Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on July 29th, 2008
Hi Blog. One more article on how the Internet has turned nasty:
The campaign by anonymous posters to get rid of the English translation service of Japan’s weekly magazines, the Mainichi Shinbun Waiwai column, has been effective. Instead of standing up to anonymous hotheads making death threats, and ironically suppressing the free speech they hold so sacrosanct, they talk about Japan’s image being besmirched internationally (when the information comes from Japanese sources in the first place). By suppressing this media outlet, all they are achieving is keeping the debate domestic and covering up the issues the Weeklies are bringing to the fore. However disgusting the topics the Weeklies can bring up are, the contents are the Weeklies’ responsibility, not the Mainichi’s and not editor Ryann Connell’s. Attack the Weeklies for their contents, not the people who merely translate them.
I find this form of bullying disgusting, and the Mainichi’s caving in appallingly irresponsible. When are people going to learn that Internet bullying is not a fair fight, and ignore people who won’t make themselves public in the media and open themselves up to the same scrutiny they demand other media? You have the right to know your accuser. Those who won’t reveal their identity should be justly ignored themselves.
Here’s an article from The Sydney Morning Herald. Further links and a letter to the Mainichi follows it. Arudou Debito in Sapporo
Japan rails at Australian’s tabloid trash
Justin Norrie, The Sydney Morning Herald, July 5, 2008
NOT SO long ago Ryann Connell, an Australian journalist, happily declared he was doing his “dream job” in Japan.
Since accepting police protection against incensed Japanese patriots last week, the chief editor of the English website of The Mainichi Daily News has been more circumspect.
In the past month the 39-year-old has become one of the most reviled figures in Japan, where thousands of posters have flooded chat sites to decry the “sleazy Australian journalist” whom they feel has deliberately besmirched Japan’s image around the world.
Connell’s troubles began in May with one of his now infamous WaiWai columns, which cited a Japanese magazine article about a restaurant in the Tokyo district of Roppongi where patrons allegedly have sex with animals before eating them. The piece caught the attention of a blogger called Mozu, whose angry post was soon picked up by 2channel, a massive, fractious web forum popular with Japan’s hot-headed conservative element.
There it triggered an explosion of bile and culminated in a co-ordinated attack on Connell, his family, The Mainichi and its sponsors, some of which have pulled advertising estimated to be worth more than 20 million yen ($195,000).
The Mainichi, whose Japanese-language newspaper has the fourth-highest circulation in the world, has issued a remarkable 1277-word explanation and apology. It has also terminated the column, reprimanded several staff and put Connell on three months’ “disciplinary leave”.
When contacted this week, Connell said he was unable to comment on “any aspect of the case”. But the Herald understands he has received several death threats and is under strict police instructions to stay inside his suburban Tokyo home until the matter dies down.
Since he began contributing to the newspaper in 1998, Connell has trawled Japan’s smut-filled weekly magazines to bring mostly unsourced tales of the utterly shocking and often improbable to the English-speaking world.
Many previous WaiWai instalments – such as the story about mothers who pleasure their sons to stop them from chasing girls at the expense of schoolwork, the article about chikan (men who grope women on trains) holding monthly meetings to trade tips about the best ways to surreptitiously manhandle fellow passengers, and the account of emotionally stunted salarymen who use lifelike mannequins as surrogate wives – have entered world folklore.
“Campus Confidential: Co-eds Collect Currency Conducting Extra-curricular Coitus” began one of Connell’s recent columns, all of which are transcribed from Japanese before being rendered – with creative licence and brain-melting alliteration – in the style of the raciest British tabloid stories.
It is their popularity with some Western readers that has especially incensed Japanese bloggers. Many feel their country’s reputation has been “debauched” around the world. “Foreigners who don’t know the truth will believe these stories are true,” wrote one. Another railed: “Ryann Connell is a degenerate scatologist – a typical Australian.” And a third wondered: “Why doesn’t someone drop a hydrogen atom bomb on Australia?”
In an interview with the Herald late last year Connell admitted his transcriptions might have contributed in part to a lazy notion that if Japanese are not totally inhibited by their strict social codes, they are hopelessly debased by their bizarre fetishes.
“It does concern me that we resort to these stereotypes all the time,” he said. “Downtrodden salarymen, slutty schoolgirls, crazy housewives, corrupt old bosses and so on. And there have been times when I picked stories of questionable accuracy to write up. But by and large I’m presenting to the English-speaking world things that the Japanese are writing about themselves.”
Defending the weeklies, as well as Connell and his collaborators, is the unflagging media critic and campaigner for human rights Debito Arudou, who wrote that WaiWai was an essential guide to Japanese attitudes and editorial directives. “Too many Japanese believe that they can say whatever they like in Japanese (‘that statement was for a domestic audience’ is very often an excuse for public gaffes), as though Japanese is some secret code,” he wrote.
LETTER TO THE MAINICHI SHINBUN:
To the editors of the Mainichi Shinbun:
Please don’t end the Waiwai column.
The claim on your website (http://mdn.mainichi.jp/culture/waiwai/) that this corner “attracted criticism for such things as being too vulgar and debauching Japan by sending around the world information that could be misunderstood” is sophistry, merely an attempt by people who would rather Japan’s Weekly Magazines not reach reach a wider audience.
As you know from your experience as a translator of these articles, they offer a very important window into the lowbrow and the undercurrents of Japanese society. Closing it is worse than simple prudery–it is an aggressive act of censorship by people who want the outside world to think of Japan as a place of cherry blossoms and chrysanthemums. It’s a dishonest view of any society to only focus on the “nice”.
Please reconsider. Edit for content if you must. But remain accurate and faithful to the original (as you no doubt usually have), and don’t give in to these reactionaries. The tabloid press is every bit as important as any other press in Japan.
Thanks for your consideration.
Arudou Debito in Sapporo
June 24, 2008
Further discussion of this issue on Japan Probe: