....LMB: "Old Skool Propaganda"....

September 28, 2002

The folks at PR Watch dug up this amazing American propaganda film from World War II about the Japanese-American internment camps, called "A Challenge to Democracy" (hey, no snickering).

While you might expect such a film to be one that seeks to prove that the camps are nice places to live and that the rights of these Americans are not being violated, the film seems to walk many fine lines. It seems to simultaneously want to show that these camps are quiet, spartan communties, while emphasizing that the internees are working hard while there , and that Japanese-Americans are as patriotic as all other Americans. It's a wierd mix that seems to be trying to assure white America that these camps aren't prisons, that they're not costing the taxpayers too much money, and that most Japanese-Americans are fine, decent folks. Interestingly, the movie makes virtually no effort to explain why, if Japanese-Americans are fine, decent folks, that they needed to be taken from their homes and placed into camps surrounded by guards and barbed-wire. Maybe they were saving that part for the sequel.

You can watch the 18-minute video online, or download it to your computer.

It's amazing on several different levels.

It's a first-hand historical document. You get to see footage of what the internment camps were like, and you get to see how the U.S. government chose to present this footage for their own benefit.

It also presents a number of facts (unless they were lies, of course) about the nature of these camps. People worked at the camps, for wages much lower than they would've gotten back in their real lives, the camps had elections for community council representatives, etc. What I found most amazing was a brief scene about Japanese-American soldiers, going off to war, and then returning to visit their families being held in these internment camps.

Then you've got your darkly ironic angle, watching the governmental doublespeak, the darkest of which are the creative word definitions. The forced removal of Japanese-Americans from their homes and placement into government-controlled communities was an "evacuation." And they weren't "internment camps," as we call them today. They were "relocation centers."

I'll list some of the best lines here, but I highly recommend watching the film, or at least reading the commentary at the linked page above.

"Evacuation: more than 100,000 men, women and children all of Japanese ancestry removed from their homes in the Pacific coast states to wartime communities established in out-of-the-way places. Their evacuation did not imply individual disloyalty, but was ordered to reduce a military hazard at a time when danger of invasion was great."

"The evacuees are not under suspicion. They are not prisoners. They are not internees. They are merely dislocated people. The unwounded casualties of war."

"Americanism, taught in the schools and churches and on the playgrounds, loses much of its meaning in the confines of a relocation center."

"Relocation of evacuees [from the camps into the outside world] is not being carried out at the expense of national security. Only those evacuees whose statements and whose acts leave no question of their loyalty to the United States are permitted to leave."

"The Americanism of the great majority of America's Japanese finds its highest expression in the thousands who are in the United States Army, almost half of them are in a Japanese American combat team ... Hundreds of them volunteered while they were in relocation centers ...They know what they're fighting against and they know what they're fighting for -- their country and for the American ideals that are part of their upbringing -- democracy, freedom, equality of opportunity regardless of race, creed, or ancestry."

Posted by Jake at 03:05 PM

I haven't watched the video yet, but it reminded me of a good novel I read recently: "Snow Falling on Cedars," by David Guterson (http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?userid=0DJ7VB9PR5&isbn=067976402X). It's a murder-mystery and courtroom drama centered on the "relocation" of Japanese-Americans from an island in Puget Sound.

Posted by: Bob Goodsell at September 30, 2002 09:55 AM

That's the great thing about America and its propaganda. It fools people into thinking that it cares about the people it's oppressing. Perhaps it's a step above Nazi Germany's "The Eternal Jew," but still insidious propaganda nonetheless.

I haven't seen this particular documentary, but I've seen plenty of WWII documentaries in the same vein.

Posted by: Eric at September 30, 2002 11:43 AM

Also, I always love it when the oppressed are made out to be loyal subjects of the oppressors. But again, I have to see this particular documentary. It may be different, but I admit I have my prejudices.

Posted by: Eric at September 30, 2002 11:46 AM
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Media News

November 16, 2004

Tales of Media Woe

Senate May Ram Copyright Bill- one of the most depressing stories of the day that didn't involve death or bombs. It's the music and movie industries' wet dream. It criminalizes peer-to-peer software makers, allows the government to file civil lawsuits on behalf of these media industries, and eliminates fair use. Fair use is the idea that I can use a snippet of a copyrighted work for educational, political, or satirical purposes, without getting permission from the copyright-holder first.

And most tellingly, the bill legalizes technology that would automatically skip over "obejctionable content" (i.e. sex and violence) in a DVD, but bans devices that would automatically skip over commericals. This is a blatant, blatant, blatant gift to the movie industry. Fuck the movie industry, fuck the music industry, fuck the Senate.

Music industry aims to send in radio cops- the recording industry says that you're not allowed to record songs off the radio, be it real radio or internet radio. And now they're working on preventing you from recording songs off internet radio through a mixture of law and technological repression (although I imagine their techno-fixes will get hacked pretty quickly).

The shocking truth about the FCC: Censorship by the tyranny of the few- blogger Jeff Jarvis discovers that the recent $1.2 million FCC fine against a sex scene in Fox's "Married By America" TV show was not levied because hundreds of people wrote the FCC and complained. It was not because 159 people wrote in and complained (which is the FCC's current rationale). No, thanks to Jarvis' FOIA request, we find that only 23 people (of the show's several million viewers) wrote in and complained. On top of that, he finds that 21 of those letters were just copy-and-paste email jobs that some people attached their names to. Jarvis then spins this a bit by saying that "only 3" people actually wrote letters to the FCC, which is misleading but technically true. So somewhere between 3 and 23 angry people can determine what you can't see on television. Good to know.

Reuters Union Considers Striking Over Layoffs- will a strike by such a major newswire service impact the rest of the world's media?

Pentagon Starts Work On War Internet- the US military is talking about the creation of a global, wireless, satellite-aided computer network for use in battle. I think I saw a movie about this once...

Conservative host returns to the air after week suspension for using racial slur- Houston radio talk show host (and somtime Rush Limbaugh substitute) Mark Belling referred to Mexican-Americans as "wetbacks" on his show. He was suspended for a couple of weeks, and then submitted a written apology for the racial slur to a local newspaper. But he seems to be using the slur and its surrounding controversy to boost his conservative cred with his listeners.

Stay Tuned for Nudes- Cleveland TV news anchor Sharon Reed aired a story about artist Spencer Tunick, who uses large numbers of naked volunteers in his installations and photographs. The news report will be unique in that it will not blur or black-out the usual naughty bits. The story will air late at night, when it's allegedly okay with the FCC if you broadcast "indecent" material. The author of this article doesn't seem to notice that Reed first claims that this report is a publicity stunt, but then claims it's a protest against FCC repression. I'd like to think it's the latter, but I'm not that much of a sucker.

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