Tangent: Tsutsumi Mika’s crooked Jewish character “Goldberg” in her “USA Poverty Superpower” manga. Ironic, again, given that…

I’ve devoted a couple of blog entries (here and here) plus a Japan Times column to propagandizing journalist Tsutsumi Mika, who has had her “Poverty Superpower of America” book series adapted for Japanese grade-school audiences nationwide and a manga-reading Japanese public.

I’ve already gone into detail elsewhere about the latent journalistic problems with her reportage (not the least the outright falsification of evidence), and the implicit ironies involved with her demonizing a foreign society as a cautionary tale to audiences without sufficient training in comparative cultural study and critical thinking.

Now here’s another irony, sent to me by a friend who wishes to remain anonymous. Further inspection of Tsutsumi’s works reveals an odd attitude towards Jews. Consider this excerpt from her “Poverty Superpower of America” manga, courtesy of Amazon Japan: Here we have a Jew named “David Goldberg” from a financial agency selling bogus house loans to an immigrant Mexican family before the whole US derivatives crisis. Goldberg announces himself as “the ally of the weak” before destroying all of their hopes and dreams.

I wonder what the Jewish anti-defamation leagues would make of Tsutsumi’s Jewish crook? The American Embassy (unlike the Japanese Embassy) is pretty lackadaisical about how the US is portrayed in Japan’s media. But I doubt, say, the Simon Wiesenthal Center would be.

Update: JA and PTA’s Chagurin Magazine responds to protests re Tsutsumi Mika’s “Children within the Poverty Country of America” article for 6th-Grade kids

Last November, Debito.org reported that a magazine named Chagurin (sponsored by the PTA and the JA Japan Agricultural lobby, and placed in Elementary Schools nationwide) featured a scare-mongering article entitled “Children within the Poverty Country of America”. This was reported by a NJ resident named Stephanie whose daughter read the article in public school, questioned its contents because she had overseas experience, and was allegedly rebuffed by her teacher with an unquestioning, “It is written so it must be true.”

The contents, which were scanned and featured on Debito.org in full, depicted America as an example of what Japan should not become, and focused on several social problems (such as homelessness, poverty, obesity, non-universal health care, flawed education, and poor diet) which do exist but were largely exaggerated — even in some cases falsified — in the article; moreover with no grounding with comparative social problems in Japan. The author, Tsutsumi Mika (her website here), a bilingual journalist educated in the US who preaches critical thinking in her article’s conclusions, turns out to be someone who cranks out bestselling books in Japanese that don’t apply the same critical thinking to Japan (only to America, as a cautionary tale). I called the Chagurin article “propaganda”, not only because it was sponsored by a Japan Agricultural lobby famous for its dirty media tricks (see here, here and here), but also because it was disseminated to a young audience of sixth graders not yet trained in the critical thinking Tsutsumi so prizes. It followed Robert W. McChesney’s definition of propaganda exactly: “The more people consume your media, the less they’ll know about the subject, and the more they will support government policy.” And it caught them while they’re young.

Even more interesting information about Tsutsumi then came out in Debito.org Reader comments: She is married to a young Dietmember named Kawada Ryuuhei of the Minna No Tou Party; he is an HIV activist who preaches anti-discrimination within Japanese society, yet supports xenophobic arguments regarding revisions to Japan’s Nationality Law (ergo his anti-discrimination sentiments only apply to “Japanese”). They make for an interesting pair, espousing an interestingly self-serving (and un-self-reflective) ideology that defies critical thinking even for fully-grown, mature, and educated adults — especially unbecoming given their life experiences both in overseas societies and in matters of discrimination. (In contrast to what many say about international experience opening up the minds of younger Japanese, these two indicate the opposite effect as they pander to their xenophobic markets.)

That’s the background. The news for today’s blog entry is that Chagurin magazine responded to Stephanie this month, who in November had sent in a complaint letter about the article. Their reply acknowledged some errors within, even incorporated answers from Tsutsumi herself (who didn’t budge in her claims). I will translate it below with comments from Stephanie and myself, and enclose the original text. As Tsutsumi advocates, put on your critical thinking caps as you read it!

TV “Economist” Mitsuhashi Takaaki on foreign labor in Japan: “80% of Chinese in Japan are spies”: “foreigners will destroy Japanese culture”

Watch this short video about Mitsuhashi Takaaki, a commentator, writer, TV personality, seminarist (juku), failed LDP candidate, and blogger about things he considers to be politics and economics. It shows how normalized bigotry is in Japan — to the point of silliness. Once you get past the stupid tic Mitsuhashi has with pushing up his eyeglasses (redolent of aspiring Hollywood wannabes of the 1910s-1930s who thought their cute catchphrase, gesture, or sneeze would fuel an entire career), you realize what he’s enabling: Japanese media to espouse xenophobia.

In the video he’s critical of PM Abe’s policies (ignorantly portraying Abe as a proponent of importing foreign labor in order to undercut Japanese workers’ salaries), but he goes beyond economics and into bigotry: about Chinese (depicted as invading hordes with queue hairstyles, where he claims that “80% are spies” [source, please?]) and foreigners in general (they will “destroy Japanese culture”). The research gets so sloppy that it reaches the point of silliness (they even misspelled TPP as “Trance Pacific Partnership”). Watch the video yourself, but not as a lunch digestion aid.

In the end, Mitsuhashi is just an IT dork relishing his time in the sun, riding a patriotic wave while dividing, “othering”, and bullying minorities for his own financial gain. Again, it’s one more indication that the long-awaited next generation of “more liberal Japanese” will be just as narrow-minded as the previous one.

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MARCH 31, 2013

Table of Contents:
THE UGLY SIDE OF JAPAN’S RIGHTWARD SHIFT (1): BIGOTRY AND HATRED

1) Feb 9 2013 Tokyo Shin-Ohkubo Anti-Korean demonstrator slogans: “Good or Bad, Kill All Koreans” etc.
2) Letters from J human rights groups to the visiting Olympic Committee re Tokyo 2020: Discrimination in Japan violates IOC Charter
3) My latest academic paper on Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus: “Japan’s Rightward Swing and the Tottori Prefecture Human Rights Ordinance”

4) Interesting cases: naturalized Japanese sues city councilor fiance who jilted her for Korean ethnicity, Pakistani parents file criminal complaint for injurious school bullying, Hatoyama Yukio officially called “traitor” for not toeing official party line on Senkaku/Nanjing issues

THE UGLY SIDE OF JAPAN’S RIGHTWARD SHIFT (2): ELITE DOMINANCE AND INSULARITY

5) Prof. Kashiwazaki Chikako: Japan’s Nationality Law and immigration policy deviates from current international legal norm
6) SITYS: GOJ’s new “Points System” to attract “higher-skilled” NJ being reviewed due to dearth of applications, impossibly high hurdles
7) JT/Kyodo: Record high applicants for J refugee status. Why media fixation on refugees? Because they are a bellwether of Japan’s “legitimacy as a competent, advanced, Western democracy”
8 ) Asahi: Business leaders call for law to allow firing of workers without justification: i.e., the gaijinization of all workplaces
9) JT on “Kyakkan Setsu vs. Nibun Setsu”: Grey zones in compensation for “work hours” in Japan

… and finally…
10) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Col 61 March 5, 2013: “Child’s quibble with U.S. ‘poverty superpower’ propaganda unravels a sobering story about insular Japan”

PLUS bonus follow-up:
11) Tangent: Tsutsumi Mika’s crooked Jewish character “Goldberg” in her “USA Poverty Superpower” manga.

Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Col 61 March 5, 2013: “Child’s quibble with U.S. ‘poverty superpower’ propaganda unravels a sobering story about insular Japan”

JT JBC: Last November, a reader in Hokkaido named Stephanie sent me an article read in Japan’s elementary schools. Featured in a sixth-grader magazine called Chagurin (from “child agricultural green”) dated December 2012, it was titled “Children of America, the Poverty Superpower” (Hinkon Taikoku Amerika no Kodomotachi), offering a sprawling review of America’s social problems.

Its seven pages in tabloid format (see debito.org/?p=10806) led with headlines such as: “Is it true that there are more and more people without homes?” “Is it true that if you get sick you can’t go to hospital?” and “Is it true that the poorer an area you’re in, the fatter the children are?”

Answers described how 1 out of 7 Americans live below the poverty line, how evicted homeless people live in tent cities found “in any town park,” how poverty correlates with child obesity due to cheap junk food, how bankruptcies are widespread due to the world’s highest medical costs (e.g., one tooth filling costs ¥150,000), how education is undermined by “the evils (heigai) of evaluating teachers only by test scores,” and so on.

For greater impact, included were photos of a tent city, a fat lady — even a kid with rotten-looking picket-fence teeth. These images served to buttress spiraling daisy chains of logic: “As your teeth get worse, your bite becomes bad, your body condition gets worse and your school studies suffer. After that, you can’t pass a job interview and you become stuck in poverty.”

The article’s concluding question: “What can we do so we don’t become like America?”…

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER FEBRUARY 4, 2013

Table of Contents:
WEIRD STUFF
1) Sankei Sports etc: J soccer player Nakamura Yuuki quits Slovakian club, feels victimized by “racial discrimination”; my, how ironic!
2) NYT: Xenophobia in Environmental Ministry re exclusionary Fukushima decontam efforts: “Japanese soil is different”, “NJ assistance might scare local grandmas”
3) NHK on Fukushima: Offering all-expense-paid junkets to NJ journalists, interviews for NJ residents who experienced disasters. What’s the catch?
4) Asahi: Media-fostered xenophobia forces prefectural countermeasures against NJ buying “strategic land”

FOOD FOR THOUGHT
5) Book Review: “At Home Abroad” by Adam Komisarof, a survey of assimilation/integration strategies into Japan (interviews include Keene, Richie, Kahl, Pakkun, and Arudou)
6) Update: JA and PTA’s Chagurin Magazine responds to protests re Tsutsumi Mika’s “Children within the Poverty Country of America” article for 6th-Grade kids
7) Interesting lawsuits: French “Flyjin” sues employer NHK for firing her during Fukushima Crisis, 8 US sailors sue TEPCO for lying about radiation dangers
8 ) US Senator Daniel Inouye dies, Mazie Hirono Becomes First U.S. Senator Born in Japan; contrast with do-nothing self-gaijinizing Tsurunen
9) Beate Sirota Gordon, one architect of the Postwar Japanese Constitution, dies at 89, her goals uncompleted if not currently being undone
10) Proposal: Establishing a Debito.org YouTube Channel?
… and finally …
11) Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 59: The year for NJ in 2012: a Top 10

DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER DECEMBER 10, 2012

Table of Contents:
GOOD NEWS
1) Updated 2nd Edition of HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, & IMMIGRANTS to Japan now on sale

MORE BAD SOCIAL SCIENCE
2) PTA-recommended “Chagurin” mag puts propaganda article “Children within the Poverty Country of America” in Japan’s 6th-Grader classrooms
3) NYT on Donald Keene “becoming one of them”, in an underresearched article that eulogizes the man before time
4) SITYS: IC Chips in new NJ Gaijin Cards are remotely scannable, as witnessed in USG’s Faraday Envelopes to protect cardholders’ privacy
5) Irony: GOJ pushes citizen ID law despite outcry over J privacy rights. Sadly, never similar concerns for NJ privacy, natch.
6) BBC: Japan’s pseudoscience linking personality traits to blood types. I say it dumbs society down.

DEBATES WITHOUT END
7) Kyodo: UN HRC prods Japan on sex slaves, gallows. But the elephant in the room still remains no law against racial discrimination in Japan
8 ) Interesting debate on martial arts as newly required course in JHS under Japan’s Basic Education Law reforms
9) Archiving Tottori’s 2005 Jinken Ordinance (the first and only one ever passed, then UNpassed, penalizing racial discrimination in Japan) to keep it in the historical record
… and finally…
10) My Japan Times JUST BE CAUSE Column 57, November 6, 2012: “If bully Ishihara wants one last stand, bring it on”

PTA-recommended “Chagurin” mag puts propaganda article “Children within the Poverty Country of America” in Japan’s 6th-Grader classrooms

Contributor Stephanie: My daughter is a 6th grader at a small country public school here in Hokkaido. Every month they get a magazine called “Chagurin” (I think it may be JA sponsored). Anyways, she looks forward to reading these as they have interesting articles and ideas. But this month in the December issue there is an article called “Hikon Taikoku America no Kodomotachi” [Children of the Poverty Great-Power Country of America]. After reading it she told her teacher she did not think parts of it were true, the teacher said it was written so it is true.

She brought this article home to us and translated it. I am so … what is the word…disappointed, mad…it is just not right that this lady writes an article with so many false statements and big generalizations. There are parts of truth but presented in a negative way.

Basically saying America is not a good place and no matter where you go you will see people living in tents in the parks. Other points — the poorer you are the fatter you are (which implies people are fat because they are poor). The health care is poor and it costs 150.000 yen to get one filling! Because people can not afford this they do not go to the dentist they in turn can not bite right, have interviews or get jobs.

One more thing. If you take a look at the photo with the boy with the “bad teeth” — as soon as I saw this photo I doubted those teeth are real. They remind me way too much of the fake halloween wax costume teeth I always had growing up. I sent the photo to a dental hygienist who has been working in America 20+ years and she said “In my 20+ years I have never seen teeth like these. They look like the fake halloween teeth.” When I write the author of the article I will be asking her for the photographer’s info to clarify the facts behind this photo. I think you can glean more by reading this yourself so I will attach the article, front cover, and back page…