Harvard Prof. Ramseyer criticized for poorly-researched revisionist articles on Japan’s WWII “Comfort Women” sexual slavery. Actually, Ramseyer’s shoddy and intemperate research is within character, based on my experience.

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Hi Blog. Making waves in Japan Studies recently is Harvard Prof. J. Mark Ramseyer’s recent academic publication in the March 2021 issue of the International Review of Law and Economics on Japan’s WWII “Comfort Women” sexual slavery. He claims, in a companion article in right-wing Sankei media group’s Japan Forward, “pure fiction”.  Quote:  “But the claims about enslaved Korean comfort women are historically untrue. The Japanese army did not dragoon Korean women to work in its brothels. It did not use Korean women as sex slaves. The claims to the contrary are simply ー factually ー false.”

While this issue is a contentious one (and my standpoint on it is visible in the way I phrased it), I will leave it up to the experts to opine on what’s wrong with Ramseyer’s claims, his extremely flawed research, and its implications for the field in general. The Asia-Pacific Journal–Japan Focus is a good place to start. Quoting Prof. Dudden, with my comments after that:

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“Four Letters – edited by Alexis Dudden”

https://apjjf.org/2021/5/ToC2.html

In December 2020, Harvard Law School Professor J. Mark Ramseyer circulated his new article “Contracting for Sex in the Pacific War” that was accepted for publication in the March 2021 issue of the International Review of Law and Economics. In January 2021, Ramseyer subsequently published an op-ed in Japan Forward describing the “comfort-women-sex-slave-story” as “pure fiction.” In both publications, Ramseyer ignored the extensive literature by Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Anglophone authors, and the documentary record detailing the Japanese military’s wartime system of military sexual slavery.

An Internet search reveals the international uproar that has ensued in recent weeks, and this Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus special issue publishes an initial four essays to rebut the Ramseyer article. The authors document serious violations of scholarly standards and methods that strike at the heart of academic integrity.

The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus holds academic freedom as a core value. We also prize adherence to truth and social justice. – Alexis Dudden

  1. The ‘Comfort Women’ Issue, Freedom of Speech, and Academic Integrity: A Study Aid
    – Tessa Morris-Suzuki
  2. Letter by Concerned Scholars Regarding J. Mark Ramseyer, “Contracting for Sex in the Pacific War
    – Amy Stanley, Hannah Shepherd, Sayaka Chatani, David Ambaras, Chelsea Szendi Schieder
  3. Statement – Andrew Gordon and Carter Eckert
  4. The Abuse of History: A Brief Response to J. Mark Ramseyer’s ‘Contracting for Sex’
    – Alexis Dudden

UPDATE:  FEB 25, 2021: According to the Yonhap News Agency, Ramseyer has done it again in a separate new academic paper, claiming that the Ethnic Koreans massacred during the Japan 1923 Kanto Earthquake were in fact marauding gangs who “torched buildings, planted bombs, poisoned water supplies” and murdered and raped people.

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Harvard professor Ramseyer to revise paper on 1923 massacre of Koreans in Japan: Cambridge handbook editor
Yonhap News Agency, All News February 20, 2021
By Song Sang-ho
https://en.yna.co.kr/view/AEN20210220002400325 

or
http://www.debito.org/?p=16435&cpage=1#comment-1800438

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COMMENT:  Prof. Morris-Suzuki’s Study Aid is very clear and that is where you should start.

Instead, what I CAN talk about is how J. Mark Ramseyer and I have butted heads (in a sense) in the past. When scholar Ivan P. Hall released his landmark book “Cartels of the Mind” in 1997, exposing Japan’s “intellectual closed shops” in the fields of academic faculty (“Academic Apartheid“), legal practices, journalism, and higher education in general, it sent shockwaves throughout US-Japan Relations (and really launched my activism in earnest).  You can read all about the issues raised as pertain to unequal treatment of Japan’s NJ academics here.

Somehow, the reputable Journal of Japanese Studies published a hatchet-job review (including typos) by Prof. Ramseyer in 1999 (fresh from getting his new job with tenure at Harvard Law) that was dismissive, snarky, and even poorly researched (self-acknowledging that his impressions are “haphazard”; one source is a sample size of one from a Christmas card!).  According to Debito.org’s Archives from 1999, Ramseyer wrote (as reproduced on the Dead Fukuzawa Society, an internet listserv of the time):

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JOURNAL OF JAPANESE STUDIES
VOL 25, NO 2, SUMMER 1999, pp 365-8

(retyped from subscription copy received three days ago)

_Cartels of the Mind: Japan’s Intellectual Closed Shop_. By Ivan P. Hall.
W.W. Norton, New York, 1998. 208 pages. $25.00.

Reviewed by
J. MARK RAMSEYER
Harvard University

Catchy title, this “cartels of the mind.”

[Short sentence deleted to avoid future claims of copyright infringement. You’ll see why later.]

Japanese manage to ward off, it seems to imply, all thoughts that are foreign and all sentiments alien. Not only do they close their markets to Harleys and Napa Chardonnay, they close their minds to American ideas themselves. Most of us who read this journal regularly can probably add our own anecdotes: about economics departments mired in 1920’s-vintage Marxism; about law departments staffed with 30 professors sporting nearly identical educational vitae; about history departments wedded to quaint chronological approaches; about anthropology departments–well, what about anthropology departments?

We could go on endlessly, of course, but whom are we kidding? More insular than American intellectuals? Shall we compare the number of translated books in Japanese and American bookstores? Or the number of professors fluent in a foreign language? What about the university syllabi with foreign-language materials? Japanese intellectuals may be insular to be sure, but at least on that score we can match them measure for measure.

Catchy title and occasional grand claims notwithstanding, this book is not about “cartels of the mind” anyway. Despite its accusations of cultural and nationalistic parochialism, it is a book about (in truth, a polemic against) the putative trade barriers towards foreigners in a few relatively high-IQ service industries. Thus, chapter 1 explores the plight of foreign lawyers in Japan, chapter 2 examines the barriers foreign correspondents face, chapter 3 deals with foreign professors, and chapter 4 discusses foreign researchers and students and access to scientific research.

On the foreign lawyers dispute (chap. 1), Hall is accurate enough. Unfortunately for his grander claims, the basic barrier is not there to exclude foreign competitors at all (as Hall himself acknowledges, p. 20). It is there to exclude all competitors–but primarily domestic ones: it is the bar-exam equivalent that flunks all but one to four per cent of all would-be Japanese lawyers. For most of the postwar period, foreign lawyers have been a trivial sideshow, if even that. Never mind, implies Hall. Only if (among other things) Japan lets Wall Street lawyers circumvent that exam can we “hope to have a genuinely open and effective dialogue with the Japanese people” (p. 18). It is, I confess, the first time I have heard us lawyers accused of facilitating “open and effective dialogue.”

Hall’s complaints on behalf of foreign correspondents (chap. 2) mostly concern access to press briefings. In Japan, foreign correspondents regularly find themselves barred from briefings. Hall suggests that this has something to do with their being foreign. As in the legal services market, however, foreign competitors are not the only ones prejudiced. Instead, the reporters for the weekly and monthly magazines routinely find themselves in just the same spot (again as Hall rightly acknowledges, p. 50).

Hall could not plausibly argue that Japanese universities discriminate against foreign researchers or students–and to his credit he does not much try. Instead, he primarily complains about differential access to scientific information (chapter 4) and bases his complaints on two facts. First, far more Japanese students and researchers come to U.S. universities than Americans go to Japanese universities. Second, Japanese scientific research disproportionately occurs in coroporate laboratories, while more U.S. research occurs in universities. As corporate research is necessarily more secretive everywhere, U.S. research is necessarily more open than Japanese research.

True enough, one might respond, but so what? For most of the century and maybe still, U.S. science has outpaced Japanese science (as Hall notes, p. 132). Consequently, one would not expect the bilateral flow of researchers to be anything but lopsided. Furthermore, universities in the United States may be better funded (relative to corporate labs) than in Japan, but no one (least of all Hall) has shown that this is a good thing. Should scientists feed at the public trough? Almost ot a T we academics praise government subsidies to universities. But given our self-interest one should wonder. Dairy farmers and undertakers can argue passionately that subsidies to cows and morturaries promote the common weal too.

What will most interest JJS readers are Hall’s claims about foreign professors (chap. 3): put simply, that Japanese schools treat foreign teaching staff abysmally. What triggered this attack, it seems, was a 1992 memorandum from the Ministry of Education urging national universities to fire their senior-most foreign lecturers. These foreigners earned higher salaries than their tenured Japanese professorial counterparts (p. 92), and the ministry wanted them replaced with younger (and therefore cheaper) instructors. At about the same time Hall’s private university refused to renew his year-to-year contract, and when it did he sued.

Hall calls this all “academic apartheid” (chap. 3), and to justify the charge compares foreign instructors to tenured Japanese professors. What he never explains is why that is the comparison that matters. Hall might have compared–but did not–the foreigners to the Japanese adjuncts who similarly work on a year-to-year basis. At least some of the law faculties I know, they teach a significant portion of the curriculum. The Ministry of Education did not urge universities to fire them, to be sure, but probably because they collected a pittance.

Hall might also have compared the foreigner [sic] instructors in Japan to the army of lecturers teaching undergraduates. Similarly hired on temporary terms, they work for miserly pay and often collect no benefits. Dave teaches at “Freeway U,” explained the wife of a Los Angeles friend of mine on a recent Christmas card. For several years now, my friend Dave has cobbled together part-time pay from a number of southern California universities to make ends meet. At least when Hall sued his Japanese university, it paid him a full year’s salary to settle (p.35). Had my friend sued one of his schools for not renewing a year-to-year contract, the university general counsel would probably have told him to go ahead and make his (or her) day.

Or Hall might have compared the foreigners in Japan to the Japanese who teach language courses in American universities. After all, many (if not most) Americans teaching in Japanese universities probably teach U.S.-related courses–most commonly English. Although foreign-language professors in the United States often do have tenure, my impression (haphazard to be sure) is that research universities now increasingly hire their lower-level language instructors on year-to-year contracts.

But no, not Hall. He would compare the foreign instructors discharged by the Japanese universities to their tenured Japanese professional peers. Yet the tenured professors in Japan are the stars: exceptions notwithstanding, they are the men and women with the best qualifications. Alas, Hall gives us no systematic data showing that the tenured Japanese and the discharged foreigners had comparable talents or qualifications. The might have been comparable, or might not. Hall simply does not provide the evidence. Before we call the firings “academic apartheid,” however, we need to know whether the universities treated the foreign instructors worse than their Japanese counterparts–and we need to make that judgment on a systematic basis after *holding constant* [emphasis in original] teaching ability, scientific publications, and other indices of IQ, effort, and pedagogic and reasearch effectiveness.

Hall gives us none of that information. Instead, he gives us only anecdotes. At that level, this degenerates into a my-anecdote’s-better-than-your-anecdote free-for-all. Most of us know several talented U.S. scholars at fine Japanese universities who have few if any complaints. Most of us could also name some Americans at Japanese schools who are not as talented as most of their Japanese peers. If the Ministry of Education urged those universities to fire the latter, it might be mean–but it would hardly be ethnic discrimination.

The problem (to be utterly tactless about it about it all) is that Hall never shows us whether (as a group) the discharged foreign scholars were as good as their tenured Japanese counterparts. Suppose, hypothetically, that the discharged foreigners were generally not as good as the tenured Japanese, that the foreign salaries were higher than the Japanese salaries, and that the existing foreigners could be replaced with younger, cheaper foreigners who could teach the material as effectively. If all this were true, then their termination was not “apartheid.” It may have been harsh. It may have been cruel. And many of us may find the use of a crude proxy such as citizenship an offensive way to sort teachers. But all that said, their termination would also have been prudent personnel management.

Seemingly anticiptaing [sic] reviews of this sort, Hall concludes by impliedly attacking the reviewers in advance. Quoting another observer, he posits a “strange propensity among American Japanologists to feel one-sidedly positive about Japan… [because] if you’re a foreigner who is too critiical about Japan, your sources of information, funding, or friends dry up” (p. 169). Some of us who sometimes defend Japan, it seems, do so simply to survive. “To perform his or her own work effectively,” claims Hall, “the typical foreign Japanologist has to join and play the game by Japanese rules that eschew ‘unacceptable’ areas or degrees of criticism” (p. 169). And those of us who are not disingenuous, apparently, are perhaps just to insulated to know better: the Japanese treat us well because “we enjoy the independent leverage of a strong institutional affiliation” (p. 169), and that treatment blinds us to the plight of our less fortunate countrymen.

Maybe. Lord knows Japan (and especially the Ministry of Education) can be insular and parochial. But that some Japanese are sometimes xenophobic does not mean every case of bad treatment against a foreigner reflects xenophobia–any more than a case of rudeness in a U.S. restaurant against an African-American refects racism. Just as U.S. waitresses can ignore hungry white professors, Japanese organizations can shaft Japanese professionals too. Hall shows us several sets of foreigners who may have been treated rottenly in Japan. Yet many Japanese professionals are treated rottenly as well, and the foreigners Hall cites may or may not have been equal to their Japanese colleagues. As a result, Hall never really shows us that the foreigners were treated that way *because* [emphasis in original] they were foreign.

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J. MARK RAMSEYER is the Mitsubishi Professor of Japanese Legal Studies at Harvard University. He is coauthor of _Japanese Law_ (Chicago, 1998) and author of _Odd Markets in Japanese History_ (Cambridge, 1996). He is currently working on empirical studies of judicial independence in Japan. (Courtesy JJS Notes on Contributors)


I responded to this piece back then (under my former name at the time) on DFS as follows:

Dave Aldwinckle:  I talked to Dr Hall about this two nights ago, and we agree that for an academic journal this piece shows a surprising lack of academic tone, “systematic data”, or even sufficient substantiation (citing “law faculties I know” without giving names, the reviewer’s own “haphazard” impressions, Christmas cards from “Dave”?). This will not do when addressing an issue this hot. Hence it reads like a screed, as if the reviewer set out do a hatchet job on this book, and even in places deliberately distorts the point.

One example of this is where Professor Ramseyer writes:

===========================
Hall calls this all “academic apartheid” (chap. 3), and to justify the charge compares foreign instructors to tenured Japanese professors. What he never explains is why that is the comparison that matters. Hall might have compared–but did not–the foreigners to the Japanese adjuncts who similarly work on a year-to-year basis. At least some of the law faculties I know, they teach a significant portion of the curriculum. The Ministry of Education did not urge universities to fire them, to be sure, but probably because they collected a pittance.
===========================

The comparison Dr Hall makes is in fact approprate. One must compare *full-time* (joukin) foreign faculty to *full-time* (joukin) Japanese faculty. This is because full-time foreigners have been, and even today generally still are, hired effectively as part-timers, with contracts exclusively designed and reserved for foreigners in both function and title: “gaikokujin kyoushi” and “gaikokujin kyouin” by definition do not apply to Japanese, and these titles offer demonstrably inferior working conditions. On the other hand, full-time Japanese faculty have been, and even today almost always still are, hired from day one with tenure, i.e. without contracts. Professor Ramseyer’s suggestion that full-time foreigners be compared to, say, adjunct part-time (hijoukin) Japanese (who, by definition, are on contract as they are term-limited) is inappropriate, not to mention offensive, as it buys completely into the assumption that foreign academics are, or ought to be, temporary. Dr Hall made this distinction between part- and full-time conditions quite plain in his book, and for a reviewer to leave that so egregiously unclear, even unmentioned, in an academic journal suggests to me at least sloppy and untoward research, at worst subterfuge.

What really can be called a low blow is the conclusion to that paragraph about “pittance”s. The reviewer makes it sound as though the dismissed foreigners, because they were receiving a higher wage than their tenured Japanese counterparts (not always true–because contracted foreigners often receive no bonus, cutting their salaries per annum by a third), had it coming. Because the foreigner dared to earn a comparable wage that would let them buy a home, raise a family, and enjoy the job security that other full-time Japanese academics do and should enjoy, the Ministry and the universities apparently are “hypothetically” justified in “prudent personnel management”. I would like to see Professor Ramseyer come over here and try to make a living, like my contracted and frequently-dismissed foreign academic friends do, under these conditions.

For the reviewer to conclude that Dr Hall “never really shows us that the foreigners were treated that way *because* they were foreign” reminds me of students I have to nudge when they doze in class. Hall in fact makes a very lucid critique that other reviewers have had no trouble understanding (for a second opinion, see Richard Samuels’ review in The Far Eastern Economic Review, March 12, 1998, reprinted in JALT’s Journal of Professional Issues and viewable at http://www.debito.org/PALE898.html#ivanreview). For Professor Ramseyer to assert in essence that, say, the titles “gaikokujin kyoushi/kyouin” have never indicated a different job status by nationality is just horribly wrong.

One other point that must be addressed is the insinuation about the lack of qualification in foreign academics, where for hypothetical administrative mental calculus the reviewer assumes that “the discharged foreigners were generally not as good as the tenured Japanese”. This is an odious presumption. For example, JALT, Japan’s foremost organization of language teachers, has just lost her leading presidential candidate, Dr Jill Robbins. She has a PhD in Applied Linguistics from Georgetown University (and more–see The Language Teacher, Sept 1999, p.50), which made her as qualified, if not more, than the tenured Japanese professors who apparently are, in Professor Ramseyer’s words, “the stars”. Nevertheless, Dr Robbins told me she had her contract terminated two weeks ago, “on flimsy grounds”, and consequently will have to leave JALT and Japan entirely. This may be dismissed by Professor Ramseyer as another one of these “anecdotes”, but enough anecdotes eventually complete a pattern. For she is not an isolated case. Visit any academic conference in Japan and you will find graduates of some of the world’s foremost overseas universities. A simple question to a roomful of those foreign academics, about having frequent dismissal experiences due to contracts, will produce a show of hands in the majority.

If this still not credible, I submit the following web pages (most of which have been documented after Dr. Hall’s seminal work) as further substantiation of the situation over here:

1) Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT)’s publication The PALE Journal of Professional Issues, devoted to documenting cases of academic discrimination. All issues since 1997 are up at:
http://www.debito.org/PALEJournals.html

2) On the Gwen Gallagher/Asahikawa Daigaku case (mentioned in Dr. Hall’s book)
http://www.debito.org/activistspage.html#ninkiseigallagher
and
http://www.debito.org/PALE898.html

3) List of Japanese universities which discriminate by nationality in job hiring status, with full substantiation:
http://www.www.debito.org/blacklist.html

4) On the Prefectural University of Kumamoto (two special issues, where the university created an unprecedently low job status for foreign academics in Japan–on the level of custodial staff)
http://www.debito.org/PALE1298.html
and, more insightfully,
http://www.debito.org/PALE499.html

5) On the Timothy J. Korst case at the University of the Ryukyus
http://www.debito.org/PALE498korst.html

6) Also two germane articles on working conditions in JALT’s “The Language Teacher” magazine:
a) Aldwinckle, “Ten Plus Questions for Your Next University Employer”, July, 1999
b) Fox, Shiozawa, and Aldwinckle, “A New System of University Tenure: Remedy or Disease?”, August, 1999.

The final point I would like to make is that Professor Ramseyer should get out more. If he thinks that America and Japan can be matched “measure for measure” in their degree of insularity, he ought to read the article, excerpted below, from the Economist (London) weekly newsmagazine, issue dated 21 August 1999, which talks about the huge number of foreign researchers in American academia. Can one seriously make a case that foreign academics would reach numbers and levels like these in America if they didn’t have job security? More importantly, does Japan even remotely have an up-or-out system for foreigners–the only full-timers excluded from receiving tenure at entry level in Japan–to receive tenure? And has America ever had a Ministry of Education effectively create a nationwide policy for their prestigious institutions to fire their academics merely because they are foreign and too well-paid? None of these factors hold in America (or any other OECD country, for that matter), and none should be so easily dismissed by any academic who has done any substantial research, either about or in the Japanese university system, especially in a review of a book that very seriously tries to address decades of institutionalized discrimination.

Dave Aldwinckle
Sapporo

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THE ECONOMIST NEWSMAGAZINE
DATE 21-Aug-99

Imported brains
Alien scientists take over USA!

GIVE her your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to do post-docs and patent drugs galore; the wretched refuse of your teeming labs shall find funding on this golden shore. Since the 1970s, a lot of the immigrants coming to the United States have arrived with PhDs burning holes in their pockets. As a study published in this week’s Science magazine shows, America has incorporated this influx of talent so well that the top ranks of its scientific establishment are now replete with foreign-born workers.

Sharon Levin of the University of Missouri and Paula Stephan of Georgia State University took a look at more than 4,500 top-rate scientists and engineers who practise their craft in the United States. After checking how many of these had been born or educated abroad, they reckon that the most accomplished scientists in America are disproportionately foreign.

The two economists began by consulting the membership rolls of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering–America’s top scientific and technological clubs–for the past 20 years. They also included the authors of the papers and patents cited most frequently in scientific literature. Lastly, they culled lists of scientists from the boards of selected American biotechnology firms.

This dream team of researchers is one that befits a nation of immigrants. In almost all of the above categories, across almost all disciplines, the proportion of foreigners is greater than it should be considering their proportion of the scientific community as a whole. For instance, in 1980 only about a fifth of the scientists in America (those with doctorates, at any rate) had been born abroad. Over the subsequent decade, 60% of the American-based authors of the most-cited papers in the physical sciences were foreign-born, as were nearly 30% of the authors of the most-cited life-science papers. Almost a quarter of the founders or chairmen of the biotechnology companies that went public in the early 1990s also came originally from outside the country. (rest of article snipped)

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FINAL COMMENT FROM DEBITO:  I never heard a response from Ramseyer himself for his unprofessional review.  There was an online debate about this afterwards (on reviewer ethics and the proper way to do a review here), and JJS sent me (and DFS) a message saying that my reproducing Ramseyer’s article was a violation of copyright.  They even sent me a letter saying the same by snail mail.  Very thorough.  In other words, JJS didn’t address what Ramseyer did.  They went after what I did.

I didn’t take the article down.  And I didn’t renew my subscription to JJS.

It appears they remembered this event, for years later, when I submitted an article to JJS related to my doctoral research on Japan’s Embedded Racism back around 2013, I received a desk rejection and letter from scholar and editor Prof. Marie Anchordoguy with a refund of my application fee.  After similar results from other major US Japanese Studies journals (I did get published elsewhere), I concluded I had been blackballed.  This is how academics get their own back. Debito Arudou, Ph.D.

PS:  What would a good book review have looked like?  One that is factual in its criticisms and lacking in scorn and intemperance.  Citing an Economist book review, I argued:

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Dave Aldwinckle (1999):  I am not saying that critiques of CARTELS should not be countenanced. But it should be better done, especially given the background of the social critique in this case. When a work like CARTELS is politically-powerful enough to warrant reviewer blacklisting by the domestic Japanese mass-komi (hardly anyone has dared touch the Japanese translation), one gets the notion that people have it in for this book. Now it would seem that that phenomenon has leaked overseas into respectable academic journals. That should be questioned and perhaps revealed in the marketplace of ideas, not perpetuated and justified by irresponsible reviews. Just to say that a reviewer has no responsibility to provide data, only to point out flaws, does not excuse the reviewer from demonstrating that he or she has insights into the data as well.

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EXCERPTED FROM THE “MOREOVER” SECTION IN THE ECONOMIST NEWSMAGAZINE
DATE 9-Oct-99

Pius XII, the wartime pope, is the century’s most controversial pontiff. A new biography will further fan the flames

HITLER’S POPE : THE SECRET HISTORY OF PIUS XII. By John Cornwell. Viking;
430 pages; $29.95 and L20.00 UK

WHILE Jews were dying all over Nazi-occupied Europe, the man in the Vatican kept his silence. Why Pius XII chose to do so has never been properly explained, either by his critics or his defenders. Now those defenders, led by Pope John Paul II, are campaigning for his beatification and elevation to sainthood. John Cornwell’s book is meant to throw a spanner in the works.

Mr Cornwell did not set out to prosecute the pontiff; his earlier writings led the Vatican to believe he would be a safe pair of hands, and he was given unprecedented access to Vatican papers. Yet his campaign against Pius XII begins right on the cover. The provocative title, “Hitler’s Pope”, is one thing; the photograph quite another, though this has hardly been remarked on. It [published in original] shows Eugenio Pacelli, as he was then known, gliding down the steps of the presidential palace in Berlin, respectfully flanked by soldiers of the Wehrmacht. The dust-jacket gives the year as 1939; immediately the picture has a smell of complicity, of papal easiness in the company of brutes. Yet this picture is in fact from much earlier, as is evident, on closer inspection, from the age of the pope and the lack of Nazi insignia. It is 1927, and Pacelli, recently appointed papal nuncio in Munich, has just presented his credentials to President Hindenburg.

Mr Cornwell may not wittingly have made this mistake. Perhaps it was his picture researcher. Yet the same tendency to make exaggerated, even false, connections colours an otherwise fascinating book. This is dangerous, because the subject of the Catholic Church and the Holocaust–the burden of his study–is one that needs dispassionate handling. And it is a pity, because Mr Cornwell, a professional historian, thoughtful Catholic and vivid writer, has a solid case that he spoils by intemperance. In effect, he blames one man for events in which, though he played a major role, he could scarcely have exercised control.

Mr Cornwell says in the introduction that he could not help it. As his work went on he became progressively horrified, until he ended up “in a state of moral shock”. Intermittently through the book, he explodes in disgust at his subject or in appeals for Catholics to apologise for what happened to the Jews. It is with a sort of relish, in the end, that he describes Pius XII’s imperfectly embalmed body farting and eructating in its coffin, turning grey-green, the blackened nose at last falling off, as if finally reflecting the years of inveterate political corruption.

His first indictment is simply stated. As the Vatican’s secretary of state in the 1930s, Pacelli went to great lengths to negotiate a Concordat with Germany. Under the terms of the Concordat, finally struck with Hitler in 1933, the rights of the Catholic Church were to be preserved and respected. In return, the Catholic Centre Party, which held the balance of power in the Reichstag and had voted for the Enabling Act giving Hitler decree power, was “voluntarily” to disband itself.

This is a fair summary. But Mr Cornwell spoils it by greatly overmagnifying Pacelli’s role. By agreeing to the silencing of German Catholics, Mr Cornwell charges, Pacelli removed the only effective focus of German opposition to the Nazi regime and, eventually, to the policy of wholesale extermination of the Jews. There is something in this. Hitler wanted the Concordat because he needed the Catholic Church in Germany on his side and politically neutered; Pacelli wanted it to assert the rights of the Church, especially over episcopal appointments and religious education, which had been in jeopardy since Bismarck’s day. Both men were pleased with what they got, and believed they had won. Pacelli was doubtless impressed, as others were, with the Nazi regime’s orderliness, its stridency against communism and the new hope it was giving to Germans: its neo-paganism was awkward, but still to be preferred to the red tide to the east. Dealing with this regime was not in itself (to use papal language) an occasion of sin.

Yet Mr Cornwell thinks it left German Catholics unable to resist the increasing evil of the regime, which therefore triumphed. Certainly it silenced their party in the Reichstag. To claim it did more, though, is to make the astonishing assumption that German Catholics were completely unified and would have opposed Hitler en masse. Plainly, they did not. The country was one-third Catholic; many fell for Hitler’s speeches with their onslaughts on communists and Jews. Mr Cornwell himself notes that by 1939 a quarter of the SS were Catholic: not merely reluctant voters or followers-on, but thuggish enthusiasts.

Mr Cornwell’s second indictment is that, as the Jews were first victimised and then liquidated across German-occupied Europe, the pope said nothing. His predecessor, Pius XI, in his encyclical “Mit brennender Sorge” (With Burning Anxiety) of 1937, had condemned in the most general terms the excesses of the Nazi regime. Pius XII–perhaps seeing how much that mild rebuke had angered the Germans–did not even go as far as that.

Pius XII never condemned either Hitler or the Nazis by name. Even more strikingly, he never mentioned specifically the sufferings of the Jews, though he was perfectly aware of them and though many people, both clergy and lay diplomats, pleaded with him constantly to issue a public condemnation. In October 1943, the Jews were rounded up in Rome itself; the cattle trucks drove past St Peter’s, the tiny shivering hands of the incarcerated children hanging through the slats, so that the SS officers who had been drafted in could see the sights of the Eternal City. The pope, safe in St Peter’s, still said nothing at all.

How can this crime be explained? For it was a crime, whether of culpable omission or deliberate blindness. Popes assert a special authority on matters of right and wrong derived from God. Pacelli knew better than anyone the universal claims of the Church and its moral authority; his family had been Vatican lawyers for generations, and he himself had worked all his life to increase the influence of the Holy See. After the war, he mobilised his forces like an army to take on communism; prayers were said from one end of the world to the other for the conversion of Russia. Against evil dictators on the right, though, he seemed to have no weapons but subterfuge and silence.

Mr Cornwell explains this in two ways. First, Pacelli, an authoritarian himself, relished and respected the authoritarianism of Hitler. The book puts side by side pictures of the Fuhrer and the pope at rallies, reveling in the adulation of the faithful: an irresistible pairing, though scarcely a fair one. At the time of the negotiation of the Reich Concordat, Mr Cornwell portrays the two men as bride and fiance, with the bride (Pacelli) rather haplessly trying to hold her husband to the previously agreed terms. The other reason for his silence was not unconnected. Pacelli, Mr Cornwell insists, was an anti-Semite, not merely believing that the Jews should help themselves but sympathising, at a deep level, with their removal from the scene. As proof of this he cites an account written by Pacelli in 1919 of a left-wing uprising in Munich led by Max Levien, “Russian and a Jew. Pale, dirty, with drugged eyes, vulgar, repulsive, whining repeatedly that he was in a hurry and had more important things to do.”

This is the only direct evidence Mr Cornwell offers. It is not good enough; not merely because it was recorded from someone else’s first-hand observations, but because it is the standard, universal racism of those years, the sort of thing that T.S. Eliot and Graham Greene would write without a second thought. To detach remarks like this from the death-camps is now impossible; but in 1919, though despicable, they carried no such weight. Bolsheviks and socialists–many of them Jews–were seen by conservatives as a rootless threat to public order all over Europe. Pacelli doubtless also felt the anti-Judaism of his Church: a prejudice so routine and so long established that a lost encyclical “against” racism, drafted just before the war, continued to assert that the Jews had reaped “worldly and spiritual ruin” from the killing of Christ. Pacelli was an anti-Semite in that sense; there was scarcely a member of his Church who was not.

As the book proceeds, it is clear that partisanship–on either side–is too blunt a tool to be used for this story. Faced with perhaps the most evil regime the world has seen, many decent men behaved in ways that seem inexcusable in retrospect. Pacelli–one of these–evidently thought his first duty was to preserve and enhance the power of the Church, not to jeopardise it. He was aware that the Germans had reacted furiously to “Mit brennender Sorge”, mild as it was. The Catholics of Europe were his concern; the Jews were not, and it was probably unconscionable for him to intercede for them in public (though not, as some Jewish leaders have recognised, to encourage help for them in secret). Pacelli’s apparent excuse (he did not quite state it explicitly) was that he feared reprisals against Catholics if he condemned the Final Solution. This hardly exonerates him in modern eyes; but it would have been more than good enough for him.

(final two paragraphs snipped)

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REVIEW EXCERPT ENDS

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8 comments on “Harvard Prof. Ramseyer criticized for poorly-researched revisionist articles on Japan’s WWII “Comfort Women” sexual slavery. Actually, Ramseyer’s shoddy and intemperate research is within character, based on my experience.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    Thank you for sharing this. This is definitely the issue that is reflecting on current climate on free speech, journalism and academic research. Ramseyer’s book review–which I read few years back when I was still new to this blog — is exactly the kind of stuff a political operative/professional consultant-like tends to write. See, for example, a quack education consultant trashing down Dr. Diane Ravitch’s excellent book “Reign of Error”:

    https://www.edweek.org/education/opinion-reign-of-terror-diane-ravitchs-personal-crusade/2013/09)

    “Reign of Error”
    https://www.amazon.com/Reign-of-Error-Diane-Ravitch-audiobook/dp/B00FYW9BYK/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=Diane+Ravitch&qid=1614141881&s=audible&sr=1-2).

    I don’t know much about JJS, other than the fact that they are sponsored by Japan Foundation and University of Washington, and endowed by Kyocera Corporation. I think many American scholars of Japan studies are constrained into the modality of research paradigms, possibly due to their implicit deference to foreign institutions for the avoidance of being wrongly accused for academic hegemony (particularly, the power of ‘whiteness’ predominant in academic and professional fields in the West and internationally). Race and human rights are extremely sensitive issues, so it makes sense for the journal to discourage anyone from submitting such manuscripts. In other words, most editors may prefer centrist/moderate view over critical/post-modernist/post-structuralist scholars so that they would not face the consequence of losing fundings from Japan institutions for sparking controversy over accepting the articles that are excessively critical of Japanese government, institutions, or the society itself.

    Also, speaking of University of Washington, I heard that they are one of those notorious schools(i.e., University of Arkansas, Harvard Graduate School of Education, George Mason University) that receive fundings from Bill&Melinda Gates Foundation, and powerful right-wing think tanks like Eli Broad and RAND Corporation to promote an expansion of school choice programs(e.g., charter schools and voucher programs) in the US. I don’t know if Ramseyer is funded by Sasakawa Peace or RAND Corporation. But his professional title “Mitsubishi Professor” implicates his ideological /political tie with Japan institution, even though it doesn’t seem to be as much revealing as Raj Chetty or Alan Dershowitz in terms of money or political ties.

    So far, we are only seeing Ramseyer as a quack western academic that fits into both canvases of Japan studies and American academic neoliberalism. It seems to be rare, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see more like him in the future.

    Reply
    • And having a guy with Harvard credentials say this just makes it… well to borrow a phrase from the J-government “very regrettable.”

      Reply
  • I wonder who funded this guys research?
    Perhaps Japan has decided to up its game from sender consular officials to harangue publishers?

    Reply
  • David Markle says:

    It seems Japan pays these academic mercenaries to write stuff they can wave in the faces of critics and say; “See! so and so from such and such prestigious school says Japan didn’t do anything that bad!”

    It then takes oodles of effort, time, and sweat to convince anybody that these apologetic academics are in fact quacks and shills. Look how long Greg Clark’s gravy train lasted till somebody with real clout was able to bring him down.

    Reply
  • realitycheck says:

    While the Korean movement holding Japan accountable for sex slavery before and during WW2 can tend towards extreme nationalism in ignoring the active role played by Korean military and other Koreans who collaborated with the Japanese profiteers and abusers as well as the statue campaign in countries that have their own histories to focus on, those facts do not take away from the sheer evil of Japan’s organised pimping and abuse of Korean women.
    Since when have women been able to stand up and say no to such men especially when they were invaders and militarily equipped to enforce their dictates on the population?
    While I am concerned by the present trend in the USA from so-called ‘progressives’ focusing on ‘thought crimes’ and rushing to cancel people who simply do not agree with them and can explain why, there is also a movement of true progressives that recognises there are limits to falsities and the need to listen to all voices regardless of who is the numerical or economic majority.
    This ‘Professor’ needs to understand that historical analysis is that – objectively presenting primary sources and aiming to gather as many facts from as many sources as possible.
    I think the Korean community in the USA has no idea of this disgusting propaganda dressed up as ‘research’. There are many talented sudents from Korean backgrounds in Ivy League universities such as Harvard – maybe it is time they were informed of this falsification and justification for it by a so-called Harvard academic.
    It is time to apply the post WW2 de-Nazification standards of Germany to Japan and while it definitely won’t happen in Japan, it is time for it to take place wherever Japanese money is funding fascist pro Japanese propaganda.

    — Students at Harvard are doing just that. Plug “Ramseyer” into the Harvard Crimson newspaper, for example.

    Reply
    • I just had a look at Harvard Crimson articles on this issue.
      Interesting to see comments by the same right-wing nationalist apologists screaming ‘anti-Japan racism’ that you see on Japan Today and Japan Times (when they allowed comments). They even use the same handles.
      Yet again, Japan putting on another ‘great look’ with the Olympics coming up and all.

      Reply
  • He’s at it again… [in a separate paper where Ramseyer claims that the Ethnic Koreans massacred in the Japan 1923 Kanto Earthquake were marauding gangs who “torched buildings, planted bombs, poisoned water supplies” and murdered and raped people].

    =================
    Harvard professor Ramseyer to revise paper on 1923 massacre of Koreans in Japan: Cambridge handbook editor
    Yonhap News Agency, All News February 20, 2021
    By Song Sang-ho
    https://en.yna.co.kr/view/AEN20210220002400325

    SEOUL, Feb. 20 (Yonhap) — A Harvard professor, criticized for his depiction of victims of Japan’s wartime sexual slavery as prostitutes, will “significantly” revise another controversial paper on the 1923 massacre of Koreans in Japan, a co-editor of an academic handbook said Saturday.

    In an email interview with Yonhap News Agency, Alon Harel, the co-editor of the Cambridge Handbook of Privatization — expected to be published in August — called the disputed content of the paper by J. Mark Ramseyer a “very regrettable mistake” and stressed that it will not appear in its original form.

    “It was evidently an innocent and very regrettable mistake on our part,” Harel said in response to a question about his views on Ramseyer’s paper, entitled “Privatizing Police: Japanese Police, The Korean Massacre, And Private Security Firms.”

    “I assure you that the paper will not appear in its original form in the collection … Ramseyer wrote to us that he read our comments (that were detailed and very critical) and will revise significantly the paper in accordance with these comments,” he added.

    In the paper, Ramseyer of Harvard Law School, citing rumors, depicted Koreans at the time of the post-earthquake chaos around Tokyo in 1923 as “gangs” that “torched buildings, planted bombs, poisoned water supplies” and murdered and raped people.

    He also cast doubts over the estimated number of Koreans killed in the massacre, which historians put at around 6,000.

    The co-editor of the prospective Cambridge handbook noted that while he was fully aware about the atrocities against Koreans during World War II, he and his co-editor were not familiar with historical events before the war during Japan’s 1910-45 occupation of the Korean Peninsula.

    “We assumed that Professor Ramseyer knows the history better than us. In the meantime, we have learnt a lot about the events and we sent a list of detailed comments on the paper that were written by professional historians and lawyers,” he said.

    But Harel emphasized that once they learned about detailed historical events that happened to Korean victims, “we took immediate action to repair the damage as much as possible.”

    “Avihay and I genuinely regret that a misguided description of the history can be found now in the SSRN (and that we are associated with it), but I assure you that the mistake will not be repeated in the forthcoming volume,” he said, referring to his co-editor, Avihay Dorfman of Tel Aviv University Law School.

    SSRN is the Social Science Research Network Electronic Paper Collection.
    ENDS

    Reply
  • I looked through his publication listing and the bigotry really ramped up in … you guessed it, 2017, with similar poorly-researched, out-of-left-field and out-of-depth attacks on Burakumin and zainichi Koreans. I guess he needed a fillip to get that Order of the Rising Sun in 2018.

    If someone had the time, energy, and Japanese skills to go through these hit pieces masquerading as articles there’s probably enough semi-fraudulent or downright fraudulent work to make Harvard Law stand up and acknowledge the situation, but it would take a lot of work.

    He’s best buds with Eric Rasmusen, whose own Provost called him “vile and stupid” for his consistent, unrepentant bigotry. It would be nice to get the same from Harvard Law, but don’t count on it.

    In all I’m reminded of this:
    “An important scientific innovation rarely makes its way by gradually winning over and converting its opponents: it rarely happens that Saul becomes Paul. What does happen is that its opponents gradually die out, and that the growing generation is familiarized with the ideas from the beginning: another instance of the fact that the future lies with the youth.” – Max Planck

    Reply

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