I spend a lot of time on the Internet trying to find crazy people. I get a sick thrill reading their ramblings and trying to understand where they are coming from. I feel it’s my duty as a writer on 8Asians to “research” these sites so that you don’t have to.
So last week I decided to look for websites that argued the Japanese American concentration camps during World War II was some kind of government conspiracy or an outright fabrication. I figured that if there are Holocaust deniers there has to be people who believe that the camps that held Japanese Americans never existed. I wanted to call these sites out and at the same time educate people about the camps.
The thing is, I couldn’t find a single site that claimed the camps didn’t exist. Not one. I even looked on Yahoo! Answers and Google Answers and couldn’t find anything. (This is not to say that there weren’t people out there that argued that the camps were justified, there were lots of ignorant people who argued that – but that’s a different article.) The fact that I couldn’t find a site surprised me. I mean, there are websites devoted to how Asians are actually aliens from outer space and on Yahoo! Answers there are questions asking whether Asians can fly.
Does this mean there is a general consensus that the Japanese American camps existed? Or does this simply mean that most people don’t know that they even existed so there has been no movement to pretend they didn’t. I sincerely hope it’s the latter and not the former.
Unfortunately, I fear that the lack of a conspiracy movement really means that most people don’t know it even happened. Why do I think this? Because I have my father’s camp prison number tattooed on my forearm and I’m constantly amazed that when I tell people what it is, they respond by telling me they didn’t know it happened but will “look into it.”
In the off chance that you – the reader – are on the fence about this, let me put your mind to rest: The camps existed. There should be no argument about it. The government even apologized about it – albeit almost 50 years later.
Here are some factoids about the camps that more people need to know:
- Two-thirds of the 120,000 Japanese Americans illegally incarcerated during World War II were actually American citizens and about a third were children. (It should be noted that the number of American citizens would most likely be higher if issei (or first generation) were allowed to become citizens.)
- Most families spent about three years in the camps and the total property loss of Japanese American (before entering camp) is estimated at $1.3 billion (calculated in 1983 dollars).
- No Japanese American was ever convicted of committing espionage against the United States.
- There are government documents admitting that the incarceration of Japanese Americans was not based on a “military necessity” but instead on racism.
You can also visit some (most) of the actual sites. Manzanar (in Central California) has an amazing interpretive center. and there’s a new interpretive center at Heart Mountain, Wyoming. Or if you’re in Los Angeles you can always check out the Japanese American National Museum. Be sure to say hello to me when you visit!
This should be the end of the article but while I was doing my research, I did find one interesting conspiracy that I hadn’t known about. Apparently, there are conspiracists who believe that FEMA has built camps to house American citizens. According to this website:
There over 800 prison camps in the United States, all fully operational and ready to receive prisoners. They are all staffed and even surrounded by full-time guards, but they are all empty. These camps are to be operated by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) should Martial Law need to be implemented in the United States and all it would take is a presidential signature on a proclamation and the attorney general’s signature on a warrant to which a list of names is attached.
Like most conspiracies, this too is false. There’s a great article in Popular Mechanics debunking this. But what interests me most about this particular conspiracy is this: Many of the websites mention the places Japanese Americans were incarcerated during WWII as (possible) locations for the current FEMA concentration camps. I guess if they “worked” 70 years ago they would “work” again today.
In the end, I’m a little disappointed there wasn’t one nutjob out there who cared enough to create a website arguing the Japanese Americans were NOT incarcerated in camps during World War II. Then I could at least be self-righteously angry at somebody. Right now I’m just depressed that people don’t know enough (or care enough) about them to create elaborate fictions.