Friday, November 28, 2014

Trading In Hate

NEW YORK – The massacre in Norway in July 2011 and the recent attack on a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, were the work of right-wing extremists who sought to remake the world in their neo-Nazi image. Likewise, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, were the work of Islamist extremists who view other religions and cultures as a threat. But it would be simplistic to believe that our leaders do not add fuel to the fire of hatred, even if their chauvinism takes a more “civilized” form.

Just ask the Japanese, who were continually denounced in the 1980’s as wicked traders. Or consider how the unceasing refrain against outsourcing nowadays has demonized India.

This is not new. Japan’s heavy burden of atrocities during World War II effectively erased from America’s popular memory the Immigration Act of 1924 and other federal legislation aimed at excluding the Japanese and the Chinese from the United States, as well as racist state legislation, such as California’s 1913 Alien Land Act. With the war’s outbreak, Americans of Japanese origin were expropriated and herded into concentration camps. California Attorney General Earl Warren championed the measures – the same Earl Warren, who, a decade later, as Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, would oversee the rejection of the separate-but-equal doctrine at the heart of America’s segregation of its black citizens.

The anti-Japanese hysteria of the 1980’s fell on fertile ground. Many in the US feared that, just as the nineteenth century had been British and the twentieth century had been American, the twenty-first century would be Japanese. But, unlike the British or the Americans, the Japanese allegedly were gaining ground in nefarious ways, exporting aggressively to the US and unfairly excluding US exports from their domestic market.

Virtually every Japanese policy was interpreted in the worst possible light. The propaganda was bipartisan in the US, and, with few noteworthy exceptions, was widely disseminated by the country’s uncritical and pseudo-patriotic media. I recall the Nobel laureate Paul Samuelson – alongside John Maynard Keynes, arguably the greatest economist of his time – remarking that anti-Japanese propaganda had gone so far that Japan’s critics would argue that the Japanese bow in greeting Westerners to make it easier to cut them off at the knees.

The effect, particularly given a long history of anti-Japanese sentiment, was a predictable wave of racist violence, including the destruction of Japanese cars. The beating death of Vincent Chin, a Chinese-American who was mistaken for a Japanese, also resonated historically, recalling a pseudo-scientific article on how to distinguish the Chinese from the Japanese that Life magazine published in December 1941.

The Indian situation in the US today is different; there is no baggage of unpleasant memories on which prejudice and violence can draw. Yet, like a desert cactus, hate can thrive on very little.

Unfortunately, US President Barack Obama’s administration has continually harped on outsourcing to India as a cause of American job losses. Similarly, Senator Charles Schumer of New York has indulged in Japan-bashing, China-bashing, and India-bashing – a singular record of truculence and economic illiteracy – while Senator Barbara Boxer of California attacked her most recent electoral opponent, Carly Fiorina, for eliminating 30,000 jobs at Hewlett Packard during her stewardship of the company. In fact, in a highly competitive world, Hewlett-Packard managed to save 150,000 jobs by sacrificing those 30,000.

In the current presidential election campaign, the Democratic Party is attacking Obama’s Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, on the same specious grounds, with a complacent media acquiescing in the Democrats’ de facto India-baiting.

The net result has been to fuel resentment against India that spills over into occasional violence. Groups calling themselves “dot-busters” have attacked Indian women. When I have written in favor of freer trade and liberal immigration, I have been denounced as a “curry nigger.”

Nor has the Obama administration helped matters by shifting the blame for the failure of the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations onto India. Outside the US, it is well known that Obama himself pulled the plug on Doha. The notion that “we are open and others are closed,” a cherished belief of US politicians and media – and an article of faith with the current administration – also feeds the notion that countries like India are wicked traders, much like the Japanese in the 1980’s.

Much of the world expected more elevated behavior from Obama. Unfortunately, it has gotten a much lower standard than it anticipated.

Read more from our "The World According to Obama" Focal Point.

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    1. CommentedAvinash Mascarenhas

      Anders Behring Breivik is not a neo nazi nor he is a christian bigot. Read the manifesto before jumping to conclusions.

    2. CommentedGary Marshall

      The Nazis were socialists, big, squandering, government socialists. Would you get it right?

      The fellow who killed those people in a theater was not a right wing extremist.

      The Japanese internment was carried out by Democrats, hardly right wing extremists. The Democrats were the party of the slavers.


        CommentedThomas Carlucci-Davies

        1. The author was not commenting on Nazi fiscal policy but rather on their racial politics and use of propaganda to disseminate a politically expedient stereotype; so would you please get it right?

        2. There was no mention of the recent theatre killings in the article.

        3. The article places emphasis on the bi-partisan nature of such xenophobic rhetoric and policies in the past and more recently, thus to specify a particular party in your criticism is to miss the point.

        Thanks for the unadulterated idiocy Mr. Marshall, please read articles before publishing analysis in future.


    3. CommentedMark Pitts

      The author fails to mention another form of prejudice against the developing Third World - the endless opposition to future economic growth. It is easy for us in the developed world who have opportunities to say "no more growth," but it condemns billions in the Third World to hopelessness.

    4. CommentedThomas Haynie

      I don ‘t know that I disagree with Obama’s move on DOHA. Given work by Ha June Chang and my own study into Libertarian ideals I think the aggressive pursuit of totally free trade could stand a rethink. Admittedly international trade is not my area of expertise but I remember walking away from my International Trade class thinking “Ok, so in a Petri dish between 2-3 countries with 3-4 items free trade works wonderfully. The world does not operate in a Petri dish”. I also left with a sense that the only thing better than free trade was strategic trade with free trade partners.

      Looking at international debt and trade deficits as I recall the lower incidence of debt tended to fall to the countries that maintained a positive net trade balance, and many of them were somewhat protectionist in their policy. This seems to mesh well with the underlying theme of Ha June Chang’s “Bad Samaritans”, that free trade was only embraced when it made sense for the large countries that push it now. Otherwise free trade can carry some negative baggage for countries, especially developing countries. So I’m unconvinced that free trade is the answer to all our ills. Game theory predicts a breakdown of trade given mercantilistics changes in policy but again . . . The world does not operate in Petri dishes.

      The hate needs to stop. In the U.S. particularly you have leaders actively encouraging it. Combating it is difficult because hate feels good. It is all emotional and not the least bit cerebral. How does one combat this? Worse this can feed its self with more self generated propaganda and keep growing till it permeates into broader spectrums of a society.

    5. CommentedPieter Keesen

      I do not believe we can blame mainstream politicians for the crimes of extremists at the fringes. Fair enough, a more cosmopolitan demeanor could be expected form the intellectual elite, of which Obama is a benign icon. It is indeed hypocritical for democratic and socialist parties in Europe to try and "protect" the less endowed and the vulnerable to globalization, at the expense of industrial development in developing countries.
      Yet I think western governments are not ambigious about an all out renouncement of racial and political violence, certainly more so as say China or Indian for that matter.
      The real danger lays in the troubling fact of extremist parties who inspire facist elements, and make for racism to be an accapted social phenomena. Here in Holland we face a politician called Wilders who runs on a platform of bigotry. He is truly a politician who feeds the hatred and fear of dimwitted and vulnerable individuals crazy enough to kill in the name of some perverse abstraction. In France there is Le Pen,na nationalist of the most crude kind. Austria and Switserland have seen the risen of neo-nazi parties. In this light, Obama is not to blame for feeding hate, be it perhaps that he does try to protect US interest in not always the most enlightened fashion.

        CommentedZsolt Hermann

        I agree with Pieter Keesen, we cannot blame the politicians for this, neither can we blame the extremists.
        We are simply driven by our inherent human nature that wants to feel superior, unique, always gaining fulfillment at the expense of somebody else.
        Politicians, extremist could not achieve anything on their own, if they could not easily mobilize the masses who also have the same tendencies, albeit not obvious at first sight.
        How could Hitler mobilize one of the most intelligent, cultured country on the planet to commit the well know atrocities? He did not have to force them to follow him.
        How could Yugoslavia blow up suddenly with a gentle push from extremist leaders, when the same people lived together in families, played in the same sports teams, and had a country that had everything?
        Each nation has their own shameful story through history when they oppressed or violated others without exception.
        How is it logical that every small nation, culture opted for independence since the fall of communism when at the same time today they live a much more difficult life, but they can say they are "independent"?
        There exists this underlying tendency in each of us to separate from others, grab as much as possible for ourselves, and do whatever it takes to feel superior to others. Human self obsession and hate has no boundaries.
        The only "problem" is that by today we evolved into such a global, interconnected system that we have become fully dependent on each other.
        These connections are unbreakable, we have become a single "organism".
        If we want to build a sustainable future, if we want to survive, we have to turn these individual cancer cells into a healthy, harmonious body.
        Nature, the system we exist in is not asking favors, or pleads repeatedly. We are facing unbending natural laws here, and if we want to continue with evolution we have to adapt.

    6. CommentedCarlos Rodriguez

      I love curry! I can't believe someone would call you that. What an uncultured red neck, hick, hill-billy: not cool.

      Indians have, if anything, enriched our culture in North America through BOTH immigration AND trade. Gotta love them for that.