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!