Wednesday, February 28, 2007

"Korean comic author: Jews rule U.S."

"... and fish rule the heavens."
(Image from Wikipedia)

Looks like this story is going to go on and on.

From the CNN report "Korean comic author: Jews rule U.S." (February 26, 2007), Rhie Won-bok, aka Lee Won-bok (aka "Rhie-Lee Won-bok"?), seems to be digging himself an even deeper hole:
The author of a best-selling comic book series [-- i.e., Far Countries, Near Countries (먼나라 이웃나라, which CNN transliterates as Meon Nara, Yiwoot Nara) --] intended to teach children about other countries said Monday he would change a chapter on Jews that has been called anti-Semitic and similar to Nazi propaganda.

Rhie Won-bok maintained, however, that his depiction of Jewish control of American media and politics was based on fact and "commonly believed."

"The Jews are the invisible force that controls the U.S.," Rhie, a professor of visual arts at Duksung Women's University in Seoul, told The Associated Press. "I wrote the chapter to let people know that you can't understand the U.S. without knowing the Jewish community."
This calls for a Pynchonesque analysis, so let's recall "Proverb 5" from Gravity's Rainbow:
"Paranoids are not paranoids (Proverb 5) because they're paranoid, but because they keep putting themselves, f**king idiots, deliberately into paranoid situations." (Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow, Penguin, 2000, page 297)
Really, Won-bok seems to be putting himself deliberately into a paranoid situation by positioning himself in the hurricane's eye of publicity. The storm of criticism that he'll see gusting about him will likely confirm him in his views on the Jews. Since he believes that "The Jews are the invisible force that controls the U.S.," then he'll also believe that the Jews are manipulating the bad press that he's currently getting.

Really, Won-bok will begin to see conspiracies everywhere, much like the anonymous commenter -- quoted in yesterday's blog entry -- who imagined that I must be Jewish or married to a Jewish woman because of my blog entries on this issue. Only someone belonging to the Great Jewish Conspiracy would criticize antisemitism, right? Any anti-antisemite must therefore be a Semite, right? To criticize antisemitism is thus to reveal one's "true identity" -- especially if Douglas Adams gets dragged fishibly across the trail of identity like a red herring.

Hat-tip that red herring all the way to Marmot's Hole for more on the issue...


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Gypsy Scholar Receives a Threat...

Leon Trotsky as Demon
White Army Propaganda Poster
Blaming Jews for Bolshevism
(Image from Wikipedia)

. . . well, sort of a threat.

As those of you who have been reading my blog lately will know, my three previous posts on antisemitism in the comic book Far Countries and Close Countries (Monnara Iunnara, 먼나라 이웃나라), written by Lee Won-bok (or Rhie Won-bok), have met with a bit of disagreement.

One recent commenter who remained anonymous has registered intense displeasure with my blog entries on this topic. Although this individual is possibly but only very doubtfully female, I'll assume the male factor in my comments below and hope to avoid charges of sexism. Also, note that a couple of anonymous individuals were posting, but the first one seemed to be posting from the political left. The latter was perhaps posting from the political right, though I'm not certain. Their respective politics don't matter except as a way of distinguishing them, but the easiest way to keep them separate is to know that I'm posting here only the second one's comments, which can be found on the post "Antisemitism in Korea: Second Follow-Up" (February 20, 2007).

At 2:44 a.m., Anonymous said:

Mr. Hodges,

What do you think about 30 million Russian, Unkranian, Balts victims whom Jewish communists mass murdered from 1917 to 1953?

A lot of prominent Jewish intellectuals admit that their people did this.

Are you Jewish? (or married to one?) Why aren't you talking about this holocaust?

At 3:50 a.m., I replied (and distinguished him from the earlier anonymous commenter):

I guess that you're a different "Anonymous."

Your personal questions about me are not relevant to this issue, but if you want to know about who I am and the things that I discuss, then read more of my blog.

I also don't want to get drawn off-topic by a discussion of other things, but I will say this. For the mass murder of Ukrainians by famine, which I've already noted, I blame Stalin's collectivization of agriculture and intentional starving of farmers who wouldn't cooperate.

Stalin wasn't Jewish.

But I don't intend to discuss Stalin and his Bolshevik policies on this thread, which is about Lee Won-bok's problematic comic book.

At 4:32 a.m., Anonymous responded with the following comment in an entry that appended a very long and off-topic newspaper article to his comment, so I deleted this comment to get rid of the article:

"Stalin wasn't a jew."

How pathetic! Can't you do any better than that?

Of course you don't want to talk about this topic because you know you're going to lose.

[A]nyway, if you're not Jewish and want to learn more, I recommend this link. Go for it if you're interested in knowing the truth.

We mustn't forget that some of greatest murderers of modern times were Jewish[.]

Here's the web address to the long, off-topic newspaper article:,7340,L-3342999,00.html

Anyway, at 6:36 a.m., after having deleted Anonymous's 4:32 a.m. comment, I responded as follows:

Anonymous (mis)quotes me and comments on my putative views:

"Stalin wasn't a jew."

How pathetic! Can't you do any better than that?

Of course you don't want to talk about this topic because you know you're going to lose.

[A]nyway, if you're not Jewish and want to learn more, I recommend this link. Go for it if you're interested in knowing the truth.

Anonymous, I have deleted your comment because you quoted a very long passage that is not relevant to this blog entry. If you want to post a link, then do so, but don't post quote long passages from extraneous sources.

Also, you may not be aware of this, though you should be if you read my comments above, but I don't allow personal attacks on my blog. Your comments about me constitute a personal attack. Don't make assumptions about my motives. That's called ad hominem.

Any further ad hominem from you will not be tolerated. Follow the rules or stay away.

At 6:53 a.m., Anonymous responded with the folowing post, which contained more ad hominem, so I deleted it (but post it here):

If someone asks you a question to which you have no answer or that irritates you, does that constitute a personal attack? How? That's a cheap excuse. I just asked you a simple question what you think about the other 30 million holocaust and the reason why you're silent about it?

What else could you do beside deleting my post for you've got no truth to back up your hypocritical stance?

Let's see if you're cowardly enough to delete this truthful link.

As noted, I deleted this 6:53 a.m. comment, but I retained Anonymous's links in my response, which I posted at 7:05 a.m.:

Anonymous, I've told you to avoid personal attacks. Calling me hypocritical and cowardly in your second comment definitely constitutes a personal attack.

I'll allow the links that you provided even though these are irrelevant to this blog entry:,7340,L-3342999,00.html

I've deleted the rest of your post because of its personal attack on me.

Be civil, stick to the topic (Korean antisemitism), or stay away.

At 7:20 a.m., Anonymous turned more civil and posted the following:

OK, let's talk about the Korean comic book.

Mr. Hodges, you don't believe what Prof. Lee said in his book?

I as well as many many others in this day and age of internet can easily prove to anyone interested in getting to the truth that what he said is all true. So why make a big fuss about "Korean anti-semtism"? Is stating and knowing truth antisemitic?

If you're not happy with what the professor said, just prove him wrong with facts like an academic you're. You haven't done anything of that sort s far as I read your blog.

Let me ask you. You really think Prof. Lee's view is groundless?

What do you say, Mr. Hodges?

I wait for your answer.

At 7:33 a.m., I replied:

Yes, I think Lee's views are groundless. The comic is both anti-American and antisemitic.

I don't believe that Jews control America. American Jews do play prominent roles in American society. The percentages of Jews in academia, in politics, in journalism, and in various professions exceed their percentage in the population.

But this doesn't amount to control, and it isn't conspiracy.

In a few years, percentages of Koreans in prominent positions in America will also exceed their percentage in the American population.

So will the percentages of Chinese.

I don't think that these things will result from conspiracy. Rather, these cultures -- Jewish, Korean, and Chinese -- emphasize education and hard work, and these two things are the keys to success.

This is what I think.

By the way, I should add that I'm very busy because the academic year is beginning, and I have a lot of work to do preparing my courses, so please don't be disappointed if I do not reply at length to your queries.

At 7:48 a.m., Anonymous responded:

You're living in denial, Mr. Hodges (to your peril if you're not a jew; to your benefit if you're one).

Whether you care to have a look or not, I here provide you with a mountain of factual evidences that will demolish your contention.

I bet a million that you won't be able to repute a single passage from that site, not because you're busy and all that, but because you simply can't for the truth is not on your side.

So long...

Deciding to bid Anonymous good-bye with a joke, I replied at 8:37 a.m.:

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish(y links)...

But my pun didn't strike Anonymous as humorous, and at 8:45 a.m., he posted this:

Your last post betrays your true identity to my satisfaction, Mr. Hodges.

I shall have a talk with my 지인들 in the university board and inform them of our short exchanges here.

Good luck.

By referring to his jee-een-duhl (지인들), Anonymous implies that he is Korean (which might or might not be true) and explicitly claims that he has these "acquaintances" (지인들) seated on the university board, by which he probably means Korea University. Anyway, I posted the following at 8:56 a.m.:

Sorry, Anonymous, I thought that you would appreciate the humor in my punning on your "So long." I guess not since you are now pretending to threaten me with your 지인들 at Korea University.

My "true identity"? Okay, I admit it -- I'm really Douglas Adams, and since I'm already dead, I have nothing to fear in threats from the living.

Anyway, I've already glanced at the site that you linked to, but haven't had time to read it.

Thanks for your concern...
So, I'm being threatened with the loss of my job at Korea University. I presume that this is an idle threat, but Anonymous can perhaps derive satisfaction from learning that I won't be at Korea University much longer anyway.

I would, however, be interested in seeing what would happen if my Korea University contract were not ending and if Anonymous were not bluffing but was, in fact, going to attempt to use his connections to get me fired from Korea University for making a pun.

Pun my word, wouldn't that be odd?


Monday, February 26, 2007

Milton inciting violence?

Oh, what inner demons drive me to such cruel violence?
(Image from Wikipedia)

Should we ban Milton's Paradise Lost?

Time Online has an article, "Another Unabomber in the Making?" (February 13, 2007), by Hilary Hilton, reporting on bomb threats -- and even actual pipebombs filled with gunpowder but intentionally lacking a power source to set it off -- sent to a couple of financial firms in the Midwest by someone going by the title "The Bishop":

In late January, the mysterious figure sent a letter bomb to two Midwestern financial services companies. The message inside both packages, which were discovered by mail clerks, read "Bang! You're dead." The boxes arrived at American Century Investments in Kansas City and Perkins, Wolf, McDonnell and Co., a Chicago financial services company. Both had all the makings of a pipe bomb, a PVC pipe filled with buckshot and smokeless powder, plus protruding wires. But the sender had not included a power source, which indicated to investigators that the Bishop, meant to terrify, not kill -- at least not yet. Still, while the devices lacked some components, they could have exploded from static electricity or "even a transmission from a handheld radio," according to Fred Burton, a former State Department counterterrorism expert, now with Stratfor, an Austin-based private security and intelligence agency that is working in conjunction with the FBI in its investigation.

The Bishop first came to Stratfor's attention in October of 2005, when he began sending anonymous, threatening letters (but with no explosive materials) to various financial services companies, one of which was a client. He demanded they manipulate specific stocks to reach a set price, often $6.66, a number with possible Biblical or apocalyptic meaning. In one June, 2006 letter, he ended with the phrase: "IT IS BETTER TO REIGN IN HELL, THAN TO SERVE IN HEAVEN." The Bishop's curious stock-market demands were "delusional" since the companies were not large enough to do the kind of manipulation he demanded, Burton said. Once his demands were not met, his campaign escalated, going from simple demands in 2005 to more serious threats of violence in 2006, and now featuring actual improvised explosive devices, IEDs, being shipped in the mail.

Those are the details in the Time report, which -- oddly -- neglects to point out a possible link to Milton. The statement (not just a 'phrase') "IT IS BETTER TO REIGN IN HELL, THAN TO SERVE IN HEAVEN" echoes Satan's words to Beelzebub in John Milton's Paradise Lost 1.263:

"Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heav'n"

If the Bishop is alluding to Milton, he's been using a modernized version, for he doesn't follow Milton's original spelling -- such as "than" instead of Milton's "then" (a 17th-century spelling for "than"). But he might not be specifically alluding to Milton at all, for he's not quoting the exact wording, as the context in Paradise Lost shows:
Here we may reign secure, and in my choyce
To reign is worth ambition though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heav'n. (PL 1.261-263)
Moreover, the words "Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven" are a cultural meme, one so widespread that nearly everybody would recall having heard it without even having read Milton. I recall one hellraiser in my Ozark hometown who at a drunken party scribbled off those words on a scrap of paper and signed it with his own name:
"Bobby Weaver."

A friend of mine at the same party, happened to read it and scoff out loud, "This isn't by Bobby Weaver! It's a quote from John Milton!"

The party fell deathly quiet. Bobby gave my friend an evil look and asked, "You sayin' I stole those words."

My friend quickly backpedaled. "Oh, no -- I didn't mean that! You may have read Milton's words somewhere and forgotten about reading them. When you remembered the words later, you assumed that they were your own."
Bobby was a hellraiser and one big, powerful fellow -- dangerous even -- but he wasn't a bully, so he left my friend alone. Bobby, by the way, may have intended to reign in hell, but he went on to serve time in prison. There may be a lesson there.

The Time report calls the Bishop's letters "poorly written," and provides the following evidence:
In one 2006 letter the Bishop refers to both the Unabomber and the D.C. sniper, Lee Boyd Malvo. "You will help, after all it is so easy to kill somebody it is almost scary," the letter states. "Just think it could be as simple as mailing a package just like The Unibomber [sic] use to do simple mail out a package and when the suspecting recipient opens it they don't even know what hit them, or maybe like Salvo [sic] did in the D.C. sniper case just a small hole in the trunk of the car and BANG!!"
The Time reporter notes the two misspellings but doesn't remark on the other problems. I'll quote the Bishop's words, using red-tinted font to show all corrections:
"You will help. After all, it is so easy to kill somebody that it is almost scary . . . . Just think. It could be as simple as mailing a package, just like The Unabomber used to do, simply mail out a package, and when the unsuspecting recipient opens it, they don't even know what hit them, or maybe like Malvo did in the D.C. sniper case, just a small hole in the trunk of the car and BANG!!"
As you can see, the Bishop does have a few problems with diction, spelling, and punctuation, so he might not be a big reader of great literature. Maybe he reads a lot of comic books. Steve Huff, of The True Crime Blog, speculates that the Bishop might have been alluding to a passage of dialogue between Lucifer and Cain in Neil Gaiman's graphic novel The Sandman:
LUCIFER: Still. "Better to reign in hell, than serve in heaven." Eh, little brother-killer?

CAIN: Suh-certainly, Lord Lucifer. Whatever you say, Lord Lucifer.

LUCIFER: We didn't say it. Milton said it. And he was blind...
Whether the Bishop is alluding to Milton, Gaiman, or merely a cultural meme, he seems to belong to what William Blake called "the Devil's Party," claiming in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell that Milton:
...was a true Poet and of the Devil's party without knowing it.
Except that the Bishop, unlike Blake's Milton, knows the party to which he belongs.


Sunday, February 25, 2007

"We have to rethink ourselves..."

Michael Wesch's Savage Mind
Linking people into the web...
(Image from Kansas State University Anthropology Program)

One of those old Baylor friends whom I met in the NoZe Brothers, Ken Askew, occasionally sends me messages that are also to my ken askew.

Only a few days ago, Ken sent this message directly to me because he had neglected to include me on his "cc" (i.e., virtual "carbon copy," by which one message can go to multiple recipients):

Subject: RE: Brilliant
Meant to cc you on this originally. K
Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless
Handheld with little keys, so pardon any typos.

I stared at this message. Nothing else of substance seemed written. "Okay, Ken," I muttered, "what did you mean to cc me for?"

Only when I scrolled down did I find this You Tube address:

After briefly hesitating (after all, Ken was a NoZe Brother), I cautiously clicked and watched a delightful and flashy but thought-provoking presentation -- titled "The Machine is Us/ing Us" -- on how our digital approach to writing is changing the way that we compose both our texts and ourselves.

As the video begins, a hand holding a pencil appears and quickly scribbles:

Text is linear

Unsatisfied, the hand adds "uni":

Text is unilinear
Reconsidering again, the hand then scribbles "said to be" under the words "is unilinear" and adds a caret to indicate the proper place between "is" and "unilinear."

The hand then quickly writes "often" before "said," but immediately turns the pencil over and erases the entire phrase "often said to be."

And then ... but perhaps you can imagine where this is going. Whether you can or you can't, see the video and be amazed at the brilliant performance, which is -- as I said -- thought-provoking . . . though perhaps somewhat more flashy that substantive.

Do we really have to rethink so many things simply because we're hyperlinking? Do we need to fundamentally rethink who we are? Is cybernetics reshaping us into a cyborg?

Is the internet conscious?

Watch the video to see for yourselves if you haven't already seen it, then go look at Michael Wesch's webpage for the Anthropology Department at Kansas State University or check him out on the anthropology blog Savage Minds.


Saturday, February 24, 2007

Drinking Tobacco: Heretical or Medicinal?

"Poor Ol' Kaw-Liga"
Lamenting the decline of tobacco...
(Image from Wikipedia)

One doesn't see many cigar-store Indians anymore, and I haven't heard the original Hank Williams version of "Kaw-Liga" in a long time. I guess that's progress, and the Cherokee part of me partly agrees, but as Paul Vitti says in Analyze This, I'm 'conflicted about it,' especially about the song "Kaw-Liga." Sort of like my Uncle Harlin, who once told me, "I like that song 'Kaw-Liga,' but somebody should've punched Hank Williams in the nose for writing it."

Speaking of violent reactions, the introduction of tobacco to Europe incited some to threaten violence, especially in Russia, where 'drinking' tobacco was associated with ecclesiastical reform and other innovations from the West.

For example, J. B. Buky, in volume 5 (The Age Of Louis XIV), chapter 16 ("Russia") of The Cambridge Modern History (planned by Lord Acton, edited by Adolphus W. Ward, Cambridge: University Press), tells us of Russians' unhappiness in the mid-17th century when Patriarch Nikon of the Russian Orthodox Church attempted some church reforms, mostly minor ones such as instructing "that the sign of the Cross should be made with three fingers" rather than with the traditional two fingers characteristic of Russian Orthodoxy.

Nikon's attempts at reform met with resistance by schismatics, called the Raskolnïki (from "raskol," or "schism," the root meaning behind Dostoevsky's character Raskolnikov, in Crime and Punishment). For the Raskolnïki, anything foreign was heretical, including the evil weed:
Tracts were published against "tobacco, that devilish herb, cursed and abhorred of God." It was believed that the Redeemer and His mother appeared to some Russian women, and warned them that, as soon as Christians began to "drink" tobacco, lightning and thunder, frost and ice would be their punishment.
Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice. The 'Mother of God' says it will end in a puff of smoke. Make that a drink.

Did Patriarch Nikon "drink" tobacco? Who knows? That pressing issue aside, I infer from Buky's quotation marks that the Russian expression for smoking used the same idiom that we have found in 16th- and 17th-century England, though I wonder if this reflected a traditional Russian idiom or an idiom that migrated with the spread of tobacco.

Closer to home, back in merry old England, we learn from G. L. Apperson, in The Social History of Smoking (London: Ballantyne Press, 1914), that the English of the 16th- and 17th-century reacted in more practical ways to those who were 'smoking':
Every one knows the legend of the water (or beer) thrown over Sir Walter by his servant when he first saw his master smoking, and imagined he was on fire. The story was first associated with Raleigh by a writer in 1708 in a magazine called the British Apollo. According to this yarn Sir Walter usually "indulged himself in Smoaking secretly, two pipes a Day; at which time, he order'd a Simple Fellow, who waited, to bring him up a Tankard of old Ale and Nutmeg, always laying aside the Pipe, when he heard his servant coming." On this particular occasion, however, the pipe was not laid aside in time, and the "Simple Fellow," imagining his master was on fire, as he saw the smoke issuing from his mouth, promptly put the fire out by sousing him with the contents of the tankard. One difficulty about this story is the alleged secrecy of Raleigh's indulgence in tobacco. There seems to be no imaginable reason why he should not have smoked openly. Later versions turn the ale into water and otherwise vary the story.

But the story was a stock jest long before it was associated with Raleigh. The earliest example of it occurs in the "Jests" attributed to Richard Tarleton, the famous comic performer of the Elizabethan stage, who died in 1588 -- the year of the Armada. "Tarlton's Jests" appeared in 1611, and the story in question, which is headed "How Tarlton tooke tobacco at the first comming up of it," runs as follows:

"Tarlton, as other gentlemen used, at the first comming up of tobacco, did take it more for fashion's sake than otherwise, and being in a roome, set between two men overcome with wine, and they never seeing the like, wondered at it, and seeing the vapour come out of Tarlton's nose, cryed out, fire, fire, and threw a cup of wine in Tarlton's face. Make no more stirre, quoth Tarlton, the fire is quenched: if the sheriffes come, it will turne to a fine, as the custome is. And drinking that againe, fie, sayes the other, what a stinke it makes; I am almost poysoned. If it offend, saies Tarlton, let every one take a little of the smell, and so the savour will quickly goe: but tobacco whiffes made them leave him to pay all."

In the early days of smoking, the smoker was very generally said to "drink" tobacco.
A charming story on the practicality of the English. Smoke from the devilish weed can be doused with simple water -- no need even for holy water or apocalyptic threats from the Virgin Mary!

Apperson takes the clause "And drinking that againe" to refer to Tarlton relighting his pipe (presumably) and smoking it again. Hence Apperson's reference to the early idiom about 'drinking' tobacco.

Even closer to home -- assuming your home is North America, which it might not be, but I'm writing this from my perspective as an expat American so far away from home -- anyway, even closer to my home is the story of the Lorillard Tobacco Company, told by Maxwell Fox (researched by Carl W. Drepperd) in the book The Lorillard Story (1947), which has a great deal of interesting information on early beliefs about tobacco and its uses, including the attempt by King James I of England to severely punish those who used it and thereby prohibit its use:
However, it is interesting to note that prohibition in those days had about the same effect on the population that liquor prohibition had in our day, in our own country. Bootleggers promptly took advantage of the situation; sold tobacco in back rooms. Likewise, their customers took home the expensive adulterated stuff and enjoyed it as best they could in secret gatherings or in their homes behind shuttered windows. Probably it was King James, more than any other one man, who promoted the custom of snuff-taking. The furtive tobacco-user hardly dared to risk smoking a pipe and letting the evidence of his crime filter out through the cracks of his doors and windows to the nostrils of the police or a nosy neighbor. So the snuff-taking habit, easily practiced without detection, spread by leaps and bounds.

But it was a Dr. Cheynell of Oxford University who probably did as much as any one man to put a stop to all this foolishness. In 16o3 he dared to engage in a public debate on tobacco at the University. King James himself sat in the audience as Dr. Cheynell heroically held a tobacco pipe in his hand while he extolled the golden weed. There is no record that the King punished the daring doctor for his seeming impudence. Perhaps His Majesty could see which way the wind was blowing.

At any rate, pipe smoking started to make a comeback soon after; and the tobacco trade increased until by 1614 there were 7,o0o different London houses (companies or families) trading in tobacco. One London shop, and perhaps more, adopted a forerunner of the Cigar Store Indian as a trade mark. "The Smoaking Age," a book published in 1617, carried an engraved frontispiece illustrating the interior of a tobacconist's shop. The shop's advertising sign was a small effigy of an American Indian smoking a fat cigar.

You may be interested in some 17th century sales tips sent out by a wholesaler to his retail tobacco customers:

"-- Set a picture of a blackamoor or a Virginia man, that will draw custom, upon the front-piece of the door. Make a partition in thy shop if some come to bathe rather than to drink tobacco." The dealer was advised to concentrate his sales efforts on scholars, lawyers and poets, particularly, but not to forget possible sales to the ladies.

You may wonder at the term "tobacco drinking." This gained currency because of an early belief that tobacco smoke had therapeutic qualities. When that superstition took hold, everybody made sure that he got the full benefit. Smokers inhaled the smoke so that it would circulate and "fume the innerds;" then they exhaled the smoke as slowly" as possible out their noses. Somehow, this manner of smoking came to be known as drinking. Midway in the 17th century the term faded out of use and "smoking" came to be the common term.
Here, our author Fox is admitting that he doesn't know where the expression "tobacco drinking" originated. Based on the evidence that I found in An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary by T. Northcote Toller (1921), I wonder if the expression goes all the way back to Anglo-Saxon. If that early Medieval expression about drinking smoke indicated a medical context, then the belief that tobacco acted as a sort of medicine might reflect this old expression.

Now if I could just find some example of drinking smoke from sources in Middle English...


Friday, February 23, 2007

"A Chaw Of Tobacco And A Little Drink"

For rustics like me...
(Image from Wikipedia)

As a boy growing up in the Ozarks, I must have been one of the few who refused to undergo that otherwise nearly universal rite of passage to hillbilly manhood: trying a 'chaw' of tobacco.

Most boys didn't get it right the first time, accidentally swallowed a bit of the 'juice,' repeatedly yawned in living color, and learned to spit better the next go-around.

I turned down every offer of chewing tobacco proffered. Hearing anecdotes of those who had gone before persuaded me not to go there at all. Another old boy that I worked with had drawn the same conclusion, and if offered a chaw, he'd retort:

"No thanks, I don't even chew horsesh*t."
Like me, he preferred not to become one of the many who'd had a chaw of tobacco and a little drink along with the chaw, which reminds me of an old song title, though I don't know if the song relates the same experience.

I therefore found myself surprised yesterday to discover during my tobacco investigations that really drinking tobacco juice has been a cultural practice among some groups. I say "my tobacco investigations," but the legwork was done by others, for Michael Gilleland, of Laudator Temporis Acti, has again come to my aid. Not that Michael had much searching to do either, for he had help from one of his readers, Roger Kuin, who found a fascinating passage in an article "Tobacco: The Story of How Tobacco Seduced the World" from the February 8, 2002 edition of The Washington Post, which apparently reprints the first chapter of Iain Gately's book La Diva Nicotina: The Story of How Tobacco Seduced the World (Simon & Schuster, 2001):
Turning to the methods by which tobacco was consumed in South America, the astonishing diversity of tobacco habits reflects not only the multitudinous purposes it served, but also the different climatic conditions in which the weed was employed. For instance, it was hard to smoke in the thin, dry air of the Andes, so snuffing tended to prevail. Similarly, in the swamplands of the Amazon, where fires could not be kindled readily, tobacco was taken as a drink. Different methods of tobacco consumption often existed side by side -- one form for everyday use, another for magic or ritual.

Probably the oldest way of taking the weed, and the most straightforward, was chewing it. Cured tobacco leaves were mixed with salt or ashes, formed into pellets or rolls, then tucked into the user's cheek, or under a lip. The juices thus released then dissolved in saliva and slid down the masticator's throat. Tobacco chewing could be recreational, or magical. The next method of consumption, in terms of complexity and pedigree, was drinking tobacco, in a sort of tea. Tobacco leaves were boiled or steeped in water and the resulting brew drunk via the nose or mouth. This was a popular method of consumption among shamans, as the strength of the brew could be adjusted to deliver the massive doses they preferred. The provenance of the tobacco used in making tea was a matter of great importance. For instance, Acawaio men would travel to a special stream to collect 'Mountain Spirit' tobacco, which was steeped in the water of the stream to enhance its potency. Drinking tobacco also presented the opportunity of mixing other narcotics into the brew. Novice shamans would sometimes add a dash of the fluids they collected from a dead shaman, and a qualified shaman's tea was often loaded with other hallucinogenic plant extracts. Tobacco was drunk in sufficient quantities at shamanic initiation ceremonies to induce vomiting, paralysis and, occasionally, death. Even everyday tobacco drinkers attributed mystic powers to their brew. Hunters of the Mashco tribe drank to communicate with the game animals that they wished to kill. Hunters in some tribes would apply tobacco juice as eye drops in order to help them see in the dark. In several cases this privilege was extended to their hunting dogs. (Gately, Tobacco, chapter 1, paragraphs 20-21)
Interesting that one aim of chewing on tobacco was that of swallowing the "juices . . . dissolved in saliva," precisely what people aimed not to do back in the Ozarks -- and with good reason, too, since too much tobacco imbibed could "induce vomiting, paralysis and, occasionally, death"!

But let us return to metaphorical drinks of tobacco. Edward Pettit, of The Bibliothecary, alerted me to an anthro-ling blog enty by linguistics student David Kaufman for June 26, 2006 on "Drinking Tobacco," in which Kaufman remarks:
In the last couple of days I've discovered the Biloxi [Indians] used to say

yani(ksoni) įni
tobacco(pipe) drink

While at first the idea of "drinking" tobacco seemed odd, I've since discovered that it is not so unusual. I'm told that "drink" for smoke also occurs in Crow (another Siouan language), some eastern Algonquian languages, and even Japanese:

tabako wo nomu
tobacco OBJ drink
Kaufman then asks: "Anyone know of other languages that have this idea of 'drinking' for smoking?" A couple of readers responded on June 29, 2006 with examples in Hindi and Arabic:
Nick Emlen said: The Hindi word for smoking tobacco:"Tumbako piina", literally "to drink tobacco".

arabicgeek-bot said: In Egyptian Arabic they say both "yišrab sagaayir", and "yidaxxan" both meaning "to smoke" but "yišrab sagaayir" literally means "to drink cigarettes."
I then chimed in, many months later (February 21, 2007) to note that "It also appears in Elizabethan English and Old English," directing Mr. Kaufman to my blog. I haven't heard from him yet, so perhaps he hasn't seen my comment.

I may have to smoke him out of his bloghole...


Thursday, February 22, 2007

To 'Drink' Tobacco...

Thirsty? Drink a cigarette.
(Image from Wikipedia)

In yesterday's post, I noted this odd expression used in Milton's time, when people 'drank' rather than smoked tobacco.

Michael Gilleland, of Laudator Temporis Acti, cites my post in blog entry of his about "Tobacco" and tells us that he had, coincidentally, encountered the same expression the previous day in an Elizabethan poem:

By coincidence, just yesterday I happened on the same expression in a poem by Robert Wisdome included in Norman Ault's anthology of Elizabethan Lyrics (1949; rpt. New York: Capricorn Books, 1960), pp. 19-20:

A Religious Use of Taking Tobacco

The Indian weed witherëd quite,
Green at morn, cut down at night,
Shows thy decay;
All flesh is hay:
Thus think, then drink tobacco.

And when the smoke ascends on high,
Think thou behold'st the vanity
Of worldly stuff,
Gone with a puff:
Thus think, then drink tobacco.

But when the pipe grows foul within,
Think of thy soul defiled with sin.
And that the fire
Doth it require:
Thus think, then drink tobacco.

The ashes that are left behind,
May serve to put thee still in mind
That into dust
Return thou must:
Thus think, then drink tobacco.
An apt memento mori for anyone who smokes religiously. But were Wisdome's words wise? Were they even in earnest? The Oxford Book of Comic Verse, edited by John Gross, includes it (on page 14 of the 1994 edition), ostensibly as a comical poem. Marco Graziosi, who informs us that Wisdome himself met his mortality in 1568, links this poem to the limerick, with which it very nearly shares a rhyme scheme (aabbc; cf. aabba), though Graziosi doesn't state outright that the poem was intended as humor.

The poem gave rise to a popular song whose tune you can hear on The Kitchen Musician Website, courtesy of Sara L. Johnson, who writes a feature "In Tune with the Times: Musical Rambles Through History." Johnson tells us more:

The words to this song can first be traced to a Presbyterian satirist of his day, one George Wither, who published it in his "Abuses stript and whipt," which got him sent to Marshalsea prison. One of his verses is:

Why should we so much despise,
So good and wholesome an exercise,
As, early and late, to meditate?
Thus think, and drink tobacco.

The earthen pipe, so lily white,
Shews that thou art a mortal wight;
Even such - and gone with a small touch:
Thus think, and drink tobacco.

In the times of Elizabeth and James I, the English inhaled and swallowed the smoke, explaining the phrase "to drink tobacco."
Johnson seems unaware that Reverend Wither (1588-1667) must have derived his song from Wisdome (d. 1568), so I wonder if she is correct in her explanation for the origin of the expression "to drink tobacco."

An older source some Elizabethan one might be at hand. On page 158 of the supplement to An Anglo-Saxon Dictionary by T. Northcote Toller (1921), we find this entry at the top, which continues the entry from page 157 on drincan (i.e., "to drink"):
(4) to inhale smoke (cf. to drink tobacco) :-- Lege on hátne stán, drinc þurh horn þone réc, Lch. ii. 316, 11.
The line "Lege on hátne stán, drinc þurh horn þone réc" translates into modern English as something like "Fire arises from heat, drink the smoke through a horn," the "horn" being a pipe, I suppose. Experts in Old English should feel themselves invited to correct my translation. I'm guessing that "Lch." refers to the abbreviation "Lchdm." in "abbreviations for the source texts":
Leechdoms, Wortcunning, and Starcraft of early England, edited by O. Cockayne, Master of the Rolls Series, 3 vols. London, 1864-1866. Quoted by volume, page and line.
That's certainly an intriguing title. According to a review in Medical History (1963 January; 7(1): 96), the book "contains almost the entire corpus of scientific writings from the Anglo-Saxon period of English History." Such being the case, I suspect that 'drinking smoke' was a medical remedy of some sort -- though not one using that 'good' medicine, tobacco. Old friends from my history-of-science days might be able to tell us more, but I've lost touch with them all (unless they are among my lurking readers).

For now, at any rate, I can take us no further into the history and prehistory of tobacco drinking...

UPDATE: Edward Pettit, of The Bibliothecary, has graciously corrected my poor translation:
Lege on hátne stán, drinc þurh horn þone réc
Lay on (a) hot stone; drink through (a) horn the smoke.
Much better -- and much more obvious than my effort. So much for the Gypsy's linguistic skills...


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

On Milton's 'Identity'

Fellow Cambridge Students' Epithet for Milton
(Image from Wikipedia)

Someone posed a question on the Milton List about 'Queer' readings of Milton, which naturally (or unnaturally?) led to questions about Milton's 'identity' -- that loaded essentialist term.

This led the discussion into the Foucauldean territory, where we queried (sorry) labels, raising distinctions between identity and acts -- did the pre-Modern mind conceive of a homosexual identity, as opposed to distinct, same-sex acts?

Sodomy, for instance, was recognized in the Medieval world as a sin, and the sodomist was one convicted of the crime of that unnatural act, but did an act of sodomy indicate a sodomist identity? Unclear.

Some scholars argued, however, that that Ancient philosopher Plato would have understood the distinction between the 'normal' pederasty practiced between an adult, aristocratic male and a young male, in which the former also instructed the latter in the masculine virtues required of a grown man, and a different sort of male-on-male sexual relations in which a grown man would accept the role of an 'effeminate' partner and would be recognized as what we today call "homosexual" -- whatever Plato might have chosen to call it.

And so ran the discussion, ranging over Modern, Medieval, and Ancient times . . . eventually leading to a consensus that we were all in general disagreement.

Someone then raised the 'innocent' question as to whether or not Milton had smoked.

This led the scholars to various recollections of evidence that Milton might have indulged but that he was no regular smoker, with no remains of even a smoker's pipe among the belongings mentioned in his estate, in his writings, or among his friends.

The Canadian expert on Milton, John Leonard, also added his own recollection:
I have a recollection that one of the early lives (I don't remember which one) makes reference to Milton's "drinking tobacco," and I am fairly certain that Christopher Hill cites this in his *Milton and the English Revolution* as evidence that Milton knew how to have a good time (again, I don't have the reference, but maybe someone else will).
Interesting that the English of Milton's time called it "drinking tobacco" rather than smoking tobacco -- so maybe we should be asking if Milton was "a drinker"? Or should we not even think about such labels? For on this point, Leonard remarks:
We should be cautious, however, of calling Milton "a smoker." Although the word did exist in the sense "smoker of tobacco" (OED cites this sense from 1617), it may be doubted whether it specifically designated a person's *identity*, and so it did not amount to a constitutive component of early modern high modernity, which is to say, in part, a contributing concept to the distinctly modern organization of knowledge. Moreover, the early modern period did not have a term for NON-smoker, so even "smoker" (which it did have a term for) was meaningless. The smartest scholars will therefore be content to say that Milton might have engaged in occasional smokaditical acts.
Who says that scholars lack an ironic sense of self-deprecating humor?


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Antisemitism in Korea: Second Follow-Up

Views of the Holocaust
"Selection" of Hungarian Jews
Auschwitz-Birkenau Camp, May/June 1944
To the Right, Slave Labor; to the Left, Gas Chambers
(Image from Wikipedia)

A comment from Xia-Sonagi has drawn my attention to a blog entry from nearly two years ago posted by Finnish blogger and Korean expert Antti Leppäsen.

Antti's blog article, "Jo Jung-rae on holocaust and the Japanese occupation," notes some rather problematic remarks by the novelist Jo Jung-rae (or Cho Jung rae) in the introduction to Arirang, his 12-volume novel about Korea under Japanese domination:

How many Jews were killed by the Hitler government of Germany during the Second World War? According to the Jews the number was three or four million. So how many of us Koreans were massacred and killed by the Japanese during the 36 years of Japanese colonialism? Is it three million? Or four million? Or is it six million? Unfortunately that estimate has not been made public or official. My estimate is between three and four million.

. . .

The Jews were killed on for three years, but Koreans were killed during a period of more than ten times of that, 36 years. Which people suffered more? Even though we suffered horrors ten times more than the Jews, how is it possible that we still don't know many of us Koreans died?

. . .

When naked Jewish girls were dying in gas chambers, the girls of our people were getting gang raped in Southeast Asian jungles as troop following corps in a similar manner. So how have we become such ignorant masses?

. . .

[W]e have been hypnotized by the Jews who have made numerous novels, movies and TV dramas to tell about their suffering for the whole world.

. . .

Jews have maximized their suffering and while securing their self-esteem, and have used it as a power to develop their future.
I'm not certain that this rises to the level of blatant antisemitism. I'd need to know more about Jo Jung-rae's views to make a judgement. I'd also want to know about the meaning of the Korean expression that has been translated above as "hypnotized" (and Antti does supply the entire passage in both Korean and English, so perhaps someone could look into this point). Jo Jung-rae, in part, seems to be urging Koreans to follow the example of the Jews in making their suffering and victimization known to the world. What I find problematic, however, lies in the tone, which seems to diminish the Holocaust by insisting that Koreans suffered worse under Japanese colonization. Is this sort of ranking really necessary in order for Koreans to express their treatment by the Japanese under Japan's annexation of Korea?

Being ignorant of Jo Jung-rae's fuller views, I'll leave my remarks about his statements at that.

However, I do want to draw attention to what Antti describes as "a Korean nazi blog, for which the word 'anti-semitic' is not sufficient." Most of the blog entries are in Korean, but the blog -- which is perhaps titled Nagaduju (or Neophyte?) -- includes some English-language passages from antisemitic writings, so one quickly gets a sense of the blogger's views.

Not that one would need to read much, for a simple glance takes it all in -- the prominently displayed German words "Jud Süss" (more precisely, "Jud Süß," or "The Jew Süss") above the dark-green-tinted, stereotyped image of a Jewish face.

I presume that this image at Nagaduju is modeled on the Nazi film version of Jud Süß, which Wikipedia tells us was "made in 1940 by Veit Harlan under the supervision of Joseph Goebbels," but Nagaduju's use of the stereotyped image appears even more sinister than the stereotyped Jewish face on the Nazi movie poster.

I suspect that this blog Nagaduju is expressing atypical views for a Korean, but given the antisemitic passages in the comic book Far Countries and Close Countries (Monnara Iunnara, 먼나라 이웃나라) by Lee Won-bok (or Rhie Won-bok), this issue deserves fuller investigation.


Monday, February 19, 2007

Principled Discourse...

Rules of Engagement
Gawain Fights Ywain
Chrétien's Knight of the Lion
(Image from Wikipedia)

...if one wishes to comment here.

I expect basic civility from anyone posting a comment, and I won't allow ad hominem attacks, even if they are as subtle as an innuendo.

The issue has arisen lately because of the manner in which a reader responded to two posts -- "Leaning on the everlasting arms" and "Under the Loving Care of the Motherly Leader" -- in which I discussed a recent lecture by Brian Myers: "Child-Race in an Evil World: Understanding North Korea Through its Propaganda."

Anyone with interest in the topic can look at those posts separately. I'm only going to post the comments of a reader going by the name "Casual Observer," and the ad hominem points will be red-marked:
It appears to me that you and Meyers cannot accept the idea that Korea might be the source of its own dominant ideas. That's why you suggest Japan or North America as an alternative.

But your analysis is strained beyond belief. Your method appears to consist of looking at an image and saying it represents the opposite of what that image is. I doubt if you do this with the imagery of your own country or with the work of Milton, for example.
I replied to this:
You mean "Myers," of course.

As "a casual first time observer," you're hardly being fair to either Myers or me in your accusation, for you go far beyond the subject matter of this post to suggest that neither of us can "accept the idea that Korea might be the source of its own dominant ideas," an accusation for which you adduce very little evidence, if any.

You do the same thing in remarking on my putative approach to Milton or to American matters.

Technically, what you're doing is called the ad hominem approach -- attacking the person rather than addressing the topic.

If you want to comment on the substance of my blog entries, then do so, but if you post further ad hominem attacks, I'll delete your comments without response, and you won't be welcome here.
Causal Observer replied:
You asked me for evidence. Here it is.

I said that you think Korean ideas come from the United States or what you prefer to rephrase as North America. So be it. But here is the evidence of this.

You write: "we know how significant Christianity was in the northern part of the Korean peninsula before the Kim Il-Sung regime suppressed it". If this implies anything, it implies that North American Christian ideas were important to Korean images of propaganda.

Myers does the same thing. As you state: "Myers showed North Korea's debt to Imperial Japan's racial propaganda".

In other words, neither you nor Myers can accept that the ultimate source for Korean communist imagery is a native Korean one.

But in my opinion, the source IS Korean: you will find it in the donghak movement, if you care to look.
I then replied:
Casual Observer, here's what you said in your initial comment:

"It appears to me that you and Meyers cannot accept the idea that Korea might be the source of its own dominant ideas."

Now, you say:

"In other words, neither you nor Myers can accept that the ultimate source for Korean communist imagery is a native Korean one."

At least, you've limited yourself to speaking only of Korean Communism than of Korean ideas generally.

But you're still claiming, without evidence, that I CAN'T accept that "that the ultimate source for Korean communist imagery is a native Korean one."

As I told you previously, if you continue to level such ad hominem charges at me, I'll delete your comments without reply. This is your last chance. Stick to the rules, keep your remarks substantive, not personal, or stay away.
As anyone can surmise from my response, I'm going to be rather strict about personal attacks. Casual Observer's ad hominem may seem rather mild compared to what one sees in comments and posts around the internet, but this is my blog, and I want the discussions to remain courteous and fair-minded.

Casual Observer need merely have posted a comment such as:
"I disagree with both you and Myers, for I think that North Korean propaganda has indigenous roots in Korea's Donghak Movement, and here's why I think so..."
Such a comment would have been courteous, avoiding ad hominem of even the lightest innuendo-laced sort. Now, really, is that so difficult to do?


Sunday, February 18, 2007

Antisemitism in Korea: Follow-Up

Depicting Jews
Antisemitism in Korea?
(Image from Wikipedia)

The controversy over the antisemitic portions of Far Countries and Close Countries (Monnara Iunnara, 먼나라 이웃나라), by Lee Won-bok (or is it spelled Rhie Won-bok?) has widened enough that even my single post got linked to by a couple of blogs that get rather more attention than Gypsy Scholar: Little Green Footballs and A Distant Soil.

Little Green Footballs links to my post two times via a commenter who goes by the name "New Tommy." I don't know anything about New Tommy -- though the chosen name might suggest that he's either a recently enlisted British soldier or has a brand-new Tommy Gun -- but he has linked to my blog as well as to a number of other sites concerning the controversy, so he must be okay.

The Little Green Footballs blog entry where you can find New Tommy bears the heading "Korean Antisemitism Watch," but it's not about a timepiece worn on one's wrist. Think of "watch" in the sense of "Tornado Watch" -- as in "take heed, keep an eye out, but don't yet run for the storm cellar." I presume that everybody already knows of Little Green Footballs, but just in case one of you doesn't know, then go look around that blog, and decide what you think.

A Distant Soil links to my post directly, in a blog entry titled "When Cartoonists Use Their Powers for Evil." That's an interesting twist on a familiar phrase. From an adolescence immersed in comic books, I remember young superheroes being admonished: "Always use your powers for good!"

Appropriately, the blogger behind the blog A Distant Soil, Colleen Doran, is a comics artist who writes and illustrates a graphic-novel series titled A Distant Soil, which you can read about here. I'd never heard of it -- unsurprisingly, since the world is large, whereas I'm small -- but the preview that I looked at, along with the website complex itself, gives me the impression that the series combines fantasy, science fiction, gothic romance, and epic. Go there, look around, and decide for yourself.

Finally, thanks to the links from these two blogs, my hits shot up a bit yesterday, not so much as when National Review Online linked to my entry on Pope Benedict's Regensburg lecture, of course, but still...


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Lee Won-bok: Far Countries and Close Countries

Lee Won-bok
Author of Far Countries and Close Countries
(Monnara Iunnara, 먼나라 이웃나라)
(Image from 7/22/04 Chosun Ilbo)

In a Chosun Ilbo article of three years ago, "Famous Comic Book Series Finally Reaches the United States" (July 22, 2004), Kim Tae-hoon reported on a comic book, Far Countries and Close Countries (Monnara Iunnara, 먼나라 이웃나라), written by Deoksung Women's University professor Lee Won-bok. Among other points, Kim noted the role played by anti-Americanism in Lee's book and then quoted a rather 'interesting' remark:

[C]onscious of [Korea's] growing anti-American feelings and public demand [in Korea] to take a new approach to a long-time alliance with the U.S., Lee is very careful in analyzing the U.S. in the book. "I tried to exclude my personal views of the United States as much as I could. In the case of the Iraq War, rather than focusing on the war itself, I tried to provide a big framework for American foreign policy through such things as analyzing U.S. strategy in the Middle East and the influence of Jews behind those policies."

Hmmm ... "the influence of Jews" on America's policies in the Middle East. Now, this 'interesting' remark could derive from a legitimate analysis of various influences on American foreign policies, including the role of conservative Christians, but why single out the Jews?

The answer has come from a 25-year-old expat blogging in Bucheon, Joe Mondello, who has recently been translating relevant portions of Lee's book on a site named Reading Monnara. Chapter 8, "One Must Know the Jews to Truly See America," is especially revealing. In Mondello's posts on his translation efforts, he notes a number of astonishing things that Lee states as facts:

[T]he real group that controls America through money and media pressure is the Jews. (Part 1)

Adam Smith, who was a Jew, wrote 'The Wealth of Nations' (유대인이었던 애덤 스미스의 <국부론>이 발표되었고 . . .) . (Part 3)

As Mondello points out, Adam Smith was not a Jew. The translations continue:

(Graphic shows a Jew in a yarmulke waving from behind an altar or box labeled "Bank of England" with a menorah standing on it) This was the Jews' chance to grab England's financial power, and thus had the world's finances wrapped around their fingers (이를 계기로 유대인은 영국 내의 금융권을 장악, 세상을 그들의 뜻대로 좌지우지하였어). (Part 4)

Rockefeller was the top American conglomerate (Top 3: Rockefeller, DuPont and Mellon) There is ongoing dispute about whether or not he was a Jew but the matter is not clear. But the reason he is mistaken for a Jew is that his enterprise technique was exactly the same as the Jews. His number one business rule was to destroy the competition. He used intrigue, tricks, threat, menace, and naturally he mobilized industrial spies to steal information from his competition. He used bribery, violence, and to top it all he didn't hesitate to sabotage companies. This was cold hearted industrialist who cruelly knocked down the competitors who faced him. (Part 6)

For the record, John D. Rockefeller was a Protestant Christian, specifically a member of the Northern Baptist denomination. One more translation from Mondello:

The core group of people that moves Washington power is the WASPs, but in reality the invisible power that moves them is the Jews. (Part 7)

Mondello deserves commendation for his translations of these antisemitic passages in Lee Won-bok's Far Countries and Close Countries. Indeed, Mondello's efforts have already garnered some international attention, as Robert Koehler of The Marmot's Hole has noted in his post "MBC reports on criticism of anti-Semitic comic." By the way, lest anyone be confused, Koehler transliterates Lee Won-bok's name as Rhie Won-bok (and this is not an idiosyncrasy on Koehler's part, for many Korean names can be variously transliterated):

ORIGINAL POST: Finally—a Korean news provider picks up the story. Broadcaster MBC ran a piece this morning on how Jews in the U.S. were protesting cartoonist Rhie Won-bok's anti-Semitic descriptions in his popular comic book series "Far Country, Near Country."

The comments section (583 so far) is not pretty, of course. The more humorous comments were along the lines of, "But how did the Jews know? It's written in Korean..." Honestly, though, if I were, I might be concerned about some of the commentary, especially the Hitler comments...

By "the commentary," Koehler is referring to the comments made at the site by readers. Unfortunately, my Korean is far too poor for me to read the comments, but a commenter who goes by the name "Sonagi" has visited the site and posted this report:

I read the comments that got hundreds of recommendations and noted that the most recommended one (700+ recs) called for an investigation into charges that sections of the book were prejudiced. The second most recommended post (almost 600 recs) suggested publishing a Munnara volume on the Middle East, to expose the slaughter of innocent Arabs, including children, by Israelis. The fourth most rec'd (almost 500) cited passages and asked "what's problem?" "It's all true, isn't it? The fifth and sixth most rec'd (350+) praised Hitler and expressed sorrow that his great humanitarian task of exterminating the Jews was never accomplished.

Sonagi has also posted and translated some of the headings for messages on the boards:

"유태인은 세계의 사악한 민족" Jews are the world’s most evil race.

"포경수술한 놈들은 전부유태인이다" Circumcized bastards all Jews.

"유대인=잡종민족.." Jews are a mongrel race.

"유대인들은 인간 쓰레기들이다!!!" Jews are human trash.

"히틀러는 영웅이죠" Hitler is a hero.

"유대인 쓰레기들을 몰살하라!하일!히틀러" Exterminate Jewish trash! Heil Hitler!

"유태인 학살 유태인도 책임 있다" Jews are also responsible for the Holocaust.

"대대적인 홀로코스트를 다시 한번 해야 한다...." We need another large-scale Holocaust.

Sonagi notes that the last board heading, calling for another Holocaust, got more than 200 recommendations.

Well, speaking as one who generally defends Korea and Koreans, I have to say that I find this very disturbing. I spoke to my wife about it over lunch on Thursday. She had recently noticed the controversy but didn't know many details. I told her of my surprise to hear that antisemitism has come to Korea, and I asked if she knew the source of this trend.

I explained that European antisemitism of the early to mid-20th century was generally right-wing and had two sources: (1) a longstanding Christian theological tradition of anti-Judaism and (2) a more recent current of nationalist anti-Jewishness rooted in 19th-century cultural and biological views. I then noted, however, that contemporary European antisemitism has found a home on the political Left (cf. pdf: Robert Purkiss and Beate Winkler, Perceptions of Antisemitism in the European Union (2002)), probably deriving from two sources: (1) an anticapitalist critique on the Left that had long identified Jews as playing a major role in the rise of modern capitalism and (2) an anti-Zionist critique that views Israel as a colonial power oppressing a native Palestinian population. The rising power of Islam in Europe has reinforced this Leftist trend, for radical Islamists have combined traditional Islamic views of Jews as despised dhimmis with the fascist, especially Nazi antisemitism of mid-twentieth century Europe, and to some extent, the hard Left and radical Islamism have become fellow travelers. Herein lies a tale too complex for the telling in this particular blog entry.

I then told my wife that because I have the impression that Protestant Christianity in Korea tends toward philosemitism (but correct me if I'm wrong), then the antisemitism found in Lee Won-bok's statements probably stems more from the Left. This would fit with much of the Leftist antisemitism that we currently find in Europe and, to a lesser extent, in the United States.

My wife listened to my remarks, reflected on the Korean context, and then replied, "I think that it comes more from the Left in Korea because the Korean Left is more anti-American and associates the Jews with America."

If I ever succeed in learning Korean, I suspect that I will have my hands full with blogging on stuff like this, but anyway, the upside to this episode of antisemitism in Korea is that at the site that Sonagi reported on, more than 700 recommendations were posted in support of "an investigation into charges that sections of the book were prejudiced."

Those 700 were more than the recommendations for any other single heading at, and this suggests that a large block of reasonable Koreans are among those posting responses and making recommendations.

UPDATE: Xia (i.e., Sonagi) reports: "I had one more look at Naver and have some good news and bad news. The good news is that I mistook the number of views for the number of recs. The actual number of recs for the top [antisemitic] posts are [only] in the teens not the hundreds. The bad news is that post calling for an investigation did get a few recs but was [not] in the top ten." See Comments for more details.


Friday, February 16, 2007

Under the Loving Care of the Motherly Leader

Maternal-Son Kim Jong-il, Maternal-Father Kim Il-sung,
and Maternal-Mother Kim Jong-suk (1945)
The Wholly Female Family
(Image from Wikipedia)

Two days ago, I posted a Valentine's Day greeting direct from the posthumous heart-throbbing bosom of the DPRK's Great Leader, Kim Il-sung. Okay, it wasn't actually a Valentine's Day greeting, nor was it even a greeting, but the image of a loving Kim Il-sung embracing a lowly soldier fit the holiday's iconography, and I posted the image precisely on Valentine's Day.

I'm therefore sure that you all felt the loving care of the North Korean leader, which despite Bradley K. Martin was not fatherly but motherly, as Brian R. Myers has shown.

Jocular remarks aside, let me assure you all that I found Myers's arguments fascinating, and I'll certainly have to consider them very seriously in any future scholarly work that I do with Kim Myongsob on Northeast Asia. I also look forward to future presentations and articles by Myers.

Meanwhile, Myers has kindly responded to my blog entry on his RAS (Royal Asiatic Society) presentation (and I'm putting the remarks by Myers in red for easier distinction from my own remarks):

I just checked out your blog, and I think you got the main points -- but the significance of those points is that NK is not a society that encourages intellectual discipline. People who assume that it's Stalinist or Confucian therefore tend to be surprised when they see the country behaving rashly and instinctively. Last night I met a South Korean who told me about the Confucian emphasis on the golden mean, on moderation in all things. Then, in the same breath, he told me that North Korea is a Confucian society. It baffles me that people don't see the disconnect between what they are saying and the reality.

I see Myers's point here, but I'd like to note two things:

First, one could make the same observation about South Korea, which strikes me as both very Confucian and very rash.

Second, and really an extension of the first, a social system can encompass contradictory things.

Myers's response, I suspect, would be to acknowledge this but to argue that Confucianism does not guide North Korean actions. What Myers believes actually does guide the North Koreans is less clear to me, but he seemed to imply that racialism does. Perhaps his upcoming book will deal with this point.

On the propaganda issue, Myers noted my two questions, the first of them noted by him here:

One concerns possible Christian iconography lying behind what you've identified as a motherly image for Kim Il-sung (or Kim Jong-il).

Here, Myers was responding to a suggestion of mine:

The image ... [of Kim Il-sung embracing a lowly soldier] could also be seen as a religious icon -- Jesus embracing one of his disciples after the resurrection or the father embracing his son in the parable of the prodigal son -- and we know how significant Christianity was in the northern part of the Korean peninsula before the Kim Il-Sung regime suppressed it. Might the regime have co-opted some of Korean Christianity's religious imagery?

Myers responded:

The Christian aspect has been played up by people because Kim Il Sung as you know came from a Christian family. But the cult was created by intellectuals who did not have that background, and for whom the Japanese influences appear to have played a greater role. Remember, in any case, that images of a benevolent, protecting figure are not the exclusive province of Christianity. (I also think that the Sunday school image of Jesus, which most Christians seem to have in their minds, is much more maternal than the Biblical Jesus, who is a sterner, more patriarchal and rabbinical figure.)

Myers then noted my other question here:

The other concerns what's going on along the periphery of the central image, such as the dynamic horse that Kim Il-sung sits astride in one example.

Here, Myers was responding to my second suggestion:

Another complication arises when one looks away from a propaganda image's central focus. One image (which I haven't located online) shows Kim Il-Sung on horseback. He looks steady, composed, even relaxed and kind -- consistent with his maternal image -- but the horse that he rides reminded me of Napoleon's wild, dynamic warhorse in Jacques-Louis David's famous painting Napoleon Crossing the Alps. The message is a mixed one. Your mother, perhaps, but look at the horse that she's riding!

To this, Myers responded:

As I said, the cult has a problem in that it has to present Kim on the one hand as the embodiment of racial purity, hence the association with symbols like the white horse, and on the other hand as the general who liberated his race, hence you get him Napoleon-like on that horse -- but you don't see him engaged in actual combat, or even standing MacArthur-like at the front. He is usually shown behind the lines, mothering troops or children.
Hence the complications in the imagery produced for the cult-of-Kim propaganda -- he's the racially pure, fussy-mothering general busily infantilizing the children to ensure their instinctively rash but morally superior character. No wonder he's so busy ... despite his being dead!

But the Great Leader Kim Il-sung is not truly dead. He lives on in hearts and minds and heirs like Kim Jong-il.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Poetry Break: "Thrashin' Cane"

Inferno by Paul Gustave Doré (1832-1883)
Illustration 25 to Dante's Divine Comedy
(Image from Wikipedia)

Some time has passed since our last poetry break, but my site meter shows that blog hits here at Gypsy Scholar have been creeping up again, so I figure the time has come to discourage internet visitors by once again revealing a glimpse of my dark side.

Without further ado, here stands the poem:

Thrashin' Cane

I'd cut that cane
and bring 'um down,
Then thick, rich sap
would stain the groun',
And I'd feel better
all aroun'
. . . except I'm hardly able.

I'd crush that cane
and make 'um bleed,
I'd stop 'um ever
bearin' seed,
Just treat 'um like
a lowly weed
. . . except I feel unable.

I'd grind that cane
into the earth,
I’d make 'um ever
rue that birth --
Thus denigrate
all human worth
. . . except I'm just not able.
I suppose that I could just title it "Original Sinning" and lose more visitors that way, but "Thrashin' Cane" will serve to initially entice but quickly disappoint the S&M crowd, who will have hoped for more "beneath the thresher's flail."

For the benefit of trivia freaks, this poem was one of those that Jon Whitlock and I put to music and sang in our country-music concert when we were both studying in Tuebingen back in the early 1990s.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

"Leaning on the everlasting arms..."

Like a Mother
"Worrying about even one soldier's health."
The Art of Propaganda
(Image from DPRK Studies)

Last night, I went for the first time to a Royal Asiatic Society lecture and heard Brian Myers present an original and thought-provoking interpretation of North Korean propaganda.

The title, "Child-Race in an Evil World: Understanding North Korea Through its Propaganda," doesn't quite capture all of Myers's lecture. This title expresses about half of what Myers had to say, and on this half, Myers showed North Korea's debt to Imperial Japan's racial propaganda. As noted in the RAS newletter:

That propanganda had ushered the Koreans into a morally superior Japanese-Korean or "imperial" race. In 1945 the Koreans simply ushered the Japanese out of it. They continued to regard themselves as uniquely virtuous by dint of a pure and ancient bloodline, but that bloodline was now theirs alone, the Dangun myth achieving orthodoxy at last.

The way in which the North Koreans vilified Americans as an inherently vicious race reflected the continuation of a tendency to view the world in racial and not Marxist categories. But where the imperial race's virtue had been touted as a protective talisman, the Koreans now believed their virtue to have rendered them as vulnerable as children to an evil world.
Children, however, do need a mother, a loving, caring, giving mother, and this was the more surprising part of Myers's lecture for me. I didn't write down any of his points (though I noticed Frank Plantan taking copious notes), but I can present Myers's main point. To wit: forget Marxism-Leninism, forget Stalinism, forget Confucianism, forget Juche. None of that works for an understanding of North Korea. To comprehend North Korea, recognize that its leader -- first Kim Il-sung, now Kim Jong-il -- is the mother who lovingly cares for her children.

Myers pointed to images like the one above as confirmation of his claim. Other images can also support this view.

The cleverness of such propaganda is that it renders criticism impossible. What Korean son could ever criticize his mother? The mother who tied his shoelaces in the cold snow? The mother who draped a warm cloak over him asleep at his desk. No, if North Korea has failed, it has failed because its children have failed their mother.

However, I see some complications in this. The image above could also be seen as a religious icon -- Jesus embracing one of his disciples after the resurrection or the father embracing his son in the parable of the prodigal son -- and we know how significant Christianity was in the northern part of the Korean peninsula before the Kim Il-Sung regime suppressed it. Might the regime have co-opted some of Korean Christianity's religious imagery? Myers's report on the North's view of non-Koreans as inherently depraved, only doing 'good' things for ulterior reasons, reminded me of a hypercalvinist view of the depraved preterite, and on this point, one should keep in mind that Christian missionaries to Korea were primarily Calvinists.

Another complication arises when one looks away from a propaganda image's central focus. One image (which I haven't located online) shows Kim Il-Sung on horseback. He looks steady, composed, even relaxed and kind -- consistent with his maternal image -- but the horse that he rides reminded me of Napoleon's wild, dynamic warhorse in Jacques-Louis David's famous painting Napoleon Crossing the Alps. The message is a mixed one. Your mother, perhaps, but look at the horse that she's riding!

I'd encourage you to visit the Propaganda Picture Gallery at DPRK Studies and draw your own conclusions about North Korea's propagandistic art.