Thursday, September 19, 2013

Ignore What I Said. Please!

This morning the news organizations reported what is probably a non-story. Asking the rhetorical question, "Is he making light of the electorate?" the nation news providers pointed an accusative finger at Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General for the House of Councillors Waki Masashi, who told a gathering held in honor of the LDP's women legislators:

"The current mean of selecting party candidates, by the steps established by the parties, is immature. First, can the parties really select members of the Diet correctly? If we can deal decisively with this one thing, although one cannot say it in too loud a voice, even if morons are making the selections, the selected persons are impressive."
Given the audience at the reception, which included Prime Minister and LDP President Abe Shinzo (Link - J video), it is difficult to state with any certainty who it is Waki thinks deserves the label "moron" (aho). Nor can one easily discern who precisely the chosen persons (erabareru hito) are. Nor is it clear how "moron" selectors can chose "impressive" (rippa) persons.

Waki is a Tokyo University grad (Engineering) and a former national government bureaucrat -- albeit of the now demoted Construction Ministry. So despite being a card-carrying member of the LDP's Road Tribe, the Mos Eisley Spaceport of Diet groups, he cannot be assumed to be complete out of his senses.

So while it is difficult to ascertain what Waki thought he was saying -- and to whom -- an assumption that he was calling the voters "morons" is not plausible.

Two points:

One, this is the second major flareup over peculiar remarks about elected government by an LDP bigwig since the July 21 House of Councillors. The first was the brouhaha over Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Aso Taro's suggestion to a Japan Institute of National Fundamentals-provided audience that those wishing to revise the 1947 Constitution should learn from the Nazi party's overturning of the Weimar Constitution. In that instance, initial transcripts left open the possibility that Aso was being sarcastic or ironic.  Recently, sound recordings featuring the audience reaction to Aso's remarks indicate that whatever his intent, the audience clearly thought a Nazi-like takeover of the present Japanese state hilarious (Link J - audio) -- showing that major news outlets were not being unfair in their framing of Aso's weird ramblings.

Two, chasing-after-gaffes journalism -- merited in Aso's case, unmerited in Waki's -- is back from the grave. We are in a time of turmoil, where serious issues and ideas are being debated. Nevertheless journalists are wasting their time and ours on revealing politicians to be idiots -- which is a lot like reporting breathlessly about zebras having stripes.

The second point is bad news for persons looking for a Japan with the wherewithal to lift itself out of its doldrums. Attention spans are limited, and if the people's eyes and ears are clogged with trivialities, the voters will not be the guides for the politicians that they will need to be, this blessed land having nothing resembling an opposition in the Diet. Grim and frightening it is to watch august news institutions like national broadcaster NHK roll over and become mere PR outlets for the government and select businesses (Last night's 7 pm broadcast actually began with the announcer chirping, "Tonight there is wonderful news (ureshii nyusu): the sites of the stations of the proposed high speed linear motor line have been chosen!"). If what little time that is left for critical commentary is wasted on parsing the semantics of the perspective challenged -- then we are all in the pot, ready to be roasted.

Later - Many thanks to commenter "TheStrawMan" for noticing my skipping over the phrase marked in red above.

Still left unanswered is how the party composed of mere humans can conjure up and approve a system of selecting candidates which is idiot-proof.


Anonymous said...

Aha, you bring up the maglev train. Can anyone tell me what is the point of being able to get to Nagoya in 40 min? Yes, I know Toyota is a big wheel there (sorry for the pun), but what, really, is the point, except to waste our tax dollars? Already, commentators are saying that "tourists" will stick to the shinkansen and business people will use the maglev, because they're in a hurry. The fare seems unbelievably low as well (only 700 yen more than the shinkansen).

MTC said...

Anonymous -

I am planning a longer essay on the sudden explosive release of a profusion of plans for what seem at best ill-considered infrastructure projects. So I will ask your patience in terms of a response.

TheStrawMan said...

You forgot to translate "これさえしっかりしていれば" ("if we deal decisively with even this one thing, then...")

Anonymous said...

I look forward to the essay MTC. But, Anonymous #1, surely the point is that you will be able to get from Nagoya to Tokyo in 40 mins; not the other way around.

Anonymous said...

From Anonymous #1
I look forward to the essay too. Re getting from Nagoya to Tokyo in 40 min., didn't think of it that way... but hey, while they're at it, why not move everybody else in the country to Tokyo?