Friday, July 08, 2005

Strawberry Days: First reviews

The pieces on my new book, Strawberry Days: How Internment Destroyed a Japanese American Community, are starting to roll in, and so far they've been very positive.

The highest profile so far is from the piece by Diane de la Paz in the P-I, which is actually more in the way of a profile and interview:
Do we need yet another book about the Japanese internment during World War II?

Yes, since it's "Strawberry Days" (Palgrave, 280 pages, $29.95). In this stranger-than-fiction chronicle, veteran Seattle journalist David Neiwert boils the evacuation of 117,000 down to Bellevue, and shows how neighborhood and government forces converged to empty that town of Japanese-American farmers.

In the Seattle Weekly, the estimable J. Kingston Pierce opines:
With its journalistic perspective, Strawberry Days lacks the emotional vigor of, say, Mary Matsuda Gruenewald's new internment-camp memoir, Looking Like the Enemy. Yet David A. Neiwert, once a reporter for the Bellevue Journal-American, uses extensive interviews with ex-internees and the prior printed statements of xenophobes to re-create a wartime climate of distrust, suspicion, and fear that pushed Eastside history to one of its early turning points.

... Most of the information in Strawberry Days has been presented elsewhere. But Neiwert's research into [Miller] Freeman's role in the Japanese expulsion expands our knowledge of this Eastside "founding father." That plus an epilogue in which the author eviscerates modern revisionists who would defend the internment and dispute racism as one of its causes are, by themselves, worth the price of this book.

In the meantime, Scooter at Nod to Nothing posted a warm review too. He notes something I was a little concerned about -- the essentially added-on nature of the Epilogue -- but, like Mr. Pierce, nonetheless deems it a worthy postscript:
The last chapter, "The Internment", is an attempt to contrast the internment of the Japanese in World War II with current apologists and their calls for the legality of similar actions versus other minorities, like post-9/11 American Muslims. As such, the chapter feels slightly "tacked on", but the inclusion is a valid one (and Neiwert is foremost a journalist), particularly because it resonates with Japanese Americans. There is a wonderful anecdote about a JACL employee being contacted numerous times after 9/11 by Japanese Americans having bad dreams about internment. When you read in a previous chapter that there were "claims that the Japanese internees were being fed better in the camps than were American G.I.'s" (p. 205) you get the willies and immediately begin thinking about Guantanamo and lemon chicken (excuse me for not linking to either Malkin's pages about internment or Coulter's diatribe about chicken, I find them both offensive). That's simply not a lot of forward motion since the Dies Committee (yes, it did evolve from criticizing minorities and Nazis into the persecution of communists and the New Left).

What's nice about all these responses is that they indicate the book is fairly effective in communicating the things I was trying to say.

I'm off tonight to the wilds of Bellingham for the 7 p.m. signing at Village Books.

And I'll be out much of the weekend after that. I'm riding in the Seattle to Portland bike ride, hopefully the one-day version. If anyone else is out there, my number is 210, and I'll be aboard a blue Lemond Croix de Fer with an orca on it. I've got a red and black Native "Seawolf" design jersey. Say hello if you see me.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Far left, meet far right

One of the peculiarities of the way extremism works is that you'll often find bizarre confluences of the far right and far left, as in the cases of David Icke, Lorena Fulani and Lyndon Larouche.

A lot of people attribute this, mistakenly I think, to a kind of simplistic model in which the political spectrum becomes circular, and the far left come close to resembling the far right. That ignores an important reality: that the interests and motivations of left and right are definably distinct, even at the extremes. A better model might be a globe, in which the polar extremes do indeed resemble each other -- but nonetheless they remain a world apart. So in reality, these confluences are noteworthy just because they defy that underlying dynamic.

One of these cropped up recently in atheist circles, when the Atheist Law Center, based in Montgomery, Alabama, announced last week that it was hosting a Wednesday appearance there by the noted Holocaust denier, David Irving:
British historian David Irving, an expert on World War Two, the NAZI era and erosion of rights of a Free Press and Free Speech will speak at the Prattville Holiday Inn, Exit 179 off Interstate-65 on Wed., July 6 at 6:30 PM. Those persons wishing to attend are expected to purchase a meal from the restaurant. Call Larry Darby before 2:00 PM on Wednesday so that we may reserve a seat for you.

Irving's topic will be, "The Lipstadt Trial Five Years On: Its Methods and Achievements." This is the breathtaking inside story of Irving's British High Court action against an Atlanta professor, Deborah Lipstadt for libel in England, and how she fought back with money poured in by the usual enemies of Free Speech. Lipstadt spent 13 million dollars, paying allegedly neutral witnesses up to half a million dollars each.

Irving, who exposed the fake "Hitler Diaries" in 1983, will also speak on "The Faking of Adolf Hitler for History," a look at the numerous documents that have been faked to help provide history's present view of him.

Darby, president of the Center, urges citizens concerned about the steady erosion of liberties in the U.S. to come hear of Irving’s experiences in challenging popular history of the NAZI era and the Western world’s taboos regarding what has grown into the holocaust industry.

Media for the masses in the U.S. are self-censoring, by and large unwilling to report criticism of Judaism (the root of all theism), organized Jewry, Israel or U.S. foreign policy regarding the Jewish state. A result of this censorship of genuine issues has been the establishment in the U.S. of a void of knowledge concerning just how powerful Jewish interests, such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, are in this country.

When individuals do find the courage to challenge politically correct notions involving Judaism, they are often met with knee-jerk responses of name-calling, such as "anti-Jew" or "anti-Semitic" or, in the case of Irving, "holocaust denier." Such vicious personal attacks have an effect of quashing free expression of opinion and free inquiry into a religion or faith-based practices, even when such practices have a bearing on U.S. national security.

Yes, it really is a problem that it's become difficult to raise issues regarding the activities and roles of Israel and AIPAC in American foreign policy. Especially when the people raising those issues seem immediately to resort to crude anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial to defend their positions. Because, as I've discussed at length here previously, Irving is not only a classic Holocaust denier, he's also a fairly naked anti-Semite as well.

Well, perhaps it's not surprising to see this combined with an attack on hate-crime laws:
Possibly the greatest challenge to Free Speech in the U.S. is the spread of "hate crime" legislation, where you can be punished for your thoughts or opinions, not just your bad acts.

In the United States, at least, this is simply false. Hate-crimes laws only affect acts that are already crimes.

Well, it's important to keep the activities of the Atheist Law Center in perspective, at least. The organization appears to be pretty much a one-man operation by Larry Darby. And, judging by some of the discussion generated among other atheists by Darby's announcement, nearly everyone who has read the release has immediately begun disassociating him/herself from the Center.

As well they should. People like David Irving are about the triumph of lies and superstition, both racial and religious. If atheists are the rationalists I've traditionally encountered, they'll want nothing to do with anyone who condones him.