Last week, the Los Angeles Times published two letters defending the US government's internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. The Times has since issued an apology.
The apology does not mention the active part that the Times and many other metropolitan dailies took in fomenting vicious anti-Japanese sentiment and defending the forced removal of Japanese Americans. Below we present a brief survey of the role the American newsmedia played in Japanese internment, excerpted from Juan González and Joseph Torres' News for All the People: the Epic Story of Race and the American Media.
On February 19th, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the US military to exclude any resident of the country from certain designated military zones for national security purposes. Government officials proceeded to round up some 120,000 Japanese nationals, more than two-thirds of them US citizens, and forcibly relocate them to military camps for the duration of the war. Japanese internment was to become one of the most shameful government actions in the nation’s history. Critics saw it as a gross violation of democratic principles and due process rights, especially since US participation in the war was aimed at defeating Axis aggression and the Nazi ideology of racial supremacy. More than forty years later, Congress finally apologized for the internment policy and awarded $20,000 in compensation to each surviving victim.
González, who recently published the paperback edition of the best-selling News For All the People: The Epic Story of Race and The American Media with Verso Books, uses his investigative prowess to tell another crucial counter-history in "Harvest of Empire," based on his book by the same name. In addressing the current immigration crisis, the film explores the connections between U.S. intervention abroad and the swelling waves of migration from Latin America. As González reminds us at the beginning of the film:
Watch Juan Gonzalez on Democracy Now discussing Harvest of Empire:
They never teach us in school that the huge Latino presence here is a direct result of our own government's actions in Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America over many decades — actions that forced millions from that region to leave their homeland and journey north.
An interview by Elizabeth Floyd Mair with Juan González ran in the Times Union in Albany, NY on April 19th to coincide with González's appearance at Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy, NY, where he spoke about the history of media and oppresion.
Q: What do you think of the term "the liberal media"?
A: The "liberal media" myth, like most stereotypes, contains a kernel of truth, but ends up being a huge distortion of a complex reality. The class divide in our media system is far more defining than the left-right political divide. Most journalists in the commercial media have become somewhat divorced from the daily problems of ordinary Americans. They therefore give far less attention and coverage to the "other" America, those less privileged and less powerful. And they give disproportionate attention and coverage to the 1 percent celebrities, successful businessmen, powerful government figures, and so forth.
Read the full interview here.