All for one, or six of one?
Posted by ampontan on Monday, January 24, 2011
THE FOLLOWING is an excerpt from an op-ed written by Miyasaka Kazuo that appeared in a national daily on 4 January.
On New Year’s 2011, I read the editorials of newspapers throughout the country, primarily those of the national dailies….What was surprising was that when the issues addressed by the Yomiuri, the Asahi, the Mainichi, the Nikkei, and others were identical, there was little difference in the content of their arguments. That included strengthening the Japan-American alliance, increasing the consumption tax, and signing on to the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPP). Are these national newspapers, each of which has a daily circulation in the millions, fulfilling their role as an independent organ of free speech?
“A strong Japan-U.S. alliance is indispensable.” “If Japan is late to join TPP negotiations, it will be squeezed out of the free trade market.” “There is already no other way to obtain fiscal revenues than raising the consumption tax rate.”
“The fate of Japan hangs on whether it can pursue two agendas: the integrated reform of the tax code and the social welfare system, and participation in TPP, which would promote free trade.”
“Of particular urgency is the liberalization of trade, with a focus on participation in TPP.”
There is so little difference in these editorial excerpts that no one who read them would know which newspaper published them. The first was from the Yomiuri, the second was from the Asahi, and the third was from the Nikkei, but for the most part they are interchangeable. The Mainichi also editorialized that “to make Japan healthy”, the “Japan-U.S. alliance should be unshakable”, and “the consumption tax should be increased.”
That national newspapers have the same editorial positions is in itself unusual, but what is important is that the editorial content repeats the claims of the current government. They support the pawns of the financial interests and those who promote American demands.
The positions of the national newspapers are almost identical to the content of Prime Minister Kan Naoto’s New Year’s address. He proclaimed the “Heisei Opening” (of the country), strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance, and a “drastic reform” of the tax code, including the consumption tax. The New Year’s Message from the chairman of Keidanren, which called for “a rising sun nation created by political leadership”, and that from the Chairman of the Association of Corporate Executives, which proclaimed that this would be a year of decision, are like two peas from the pod of the financial interests’ demands.
In the past, there were differences of editorial opinion in the national dailies, with the Asahi and the Mainichi on one side (the left) and the Yomiuri, Nikkei, and the Sankei on the other (the right). But these identical opinions support the claims of the government and financial interests, which means that the national dailies no longer fulfill journalism’s most important role as a monitor of authority.
These editorials do not present opposing alternatives to resolving the issues, and thus exacerbate the sense of crisis. We must point out the sharp deterioration in the power of imagination and conception indispensable for an organ of free speech. As demonstrated by the Yomiuri, which suggests “a political ceasefire and the construction of a temporary coalition government to resolve the outstanding issues”, this is the height of political toadyism.
Before the war, the members of Japan’s mass media vied for leadership in inflaming sentiment for a war of aggression. Their history of misleading the people is one of which they should be ashamed. This year is the 80th anniversary of the Manchurian Incident, which became the impetus for Japan’s mass media headlong rush into glorifying that war of aggression. Can we say that the Japanese mass media, and the national dailies in particular, will not repeat the mistake of 80 years ago?
As you’ve probably worked out by now, Mr. Miyasaka was writing for Akahata, the daily paper published by Japan’s Communist Party.
Those who have been reading the site for a while know that veteran journalist Hasegawa Yukihiro and others point out that Japan’s Finance Ministry twists arms in editorial boardrooms to mold public opinion in accordance with the ministry’s policy preferences. Indeed, success in planting stories in the media is said to be one factor in internal personnel evaluations.
(Japan has two de facto governments, one political and one bureaucratic, which compete with each other for dominance. That the bureaucratic government, which considers itself to be the permanent ruling class, usually wins, is seldom, if ever, discussed outside the country.)
That’s why we have a good idea about the reason the newspapers are singing from the same choir book on consumption tax increases.
One can only wonder at the type of pressure applied by the American government to a Japanese government formed by a political party that pledged to follow a more independent course to cause such an abrupt volte-face. It must be painful; Mr. Kan has been part of the fashionable anti-American left all of his adult life. Also, much of the domestic opposition to the TPP is based on concerns that Japanese participation will be on American terms.
The JCP’s opposition to the consumption tax does not mean they’re fighting against a strong central government, of course. They’d rather see a “progressive” soak-the-rich tax scheme than the “regressive” consumption tax.
Nevertheless, when it takes Communists to point out that a nation’s mass media more closely resembles a state-run press than a free press, you know the problems are serious. As it is with the print media in the Anglosphere, the national newspapers are part of the problem, and so will not be part of the solution.
It probably took more effort to choreograph the performers in this video than it did the editorials of the national dailies.