Saturday, August 03, 2013

There Are Gaffes; Then There Are Gaffes

Deputy Prime Minister (and Finance Minister) Taro Aso has turned Godwin’s Law on its head with his latest gaffe about Nazis (Nazis?!?) generating widespread incredulity and opprobrium in equal parts. I have some thoughts on that and its implications, but I’m keeping them under wraps since I’m currently using them in my professional capacity. I’ll know if I can post them here in a few days. In the meantime, let me cover an angle that is for the most part being missed in the debate: Both Aso and Prime Minister Abe are known for making statements around history issues (Nazis?!?) that they must later take back; is there a difference?

Yes, there is.

Abe’s comments typically come as part of a dialogue, sometimes friendly but more often not, when he is drawn into a discussion over the finer points of a given issue, exerts himself in trying to explain himself, and winds up tripping a land mine. (Prime Minister Junichiro Kozumi avoided this largely by barking out the same stock answer no matter how hard the interrogator tried to bait him.) Aso, by contrast, appears to have a demon in his head who whispers things—like, oh, “Nazis”, say it again, “Nazis”, once more, the crowd’ll love it, NOW—whispers that only Aso can hear, whispers that Aso…cannot resist. I can’t think of another explanation; his comments, as rambling and disjointed as they were on that occasion, had been conveying the twofold message that discussions around constitutional amendment should be conducted calmly and deliberately (there’s a legitimate argument against this but let’s leave it out for the time being) and that bad regimes could emerge even under the best of constitutions if we’re not careful (Weimar and Nazis? that’s a reasonable argument), when, after meandering around some generational babble and talking about Yasukuni and working himself up again about the need for calm and deliberation, he suddenly re-injected the Nazis into his argument (this time, like a bad Hitler joke, as a counter-historical example to emulate).

One, with clear forewarnings that the recipient can apply to good use with discipline and practice; the other, unforeseen brainfarts that can only be eliminated by way of a vow of total silence.

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