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Slanted, Sensationalized News: How Some Japanese Media Have Gone Into Slow Suicide

Rui Abiru



The protesters demand the resignation of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in front of the Diet on July 24, 2017.



There are striking similarities between mainstream media’s recent “resistance” campaigns in America and Japan. Below, we translate an analysis by Japan’s Rui Abiru that is being widely circulated throughout the country.



Will 2017 be remembered as the year when the media sacrificed its core values and purpose and destroyed itself? Over the course of just half a year, Japan’s media has been treating us to 24-hour coverage of problems surrounding the approval and construction of two schools, Moritomo Gakuen and Kake Gakuen, in an all-out attack aimed at overthrowing the current administration. It’s embarrassing and a disgrace to the profession.


Despite there being no evidence of any kind of illegal conduct, we hear continuously that the administration’s behavior is “suspicious,” that “doubts remain,” that “nefarious forces are at work,” laying it on thick without any kind of clear proof or facts being offered.


Meanwhile, obviously illegal conduct by the opposing party, such as the dual citizenship of Democratic Progressive Party leader Renho, is skillfully dodged by changing the subject to whether it’s “discrimination” to ask such questions.


While the media gratefully broadcast the words of former Ministry of Education Vice-Minister Kihei Maekawa that “governance of the country has been tampered with,” we heard nothing at all of the objection to Maekawa’s claim from former Ehime Prefecture Governor Moriyuki Kato.


The media made a huge sensation out of the deposition of witnesses in the Moritomo Gakuen case, but, in the end, no new facts emerged. Rather, the main focus seemed to be merely the eccentric character of the people involved.


Eventually, it was as clear as day that the true objective of the liberal and left-wing media, starting with the Asahi Shimbun, was neither to uncover the facts nor to speak truth to power, but to spread suspicions about Prime Minister Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and damage his reputation.



They got what they wanted with this tactic. As approval ratings for the Abe Cabinet suddenly dropped, and he is chased into a tight spot, people begin to ask each other, “Is it true that Abe can’t be trusted?” But while this tactic gets them temporary results, more and more people are noticing that it’s based on twisted foundations.


Even if those who get their news from talk shows and left-leaning newspapers get taken in by this narrative for the time being, their numbers are likely to shrink. Anyone who checks the facts online can easily learn about the mainstream media’s biased reporting and image manufacturing.


As readership and viewership numbers fall for the failing mainstream media, they can sense their future being closed off. Whether consciously or unconsciously, they’ve joined up in a mutual endeavor.


Just before the Tokyo elections on June 30, the Asahi Shimbun and Tokyo Shimbun newspapers placed a “scandal” article (if it really was a scandal) regarding Hakubun Shimomura at the top of both of their front pages. The Mainichi Shimbun put it in their second column on page 1, while the Sankei put it on page 2, and Yomiuri and Nikkei ran it in the society pages.


Shimomura being the chief of the LDP’s Tokyo branch, these papers were surely hoping to affect the Tokyo elections. What’s more, the contents of the “scandal” article were drawn from one of Japan’s tabloid-style weekly papers. The front pages of the national newspapers became tabloids for the day.


On that same day, the Asahi, Tokyo, and Mainichi newspapers also ran a scandalous article above the fold about how Regional Revitalization Minister Kozo Yamamoto was said to have proposed accreditation of a new veterinary school to the Japan Veterinary Association. This, too, was copied out of the tabloids. Matters such as decency and shame no longer concern them.


But those of us with long memories know that when the Asahi picks an enemy, the ends justify the means. Back on April 9, 1999, their top front page article, claiming to inform us of “New Tokyo Attorney General’s ‘Woman Problems,’” opened with the following line: “According to a certain 28-year-old woman quoted in the May issue of True Rumors…”


This anonymous source from a magazine widely known to be a gossip tabloid, which the Asahi would never have approved by their own standards of reporting, nevertheless made the top of their front page. Seeing this article, your author was, at the time, aghast. “Can they really call this a newspaper?”


The slow suicide of the media had already begun.



Rui Abiru is an editorial writer and political section editing committee member of the Sankei Shimbun



(Click here to read the original article in Japanese.)



Rui Abiru is Editorial writer and political section editorial staff member.

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