Personality disorder or genetic disposition?
Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, April 28, 2009
The media are less a window on reality than a stage on which officials and journalists perform self-scripted, self-serving fictions.
- Paul Weaver
LET’S HAVE a thought experiment: Imagine you are a journalist and you are to interview Japanese figure skater Asada Mao at a meeting of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.
The 18-year-old Ms. Asada, who was just graduated from high school, is the third-ranked figure skater in the world. She has won the Japanese national championships three years running and was world champion last year. Ms. Asada is the only woman to have successfully performed two triple axel jumps in the same program at an official competition.
But as part of this thought experiment, you will be interviewing Ms. Asada when she was still only 16 years old.
A normal person might ask how she got involved in figure skating, to what she attributes her success, what daily training routine enables her to perform at that elite level, what she does for fun when she’s not figure skating, and how much longer she plans to complete.
But Gebhard Hielscher, the former Tokyo correspondent for the Süddeutsche Zeitung and a member of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan—in fact, the former head of the organization—chose to ask a different question when he interviewed the 16-year-old girl in April 2007:
For instance, when you are in the U.S., are you asked, you know, about your being a Japanese, or your country has done some very bad things, and your Prime Minister is not honest or something?
A normal person can guess what she said even before they hear the answer:
I’m training in Los Angeles right now, but everyone is very friendly and they talk to me a lot.
The reason a normal person could predict her answer is that most people behave the same way when they want to get acquainted with people or make new friends, whether they live in Los Angeles or Lagos, Kuala Lumpur or Kingston, or even, I daresay, in Berlin.
That’s because normal people everywhere want to enjoy themselves and the companionship of other people. They already understand that people in every country have “done some very bad things”, and that politicians everywhere tend not to be honest. That’s why there’s an expression about people who live in glass houses and stone throwing.
It wouldn’t occur to normal people to make an innocent 16-year-old girl uncomfortable in front of a room full of foreigners old enough to be her parents.
But Mr. Hielscher did.
Let’s try another thought experiment. Why on earth would he?
What other reason could there be than to demonstrate his own moral superiority that he presumes was granted by through his adoption of a specific political agenda? Even though it’s apparent the man lacks social skills and common sense, he surely must know how normal people interact. He surely must realize that normal people have their own lives to lead and their own futures to look forward to, and therefore don’t care about events that ended and were resolved more than 60 years ago—nor is there any reason they should. That’s particularly true for a 16-year-old whose parents weren’t alive at the time of those events, and whose grandparents, if alive, were probably younger than she is now.
The reason he asked the question wasn’t to reveal contemporary American attitudes toward the war, nor to uncover how Japanese visitors to that country are treated. It wasn’t about raising awareness of events of the rapidly receding past, nor to seek truth and justice.
The Japanese who frequently read this website might not believe this, but it really doesn’t have anything to do with Japan, either. Repeatedly dredging up selected parts of Japan’s history is just one of many means to the same end.
Instead, it has everything to do with using the event as a pretext to steal the spotlight. It has everything to do using that spotlight to indulge a vain and condescending elitism derived from his sociopolitical views, and to bask in the approval of an audience of foreign journalists that he assumes—probably correctly—shares those views. It has everything to do with humiliating anyone who might have other ideas, even a teenager too young, too far removed from what for her is the distant past, and too involved with living today to care. It has everything to do with mounting the stairway to what he assumes is a higher moral plane than the unthinking, uncaring rabble.
It’s all about showing us how wonderful he is because he is one of the self-anointed politically elect.
The key here is the unspoken assumption that Japanese behavior was–and remains–so detestable that it would be perfectly understandable if people in another country were to confront children about it during casual social encounters. Happens every day!
Perhaps the most pathetic aspect of the incident is that he doesn’t realize how transparent his behavior is.
It is a recognizable phenomenon that people of this type often gravitate toward the news media as a profession. That line of work enables them to advance their views through the conduct of advocacy journalism, which prevents normal people from making up their own minds by telling them only part of the story—either true or made up from whole cloth. It allows them to lead the sheep to the pen and to the conclusion they want them to reach.
Is this a form of personality disorder that might be called the Little Jack Horner Syndrome? (He stuck in his thumb, pulled out a plum, and said “What a good boy am I!”) Or, because it seems to be present in every country and can be traced back for at least a couple of centuries, is it a genetic predisposition?
That this man was selected to be chairman of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan and thought it perfectly natural to ask this question of a teenager in front of his peers has much to say about the membership of that organization and the nature of the profession itself.
Once again: If your knowledge of Japan is derived from the news media, everything you know about Japan is wrong. And now you know one of the reasons why.
Here’s another thought experiment: guess which part of the political spectrum Mr. Hielscher identifies with.
Normal people won’t have to be told that, either.
He is (or was) head of the Tokyo office of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. The namesake of the organization was a former President of Germany and a member of the Social Democratic Party who bequeathed money in his will to create the foundation. The party’s yearbook from 1926 explains its objectives:
“The Friedrich Ebert Foundation pursues the goal of giving young, empowered proletarians government aid to fund an education at state-accredited institutions. As a basic principle, only those people who have a recommendation from the party organization will receive funding.”
In other words, you have to spout the party line to get the money.
The foundation also has a museum and study center housed in the Karl Marx House in Trier. The center was established, in part, to study the life and works of Karl Marx and the history of socialism.
That does not mean everyone in that part of the political spectrum behaves the same way—they can’t all be that pushy and vulgar—but rather that most of the people who behave this way are found in that part of the spectrum. If you want to see a duck, look in a marsh instead of a downtown office building.
And if you want to see the incident, here’s the Youtube video. It lasts 53 seconds.
Mr. Hielscher asked another question first:
Do you have a boyfriend? If you don’t have a boyfriend, who would you like to be your boyfriend?
Ms. Asada answered that she didn’t have a boyfriend, but ducked the second part. The girl missed her chance. She should have told him that her social life isn’t his business. But that would offend his sense of entitlement as a journalist, based on the mistaken presumption that he has the inalienable right to ask anyone any question at any time.
It’s pointless to engage these specimens in logical argument, present facts for their attention, or attempt honest debate. They are not interested in inconvenient facts, and will try to deny or denigrate any facts presented that prove them wrong. As the man said, they can’t handle the truth. They are not interested in honest debate, either. They are only interested in congratulating themselves on their superior humanity, asserting the inferiority of those who think otherwise, and ultimately exterminating any views other than their own.
How normal people should deal with them might well be the subject of another thought experiment.
Thanks to Aceface for the tip.