Thursday, August 31, 2006

Crouching Politicians, Hidden Media? Let’s Prove Koichiro Tawara Wrong

(Scroll down for the Japanese version)

The August 28 evening editions of the Japanese dailies carried a report that quoted Prime Minister Koizumi as saying that "it is unforgivable to attempt to silence speech through violence." This was in response to a question about the August 15 arson and attempted suicide at Koichi Kato's mother's residence that I referred to in my previous entry. The reports also noted this was the first comment by Mr. Koizumi in the two weeks since the incident. The same day, Shintaro Abe, as Chief of Cabinet, also stated that "if this was an attempt to suppress of influence Mr. Kato's expressed views, it [was] unforgivable", presumably in answer to a reporter's question. This was followed by what must have been a somewhat testy exchange on the following 29th, where Mr. Koizumi stated that he always answered questions and he had not commented on the incident because he had not been asked.

Actually, there was a precursor to this curious exchange.

At the beginning of Sunday Project -- one of those must-see Sunday morning programs for political junkies that look like Japanese hybrids of Larry King, Bill O'Reilly, The Daily Show and Sixty Minutes -- in the intro, the host of the show Soichiro Tawara lit into the mainstream media and politicians for tiptoeing around the arson/attempted suicide. (For those of you who do not follow the Japanese media, Mr. Tawara is a rude, crude, (and sometime careless with the facts) but ever fearless freelance journalist, now in his seventies.) In a lengthy tirade, he challenged everybody, including a major newspaper, which he would not name but clearly implied that it was clearly the one that belongs to the same media family as the network that carries Sunday Project. The two regular members of the cast, media personalities both, weren't quite sure how to handle this, but Mr. Tawara did manage to prod Taro Aso, the LDP president candidate and first guest of the day, to agree that the incident was unacceptable.

An American journalist asked me the other day just what Mr. Abe meant by his claim to being a "fighting" politician. I told him, no, it was not about sending troops overseas, no, it was not about nuclear armament; Mr. Abe meant standing by his values in the face of opposition, not selling out.

If any place is fit to make a conspicuous stand, to "let the young people know" that he is willing to "fight" to "make this nation a place that deserves its people's confidence and pride", surely this must be it. And given Mr. Kato's dovish political stance, it would dispel any suspicions that Mr. Abe is a right-winger.




サンデー・プロジェクトは、政治好きには見ることが欠かせない日曜午前の番組で、ラリー・キングとビル・オーライリィ、ザ・デイリー・ショーとシクスティ・ミニツの日本版ハイブリッドと言えばいいのでしょうか、そのイントロで番組のホストである田原総一朗が、番組の冒頭で、マス・メディアや政治家達が加藤家放火・自殺未遂事件を避けていることについて手厳しい攻撃を行なったのです。(日本のメディアに詳しくない方々のためにご説明すると、田原氏は、非礼かつ乱暴だが、(そしてときとして事実関係を軽んずることもあるが、)恐れをしらない、もう古希を過ぎたフリーのジャーナリストです。)田原氏は、長広舌を振るって、名前をは言わないがある大手新聞 – それは明らかにサンデー・プロジェクトの放送局と同じメディアグループに属するものを指していた – を含め、皆に挑戦状をたたきつけました。番組レギュラーの二人のパーソナリティは、これをどう取り扱ってよいのか、戸惑っているようでしたが、結局、田原氏は、最初のゲストであり自民党総裁選候補である麻生太郎に事件があってはならないものであることに同意させるのに成功しました。



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