Friday 10 October 2014

Out, Damned Spot

Or, Believing Your Own Bullshit

So this is going to be about the Comfort Women (again). And as an added topical extra I’m also going to be talking about #gamergate. If you find either of those two terms meaningful and want to back out now I wouldn’t blame you in the slightest.

 1.   Owning Up to Past Mistakes (or Not)
The Asahi is a vaguely left of centre newspaper, but bear in mind this is Japan, where the ‘centre’ is so far to the right that the entire body politic’s sense of balance is totally askew, thus the country has spent the last quarter-century with the sociopolitical equivalent of a crippling inner-ear disorder and a club-foot, endlessly limping round in circles while under the misguided impression that it’s somehow making forward progress. Regardless, the Asahi is one of the few publications to do anything other than cheer mindlessly for whichever of the LDP factions that happens to be in power at the time and as such has accumulated its fair share of enemies.

Recently it owned up to making a mistake which, you’d imagine, is just good journalistic practice. Human fallibility being what it is, no publication is going to get stuff right 100% of the time and, given the reach and influence of national newspapers, any institution which holds even the slightest regard for ‘the truth’ should look to rectify errors as swiftly and as publicly as possible. What the Asahi got wrong and subsequently corrected was to give credence to (in hindsight unreliable) evidence from a 'recruiter' claiming that he, and through him the Japanese army, coerced women into prostitution during WWII.

This, as you will have no doubt guessed, has sparked of something of a shitstorm. The less appalling strand of the fallout has been the establishment pile-on as the slavering ranks of right-wing media and politicians (i.e. pretty much all of them) have barged each other out of the way to gut-flop onto the Asahi for its admission of fallibility (as lord knows none of them would ever own up to make an error). This has been unedifying, to say the least.

More depressing, yet equally inevitable, has been the same nationalistic twatsticks using the repudiation of one piece of the evidence regarding the existence of comfort women as a reason to call into question the issue in its entirety. Because clearly the validity of whole edifice was based solely upon the reports of a single Japanese man as opposed to, say, the first-hand testimony of hundreds of Korean and Chinese women (among others). Never mind the overwhelming mass of additional evidence, the inadmissibility of this one aspect of it means that all bets are off:

“Your Honour, we move to dismiss the case.”

“On what grounds?”

“The state maintains that my client consumed Merlot on the evening of the fourth, when it was in fact a nice Chianti with which the deceased’s liver was consumed. Furthermore, Dr. Lecter would like it on record that he would never serve something as petit bourgeois as mange tout.”

Sane and rational commentary

This is of course bollocks of the highest order, but the real kicker is that these self same pundits and politicians have been accusing the Asahi of making Japan look bad to the rest of the world. As though that hadn’t already been achieved by countless petty protests demanding the removal of memorials and monuments; as though that hadn’t already been achieved by senior officials belittling the issue at every fucking turn; as though that hadn’t already been achieved by needlessly reviewing the Kono statement, which remains the single most visible instrument through which Japan has accepted some measure of culpability. Let’s blame it on the Asahi! Let’s blame it on China! Let’s blame it on Korea! Let’s blame it on anyone except ourselves and our continued inability to actually take some fucking moral responsibility for our past actions and our perpetual insistence on not taking it in the loudest most ham-fisted manner possible.

2.   Ethics in Gaming Journalism
AHAAAAAAAAA HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!! Ethics in gaming journalism. This is a thing that people get genuinely upset about. What a fucking joke. I feel sullied and debased just for making the juxtaposition of this infantile horseshit with a real-world, meaningful issue. Basically, #gamergate is an ongoing dummy-spitting exercise whereby a video game developer (which is apparently a real career now) split up with her boyfriend, who then posted a bitter rant about her on the internet, and she ended up getting death threats and having to leave her home because video gamers have ethics. Don’t expect it to make any more sense than this.

The charge appears to be that as grown adults journalists (we’ve moved on from developers now you’ll note, because ethics) shouldn’t fraternize with or indeed know anyone who works in the field they write about. That such a view of human relations should be expounded by a group whose primary interaction with other people consists of shouting homophobic slurs at them during multiplayer games in which simulated murder and pillage are actively rewarded is frankly baffling. It’s almost like they’ve got no idea how to talk to people in the real world or something.

This is a cheap shot and I am above this sort of thing

3.   Moving Swiftly On…
So yeah, conflating these two issues is delicate ground, and I fully realize that in doing so I risk belittling the genuine suffering of the women forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army by association with such a pathetic, confected non-issue as ‘gamergate’. But then women suffered as a result of that too (see the near constant torrent of rape and death threats any women choosing to speak on this receives). There’s also the way that in both cases ‘journalistic ethics’ have been set-up as a smokescreen which, while pathetically transparent to most, has been repeated with such relentlessness and persistence that it can’t help but drag a sizeable number of credulous unfortunates along with it. At heart both issues are about men who for whatever reason don’t feel their manifest import and influence have been adequately revered by the world at large shamelessly exploiting what should be an irrelevancy to inflate their own egos and shit all over undeserving women in the process.

It all fits a little too neatly into my own pet analogy of Japan (or at least Japan’s general efforts at international relations) as an overgrown manchild who’s stayed shut up in his parents basement through choice for far too long, only to get finally kicked out and emerge, blinking and stuttering, into the daylight to find that real people in the real world don’t work like the simulations he’s been running on his state-of-the-art home gaming set up. He’s invested far too much time, money, and faith in technology for use at home and neglected the importance of maintaining relationships with those around him, and in his frustration at the world not being arranged exactly to his liking acts out by alternating between bouts of impulsive violence and long periods of angsty introspection. The degree to which the Japanese (un)diplomatic effort mirrors the self-absorbed whining of teenage boys (or men who shamefully still act like boys) makes me want to weep. I would not have been at all surprised to see Abe storming out of the General Assembly screaming about how he hates us, how life is SO unfair, how we’re not even his real dad.

I exaggerate. But not, sadly, by much. If you want to be taken seriously by people then first you must take people seriously, and the casual dismissal, persistent badgering, and outright abuse of anyone who doesn’t belong in your own in-group is not concordant with that. A lot of these issues are only live because people who profess to want them dead stubbornly persist in performing CPR on them through their own lead-footed, tin-eared efforts to defend the indefensible. The gentlemen do protest too much, methinks.


  1. Bravo.

    An irrational nation. I did not question intelligence, nor did I laud the rationality of our nations; however, living in Japan, one comes to the conclusion that whether reason is the fruit of Aristotle of the Renaissance it is a fruit sown in European soil (when sown at all).

    1. I have a suspicion that Japan is actually leading the field on this one, in a perverse kind of way. One of the main global political trends over the last couple of decades or so has been once-dominant groups (rich white men in most cases) getting their right to dominance more openly and effectively questioned. Japan's demographic, economic, and historical idiosyncrasies just mean that's coming to a head earlier here than in the rest of the First World. Now, having that right to dominance questioned is not the same as having that dominance removed, but here we have the added amusement that it's occurring on an inter- rather than intra-national scale, so it's just more visible in general.

      I hope. But then what do I know?