In an effort to make up for my slack-blogging ways, I present the following:
Iva Toguri D’Aquino died Tuesday in Chicago at the age of 90. So what, you say?
She called herself ‘Ann’ or ‘Orphan Ann’, but Mrs. D’Aquino was better known as one of the incarnations of ‘Tokyo Rose’, the Japanese radio announcer during WWII who broadcast messages intended to demoralize American troops in the Pacific, primarily related to the unfaithfulness of spouses and the like. ‘Tokyo Rose’, although having a negative reputation, was actually looked upon as a humorous figure by the troops, and was actually (quite sarcastically) given an award by the U.S. military for her entertainment value.
She was the only such Japanese announcer who was an American citizen, and one of approximately 30 individuals convicted of treason in the history of the United States at the time of her 1948 conviction. Interestingly, one of the others was known as ‘Axis Sally’, who performed the same ‘service’ on behalf of Nazi Germany. Mrs. D’Aquino served 6 1/2 years of a 10-year sentence, and resumed her life in Chicago, operating a gift shop.
The downside to having read this in the Times is that now I have that stupid song from the ’80s stuck in my head. I may have to kill myself – yet another victim of Japanese propaganda, 60 years after the fact.
Another figure that comes to mind was a male announcer, known to the British as ‘Lord Haw-Haw’, who also broadcast propaganda for the Nazis.
Reading the initial article, I was somehow struck that, despite our knowing the name ‘Tokyo Rose’, and her depiction through radio broadcasts in films set in that time period, we don’t give much thought to those in the broadcast industry who were engaged in blatant propaganda-mongering. Or those that are. Tokyo Rose is alive and well, only now she’s ‘Washington Anne’.
Like the American troops in the Pacific, I am told daily how much danger I am in, and I am bombarded by foreign broadcasts that twist truth and exploit psychological weaknesses in populations that are vulnerable and kept at a heightened state of fearfulness. So, the enemy seduces the weak and impressionable over to their side, where beer makes men more virile and women more beautiful, where eating a meat-like substance on a stale bun is the height of patriotism, and where ‘Under God’ is starting to refer just to his thumb.
Democracy grows and thrives on debate and the free exchange of ideas, yet academics whose views are unpalatable may soon find themselves at risk of losing tenure, or worse. I started this rant with no particular goal in mind, but as I wote (as sometimes happens), an idea finally crystallized. The history books were wrong on one very important point. Sure, Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan and Fascist Italy were the nominal losers of the war, the defeated Axis powers immortalized in song and story. Those countries, as diabolical and frankly inhuman as they were, did lose.
But if you look closely at the patterns, the interplay, the forms of ‘Democracy’ that have taken hold, it’s easy to see:
The Fascists didn’t lose the war, they won. Now, they’re just consolidating.