Thursday, October 05, 2006

Prime Minister Mori’s Plight: Bad Media, Bad. But Consider the Alternatives

A prominent academic and commentator laments the shabby treatment of then-Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori by the Japanese media. He believes, perhaps with some justification, that the media did him in because he refused to play up to them. Here is my response, in the hopes that it will reach him, somewhere, sometime, somehow.

I have not seen Mr. Mori as up close nor as often as you have, sir, but I have seen an intelligence, and diffident yet steady warmth and compassion (often seen in large men), that belie the popular image of an incompetent and ineffective bumbler. I do not know how much of this is the result of a media conspiracy to do in an uncooperative politico or the result of unfortunate circumstances (a rainmaker glories in the bumper crop, and sheds his blood in the drought). However, I do know that at least part of the responsibility lies in the one putting out the message, and I do know that you have to work with the media you have in order to do so.

Distasteful as it may seem, a good politician must be able to work the media. In that, he/she is no different from a celebrity or any other media personality. If they don't like you, you won't get the close calls and the benefit of the doubt, and the stories will end up breaking the other way. And you won't score. Remember what happened to Edmund Muskie and his New Hampshire "tears", Al Gore's "invention" of the Internet, and John Kerry's brush with the Swift boat veterans. On the other side of the breaking ball, there's George Bush's National Guard "service".

I know it's a game I will never be able to play, but that's the way it is.

As for your suggestion to take the media out of politics, I too dream of a world free of pretence, guile, vengeance, venality. But one man's bias is another man's truth, and I can think of only one way to do that takeout. And it won't be pretty. And I don't think you would want to live in that world either.


Anonymous said...

"I can think of only one way to do that takeout. And it won't be pretty. And I don't think you would want to live in that world either."

Don't be so sure, Mr. Okumura. We would call those places the wonderful people's paradises of "North Korea," "Cuba," "Communist China," "Mongolia," and a few authoritarian regimes in Africa. Freedom of speech and censorship are routine, institutionalized policies. Strangely enough, the academic to which you are responding speaks quite warmly of many of these regimes. Hmm....

Whoever said that the Marxist-Leninists were dead and buried? They are still alive and well, ladies and gentlemen, and they are constantly posting on NBR!

Jun Okumura said...

Dear Anonymous:
(why does that sound... umm, I don't know... anyhow)

Thank you for visiting my blog. Thank you even more for leaving a comment. It's lonely out here in cyberspace, and it helps when you know that someone else has stopped to tarry.

Actually, I do feel a twinge of nostalgia for the days when Japan bashing was the order of the day and gaijin commentators were making such a commercial killing that a Japanese (Christian) masqueraded as a Jew to promote what turned out to be his non-fiction blockbuster for the ages, Nihonjin to Yudayajin ("Japanese and Jews"). As a former METI official turned politician said during the Recruit scandal, "Akumei mo yuumei no uchi", i.e. it is better to have been infamous than not to have been famous at all. He was referring to his embarrassment when he had coveted Recruit shares.