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  • Japan Times: Politicians silent on curbing hate speech, and post-election I see no pressure to do so

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on July 26th, 2013

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    Hi Blog. This article is a bit stale, sorry, but discussions here of last week’s Upper House Election was more focused on constitutional revisions. Here’s Eric Johnston surveying how last winter’s hate speech finally blew up into a social issue during the spring (enough so that even Abe had to publicly disavow it), then did not gain enough political traction to become a campaign issue during the election. It’s a shame, really, as how people voice their opinions about groups of people in public have profound effects on how those groups will be treated both in public debate and in public policy. Even with PM Abe’s Facebook record of jingoistic and revisionistic “mobilization of the otakusphere”, voters indicated last week that they didn’t care. If anything, they gave Abe a strengthened mandate to continue in this vein. So even though this article talks about events before the Upper House election, I foresee no change to how hate speech is used to continue Japan’s rightward swing in Japan’s social discussions and politics. There is simply no pressure to. Arudou Debito


    Reining in anti-foreigner tirades a nonstarter in Diet
    Politicians silent on curbing hate speech
    The Japan Times, JUL 10, 2013, courtesy lots of people

    OSAKA – Calls in the Diet for legislation to curb hate speech targeting foreign residents of Japan are being made even as the issue barely registers on the campaign trail for the July 21 Upper House poll.

    Over the past six months, demonstrations and parades against foreign residents, especially Koreans, have grown in intensity. In Osaka’s Tsuruhashi district, home to large numbers of “zainichi” resident Koreans, a 14-year-old girl in February using a microphone loudly maligned Korean residents, saying she despised them and warned them to relocate to the Korean Peninsula or be massacred.

    Her comments were reported worldwide and were followed in the months afterward by anti-Korean demonstrations in Tokyo and Osaka that grew, with protestors holding signs saying “Good or Bad Koreans: Kill them All.”

    Yoshifu Arita, an Upper House member of the Democratic Party of Japan who is leading a Diet effort to enact legal measures curbing such speech, says things have calmed down only recently after politicians began speaking out.

    “On May 7 in the Upper House, (Prime Minister Shinzo) Abe said these demonstrations were ‘regrettable.’ Justice Minister Taniguchi used the same word. Chief Cabinet Secretary (Yoshihide) Suga also said these were ‘not good things,’ ” Arita told the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan on Tuesday in Tokyo, referring to terms habitually trotted out by politicians in lieu of serious condemnation.

    Over the past six months or so, it has been the rightist group Zaitokukai that has been responsible for much of the hate speech. Arita said this was not a coincidence. “Zaitokukai was established during the “right-leaning” Abe’s first administration in 2006 and 2007, and started escalating their aggression after the resurgence of (Abe’s) Liberal Democratic Party and the advent of his second administration last year,” Arita said.

    Judging from Abe’s rhetoric in May, Arita doubts the prime minister in particular would be seriously inclined to sign on to any sincere legislative effort to ban such virulent talk.

    “In the most recent edition of the monthly magazine Bungei Shunju, Abe was asked about hate speech. His response was ‘I leave this matter to the good conscience of the average Japanese,’ ” Arita said. “But politicians must take responsibility for trying to resolve this issue. The fact that Abe can make such a comment fills me with doubt about how seriously he’s taking it.”

    Nor do most Diet members seem to want to mull legal bans.

    In late May, a network of 84 human rights nongovernmental organizations conducted a poll of all 717 Diet lawmakers on how they felt about hate speech, getting replies from only 46, although they represented all major parties except the Japanese Communist Party and Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), whose co-leader, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, drew international scorn over his attempt to justify wartime Japan’s use of sex slaves, in large part Korean, for the military.

    Forty-three of the 46 said they thought a national response to the rise in hate speech was necessary, while 41 said they supported the idea of the Diet investigating hate speech incidents. All 46 indicated the Diet should consider an antidiscrimination law that bans certain kinds of hate speech.

    Arita said hate speech not only targets foreign residents and also has the potential to escalate.

    He noted incidents in which politicians, during speeches that may touch on topics certain members of the audience may disagree with, find hecklers calling them “traitors” or “people selling out our country.”

    “These are words you see not only on the Internet but actually thrown in politicians’ faces when they’re giving their speeches. We’ve not really seen this kind of situation in Japan in the postwar era.”


    16 Responses to “Japan Times: Politicians silent on curbing hate speech, and post-election I see no pressure to do so”

    1. Chris Says:

      Much though I despise the ignorant and moronic extremist speech we have seen recently. I don’t believe curbing free speech is the answer, such laws tend to quickly turn to be used on non-extremists. The UK has seen crushing restrictions on free speech in recent years all in the name of stamping down on a tiny number of mentally unhinged right wingers. IMHO the real answer is for the press to give space to opinions countering such hate speech and present the hate speech in context (i.e. that only a small minority of Japanese agree with such views) and for politicians and public figures to speak up clearly and forcefully against it. It would also be good idea for the press to thoroughly research these groups and find out what is going on and for the police to take action if laws have been broken.

      — At least three assumptions here:

      1) That there is ample opportunity in the mainstream for opposing views (especially those of minorities) to counteract and counterpose the hate speech (there generally isn’t: I can think of at least two national newspapers who do not brook much criticism of Japan by NJ or minorities).

      2) That it is in politicians’ and public figures’ best interests to speak up clearly and forcefully against hate speech against minorities, when minorities are so disenfranchised in Japan that the politicians etc. stand to gain anything from doing so. And,

      2) “… for the police to take action if laws have been broken”, which is a Catch-22. If there are no laws against hate speech, what laws are there to break? Defamation? Works to protect private individuals, not whole groups in Japan. Etc.

      Think through your comments a little more carefully, and temper it with the experience that indicates why your suggested options have not been taken so far.

    2. john k Says:

      “..We’ve not really seen this kind of situation in Japan in the postwar era..”

      Clearing not looking beyond their own bubble! Hardly surprising there was little response to the poll.

    3. JS Says:

      The Japanese truly excel at playing the “Good cop, bad cop” routine. There is a tacit understanding in many aspects of Japanese society and culture to let (and sometimes even encourage) unsavory elements do the dirty deeds as a proxy for the establishment and mainstream people or groups. This serves the very useful purpose of getting the “dirty” job done, while the mainstream and elite elements can appear to stay neutral and above the fray.

      I have seen this type of a “set-up” repeated in many different situations, such as the following examples which I think illustrate the point:

      1) Let’s say a Japanese company wants to get rid of a non-Japanese employee, but they cannot legally do so since they do not have any legal basis to dismiss the employee. In this case, they may find a Japanese individual or a group of individuals working at the company, and task him/them to bully, harass and intimidate the non-Japanese worker to the point that he quits voluntarily. These bullies are then rewarded by getting higher bonuses or promotions, etc., for getting the job done under the radar.

      2) If a Japanese establishment or business (restaurant, hotel, sports gym, shop, etc.) does not want a particular non-Japanese customer/patron to frequent its premises, they may resort to using one of their old-time trusted Japanese customers (usually an annoying older guy), or even one of their own staff from a related group company who pretends to be a fellow customer, to make things very unpleasant for the non-Japanese customer, in an effort to get him to leave on his own volition. Alternatively, the business may employ the services of other non-Japanese so-called “customers”, who will willfully create an annoyance, make trouble or violate some rules of the establishment. This will then allow the Japanese business to point the finger at all non-Japanese customers and implicate all of them by association.

      3) A Japanese individual who wants to insult or embarass a non-Japanese person may use another Japanese person (sometimes a very junior level person), who will freely insult and humiliate the non-Japanese person at a professional or personal level with impunity, since he is untouchable and is under the wing of the more senior Japanese person.

      4) A non-Japanese plaintiff brings about a lawsuit against a Japanese defendant. The non-Japanese plaintiff has the law on his side and has a very strong legal case. However, the Japanese defendant is very powerful and part of the Japanese establishment, so the judge is in a quandary. The judge may assert very strong pressure on the non-Japanese plaintiff’s lawyers, which results in the non-Japanese plaintiff losing the case. This may take the form of strong coercion on the non-Japanese plaintiff’s lawyer from the judge or the court clerk assigned to the case, procedural irregularities during the trial, suppression of evidence, destruction or “accidental loss” of evidence that is favorable to the non-Japanese plaintiff, intentional vague or inaccurate and poor translation of evidence documents, significant mistakes and inaccuracies between the oral testimonies made in court by the plaintiff/defendent and the actual written record of these entered into the court records of the trial, and unprofessional, inaccurate, vague or poorly written legal briefs which are submitted to the court by the non-Japanese plaintiff’s lawyer on his behalf. The result is that these tactics may then allow the judge to rule against the non-Japanese plaintiff, while claiming that his judgment is consistent with Japanese law.

      So, my point is that many unsavory and illegal things in Japan are outsourced and are often done through proxy where the person/persons doing these things are just the frontmen, but the real power rests behind the scenes where someone else is pulling the strings.

      I cannot help but feel that this also applies to this hate speech discussion.

    4. Markus Says:

      @JS – yes, that’s how Japan society works. Do all the bad and evil things in the backrooms, and have the audacity to claim they don’t exist. Not only in matter between Japanese and Non-Japanese, mind you, but in all parts of society. The Japanese who aren’t part of the ruling caste get a raw deal as well, but they in turn can let out their frustration on people they deem to be inferior – blue collar workers, zainichi, Non-Japanese so they might think they are at least not at the bottom of the pecking order.

      So, if you think about it, doesn’t the scenario describe a criminal organization rather than a democracy? The use of proxies and the obfuscation tactics (with an unfortunate notion of cowardliness) even in the court room suggests that it’s all just theater – scenery copied from the Western world, but the script is, and always has been, supplied by the underworld.

    5. Bayfield Says:

      reply to #1 JS

      You also forgot another one. The ultra-nationalist organizations preaching their hate and creating sound pollution with their van loud speakers get tax breaks/benefits. If you go to the local revenue agency center and tell them that you are the founder or affiliate of some far-right activist organization, you can get some benefits during tax season.

      The government can’t not know this. The GOJ is simply playing naive on this. The GOJ is not only not doing anything to curb hate speech, but they are also feeding them. And the occasional controversial comments by J-politicians isn’t helping either or rather it is a subtle gesture from the GOJ to the naive masses that it is okay to preach far-right ideals.

      And in Japan’s case, curbing hate speech might eliminate an “industry” from the economy, so to speak. Why is hate an industry? Well You have the people like the Yakuza or some organization paying bitter unemployed people to preach hate. You then have politicians like Ishihara and Hashimoto who’s success
      is based on selling hate. Next you have right wing manga artists and writers who sell their “art” and “literature” to the public on a regular basis. And on top of all this, the GOJ will give the far right tax benefits for those who are members of a far right organization.

      And lets not forget the dozens of T.V. shows and “news” from the media that boosts their ratings and “performance” from selling fear and nationalism, whenever they are not making NJ look like clowns on television.

      At the end of the day, you have many, many people in this “hate-industry” who are laughing all the way to the bank and or into government positions from selling their bile to the naive masses. Hate is so well ingrained into the J-economy that I don’t see the GOJ doing anything about it anytime soon.

      — Let’s have a link to substantiate these tax breaks.

    6. Baudrillard Says:

      JS ” There is a tacit understanding in many aspects of Japanese society and culture to let (and sometimes even encourage) unsavory elements do the dirty deeds as a proxy for the establishment and mainstream groups. ”

      I have been thinking about this, but drew a different conclusion. Surely Abe and Co.or someone is tacitly funding rightists to say and do what the establishment politicians cannot say and do explicitly, due to lip service to international treaties etc.

      It was like this in Yugoslavia; the nationalist governments denied any control over extremist elements conducting massacres in Bosnia etc,claiming they cannot do anything about it a la Abe with his recent “demonstrations were regrettable” face saving gesture.

      When all the time someone is funding these extremists. Who?

      “Arita said this was not a coincidence. “Zaitokukai was established during the “right-leaning” Abe’s first administration in 2006 and 2007, and started escalating their aggression after the resurgence of (Abe’s) Liberal Democratic Party and the advent of his second administration last year,” Arita said.”

      I find that particularly damning. I also doubt it is a coincidence. It is quite possible this is the militant wing of Abe’s neo con clique in the LDP-the party he had to join in order to get elected, but with a much more radical agenda.

    7. Edward J. Cunningham Says:

      Is criticism of Japan more tolerable in English because so few Japanese can read that language? I know that Debito has received criticism (to put it mildly) for his views on Japan, but I wonder if this blog were in Japanese and if his “Just Because” columns were in Japanese for a newspaper that monolingual Japanese read every day, would some of the people who have ignored him up to now claim that he is writing “hate speech”?

      As far as real hate speech goes, the problem is not that bigots are finally showing their true colors, but rather that too few people (with the notable exception of Debito and others) are calling them out.

    8. Markus Says:

      @Baudrillard (#7) The Yakuza is still making enough money to fund the sound trucks and other activities – the Japanese right wing being tightly interwoven with organised crime up to a point that it could be called a branch of their business. Who knows, maybe the LDP also throws in some money but that’s just an implementation detail of “Japan Inc.”

      Regardless of who funds the sound trucks and other means of intimidation – they are a de facto “secret police” that is able to shut up any opposition to the ultra-nationalist rule. A couple of days of sound trucks doing their thing in front of your business or house are all it takes in this “shame-driven” society. And haven’t they even murdered people who dared to make public statements they didn’t like?

      I think it is pretty clear that this secret police is here to stay and any efforts to ban hate speech are just lip service.

    9. john k Says:

      Chris (#1) is right regarding hate speech laws in the UK. The pendulum has swung too far. However the issue is what is hate speech, and the root is ostensibly racism and discrimination. Which is why there has been such heated debate in the UK since laws for such already exist, ergo why have “hate speech” when it falls under other existing laws. But here in Japan, there are no such laws. Thus they go unchecked.

      And as always those in the “majority” that do not wish such issues to be raised, because it shall undermine their own narrative, do so under the guise of disloyalty etc. which is pounced upon by others of the same inclination such that the subject matter is obscured from any real meaningful debate (which is their objective to keep the status quo). Whereas any reasoned debate, a disagreement is not dissension, it is just a disagreement owing to a differing point of view and can or should be explored to understand why such views differ and see if common ground can be found.

      But that’s the problem with Japan, there can be no differing view, harmony and image must be maintained above all costs, always. Self criticism, critiquing and critical thinking is an anathema to Japanese. The harmony and image of all nothing being wrong with Japan must be maintained whatever the reality behind the mask and at whatever the cost, neh!

    10. Bayfield Says:

      debito says:
      “– Let’s have a link to substantiate these tax breaks.”

      Here is the link I found.

      “Public Interest Associations and Foundations

      Under the three new laws of 2008 Public Interest Associations and Foundations enjoy various tax benefits, including on corporation tax and tax on passive income, such as interest, dividends, and investment income.”

      And one interesting quote I found here:

      “In Japan, an NPO is any citizen’s group that serves the public interest and does not produce a profit for its members. NPOs are given corporate status to assist them in conducting business transactions. As of February 2011, there were 41,600 NPOs in Japan. Two hundred of NPOs were given tax-deductible status by the government which meant that only contributions to those organization were tax deductible for the contributors.[21]”

      From what I interpret, one of the methods of getting tax benefits in Japan is to be part of a non-profit organization that is a public interest association. So basically you can be a political organization, claim yourself as part of it and you can benefit. I believe it covers a whole range of different NPO organizations but from what I gather, Japanese tax laws are in a way, open to exploitation by Japanese nationalists. They can claim themselves as a non-profit organization for public interests.

      So what I was saying earlier was, if the GOJ is serious of curbing hate speech, they would of at least prohibit the far-right from getting NPO (non-profit/public interest/public association) benefit.

      More NPO tax exemption info:

      Also debito, on side note, I have another link but unrelated for you. Not sure if you read it yet but I came across this today:

      “Japan is considering acquiring offensive weapons and drones and will assume a more active role in regional security…..”

      Abe’s defense minister also said:
      “The minister, Itsunori Onodera, said Japan should consider such steps as acquiring weapons to strike bases in hostile countries”

      It looks like the LDP is wasting no time to sit down for a Sake brake after their conquest of the upper house. They sure look like they are racing against the clock to “take back Japan” (to the militarist Showa 30’s). This article looks almost like Abe and Itsunori Onodera is preparing a pre-emptive strike as a likely option should neighbor tensions get really sour.

    11. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @ Markus #8

      Actually, my local sound trucks have disappeared since about a year ago. Sunday mornings have been ever so peaceful. I have been thinking that maybe the people that control them were told to keep a lid on it for fear of damaging Sick-notes election chances. After all, Sick-notes nationalism is one the populace can buy into, but the sound trucks are an embarrassment when you call them out on it.

    12. Baudrillard Says:

      Markus, ” it’s all just theater – scenery copied from the Western world”- oh, I like this. You are absolutely right.
      “but rather that too few people (with the notable exception of Debito and others) are calling them out.”
      Edward. above.
      “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
      Edmund Burke

      Yes, that seems to be Japan. Do nothing as a touted virtue, a fake zen cliche. Inertia, fear of speaking out- “don’t shoot me I am only the salary man/hostess”-everyone in their appointed role, their relationships between images, not people.

      Guy Debord would certainly have seen life in Tokyo as “so artificial, why should I care?”

      “Inauthenticity is a right of man … Who reduces a man’s life to this pathetic sequence of cliches? “asked Vaneigem in “The Revolution of Everyday Life”.
      His answer was that the man does it to himself, but who controls the narrative by which he lives by? The role he is supposed to play, in this theater?

      Non verbal (anti) communication. All touted as Japanese “uniqueness”, which is true. Japan is unique, but not in the way the speaker of this glossy term usually means. There is no merit to these recent, not traditional “Japanese” quirks.

      Uniquely, postwar Japan alone was unique in having American democracy imposed on it which it outwardly accepted without real change or de nazification. Korea got a dictatorship and had to win democracy by themselves, ditto Taiwan. Japan perhaps resembles Italy, a country struggling with their own yakuza, corruption, and government complicity.

      Perhaps though, Edmund Burke’s quote is a little off. If vaguely good men do try to do something, like Hatoyama,in Japan they get shot down anyway.I hope I am wrong.

      ” We can’t tolerate people whom the dominant regime so happily puts up with…..The long revolution is creating small federated microsocieties, true guerilla cells practising and fighting for this self-management. Effective radicality authorises all variations and guarantees every freedom. That’s why the Situationists don’t confront the world with: “Here’s your ideal organisation, on your knees!” They simply show by fighting for themselves and with the clearest awareness of this fight, why people really fight each other and why they must acquire an awareness of the battle. ” Vaneigem

      Abe is exactly commanding “”Here’s your ideal organisation, on your knees!”” He fears people thinking and organizing for themselves.

    13. Markus Says:

      @Jim (#11) Good for you. Maybe they were there for a certain reason, like I described in my post above? Like intimidating someone who was living there but moved away.
      Where I live, the frequency of “uyoku” sound trucks driving by (into the Ginza / Shinbashi district) has actually increased. When it was only one or two a week, with the LDP getting into power again late last year, now I hear them at least once a day.

      @Bayfield (#10) I think I know what the LDP will try to present as the rationale for redefining and expanding the military. In the last couple of weeks, I have repeatedly overheard LDP politicians on ‘TV タックル’ as well has hosts on other ‘news’ shows like ’学べるニュース’ present a reasoning along the lines of: “Right now, we are not strong enough to support ‘America’ if something happens. We should become able to do for ‘America’ what they are doing for us, i.e. protecting us in times of crisis”.

      It’s of course laughable and easy to identify as lip service, but maybe for the Japanese public this argument is good enough? Very few people here know much about the world outside, so maybe they think that Japan should protect the US if it is ever attacked by, say, Canada. Which of course means that Japan needs long-range nukes to bridge the distance and be of actual use.

    14. Jim Di Griz Says:

      @Markus #13

      Well, it was a retail area (right outside Daimaru, and Kobe’s China town). Maybe they’ve all gone to your neck of the woods? LOL.

      As for Abe pumping up the J-public with talk of military assistance to the US, is he taking drugs? Seriously, what could the US military not be able to deal with, that the Japanese could jump in and save them? In any event, it just goes to prove yet again, the severely limited understanding of the wider world held by the average J-voter if they fall for that one. Again, years of having a peace constitution (and I 100% believe that as the losers of the last war, in which the Japanese army was bestial, it should not be changed), has a flip side; that without the steady stream of body bags coming home from foreign misadventures as per Iraq, Afghanistan, N. Ireland etc, the average modern Japanese has no understanding of how devastating it is to lose a loved one or a family member in a society that carries on without blinking at your personal grief, combined with an over inflated trust in Japanese technical ‘superiority’ (that no doubt will translate into a belief of ‘military technical superiority’); a dangerous combination for leading countries into disastrous wars (a lesson, you’d have thought, the Japanese would have remembered! The fact that they clearly haven’t is proof, were it needed, that the ‘victim of WW2’ narrative, is an affectation).

    15. Chris Says:

      My point is that if voters and hopefully therefore politicians are concerned enough about the extremist speech to take legislative action to ban it, they might do better to firstly speak out against it, secondly create the conditions for freer, more outspoken and progressive press and media (ending press clubs and making NHK more independent etc). I know that’s not likely to happen sadly, but is it any less likely to happen than laws curbing hate speech? (genuine question). As for police enforcing the law, I mean calling for Koreans to be killed is incitement to murder surely, which I would hope is illegal in most countries. (though I don’t know for sure it is here -if not maybe it should be, and that might be a reasonable place to start). Finally, if laws against hate speech could be brought in very carefully, in a limited and precisely targetted way that did not curb everyday critisism of ideas etc, it might be a reasonable way to go, I’m just advocating caution.

    16. James Roberts Says:

      Chris, I could not agree more. Well said.

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