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Hi Blog. One thing we do here at Debito.org is track and quantify social damage done when media portrays people negatively. We’ve already talked at length about the fabricated foreign crime wave by the NPA since 2000 as a means of justifying police anti-crime budgets (see also book “Embedded Racism“, Ch. 7), and how flawed and loaded government surveys indicate that the Japanese public believes (moreover are encouraged to believe) that foreigners don’t deserve the same human rights as Japanese humans. Well, here’s another survey, done by a university professor in Sendai, that indicates how unchecked rumors about foreign crime in times of panic (particularly in the wake of the Fukushima Disasters) result in widespread (and unfounded) denigration of foreigners. To the tune of around 80% of survey respondents believing the worst about their NJ neighbors, regardless of the truth. SITYS. It’s the “blame game” all over again, except that only in rare cases does the government actually step in to right things before, during, or afterwards.
As Submitter JK notes: “Of interest is Professor Kwak’s statement that “False rumors commonly surface in the event of a major earthquake, and it is no easy task to erase them. Rather, each person needs to acquire the ability to judge them”. Given the result of his survey in Shinjuku-ku, it’s obvious that people lack the critical reasoning skills needed to separate fact from fiction (especially when disaster strikes), so this leads to me believe that trying to erase false rumors post-ex-facto is a fool’s errand — the ‘rumor’ that *needs* to be spread is that foreigners, specifically Chinese, Koreans and people from Southeast Asia are *NOT* looters, thieves, damagers of corpses (whatever that is), or rapists. In other words, what needs to happen to get the headline to read “Only 20% believed fake rumors of crime by foreigners in Japan after quake”?”
Quite. Once the damage is done, it’s done. Social media needs to be carefully monitored in times of public panic, especially in Japanese society, with a long history of blaming foreigners for whatever, whenever disaster strikes, sometimes with lethal results. Dr. Debito Arudou
80% believed fake rumors of crime by foreigners in Japan after quake: poll
March 13, 2017 (Mainichi Japan), courtesy of JK
SENDAI — Fake rumors of rampant crime by foreigners in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami six years ago were believed by over 80 percent of respondents here in a recent survey of people who said they had heard them, it has been learned.
Tohoku Gakuin University professor Kwak Kihwan, who specializes in co-existing society studies, conducted a survey on the rumors in September and October last year. He said the results show that a particular mindset can easily spread in an emergency, and is calling for people to choose their information carefully.
Kwak posted the survey to about 2,100 people of Japanese nationality between the ages of 20 and 69 living in the three Sendai wards of Aoba, Miyagino and Wakabayashi, which suffered extensive damage in the quake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. Responses were received from 770 people, or 36.7 percent of the target group.
A total of 51.6 percent of respondents said they had heard rumors of crime by foreigners in the disaster areas. Of these, 86.2 percent responded that they had either “largely” or “somewhat” believed the rumors. When asked what crimes had been rumored, with multiple answers permitted, “looting and theft” took the top spot at 97 percent, followed by “damage to corpses” (24.4 percent), and “rape and assault” (19.1 percent). When asked who they thought had committed the crimes, again with multiple answers permitted, 63 percent said “Chinese,” 24.9 percent said “Koreans,” and 22.7 percent answered “people from Southeast Asia.”
Television footage taken in the wake of the disasters showed Japanese residents cooperating in an orderly fashion.
“It was probably convenient to have rumors that it was foreigners who were committing crimes so as not to conflict with the image that Japanese people act in an orderly way,” Kwak said. He added, “There also may have been people who spread rumors about crimes not out of malice but because they were worried about those around them. You can’t simply dismiss it as exclusivism. It’s a difficult issue.”
To provide a basis for comparison, Kwak conducted a similar survey in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward targeting 700 people, and received responses from 174 of them (a response rate of 24.9 percent). Just 70 respondents said they had heard rumors of crimes by foreigners. Of these, 60 people, or 85.7 percent, said they had believed the rumors — a result similar to that seen in the survey in Sendai.
“False rumors commonly surface in the event of a major earthquake, and it is no easy task to erase them. Rather, each person needs to acquire the ability to judge them,” Kwak said.
Miyagi Prefectural Police statistics show that of the 3,899 people that police exposed in connection with criminal offenses in the prefecture in 2011, the year of the Great East Japan Earthquake, a total of 57 (1.5 percent), were foreigners either visiting or residing permanently in Japan. The figure dropped to 53 (1.3 percent) in 2012, and rose to 67 (1.9 percent) in 2013 — indicating there was not a great deal of variation.
At the time of the disaster, prefectural police distributed fliers to evacuation shelters warning residents to be on their guard against rumors. Online, police stated that there had been four serious offences between March 12 and 21, 2011, not significantly different from the seven cases recorded during the same period the previous year.
Satoshi Konno of the prefectural police safety department commented, “During disasters, we want people to confirm information provided by news organizations and government organizations and act appropriately.”
False rumors have been seen following major disasters in the past. When the Great Kanto Earthquake struck in 1923, a false rumor that Koreans has been poisoning wells spread. Police and residents formed vigilante groups and Koreans and Chinese were killed in various areas.
Recently false rumors have spread on the internet. In the latest survey, respondents were asked where they had heard the rumors. The top answer, at 68 percent, was “from family members and locals,” followed by “on the internet,” at 42.9 percent.
The prevalence of smartphones following the disaster has provided more opportunities for people to share information through social networking services (SNS) such as Facebook and Twitter. In the wake of the Kumamoto quakes in April last year, police arrested a man on suspicion of fraudulent obstruction of business over a fake photo and tweet indicating that a lion had escaped from Kumamoto City Zoological and Botanical Gardens.
Kwak commented, “With the Kumamoto quakes, we saw fake rumors that had been posted on Twitter being dispelled by other posts. SNS can be effective if not used in the wrong way. Ways of handling the situation should be incorporated into disaster education programs.”
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8 comments on “Mainichi: 80% believed fake rumors of crime by foreigners in Japan after quake: poll”
Debito, that 80% is also an interesting figure in that I’ve seen on several internet sites (usually in comments sections) a throwaway statistic along the lines of “80% of crimes are committed by foreigners”
My other gut reaction is to think of the 6000 or so Chinese, Koreans and others who were lynched after the 1923 Kanto earthquake and whose skeletons are occasionally discovered during construction work along the Sumida River. Something about people who don’t learn from history…
Well, didn’t Blinky Ishihara as mayor of Tokyo less than 10 years ago, tell graduating Self Defense Force officers that “In the event of an earthquake, foreigners will riot”?
They WANT to believe it’s all the fault of NJ.
Otherwise they’d have to suffer the cognitive dissonance of accepting that ‘we Japanese’ steal, rape and murder each other.
It is a little bit cheating with statistics: of 2700 people questioned, 770 people answered, of which 51.6 per cent heard of rumors, and 86.2 believed in rumors. That is 264 people of 2700.
The xenophobia in Japan upsets me (that’s why I read this blog), but we NJ don’t help our cause if we use the same methods.
There’s no cheating, that’s exactly how statistics work.
770 people is our sample size and that’s that. The fact that “only” 770 out of 2100 people mailed the survey back is completely irrelevant, unless the survey was biased, for example questions worded in a way that would make people who didn’t believe the rumours less likely to mail it back.
I doubt other mail-in surveys get more than a third of responses. The fact that the survey in Shinjuku-ku yielded almost the same number – 86% vs 85% believed the rumours – proves the methodology is sound.
(Excuse my late reply.)
Jim, I had a number of conversations with the Japanese blaming the Chinese for the “crime wave” taking place in Japan. Just mention the Yakuza. That usually stops the conversation from going any further. Japanese man at my gym: “You’re from Vancouver so you have the same issues with Chinese criminals we do.” Me: “No. We have a issue with wealthy Chinese driving the real estate prices up as an exodus takes place in China for the obvious reasons. Aren’t the Yakuza Japanese?” Awkward silence follows.
@ Chairman, ah but the Yakuza are “our” J criminals, part of the system, “only kill their own” “have a code of honor” cliches etc etc.
Time and again I have had these myths trotted about to me from ordinary Japanese about how they “met the yakuza” and they were “alright” , my favorite about how one boss got his chimpira to carry my ex Gf’s bags in the airport (obviously hitting on her but she was naive).
The reality is the conversation goes quiet as the yakuza are unmentionable as said gutless person you met at the gym is afraid of offending one.
But the Chinese, being gaijin, are an easy target. And your average J person, however low in the J hierarchy, can take his frustrations out on them with impunity. Thus, no NJ rights…..
Japanese government removes report on massacre of resident Koreans after Great Kanto Earthquake due to complaints that ‘it never happened’ and (and more to the point of this thread) protestations that Koreans really did run amok in the aftermath.