Blogs > Cliopatria > The Foam at My Mouth ...

Oct 27, 2004 8:31 am

The Foam at My Mouth ...

Like Jimmy Carter, my friend, Clayton Cramer, is at it again. He asks: Is The History Profession In Deep Trouble? It's a legitimate question, but then he says:"Dr. Ralph Luker started to foam at the mouth a while back because I made it clear that there were serious problems of politicized inaccuracy (I'm being polite) in the profession." Did I foam? Perhaps it was the drool of an aged historian. I'm known in some circles as a slob. Maybe it was slobber. A bit of froth from my beer, perhaps. But thanks for the reminder, Clayton. I'll remember to tidy up for gun-loving Idaho sophisticates.

Just to remind you, I took exception to Cramer's attack on historians like Jonathan Dresner and Greg Robinson for their criticism of Michelle Malkin's dreadful book on Japanese internment, to his sweeping charges against"the vast majority of history professors teaching in the U.S." as not adhering to"professional standards", to his claim that"the Communist Party, USA still has a significant fraction of college professors as members", and to his use of Professor Laurence Tribe's embarrassment on plagiarism charges as evidence of pervasive abandonment of"professional standards" by academic professionals.

I would not foam about these things, except that Brother Cramer makes broadscale accusations like these, without offering convincing evidence, to a substantial public audience. He gives us a clue that his motivation for all this may lie in his resentment of the academic community, which has apparently not renewed his adjuncting contract at Boise State. That M.A. from Sonoma State just doesn't seem to cut it with the boys in Boise any more. But, ahh, sweet vindication now for Clayton when someone with"the right credentials" says"the same thing" Cramer's been saying all along. And so he quotes from Matthew Price's"Hollow History," a review of Peter Hoffer's Past Imperfect: Facts, Fictions, Fraud -- American History from Bancroft and Parkman to Ambrose, Bellesiles, Ellis, and Goodwin for the Boston Globe:

In his new book,"Past Imperfect: Facts, Fictions, Fraud -- American History from Bancroft and Parkman to Ambrose, Bellesiles, Ellis, and Goodwin" (PublicAffairs), Hoffer contends that his profession"has fallen into disarray" and aims a polemical blast at his fellow historians for condoning sloppy scholarship and an anything-goes ethical climate.

A specialist in Colonial history and American jurisprudence, Hoffer is a respected scholar whose previous work has generally earned the esteem of his peers. Now, setting himself up as judge, jury, and executioner, Hoffer puts historians in the dock -- and throws the book at them.

"American history," he writes,"is two-faced" -- split between celebratory popularizers who often value rousing narrative over scholarly rigor and academic specialists whose jargon-riddled, often dour monographs ignore the ordinary reader. Meanwhile, Hoffer accuses the American Historical Association (AHA), where he has served as an adviser on plagiarism and a member of its professional standards division, of abdicating its responsibility to enforce basic scholarly principles in both realms.

There is no denying that Hoffer offers a severe indictment of the practice of American history, but he does it with the discipline learned by its professional training. He makes an argument and offers substantiating evidence. There's no hint of post-McCarthyite smear of professors making up a significant part of the CP, USA; there's no generalizing from one embarrassed professor of law at Harvard to the whole academic community; there's no broadscale indictment of"the vast majority of history professors teaching in the U.S." Hoffer would be quick to recognize that Clayton Cramer's labeling Dresner and Robinson a"truth squad" intent on burning Malkin's book is amusing, in light of his own one modest accomplishment, helping to expose Michael Bellesiles's Arming America as a fraud.

Incidentally, my young friend, Andrew Ackerman, who covered the Bellesiles story when he was editor of the Emory Wheel, wasn't impressed by Price's"Hollow History." You can read his criticism of its account of the Bellesiles story at Outside Report. Oh, and the Reporters need to correct their masthead. Andrew's a hobo no more. He's gainfully employed at The Nation. There's a dig to be dug there (hint: what national journal was most supportive of Bellesiles's case long after all was lost?), but the guy needs the job.

But, enough of the big, bad wolf, go over to Mode for Caleb and think with Caleb McDaniel about Perry Miller and"Essays, Pieces, and Posts." It's more nourishing.

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Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

The imbroglio over Michelle Malkin's book was one of the more fascinating glimpses into the ins and outs of annointed PC victimology I've encountered. My wife, like Ms. Malkin, is Filipino. I haven't read anybody who has addressed the peculiarly jarring dimensions of this racial debate.

In the U.S., Japanese have somehow been elevated to the status of PC victim, as the result of the internment camps of WWII. The Filipino community of which I have been part sees the Japanese as vicious predators guilty of committing a Holocaust in their home country.

So much of the reaction to Malkin's book has been along the lines of anguished horror that anybody would dare to question the victim status of Japanese-Americans. In the Filipino community, I constantly encounter angry men and women who wonder why the horror inflicted on the Philippines by the Japanese just doesn't seem to resonate in the minds of westerners.

I think that in some way Ms. Malkin was trying to redress this grievance. Whether or not she succeeded, or whether or not the issue of internment is really related to the Japanese invasion of the Philippines is another point. I understand what she was trying to do.

Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

You'll note that I said that I doubted that internment can be related to the Japanese invasion of the Philippines.

I was trying to suggest that there is an emotional basis to this debate that has little to do with the issues. Filipinos believe that they have a very serious grievance against the Japanese. Generally, I find Filipinos get very angry at even the suggestion that Japanese-Americans should have a place in the PC pantheon of victims. Once again, I'm addressing emotional, not political issues.

I was actually criticizing Malkin's book, by suggesting that she may indeed have been acting on this anger. I was suggesting that she may well have been diverting her anger over the invisibility of Filipino suffering and anguish into this argument over interment.

Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

My wife's father watched his mother executed in the public square by the Japanese.

Does this explain it to your satisfaction.

Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

This is where you are just a silly young man, Mr. Dresner. And what a silly young man you are.

The foolish victimization theories to which you subscribe border on the infantile.

Yes, seeing one's mother executed in the public square is a greater hurt than internment.

Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

I borrowed this from Steve Sailor. It's right on point:

"For those in the educational and cultural establishments who believe that only whites can be racist, the reality that America, and much of Asia and the Pacific, was brutalized by fanatically racist nonwhites is profoundly inconvenient."

Yes. The issue here is not internment. It is PC purity.

Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

Let's be blunt, Mr. Catsam. You are indeed very confused.

You entire career is built on blaming white men. You are a race hustler. You career exists because you attack other white men in order to place a halo over your own head. This is pretty much the norm for white liberal men in academia.

The beginning of this race hustling, which most people date to the civil rights era, was in fact the intellectual fallout of the Second World War. The literature and history following WWII clearly placed the blame for the atrocities of the Holocaust on the character of the German people and family. There is a long history of psychological literature that does this directly.

The "white men are to blame for everything" mentality that pervades the humanities derives precisely from this attempt to define the German character as responsible for the Holocaust. And that blame was extended to include all those of Germanic or Nordic descent, no matter where they resided.

So, frankly, you are a liar. You buy into the notion of racially inherited guilt when it comes to white men. That is, in fact, the entire basis of your career. The notion of racially inherited guilt flies in the face of your ideology when the race of the guilty is Asian.

Not very surprising. So, who's a whore here?

Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

Evidently, some of our historians missed the class on reading comprehension, so I will repeat my points. Perhaps, you will actually respond to what I write, instead of to your own fervid imaginations or your determination to restate my ideas:

1. Experience (imagine, actual experience!) in the Filipino community has led me to the conclusion that many if not most Filipinos are aghast that the Japanese have somehow found their way into the list of PC victims, since Filipinos actually experienced Japanese as predatory, half-crazed invaders who committed atrocities by the thousands.

2. While I generally agree with Ms. Malkin that internment can be defended in some respects, I think her thesis is fatally flawed by the conflation of her anger at the Japanese and the internment issue.

3. It is common among liberals in the humanities to assign guilt by race and class. This is permissible, however, only when the guilt is assigned to white men. Assign that class guilt to, say, Japanese, and you are a racist.

Now, try responding to what I actually said. If you know how to read.

Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

Since you act like a jackass as a matter of course, I will reply to you as the jackass you are.

You are a complete incompetent. Your ability to hold a job is entirely dependent on this vicious and contemptible race hustling game that you play.

I knew you were white all along. It's obvious.

What a contemptible fool you are.

Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

Yes it is. I don't think I've read a dummer statement on this board.

The racial and sexual quota systems that promote incompetents like Mr. Catsam are the fruits of those politics of collective guilt. The collective guilt theory is the pillar of the feminist, gay rights and black activism theories that have prevailed in academia for 40 years. Denying this obvious reality kind of marks you both as witless fools, doesn't it?

Both of you are playing a very stupid game with me. Neither of you are very bright. The ferocity of your response is the product of the fear that my remarks produce in you. You recognize clearly that my remarks strike at your right to hold your job.

It's a compliment to be insulted by a pair of fools like you.

Ralph E. Luker - 10/28/2004

Mr. Thomas,
Racial and "sexual" quota systems would not promote Dr. Catsam, who is a white male. The combination of thoughtlessness and ad hominem abuse on your part has led me to ask that you be banned from commenting at HNN. You were warned. You've been warned a number of times. You've been banned from other sites for similar reasons. Your pattern of abuse is like that of a spouse abuser. You offend, then you recognize your offense, then you slink away, then you return to offend again. HNN is not here to be your co-dependent. I urge you to get some help, but it won't be done at our expense.

David Lion Salmanson - 10/28/2004

Oh, and nobodyh in the academy has bought into the collective guilt - German personality thing in quite some time. That actually reminds me more of WWI propoganda "Militarism! Stop the Hun!" type stuff than analysis after the Holocaust.

WTF is a Germanic-Nordic peoples? Does it include the Irish? Italians? Greeks? Anglo-

Cheap psychology and cheap biology do not a rational argument make.

David Lion Salmanson - 10/28/2004

We can only read what you write. Point 2 everyone pretty much agrees on. In point one, we are all in agreement up to the phrase "Japanese have found their way into the list of PC victims." Yes, the Japanese are on that list, to the extent that people decry the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The point of disagreement here is that you are connecting two separate people: Japanese nationals and Japanese Americans. You are fighting the wrong battle here, go back to the "trial" of Truman and argue your points there.

Derek Charles Catsam - 10/28/2004

Mr. Thomas --
Your cavalcade of idiocies is always fun to read in its inscrutable, semi-coherent way. But at least you have figured out that I am not black, which is what you averred the last time you went off on one of your inane tirades. I am afraid I've no idea what you mean by calling me a liar. Or I am afraid that you do not know that the word "liar" means. In any case, innocent Japanese-Americans were interred, and you continue to taint an entire race with guilt. ("The race of the guilty is Asian" you wrote, using both present tense to describe a historical event and then proclaiming that all Asians are guilty of, of, well, of something.)
You used to annoy many of us. But you now simply are a source of amusement, too pathetic to take seriously, but fun to toy with. Those of us who respond to you are like cats playing with a retarded mouse. We do it until we get bored, then we simply chew you up, but you are too busy slobbering all over yourself to even notice.


David Lion Salmanson - 10/28/2004

Also lost in this is the notion that Malkin herself put forth that somehow her book was "objective," when, as Thomas points out, she has a much bigger axe to grind than someone like Roger Daniels.

Jason T. Kuznicki - 10/28/2004

So let's see... A bunch of Japanese people do some cruel and unspeakable things. The proper response is to do some rather less cruel but still unpleasant things to a bunch of Japanese people--who had nothing to do with the original crimes? What happened in the Philippines was atrocious, but two wrongs don't make a right.

Again: No one is trying to excuse the atrocities that imperial Japan perpetrated during the war. Just look at what they did to Nanking, for instance (or do the Chinese not count?).

Americans hold themselves to a higher standard than all of that. Even a tiny little bit of atrocity is wrong for us, and I'm glad that that's how we operate. I won't fall from PC-victimhood into the sort of easy moral relativism that says so long as we're better than the other guy, we must be okay. Good and evil just don't work that way.

Richard Henry Morgan - 10/27/2004

I've noticed.

Derek Charles Catsam - 10/27/2004

Are we really engaging in an argument in which seeing someone killed is the ultimate atrocity and therefore makes internment good? Is this the zero-sum syllogism we've been reduced to/ And wait, is Mr. Thomas suddenly saying identity politics are legitimate? I am very confused here. I'm sorry for your wife's loss, Mr. Thomas. I am sorrier, however, that you would use it for cheap (if incoherent) political and ideological point scoring on the comment boards of HNN. As the old line goes, we now know what you are, and we also have determined that your price isn't very high.

Ralph E. Luker - 10/27/2004

Mr. Morgan, We're all awaiting _your_ books and articles as a demonstration of writing skill.

Jonathan Dresner - 10/27/2004

No, it does not.

Which is to say that it explains the hostility, which really didn't need elucidation, but that hostility does not justify distorting the historical record to excuse other violations.

Malkin didn't make an argument based on Japanese atrocities, because collective punishment -- particularly of people so uninvolved in Japanese national life as to be out of the country for decades -- is not excusable.

Richard Henry Morgan - 10/27/2004

I noticed another weakness of the argument -- it demands an apology for slander, and nowhere says just what the slander consisted in. Don't get history profs mad. If you do, their writing skills sink even lower than that exhibited in the average history book.

Jonathan Dresner - 10/27/2004

I've heard the "Filipino Anger" theory before.

What you haven't explained, with this neat bit of anti-PC pseudo-psychological stereotyping, is why (or whether) Filipino victimhood is a good reason for historiographically terribly and culturally destructive attacks on Japanese American victimhood.

Ralph E. Luker - 10/27/2004

Yes, well, then there's Christopher Hitchens, who endorses Bush for president in the Nation and endorses Kerry for president at Slate. Maybe that's just Hitchens drunk and Hitchens sober.

Jonathan Rees - 10/27/2004


Jon Weiner is a Contributing Editor to the Nation. Jon Weiner has defended Michael Bellesiles in the pages of the Nation. I'll leave the merits of that defense to Professor Weiner himself, but to state that the entire magazine is out of touch with reality because of one author they print is really unfair.


Ralph E. Luker - 10/27/2004

The Nation is fortunate to have someone on the payroll who stays in touch with reality.

Andrew Ackerman - 10/27/2004

Cuz they pay me $150 a week.

I'm a political whore, though. If The Weekly Standard offered $200 I'd be all about Bill Kristol and Dubya would happily switch teams.

Charles V. Mutschler - 10/27/2004

My copy of Past Imperfect recently arrived. I'll wait until I finish reading it to comment. However, my initial impression is that I suspect I will have theories about what went wrong that differ from the author. I'm not sure that Mr. Cramer's complaint has been effectively addressed by Mr. Hoffer. My guess is that the two of them have rather different conclusions. That does not automatically make Mr. Hoffer correct, and Mr. Cramer wrong.

The issue of qualifications to write and teach are another matter, but that seems to have been tied to this thread from the start. Personally, I don't think that argument was particularly helpful to the critics of Ms. Malkin's work, and they may not be particularly helpful to Mr. Cramer's critics.


Oscar Chamberlain - 10/27/2004


Since you dislike everything about the PC universe, why do you identify the Japanese people solely by ethnicity?

The people of Japanese descent who the United States relocated were either American citizens or people born in Japan who intended to remain in the US. (The latter were barred from becoming American citizens because of their race.)

You are right that Americans, looking back, are more concerned with the actions of the United States as oposed to the actions of the Japnese army in the Philippines. They are more concerned not because American treament of its Japanese ethnic population was as horrible but because it was our leaders who ordered internment. Just as we inherit the good that they did; we also inherit the bad.

That is a responsibility that the United States does not have concerning Japanese atrocities, even though they were far worse.

Jonathan Dresner - 10/27/2004

... that the review he cites mentions plagiarism and jargon and problems with tone and focus that come with all narrowly critical theories, but is largely apolitical. So while the piece does target innaccuracies -- "zombie errors" in particular (I think that's the term) -- politics is hardly at issue.

So the review, at least, is not at all saying what Mr. Cramer has been saying. Now perhaps the book itself is clearer on the matter....

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