I get mail.
The single most common complaint that I get on Stonekettle Station is that I go on, and on, that my essays are too long and involved and that I explain things in too much detail.
That is to say: my critics complain that I tend to beat dead horses into glue.
With that in mind, and because I’m short on time to write lately, I endeavored to keep this particular post as brief as possible, focused on the central theme that Glenn Beck and those who follow him, and specifically the Tea Party, are hypocritical self-centered dimwits with a conveniently limited and malleable sense of history and society.
I deliberately avoided detours into extended digression and long explanations, figuring that a) most of my regular readers are smart educated folks who would know what I was talking about, or b) they’d go look it up, or c) another commenter would explain things in detail and we’d end up with the usual adult conversation of differing views and we’d all learn something. The observations from regular commenters here and the associated Facebook discussion leads me to believe that was a reasonably correct assumption.
The problem comes from those who either a) aren’t regular readers and are used to being spoon-fed their beliefs by the likes of talk radio pundits and Fox News, b) lurkers who spend a lot of time hanging out on the IMDB and 4-Chan comment channels where they’ve come to the erroneous conclusion that the only way to comment on a topic you disagree with (or think you disagree with) is by acting like a nasty 14-year old with the manners of a donkey, or c) they’re just obnoxious obsessive jackasses who can’t see anything but their own pet bugaboo even if you grab them by the back of the neck and rub their noses in their own feces.
I’m getting mail on this post.
I’m getting comments on this post, comments from folks who are obviously not regulars.
I can see that keeping it short was a mistake, one that I won’t make in the future – and one that I’m about to correct here.
A number of folks have fastened onto one minor observation and sidetracked into their own outraged obsession. As a result, they have completely missed the point of this post – and, in fact, could not possibly miss the point any harder even if Glenn Beck was beaming his show directly into their fuzzy noggins via John Galt’s magic magnet machine.
The really ironic part is that they are about evenly divided between barking Uber Liberals and howling mad Tea Party Conservatives.
Like a neurotic dog they chase manically ‘round and ‘round after their own tails barking furiously at imaginary monsters.
They have managed to construct for themselves a strawman and they are now attempting to derail my blog onto their own cause, a front in a war that ended more than 70 years ago and a minor unimportant battle in which nearly everybody involved is long dead.
That’s not going to happen.
Comments are in full moderation and will remain so.
It’s not my job, expressed or implied, to entertain mental illness and fanaticism or to provide either with a platform.
If you’re afflicted with obsessive compulsive mad cow disease, then you deal it on your own time, it’s your problem, I won’t let you make it mine. You engage in assholery, big or small, your comments will not post. Period. This is non-negotiable.
Don’t like how I do business here? Then as I noted below, you’re completely free to fuck off back to whatever part of the internet you came from. Don’t bother to email me, because I won’t read it – and if by chance I do, I’ll likely use your chattering assholery as fodder in another blog post devoted to the ridicule of hatemail. Don’t bother trying for the last word, because you’re not going to get it. Stonekettle Station is my intellectual property. Mine. I get the last word. I’m not particularly pissy about that – unless you make it into a shoving match. If you do, you’ll lose. Period. I spent more than 20 years in the military and fought in two wars; I’ve been hated by professionals and you’re not the first jackass to show up here. Frankly I couldn’t possibly care less about your contempt. Really.
If you’ve got a beef with something I wrote, then express your disagreement in a reasoned adult manner, otherwise go away. Those are your only two options.
Marked updates to the text below now include a detailed explanation of exactly what I meant by my comments.
My teenaged son stuck his head into the den.
“You’re missing it,” he informed me.
“Missing what?” I asked.
“Glenn Beck’s on Hannity,” he grinned, rolling his eyes and laughing in sardonic mirth.
Yes, my son watches Sean Hannity.
And Bill O’Reilly. And Glenn Beck.
He thinks they’re endlessly, ridiculously, amusing; but then again what 17 year old isn’t captivated by the self-mutilating shenanigans of capering idiots? Why do you think MTV’s Jackass is so popular? Or those Fail videos on YouTube? Same thing. Given that, seems to me Rupert Murdoch is missing an opportunity. After all, the Fox News network already has more brainless jiggling cleavage in their line-up than a rerun of Bay Watch, combined with the sophomoric antics of Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, if Fox could work in a couple of Metallica videos they’d have the teenage male demographic sewn up.
But I digress.
It delights me that my son, a teenage high school senior, has absolutely no problem whatsoever picking apart the logical fallacies, outright falsehoods, and daily fabricated paranoid nonsense of TV pundits.
‘'Beck and Hannity, on Fox News, now there’s an incestuous bromance made in heaven,” I said.
“Oh, it’s even worse than usual,” my son grinned mischievously. “Glenn Beck wants to sell Alaska …”
All of the federal government land they own. What do they own it for? Sell it. Get rid of it. They don't need it anymore. It's time to sell things. It's time to go up to Alaska and drill in Alaska. And if they are not willing to build a pipeline and drill in Alaska, then it's time we sell it to somebody who will because we've got to pay off our debt.
They should build a pipeline and drill for oil.
See? That, right there, that kind of dazzling logic is why Glenn Beck gets the big bucks. Drill for oil. In Alaska. You can see why the Tea Party loves this guy, he’s just so darned clever. Drill for oil. In Alaska. Wow.
Man, too bad we Alaskans never thought of that.
Drill for oil. In Alaska.
Now there’s an idea worthy of Beck’s pal, Sarah “Johnny Knoxville” Palin.
Beck left out a few details.
For example he didn’t specifically say who “they” are.
They should build a pipeline.
They should drill for oil.
Because we have got to pay off our debt.
Drill for oil in Alaska. Pay off the national debt.
Now hold on just a damned minute here.
Drill for oil in Alaska. Pay off the national debt.
As an Alaskan, I have some questions.
First, I guess Beck means President Obama should be doing the drilling and building and selling and paying, right? Both Hannity and Beck are self-declared “Tea Party Conservatives,” and according to the Tea Party the national debt is all Obama’s fault, so shouldn’t Obama be the one to pay it off? Isn’t that exactly what Glenn Beck is saying? Build a pipeline. Drill for oil. Pay off the debt. I get that part okay, but I’m just a little surprised to see a couple of Tea Party Conservatives on Fox News enthusiastically embracing communism…
Communism. Sure. Communism.
That’s what they call it when the government owns the oil, the drilling rigs, the pipeline, and all the profits, isn’t it?
“They” should build a pipeline and “they” should drill for oil and “they” should use the money to pay off the national debt.
They would have to be the government in this scenario, wouldn’t they? By definition. Specifically President Obama.
So, communism. That’s what Glenn Beck is demanding. Communism.
Or some kind of absolutism anyway, maybe a dictatorship if Obama himself owns it all.
I mean, that’s what we’re talking about, right. Drill for oil in Alaska. Pay off the national debt. The only way that works is if the government owns the oil and the means of production and sale, and the government reaps the profits which they then use to pay off the debt.
Otherwise Beck would be suggesting that private industry invest in drilling and merchandising the oil. Which, of course, is pretty much exactly how we do it now.
You’d think Palin would have mentioned that, given her extensive oil industry experience and all.
What? I’m just saying it’s a weird oversight. Honestly, it makes you wonder, what do they talk about?
Here’s the thing: if the oil is produced and sold by industry, then only way you get from corporate profits to paying off the debt is … taxation.
And yet, we know that Glenn Beck is loudly, vocally, voraciously, inflexibly, ideologically, opposed to government taxation on such enterprises. He’s screamed and ranted and waxed fat and fecund about taxation for years. Hell, he even threaten to go off and start his own walled country to protest taxation. Like minded conservatives in congress, including Alaskan Democrat Mark Begich, have fought tooth and nail to reduce federal regulation and taxation on the poor belabored oil industry (what with their record profits and all it’s hard to understand how Exxon can stay in business with just billions in oil subsides alone). And it’s the same here at the state level, in fact, Alaskan conservatives, most of whom are dewy-eyed Glenn Beck fans, led by Alaska’s governor and Palin successor, Sean Parnell, just gave the entire oil industry in Alaska a huge tax giveaway (and just this morning Alaska woke up to the sudden realization that the Alaska Permanent Fund and next year’s state budget are facing massive reductions as a result. Whoops. But, hey, it’s not like Alaska needs schools. When the oil industry “creates” jobs here, they fill ‘em with wildcatters from Texas and Oklahoma anyway, right?).
However you slice it, obviously Beck’s not talking about paying off the debt via taxation on the oil industry.
And if the government isn’t drilling and selling, and the government isn’t taxing those who are, then the government isn’t doing the paying, is it?
So what is Glenn Beck suggesting? That the oil companies use their immense profits to pay off the national debt directly? I’m not exactly sure what kind of magic Ayn Rand government that’s called. It’s not communism. It sure isn’t capitalism. It’s not republicanism. Ridiculous Blustering Glenn Beck Bullshitism maybe?
Okay, scratch that.
So then according to Beck, what’s left?
I guess “we” should sell off Alaska to pay “our” debt.
And how exactly we Alaskans, the paltry few five hundred thousand of us, ended up being responsible for the entire national debt given that there are three hundred and fifty million of you, just completely escapes me. That seems, oh hell, I dunno, just a little suspect, mathematically. If Alaska is suddenly responsible for $17 trillion, seventeen trillion dollars, seventeen trillion, seriously, folks, where the hell did all that money go? We didn’t get it, trust me on that. Oh sure Wasilla got a new rec center, and they made some improvements to the Ted Stevens International Airport, but seventeen trillion? C’mon, not even Don Young could spend all of that and it’s not like Alaska declared war on Iraq and Afghanistan all by itself.
I’ll tell you, speaking as an Alaskan, for seventeen trillion dollars our lousy potholed roads should be in one hell of a lot better shape.
Seventeen trillion dollars.
And Alaska is responsible for it all?
Why us? Why not all those poverty stricken southern Bible Belt States that produce nothing but trailer parks and toothless rednecked Glenn Beck fans? Why not Texas? Hell, they want to secede, let’s sell ‘em to Mexico!
Oh, riiiiiiight, nobody would pay $17 trillion for Texas.
So, I guess it’s on us then.
How does this work exactly? Palin tried to sell the governor’s jet on eBay, can we put the whole state up for bid there? Can they just list us on Craigslist? Is selling off Alaska even constitutional – I mean, you know how the Tea Party loves them some Constitution and all. Honestly, I don’t get how this works, but then again my education is mostly engineering and technology and military strategy (you know, reality based), maybe I should have studied Magic Fairy Dust and Creation Science math at Glenn Beck University.
“We’ve” got to pay off “our” debt, folks, so “we” should sell Alaska.
Note how Alaskans aren’t part of the we.
When you’re talking about the United States, there’s “we” and then there’s Alaska.
No, no, that’s okay. We’re used to it.
So. Sell Alaska. For money. To pay off the national debt. That’s the plan.
This from the guy who’s bombastically enraged and righteously outraged at the mere thought of his precious Israel trading a couple hectares of worthless sand for their security.
But Alaska? Well, if we’re not using it the way the Tea Party thinks we should, screw it. Get rid of it.
Boy, spoken like a genuine Wall Street MBA.
Sorry, Alaskans, the folks down here in real America have two wars and our bad mortgage industry investments to pay off. So looks like we’re going to have to downsize. Liquidate. Got to keep the shareholders happy. Got to keep the ol’ Golden Parachute fully inflated. Return on investment, you know how it is, nothing personal. So, anyway, you guys are now officially Chinese.
I note that laying a $17 trillion dead horse on Alaska hasn’t done much to diminish Glenn Beck’s popularity here in Tea Party Central.
That’s about par for the course, Alaskan conservative logic-wise.
They’ll all be lining up to buy a copy of his new book, Miracles and Massacres: True and Untold Stories of the Making of America (I swear, that’s the actual title, the true story of ‘Merica!) wherein Beck (who’s now a “student of history” according to Sean Hannity) trots out the Dirty Sanchez of Second Amendment porn, the 1945 so-called Battle of Athens.
[Update: “The Battle of Athens”]
The so-called “Battle of Athens” is a common anecdote proffered by gun-nuts and Second Amendment fanatics to justify their version of America where the citizens are locked in a perpetual armed standoff with their government and where liberty comes from the muzzle of a gun and not from rule of law.
The pitiful “battle,” such as it was, happened in 1946, in McMinn County, Tennessee.
There had been rumors and accusations of election fraud in McMinn for years. The federal Department of Justice made a number of investigations into the allegations both before and during World War II, but the inquiries were inconclusive and the federal and state governments had, as yet, taken no action.
The point of contention was the county sheriff, a democrat named Paul Cantrell who had been elected to the position in 1936 and served for six years until he was elected to the Tennessee state senate in 1942. He was replaced by his former deputy, Pat Mansfield. Now, the partisan divide wasn’t quite as wide or as hostile as it is now, but nevertheless a lot of folks in the predominately republican county felt the election was rigged – specifically due to recent redistricting and a reduction in elected positions (that is, the size of the local government got smaller, and a lot of people ended up feeling like they weren’t getting proper representation. The more things change, right?).
The real problem was that the county sheriff and his deputies were paid via an old fashioned system, a system that was inevitably prone to abuse and corruption. The police were paid per arrest. In other words, the more people they arrested the more money they made, individually. Unless you’re a complete idiot, you can see where that kind of thing leads and it wasn’t long before the sheriff and his deputies went from rousting the usual suspect to actually staking out the highways and stopping Greyhound buses, pulling out the passengers and ticketing them on a variety of bogus charges. Needless to say, ethnic minorities and the poor spent a lot of time in the McMinn County courthouse.
You can imagine the increasing aggravation of the populace and the nature of the complaints, but there was a war on and most of the people who had the wherewithal and means to stand up to the police were fighting their way across Europe or storming the beaches of the South Pacific. And there wasn’t much time or attention available in the federal government for an overbearing police force in some unimportant county in the middle of the country.
All that changed with the end of the war.
In 1945 and 46, several thousand combat veterans returned home to McMinn and weren’t happy with what they found – most especially because they suddenly became the single most lucrative source of income for the County Sheriff.
The veterans had no intention of being pushed around and they resolved to change things.
In the August 1946 election Cantrell and Mansfield swapped positions, Cantrell ran again for sheriff and Mansfield for state senate.
The veterans, about ten percent of the McMinn population, tendered their own candidates.
When polls opened on August 1, 1946, voters found themselves facing hundreds of armed deputies, cronies of Mansfield and Cantrell, brought in from neighboring towns and counties to augment McMinn’s fifteen permanent officers.
Men who had fought the Nazis and the Japanese were outraged by this blatant act of raw intimidation. Fights broke out. And a black man, Tom Gillespie, was shot in the back by deputies who were attempting to stop him from voting.
As the polls closed, the deputies seized the ballot boxes and took them back to the county police office. They locked the boxes in the jail and fifty-five deputies stood guard over them. Exactly what their intentions were is unclear. Supposedly it was to guard the ballots until they could be counted. Maybe that’s true. Likely it’s not.
The population, already enraged, had had enough.
A number of veterans assembled, the exact number is unknown – some accounts say it was a few hundred, others claim it was a few thousand. The vets were armed, some with personal weapons, some with heavy weapons taken from the national guard armory. They marched on the jail and demanded that the sheriff turn over the ballot box.
Predictably the soon to be ex-sheriff refused.
So the veterans opened fire.
The deputies fired back.
The “battle” consists of exchanges of intermittent gunfire and lasted somewhere between a few minutes to a couple of hours depending on who’s telling the story. There were no casualties, but elsewhere in the town of Athens, other vets, who might or might not have been drinking, rioted. Police cars were burned. Windows were smashed. Mobs formed. Eventually the vets, being vets, got sick of screwing around and dynamited the jail. They blew the building’s door off and poured in through the breach just like the good old days when they were storming enemy bunkers. The sheriff and his deputies, now shaken and deafened and injured from the blast, surrendered in short order.
The ballot boxes were recovered intact and when they were counted the next day, the county had themselves a new sheriff (history doesn’t speculate on what would have happened if the vote had gone the other way).
After it was all over, a lot of folks ended up feeling rather chagrinned.
The new county government revised the compensation method for police officers, installed salary caps on public officials, cleaned up the corruption, and set about getting rid of the former deputies via dismissal. The deputy who shot Tom Gillespie was tried and went to jail.
Now, you can see why the Second Amendment Fetishists love this story.
Except, of course, that part about how the only guy who got shot was an innocent black man who was just trying to vote.
And the only gunfire exchanged was ineffective and accomplished nothing but to terrorize an already frightened town.
And the jail was actually breeched with dynamite (which makes you wonder if we’re going to see the NRA demanding unrestricted access to explosives next).
And, most especially, that similar and far, far more egregious abuses of power have been stopped, overturned, prevented, and corrected numerous times without gunfire and revolution and dynamite … by the very thing Glenn Beck hates, a strong federal government. In fact, based on history, something Beck claims to be a student of, when it comes to civil rights you’d be a hell of a lot better served putting your faith in the Justice Department and the Supreme Court than in your pistol.
The amusing part is that within five years, the very veterans who staged their little armed rebellion were complaining that their own installed candidates were just as bad and they’d merely swapped one tyrant for another.
Beck fails to mention one of his personal heroes, the nation’s most abusive and out of control lawman, Joe Arpaio, five time sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona. And I’m left wondering how Beck would feel if the aggrieved citizenry took up arms and removed “America’s Toughest Sheriff” from office by force. That’s different, of course, Arpaio is a conservative who primarily targets Latinos. But I digress. Again.
Most ironically, Beck failed to mention how his own political organization, the goddamned Tea Party, is openly engaged in an active campaign to disenfranchise voters via unfair voter ID laws, gerrymandering their candidates into “safe” districts, closing primaries, and massive amounts of anonymous campaign money funneled through Beck’s own SuperPAC.
In the Battle of Athens, Glenn Beck and the Tea Party aren’t Tom Gillespie and the veterans, they’re Paul Cantrell and his deputies and make no mistake about it.
My favorite part of Beck’s new book? Yeah, that would be where he declares Tokyo Rose a hero.
Yes, that Tokyo Rose.
Beck says she’s a genuine hero. You betcha.
Apparently, according to the interview, Beck owns her microphone, the one she used to broadcast Japanese propaganda at American military men during World War II. Because, quoting Glenn Beck here, Tokyo Rose “was a hero, not a villain.”
I know. Oh, believe me, I know.
Obama puts his little American flag pin on crooked and Glenn Beck holds a rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to decry Obama’s treason. But Tokyo Rose, she’s a hero according to Glenn Beck.
Yep. And that, right there, tells you everything you need to know.
On the other hand, if we Alaskans have to become part of China in order to pay off the national debt, then the very least all those old geezers who battled their way across the Pacific to earn themselves a place in the Greatest Generation of Glen Beck fans can do is acknowledge the heroic patriotism of poor misunderstood Tokyo Rose.
Frankly, at this point, I can’t wait to see what Glenn Beck does with Hanoi Jane.
[Update: Tokyo Rose]
…and that, right there, tells you everything you need to know.
Except, of course, for a number of folks, it didn’t.
I suppose this is my fault. I assumed, for no good reason, that everybody else is as fascinated and horrified and familiar with World War II as I am.
Tokyo Rose was the name given to an Imperial Japanese radio program, broadcast during World War II in the Western and South Pacific theaters, and aimed at Allied forces.
The broadcast consisted of English speaking women who read scripted programs alternating with popular American and British music.
It was an early application of Information Warfare, specifically a combination of both crude psychological manipulation and a form of what nowadays is sometimes referred to as information insertion.
The basic idea was that a sympathetic sounding female voice, speaking English, alternating with familiar music would degrade Allied morale and esprit de corps by working on the minds of lonely weary men far from home by making them homesick, by making them question their commitment, by making them wonder why they were risking their lives in a war that supposedly didn’t really concern them.
The Tokyo Rose broadcasts played up those ideas by suggesting to Allied forces that their sweethearts back home had probably forgotten them, that their wives were probably fooling around, that their children no longer remembered their faces and were calling somebody else daddy, that there was nobody to help poor old mom on the farm, and so on.
And these were things that many of those men really did worry about.
Allied troops grew to hate Tokyo Rose with a passion that bordered on the kind you reserve for child molesters and people who drive too slow in the fast lane, and legends grew up around her.
It’s hard nowadays to understand just how isolated many of those men were, and for just how long.
Most people, even nowadays, have little grasp of the staggering vastness of the Pacific and the immense distances these men fought across. I have sailed across that ocean myself, from the Bering Sea to the South Pacific atolls, from Sumatra to San Diego, from the Galapagos to Guam, from Hawaii to the Straits of Malacca, and even I can barely comprehend it. Back then, it was even more remote and many of those men didn’t have the benefit of our worldwide consciousness. Most had never even heard of the places they were sent to. Prior to the war many hadn’t travelled more than a few dozen miles from the places they were born. Communications were extremely limited, both by the state of the art and by operational security. There was no internet, no TV, no telephone. There was almost no mass media. News came on movie reels, and on paper, physically transported on ships across the ocean, from base to base, months old. Letters arrived the same way, again often months out of date as the mail chased ships and mobile units from one battle to the next, and those communications were subject to censor and editing and contained only the barest of information. Death and danger, terror and loneliness, were ever present for years at a time.
That voice, Tokyo Rose, men hated it, but they couldn’t stop listening.
Tokyo Rose herself wasn’t just one person.
Tokyo Rose was more than a dozen women over the course of the war.
But the woman who grew to be most associated with the hated broadcast was Iva Toguri.
Toguri was the daughter of Japanese immigrants. She was raised primarily in Southern California, but had gone to grammar school in Mexico. Prior to the outbreak of World War II she graduated from the University of California with a degree in zoology.
In July of 1941, five months before the Japanese surprise attack at Pearl Harbor and the sudden outbreak of World War II, Toguri traveled to Japan. She was issued a Certificate of Identification, but not a passport, which indicated that she didn’t plan to come back right away – supposedly because she intended to stay in Japan and study medicine.
However two months later, in September, amid worsening relations between the US and Japan, Toguri applied to the US Vice Consul in Tokyo for a passport to return to the United States.
Toguri was still in Japan and the paperwork was still being processed on December 7th.
Toguri was alone and stranded in Tokyo, an enemy in a country at war with the United States.
Though Toguri was not rounded up and shipped off to an internment camp, as a Japanese American with dual citizenship she was pressured by the Japanese authorities to renounce her American citizenship. She refused to do so. She remained free in Tokyo, but unable to return to the US and barely able to survive.
Eventually she found work as a typist at a news agency, which eventually led to a similar job at Radio Tokyo.
By 1943 the Japanese military had forced a number of Allied POWs with radio experience into service making propaganda broadcasts aimed at their own countrymen. The ethics of the POWs’ participation in enemy broadcasts is still something that is hotly debated in classes at military academies across the United States and England. It’s easy to say that you, as a member of your country’s military would never do such a thing when you’re sitting safe and secure in a college classroom, it’s something else entirely when you’re facing the reality of Japanese concentration camps (or Korean or Vietnamese), starvation and torture, and you maybe have a chance to change the lot of your comrades interred within those places.
Toguri was recruited from the typing pool by the head of the POW propaganda arm of Radio Tokyo, one Major Cousens – an Australian captured in the fall of Singapore – on the advice of American Army Captain Wallace Ince and Philippine Army Lieutenant Normando Reyes. Ince and Reyes had met Toguri when she had risked her own relative freedom to smuggle food into an interment camp where they were being held (both were later scooped up based on their experience in radio and, like, Cousens, tortured until they agreed to make propaganda broadcasts). Toguri at first resisted, saying that she would not speak against the United States. But Cousens and Ince convinced her that she could make the broadcasts without directly denouncing her country and eventually she made more than three hundred broadcasts on a show called The Zero Hour.
Officially she called herself “Orphan Ann,” but inevitably she became the voice of Tokyo Rose.
And she was all the more reviled when Allied troops learned she was an American.
Toguri survived the war.
She might have been forgotten after the nukes fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, after Tokyo surrendered, and the world, weary from half a decade of total war, returned gratefully to those aforementioned sweethearts back home.
She might have been forgotten, if not for the press.
Broke and desperate, she agreed to tell her story to Cosmopolitan Magazine for the astounding sum of $2000.
Instead, the reporters betrayed her in a bid for sensationalism and she was arrested as a traitor and a war criminal in Yokohama on September 5th, 1945. The Cosmopolitan reneged on their deal, kept the money, and played up her interview as a “confession.” They sold a lot of copy and made a lot of money as a result.
Toguri was interrogated for a year. Her former POW friends testified on her behalf. Records and transcripts of her shows, those that remained in the ashes of Tokyo, were examined in exhaustive detail. Eventually, General Douglas MacArthur’s staff determined that she was mostly a victim of circumstance, an young American girl caught in enemy territory who had only done what she had to do in order to survive. She was released, supposedly free to return home.
But the press wasn’t through with her.
Pundit and prominent radio host, Walter Winchell, took up the fight against Toguri. His audience, many of the men who’d listened to her during their time in the Pacific, were outraged at the idea of Tokyo Rose returning to the US unpunished. Urged on by Winchell and other media personalities, they wanted their pound of flesh.
Toguri was rearrested by US military authorities and returned to the United States in custody to be tried for treason.
Amid a media frenzy, on September 25th, 1948, in San Francisco, she was convicted on a single count of “giving aid and comfort” to the enemy in time of war, the classic definition of treason. At that time, her trial was the longest and most costly in US history – eclipsing even that of the spectacular Lindbergh Baby Trial before the war and those trials that were even then still going on in Nuremberg. The court was biased from the start and the conclusion forgone despite the herculean efforts of her defense team – led by the Johnny Cochran of his day, Wayne Mortimer Collins. She was fined $10,000 dollars, an extraordinary sum in those days, and sentenced to ten years in federal prison.
Toguri went to prison for treason and was paroled after serving six years.
Winchell and other media personalities attempted once again to rile up public support, they demanded that Toguri be deported upon her parole, but by 1956 much of the hatred and hysteria of the war years had cooled. Toguri rejoined her family, now living in Chicago where they’d moved after being released from the Gila River War Relocation Center, a Japanese American internment camp. Toguri quietly went to work at her father’s store in Lakeview and tried her best to disappear into the the dusty forgotten volumes of history.
One thing I didn’t mention. After the war, in the time before she returned to the United States, Toguri got married. Her husband had been a Portuguese prisoner of war. Toguri became pregnant during her time in detention but the baby died before she could return home. Her husband came the US to testify at her treason trial but was immediately arrested as a war criminal himself. He was deported and forced to return to Japan. As his ship prepared to depart Hawaii, FBI agents forced him to sign a document that would prevent him from ever attempting to return to the US. Toguri never saw him again. They remained married until 1980, when Toguri granted him a divorce so that he could get on with his life.
In 1976, largely due to efforts by Chicago Tribune reporter Ron Yates, the true story of Iva Toguri and Tokyo Rose began to emerge, culminating a riveting story by Morley Safer on the popular news show, 60 Minutes. A year later, President Gerald Ford granted Toguri a full and unconditional pardon on his last day in office. That pardon was supported by unanimous vote in both houses of the California State Legislature – though many WWII veterans of the Pacific campaigns would never, ever, forgive her.
With the presidential pardon, Toguri’s U.S. citizenship was restored.
Toguri died in 2006, still working in her family’s store on Belmont Avenue in Lakeview, a suburb of Chicago.
The vast majority of her customers had no idea that the tired sad old Asian lady behind the counter was the once infamous and reviled Tokyo Rose.
Now, it is certainly possible to paint Iva Toguri as a hero of sorts – depending on which side of the radio you happened to be on. Her story is terrible and fascinating. She was treated heinously throughout much of her life, by fate, by governments, by militaries, by the public, and most especially by the media.
The great Japanese-American actor, writer, and director, George Takei – himself once a resident of American internment camps for Japanese Americans – has labored for years to bring Toguri’s story to the screen. And frankly, if Takei’s studied view of Toguri is a sympathetic one, then I bow to his judgment.
I have no heat, one way or the other for Tokyo Rose. I don’t forgive her, because I never condemned her. It wasn’t my war. It wasn’t my time.
I don’t know that I’d call her a hero per se, but she is unarguably a tragic figure.
This is not the point.
All of this, the story of Tokyo Rose, is not why I mentioned her in the context of an article on Glenn Beck’s staggering hypocrisy.
Or maybe, maybe, it is.
Toguri, daughter of immigrants, one step removed from our mortal enemies (of the time), student in a foreign country, willing (however reluctantly) employee of those bent to the utter destruction of the United States (the same folks who engaged in one of the worst and most heinous acts of war and terrorism in our history, a day of utter infamy), Tokyo Rose … Glenn Beck hails her as a hero.
Perhaps I even agree with his description.
And yet, and yet, in Beck’s twisted little world, while Iva Toguri is “not a villain but a hero,” those who wore the uniform and spent their lives serving this self-same America, people like me for instance, we are branded as traitors, commies, socialists (as Beck defines it), Nazis. Hell, Glenn Beck and his legion of haters have no use whatsoever for George Takei, an outspoken and unabashed liberal advocate for gay rights and for the rights of minorities and immigrants. But somehow, Glenn Beck can not only forgive Iva Toguri for her funny name, her ancestry, her foreign education, her fluid citizenship, her wartime role as Tokyo Rose, he elevates her to the status of hero … but the President of the United States, Barack Obama, is a Nazi, Hitler, right? Liberals are Nazis, enemies of America, lowest of the low, hated and despised and reviled by the likes of Glenn Beck and the very media punditry who similarly railroaded Iva Toguri into prison for their own profit and benefit.
That, right there, is my point.
That staggering, astounding, gargantuan hypocrisy of Glenn Beck and the mindless idiotic drooling lynch-mob of Tea Party “patriots” who hang upon his every twisted word beggars the imagination. These people, some of whom are the very conservatives who once fought to have Toguri imprisoned are now willing to make her a hero, and yet they can’t seem to find it in their hearts to meet their own president halfway.
This is specifically why I mentioned “Hanoi Jane.”
Periodically I follow a pickup truck on the highway here between Palmer and Anchorage. There are two bumper stickers on the back, “Hanoi Jane: We Will Never Forget!” and “TEA Party, Taxed Enough Already.”
Here’s my question, Jane Fonda, what she did in the closing days of the Vietnam War was (at best) misguided and (at worst) an act of treason. But Fonda didn’t do a ten-thousandth of what Iva Toguri did. Fonda also visited POWs and carried messages home to their families. Fonda, like Toguri, was used. That revolting picture of her seated on a North Vietnamese Anti-Aircraft battery was staged deliberately and used to maximum effect by our enemies, men who knew exactly what they were doing. Fonda paid the price for it too, far less so than Toguri, but then so was her treason.
Look, I don’t have a hell of a lot of use for Jane Fonda. I think her later actions and her statements about returning POWS and her denial that they were systematically tortured fully justifies the hatred and contempt most Vietnam veterans feel towards her. Just as the hatred and contempt many WWII Vets felt toward Tokyo Rose. But again, if you can forgive Tokyo Rose for her actions during time of war, when are Glenn Beck and the Tea Party veterans of Vietnam going to forgive Fonda and elevate her to hero status?
They won’t of course, Fonda is a liberal.
Just as they will never bend on their conviction that Barack Obama is Hitler reborn.
Glenn Beck can brush away Toguri’s birth, ethnicity, religion, education, and actions, but condemns the rest of us as Nazis, fucking Nazis, for far, far, far less.
Glenn hails Iva Torguri as a hero, but condemns Teddy Roosevelt as a progressive and un-American.
Glenn Beck hails the veterans of Athens as heroes for confronting their government, but reviles and condemns the veterans of the Occupy Movement as traitors and cowards and, well, Nazis.
Glenn Beck waxes fat and fecund and teary eyed-over states rights and self determination … and offers up Alaska to the highest bidder.
That, that right there, is the point of this essay.
Beck twists his worldview into whatever shape brings him the most fame and money, just as did those who pilloried Toguri and Fonda for their own profit.
And behind, following in the wake of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and Anne Coulter and Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly and Michael Savage and Pat Robertson and all those other selfish twisted mercenary whores comes those who are so filled with hate and bile and fear that they can’t even see their own bullshit when their noses are rubbed in it.
If that’s not clear and unambiguous now, then you’re in the wrong place.
But, again, here I am digressing.
I’m telling you, all this Hannity episode lacked was some James Hetfield blaring from the speakers.
I was going to say it could have used some Pam Anderson running on the beach too…
…but it already had a couple of boobs.