On America's Concentration Camps

Damanveer Singh, Period 4

Who, What, When, Where, Why

Contrary to popular belief, Nazi Germany was not the only nation during World War II to create and maintain active concentration camps. In 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 to call for the forced relocation of the Japanese people living on American soil. The US Army was called in to forcefully remove Japanese Americans from their homes and cram them into concentration camps almost as inhumane as the Jewish internment camps in Nazi Germany. Many of these people had grown up in the United States and about two-thirds of them were US citizens; only because of racial discrimination and hate for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, they were told to leave their homes with nothing but what they could hold in their bare hands. Unarmed women, children and the elderly were all pushed into military barracks at gun point from all directions with no knowledge of reason for the relocation. This executive order makes up one of the darkest periods in American history.
Kenji - Fort Minor | Japanese Internment

Media Perspective #1

Many of the anti-Japanese groups that formed during this period used word-of-mouth as their major source of propaganda. Using a Marxist perspective on the situation, they spread unsupported information stating that the internment camps were actually better for the Japanese than their current lives as they would be provided protection and food during their "stay". By referencing the basic laborer jobs that many immigrants had, these groups created a sense of goodwill in Executive order 9066 as if we were assisting the Japanese people in surviving. Because word-of-mouth information spread like wildfire in the suburbs, these claims reached the media quickly and soon the entire nation without any supporting information. The media made the relocation seem like a positive action that would not only protect the American people but also provide food and shelter to the poor Japanese.
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Media Perspective #2

The other side of the American media followed the perspective that the Japanese immigrants were "aliens" and that these foreigners should be secured in a location far from the American people where they do not spread their "Anti-American" way of life. A cultural criticism of this event clearly shows that these people were fearful of the growing Japanese people who were relatively small and fresh to the United States (immigrants had only started to come in bulk). The Japanese shop owners looked, dressed, and spoke differently and the racially discriminating US population who did not even provide full rights to blacks definitely viewed them as a foreign species -a foreign species capable of the massive destruction caused at Pearl Harbor. These claims created a sense of fear and resentment for the Japanese people that ultimately built support for the forced incarceration of the Japanese people.
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Media Bias Explained

Very rarely during World War II would a person see a newspaper that would show anti-American views on the current situation. The entire nation was supporting the war and patriotism in the United States was at an all time high as we stood as a united force against the Axis Powers. This situation caused many media outlets to skew information to appear more "America-friendly". They often portrayed foreign cultures as strange and suspicious. People trusted America's products, America's soil, America's government - America was united and unfortunately it was united against most of the world culturally.

Criticism #1

Often times, the media used cultural criticism against foreign entities including the Japanese Americans. Although most of the people forced into internment camps were American citizens who enjoyed democracy, the media portrayed all of them as Axis-loving anti-American "aliens" with strange faces and low class jobs cooking strange food and talking in a strange manner. The Japanese people that spoke English were viewed as spies who could gather information and pass as Americans. No stone was left unturned when creating a negative image of the Japanese in World War II. Also known as horse-race journalism, newspapers would constantly compete with each other in order to get the latest news out as fast as possible, even if this meant using incorrect and completely false information.

Criticism #2

Many newspapers in World War II, after the Japanese internment camps were created, began to realize that some of the public was beginning to question the morality of keep so many women and children in such harsh conditions. To counter this, the news used historical criticism of the Japanese to reference the ages of harsh rulers and limited freedom that existed in Japan. Japan was still ruled by an emperor at the time and the "free-thinking" American people of the time interpreted this to mean that the people of Japan were being ruled by a tyrant's regime and that Japan's people need to be "free" like America. By sending out articles with slanter against Japan, the media successfully quelled the Anti-Internment camp minority and rallied them instead behind the war effort to defeat the Japanese government.