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Carnival of Bad History #6

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 4:59 am Print

Welcome to the Sixth Edition of the Carnival of Bad History! I'm going to start with that most excellent material -- that which is found and nominated by someone else -- and then exercise my droit de rédacteur* and include some material I've gleaned over the last few months. The big news here is that after this last quarterly edition, we are going monthly! So don't delay: get your posts in soon for the next one!

Ana Midhana Rubble

"The enemy isn't conservatism.
The enemy isn't liberalism.
The enemy is bullshit."
- Lars-Erik Nelson*

Sergey Romanov gets my heartfelt thanks both for nominating a passel of posts, but also for the intensely challenging and frankly distasteful work he and his co-bloggers do. A good starting post, typical of the great work they do, is Why the "diesel issue" is irrelevant, which highlights their mastery of sources, arguments and effective blogging. The oldest of the bunch from them is The Arolsen Archive Controversy: Cold Comfort for Deniers by Nick Terry, a typically detailed, informed and powerful post. Nick Terry also wrote a very strong call for historians to publicly engage (i.e. demolish) bad history in the public sphere. (Sharon Howard had some reservations about full-fledged engagement, mostly because of the time and professional standards to which we hold ourselves. Fair 'nuff: these carnivals cut into my sleep time, for sure) The Holocaust Controversies crew have been particularly hard on Carlos Mattogno this quarter, and it looks like he's earned every bit of it.

For a complete change of pace, satirist Jon Swift presents another of his immodest proposals: Let's Not Nuke Iran-Yet: "I believe it was the Grammy Award winning guitarist Santana who said, "Those who do not study history, are doomed to repeat the class." By invading Vietnam, and doing it right this time, we could change history." Or not.

Speaking of satire, the President went to Hungary to compare the 1956 uprising with the Iraq war.... No, I'm not kidding. Daniel Larison's put that comparison in proper perspective. (Jonathan Wilson sent that in).

Joerg Wolf, member of a serious blogging team, submitted a review of a Franco-German textbook "that presents the US and the USSR as broadly equivalent in moral terms. One of the authors even admits that the textbook is largely Anti-American." Great. Next, Texas will be demanding that textbooks say mean things about the French (Germans we've mostly got covered....).

Speaking of anti-American rants, Marc Comtois' Morris Berman is Hung Up on America's Impending "Dark Ages" was another Jonathan Wilson submission (yes, I'm linking to interesting posts of Jonathan's: go read them!).

Joe Kissell submitted a cute little mystery but I think that his recent piece on Project Habakkuk is a far more interesting historical dead end: a WWII-era attempt to build aircraft carriers out of alternative materials....

Ahistoricality caught some highly fraught interpretive errors as well as some discordant advertising notes and tasteless vote-rigging jokes, not to mention a truly bizarre attempt to link the President with Aleister Crowley.

Finally, at the last minute, Bora/Coturnix got me a discussion of Nikola Tesla in fact and fiction and his commenters chime in with a few clarifications of their own!

Thanks very much to all who sent me stuff, via whatever method you found

"Every nation ridicules other nations, and all are right."
-- Arthur Schopenhauer

"It sometimes seems as though we were trying to combine the ideal of no schools at all with the democratic ideal of schools for everybody by having schools without education." -- Robert Maynard Hutchins

Now here's what your humble host has come across in the last few months and hours....

Miland Brown's Rules for Separtists has been in other carnivals, but a satirical chronicle of the abuses of history this good deserves lots of mentions.

My former student, Grant Jones, is trying to figure out the last American executed for treason (because he's got a little list) and what it would take for the government to speak the historical truth about a sensitive ally.

Dave Neiwert reposts a still-relevant refutation of a journalistic cliche.

Over at the new Revise & Dissent (a great bunch of bloggers, sharing some of their best work, and one of them has already volunteered to be a host later this year!), Alun Salt reviews the evidence about the "Bosnian Pyramid" and finds it "shonky."

Also, David Davisson tones down some of the consternation over the Florida history teaching law, but can't really say that it's not a disaster, anyway. Also, in the usually calm HNN books section, Muir and Applebaum demolish some highly partisan archaeology.

With the Da Vinci Code making it's inexorable progress toward DVD-dom, farangi offers an actual history of Templardom which is rich with detail though surprisingly sympathetic to the hoax.

Sometimes it's just lousy reporting, as Another Damned Medievalist discovered. Historians take note: journalists rarely listen closely. Journalists note: Not all "noted" historians are worth listening to.

Orac (who should be hosting this carnival sometime soon if he'll check his calendar and get back to me) is always on top of the Holocaust-related bad history, but the planned staging of Jesus Christ, Superstar at a former death camp certainly qualifies as one of the biggest gaffes of the quarter. Though Bill O'Reilly attributing a massacre to the wrong side of WWII is an easy choice for runner-up. (So is a proposed memorial to Japanese dead at Saipan) His post on countering the Holohoax slander is extraordinary, and the comments are great.

Finally, I would be deeply remiss if I didn't note the historical brouhaha in which I had a small hand: the protests and controversy over Sino-Japanese War Art at MIT. Even within the confines of our own little blogfamily here, we had some sharp disagreements. While Alan Baumler and I (linked above) tended to side strongly with Dower/Miyagawa, Winnie Wong made a case that -- from her perspective as an art historian -- the exhibit was indeed flawed.

"The trouble with our times is that the future is not what it used to be."
-- Paul Valéry
"What's more, it never was." -- Lee Hays

And that does it. Sorry for the delay, but in my defense: there's still two minutes of Monday left, here in Hawai'i! Yeah, I'm an historian with no sense of time....

Submit your blog article to the next edition -- scheduled for late July at Hiram Hover's place -- of The Carnival of Bad History using's carnival submission form.


Upcoming Carnivals: Bad History, Asian History

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 5:33 am Print
I will be hosting the next edition of the Bad History Carnival here on Mondayearly Tuesday: you have until Sunday morning to get me the worst atrocities and best smackdowns of the web since mid-March. There's a lot out there: I've already got some submissions, and I've got a few tucked away in my files, but I know there's more, and I want to see it get the attention it deserves! BHC will be going monthly from this point forward: we've got hosts (I'm pretty sure) lined up through about November, but there's always room for more!

The next edition of the Asian History Carnival is scheduled for Friday, July 7th: We're still looking for a host, though, as well as for future editions; if you can't do it this time around, look ahead and find a month you like, because the field is pretty open at this point.



Filed under: — kosho @ 2:53 am Print
民団と総連が歴史的な和解をしたというのをご存知の方も多いと思われます。 しかし、物事を冷静に見ることのできない人たちたちによって、この和解の意味が悪い方向に転化されようとしています。 櫻井よしこという極右ジャーナリストから、日本の全国紙まで、ほとんどのメディアがこの和解の持つ意味を曲解しているわけです。 この和解のもつ意味において非常に重要なことは、今回、民団の団長選挙で朴チョンヒの維新政権の流れを汲む人間ではなく、韓国の民主化闘争の流れを汲む人が当選したということ、民団内の民主化の第一歩を踏み出したということだと思います。その結果、今回の和合がなされたというのが最大の要因のひとつです。 それを、北朝鮮の陰謀のように伝える人がいるということに、悪意を感じます。 朝鮮問題、在日問題は本当に難しい。 しかし、それを真剣に、真摯に考えなくては「日本」の未来は暗く閉ざされたままです。 来るべき東アジア共同体形成のために、まずは歴史を冷静に見る視点を養いたいと思います。


Laughter and Tears on the Charles

A book I've been waiting for for a long time is finally almost out [PDF]. Adam Kern, an old friend from graduate school, has been working on Edo-period humor, especially kibyoshi visual humor:
Curious, he brought some of the books to his literature professor, who offered no comment because, he said, kibyoshi were really art. So Kern brought the books to his art professor, who also offered no comment because, he said, kibyoshi were really literature.

This is one of those cases, obviously, where the old disciplinary boundaries have created gaps in our knowledge that didn't need to exist. No more. There have been books on the history of Japanese humor before, but I've never felt that they captured any of the actual fun being had by the authors of haikai, senryu, satirical enga or kyogen. It's a cliche that the best way to kill humor is to analyze it, and I don't think it's entirely true, but that's certainly been the model to date. Adam, however, is a genuinely funny, and very smart, guy and I look forward to seeing the results.

At the other end of the Charles (I say that, but of course neither MIT nor Harvard is anywhere near an "end" of the Charles, except in the solopsistic Cantabridgian sense), Prof. Peter Perdue has offered another review of the MIT Visualizing Cultures controversy. Most interesting is his differentiation between the censorial rage of "Chinese Students and Scholars Association, a student group comprised of graduate students from the People’s Republic of China," and the "Chinese alumni of MIT [CAMIT]":

If some future social scientist used this correspondence as “data” for a research project, she might conclude: “A content analysis was done of the opinions contained in the complete database of e-mail correspondence, arranging them on the following ordinal scale from 1 to 5: 1. Dower and Miyagawa were completely justified in their project; the students’ actions were ridiculous and embarrassing; 2. The Website contained some unintentionally offensive portions, indicating the need for some clarification, but it should be restored as soon as possible with warnings about the need to view its content carefully; 3. The site was unbalanced, because it leaned too much toward the Japanese perspective; it needed to include Chinese materials and be substantially revised; 4. The Website indicated such bias against the Chinese people and in favor of Japanese militarism that the Website should be suppressed, MIT should apologize, and Profs. Dower and Miyagawa should be fired; 5. Even more violent threats… “A frequency distribution of the responses would find them arrayed in a normal distribution with its median at about 3.0, with the median response from members of CAMIT lying one or more standard intervals to the left (< =2.5), and the median response from members of CSSA lying one or more standard intervals to the right (>=3.5). There is most likely a significant statistical difference between the two populations, but this subject requires further research.”

This tongue-in-cheek chi-test comes from his own correspondence after he published his first defense of Dower and Miyagawa: the CSSA, though it's been defended vigorously, if not entirely honestly, on H-Asia, was quite unrestrained in its attacks (the image of a student presenting Iris Chang's unbalanced book to War Without Mercy author John Dower to "educate him" pretty much says it all) and demands. The MIT alumni were considerably more balanced and nuanced in their approach, and made it possible to find a solution, as Perdue says, pretty much in line with position 2, though he himself is working with Miyagawa and Dower to implement some more Chinese content to supplement.


The Ethics of Book Reviews

Filed under: — Morgan Pitelka @ 11:48 am Print
Recently I stumbled upon an adulatory book review I wrote of Haruo Shirane's Traces of Dreams: Landscape, Cultural Memory, and the Poetry of Bashô, a book that made a big impact on me while writing my dissertation. I was desperate when a graduate student to publish a book review, and I tried submitting the piece to several journals, only to learn that book reviews are by invitation only! I wondered if perhaps the real problem was that Traces had already been assigned to more learned "scholars" than myself. (The Shirane review, by the way, ended up as a post on my site at the time, the now defunct japaneseculture. I was the first "guide" for that site, between 1997-2000, when I jumped ship before going on the job market.) I decided to write a review that no one would have been previously assigned because it was either too esoteric or on too boring of a topic. I chose a catalog from the Edo-Tokyo museum that I needed to read anyway for my research, and submitted the review to the ever generous but seriously peer-reviewed journal Early Modern Japan. Success at last! Something to put on my CV! Feeling confident, I took another shot with a review essay I wrote on a topic that was guaranteed to have slipped under the radar screens of competitive book-review writers the world over: catalogs of ceramics! I tried Monumenta Nipponica but was told even review essays were only by commission, alas, but struck gold with the online British Columbia Asia Review. I can only begin to imagine what a miniscule role these two humble pieces of criticism must have played in my job-hunting efforts, but they seemed important at the time. Once I began publishing actual scholarship based on my own research, I discovered that journals ASK you to write reviews. I suppose this amounts to a kind of review process for reviewers? My most exciting review moment came about a year ago when the Journal of Japanese Studies asked me to review Andrew Watsky's Chikubushima: Deploying the Sacred Arts in Momoyama Japan. I immediately and gleefully accepted this charge, largely because I wanted to receive a free copy of Andy's beautiful but hardback-only book. (This perhaps reveals too much about the finances of an assistant professor living in an expensive metropolis . . .) But AFTER I hit "send" on my acceptance message, I began thinking about the possibility that my review would represent a conflict of interest. First of all, Andy is my sempai. He went to Oberlin. I guess he is actually my triple sempai, if such a thing is possible. He also attended the Associated Kyoto Program and graduated before me from the Ph.D. program at Princeton, though in a different department. Perhaps more importantly, one of his essays appeared in an anthology I edited, Japanese Tea Culture. Did this plethora of connections mean I would be unable to review his book objectively? In fact books are reviewed by friends, classmates, felllow disciples of this or that professor, and even former students and former teachers quite often. In my case, I tried to over compensate for our friendly connections by being quite critical in the review. (Andy's book won the John Whitney Hall Prize, so you can see how sensible that choice was.) In other cases, though, you see reviewers playing softball and providing no meaningful constructive criticism whatsoever when reviewing books by friends or former classmates. Not helpful. So is it our responsibility to declare such potential manefestations of giri? Do debts of gratitude have a role in criticism? Should friendship be "balanced" by severity?

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