Moderating Racism: The Attempt to Restrain Anti-Japanese Racism in World War II Propaganda Films

Reason Papers 44 (1):92-106 (2024)
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Abstract

In this essay, I want to explore one of the most ironic episodes in the history of propaganda, the attempt by various federal agencies to moderate American WWII anti-Japanese propaganda films. My texts will be four films, two produced by the military, and two by Hollywood: December 7th (1943), directed by Gregg Toland and revised by John Ford; Air Force (1943), directed Howard Hawks; Know Your Enemy: Japan (1945), directed by Frank Capra; and Betrayal for the East (1945), directed by William Berke. As all of these films are readily available on YouTube, I will be brief in my description of them. Instead, I will focus on how they served to intensify racial hatred of Japanese in general and Japanese-Americans in particular, and how the federal government tried to control that propaganda—but was limited by its own policies regarding Japanese-Americans.

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Gary James Jason
California State University, Fullerton

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