Yomiuri Shimbun, et al. play dumb for the 60th time

Tuesday, August 16 2005 @ 08:20 AM JST

Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto



There are two types of lies the mainstream media are telling their readership and audience:

Type 1: Telling something that's not supported by the fact, or just avoiding mentioning it.
Type 2: Telling the fact, and yet holding back the truth by putting it in the wrong perspective, or wrong context.

They prefer and prioritize the use of Type 2. Although it takes some mastery and more sophistication than the other type, the beauty of Type 2 is it makes the "political sandmen" (Ian Buruma's coined words) look more professional and reliable.

Their readerships and audiences, however, have been growing insecure these days about the health, or even viability, of this society and the system. They have started wondering something may be fundamentally wrong because the total picture shown by the media is looking more and more inconsistent and ill-founded.

That's why the media sometimes cannot but resort to Type 1 which is much simpler and more straightforward. But most of the time, they cannot expect the primitive and transparent lies to work to their satisfaction in the era of the Internet and communications satellites.

One way to shed light on the modus operandi of the today's media is obviously to look back on how they behaved in the prewar and wartime years. If you spare some time to leaf through Japanese newspapers of the first half of the 1940s, you will be surprised to know the modi operandi of the Japanese printed media were primarily Type 2, not Type 1.

Today's journalists want their readers to believe that during the wartime period, Daihon-ei, or the Headquarters of the Imperial Japanese Army, was forcing newspaper publishers and the radio broadcaster (NHK) to feed the Japanese people with tons of downright fallacies (Type 1).

In doing so they are trying to insinuate that although they temporarily yielded to the suppression of free press, that was nothing more than a hiccup.

But their favorite alibi along this line is far from plausible. For one thing today they have the infamous Kisha Kurabu, or Reporters' Club, system for constantly distorting news stories in place of the Daihon-ei news release system.

It's true that Daihon-ei always overstated the damages the enemy was suffering, while understating losses being incurred on the Japanese side.

But who could have covered up the fact for long when three million Japanese were dying? Bad news revealed itself even faster than on the Web.

The August 7, 1945 issue of the Yomiuri Hochi, the predecessor daily of the Yomiuri Shimbun, said nothing about the A-bombing on the city of Hiroshima. But on August 8, it had to report on the "genocidal" attempt by the United States.

It's just that it took Daihon-ei an extra 24 hours to digest, or cook, what had happened in Hiroshima. But they did report the fact, only with a 24-hour delay, as far as they had been able to make out of the huge mushroom-shaped cloud.

True, neither Daihon-ei nor newspapers really understood exactly what substance had caused the devastating explosion and what sort of aftereffects it was going to bring about.

But have Yomiuri, et al. really grasped by now the truth about the apocalypse?

Although it's taboo here to mention this, what really happened was a mass-suicide (see Footnote 1), no matter whether Harry S. Truman, for his part, attempted a genocidal experiment. At any rate Hiroshima and Nagasaki weren't a nuclearized retaliation for Pearl Harbor.

That they told the fact and yet didn't tell the truth about the A-bombing, and that they still don't have the guts to face up to the 60-year-old truth indicates this: In fact the Japanese media haven't changed that much in the last six decades although they claim otherwise.

On August 15, 2005, the Daily Yomiuri and its parent, the Yomiuri Shimbun, ran an editorial to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Japan's acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration.

The 60th editorial (see Footnote 2) was entitled "Time is ripe for review of war responsibility."

The Yomiuri editors concluded the full-length editorial filled with all-too-familiar notions and worn-out sophism by suggesting the Japanese people reconsider who bears responsibility for the war.

They argued: "Whatever meaning the historic milestone of the 60th anniversary of the end of the war may carry, we may be ushering in an important juncture for us to start a national debate over history."

Not again, you guys!

Why the heck do the Yomiuri, et al. have to raise the same question over and over? Why on earth are we supposed to reconsider it for 60 times?

The problem solved itself sixty years ago.

The only way to explain why the editors thought that way is that the Yomiuri, et al. feel there's something that remains unsettled, in the innermost depths of their minds.

If that is the case with them, however, that's their problem, not ours.

Whatever pretext they use, they are suggesting we reopen the pointless debate over war responsibility just in order to cater to their own pathological fixation to the past, or Chinese and Koreans'.

In fact everybody already knows the "correct answer" to the question about war responsibility. Whenever a Japanese say, "Hey, let's sit together and have a debate," the answer is already given there, for otherwise, any issue isn't debatable here in the first place. A debate is nothing more than a ritualized confirmation of our homogeneity.

The "correct answer" is: "Everybody, including the victors, are to take the blame, more or less, for starting the war, in a lose-lose situation for Japan."

I have nothing against the idea of having the entire generation across the borders share the responsibility, if the "entire generation" includes the demigod-turned-symbol of national unity. I would be more comfortable, though, if it was extended beyond the particular generation in which my parents belonged.

Despite the fact all of us now know the answer, if it's a ridiculously relativist one, the media feel an irresistible urge to resume asking this question at this time of the year, as if in a Pavlovian response to the mid-summer heat, presumably because there is one sticking point involved in it.

Simply put, the question that has remained unanswered is:

"Who gave the media all this immunity from the guilt?"

The Japanese media are not used to the idea that they were, and still remain, one of the main culprits for the hardships the Japanese people have gone through, and more importantly, are going through today, and doomed to go through in the future.

As I already said, just implicating the entire generation is not enough because all this misery didn't start in 1941. It didn't even start in the 1930s when Japan was working on the dress rehearsal for Dai-toa Senso, or Greater East Asian War, in its backyard.

You can trace it back to July 1853, when Commodore Matthew Perry sailed into Edo Bay to force the Shogunate government to open up Japan, or even to the early-17th century when a Shogun by the name of Hidetada Tokugawa decided to implement his policy of seclusion.

This really invalidates the media's "hiccup" theory.

The aforementioned Yomiuri editorial quoted Judge Radha Binod Pal representing India at the Tokyo Tribunal (1946-1948) as saying, "The trial itself was 'a ritualized vengeance.'"

Also it quoted a then-U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Douglas as saying, "The Tokyo Trial was not a judicial tribunal but merely a tool for political power."

In short it wanted to insinuate that all the verdicts handed down in 1948, which were officially accepted in San Francisco in 1951, were not really legitimate.

Why then did the Yomiuri not speak up in 1948, not in 2005, to say these sentences were not really in line with the international law?

By the same token, why didn't the Yomiuri insist that the Yalta Conference was a "'forum of conspiracy' where the United States provoked the Soviet Union into violating Japanese-Soviet neutrality treaty and into committing an act of aggression against Japan," instead of grumbling only after George W. Bush said in May 2005 that the conference was "one of the greatest wrongs of history"?

The Yomiuri editorial went on to criticize France and the Netherlands "for fighting wars to [re-colonialize] Vietnam and Indonesia, respectively, against national liberation forces." These words, too, should have been spoken half-a-century earlier.

Yomiuri's way of fending off these criticisms is predictable: "In those days the GHQ (General Headquarters of Allied Occupation Forces) was still gagging us."

So still they kept hiccupping. Is that it?

And today?

As a matter of fact it looks as though their spell of hiccups has become chronic by now, not because of Daihon-ei or the GHQ, but because of the news-manipulating Kisha Kurabu system which has been in place since 1949 for a more institutionalized and subtler (self-)censorship, or Jishu Kisei.

This infamously exclusive (to the outside) and collusive (within itself) reporters' club witnessed the birth of the 1955 System. (See Footnote 3.) And ever since it has acted as the guardian of the System.

In short the Japan's media have been able to survive these stormy prewar, wartime and postwar days only by acting as the spokesmen or loudspeakers for Daihon-ei, then the GHQ, and now Kisha Kurabu by complying with the rules imposed on them by whoever was in power.

Perhaps that's why these people look all the more taboo-ridden when it comes to the Emperor's war responsibility. They feel obliged to reciprocate his or his subjects' generosity of granting them paramount immunity from any guilt whenever things go wrong.

Thanks to this chameleonic super-flexibility and jellyfish-like plasticity, coupled with unparalleled self-complacency, the Yomiuri Shimbun enjoys today the world's second-largest circulation only next to the China's People's Daily's. It also boasts a long history starting in 1917.

I have nothing against longevity or prosperity of people. And I know it would be next to useless to try to change this system and these guys. After all they are backed by tens of millions of loyal subscribers and audiences.

The only favor I want them to do for me is: Stop asking the silly question about war responsibility because by now we know by heart everyone, except the media and the Emperor, was at fault.




Footnote 1: As you can see in October 14 TFP story titled "It's about time to wake up to the nuclear reality", Professor Emeritus of Tokyo University Keiichiro Kobori theorized that then-Prime Minister Kanichiro Suzuki should be given due credit for being able to avoid a total dismantlement of the statehood and keep the imperial institution intact by refusing the November 1943 Cairo Declaration. In effect, the Sankei Shimbun favorite rightwing "scholar" was arguing that Suzuki "won the wartime diplomacy" at the cost of the lives of Hiroshima/Nagasaki citizenry. And I am of the opinion that there is no such thing as "innocent" civilians. These people did accept their deaths which Suzuki had invited.

Footnote 2: To be more precise it's the 61st for the Yomiuri, if I am to include the one embedded at the top of this piece. I couldn't make legible the JPEG file for the oldest editorial dealing with the war defeat, but that doesn't really matter, I guess.

Footnote 3: The main architect of the System was Nobusuke Kishi who happened to be one of the Class-A war crimes suspects. Although he is remembered more for his spooky toothy grin than for his ingenious brainchild, I am sure that in the future, Kishi will be remembered as the main culprit for the lost opportunity for Japan to emancipate itself from the negative heritage from the past.

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