Posted by ampontan on Friday, April 23, 2010
MORE THAN a few Japanese—at least in the print media—got a bit sulky after an op-ed columnist in the Washington Post referred to Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio as loopy.
That suggests the Japanese journalists don’t spend a lot time reading overseas English newspapers. Calling a politician loopy—even a foreign head of government—is not going to make anyone spill their coffee at the breakfast table, especially these days.
In fact, choice pejoratives from foreign countries about American presidents are regularly reported in the United States, and most Americans who read newspapers have learned to discount it by the time they’re graduated from high school.
One reason Yanks let it roll off their backs is that a lot of it is criticism just for the sake of criticism. That was particularly true of the Germans before national reunification. Whenever a Republican was in the White House, the West German press would get upset at the hard GOP line against the Soviets and worry that it might antagonize them. Whenever a Democrat was in the White House, they would get upset at the wimpy appeasement of the Soviets and worry that Red Army tanks might roll into the country any minute now unless they grew a spine.
To see some serious political slicing and dicing, the Japanese media might read the British press. If they aren’t the heavyweight champions of the world at this sport, I don’t know who is.
For example, take a look at this blog post by Gerald Warner in The Telegraph that appeared earlier this week. He’s writing about the sudden emergence of Liberal Democratic Party head Nick Clegg as a serious candidate in that country’s upcoming election. In two paragraphs, he manages to savage Mr. Clegg, former Prime Minister Tony Blair, Conservative Party head Dave Cameron, the late Princess Diana, and the people who created a cult around her:
Even Bambi’s rise to three-election ascendancy was more gradual than the trajectory of Meteor Clegg. So, is there a precedent? Yes, in a sense, there is: the hysteria surrounding the cult of Diana, the “People’s Princess” (proclaimed as such by the Great Charlatan Blair in one of his more shameless moments). That is the nearest parallel. Princess Nick has answered an emotional need of the masses…
But every disaster has its compensations. In this instance it is the delicious spectacle of the Vichy Tory Party – Dave’s arrogant, vacuous, PR construct and its enforcers who, in the name of thinly disguised cultural Marxism, imposed their will, their pathetic imposture and their air-head candidates on what was once a great party of state – stretched on the rack by the sudden advent of an even bigger fraud than David Cameron. On reflection, make that almost as big a fraud as Cameron.
That’s a bit intense even for the Brits, but fusillades of that sort are common everywhere in the country’s print media, regardless of which corner of the political pasture the writer is grazing.
Some Japanese journalists can be rather wicked themselves, but they save it for the weekly and monthly magazines. Those who work for the mainstream daily press have to operate on a very short leash in the press club system. Any journalist who used language as a lash in the manner of Mr. Warner would have his chain jerked rather quickly by the government in power. Criticize the bureaucrats too heavily, and they would lose their anonymous scoops from “high government officials”. It is the price they pay for a near monopoly on access.
But the sensitivity also suggests the Japanese print journalists might not be paying very much attention to their own public, either. The J-Cast website has an article today discussing the respective poll numbers of Your Party (very good for a small party less than a year old) and Prime Minister Hatoyama (Do not ask for whom the bell tolls…).
They refer to an online poll conducted earlier this week by the Nikkei Shimbun, the country’s premier business and financial newspaper. The Nikkei recently rolled out a fee-based Internet edition, but this poll was for registered users regardless of their fee-paying status. They received responses from 3,503 people. To the question, Do you support the Hatoyama Cabinet, only 11.8% answered yes.
More interesting was the response to another question: “What do you think of the harsh criticism Prime Minister Hatoyama received from the American media during his American visit?”
A total of 84.7% of the respondents answered, “They took the words right out of my mouth.” (同感だ)