Academic journal article Journalism History

An Enemy's Talk of "Justice"

Academic journal article Journalism History

An Enemy's Talk of "Justice"

Article excerpt

Japanese Radio Propaganda against Japanese American Mass Incarceration during World War II

This article examines how a Japanese short-wave radio propaganda network, as known as "Radio Tokyo, " commented on mass incarceration of Japanese Americans during the first year after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. As the United States Army began to execute mass incarceration, so did Radio Tokyo begin its serial propaganda attacks. Japanese propagandists branded the policy as evidence of American hypocrisy revealing the hollow nature of the nations "democratic" ideals. They used a variety of methods such as referring to famed politicalfigures and issues in American history, citing neutral sources, and borrowing dissenting opinions from major American mass media. Radio Tokyo utilized fictitious programs, too. Japanese broadcasters proclaimed the moral superiority of Japan and even threatened to mistreat American captives, which certainly affected the minds and deeds of government officials in charge of mass incarceration. These findings demonstrate that mass incarceration was not only a serious violation of basic human rights, but also a problematic measure in terms of international propaganda warfare.

Over several decades after World War 11, it has become almost a fixed consensus in the United States that the federal governments decision to isolate West Coast Japanese Americans behind barbed wire was a blatant, inexcusable injustice. Especially from the early 1970s to 1980s when the "redress" movement progressed, the leaders of the federal government, as well as general public, came to realize that the wartime policy was a serious mistake that must be rectified. In 1982, a congressional historical committee decided to recommend the granting of an official apology and compensation for Japanese Americans. Six years later in 1988, redress was finally enacted into law. Thereafter, the wartime mass incarceration has been recognized widely as a major "dark spot" in American history.1

It was not so at that time, however; indeed, the opposite was true. In early 1942 when the Army rounded up some 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast, supportive voices were heard from almost all segments of society. A national opinion poll conducted by the Office of Facts and Figures (OFF) from late March to early April 1942 found that the overwhelming majority, or 93 percent, considered that the compulsory removal of alien Japanese was "the right thing," while 59 percent thought the exclusion of ethnic Japanese with American citizenship was also the "right" policy.2

Previous studies have shown that even the most liberal, vocal, pro-minority groups and individuals, including their dissident press whose raison d'être was to act as a watchdog for the powerless, failed to squarely oppose mass incarceration. For example, sympathy grew among members of African and Jewish American communities, but the major civil rights organizations of both ethnic groups did not speak out loudly against the governments claim that the people of the Japanese "enemy race" were potentially dangerous. Nor did their principal media outlets such as the Crisis and Chicago Defender, as well as other leading guardians of the rights of minorities such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).3

Meanwhile, little scholarly attention has been paid to one less visible, but extraordinarily far-reaching medium of dissent: Japanese propaganda. This article aims to fill this void by examining how a Japanese shortwave radio propaganda network, known as "Radio Tokyo," commented on the federal government's treatment of Japanese Americans during the first year after the attack on Pearl Harbor. If propaganda can be defined as "a form of communication that attempts to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist," with what intention did Radio Tokyo capitalize on mass incarceration and what reactions did it induce?'1

In a larger context, this article makes significant contributions to the existing scholarship of both wartime propaganda and Japanese American mass incarceration. …

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