Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, June 29, 2010
EVERYONE ENJOYS a change of pace, and that’s why most of the popular website/blogs that focus on serious political or social topics also include lighter posts.
I visited an American website this morning that features articles about American politics and society, but also contains many posts about international affairs. This site too effectively uses lighter stories for a change of pace. The identity of the site in question is not important.
Here’s a partial list of the stories on their top page right now:
* How a ship’s crew was saved from Somali pirates, who had planned to kill them and sell their organs because the owners refused to pay the ransom
* The state-run Norwegian forestry research institute reports that acid rain eliminates pollution and has resulted in 25% forest growth in 15 years.
* Russians are interesting in buying French infantry gear.
* A refutation of the theory that the stock market crash of 1929 caused the Great Depression
* Angry Afghan civilians demand that NATO act more decisively against the Taliban even if it puts them at risk.
* North Korea demands that the US pay them $65 trillion in compensation for six decades of hostility. (Heads or tails on whether that can be classified as a serious or a lighter piece)
* A link to a New York Times article that claims agencies recruit too many Caucasians when hiring models from Brazil
* A poll showing that a plurality of voters opposes President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee
* A discussion of the decision by the West Virginia governor to delay a special election to fill a vacant Senate seat after Robert Byrd died. It would normally be held this November, but 2010 will probably be a very bad year for Democrats, Byrd was a Democrat, and the governor is a Democrat. There is a longish discussion of the West Virginia state constitution
* Posts on the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down a Chicago law on guns, and a video interview discussing the effectiveness of gun bans
* A post complaining about how Obama advisors constantly complain about how difficult it is to be President
* Iranian and Israeli sources claim that Israel is positioning equipment in Saudia Arabia for a possible attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, and the G8 thinks an attack might be coming.
* A video of U.S. Vice-President Joseph Biden acting like a jerk. Again.
* Venezuela nationalizes oil rigs owned by a U.S. company that the Americans shut down because Venezuela was a year behind on payments.
* A link to a blog post by someone who claims: We (the U.S.) are in a Depression now and have been since 2008. A Depression is defined as a 10% contraction in GDP. But for the government borrowing 11% of GDP and spending it, GDP would have contracted by at least the same amount borrowed and spent.
* A brief article on the 60th anniversary of the start of the Korean War
* A post about the revelation of a sexual harassment complaint by a masseuse against former Vice President Al Gore. It has the amusing headline: If You Reach Under My Towel There’s a Throbbing Carbon Offset With Your Name On It
There are also several pop culture posts.
They also have one post about Japan, derived from a link to another site.
The website’s political perspective is from the right. Japan still has the world’s second-largest economy, and economic conditions here can affect the rest of the world. Is this post about how a government of the left is trying to deal with massive public debt and deflation by raising taxes and redistributing income?
Is it about how that government is trying to roll back the privatization schemes of the Koizumi/Abe administrations?
Is it about the ongoing debate over the role of the bureaucracy in political governance—the most intense debate of its kind among the advanced industrial democracies?
Is it about how a Japanese government that seeks closer ties to China is also taking a hard line against Chinese behavior in the Western Pacific? Is there anything about how these diplomatic moves are taking place against a backdrop of soaring Chinese tourism in Japan?
Is it about the opening next spring of the Kyushu leg of the Shinkansen—which means that a high-speed rail network unlike anything in the United States will now link the entire archipelago?
Is it about the recent announcement that a Kumamoto University team has created the world’s strongest metal–a magnesium alloy with a tensile strength of 512 megapascals? This is stronger than the duralumin used in aircraft, an aluminum alloy of 505 megapascals.
No. This is what it’s about. Note also the subject matter of the website that is the source of the video.
I am not saying that stories such as these do not have their place. Heck, I’d volunteer to be the man on the sled myself.
I am saying that when the subject is Japan, stories such as these—in addition to the putatively serious stories that are willfully distorted or inaccurate—are the only stories that have any place at all in the media or the Internet.
It’s time again to quote the Jenny Holt article from The Guardian:
I have lived in Japan for nine years, I have a Japanese husband and son, and I can honestly say that the most striking thing about people here is how downright normal they are….This is modern normality, and if foreigners who came here actually bothered to learn the language and find out what ordinary Japanese people think they would appreciate that….The stereotyping also speaks volumes about the western psyche. It suggests that westerners resent and fear successful non-white cultures and that they cope by denigrating and dehumanising them. What Britain chooses to see in Japan says more about its own insecurities than about the Japanese…
Let’s take that last sentence a step further.
What the world’s news media and Internet websites choose to see in Japan says more about their own insecurities, incompetence, ignorance, immaturity, and general laziness than it does about the Japanese.
They choose to focus on the serious side of the rest of the world, but choose to view Japan only as goofy Asian vaudeville.
But then, if what you know about Japan is derived from the English-language news media and Internet websites, then everything you know about Japan is wrong.