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Quality Publications of Quality


The problem with Jacobin is basically a problem of editorship. At its best, it does great work. I am real proud of my small part of the history of the CIO podcast they are hosting, for instance. When you have serious historians in charge of something (not me in this case), you can have a great project. It’s the same when you have serious articles written by serious people. But it’s extremely obvious by now that you can publish anything over there if you put the right key words in, even if the article is not only laughable, but just obviously wrong. It’s really bad on the cultural front. The legendary Merle Haggard article is one fine example of just utter trash.

Now, if I was going to write a review of the show Shogun and make it all about colonialism, I might note something here. See if you can figure it out.

The native population is subjected to this no matter what form colonialism takes. Settler colonialism, which aims to replace one population with another, requires genocide and ethnic cleansing to displace the original inhabitants. The atrocities of Wounded Knee and the ongoing assault on Gaza are well-recognized as violent products of settler colonialism. Meanwhile political colonization, in which a foreign nation establishes dominion over a sovereign state but does not seek to displace its inhabitants, may be less brutal than settler colonialism but shares its first step: the dehumanization of the indigenous people to facilitate the conquest.

While one nation could politically colonize another by defeating its army and installing a puppet ruler, as the French did by installing the Mexican puppet Emperor Maximilian, it can also be done through more precise measures, such as claiming monopoly trading rights over the colonized land. It is this version of targeted political colonization that plays out in Shōgun. Despite having trading ports and established links with Japan, the Portuguese kept the nation a secret from the rest of Europe, enabling them to extract resources and gradually strengthen their grip on the newfound nation.

While the magnitude of violence may differ between settler and political colonization, the humiliation and dehumanization of its victims remains constant. The historian Patrick Wolfe, who is credited with establishing the study of settler colonialism, famously called settler colonialism “a structure, not an event.” The same can be said of political colonization, which frequently requires the colonizer to impose a capitalist or mercantile economic system on the colonized nation, creating a dependence from which the indigenous population cannot escape. 

It goes on in this manner.

But the thing about this is……Japan was never colonized. In fact, if you want to use terms like “settler colonialism” and “political colonialism,” a great example of both is….wait for it…Japan! Whether we are talking about the Ainu or Korea or Manchuria on the former or the Filipinos or Vietnamese or Burmese on the latter, Japan definitely knew plenty about colonialism!

Stalin had people shot for less than this. Hire some editors for Christ’s sake. Editors who actually know things.

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