Michael's Dispatches

Central Washington University Earns Failing Grade in History


15 June 2015

(The unnamed Author was a witness at CWU and is known to me.)

The scene last April, as noted by an observer at the event, “was pure agitprop straight from a religious revival or political rally.”  Staff stopped and redirected visitors; teachers entered the rival event and cajoled students to leave, making faces and sounds to signify disapproval and to influence the audience's perception of the speakers, and coordinated ad hominem attacks and improper comparisons to Nazis.  Rather than allow academic freedom and reasoned inquiry into an issue, Central Washington University (CWU) looked more like a propaganda theater run by Stalinists than an American institution of higher learning.

On April 28, 2015, CWU entered the fray of one of the most controversial issues most Americans probably never heard about: Comfort Women.  For people who appreciate history and facts, Comfort Women in some form have been used throughout history by various militaries: they are contracted prostitutes.  Comfort Women used by Japan during WWII have re-emerged as the focal point for modern political Japan-bashing, while the other comfort women, notably those by the U.S. Military, Koreans, and others, are conveniently ignored.

For those who prefer “cut and paste” information that originate partly from such reputable sources as North Korea, Comfort Women are “200,000 women, mostly Korean who were abducted by the Japanese Army and forced to work as sex slaves.”  People who believe this might also believe that unicorn bones were found near Pyongyang (N. Korea), and their late “Dear Leader's” near-perfect golf game (in the 1990s).

As CWU Assistant Professor Brian Carroll stood before the assembled crowd, his performance seemed more apt for someone in the Drama Department than an objective historian.  He waved a piece of paper for the crowd to see, made a disparaging remark about the other group, and then he misled the crowd by reading what he claimed was the position of the American Historical Association (AHA) on the Comfort Women issue.

He then read what was actually a “Letter to the Editor” to the AHA Perspectives on History monthly magazine, signed by nineteen scholars that attacked the Japanese government's attempt to point out inaccuracies found in a textbook on the matter.  Japanese, Korean, Thai, and other scholars' research confirm the errors, but that was not mentioned by Carroll.  (See http://scholarsinenglish.blogspot.jp/2014/10/summary-of-professor-park-yuhas-book.html)

So there stood the spokesperson for the History Department who used an opinion piece (“Letter to the Editor”) as proof of unequivocal historical facts and consensus, passing it off as the official stance of the AHA, rather than presenting the divergent perspectives.  He may be unaware that some of the signatories are aligned with left-wing organizations such as Japan Focus and that many others are not experts on Comfort Women history.

Why all the energy to shut down other academics?  As with most issues, what screaming individuals want is to push their agenda and silence the other side.  Here, they wish to silence the fact that the Japanese Army did not kidnap 200,000 Korean women, and that brokers/agents (many were Korean), as well as economic and cultural factors (e.g., poor Korean parents offered their daughters to pay off debts), had as much, or more, culpability.  Their mission seems to be to bash Japan, rather than support accurate historical analyses that present events in the context of broader history.  It should be pointed out that one of the History Department's faculty members is Korean.

To shed light on this misunderstood topic, Ms. Mariko Collins, lecturer of Japanese language at CWU, had organized an open discussion with noted experts on the topic, such as Dr. Koichi Mera, former professor having researched for over two decades, and internet conferencing with Fulbright Scholar Jason Morgan, in Japan, supported by Dr. Ikuhiko Hata, former visiting professor at Princeton whose study spans 40 years. 

Opposition at CWU countered by arranging their own program, including a propaganda movie replete with unsubstantiated claims.  Opponents used the time-tested smear of comparing Ms. Collins' side to Hitler and deniers of the Holocaust, to squash dialog and curb investigation of the facts. 

How was the audience further manipulated?  A Chinese exchange group was bussed in and protested outside the room.  Worse, some attendees who came see the Japanese viewpoint were deceived by the CWU staff:  A church group that came from Seattle to watch Ms. Collins' presentation was intercepted and misinformed that it would not start until 7 pm (it actually started at 5 pm), told to wait, and were later herded into the Mark Auslander/Brian Carroll production. 

Academic principles of integrity and objectiveness demand that all viewpoints be examined.  The clear agitprop and fascist-like group manipulation, creation of a hostile environment, and, in some cases, outright deception by certain CWU staff is a travesty. 

For this, the CWU History Department et al. earned a failing grade in history.

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