for partisan reasons." The statement does not say the documentary is in error nor deny the authenticity of the internal memos.
The network, on its Web site, also tries to discredit its former employees, including Du Pre. It says Du Pre left Fox News because "as his personnel file states, he was a weak field correspondent and could not do live shots." Du Pre said that claim is false.
Du Pre, who left Channel 5 this year, has twice been denied anchor jobs at Fox affiliates in other cities because of his appearance in the documentary.
"Even if I don't get another job in this business, it will have been worth it," Du Pre said of the Outfoxed interview. He got into this business to tell the truth, after all.
I was especially interested in Du Pre's description of how Fox operates even beyond what's portrayed in Outfoxed:
- Du Pre hit pause. "This is presented in here as some sort of nefarious or hidden agenda," he said. "It wasn't so subtle." In reality, his bureau chief, who would have been a recipient of the daily memos, would relay the messages to him in much more colorful and blatant language. Reporters knew who the enemies were. They were ordered to deliver stories that made Democrats look bad and Republicans look good.
Du Pre said most Fox News Channel employees figured the bias was so obvious that audience would be able to see it as well. "Nobody thought that what we were doing was 'fair and balanced,' " he said, quoting the network's slogan. It was more "an attempt to balance out what everybody else was doing." He also said such rationalization was "survival."
"Their point of view is their point of view, and they have every right to it," Du Pre said. "But to hold themselves out as a fair and balanced source of news and information, let alone the truth, is abhorrent."
The truth, unfortunately, means nothing to the people currently in power.
Anyone who has been watching is already well aware of this, as well as the depths of their vindictiveness, which extends to anyone -- even former administration members and allies -- who fails to toe the line. Just ask Paul O'Neill, Richard Clarke and Joe Wilson.
Is it Astroturf?
Sunday, August 22, 2004
One of the more annoying tendencies of the mainstream press in recent years is the way it tries to "balance" news by posing a kind of equivalency between the right and the left. You know the thought process: "Sure, the right may be a bunch of lying power-mongers, but the left is just as bad."
Of course, the right and left are qualitatively quite different in many respects, and each is problematic in its own way, but for entirely different and unrelated reasons. The thinking that adopts this sort of equivalency is not just lazy, it badly distorts the truth -- which is what journalists are supposed to be aiming for in the first place.
One of the ways this shows up is in news reports that present an equivalency between reasonable and fact-based remarks (e.g., Richard Clarke's critique of the Bush administration's war on terror) and outrageous smears (Republican operatives' counter that Clarke was only interested in promoting his book) and falsehoods.
Another recent case revolves around the emergence of "Astroturf" -- the phony letters to the editor actually created by campaign operatives and spammed out to newspapers across the country by locals who copy the letters whole and send them in as their own. Paul Farhi in the Washington Post recently offered this report:
- Thanks to some nifty Internet technology, the campaigns of President Bush and John F. Kerry are making it easy for their supporters to pass off the campaigns' talking points as just another concerned citizen's opinion. Pro-Bush or pro-Kerry letters bearing identical language are flooding letters-to-the-editor columns.
The Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, N.Y., for example, ran a letter last month from a local reader that stated, "New-job figures and other recent economic data show that America's economy is strong and getting stronger, and that the president's jobs and growth plan is working."
The exact same phrasing also appeared in letters printed in about 20 other daily newspapers, including the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Idaho Statesman and the Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle.
It wasn't a remarkable coincidence. The letters -- known as "AstroTurf" for their ersatz quality -- were generated by a special cut-and-paste form on Bush's campaign Web site. In addition to providing helpful, ready-to-plagiarize phrases about the president's economic policies, the site also offers faux-letter fodder about such topics as homeland security, the environment, health care and "compassion" ("The President's compassion agenda is touching lives across the globe. . . .").
Kerry's campaign has a similar feature that entreats his supporters to "write" letters as part of his campaign's "MediaCorps." Both campaigns offer tips, such as the Bush campaign's advice to "keep your letters brief and to the point."
The problem, though, is that there is a substantive difference between the Bush and Kerry operations, as different as their campaign appearances.
Over at Salon's Table Talk, my friend Maia Cowan posted the following rejoinder, which she sent to the Post:
- In his August 22 column, Paul Farhi states, "[T]he campaigns of President Bush and John F. Kerry are making it easy for their supporters to pass off the campaigns' talking points as just another concerned citizen's opinion. Pro-Bush or pro-Kerry letters bearing identical language are flooding letters-to-the-editor columns." This statement gives the impression that both campaigns are equally guilty of encouraging supporters to send letters provided by the campaign instead of writing their own letters.
The Bush campaign does provide letters that supporters can cut-and-paste; the "America's economy is strong and getting stronger" letter that Mr. Farhi cited is one example.
Mr. Farhi asserts, "Kerry's campaign has a similar feature that entreats his supporters to 'write' letters as part of his campaign's 'MediaCorps'." The two campaigns, however, have a crucial distinction. Unlike the Bush campaign, the Kerry campaign does not provide entire letters that the supporters can copy instead of writing their own. It provides one-sentence talking points and guidelines for how to write the letters. The site also provides a blank form for composing and sending the letters. Even if letter-writers repeat the talking-point sentence verbatim in their letters, they still have to write the rest of the letter themselves. The MediaCorps discourages sending the same letter to different newspapers by limiting use of the email form to one newspaper per day.
To verify my assumption that Kerry supporters don't churn out Astroturf, I searched the Internet for the MediaCorps talking points. I found exactly one letter that quoted them. Searches for the Bush campaign's form letters, by contrast, turn up dozens of instances.
There's a defining difference between encouraging people to write letters on specific issues and providing entire letters for them to send. It's the difference between respecting the rules and encouraging cheating. It's the difference between encouraging people to do their own thinking, and telling them what to think.
That about sums it up.