Friday, July 24, 2009

NHK deceives and is deceived in turn

Meet the Bakers

It is 9:41 in the Immense City. Somewhere in NHK studios in Shibuya, a tv news producer is being strangled.

NHK evening news just broadcast an extremely slanted segment reporting on the first public testimony of Ambassador-elect John Roos. In order to belittle the appointee, the segment described him as a "mergers & acquisitions lawyer" and "the man who is said to have collected the most checks for the Obama campaign." Of course, "he lacks knowledge about Japan."

The segment then shifted to a May White House press conference, where an NHK correspondent with poor pronunciation and atrocious syntax whines out an incoherent question about the nomination of Roos to be Ambassador. White Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, struggling make head or tails of the question, asks "The nomination of who?"

"Aha," the NHK report concludes -- "not even the White House Press Secretary knows who this purported friend of Barack Obama is."

Ridiculous. Gibbs just could not understand the correspondent's English.

Then the "the good old days segment" began -- the images of way back when -- when men were men, women were women, geisha were geisha and Ambassadors to Japan were either Japan hands, big political wheels or both.

Cue the reels of Ambassador Reischauer telling his hosts in Japanese, "My wife and I were both born in Tokyo, so for us this a coming home." Skip, inexplicably over Mike Mansfield. Go straight to "Jimmy Carter's Vice President and former Presidential candidate Ambassador Mondale", proceed to George Herbert Walker's close confidante Ambassador Baker...and stop right there.

Because the historical footage of "Ambassador Baker" -- one of these instantly recognizable figures completely unlike the annonymous Roos -- was not Senator Howard Baker -- who with his spouse former Senator Nancy Kassebaum actually did reside in the Akasaka residence-- but former Secretary of the Treasury James Baker, who has never spent more than a few days in Japan.


So much for "famous and recognizable" thesis behind the report...and yes, they showed James-not-Howard Baker footage not only in the middle of the report but in the wrapup.

Rest easy Ambassador Roos. Your detractors have just shot themselves in the foot.


Our Man in Abiko said...

Our Man's choice is Ginger, every time.

Anonymous said...

I was in Changsha awhile back representing the family at the Yali Middle School. Family members from Yale had been teachers there back in the 20s.

They showed me their museum, which included pictures of the relatives. Stopping in front of a picture of a young woman interpreting for Mao and a White Man, the principal proudly told me that she was a Yali graduate who interpreted for the historic Mao Nixon meeting as the picture portrayed.

Unfortunately, my mouth was faster than my brain, and out popped, "no, it's not, that is William P. Rogers, then the Secretary of State; definitely not Nixon!"

At least I didn't say it was a surprise to me that Rogers was even allowed to go to China; he had been completely cut out of the historical first trip.

David said...

I saw that broadcast...I could barely understand the woman's question either. If the Roos appointment bothers NHK though,it has to be a good thing.

I am sure that they'll issue a correction soon though.

Anonymous said...

They apologized at the end of the show for using the wrong footage. This blog post is a lot more slanted than the report last night.

MTC said...

Anonymous #2 -

If the naked editorial bias in what purports to be a news segment is the contrast between appointment of the unknown Roos with the appointment of persons better known (note the point supposedly made with the Gibbs Q&A segment -- that not even the White House press secretary knows about Roos) then the idiots putting the report together had better well remember what the famous Ambassador Baker-So-Close-To-Reagan looked liked.

I am sorry, but even with the belated apology at the end of the newscast (unless I am mistaken they did not tell the audience what they had done, only that "the wrong footage had been used with Ambassador Baker") their point --that the ambassadors of yore were men well-known to all, had been detonated to atoms.

Anonymous said...

I didn't see the broadcast, but Ayumi's English is fine. More than fine, actually, it is very good. She must have been having a bad day.

apeescape said...

So I understand an Ambassador to a country is -- well, an Ambassador. The significance of its position is probably overblown. But in Japan, when tatemae (and katagaki) is a stronger aspect of their culture, isn't it natural to look at Roos's resume and think: "US only gives a shit about China!"?

I remember watching a newsreel that compared Bush's length of stay in his first visit to Japan vs Obama's stay. The newsreel concluded that since Bush's stay was longer, the US is becoming less considerate to Japan's inputs. Little things like length of stay (or appointments of diplomats) can deter the press opinion profoundly. The general negativity of the Japanese press (not just NHK) of the Roos appointment isn't too surprising IMO (of course they should get the facts right).

BTW, are there any positive talking points that can be conjured up on why Roos was appointed? I don't think there's enough info on him to make a well-rounded opinion (Tobias Harris called it benign neglect); and the lack of info opens the gate for nitpicking.

In any case, Roos is given a bad first impression, we'll see how it goes from here.