Monday, January 07, 2008

Sourcing at the Edge

From time to time last year acquaintances asked me about the relationship between Abe Shinzō and the Unification Church.

I told the truth--that I knew nothing and would not trust anything that I could read about it.

Itō Takuya, whoever he may be, has has no such reticence. In an article on Abe Shinzō and the abductees posted to the Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies he sets what have to be new boundaries for what can be accepted as valid sourcing in academic-type work on Japan.

Shūkan Gendai and Shūkan Posuto as primary references - wow.

You Unification Church rumor junkies, a festival awaits.

4 comments:

Jun Okumura said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jun Okumura said...

Takuya Ito is a byproduct of the artificial intelligence program at the University of Sheffield. Professor Matanle and his research team had intended to coax the U of S supercomputer into sentience by feeding it the complete works of Jung and the Asahi and Nikkei archives. Unfortunately, a disgruntled graduate student snuck into the computer room one night before the project could be completed and scanned his entire Shūkan Gendai and Shūkan Posuto collection into the hard disk.

The rest, as they say, is history, and the computer continues to publish its fevered imaginings on Professor Matanle's electronic (how quaint!) journal.

Matthew said...

Longtime reader, just wanted to ask a question:

Why should we be surprised by this? Doesn't it make sense for people with partisan points of view on the abduction issue would try to use academia as a point of access to policy?

Of course, I'm not advocating the usage of weeklies as primary sources. But for me, this is valuable as an illustration, an illustration of how the politics around abduction have played out-paranoid speculation about the margins of politics that is itself kind of marginal.

Lots of people have made the argument that this style of politics comes out of distrust towards and alienation from big institutions, that it reflects social conditions. They've also made the claim that it's not a good idea to try and marginalize this stuff further. I am not claiming that this guy is a charity case-to the contrary, I think he probably speaks for a big section of public opinion-but as an academic I'd say this is an occasion for reflection about how our framing attitudes about political institutions have been really out of touch with what a lot of people actually think.

MTC said...

matthew -

The sourcing question - What should one do when the newspapers are self-censoring and/or conduits of government propaganda? How far can one allow oneself down the quality gradient before one is in scurrilous falsehood territory? -- would be simpler if the divisions were merely between elite discourses and popular discourses.

Unfortunately, elite ownership of the weeklies practical guarantees that many of the "hidden truths" revealed in the popular, vernacular press are just bombs being furnished by higher powers for use in down and dirty proxy wars.

The chances of becoming a tool of hidden interests is fairly significant.