Should we press the History Eraser Button because of cooties?

While reading William Manchester’s biography of Douglas MacArthur, American Caesar, I came across an anomaly. The book is extensively footnoted and referenced. Nearly every paragraph ends with a footnote, and that footnote typically lists two to five references in the bibliography. The footnote pages and bibliography run 67 pages of very small print. And Manchester is downright fastidious about noting sources. (At least two notes read “Author’s personal observations.”) He goes to primary sources, cross-references as much as possible, notes disparities and disagreements.

So the following passage was damned peculiar:

Upton Close, who wrote several books about [the Japanese], observed that they are a race “who hate tremendously,” who “can give themselves to the most unspeakable savageries,” and yet, “when the fury passes,” are “the most gentle-mannered people in the world.”

That’s maybe ten percent of the entire paragraph, so the list of references was, I knew, going to be long. Bu being both a sinophile and, therefore, an Orientalist, I turned to it with interest. And found:

Brines 36; Van Der Post in Holiday 10/1961; Reischauer Japanese 104

See who’s missing? Yes, he gets named, is mentioned as having written “several books” about the Japanese, is given an extensive quote (albeit broken up, and thus, one surmises, elided), but he’s not listed in the note, nor any of his books mentioned in the bibliography.

Which, given the comprehensive thoroughness of the rest of the sourcing in the book, is just bizarre.

So, I went to look up Upton Close on Wikipedia.

And he’s not there.

A man who wrote “several books” on Japan, good enough to get quoted in this book and, by inference, at least one of the books referenced in the footnote, and, somehow, Wikipedia missed him!?

Googling him on WikiPedia did turn up a passing mention of him on one page, but it provides no context at all. And one of his books is used as reference by a few other pages.

Doing a wider google search did turn up a Wikipedia-ish entry on something called Metapedia.

(If you just reacted, be quite a minute or two. If you did not, don’t look it up just yet. Stay on this journey with me, you’ll quickly find what you need to know.)

The entry was somewhat informative, and listed at least some of his books, linking to two on the Internet Archive (the only two there, near as I can determine). Upton Close was an open pseudonym, arising from a misunderstanding, but he adopted it thereafter.

But the entry was… odd.

And then, a bit icky.

It passingly mentioned that Close was an anti-semite. By “passingly” I mean it was in the same sentence and list as his being an isolationist and anti-FDR. And there’s no reference or support for the assertion.

Odd.

A bit later, it says he had a radio show in the mid-1940s, but that it was forced off the air by “Jewish influence”.

WHAT!?

(I point out, though I probably don’t need to, that this assertion is also put forth without any citation or evidentiary support.)

So, yeah, the only encyclopedic reference I could find for this guy was on a fucking white supremacist, “der fuehrer vas a terrific dancer” site.

But I’m not judging Upton Close on that.

Because, first, as I said, NaziPedia provided no referential or documentary support.

And, second, even though I can be as prone to it as anybody, I fucking hate the argument by cooties ( argumentum ad cootium? ).

You know what I mean.

“Nazis like him? That’s all I need to know!”

“Don’t eat sugar. Hitler ate sugar!

“I saw him reading a book by Wittgenstein — and he never condemned him!

Or, to quote the badly-misnamed RationalWiki’s entry on MetaPedia: “Of course they support homeschooling.”

Yeah. Don’t support homeschooling, kids, or you’re just like the Nazis.

It occurs to me while writing this that in some fashion, leftists actually believe that last. They, after all, are the only people who are righteous and good, so anyone who wants to remove their children from leftists indoctrination must be, of necessity, objectively pro-Nazi.

None of this exonerates Upton Close, necessarily. By modern lights, everybody in the past was racist. Yes, everybody. And prior to the end of World War II, anti-semitism was pretty much the default setting in the western world. (Britain may have been an exception, having had Disraeli as prime minister in the late 1800s, but I don’t know for sure.) And it was much less toxic for Jews in the US than elsewhere, obviously. But anti-semitism was still very common.

So if Close was anti-semitic, it would be no shock. If that is enough to invalidate every word he wrote, however, and keep him off Wikipedia, then we need to erase every human being prior to the 1980s or so from Wikipedia, just to be on the safe side, and to keep precious young minds from being tainted by thousands and thousands of years of racist cooties.

Advertisements