January 10th, 2005

Malkin and Pipes 'Turning Japanese' over Internment

1) I got your picture - I got your picture

As a self-described mean-spirited crank, I have a certain love/hate relationship with so-called "Revisionist history." It's great for laughs, and provides hours of amusement at the authors' expense. But, while often laughable, the act of rewriting well-established history can't be entirely dismissed as antinomian masturbation: history is rarely as open and shut as pop historians would like us to believe.

On the other hand, some of those "alternative" historians, and their core audience, mistake edginess for insight, and political incorrectness for cultural relevancy. They may also have fairly creepy - if not outright racist or fascist - ulterior motives. And some folks just want an excuse to stick it to the "liberal media elite," who have somehow managed to rewrite history to make certain authors' pet causes (like the Confederacy, or Holocaust revisionism) look bad.

To be fair, the Left does have its own, equally-suspect Revisionist history, in which Ché Guevara was a hero, Shakespeare was a lesbian and the Mayans are credited with having invented television. But, while spurious, such outlandish claims don't seem anywhere as harmful to our understanding of history as tales of Jews dying en masse from lice-borne typhus, rather than Zyklon-B, during the Holocaust.

Meanwhile, there is a disturbing trend in the mainstream American Right to engage in its own sort of revisionism: one that divorces itself from overt racism and/or conspiratorial airs, and tries to repackage atrocity as common sense, or at least "something to think about," rather than recoil from. Insensitivity to ethnic, racial and religious differences is now marketed as something to laugh at, with everyone being all too willing to gang up on the nauseatingly "politically correct" without stopping to think if there's a real issue at risk.

Which brings us to Michelle Malkin, who has been kind enough to inform us that - contrary to popular belief - the American government was wrong to apologize for having Interned over 120,000 American residents and citizens of Japanese ancestry during World War II. It also brings us to Dr. Daniel Pipes, who has been kind enough to back her up.

Both stand accused of revisionist masturbation, but the wank may have worse consequences than usual...

2) So I can look at you from inside as well

In Malkin's latest book, In Defense of Internment: The Case for Racial Profiling in World War II and the War on Terror, we discover that what we thought was the result of wartime hysteria and long-seated West-coast racism against Asian immigrants was actually the well-considered application of wartime intelligence. That is, even if most of the people who pushed for the Internment never actually saw that intelligence at the time, at least not that we know. But we know now, even if they didn't know then, which immediately nullifies whatever less-than-fair motives they might have had. So there!

(Just to show you a little more insight into Malkin: she went from calling the Internment "abhorrent and wrong," while Clinton-bashing back in 2000, to pronouncing it the right thing to do a scant four years later. I'll leave you to form your own conclusions on how one can go from one extreme to the other after just 16 months of research.)

Malkin claims to have made this atrocious - and fairly handily rebutted to death - apologia as a blow against those who, distasteful of what we did to Japanese Americans, are more than a little hesitant to do the same thing to Arab/Muslim Americans. She blames this well-meaning antipathy towards wide-eyed and panicky racism on "revised" history, starting with a congressional panel "Stacked with left-leaning lawyers, politicians, and civil rights activists," and then pushed through by the likes of the late Robert T. Matsui (D-CA), himself a victim of Internment.

It's highly ironic that Malkin accuses others of having revised history, while engaging in the exercise, herself. Even more ironic is that she has immediate ancestral roots in a country where Al-Qaeda sympathizers are known to operate. Couldn't this mean that, in the event of a widespread crackdown, she, too, might be under consideration for "indeterminate detention," right along with those Muslims and Arabs we shouldn't be afraid of interning?

3) You wrote I love you - I love you too

Or maybe Malkin's hoping one of her many friends on the Use-America Right will save her from being indefinitely detained, a'la Oskar Schindler. If that's the case, then you couldn't hope for a better friend than celebrated "middle east scholar" Dr. Daniel Pipes: darling scholar-for-hire of the "Use-America Right," writer for many above-board magazines and newspapers, and Director of the Middle East Forum - courtesy of which, Dr. Pipes gets millions of dollars every year to teach us that Muslims are not all bad people, but shouldn't be trusted, anyway.

At least, that's the gist of his recent defense of Malkin's book. I will let that defense - and his reaction to the recent poll that sparked the defense - speak for itself. And if you're curious as to how a serious scholar could sign off on something that has enough holes to sink a continent, I offer this for consideration.

But Dr. Pipes isn't just a hired mouth - he's an appointed one, too. Until just this month he was an recess appointee of President Bush to the United States Institute of Peace.

President Bush nominated Dr. Pipes for the post over the strenuous - and admittedly shrill - complaints of various organizations and Congressional Democrats. Rather than having his nominee have his kiester handed to him via the confirmation process, President Bush snuck him in via a recess appointment.

That meant that Dr. Pipes could only serve until the next congress, as opposed to the standard four year term. But we have yet to discover what damage he could have done. The USIP exists to provide the "widest possible range of education and training, basic and applied research opportunities, and peace information services on the means to promote international peace and the resolution of conflicts among the nations and peoples of the world without recourse to violence."

Does this mean that he got to advise other nations around the world that, if you've got problems with people, just stick them in an internment camp?

4) I often kiss you when there's no one else around

On the surface, this all seems like bog-standard revisionist masturbation. It starts when someone sticks their neck out to defend the indefensible, and then the masses cry foul on cue. Then various other folks stick their necks right alongside the initial offender, trying to make the hatchetman's job that much more difficult. Even more galling is the fact that sometimes the executioner is too busy laughing at the charges to try and do his job: "You said WHAT?!?!?"

The difference, here, is the high-profile nature of the offenders. Malkin isn't just some danky, late-night radio host going on about the Space Bankers, JFK or how JFK was a Space Banker - she's a "syndicated columnist." Real newspapers actually pay her to dribble and drool all over their op-ed pages, and real publishers have fronted up for her books.

(Though Regnery, which published her latest, seems more of a front for right-wing pabulum than anything else.)

And then there's a Presidential apointee to the USIP... my my my. Has anyone asked President Bush if he stands by Dr. Pipes' comments? (Does he bother to read anyone's comments, given his antipathy to newspapers?) Maybe someone should ask - really loudly, at that.

Maybe we should also wonder if we haven't turned a very nasty corner. Time and distance - and a dying survivor population - have helped make it easier for Holocaust deniers to do their dirty work. Pro-Southern types don't have to worry about actual witnesses being about to refute their claims with firsthand, personal knowledge.

And now that the children of the Internment - like Robert T. Matsui - are passing away as well, the living reminders of the wrong we did are slipping away from our immediate sphere of context: becoming just so much history for people like Malkin and Pipes to pervert for their own pet reasons.

But what could be next? I've heard some rumblings along the stranger reaches of the American right that, given what a monster Uncle Joe Stalin turned out to be, we should have teamed up with Hitler to invade the Soviet Union. With the post 9/11 renaissance of the Neo-Cons - many of whom are beholden to Israel - such errant views can't hope to gain much of a toe-hold. But how long before we see fascism "rehabilitated," along with other dirty words, in the name of countering "revisionism?"

Michelle Malkin's book, and Dr. Pipes' defense of it, may stand revealed as so much Revisionist masturbation, but the money shot hasn't landed yet. Barring the hatchetman's putting away his copy of Headsman's Quarterly, and actually doing his job, we could be looking at a frightening reworking of our own history to suit the needs of people who should just be ignored.

For those who didn't get the joke: back in 1980, a British band called The Vapors had a hit song called "Turning Japanese." It was a fun, catchy "I really love this girl" number with amusingly corny pseudo-asian guitarwork. The song was doubly amusing when you realized that "Turning Japanese" was a reference to masturbation. It got a lot of play on MTV, but it wound up being their only real international hit, and - after only two albums - The Vapors wafted away, much like their namesake. C'est le pop.

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