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Hi Blog. Continuing on with the theme of Japan’s Blame Game (as in, blame foreigners for any social ill that you don’t want to take responsibility for), we have here the phenomenon of blame speech morphing into hate speech (not that far of a stretch, given the irresponsible nature of anonymous social media). We have people conjuring up fake stories of foreigners looting after natural disasters that got so bad that even the Japanese police (who are not positively predisposed to foreign residents in the first place — they’re usually on the front lines of blaming them for foreign crime and the undermining of Japanese society) are stepping in to defend them and dispel rumor.
The Japan Times, NATIONAL / CRIME & LEGAL
Police say rumors of foreign looters in Hiroshima unfounded
BY ERIC JOHNSTON, STAFF WRITER, AUG 27, 2014
OSAKA – The Hiroshima Prefectural Police said Wednesday they had no information to substantiate online rumors that foreigners were burglarizing houses in areas of the city hit hardest by last week’s deadly mudslides.
No suspects had been arrested on suspicion of burglarizing, as of Tuesday. However, the police said that due to the rumors, they were beefing up patrols in the affected areas.
Rumors about foreign burglars began circulating on Twitter and social media sites that espouse right-wing and often xenophobic views, soon after the heavy rains hit parts of the city on Aug. 20, leaving 70 people dead in mudslides and forcing about 1,300 people from their homes.
According to the prefectural police website, there has been at least one possible phone scam in which a mudslide victim received a call around last Friday from a person claiming to represent a local bank and asking for a donation for the victims. The caller hung up when asked for confirmation of his identity, police said.
On Monday, following reports of fake police and city officials visiting homes and asking for cash donations, police warned residents to be on guard and confirm the identity of anyone requesting donations.
On Saturday, Kyodo News reported that a 73-year-old man returned to his damaged home after a couple of days and discovered it had been vandalized.
Unfounded rumors on social media of a spike in foreign crime appeared following the March 2011 quake and tsunami in Tohoku, forcing police and other officials to warn against false reports. There were also false rumors of a wave of crime by foreigners in Kobe following the 1995 earthquake.
This is ironic, since NHK has recently reported there have been 1200 burglaries in post-disaster Fukushima and perps are Japanese:
1,200 burglaries at Fukushima evacuated areas
NHK — JUN 13, 2014, courtesy of KM
http://newsonjapan.com/html/newsdesk/article/108087.php (with videos)
Police have recorded a large number of burglaries in areas evacuated after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident in 2011.
Fukushima police arrested a 34-year-old man on Thursday on suspicion of stealing clothes from an empty apartment in the town of Tomioka. The town is south of the plant and is designated an evacuation zone due to nuclear fallout.
Police searched the man’s home in Tamura, Fukushima prefecture. They confiscated more than 3,000 stolen items, including precious metals.
Police say in the first five months of the year, 90 cases of burglary were reported in 8 municipalities surrounding the crippled plant.
And it’s not the first time that the authorities have had to step in and dispel rumors targeting NJ residents. Consider what happened weeks after the 2011 Fukushima disasters. Rumors were circulating about foreign crime all over again and had to be tamped down upon:
Despite the fact that crime was occurring and probably not due to NJ, as noted above.
700 M. Yen Stolen from ATMs in 3 Prefs Hardest Hit by March Disaster
Tokyo, July 14 (Jiji Press)–Some 684.4 million yen in total was stolen from automated teller machines between March 11, the day of the major earthquake and tsunami, and the end of June in three prefectures hardest hit by the disaster, Japan’s National Police Agency reported Thursday.
The number of thefts targeting ATMs at financial institutions and convenience stores reached 56, while the number of attempted such thefts stood at seven in the northeastern Japan prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima, the agency said.
Fukushima Prefecture accounted for 60 pct of the number of cases and the amount stolen, with the impact of the nuclear crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant being blamed for the high figure.
No similar cases were reported in March-June 2010. ATM thefts rose sharply after the disaster, but the situation in the prefecture is now under control, the police said.
Some 750 police officers are patrolling areas around the nuclear power plant.
Note how J crime naturally causes considerably less media panic. But since there are no legal restrictions on hate speech in Japan, if you can’t say something nice about people, say it about foreigners. And there is in fact a long history of this sort of thing going on:
NATIONAL / MEDIA | MEDIA MIX
Social media aids rehashing of historical hate
BY PHILIP BRASOR, SPECIAL TO THE JAPAN TIMES
SEP 13, 2014 (excerpt)
After rain caused deadly mudslides in Hiroshima Prefecture last month, rumors spread over the Internet about burglaries of evacuated homes by “foreigners,” including Zainichi (ethnic Korean residents of Japan). Such rumors tend to accompany disasters, so Tokyo Shimbun talked directly to police in the area.
There were six break-ins between Aug. 20 and 31, but the police had no idea of the nationalities of the burglars and seemed reluctant to say much else. The reporter spoke with residents of the stricken area and none said they had heard anything about foreigners looting homes except on the Internet.
He then spoke to several local Korean residents of the region, and all felt anxious about the rumors. As one woman said, “It is getting easier for people to post discriminatory messages” on the Internet. An expert on disasters told the paper that crime actually goes down after a calamity, but because of the attendant atmosphere of desperation and fear many people think otherwise, and thus “poisonous hearsay” flourishes more readily — in 2000, then-Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara told Japanese military personnel that foreigners could be expected to riot after a major earthquake. The expert added that these rumors reflect conventional thinking in the general population, and due to recent media coverage of anti-Korean sentiments the average person may believe them out of hand. It is thus important that authorities squelch such stories as soon as they emerge, something the police in Hiroshima did not do.
Tokyo Shimbun’s relatively extensive coverage of the issue was prompted by more than immediate events. The Hiroshima mudslides occurred just prior to the 91st anniversary of the Great Kanto Earthquake of Sept. 1, 1923. In the aftermath of that disaster, thousands were murdered after rumors spread that Koreans had poisoned wells and burned down houses. Some were killed by individuals, some by groups of vigilantes, some by civil or military police. Right-wing fringe groups deny there was a “genocide,” the term generally used to describe the killings, and there has never been a government investigation into the matter or an official expression of regret. It took place when the Korean Peninsula was under Japanese control, so the ethnic Koreans targeted were de facto Japanese nationals. Even the South Korean government never demanded acknowledgement of these crimes until local advocacy groups pressured it to demand that Japan identify the victims and apologize.
To be sure, hate speech has finally become an issue in Japan. A recent NHK survey has shown that a vast majority of the Japanese public think hate speech is a problem, and a near-majority think that legislation is needed:
NHK NEWSWEB, 2014年9月23日 (excerpt)
Rest of the article at http://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20140923/k10014816511000.html
That said, I remain unoptimistic about how things will turn out, especially given the bent of the current administration. The Economist (London) appears to share that view, even hinting that it may be used to stifle pertinent criticisms of the government (as opposed to nasty speculation about minorities and disenfranchised peoples):
Hate speech in Japan
Spin and substance
A troubling rise in xenophobic vitriol
Sep 27th 2014 | TOKYO | From the print edition, courtesy of XY
IN OSAKA’s strongly Korean Tsuruhashi district, a 14-year-old Japanese girl went out into the streets last year calling through a loudspeaker for a massacre of Koreans. In Tokyo’s Shin-Okubo neighbourhood, home to one of the largest concentrations of Koreans in Japan, many people say the level of anti-foreigner vitriol—on the streets and on the internet—is without modern precedent. Racists chant slogans such as “Get out of our country”, and “Kill, kill, kill Koreans”.
Perhaps for the first time, this is becoming a problem for Japan’s politicians and spin doctors (to say nothing of the poor Koreans). The clock is counting down to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, and lawmakers are coming under pressure to rein in the verbal abuse and outright hate speech directed at non-Japanese people, chiefly Koreans.
Japan has about 500,000 non-naturalised Koreans, some of whom have come in the past couple of decades but many of whose families were part of a diaspora that arrived during Japan’s imperial era in the first half of the 20th century. They have long been targets of hostility. After the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923, Tokyo residents launched a pogrom against ethnic Koreans, claiming that they had poisoned the water supply.
So far the abuse has stopped short of violence. There have also been counter-demonstrations by Japanese citizens in defence of those attacked. But the police have been passive in the face of verbal assaults. And there is clearly a danger that one day the attacks will turn violent.
So the government is under pressure to act. In July, the UN’s human-rights committee demanded that Japan add hate speech to legislation banning racial discrimination. Tokyo’s governor, Yoichi Masuzoe, has pressed the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, to pass a law well before the games.
The courts, too, are beginning to move. In July Osaka’s high court upheld an earlier ruling over racial discrimination that ordered Zaitokukai, an ultra-right group that leads hate-speech rallies across the country, to pay ¥12m ($111,000) for its tirades against a pro-North Korean elementary school in Kyoto. At least one right-wing group, Issuikai, which is anti-American and nostalgic for the imperial past, abhors the anti-Korean racism. Its founder, Kunio Suzuki, says he has never seen such anti-foreign sentiment.
The backdrop to a sharp rise in hate-filled rallies is Japan’s strained relations with South Korea (over the wartime issue of Korean women forced to work as sex slaves for the Japanese army) and North Korea (which abducted Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s). But, says Mr Suzuki of Issuikai, the return of Mr Abe to office in 2012 also has something to do with it. The nationalist prime minister and his allies have been mealy-mouthed in condemning hate speech.
Even if Mr Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) bows to the need to improve Japan’s image overseas, the message is likely to remain mixed. Earlier in September a photograph emerged of Eriko Yamatani, the new minister for national public safety and the overseer of Japan’s police, posing in 2009 for a photograph with members of Zaitokukai. The government says she did not know that the people she met were connected to the noxious group. Yet Ms Yamatani has form when it comes to disputing the historical basis of the practice of wartime sex slavery.
Many reasonable people worry that a new hate-speech law, improperly drafted, could harm freedom of expression. But one revisionist politician, Sanae Takaichi, said, shortly before she joined the cabinet in September, that if there were to be a hate-speech law, it should be used to stop those annoying people (invariably well-behaved and often elderly) demonstrating against the government outside the Diet: lawmakers, she added, needed to work “without any fear of criticism”. Ms Takaichi’s office has since been obliged to explain why, with Tomomi Inada, another of Mr Abe’s close allies, she appeared in photographs alongside a leading neo-Nazi. Some of the hate, it seems, may be inspired from the top.
So what to do? I still remain in support of a law against hate speech (as is the United Nations), i.e., speech that foments fear, hatred, and related intolerance towards disenfranchised peoples and minorities in Japan. Those are the people who need protection against the powerful precisely because they are largely powerless to defend themselves as minorities in an unequal social milieu. The Japanese government’s proposed definition of hate speech (taken from the NHK article above) of 「人種や国籍、ジェンダーなどの特定の属性を有する集団をおとしめたり、差別や暴力行為をあおったりする言動や表現行為」(behavior or expressive activity that foments discrimination or violence toward, or disparages people belonging to groups distinguished by race, citizenship, gender etc.) is a decent one, and a good start. Where it will go from here, given the abovementioned extremities of Japan’s current right-wing political climate, remains to be seen. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito