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Sunday, February 28, 2021

Ramseyer vs Japan

J. Mark Ramseyer probably thought he'd get more praise from his sponsors after publishing yet another revisionist piece. All he managed to do is to bring all spotlight precisely where Japanese extreme-right and Nippon Kaigi don't want them: on their own lies and imposture. 

Make no mistake about what this is all about: 

  • an insult to the victims of Imperial Japan's sexual slavery system (a.k.a. 'Comfort Women').
  • an insult to academic standards, and a disgrace for a Harvard Law School professor
  • a threat for Japan democracy, helping revisionism permeate society


In case you missed the latest Ramseyer controversies:

  • Dec. 1, 2020: International Review of Law and Economics (in IRLE Volume 65) publishes online 'Contracting for Sex in the Pacific War', a controversial paper where J. Mark Ramseyer claims that there was no case of sexual slavery for the Imperial military, only consensual, contractual prostitution.
    NB: a Mitsubishi Professor of Japanese Legal Studies at Harvard Law School, Ramseyer is listed under the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, but mercifully doesn't appear in RIJS' Constitutional Revision Research Project (he probably would neither pass the academic cut, nor last a minute in front of Alexis Dudden, an advisor to the project).

  • Jan. 12, 2021: "Recovering the Truth about the Comfort Women", a Ramseyer op-ed rolling out the same fallacies, is published by Japan Forward, a English arm of the ultraconservative Sankei Shimbun and a mouthpiece for ultranationalist and revisionist propaganda*.

  • International outrage ensues, particularly from actual scholars and experts. Among others:
    • "An article containing this level of academic misconduct should not have passed peer review, or have been published in an academic journal" ("Contracting for Sex in the Pacific War”: The Case for Retraction on Grounds of Academic Misconduct" - Amy Stanley, Hannah Shepherd, Sayaka Chatani, David Ambaras and Chelsea Szendi Schieder in The Asia Pacific Journal, 20210218). 
    • "For those who read Professor Ramseyer’s article at face value, unseen are assertions that advocate a current Japanese political ideology. This worldview is racially essentialist, revanchist, and history-denying. (...) One of the primary reasons for studying any state-sponsored atrocity in the past is to learn how it happened in order to try to prevent ongoing occurrences of similar violence and not to abuse history by weaponizing it for present purposes. Academic freedom is a core tenet of constitutional democracies, yet academic lies are not." ("The Abuse of History: A Brief Response to J. Mark Ramseyer’s 'Contracting for Sex'" - Alexis Dudden in The Asia Pacific Journal 202102)
    • "Any scholar who understands the falsity of its claims would condemn the article and call for its retraction" ("Letter by Concerned Economists Regarding “Contracting for Sex in the Pacific War” in the International Review of Law and Economics")
    • "I don’t have any Korean contracts" (a candid confession by Ramseyer himself, who built his case on them, to Jeannie Suk Gersen, who saves Harvard's honor in this excellent and damning piece: "Seeking the True Story of the Comfort Women" - The New Yorker 20210226) 

      • see also 4 letters on APJIF: **
      • see also Michael Chwe's list of resources on the Ramseyer IRLE controversy:   
      • sign the "Letter by Concerned Economists Regarding “Contracting for Sex in the Pacific War” in the International Review of Law and Economics" :

  • Jan. 14, 2021: IRLE postpones the publication of the printed version of its Volume 65 (March issue), but still plans to include Ramseyer's piece, along with comments and replies ("Journal Delays Print Publication of Harvard Law Professor’s Controversial ‘Comfort Women’ Article Amid Outcry" - The Harvard Crimson 20210214)

  • Jan. 20, 2021: Alon Harel, co-editor, confirmed that Ramseyer will 'revise significantly' another controversial paper ("Privatizing Police: Japanese Police, The Korean Massacre, And Private Security Firms" - The Cambridge Handbook of Privatization, June 2019) in which, 'citing rumors, (Ramseyer) 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' ("Harvard professor Ramseyer to revise paper on 1923 massacre of Koreans in Japan: Cambridge handbook editor" - YNA 20210220) 



Exposing Ramseyer's lies helped the powerful voice of our dear LEE Yong-soo Halmoni resonate even more powerfully. Let's hope that next time the World hears her voice, will be when she represents the victims of Imperial Japan's sex slavery system at the ICJ (sad to see her make the headlines only when thugs attack the victims - see "Eternal Shame").

Needless to say, IRLE should withdraw the paper, and Harvard Law School demand a retraction and official apologies from Ramseyer.

Now internationally disgraced as a liar and a mouthpiece for debunked, extremist theories, Ramseyer poses as the victim of a 'witch hunt'. Sounds familiar? If the international community reacted so quickly and unanimously, that's also because the World is witnessing revisionism at work on a much more recent event: the US insurrection and the Capital Riot that happened just days before Ramseyer published his op-ed in Japan Forward. 

Because Ramseyer's papers fit and feed perfectly the Nippon Kaigi propaganda and agenda, they contribute to undermine the postwar democracy that lobby has officially pledged to destroy. 

Again, this is not about Japan vs Korea, but about Imperial Japan vs Justice (and justice for Comfort Women), and about Imperial Japan vs postwar, democratic Japan. 

Of course, the weaponization of history mentioned by Dudden didn't start in 2021, and Japan is certainly not the only perpetrator in the region, but there cannot be reconciliation without truth, and democracies can't survive if they let these attacks go unpunished.

Because there should be zero tolerance against revisionism, the academic community is on the front line. And I was truly moved to see it react so quickly and accurately against Ramseyer's piece, with precisely a focus on truth and reconciliation, denying any opportunity for nationalists and hatemongers to exploit or to play ping pong with their counterparts.

Nippon Kaigi and Japanese revisionists are an easy target because they are brazenly stupid. They don't have to be smart because they're not facing any resistance at home, where they control the government and the media; most Japanese never heard of the lobby or their program. The most efficient way to deal with them is to simply expose them and their agenda (which they're stupid enough to proudly disclose) as they are.

The war on revisionism is tougher with more subtle perpetrators, and this episode reminded me of the academic struggle against the Discovery Institute and its Intelligent Design imposture in the US. There as well, far-right fundamentalists with a political agenda promoted falsehoods through propaganda campaigns that mimicked science but totally negated it. The aim was also to undermine democracy and its constitutional fundamentals, to pervert education, and to rewrite text books, but I.D. was more subtle in its approach. Their leaked, internal 'Wedge Document' explained how the public was to be fooled by a confusing blend of a caricature of science and a caricature of faith. To help spread the movement in Europe, mediocre or failed scholars were sponsored to publish pseudo-academic papers that fed the confusion. 

I'm not saying that Japanese extremists pay Ramseyer to publish his debunked junk, but I'm not sure that otherwise this excuse for a scholar could have gotten prestigious sponsors, let alone been awarded the Order of the... Rising Sun.

Seoul Village 2021
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* including this one, from the tinfoil hat category: "Some Uncomfortable Truths About Comfort Women for the International Mob" (Archie Miyamoto 20210222)


"After #JMarkRamseyer, #JapanForward added yet another abject revisionist piece to its collection, this time from a #ArchieMiyamoto ( Using the fact that #ImperialJapan crushed #Korea #resistance as a proof of the non existence of #sexslavery?! Really?!" (@theseoulvillage - 20210226)

** Including this brilliant toolkit to help you make up your own mind: "The ‘Comfort Women’ Issue, Freedom of Speech, and Academic Integrity: A Study Aid" (Tessa Morris-Suzuki - The Asia Pacific Journal 202102)

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