Blogs > Cliopatria > Japanese Internment and Early Modern Insults

Aug 13, 2004 7:33 pm

Japanese Internment and Early Modern Insults

I love the internet. Other people do the work for me, and all I have to do is point at it. Of course, my students do that too, but I'm not being graded or getting, in fact, any sort of credit for this. Special thanks today, however, to Ralph Luker, who reads far and wide to find new and interesting people to add to our blogroll.

First up, something I've been thinking about writing about for some time. Michelle Malkin's new book In Defense of Internment: The Case for 'Racial Profiling' in World War II and the War on Terror gets the dismantling it so richly deserves at the hands of Orcinus' David Neiwart (via Peevish). Neiwart starts with a brief vitae for Malkin (troubling enough even if she'd stuck to punditry), then points us to other folks who've tackled the book's many flaws (I'd read the Volokh Conspiracy material, by internment experts Eric Muller and Greg Robinson), then does his own very authoritative supplement. The ultimate conclusion: Malkin has taken a few facts out of context and turned them into an historical and ethical abomination. Here's a quick primer on the internment, if you need one before diving into the realms of MAGIC cables and executive orders. [P.S. If you want to see Malkin in action, you can read this HNN Roundup piece and my response]

On a lighter note, Garry Trudeau says that George W. Bush may be a circumventing knave. He also may not have the advantage he thinks he does, as an incumbent, particularly if this sort of news and analysis keeps coming out. Though, if I were starting a blog (or music group, or magazine, or pseudonymonous on-line account) of my own, Circumventing Knave would have to be on my list of possible names.

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More Comments:

Jonathan Dresner - 8/14/2004

Malkin uses a version of that argument, as well. That it's the best possible argument in favor of internment says a great deal, because it's a terrible argument.

Julie A Hofmann - 8/14/2004

Malkin is one of the panelists on Bill Maher this week. Really funny -- cannot stand up in the face of intelligent criticism, just gets all sulky because the nasty liberals are laughing at her.

Van L. Hayhow - 8/13/2004

I am amazed that this phrase (which is a perfect name for a rock group) somehow has not been used by Dave Barry who is always looking for good names for groups.

Oscar Chamberlain - 8/13/2004

In my comprehensive orals, one of my professors asked me if I could defend the mass internment of Japanese-Americans. I did come up with an argument that does not assume that Japanese were inherently more likely to be spies and saboteurs. I do not think that this reasoning justifies the internment, but it may provide food for thought.

There was great fear of the Japanese population along the West Coast at the beginning of World War II.

That this fear was based on racist assumptions and not on fact did not lessen the security problems that it presented.

In fact racism made these problems worse as there was no rational way to persuade millions of racist Californians that there fellow residents and citizens were not a threat.

Therefore the presence of large numbers of Japanese-Americans threatened the defense of the west coast, precisely because they were tempting targets for civic unrest and resulting chaos.

This would have been particularly true if attacks had occurred on the west coast.

The simplest and quickest way to deal with this, both in terms of manpower and in terms of calming the majority population, was removal and internment.

PS The manner of internment, particularly the loss of property via "fire sales" and outright theft, makes clear that racism and contempt was a central part of the process that actually occurred. I pointed that out in my comp oral, too.