Saturday, October 23, 2004

Balkin' Malkin

I guess it shouldn't come as any surprise to any student of history who has read In Defense of Internment, but Michelle Malkin has now established, beyond any serious doubt, that no one should believe a word that comes out of her mouth or her keyboard.

At her appearance at a bookstore in Puyallup last month, Malkin discussed the historians who objected to her multiple appearances on national television in which she was allowed to promote her revisionist history regarding the internment of Japanese Americans without anything remotely resembling an opposing or balancing viewpoint.

Malkin boasted to the audience: "I've been openly engaging the other side in debate."

She went on: "Their approach has been to censor me. As if the other side hasn't had equal time already!

"What are they afraid of?"

I was there taking notes. Begging the question of how having someone to provide factual counter to her afactual nonsense constituted censorship, I thought it would be interesting to see just how openly Malkin in fact was willing to engage the other side in debate.

So I approached her during the signing that followed her talk, introduced myself, and asked her if she'd be willing to be interviewed by phone sometime in the next few weeks.

She said yes, and gave me her e-mail address.

A little while later, I wrote her at that address and asked how and when we could set up the interview.

She responded by asking me to just submit the questions in writing by e-mail.

I wrote back and said that, as a journalist, she should know that wasn't acceptable. An e-mail exchange is not an interview, and should never be considered an acceptable substitute. (This is so for a variety of reasons, including the fact that there is simply no assurance for the reporter that the person responding in the e-mail is in fact the interview subject.)

I received no answer for several weeks. After waiting what seemed like a civil period, I wrote her again last week and asked if we could set up the phone interview. Still no response.

So on Thursday, I sent her a final request, and warned her I'd take the matter public if I didn't hear back.

She responded this time:
Despite knowing that you have expressed extremely hostile views of me on your blog, I politely agreed to schedule an interview with you after you came to my book-signing in Puyallup. As I wrote to you in my Sept. 23 e-mail, I wanted to do the interview with you via e-mail. You chose not to send me your questions. End of conversation. End of story.

So it's clear that Malkin has in fact gone back on her word and is refusing to submit to the interview.

It's worth noting, of course, that she characterizes my discussion of her work as "extremely hostile" toward her personally, which is an interesting way of putting it.

I think it's fair to say I was outraged by her book. I think it's fair to say I have criticized her work and her methodology sharply, even harshly. I think that criticism is fully deserved. There is an amoral and cynical quality to her work that is, on the basis of ethics alone, truly reprehensible. I have described her work as a "contemptible enterprise."

The mendacious nature of In Defense of Internment was recently exposed by Dan Koffler at Finnegans Wake, whose rigorous logic exposed the utter falsity of Malkin's claim that she's only defending internment then, she's not defending it now.

[Be sure, while you're at it, to check out the compendium of information about Malkin's work recently compiled by the fine folks at Densho.]

In any event, "hostility" usually implies a nasty personal element, and I've been careful to avoid that. I have focused almost entirely on her work, its methodology, and the quality of it (or lack thereof). I haven't suggested that Malkin is a wretched person, and in fact I've chided those critics who characterized her as "self-hating." As I've mentioned before, I've had professional contact with Malkin dating back to the early 1990s, before she was well known, and my experience has been that she is no monster but just a human being, if a horribly misguided one.

No, when I think of personal hostility, I think of people who describe specifically named mentally handicapped individuals as "witless." Maybe that's just me.

But what's most striking to me about Malkin's refusal to do a phone interview is that she's suggested that time constraints are her chief reason for backing out. But the interview, as I told her, would only require about 30 to 45 minutes of her time. If I were to submit the questions to her in writing, and she were to respond even half-adequately, the writing time involved would almost certainly take up a good deal more time than that. Phone interviews, in my experience, are always less time-consuming than written responses to questions.

It's clear that Malkin has other reasons for not wanting to do an interview.

So I have to ask: What is she afraid of?

[Hat tip to Eric Muller for the Koffler and Densho links.]

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