Okay, I usually try to avoid ad hominem attacks on politicians and my fellow pundits (and human beings in general, for that matter). If you remember your Logic 101 class, such argument present as a logical fallacy. But I was listening to the Dennis Prager Show briefly (Radio AM 1170 KCBQ just before noon as I was driving between teaching sites and got to experience one of those “Oh my God, he couldn’t have possibly have been stupid enough to have actually said that?” moments.
And my outrage has only grown since that moment. Thus this little bit of unprofessional punditry venting.
The issue Prager was pontificating on was the forced mass incarceration of Americans of Japanese descent after Pearl Harbor. Prager made the ludicrous and outrageous claim that there was nothing “racist” about the incarceration program. To prove this he pointed out that the mass internment was only carried out on the west coast. Expo facto, it was the outcome of legitimate fears that the thousands of Japanese-Americans residing on the West Coast (and, somehow, not those in the Pocanos) might become fifth column agents of their ancestral homeland.
Prager did go on to say that he thought the interment was “probably” wrong. Bully for you, Denny. But his overarching point was that the internment of thousands of American citizens based on their ethnic identity was an example of how non-xenophobic America actually is. Racism, for Prager, you see, is an artificial construct foisted on the American public by the victim-mentality liberal Democrats and not, even peripherally or incidentally, an actual part of the American experience.
(Note to Prager: Dude, maybe you should consider stopping inhaling so deeply on those cigars you love and claim don’t really give you cancer. At a minimum they seem to be giving you dementia or early onset Alzheimers…)
Look, Dennis, I can agree that Americans as a whole are not particularly more xenophobic than other peoples on this planet. I’ll even go so far as to say that, as a Nation, we have done a pretty good–and better–job of mixing more diverse people from more cultural, ethnic, religious and racial backgrounds under the same national roof than pretty much any other country one can think of. But to claim that xenophobia has never reared its ugly head in decisively mass-popular ways in American history is, at best, incorrect. At worst it is deliberately deceptive, disingenuous, divisive, disrespectful and delusional.
When WWII broke out the US found itself at war with the Empire of Japan—and the fascist dictatorships of Germany and Italy. Now, when our government set out to incarcerate thousands of Americans of Japanese descent—in many cases second and third generation Americans—in direct violation of their basic Bill of Rights and 14th Amendment Protections (as the Courts and Congress would later find) did it similarly set out to deal with the potentially equal (and even greater, given the numbers involved) danger of millions of Americans of German and Italian descent rising up to support their homelands?
When the war broke out my father, a first-generation American of Italian descent was a chemistry undergrad at the University of Niagara Falls. Did the government round up this dark-skinned Sicilian and send him to a government camp? Oh, wait a moment, they did! He was in the ROTC at the University. When the war started he was called up within months and sent off to an Army camp in Biloxi, Mississippi for basic and officer training. Coming out a second Louie, he went on to serve in combat in France, Italy, Austria and was part of the Japanese occupation forces.
So why did my dad get a uniform and a gun while Americans of Japanese descent, many of whom had lived in America longer than his family had, got the boot into Manzanar? Gee, what is the key difference between an American of Japanese descent and one of Italian descent?
To argue that racism played no role in the WWII internment policy is the logical equivalent of saying Hitler’s policies were not race driven – he simply targeted dangerous individuals who just happened to be overwhelmingly Jewish in heritage. (Given Prager’s own strong roots in the American Jewish community I would think that he of all people, indeed would be a tad sensitive to any instance of a government rounding up and incarcerating mass numbers of its own citizens for any reason, said incarceration being non-lethal or otherwise. But such is the sad case of AM talk conservatism that such obvious sensitivities and corollaries become sacrifices on the altar of ideological fervor.)
The Roman statesman Cicero once famously stated a simple theory of guilt and innocence. “Show me he who benefits and I will show you the guilty man,” he claimed. Who directly benefited from the incarceration of over one hundred thousand Americans of Japanese descent? Did it heighten security on the West Coast when dozens—hundreds—even one?—real case of American citizens of Japanese descent conspiring with the enenmy to subvert their country of birth or adoption? And even if there is record of a minute handful of countrymen participating in such schemes, what in the history of American constitutional thought could therefore justify the mass prophylactic incarceration of tens of thousands if US citizens?
To answer truthfully answer this question just follow the money. Who got their stuff? Their farms, their business, their houses, cars and personal possessions seized by the government upon their removal to remote desert encampments—what happened to it all? Why, it was auctioned off at pennies on the dollar to their white neighbors and business competitors who, through the tyranny of government, were able to achieve what they could not through the fair exchange of the free market. And when these citizens were finally released (only after which did the Supreme Court boldly step in to close the door on a flagrant abuse of the Constitution) they didn’t get their stuff back. It would take a half century, by which time many of the internees had shuffled off this mortal coil, before the US government would apologize for this egregious injustice and award monetary compensation to the survivors of the internment and their descendents.
Probably wrong, Dennis? Not racist? To say either is logically and factually incorrect. Beyond that, it is definitely insulting to hundreds of thousands of your fellow citizens whose families suffered the indignity and injustice of the internment policy. It crosses the line from insensitive to inflammatory and pushes right up against the boundary of outright immoral. What next, arguing that slavery was just another economic institution—probably wrong, but not race-based?
You, sir, should be ashamed. And so should San Diego News Radio 1170 KCBQ for broadcasting someone whose views are inaccurate, irresponsible and downright reprehensible. You, sir, owe the thousands of Americans of Japanese descent victimized (and, yes, Mr. Prager sir, there are such a thing as real victims) by their own government and fellow citizens—and their hundreds of thousands of descendents, an apology, post haste.
Of course KCBQ broadcasts Prager and the rest of its AM-squawk lineup for the most noble of reasons—it’s a business model that makes them a nice buck, no matter how vilely obtained.
So I have to ask myself, if I was an American of Japanese descent, enraged by such talk, would I a) continue to ever listen to KCBQ and b) ever patronize a company so insensitive to my only family history as to advertise on a program such as Prager’s and a station such as KCBQ ever again? A list of which you can find by clicking here. And might I send a strongly worded message condemning both Dennis Prager (who can be reached here) and KCBQ (which can be reached at Info@kcbq.com) for the audacious awful content of his mind and their programming?
You bet I would. Indeed, as a second generation American of non-Japanese descent, that is precisely what I am doing. And precisely what members Japanese American groups (examples of which can be found here and http://www.asiansinamerica.org/directory/dir_e_ja.html) around the country should be doing.
Prager, in the unlikely event he ever reads this or hears any negative blowback to his statements will, no doubt, try to dismiss my call as yet another call from whacky liberals to silence freedom of speech. That is, of course, utter bupkis. Prager has every right to say anything he wants. He does not, however, have any right to say it on commercial radio. As the wag said, if you want free speech, own a newspaper. Prager has no right, per se, to say what he wants on the radio. He’s only there because it makes money for the people (and himself, not incidentally) who own the stations that broadcast him and gains customers for the advertisers who pay him and them. If the marketplace as represented by listeners and other concerned consumers care to show the companies (which can be found here) that pay for his platform that he’s costing them more than he makes them, he’s gone from the airwaves.
And the world would, in my opinion be a better place. Hey Dennis, ain’t the free market a great thing.
Meanwhile, Dennis, your statements about the internment of Americans of Japanese descent today was one of the most galling, inaccurate and offensive things I have ever heard you send over the airwaves. Which, given the competition from some of your previous statements, is no small thing.
Oh, and Dennis—you’re an ass.