Internment of Japanese Americans

Fewer people know that the U.S. has also invested in disinformation. For example, disinformation was used in the propaganda effort to galvanize public support for the internment of approximately 117,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. President Franklin Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 forced Japanese Americans on the West Coast into detention camps in inland California, Washington, Arizona, and Arkansas.

Scholars Yochai Bekler, Robert Faris, and Hal Roberts define modern propaganda as “communications designed to manipulate a target population by affecting its beliefs, attitudes, or preferences in order to obtain behavior compliant with political goals of the propagandist.”

U.S. government-produced newsreels, official reports, and radio broadcasts falsely labeled Japanese Americans as a danger to U.S. security, citing erroneous evidence of sabotage and even connecting them with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. This media also described the displaced Japanese Americans as being “happy” participants in their own forced relocation, and described the camps as pioneer communities that were “full of opportunity.”

Internment remains one of the most egregious violations of civil liberties in American history.

References Yochai Benkler, et. al., Network Propaganda: Manipulation, Disinformation, and Radicalization in American Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), 29-30. “Japanese-American Internment During World War II,” Archive,” Educator Resources, National Archives, Image/Film credits: Japanese Relocation, film produced by The U.S. Office of War Information, 1943. Report, Attack Upon Pearl Harbor by Japanese Armed Forces, Commission by the President of the United States, 77th Congress, 2d Session, Document No. 159. Background theme image, “Panorama of Granada Relocation Center, Amache, Colorado, War Relocation Authority, 1942, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division,

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