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  • DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER FEB 8, 2009

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on February 8th, 2009

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japan
    DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER FEBRUARY 8, 2009

    Table of Contents:
    ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
    2-CHANNEL AND DEALING WITH INTERNET BULLIES
    1) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Feb 3, 2009: “2channel the bullies’ forum” (full text)
    2) Japan Today & Yomiuri: Criminal charges against Internet bullies
    3) NYT on “The Trolls among us” and measures against trollery

    THE RECESSION BITES
    4) JASSO eliminating exchange student funding on medical expenses, meaning sicker ryuugakusei
    5) Japan Times/Kyodo: Decrease in NJ “Trainees”

    KARMA BITES BACK
    6) Sumo wrestler Wakakirin expelled for smoking pot: Why’d it take so long?
    7) Newly-elected Tsukuba City Assemblyman Jon Heese on the hows and whys of getting elected in Japan

    …and finally…

    8 ) Debito.org Poll on whether “discrimination is a right for Japanese people”
    …surprising is that 20% effectively say yes.

    ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    By Arudou Debito (debito@debito.org, www.debito.org)
    Sapporo, Japan
    Freely forwardable

    2-CHANNEL AND DEALING WITH INTERNET BULLIES
    1) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Feb 3, 2009: “2channel the bullies’ forum”

    This column is only 700 words long, so I enclose it in full. It feeds into the discussion immediately following. Comments to http://www.debito.org/?p=2240

    ================================
    JUST BE CAUSE
    2channel: the bullies’ forum

    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20090203ad.html
    By ARUDOU DEBITO
    The Japan Times: Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2009

    Bullying in Japan is a big problem. The victims have limited recourse. Too often they are told to suck it up and self-reflect. Or if they fight back, they get criticized for lashing out. It’s a destructive dynamic, causing much misery and many a suicide.

    The bullies are empowered by an odd phenomenon: In Japan, the right to know your accuser is not a given. When kids get criticized by the anonymous rumor mill, authorities make insufficient efforts to disclose who said what. The blindfolded bullied become powerless: There are lots of them and one of you, and unless you put names to critics they escalate with impunity.

    Internet bulletin board (BBS) 2channel, the world’s largest, is the ultimate example of this dynamic. Although the BBS is very useful for public discussions, its debate firestorms also target and hurt individuals. This flurry of bullies is guaranteed anonymity through undisclosed Internet Protocol addresses, meaning they avoid the scrutiny they mete out to others.

    Why absolute anonymity? 2channel’s founder and coordinator, Hiroyuki Nishimura, believes it liberates debate and provides true freedom of speech. People speak without reservation because nobody knows who they are.

    Quite. But freedom of speech is not absolute. It does not grant freedom to lie or deceive (as in fraud), nor to engage in malicious behavior designed to hinder calm and free discourse. The classic example is the lack of freedom to shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater. But libel and slander, where people willfully lie to assassinate characters and destroy lives, is also beyond the pale.

    Japan does have checks against libel — lawsuits. Dozens of civil court cases have been brought against 2channel. When a problematic post appears, victims contact the BBS coordinator and request its removal. Alas, many get ignored. Then, when taken to court, Nishimura ignores summons to appear. Finally, even after losing dozens of times in court, Nishimura refuses to pay out. Years later, adjudged libelous posts (some about your correspondent) are still online and proliferating.

    How is this possible? The Internet is a new media, and the judiciary hasn’t caught up. If a newspaper or TV station publicizes erroneous information, they too can be sued. But the old media are more accountable. They have to register their corporation and get a license, so their wherewithal’s whereabouts is public. If they lose and don’t pay, the court will file a lien on their assets and withdraw the award for the plaintiffs.

    However, in cyberspace people can start a “media outlet” without incorporation or licensing, meaning their assets remain invisible. Nishimura owes millions of dollars in court penalties, but unless he divulges his personal bank accounts, his wages can’t be seized.

    The dynamic becomes watertight thanks to a weakness in Japan’s judiciary: In this case, one cannot convert a civil suit into a criminal case through “contempt of court.” No cops will arrest him for being on the lam. Plaintiffs must hire their own private detectives to dig up Nishimura’s assets. No checks, no balances, and the bully society remains above the law.

    The abuses continue. Last month, cops decided to arrest a 2channeler who issued a death threat against sumo wrestler Asashoryu. About time: Hate-posters have long vilified ethnic minorities, threatened individuals, and waged cyberwars to deny others the freedom of speech they apparently so cherish.

    Meanwhile, Nishimura keeps on wriggling. Last month he announced 2channel’s sale to a Singaporean firm, making his assets even more unaccountable.

    Some salute Nishimura as a “hero” and an “evangelist.” He’s also a willing abettor in the pollution of cyberspace, legitimizing an already powerful domestic bully culture with a worldwide audience. He had his day in court to explain himself. He didn’t show. He lost. Now he must pay up.

    If not, there will be blow-back. Our government has already made reactionary overtures to limit “illegal or harmful content” (whatever that means) on the Internet. Be advised: Once you give the unsophisticated Japanese police a vague mandate over anything, you’ll have random enforcement and policy creep, as usual. Kaplooey goes cyberfreedom of speech.

    Unless contempt of court procedures are tightened up to reflect the realities of new media, I believe Nishimura will be remembered historically as the irresponsible kid who spoiled the Internet for the rest of us.

    —————————–
    Debito Arudou is coauthor of the “Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants.”
    More on his 2006 libel lawsuit victory at www.debito.org/2channelsojou.html.
    Send comments to community@japantimes.co.jp

    The Japan Times: Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2009
    ================================

    ENDS

    ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    2) Japan Today & Yomiuri: Criminal charges against Internet bullies

    Further to my Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE column earlier this week, here is somebody else who is finally taking action against Internet stalkers and bullies. Smiley Kikuchi, a comedian, has finally gotten the NPA to get off their asses and actually prosecute people criminally for posting threatening messages.

    Good for him. I get death threats all too frequently. The first time I got a major death threat, the police did nothing except take the threat letter, hold it for six years, and send it back with “inconclusive results”. The second time, much the same. In Kikuchi’s case, the messages were posted directly to his blog, by fools who didn’t realize that (unlike 2channel) their IP addresses would be visible.

    Given how inept I consider the NPA to be about enforcing its own mandate, or even court decisions, I usually just delete messages to my blog that are malicious or threatening in tone. Now, thanks to Smiley, they just might be legally actionable.

    http://www.debito.org/?p=2256

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    3) NYT on “The Trolls among us” and measures against trollery

    Here’s an excerpt of an excellent (if overlong) article from the NYT about Internet trolls, the world they inhabit, and the logical games they employ. For many, this will be a rude awakening, for if they tried to deal with trolls like this reasonably (when trolls had no intention of ever being reasonable) or (heaven forbid) empathize with them, this is what they got for their trouble. For the trolls themselves, it’ll be more like, “WTF, it’s your own fault for ever taking us seriously! What took you so long to figure us out?”

    It’s a good read and will convince people who care overmuch about what other people think to stop doing so if the other person is anonymous or pseudonymous. It’s about time the earnest people on the Internet took some measures against the intellectual gamers and malicious life wasters.

    http://www.debito.org/?p=2266

    ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    THE RECESSION BITES
    4) JASSO eliminating exchange student funding on medical expenses, meaning sicker ryuugakusei

    JASSO (Japan Student Services Organization), the group which offers very generous packages for ryuugakusei (exchange students) to come and take up spaces in Japanese universities, is being less generous as of late. This is a problem since how much those students are allowed to make up the shortfall is limited by visa status. Here’s an essay from YYZ about what’s going on there and the impact it’s having on different nationalities. Excerpt:

    “As of April, … the support [for medical insurance] will be zero. I can manage, I’m a poor grad student, but I can make decent money teaching English/translating on the side. For the typical Chinese student, it will make life a lot tougher.

    Normally I don’t support handouts in the first place. But, since the Japanese government limits the amount of hours a student can legally work [28 hours per week, no more than 8 per day] thus limiting our income, [especially rough if the only job you can get is washing dishes for 750 an hour] some government consideration is only fair. We can’t live rent-free with Mama and Papa nor count on them for free food or to bail us out in times of need like most Japanese students. Not to mention the desire to travel home even just once a year. [I already can’t do that.]

    Many students must be already violating their visa work conditions just to scrape by. Now, more students will delay medical care, or work even more overtime in violation of their visas. Because when the government limits a self-supporting student to 21,000 yen/week in income [at 750/hr] and already takes about 5000/month just to join NHI, losing the medical expense subsidy is a kick in the teeth, as it’s already impossible to follow the visa work laws and live as a self-supporting student without a full scholarship and/or burning up one’s life savings.”

    http://www.debito.org/?p=2264

    ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    5) Japan Times/Kyodo: Decrease in NJ “Trainees”

    Excerpt: The economic crisis is taking a toll on foreign trainees in Japan.

    Preliminary data compiled by the Japan International Training Cooperation Organization show that the number of companies’ applications for permitting foreigners into Japan as trainees or technical interns last October fell 18.8 percent from a year earlier to 4,753.

    The figure for November stood at 4,692, down 25.5 percent from a year before. The organization, jointly founded by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry and four other ministries, said Japanese firms are becoming reluctant to accept new foreign trainees in the face of the deteriorating economy.

    http://www.debito.org/?p=2235

    ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    KARMA BITES BACK
    6) Sumo wrestler Wakakirin expelled for smoking pot: Why’d it take so long?

    I have been avoiding talking about the “puff pieces” about pot smokers in Sumo (I’m sure toking helps with the munchies around chanko-nabe time; we might even get people finding other uses for the hemp-like substance surrounding much of the ceremonial decor), because there was nothing particularly noteworthy or unfair about it. Three sumo wrestlers who just happened to be Russian got caught inhaling, and they got it in the neck. Dumb of them to do it.

    However, now a Japanese rikishi, Wakakirin, just got caught and expelled. Funny thing is, he reportedly tested positive for the substance (twice) back in August like all the rest. Why wasn’t the bong lowered on him then?

    More importantly, this becomes Debito.orgable because Kyodo just had to run a bit saying that he got his stash from foreigners in Roppongi. That’s right, even when it’s a Japanese gone to pot, weasel in some blame for the NJ all over again. Sheesh.

    A couple of articles substantiating this follow.

    http://www.debito.org/?p=2231

    ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    7) Newly-elected Tsukuba City Assemblyman Jon Heese on the hows and whys of getting elected in Japan

    What follows is an interesting (and in places deliciously irreverent) essay by Jon Heese, newly-elected naturalized Tsukuba City Assemblyperson, who encourages others to join him as elected local officials in Japan. He shows in this essay how he did it (he even looks a lot like Bill Clinton), with an important point: As long as you do your homework and figure out how your local system works, it should be possible for any number of people with international backgrounds (such as Inuyama’s Anthony Bianchi) to get in office and start making a difference.

    http://www.debito.org/?p=2217

    ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    …and finally…

    8 ) Debito.org Poll on whether “discrimination is a right for Japanese people”
    …surprising is that 20% effectively say yes.

    Last week I put up a poll based upon the headline of Japan Times columnist Gregory Clark, who argued precisely the above in his January 15 column.

    Good news is that the overwhelming majority chose the option that indicated that it isn’t.

    Granted, I listed essentially every argument that I’ve ever heard justifying discrimination in Japan, including:

    =======================================
    Of course! Racism is but one way to keep a society orderly. (5.0%, 10 Votes)
    Hey, Gaijin are guests in Japan, with no right to complain about how they’re treated. (4.0%, 7 Votes)
    Japan is a unique culture, and who are we to force our Western ideas of “individual rights” on it? (3.0%, 5 Votes)
    Japanese have the right to choose who they want to associate with and have as customers. (5.0%, 9 Votes)
    We can’t help but discriminate: It’s no different than “differentiate”, which we do daily. (3.0%, 5 Votes)

    =======================================

    There are of course counterarguing options available, and as I said they dominate:

    =======================================
    Racial discrimination is not illegal in Japan, so shikata ga nai. (3.0%, 6 Votes)
    I see both sides, so it’s case by case. (6.0%, 11 Votes)
    If there is a “right” to have it, there is an equal and opposing “right” to fight it. (9.0%, 18 Votes)
    Is this a trick question? Discrimination is a “right” for nobody. See UN treaties Japan has signed. (69.0%, 133 Votes)
    I’m not sure what to say. It’s a complicated issue. (4.0%, 7 Votes)
    None of the above. (3.0%, 5 Votes)

    =======================================
    (total votes as of this writing: 193)

    But as you can see by poll numbers as of this afternoon, the ones supporting discrimination are still a substantial chunk: a full fifth.

    Maybe people are just following, as the NYT article notes above, the impulses of the “fluid morality” of Internet anonymity. Or maybe people never bought into the liberal-arts historical-lesson training found in most multicultural, English-literate societies, that says that discrimination is just not a workable system.

    But I wanted to get an inkling of just how deep the problem goes, when you combine amoralism with cultural relativity; it seems a cocktail for people to say that people needn’t, even shouldn’t, be nice to one another, and that some people deserve an inferior place in a society.

    The poll is still open. Vote on it if you wish from any page of the Debito.org Blog.

    ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    As always, thanks for reading.
    Arudou Debito (debito@debito.org, www.debito.org)
    Sapporo, Japan
    DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER FEBRUARY 8, 2009 ENDS

    One Response to “DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER FEB 8, 2009”

    1. Louis Verton Says:

      My I wish we had you and your supporters in Korea. We can’t even scratch the surface of the xenophobia and discrimination here. Supposedly we waygugin bring all the problems that the Koreans have managed to produce for centuries themselves. Yes – we don’t get fingerprinted yet although it will come.

      But double tiered pricing systems are the norm in Korea. Even when you pull out your alien card and show em you are not a tourist (not that being a tourist justifies Koreans cheating foreigners tho they think it does) you still get a waygugin price. At some restaurants, internet cafes etc it’s the norm to be charged ten percent (sometimes higher) just because you are not Korean. Do many Koreans think that’s cheating? Not at all.

      They even do it in their Korea towns outside Korea and it’s damn time they followed the laws of the lands outside Korea and started behaving like people who are in a developed country especially as they spend a lot of time and energy telling themselves they are more moral, hard working and intelligent than the waygugin.

      Their racism and xenophobia against the Japanese is legendary of course and many see nothing wrong with blaming today’s Japanese for colonisation that finished with WW2. This can take on very nasty forms as can protests against US policy when anybody who looks white gets harassed, punched or spat on by certain violent Koreans.

      My message to Korea and Koreans – you are not helping your image abroad nor with the foreigners who are invited by you to work in Korea. If you truly want to be the hub of Asia, stop criminalising us for everything and stop blaming us for Aids etc. If you look at the huge no. of brothels on your street corners, that will be a start in preventing Aids instead of pretending foreigners brought it in.

      We wish for a Debido in our midst but Korean society militates against producing such a foreigner especially given we are owned by our employers more or less and don’t have the freedom to involve ourselves in real campaigns.

      But thank you Debido for what you’ve done in Japan.

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