Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Respected Member of the Establishment Weighs In

Or should I entitle this, "Gerry Curtis Tries a Little Gentle Gaiatsu"?

In an opinion piece on page 15 of the paper version this morning's The Asahi Shimbun (I am trying to find a link) Columbia University Professor Gerald Curtis asks why the Tokyo District Prosecutor's Office has so far failed to hold a press conference explaining what it thinks it is doing in arresting Ozawa Ichirō's political secretary Ōkubo Toshinori -- and why the Japanese press has not asked for such a press conference.

The key passage from Professor Curtis' op-ed:

「国家権力があくまでも公平・公正に使われていると国民が信じられることが民主主義の絶対条件である。いま日本では政治家もマスコミも、さらに国民一般も、この問題にあまりにも鈍感になっていないか。」

"That the people can believe that the power of the state is being used in an absolutely fair and equitable manner is an indispensible requirement of democracy. Have not the politicians and the mass media, and by the same token, the mass of the people, become far too desensitized as regards this problem?"
Well, by those standards of what is indispensible for democracy, one pretty much has to write off the ASEAN democracies, Bangladesh, Taiwan...

Of course, that is probably Dr. Curtis's point. Publishing this opinion article in the Asahi, he is trying awaken the populace to the fact that Japan has, or at least should treasure, a comparative advantage in Asia in terms of fundamental democratic precepts, and that these are being threatened by the lack of accountability in the actions of the Tokyo District Prosecutor's Office.

Anyway, it is good to see that not just wild-eyed bloggers in the thrall of the Democratic Party of Japan are thinking that the prosecutors have some to explaining to do.

4 comments:

Kintama said...

Has the Japanese public become too desensitized? Do you honestly notice or pay attention to the shop clerk that yells irasshaimase at you? My American friend came over here on business and as I was taking him around he asked me, "What are they saying and why are they saying it." I explained everything to him at the same time I realized that I had become numb to the fact that they constantly say it everywhere you shop. (It brought back some of the novelty I used to feel about Japan.)

It's the same in politics though. The Japanese public (it seems like more in recent times, but that just may be because I started following politics within the last few years) has seen more and more corruption scandals involving politicians at all levels. The public also perceive the DPJ as pretty much the same as the LDP (and you see the support ratings they have for the LDP). So why should they be alarmed that there is another corruption scandal involving Ozawa? Yes, it's probably politically motivated, but then again, if you didn't have enemies (and could never earn them in this fantasy world), you would never get caught with your hand in the cookie jar.

Brief answer: the public has been desensitized to the corruption of politics like myself with Japanese shopkeepers or Americans upon news of "another death in Iraq." You have to also realize that this is politics and the general public doesn't care as long as they are making enough money (1955 System?).

To the bigger question of whether this should not be reported as thoroughly as possible, from my Eurocentric opinion, what are the journalists getting paid to do?

MTC said...

[Vulgarity deleted] -

The lack of a response troubling Curtis is not the shrug that greets the report of yet another construction company and politician being caught in an illicit embrace -- but the narcotized acceptance of a peculiarly-timed investigation of a party leader's associate for lame violations of the fundraising laws which pretty much every sitting Diet member's staff have committed.

Kintama said...

See Plamegate in the US. The Bush Administration leaked the covert status of Valerie Plame ruining her career and endangering the lives of the people she worked with. Members of the Press pursued the injustice while the American people continued to accept what Bush was saying and doing, all the way to Iraq. You can also argue that the American people were "narcotized" into believing the Bush Admin because the average person didn't care about this "Liberal" vs. "Conservative" battle because they were more concerned with Terror. The skirmish had no direct effect on the lives of the American people.

Is what the Bush Admin did in this case wrong and politically motivated? Yes, just as it is in this case in Japan. The Bush Admin put lives at risk while the LDP did what?...."expose" corruption. You have to be an idealist if you really think the people are going to go up in arms over another corruption case; especially if it has no direct effect on their lives like the over-arching threat of financial ruin.

The responsibility lies with an active Press to fish out the details; the people will not demand an answer. Shift the topic to something that affects people's welfare i.e. hakken shain losing jobs en masse, and you will see people demanding an answer.

Kintama said...

I saw this article and thought of this discussion. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20090327a6.html

It appears the journalists are doing their jobs and the people are as apathetic as ever.