Japan from the inside out

Conveying the lessons of war

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, August 16, 2008

THE LARGE HEADLINE across the top of this morning’s Nishinippon Shimbun reads:

“Conveying the Lessons of War”

Directly underneath is a large photograph of the Tenno and Kogo (Emperor and Empress) standing for a moment of silence at the 63rd ceremony marking the end of the war in the Pacific. Standing behind them are 4,600 family members of the war dead and government officials.

The photo is one-third again as large as the photo on the left of judo-ka Ishii Satoshi smiling and showing off the gold medal he won yesterday at the Olympics.

The accompanying article covers two-thirds of the primary space above the fold. It quotes remarks made by Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo. He said:

“Properly conveying the historical truth of days past to (those in) the future, without letting the lessons of a tragic war fade, is the path for honoring the memories of the many people who died in that war.”

He added:

“We should face the world as we proceed in the future, without being held in thrall to introversion.”

The author of the article noted that he is referring to the damage Japan inflicted on Asia, for the sake of those few Japanese who didn’t understand that already.

Matsunaga Kiwako (89), whose husband was killed in Indonesia during the war, also spoke:

“We, the bereaved families who experienced the suffering of war, pledge absolutely to never repeat this sad history.”

The address of the tenno was broadcast on the national news programs last night. He intentionally speaks slowly enough so that anyone listening could comfortably write down everything he says as he says it. In any event, the text was shown in subtitles at the bottom of the screen.

The only thing remarkable about any of this is that it is unremarkable.

This is what happens every year in Japan on 15 August. In addition to this observance in Tokyo, many more were held at the same time in cities and towns throughout the country.

But some people, particularly in East Asia, would have you believe that the Japanese intentionally ignore their actions and responsibility for the chapter of regional history that ended 63 years ago yesterday.

Those people think it is in their best interest to conceal the truth. They would rather convey an illusion fostered to provide them with a weapon for use in bilateral diplomacy in the present and future, rather than to put the past behind everyone once and for all.

Indeed, some of them have admitted it when they thought no one else was listening.

This convenient fiction also has the added benefit in some countries of deflecting popular frustration and discontent with the national government onto a foreign cartoon monster.

The propagandists are willfully abetted in their deception by some in the international print and broadcast media, which prefers for financial–and perhaps political–reasons to exacerbate disputes rather than ameliorate them. For the media to say that they are merely reporting the news is a craven excuse. The consumers of their product are well aware of their long-demonstrated skill at conveying reports of statements and events while simultaneously dismissing those of importance or exaggerating those of insignificance to present their narrative.

Because they, more than most, know the real state of today’s Japan, they have become willing co-conspirators in the charade. By eagerly playing that role, they have abdicated their responsibilities.

They are not conveying the lessons of today.


Example 1: The Associated Press ran this gross distortion for the entertainment of its readers. Note the (largely incorrect) use of the words “nationalist”, “conservative”, and “rightist” as weapons.

Example 2: UPI did a little better, though the exaggerated headline and first phrase are at odds with the information conveyed in the first eight paragraphs. They allocate the final 10 paragraphs to the aspect the AP thought was the most important, but in language that is much less lurid and suggestive.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: