Sunday, January 25, 2015

One Man Dies

It is a quiet morning in Tokyo, the sky clear, the air cold.

I went down to the mailbox to pick up the morning paper (yes, here in this blessed land, we keep to 20th century habits). Oddly the box was empty, save for some real estate adverts.


Granted, this was 4:15 in the morning on a Sunday...but usually the delivery comes at around 4:00.

I went upstairs, checked my emails -- hmmm, someone is forwarding me a lot of Ministry of Foreign Affairs press releases. "Probably about the comfort women issue or the Nanjing massacre or Japan's POWs," I thought to myself -- because that is what usually pops in at about this hour.

Checking through my open tabs, I reviewed The Japan Times article where Michael Penn acidly and acutely reframes the video of IS hostages Yukawa Haruna and Goto Kenji. (Link)

"Hmmm, I wonder where the situation stands."

So I checked the Yahoo! Japan news feed. I read the top headline.

"Oh. Guess that explains why no paper in the box and the MOFA emails."

* * *

Yukawa Haruna, strange creature that he was (Link) is dead. (Link)

He may have been dead for some time. Japanese video analysts have been all over the inconsistencies and discontinuities in the initial video. The analysis indicates the image is a composite of different recordings knitted together by a crew of technicians who could clearly teach the North Korean central news agency a thing or two about faking images.

Yukawa, whose self-mutilation and gender identity issues have not been discussed in the domestic mainstream media (or been the major subject of titillated comment) condemned himself by carrying a gun and pretending to be a gonzo journalist and a military affairs expert in Syria, of all places. That he was neither must have dawned on his captors fairly soon...which immediately begged the question, "What do we do with this, this...person?"

The thought that he must be worth something, that he might indeed someone the Japanese government would want to save or ransom, must have surprised Yukawa. That he in fact was not -- that he was just the latest of a procession of inadvertently Japanese celebrities coughed up by post-1945 Japan's sheer innocuousness, shooting stars of the mediaverse that baffle the rest of the planet in their simply not representing anything -- was the reason why heroic journalist Goto Kenji had to try to rescue him instead.

With Yukawa dead, the game gets real. Goto Kenji is likely alive and is indeed worth something, both to his country and to the world. That a bidding war has seemingly broken out over what exactly is the price of Goto's life (Link) indicates that the prevailing narrative about Islamic State -- that its members are indiscriminate, reactive, ethnocentric, Sunni lunatics who kill all that are unlike themselves -- is wrong. Goto alive and Yukawa dead proves that Islamic State militants do discriminate and that not all humans unlike themselves are equally worthless to them.

It should be noted that the government of Abe Shinzo is learning the hard way that the seemingly cheap ride of a proclaiming a doctrine of "pro-active pacifism" can in fact be costly in terms of Japanese lives. Abe Shinzo cast into shadow Japan's noble gift of help to refugees fleeing the latest convulsions of the region. He should not have ever called it Japan's contribution to fight on terror, whatever his needs to please Washington...and definitely not during an official visit to the Mideast.

As the videos of IS make clear -- in their taking the anonymous high-altitude, video-recorded killing of modern anti-terrorist warfare and the off-the radar holding without trial of Islamic militants in Guantanamo Bay and torture of Islamic militants elsewhere and putting to the West via its technology the mirror view  -- on the ground, up close, hyper-real and intensely personal (for to kill a man with a knife you must hold him) -- how you frame the image of your actions really matters.

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