Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Scott North in Asia Times: or, Why I Keep My Media Commentary to Major Media Outlets

A friend sent me this link. I don’t think that he’ll mind if I reprint my response here, somewhat edited to protect the innocent (i.e. me).
After six paragraphs, this essay goes seriously off track. More generally, I’ve noticed that many social scientists/sociologists of a certain generation are not really scientists/logists at all, but bad free association poets who happen to have put in five years earning PhDs, where they appear to have lost their last ties to reality. They are the kind of people who make Kim Jong Il and other anti-free speech activists almost tolerable.
To call this tripe is an insult to cow digestive organs. Robert B. Parker creates a spot-on imitation of such academics as the villain in one of his Spenser novels. Seriously, there are more appropriate bovine associations for this op-ed, if you know what I’m sayin’.

On the other hand, the Sudhir Venkateshes make up for the Scott Norths and then some.


T. Greer said...

Couldn't agree anymore.

I like to think of it as the Tom Friedman approach to current affairs.

However, I am unfamiliar with Mr. Venkatesh. What has he written that redeems peices as this so?

Mark said...

You keep blogging about stupid articles written by westerners. Why not blog about the truly important? Like the LDP cartoon commercials. Aren't those the coolest? Go Aso!

Oh, and by the way, I have no idea where my old comment is.

Jun Okumura said...

Greer: My beef with this is the way he dresses up some basic but unremarkable observations with fancy post-modernist (deconstructionist?) jargon and in the process pushes the facts beyond recognizable boundaries of reality that disgusts me. He’s polluting the minds of the young and impressionable. Sudhir Venkatesh is an empirical sociologist who appears to be fearless in a very literal sense. Some of his work is featured here, on his blog. Gang Leader for a Day is not an academic book, but a great read. (The title is somewhat misleading; I assume that it was not his choice but the editor’s.)

As for Tom Friedman, I find much of his more recent work—the last ten years?—disappointing. But at least Friedman speaks with a consistent voice. Some people aren’t even wrong.

Mark: I belong to a 2009 Lower House election mailing list, where the LDP’s PR activities are being duly chronicled; I have little to add to what mostly the people there are saying and I am not at liberty to unilaterally disclose the substance. I have a few things to say on my own though:

The Hatoyama-as-sleezy-seducer clip may be the only intentionally funny campaign material that the LDP has produced. The LDP has subsequently waded heavily into negative campaign territory with its pamphlets reproduced here on its website. This one, on the Japan Teachers Union, is particularly vicious. (Among other things, it accuses Nikyōso of promoting promiscuity. WHERE WERE YOU WHEN I NEEDED YOU, JAPAN TEACHERS UNION, DAMMIT?!) The charges are not new, and worse accusations are tossed about at the grassroots level, particularly at individual candidates—I, who live in a neighborhood that appears to have been forgotten by everyone but the occasional Communist pamphleteer, say this purely on the basis of hearsay—but this concerted and very professional effort is, in my experience, a new one. I think that people turn negative when they are at a disadvantage, and that this is no exception. The LDP hopes, I assume, to keep its core conservative constituency from abstaining or, even, voting for the opposition LDP (or PNP) candidate. It probably believes that it has turned off uncommitted middle-of-the-road voters anyway so any harm there will outweigh the benefits. Note also that the material is presented as non-campaign material, which can be distributed freely despite the restrictions under the Public Office Election Act. I assume that the LDP has cleared it with the authorities, or at least some reputable lawyers, likely ex-prosecutors, who are versed in election laws and regulations.

I feel bad about the unanswered comment, mainly for selfish reasons, about unfinished business.

Mark said...

Bah! Forget about the old comment. But just as a correction, the LDP had produced three cartoon commercials. They're all on Youtube at the LDP channel. If you haven't seen the other must! They're the greatest. Go Aso!

Oh, and one more thing. You're not going to get me to shed one tear for Hatoyama. As you have said before, he has been the attack dog of the DPJ. No mercy! Go Aso!

Jun Okumura said...

HAHA, yeah, Mark, I’ve seen the commercials. The first one was a gem, but sequels are always a letdown…

And Hatoyama is no attack dog. Oh, he dutifully goes through the motions. He’s too voluble, he’s too embarrassed, he’s too nice. Let’s see who’s mean. Katsuya Okada? Too serious. Naoto Kan? Close, but no cigar. Ichiro Ozawa? No, he wilts in the spotlight, like a vampire quadroon. You know what? I think the DPJ resembles its U.S. namesake in more ways than one.