This morning's seven o'clock news started with an incomprehensibly mundane story about the capture of low-rent criminal. The young punk had attempted a lame swindle involving an elderly gentleman, his son and a motorcycle messenger service, and had got himself arrested for his trouble.
Nothing in the crime was particularly clever or newsworthy. The young swindler called an elderly man, claiming to be the man's son. Since many telephones display the number of the caller, the swindler started his spiel with the lie, "Hi, it's me, your son. I have changed my cell phone number. Here is my new one."
A few days later, the swindler called again, asking for money for some odd emergency. "Send the money via motorcycle messenger to this address," the swindler explained.
The old man did as he was told, except for one slight modification. After he had received the first call, he had called the police department, telling them he was likely the target of some kind of scam. The officers told him to wait for the swindler to call again, then call them with the detailed description of whatever it was the caller wanted.
The police promised to take care of the rest.
So it was that when the criminal opened the door to the motorcycle messenger, instead of the cash he was expecting he received a fine pair of handcuffs--the motorcycle messenger being a policeman in disguise.
That was it.
The whole story.
The top news story on the national broadcaster's morning newscast.
Now I had paid special attention to the story because the introduction had been shamelessly misleading:
"There has been an arrest in an attempted swindle where a policeman impersonated a motorcycle messenger."
I thought it was going to be a juicy case of police corruption, or an account of a dastardly clever ruse. When it turned out that the swindle was a tiny, unimportant incident and that the policeman's having dressed as a motorcycle messenger was not an element of the crime, I was ticked off.
My furor, however, was tempered with befuddlement. The voice over had been at half speed, as if the journalist were speaking to a room full of four year olds. The story was also wildly overproduced, with reenactments of the telephone calls (ominously lit and shot from behind, as always) and minutely detailed sub-titles.
"What the hell is this," I finally had to yell at the television set,"The news for codgers? The lead story on the national news is the arrest of an ore-ore fraudster?"
"And what's with the reenactments of a crime committed only yesterday?" I thought quietly. "What producer would OK such a wild waste of crew and broadcast time?"
"What the hell is going on?"
Of course, it was The Lawyer who explained it all to me:
"Don't you know? February is National 'Let's Stop Telephone Fraud'* Month."
"So it goes to the top of the newscasts, with everyone speeeaaaakkiiinng veeerrrryyy slllllooooooowwwwwwllllly, so that even the demented can understand?"
I have written about the apparent collusion between the producers of NHK, the National Police Agency and other government organs before -- so the shenanigans on this morning's newscast should not have upset me. I know that the NPA gives NHK a heads up on every arrest so that crime may be presented the way the police would like it to be viewed.
Upset I nevertheless was, infuriated that NHK had tricked me ("There has been an arrest in an attempted swindle where a policeman impersonated a motorcycle messenger.") into surrendering even a gram of my usual caution.
NHK, without shame or sense of irony, had defrauded me.
* Officially, February is "Let's Eradicate Wire Transfer Fraud Month" (furikomi sagi no bokumetsu gekkan)... which makes the story even more annoying, since there was no wire transfer involved.