Intellectual Freedom and Managed Dissent

SofEOn this week’s edition of Real Politik James speaks with University of California Davis Professor Darrell Hamamoto. The two discuss the UC’s recent persecution of Hamamoto for his outspokenness on controversial issues in the classroom, the “managed consent” and orthodox nature of academic ethnic studies and multicultural programs, and Hamamoto’s most recent book, Servitors of Empire: Studies in the Dark Side of Asian America (TrineDay 2014).

Darrell Hamamoto holds degrees in political science, popular culture, and sociology, and is a graduate of University of California at Irvine’s Comparative Cultures doctoral program. A Fullbright Scholar (Japan) Hamamoto is presently the senior ranking professor in the Department of Asian American Studies at UC Davis. Throughout his 30 year academic career he has become a major figure in the study of media, race, and popular culture. Professor Hamamoto is also the author of Monitored Peril: Asian Americans and the Politics of TV Representation and Nervous Laughter: Television Situation Comedy and Liberal Democratic Ideology.

Interview Highlights

Over the past several months Professor Hamamoto has been subjected to persecution by his employer, the University of California, for remarks he’s made in the classroom that have sometimes challenged students’ beliefs and sensibilities. The program against Hamamoto included a formal standoff with alleged disgruntled students and UC administrators and attorneys. “They brought in the top guns and they grilled me for eight hours,” he notes. “Then we had one week’s hiatus and it was our side’s turn to rebut their campaign of defamation, I would call it.”


“I was represented by one of your previous guests, Dan Siegel, out of Oakland, California. He’s a civil rights attorney, he’s a former head of the Students for Democratic Society when it was real … It’s public knowledge that the University of California has been on a campaign. I’m at the campus called Davis, and it’s a very conservative campus and conservative community, although most of the professors and staff people like to present themselves as cosmopolitans. It’s pretty much of a cultural backwater. That’s true right across the board, even among the so-called hipsters.”

Hamamoto came to national attention several years ago through his examination and involvement in the production of Asian erotica, even encouraging Asian American males to become involved in the adult film business. A central motivation involved challenging dominant Western stereotypes of Asian males as physically and behaviorally passive and inferior. Yet Hamamoto admits that such endeavors, while also intending to put his university on the map, have failed to endear him to UC Davis pooh-bahs.

“Part of the reason for doing these types of projects is to help the UC Davis campus overcome its inferiority complex,” he notes. “You know, this notion that we’re always living in the shadow of University of California at Berkeley. But they don’t seem to appreciate my puckish efforts in trying to polish our image beyond just sort of a cow college, or a monkey, simian lab experimentation center. Pick your animal.”


The case has yet to be decided at the time of our discussion. The UC administration will penalize Professor Hamamoto by reducing his salary by one quarter for six months in the event they find that he acted unprofessionally in the classroom. Hamamoto argues that teaching at university is increasingly unattractive because many students fear faculty members to think outside the box.

There’s this precious idea that the students cannot be harmed. They cannot be offended in any sort of fashion. They cannot be challenged. And this is part of the “managed consent.” Behaviorally they’ve been refashioned. And this precedes of course their university experience. But they’ve been refashioned to rethink that everything and anything that they don’t like or makes them feel uncomfortable is a capital offense, and they university encourages that.

The UC Davis professor argues that in the early 2000s universities across the US increasingly turned from academic instruction to providing students with a “fun” experience away from home as they bilk their families’ savings and accumulate student loan debt. University administrators as a whole “figured out that none of these majors are resulting in jobs, so what they need to do is hype them up on Prozac and entertain them, build giant student centers where they can go rock climbing, and hire a bunch of psychotherapists–with the emphasis on “psycho”–so they can do touchy-feely and get in touch with their inner self, their inner child. And that way they won’t notice that they’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars for a prolonged adolescence, where they don’t really have to come grips with adult realities.”

Hamamoto’s 2014 book, Servitors of Empire, takes an especially novel approach toward Asian American studies that stands apart from that academic field. In fact, despite his established notoriety in the discipline no university publishing house would take the project on.

I started out writing about Asian American criminality, and I had a very conventional set of assumptions. But the more I dug in to it, the more I read about it [my perspective changed]. In the meantime we had all these individuals coming to the fore. They were the epitome, the embodiment of social evil. People like John Chu Yoo and Viet Dinh writing the USA PATRIOT Act and the Torture Memos … and high level finance people. It forced me to radically rethink Asian Americans. And I think there are analogues in other groups, by the way. We know about the people to run La Raza and MEChA and all that. They’re mostly upper middle-class professional Latinos. Or maybe they’re professional transnationals who have Latino last names.

In Asian American studies we have Asian transnationals who like grew up in Malaysia, or who went to German elite boarding schools who are the daughters of Singaporean ambassadors, or the sons of someone who worked in the Philippines for the World Bank, who are now rockin’ race and ethnicity in Asian American studies and ethnic studies. They have no lived experience of racial oppression. But, since the model of uniform racial-ethnic-gender oppression is the orthodoxy now, that’s now you get over in academia. So they’re gonna keep playing that game.

So this book is intended to pull the foundation out from under their feet, and also the posers who are exploiting the very real advances that we have made socially, politically, economically. Not just Asian Americans.

I also want to focus on the real issue, which is this endless war against the rest of the world that is being managed and orchestrated by forces at a much higher level, but keeping us locked in to this race-ethnicity-gender conflict model as a form of control.

As the ensuing discussion demonstrates, Servitors of Empire probes the frequently overlooked stories of other prominent Asian Americans as well, including Norm Mineta, Elaine Chao, Iris Chang, and Yoko Ono, to further illuminate the complex relationship between race, ethnicity and the broader power relations of the New World Order.

25 thoughts on “Intellectual Freedom and Managed Dissent”

  1. This is quite an amazing interview. The stuff about the gang stalking of Hemingway, and Iris Chang (whom I’d never heard of) is incredibly important.

    Over the years I have encountered many references to the hundreds of tons of gold the Japanese stole from China and buried in the Philippines, and how the Americans have used that money in the decades since the war. But I’ve never heard the tale told in quite this way. Darrell shows, in his easy-talking way, how it is at the root of America’s ability, post-war, to dominate the world. This is close to a revelation, even for one who knows something about the subject.

    He doesn’t go into it in the interview, and I doubt that he does in the book–which I have not yet read–but one slice of the hard money crowd (that part of it which focusses on metals manipulation) argues that American Barrick was set up to be a pretend mining company, a sort of laundromat for that “Yamashita’s gold,” trickling it into the marketplace over decades, as if it is new production, so no one would know. Bix Weir has written a lot about it, arguing that there is waaaay more gold above ground than is acknowledged–and that’s why silver, which is in critically short supply, is the only metal to bet on.

    Many discussions of the subject focus on what the secret government did with that money–for instance, building Deep Underground Military Bases. But Darrell is the first one I have encountered to argue that it is the key to understanding the unbelievable dominance, over the entire globe, of America. Wow. I can believe it.

    The Hemingway part is very disturbing, because it means that Intelligence, as Miles Mathis is wont to call the Matrix, was in real control of our collective mind as early in the century as, well, Miles Mathis argues. He (Miles) has a lot of similar material about Hemingway in his paper on that era. This is little understood, and I’m glad Hamamoto is bringing it out, from his position as an academic. It certainly puts his own persecution into perspective. He’s certainly spunky, in the face of real opposition, in the grand tradition of “tragic heroes.”

    Darrell obviously has a problem with Mathis’ take on the 60s, and Dave McGowan’s as well, though. He referenced this more specifically in the earlier interview with James. He, strangely in my view, thinks the social changes wrought in those years were organic and healthy, for the most part, and not social engineering for destructive purposes from start to finish. If I remember correctly, in the earlier interview, when he brought up the subject, he spoke approvingly of the Frankfurt School (or was it only Marcuse?). Anyway, he seems to have a blind spot there, in my opinion. The Hippies were in no way a benefit to society,to my way of thinking, because the wholesale destruction of societal norms they started have ruined what remained of Western Civilization in its dotage.

    (Now, I’m aware that Dave and Miles would take exception to my broad brush characterization of their thought, but since both guys use only sources available in the MSM to reach their startling conclusions, they are not in control of the implications, however much they’s like it to be so. Of the two, only Mathis indulges in speculative theories; even though he demonstrates–he thinks–that the whole of the cultural transformation of the 20th century is a product of Intelligence, he still LIKES the idea Hippies, as if they emerged despite a century of massively effective social engineering, and were co-opted by Intelligence and not the creation of Intelligence. And McGowan would say I’m being overwrought; he presents a massive pile of “coincidences” and then acts diffident when it comes to the implications, as if he did not lead us to them and thus can’t be responsible for what he makes obvious.)

    Anyway, that quibble aside, this was a fantastic hour. Thanks, James!

    1. What in Sam hell? Diffident?? Surprised I didn’t see a penultimate or vis a vis…
      Mathis made it pretty clear that the hippies were creations of the cia, so I’m at a loss as to why you say he thinks they just “emerged.”
      He went into modern day infiltration with the brand ‘obey’ as well as some theorizing on Mansons role.

      That said, he is either an outright liar, or so full of himself that he cannot see truth through his own narcissism (which makes him a specimen on par with the likes of tom cruise). Entertainer, intellectual, poseur; Mathis gets the trifecta admirably.

      1. I said McGowan, not Mathis, affects a diffident posture. I’ve listened to many interviews with him where he is pressed directly about the military/intelligence family connections of a huge percentage of the Laurel Canyon pop acts, and he always refuses to develop a theory about it. Which is fine with me. Kind of like James Tracy, who presents these troubling topics pretty much without commentary, leaving the speculating to us.

        As for Mathis, I suppose his style is an acquired taste, but his mind is definitely an interesting one, and his ideas original. Like McGowan, he does a lot of original research, and comes up with surprising results. The reader might not reach the same synthesis of the evidence as Miles does, but so what? He’s certainly not a liar. Either his evidence is fabricated (it’s not) or his conclusions are wrong (who cares?), is the only complaint one can reasonably have about him. But you can’t call him a liar. Does he have some nefarious ulterior motive in creating these speculations? Perhaps. But again, so what? No one has to read him.

        But he very definitely, in many places, speaks highly of the Hippies. He calls himself one, in fact, and he’s very resentful of what he sees as their being co-opted.

        This is an important point–which is why I made it–in the context of Darrell’s position, because it seems to be a similar one. He does not mention Mathis, I don’t think, but he’s clearly referencing McGowan (who also has a soft spot in his heart for the Hippies). On the one hand Darrell agrees with Miles and Dave about the vastness of cultural influence of CIA, etc. On the other hand, he seems not to want to acknowledge how thoroughly fake the social movement of the 60s was, and how terribly destructive it was. He thinks it’s a good thing, for the most part. At least that’s how I interpret his comments.

        All three men, it seems to me, are idealists who are trying to remain optimistic after coldly examining the evidence as realists. I tend to regard that as delusional, preferring pessimism as a general rule, but that’s just me. It’s been said that the difference between an optimist and a pessimist is the pessimist has more information. These three guys might be called exceptions to that rule. Anyway, they are all a delight, and I’m glad they’re out there.

        1. tion was due to your jambalaya of case, and since he is so refreshing I am tempted to give him another shot (thanks in part to mhb and other favorite sites providing minimal reading material lately).

          I guess my incredulity was in response to your polysyllabic jambalaya of vocabulary interspersed with varying focii that left me gasping for air, wondering if you were using a thesaurus throughout your comment.

          We all know you are an awesome writer Patrick, please remember that as a commenter, you must make it readable and coherent for everyone. unless, of course, you are OK with being labeled a sesquipedalian 😉

        2. Mustard’s off the hotdog there! Guess I deserve that. Need to work on fundamental copy and pasting before calling the kettle black. You win Patrick. Good rally.

        3. One reason this is the only site I comment on is that smart people,very fine thinkers, excellent writers congregate here. No need to dumb it down. Long comments, complex sentences, and unfamiliar words are all just fine–so long as you are helping develop the conversation. I’ve compared it to a graduate seminar course more than once. As long as Tracy can keep it going like this, I’ll stick around.

          This is a very valuable thing.

          That is, so long as you are using the unfamiliar word correctly, and it’s not just showing off, it is a delight to have a place to write where you can talk like you think.

          One thing about William F. Buckley that was so annoying was his delight in using words that essentially no one ever heard (or read) before, in op-ed columns, to no real purpose. He was just showing off. I don’t do that. And anyway, even if you THINK that’s what I’m doing, this is the internet for God’s sake. Highlight the word and click, and the damned computer tells you what the word means. One feels less of an uneducated idiot this way than it did when you had to pull the dictionary off the shelf.

  2. I have seen half the interview, up to the break, and I find it substantive and persuasive that there is a corporate culture emerging in academia which endangers free thought and enquiry. In my own neck of the woods, I see the Koch brothers astride MIT like some kind of a colossus, much like an entity from Goya’s etchings “The Disasters of War” They are treated with ambivalence because of their support for certain right wing attitudes while at the same time they are welcomed because of their deep pockets and seeming support of important scientific research. They have now endowed the day care center at the Institute as well.

    I noted with the interest the role of surveillance government in the wine industry, using satellite and weather data to focus on microclimates and terroirs, which then influence the price of wine. The anointing of special figures in the international world of wine to manage these areas, no doubt for concessions of various types with France, must be a story in itself. I would be interested to see the recommended series on international wine manufacture, Mondovino (2004). The rating of wine, like the judging of Olympic figure skaters, must be subject to all sorts of interesting bribes. Also, the new emergence of China as a deep pockets oenophile culture (whereas it was previously not a player, either in purchasing wine – except for Hong Kong – or in growing it) – surely that is full of intrigue as well.

    He touched on some other areas that were interesting: the persistence of some serious sixties radicals, still true to their street cred; the fear in the hearts of many academics who know they are signing on to utter hypocrisy in diverting attention from real oppression in the world, emanating from the US government and military while dwelling on minor skirmishes between faculty over political correctness; the inability to criticize people like John Yoo – who is looked on by some as a model Asian who triumphed over supposed oppression while authoring a hideous system of oppressive legislation himself; Viet Dinh an author of torture memo, Alberto Gonzalez, the AG at the time – are they all model citizens because they have big careers while being “of color” – or should they be tried for treason? (my question) —- is it now impossible to speak truth to power for fear of offending someone by using some kind of “third rail” term because it will then come back on you rather than on them? – he’s a Japanese-American so maybe he should find it easier, but apparently even he is grilled for not being onboard with everything and for rejecting the notion of his oppression the basis of race (although I am sure if his family was around during WWII in this country, they had a real basis for complaint and compensation – bigger than almost anyone in the modern US except for blacks subjected to the Tuskegee experiments).

    Anyway – I shall watch the rest of this. He’s a man who can show his indignation without being a crank about it. Everything he has said so far is chock full of truth and the search for justice.

  3. Sorry for being completely off-topic, but I was wondering if James Tracy has any plans to comment on the Boston “bombing” trial. I admit that I am a bit surprised and disappointed that he has not yet remarked upon the trial at all since it began, especially since his past coverage of the event was some of the best I’ve seen.

  4. Second section: About Hemingway and Iris Chang speaking unpalatable truths – I remember what a hero Hemingway was to some. I recall that Ray Bradbury wrote a wish fulfillment about him on Kilimanjaro just after Heminway’s suicide – but then again, Bradbury became a spokesman for some political views in his later life (maybe earlier too). I think given our political history of hounding people – King, Lennon, etc. – it is obvious that Hemingway’s easy-going relationship with Castro could not have been acceptable to some. These same people were plotting to murder Castro. So, duh?

    A lot of speculation – Hemingway was from a family where suicide was considered a manly exit. But one could imagine his stress level as having been manipulated from outside. They had to outright murder Lennon. Chang died by her own hand in Silicon Valley, so it is said, but she had powerful enemies during the ascendancy of Japan (remember when it was all that and a bag of silicon chips?).

  5. I think that today’s article and interview create a perfect opportunity to write about academic and workplace mobbing on this blog site. Two leading experts, both having peer-reviewed academic papers on the subject of mobbing, are Professor Kenneth Westhues and Professor Janice Harper. Coincidentally, both of these professors began their groundbreaking studies in the area of mobbing after being mobbed, and later reinstated, after their respective ordeals with University Administration.
    Professor Hamamoto makes the case for Noam Chomsky’s 1989 classic book Necessary Illusions. In that book, Comsky argues that the “free press” in the West is actually managed by marginalizing ideas that deviate from a narrow span of acceptable debate. His conclusion is that this system of thought management is actually more effective than the overt repression of the former Eastern Bloc, and government front “news” like Soviet Pravda, etc. The West, in effect, is able to control the press with subtle coercion (e,g,, marginalization, selective denial of access to important government officials, etc.) that is, at least as effective, as the brutal ripping out of fingernails associated with non-democratic societies like are friends in Saudi Arabia.

    1. I haven’t read the book by Chomsky, but I have read accounts by several former eastern bloc intellectuals who emigrated to the US and worked in academia that drew the same conclusions. I spoke with one in person a few years ago that said the intellectual oppression that he experienced in his native Yugoslavia (Croatia) paled in comparison to the sinister coercion that he was subjected to as a professor at an American university.

      1. This seems to me to be a bit overstated in historical revisionist terms. Zersetzung, subversion, “non-personing” were vicious techniques that have been talked about by many communist era dissident emigrees and defectors from Eastern Bloc intelligence agencies. Certainly, no American professor would like to trade places with a professor removed by Mao’s Red Guard. The problem, as I see it, is that very similar techniques have been developed in contemporary America. These techniques are being employed with a stealth and refinement that is far greater than that of the former totalitarian Eastern Bloc. A good analogy is Darius Rejali’s book Torture and democracy. This book examines the largely “clean torture” that America and the West developed and exported to dictatorships in the Middle East and elsewhere. The distinction I see is that the process of individual nullification has become more subtle, and, can even go largely unperceived by the public writ large.

        1. The University of Connecticut has refused to allow its men’s team coaches attend the Final Four in Indianapolis. The governor of Connecticut has come out strongly against Indiana’s legal judgment on the religion issue and has forbidden state employees from entering the state of Indiana on business issues. “from entering the state of Indiana”……can you dig it?
          Yet, both agencies, the university and state government, still canonize visits to the Israeli “holy land” despite the genocide raging in occupied territories of Palestine. It’s perfectly OK to deny the existence of international law and exhibit not the tiniest of concerns for the oppressed Palestinians, that’s OK with the hubristic state of Connecticut.
          I hope the MH readership follows the incredibly disturbing case of Sylvia Stolz, the brave lawyer who defended Ernst Zundel in Germany for anti-Holohoax speech issues and was taken directly from court to jail!!! Imagine throwing legal counsel into jail…….this is occurring in the nation of Germany at the request of the Zionist elements who currently run Germany.

          So, it is not just the US that is going off the rails, it is the whole world and it is all part of a diabolical plan, not some collection of random events. This is what we face here, this massive tyranny and I wonder if America has any gumption left to challenge these evil elements. Can we fight back?

          For those old enough to remember, you might listen to the words of the 1964 hit song, “The Eve of Destruction” by Barry McGuire. In one paroxysmal 4 minute stretch, it lays the cards on the table as seen from before the huge incremental upsurge in our participation in the Vietnam War. It describes America then and today’s America is no different. We are headed down the vortex with a grim future unless we can stop the insanity.

        2. Gil Favor…it has been going on since the very first “Eve” of destruction…only difference is that now it is at warp speed.

  6. Most Americans don’t buy into the demise of America as part of a long standing plan by many elements of the financial world. Look at the origins of wars, who is complicit? If one had to put his finger on one of these nefarious elements of our demise, it would certainly be the banksters. We’ve fought the Rothschild banks since our nation’s earliest days and we’re currently being strangled by them. We know the double citizens are part of our undoing yet we insist, in our ignorances, that there is never anything we can do about it.
    Our demise is rooted in the deepest nooks and crannies of ignorant Americans who have been massively distracted by gadgetry, materialism, and having things, those baubles that qualify as diversions that keep us fat and content with said divisive elements while our precious bodily fluids have been slowly but steadily drained away. We are now fighting large numbers of personal proxy wars, mostly with ourselves and our urges to acquire “prosperity”, whatever that is. We have everything but we have little or nothing in the final analysis. We’ve climbed the ladder only to find out that we are too high up to get back down without a massive misstep. We’ve been given an armload of junk while our values and institutions have been stolen from us. Hence, we are left with the famous giant sucking sound and little else. We have met the enemy and it is …….us.

  7. That was fun and thought-provoking, thanks to you both. I sincerely hope Professor Hamamoto is right about the demise of Big Pharma. Also I’ve always wondered about Hemingway’s suicide. I’m going to have to take another look at his writing. I’m thinking that his themes of individual strength and perseverance in opposition to social alienation might be worth taking another look at in today’s milieu. In challenging the current state of Academia you both exhibit what Hemingway called “grace under pressure”.

  8. Ah, the 60s’ I was too busy being a young modern with family responsibilities to pay it much thought. (wha!!?) Seriously, on reflection, did hippies engineer the drug culture or did the drugs reinvent the counterculture characterized in hippiedom? hmmmm… If the thrust was to muffle war dissent, it certainly worked to perfection.

    Today’s interview was a typical Dr. Hamamoto out-of-the-box presentation. An excellent example of what a discussion should be with interviewer, interviewee and audience sharing in the interactive communication. Always a treat to hear Dr. Hamamoto’s sonorous delivery on a sweeping range of complex topics compressed to a few succinct paragraphs without dulling the impact.

    I’m a fan; what can I say?

    Love the new “Real Politik” format with James on camera
    showing his reactions. Good stuff! Kudos and May the Force be with you both, however you perceive the ultimate universal consciousness.

    1. There is a growing new group of citizens, those who believe everything they are told is probably bunk. The recent story of the miraculous survival of an inexperienced sailor, sank before it hit the second news cycle.

      Recently advised a young, upset blogger to avoid tangling with trolls, it is a waste of time and they were just there to discredit anything and anybody related to the chemical poisoning of our skies.

      Turns out his attacker also believes the Boston bombing is a hoax and another troll indicated because of that he was a total idiot who is giving the chemtrail movement a bad name!

      Had to chime in the bombing was a hoax and now I am a scum of the earth who must also believe that Sandy Hook was a hoax and those poor parents who I keep torturing and yes of course, I must also support the murdering of police officers.

      Wonder if he gets paid for a twofer times two?

      1. I didn’t follow the sailor story too much, but in my experience a story which sinks before it has run for very long may well be a true one, because there may be no axe to grind in it, no reason for keeping it current like the Gallant Gallstone.

        In Boston, on the same street as the Marathon finish line, there is a fire station where two firefighters answered the alarm fight a massive basement fire in the Back Bay (a treacherous place to fight fires where I actually saw one decades ago that claimed the lives of two other men who I saw go in on ladders, only to hear that they never emerged). So I timed this recent story (which of course made a passing reference to the prior hoax), kept track of the fact that very few dignitaries associated themselves with the funeral, and paid attention to a distraught young widow who rudely refused caressing or at least looked stricken. That story soon disappeared and the monument (a standard plaque) makes Sean Collier’s at MIT look like the Starship Enterprise.

        So who knows? We can develop an attitude of rejection, but real things do happen and they have to note them grudgingly in their long-running reality show.

  9. Very compelling conversation gentlemen and yes the addition of video engages the audience in a multitude of ways. There might of been some breaks of humor that went totally over my head had I not seen the grin and eyes brightened a bit.

    Yes we must keep our sense of humor in our battle against them, found it hysterical that a small town pizza maker hits the jackpot by stating they would not cater a gay wedding if asked. $800.000 is probably more money than they will ever make, and they can just close up shop now!

    Seems they are having a jolly old time declaring hard drives crashed or were purposely wiped clean and there is no freedom of information anymore. How about we sue NSA for the data that our tax dollars already paid for since it is well known they have everything on everybody? Perhaps we could offer rewards to all the foreign governments or agencies that already have this data?

    It is encouraging to know that professors are willing to speak the truth and students are still capable of comprehending it. Maybe that campaign talk of forgiving student loans and the evil bankers, might be the lie that woke up the masses.

    In many ways, our college loan holders and adjunct professors are the modern time equivalent of indentured slaves, their compliance was secured with the promise of a secure future.

    Hoping enough of them are sober enough and able to break free of the shackles!

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