September 6, 2006

Are Fascists Seizing Control of Japan? Or Has Leftist Rhetoric Run Amok?

Hatched by Sachi

The leading candidate to replace ourgoing Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is Shinzo Abe, a hawk who is currently chief cabinet secretary and Koizumi's right-hand man. Abe is pro-American and has vowed to strengthen Japanese ties to the United States.

But what's remarkable about him is that he is openly discussing revisting the pacifist Japanese consitution, the third rail of Japanese politics.

“Japan will follow a foreign policy that makes firm demands based on national interests,” Abe told ruling Liberal Democratic Party members. “The security treaty with the U.S. forms the center of Japan's foreign and security policy. We must work to strengthen that stance”....

Abe favors expanding the security alliance with the United States, giving Japan's military more freedom to join peacekeeping and other international operations, and taking a tough stand with China and North Korea.

In speeches and a recently published book, Abe has vowed support for revising Japan's postwar pacifist constitution and creating Japanese versions of the National Security Council and Central Intelligence Agency.

“We need a new constitution that fits better for how Japan should be in the 21st century,” Abe said in his speech Friday, vowing to win passage of a law allowing a referendum on the constitution by the end of his term.

This kind of talk upsets liberals and leftists of both Japan and the United States (Japan is far more leftist than the United States), and they are not shy about expressing their opinions. But now at least one American claims that the Japanese climate is such that leftists can't even speak up against "right-wing" rhetoric for fear of being murdered by Fascists.

In his column at the Washington Post, Steven Clemons states that "thought police" are threatening free speech in Japan [all emphasis added]:

On Aug. 12, Yoshihisa Komori -- a Washington-based editorialist for the ultra-conservative Sankei Shimbun newspaper [Sankei Shimbun is similar to the Wall Street Journal] -- attacked an article by Masaru Tamamoto, the editor of Commentary, an online journal run by the Japan Institute of International Affairs. The article expressed concern about the emergence of Japan's strident new "hawkish nationalism," exemplified by anti-China fear-mongering and official visits to a shrine honoring Japan's war dead. Komori branded the piece "anti-Japanese," and assailed the mainstream author as an "extreme leftist intellectual." [It's important to note that the original article, attacking the Japanese government actions as "hawkish nationalism," was a government publication -- paid for by tax money.]

But he didn't stop there. Komori demanded that the institute's president, Yukio Satoh, apologize for using taxpayer money to support a writer who dared to question Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's annual visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, in defiance of Chinese protests that it honors war criminals from World War II.

Remarkably, Satoh complied. Within 24 hours, he had shut down Commentary and withdrawn all of the past content on the site -- including his own statement that it should be a place for candid discourse on Japan's foreign-policy and national-identity challenges. Satoh also sent a letter last week to the Sankei editorial board asking for forgiveness and promising a complete overhaul of Commentary's editorial management.

The capitulation was breathtaking. But in the political atmosphere that has overtaken Japan, it's not surprising. Emboldened by the recent rise in nationalism, an increasingly militant group of extreme right-wing activists who yearn for a return to 1930s-style militarism, emperor-worship and "thought control" have begun to move into more mainstream circles -- and to attack those who don't see things their way.

Clemons of the Washington Post goes on to say that "militant" right wingers -- like the ones who assassinated Prime Minister Inukai in 1932 -- are now rising in Japan, threatening any critic of the administration via death threats and bombs.

I don't know who Clemons is. However, if he considers Sankei Newspaper to be "ultra-conservative," that tells me an awful lot about him. Sankei is as mixed and mealy-mouthed as the Wall Street Journal's news pages: if anything, tilted a bit towards the status quo, which is more liberal than here.

That aside, Clemons' description of Komori's protest is quite misleading. Clemons claims that Komori's only objection is that Satoh "support[ed] a writer who dared to question Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's annual visits to the Yasukuni Shrine." Komori must be a wild-eyed extremist, if merely questioning the PM is enough to rouse his ire!

But what did Komori really complain about? Here are a few excerpts from his letter to Satoh, translated by American Embassy in Japan (they spell the name of the president of the Japan Institute of International Affairs as Sato, rather than Satoh; it's a transliteration anyway):

[O]n reading some of the essays, I was astonished by the contents. The essays unilaterally condemned the thinking of the government and ruling camp, as well as a majority of views in Japan as dangerous, and categorized the attacks on Japan by China and other countries as proper....

The thrust of the essay rejects moves in the direction of Japan becoming an "ordinary country" from the aspect of its national security, which can be said to be the majority view in Japan, rejecting and denouncing them as dangerous "hawkish nationalism."

The English-language essay is filled with biased words such as calling those who support paying homage at Yasukuni Shrine the "cult of Yasukuni." The word "cult" is a derogatory term used to mean a fanatical religious group such as the Aum Shinrikyo believers in Japan. [オウム真理教, a.k.a. "Aum Supreme Truth": in 1995, they carried out a Sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway. Fortunately, they botched the operation; but even so, they killed twelve people and injured over a thousand.]

The essays contains much too many sensational, emotional and insulting words of the kind frequently used generally by the Western left or by China to bash Japan, such as calling the thinking of Japan's pragmatists "ahistorical imagination" and claiming "selective amnesia" regarding the war by the Japanese people. In that sense, the essay can be called "anti-Japan."

The Japan Institute of International Affairs or JIIA is a public institution that is operated by subsidies from the Japanese government. Its current director is Yukio Sato, a former diplomat who once served as ambassador to the United Nations. The opinions in JIIA's international dispatch could be taken as the official views of the Japanese government, ruling parties, and majority of Japanese....

[T]he author was Masaru Tamamoto, the English editor at JIIA. Tamamoto* is a long-time [resident] of America and is well known as a radical leftist scholar who has often attacked the policies of the Japanese government. In a Washington seminar in 2003, I myself heard him say such comments as, "The abduction issue with North Korea has already been resolved, but the Japanese side is using it as an excuse to keep a hard-line foreign policy stance"; and, "Japan should never dispatch the Self-Defense Forces to Iraq; such a dispatch will never occur."

That does not sound like threats or intimidation to me; perhaps Clemons has a more expansive definition. He is careful not to libel Komori, but he clearly implies Komori is egging on the extremists:

Sankei's Komori has no direct connection to those guilty of the most recent acts, but he's not unaware that his words frequently animate them -- and that their actions in turn lend fear-fueled power to his pronouncements, helping them silence debate.

In fact, what "silences debate" is exactly this kind of talk: Clemons' intent is to shut up conservatives by accusing them of instigating hate crimes -- exactly the tactic leftists use here in America: if you disagree, you're a Fascist, racist, sexist, homophobic bigot. I have seen such dirty tricks before; in fact, I've been targeted by them on Japanese websites.

If anybody deserves blame, it's Yukio Satoh, Director of JIIA, for letting such a paritisan as Masaru Tamamoto run the on-line journal in the first place; and then, upon a single complaint by Komori, shutting the site down without any explanation. This falsely made it appear as though Komori himself, a mere editorial writer (say, just like Steven Clemons!), was somehow able to shut down Commentary, leading to Clemons' nutty conspiracy theories.

If Satoh had any principles, and if he thought the essays were appropriate, he should have stuck to his guns, no matter what kind of protests he received. But if he agreed with Komori that the journal Commentary had gone too far and was not appropriate for JIIA, then he should not have published it at all.

At the very least, he owed readers an explanation why it disappeared; and he should perhaps have sought a less drastic step, such as simply replacing Tamamoto as editor. It was Satoh's wishy-washiness, not Komori's complaint, that caused the whole problem.

And if Japanese left wingers don't have the grits to speak their mind for fear of a few death threats -- which, sad to say, are common dangers faced by every public figure these days on both sides of the aisle -- then they have no business prattling on about "freedom of speech." The American Founding Fathers faced far worse.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, September 6, 2006, at the time of 4:12 PM

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The following hissed in response by: Bill Faith

I excerpted and linked at Old War Dogs >> Bill's Bites

The above hissed in response by: Bill Faith [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 7, 2006 12:48 AM

The following hissed in response by: hunter

Remember that lefties believe once they take something over, it can never go conservative. Sort of like a ratchet, they believe things can only get 'progressively' more lefty.

The above hissed in response by: hunter [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 7, 2006 3:45 AM

The following hissed in response by: The Yell

The real 1930s militarists didn't write letters to the editor demanding retraction, they waited on the sidewalk and stabbed people climbing into cars.

If openly pressuring the editor is repression, then I question whether "free speech" as Clemens sees it EVER existed in cities with a population over 100,000.

The above hissed in response by: The Yell [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 7, 2006 8:11 AM

The following hissed in response by: oarmaswalker

Before everyone gets carried away with Left or Right in Japan, it is important to have a general understanding of Japanese Imperial Politics. Whether one agrees or not, there is evidence that Japan has ALWAYS been run by the imperial family, even in the current age. This line of thinking was revealed in the highly suppressed David Bergamini's Book: Japan's Imperial Conspiracy, still available in print. The bottom line is if we don't know history, it will repeat itself.
The reason this book is so important to read and understand is that Bergamini is one of a few Westerners fully fluent in Japanese and has a thorough understanding of the 'code' of the Japanese language and how that code was [and is] used to deceive westerners. The current generation is as clueless now to Japanese thinking as it was during WWII and the Japanese economic boom of the 70's and 80's.

The above hissed in response by: oarmaswalker [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 7, 2006 8:13 AM

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