"Little white lies" about Koizumi, Tanaka and a mysterious woman

Wednesday, August 31 2005 @ 01:13 AM JST

Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto

In its August 16 piece titled "Yomiuri Shimbun、et al. play dumb for the 60th time" TokyoFreePress classified media's lies into the following two categories:

Type 1: To tell something that's not supported by the fact, or just avoid mentioning a relevant fact.
Type 2: To tell the fact, and yet hold back the truth by putting it in the wrong perspective, or wrong context.

These definitions are nothing new. But if you carefully watch the behavior of the Japanese mainstream media, you will notice that they are now resorting to Type 1 more frequently than ever, defying the fact that every news story now hits the Net before Japanese reporters and editors can decide to suppress it.

Since the August 8 dissolution of the House of Representatives, the Japanese people have been caught, like a captive audience, in the same old big fuss over the 9-11 snap election.

If there is anything that has a newish flavor in the media's coverage of the 2005 election campaign, it's such rhetoric as:
- A long-awaited modern two-party system is taking root on this soil.
- A sound and strong Japan is on the horizon thanks to the drive by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

I will deal with these Type 2 fallacies in a separate piece to be posted on this blog in the next few days. But for now, I will show you below here some examples of more straightforward fallacies (Type 1) from their coverage of the ongoing campaign:

Koizumi's rape case hushed up by JNPC

Junichiro Koizumi allegedly raped a female university student back in 1967. Our Prime Minister is also suspected to have repeated sexual offense several times even after he got into politics.

In March 2004, former NTV reporter Aiji Kimura lodged a civil suit against the Prime Minister with the Tokyo District Court, singling out the 1967 case. In July, the court quickly dismissed the accusation as totally unsubstantiated.

Prior to the Kimura's legal action, a bold but well-informed tabloid magazine revealed all the suspicions about Koizumi's past. According to the magazine, when he was arrested, the Kanagawa Prefectural Police Department released him immediately after the alleged rapist's father, then-Director General of the Defense Agency, meddled in.

So it's no wonder that the judge "found" the plaintiff's allegation unsubstantiated. Judge's conscience didn't ache over the crime Koizumi might, or mightn't, have committed almost four decades ago.

In fact, though, the real problem with this court case lies with the fact that all the media organizations holding exclusive memberships in Nihon Kisha Kurabu (Japan National Press Club) seemed to have decided to exert every effort, all along, to avoid stigmatizing the nation's leader.

To that end the media broke the hush only when the allegation was dismissed by the court on July 15, 2004. At that time Koizumi reportedly shrugged off the turned down accusation, just saying, "Being a Prime Minister, I am quite used to this sort of groundless defamation."

For those who are unfamiliar with the JNPC, it's an exclusive and collusive group of the mainstream media organizations which was formed in 1949. All we know about its activity is that it's an integral part of the whole System. We don't know any more than that because, believe it or not, it doesn't have an official website.

Ever since it's been a no-no for the JNPC members to rake over old ashes. It has never crossed their mind that they should launch an independent investigation into the suspected rape incident(s) if ever they still claim to be professional journalists free of fear and favor.

Bill Clinton was on the verge of facing impeachment just for having an affair with Monica Lewinsky. But unlike making love with a White House intern, rape is a crime.

So I don't know any other word than "liars" to describe the Japanese media who are now hailing this dubious figure as if he were a hero of reform.

Besides, the Western media, including the likes of Washington Post, all of a sudden started to sing along to the same hymn. Even worse, the Japanese media, as usual, are enthusiastic about reimporting the Koizumi craze from these mirror images, as if the endorsement by their misguided colleagues in the West can make themselves a little trustworthy.

Yasuo Tanaka's "Declaration of Departure from The Press Club System"

On May 15, 2001, Nagano Governor Yasuo Tanaka issued a groundbreaking statement titled "Declaration of Departure from The Press Club System". (Its English translation is available here)

He is now acting as the head of the newborn party "Nippon" (NPN) on a concurrent basis. Quite understandably, Nagano residents have been voicing their displeasure at Tanaka's new pursuit.

Extremely energetic as he is, though, I think he can somehow manage to deal with formidable tasks facing him both at the national and prefectural levels. And he has proved to be exceptionally good at prioritizing things.

On Monday, August 29, the JNPC staged a big meeting where the leaders of the seven major political parties were invited to present their campaign pledges under the nation-wide spotlight. But Yasuo Tanaka did not show up there on the pretext he was tied up with "important duties" in his prefecture.

In the face of Tanaka's apparent boycott of the JNPC-sponsored session, some newspapers just chose to pass on his politically correct excuse for not showing up to their readers, knowing Tanaka could have gotten his deputy to take care of the gubernatorial job if he had been telling the truth.

Some others even totally neglected to mention the absence of the newest party's boss at the JNPC session.

Obviously this, too, falls on Type 1.

Attempted suicide before Prime Minister's Official Residence

At around 10:20 a.m., August 30, a woman in her 30s (some say she is in her 50s) pulled over her van to the gate of the Koizumi's official residence. Still staying behind the wheel, she slashed her neck, abdomen and wrists with a knife. She was in a critical condition when she was taken to a hospital by an ambulance.

The news broke out on the Web soon after this happened. But most of the news media decided not to follow this up with more detailed accounts.

The morning edition of August 31 Mainichi Shimbun didn't spare a single word for this incident although on the Net, the Mainichi was one of the first to deliver a flash report.

NHK TV, who had already practiced in early-August "Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil" when a frail lawmaker of the Liberal Democratic Party hung himself because of his awkward position between intra-party pro- and anti-postal privatization camps, once again decided to make believe nothing had happened in front of the PM's official residence.

NHK's excuse for this might have been that it just acted prudently enough to avoid affecting the ongoing campaign in one way or the other. But wasn't it this state-run broadcaster that has always claimed to be an impartial news provider? All we expect from NHK, or any other news media organization, is a straight news, not distorted views.

Maybe NHK had another excuse: They had so many newsworthy stories on that day that they had to pass over the particular news about the suicide attempt.

More report-worthy news items for NHK included a recent mishap in a High School baseball club which involved a minor violence by a coach. For an unknown reason, the TV broadcaster has been inciting a nation-wide debate over the incident in which a coach insisted that he had slapped a club member 10 times, whereas the "victim" and his parents insisted the slap count had been more than 20.

Or, NHK might have cited its hypocritical concern about privacy. But whose privacy was it that NHK wanted to protect?

No matter what, it's all the more noteworthy that the TV station omitted the potentially touchy news story because in this men-dominated nation, it's quite unusual that a woman attempts to kill someone, or herself, to express her grudge against a political figure.

Moreover, as many psychiatrists observe, a victim of sexual abuse develops a tendency toward destroying herself, rather than destroying the abuser.

In this context you can't totally rule out the possibility that this woman attempted to kill herself out of revenge for a trauma inflicted on her by a habitual abuser, in front of his official residence.

At any rate, who could blame us for being possibly over-suspicious about the man when a virtual blackout was imposed on the mysterious incident, let alone on the background information about the woman?

Type 1 goes a longer way than you think

These are nothing more than the tips of the iceberg. Apparently the media's intention is to immunize their audience and readership against whatever it is.

Some of you may say, "It's not a big deal that the media opted to ignore Koizumi's shady past, Tanaka's refusal to accept the JNPC's invitation and the mysterious woman's attempt to kill herself."

In fact, though, that's an unmistakable sign that these big-hearted people have been getting immunized over time.

That way of viewing the behavior of the today's media will lead you to allow them to further stymie your vision from the real and larger picture, because wherever there is a "little white lie," there is a big black one.

It's important to know that a Type 1 lie always gives you a clue to a Type 2 fallacy. Reporters and editors resort to transparent and downright fallacies only when they realize more sophisticated Type 2 lies can no longer withstand the aggravated situation facing them.

One example: Recently, even politicians have started talking about "vested rights" held by pork-barrel operators (i.e., themselves) and their beneficiaries, though belatedly and half-heartedly.

The media are following suit because for now, it's a breeze for them to dig into collusive and corrupt relations among politicians, the entire bureaucracy and the private sector as long as they do that ex post facto, and refrain from overdoing it.

But in fact the JNPC members have now started to feel uneasy as if they have been cornered to the edge of an abyss. That's primarily because they now feel they, themselves, can be the next target of thorough scrutiny, or the next crack through which another tons of pus starts draining.

In short, they are now on alert for the possibility that one day someone comes forward to ask them these questions:
- What about your own vested rights in the System?
- Who the hell granted you a sacred cow status?

The aforementioned Tanaka's declaration is a precursor of this although he has thus far refrained from airing his contempt of the media when appearing on TV.

The Japan's media are now desperately trying to dodge these nasty questions so the last bastion of the 1955 System can be defended at any cost.

To that end a couple of "little white lies" go a long way.

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