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04 November 2005

Japanese media's role in supporting atrocities of WW2

60 years have passed after Japan’s surrender in World War II, the citizens of Japan are able to speak about how much pain and suffering that they experienced as a result of the war, yet we are unable to discuss how much pain and suffering that Japan caused the citizens of other nations. To discuss such things one runs the risk of being labeled masochistic. Those in mass media willing to report upon the country’s responsibility for the atrocities that occurred during the war are also few and far between. Why do they not wish to cover such stories? One might reason that this is because the media reflects public opinion, but this is not the entire explanation. Rather it is also because the media itself bears a portion of blame.

 The photo shows an article in the August 5, 1937 edition of the Asashi Newspaper.

The headline reads, “3.5 Million Yen! A Glorious Monument to Patriotism”. The article contains a report on the collection of 3.5 million yen in donations and introduces some of the donors following the Asahi Newspaper’s collection of donations for the production of military aircraft. Even a mother and her child in elementary school are featured among the donors. However, the reality is that the military aircraft produced from these donations was flown to China and used to bomb such cities as Chongqing resulting in the slaughter of innocent civilians. Many people would probably be surprised to hear that the Asahi Newspaper collected donations for production of military aircraft. Considering that the newspaper is known for being a large liberal media outlet which often covers Japan’s accountability for war crimes such as the issue with so-called “comfort women” and the Nan king Massacre. The Asahi Newspaper may now even seem pacifist with its recent critical position towards the Japanese Self Defense Forces participation in Iraq, but this was not the case just prior to World War II. In fact, it may be more accurate to say that this was not the case for the period between the Manchurian Incident and the end of the war. Prior to the Manchurian Incident, which thrust Japan into the messy quagmire of the 15 year war to follow, the Asahi Newspaper objected to the dispatch of troops to Siberia during the Taisho Period (1911-1926) and further took the position of moderates who were in favor of a peaceful resolution without the use of military force to protect Japan’s interests in Manchuria.

Why then did this position change? It is generally understood that this change was due to the boycotts that occurred after the outbreak of the Manchurian incident in 1931. As a public weary of the economic recession leaned towards military fervor, Asahi found that it’s stance contrary to other media and not in sync with military views resulted in a drop in its sales. After this, the Asahi Newspaper editorial policy changed drastically. 


Prior to the war, it is generally said that newspapers, magazines, and other media could not criticize the military because they were subject to intense scrutiny by authorities and laws limited their freedom of speech. However, this was not the only reason. Mass media of this era not only failed to criticize, it became a backer in a sense fanning the flames of war. It chose to support the war in an effort to increase circulation and sales. In other words, it did so in tune with the public opinion of the time which was in favor of war. This same phenomenon is at work today. Great example is US media's reports on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Frankfurt School, established by Jewish Scholars who defected from Nazi Germany, is critical of mass media which takes this position. It says that the press and mass media should above all take a neutral and impartial position and should not curry favor with emotional public opinion. It is thought that the spread of Nazism in Nazi Germany was due to the bolster support provided by mass media. At that time it appeared that the papers’ sales grew and stimulated national opinion, but in fact mass media lost sight of the all important truth and dragged society in an utterly inane direction Germany, a defeated nation like Japan, chose to abolish all of the newspapers which bolstered the Nazi regime. Yet in Japan, the mass media of the prewar period survived. Moreover, it has yet to apologize to the public for the role that it played in World War II, and to this day the press club system symbolic of the cozy relationship between mass media and government officials still thrives. In fact, this may be why none of the Japanese newspapers are willing to own up to the past. It is for this reason that we, along with mass media, are unable to fully own up to our accountability and the circumstances of Japan’s defeat in the war.

On this, the sixtieth year after the end of the war, shouldn’t the media take this chance to recognize its past role in the tragedies of World War II to and apologize to the Japanese public? Moreover, shouldn’t it use this as an opportunity to apologize to the citizens of all of the countries in Asia which suffered as a result of invasions by Japan?
In addition, it is imperative that we, as the passive readers and the consumers of mass media, use this opportunity to reflect on history and reexamine ourselves. We are now in the age of the internet in which media is not just limited to newspaper, television, and radio. It is time to broaden our intellect to fight back against the prevailing mass media that contorts the truth to cater to the masses. Furthermore, it is essential that we endeavor to promote the advancement of media that no matter the circumstances always meets the truth head on.

21:10 Posted in Media | Permalink | Comments (1) | Tags: political issues, history, Japan

18 June 2005

Watergate and American media today

A man who has been known as "Deep Throat" exposed himself to the public.

Deep Throat was Mr. Mark Felt who was No.2 ranking officer of FBI at the time Nixon was accused of Watergate scandal.

Some say this exposion changed the watergate from journalism justice to inner politics quarrel because now we found Deep Throat was No.2 of FBI. FBI at that time was threatened by Nixon because of the organizational reform plan the president was trying to implement. FBI wanted to prevent that, then they used the Washington Post to turn the president down.

However, Watergate proved how American journalism was healthy at that time. Japanese media is in fact pets for the government. Our constitution insures freedom of speech but the media is so attached to politicians in order to protect their exclusive press club.

But American media today is becoming like Japanese. Media became conglomarit for big corporation. One example is NBC is owned by GE which has been providing products to US army, so they are not against war in Iraq. Media put the business ahead of seeking the truth.
Conglomarit is not the only aspect that changed American journalism. Public opinion became so conservative. Since 911, patriotism became the most important thing for Americans. People do not want to hear anything that sounds unfavourable to their government. Fox news is the symbol of this phenomenon.

Even the US government admits Iraq has no link with 911 attack and doesn't have WMD, FOX news watchers don't know such facts.

Our nation went through the same path in the past. In 1930's when Great Depression agonized the country's economy, the imperial army started invasion of China. Although the invasion started with fake incident that Chinese army bombed Japan owned railway and Japanese media knew it, they did not report it to the public but they rather supported the army's action which led to Rape of Nanking in 1937 and Pearl Harbor attack.

What should we learn from that?

21:45 Posted in Media, Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: political issues