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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The old normal

Would it be ethnocentric of Momoko Sakura さくらももこ, Shūeisha Publishing Co. 集英社, Nippon Animation 日本アニメーション, Fuji Television フジテレビ, Animax アニマックス et al. to complain about this unauthorized use of Chibi Maruko-chan ちびまる子ちゃん?

Well, what do you know - Hell is indeed a very hot place, and pigs are in fact grounded. After seemingly setting sail on a new course towards rational thinking and expository writing, the editorial staff at The China Post have returned to doing what they know best - churning out bizarre, schizophrenic editorials that veer so far from reality that if the Commentary page were an actual person, he/she would be committed to the local mental ward for observation. 

Case in point: today's piece entitled Entrenched discrimination in Japan limits press freedom. The editorial hasn't yet been posted on the newspaper's website, but if you're the type who places great importance on logical, linear progressive thinking, you would probably risk having a seizure trying to make sense of this particular dreck. Ostensibly an observation about the overblown press coverage of the Makiyo affair, the editorial somehow veers in several different directions without ever stating a clear and concise point. Who else but The China Post could find echoes of the Second World War in a drunken brawl involving a half-Japanese/half-Taiwanese "star" of questionable talent, her yakuza ヤクザ-looking boyfriend and a Taiwanese taxi driver:

The vernacular print media, encouraged by the outcry raised by ubiquitous young social network users against (Takateru) Tomoyori and Makiyo joined in the press war reminiscent of Chiang Kai-shek's 蔣中正 eight-year War of Resistance 抗日戰爭 against Japan from 1937 to 1945, at the end of which Taiwan was restored to the Republic of China 中華民國 after 50 years of Japanese colonial rule. Newspapers wished to remind the people of the Rape of Nanking 南京大屠殺, a massacre of hundreds of thousands of unarmed people young and old after the Japanese invasion army occupied the open capital city of the Republic of China, which the Japanese referred to by the derogatory name Shina (支那).

Wow. Yes, the Japanese invasion of China, and the atrocities that followed in its wake, were acts that deserved to be condemned...in the proper place and context. A story about Makiyo and her boyfriend beating up a cabbie isn't one of them. Back on February 15, the China Post was urging its readers to be vigilant in the face of racism and xenophobia generated by Makiyo and Tomoyori. Apparently, the editorial staff has given up the fight and gone over wholeheartedly to the other side. But it gets even worse, or more comical, or both:

On the other hand, the Japanese press all but ignored their Taiwanese counterparts' brouhaha. Of course they could, and with plenty of reason. Asked for comment on the scarcity of reports on the Tomoyori-Makiyo case, Japanese press workers said it was due to the lack of press interest, given that they would only be interested in covering such an incident if it involved a VIP, Japanese or otherwise.

That certainly would be the right reason for lack of coverage in the Japanese press, but the way it was explained couldn't hide the ethnocentric superiority, which is the hallmark of Japanese media workers (so much for "push(ing) back against those who make generalizations about a group of people" - see linked Feb. 15 editorial above). Remember the two Taiwanese girls killed by a lovelorn Taiwanese boy in Tōkyō 東京 ?

Makiyo is a nobody in Japan, so it should come as no surprise that the affair has generated very little interest in her homeland. The murder-suicide case alluded to above, on the other hand, happened on Japanese soil, with all the tragic elements of a TV soap opera, so it should also come as little surprise that the media in Japan jumped all over the story. This may be hard for the writers at the China Post to grasp, but just because a story has made a spectacular splash here in Taiwan doesn't mean it has to have the same hold on people elsewhere. Japanese TV viewers and newspaper readers might conceivably be more interested in some other scandalous news that might not have any bearing at all on Taiwan or its people. Or, to put it another way, who is actually demonstrating "ethnocentric superiority" here?

By the end of the editorial, it turns out that what is really bugging the staff at The China Post isn't memories of the war, or the lack of interest shown in Japan toward Maikyogate. No, what's chapping the Post's hide is the existence of Japan's notorious "press club" system 記者クラブ, which acts to reserve the juiciest tidbits of news to only those members of a particular kisha club. Often, this serves to exclude foreign media, though Japanese journalists as well also find themselves on the outside if they aren't members of a particular club. There's a right way to criticize such institutions - ask Karel van Wolferen. Bringing up totally irrelevant, pointless allusions to World War II and resorting to hypocritical insults based on ethnocentric generalizations, while almost completely contradicting one of your own editorials put out less than a month before, isn't the way to go about it.

If things work out as planned, I won't have to bother with this sorry excuse for journalism much longer. Instead, when I need a fix of heavily-slanted reporting, I can watch Fox News or listen to Rush Limbaugh.

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