Saturday, February 20, 2010

Looking for anti corruption advocates? "Don't look at Japanese media" critics say!

The role of the media in Japan in summer election 2009
demonstrated the invaluable work of the journalists.

Invaluable? Says who?

When the DPJ and his leaders Ozawa Ichiro and the prime
minister Hatoyama Yukio challenged the long-standing
dominance of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP),
which had held power since 1955, it was also the victory
of the media and in particular of the TV "tarento".

These media celebrities publicized Japan's aging
generation of conservative leaders who were more skilled
at back-room deal making than sorting out the nation out
of her amnesia, somatic disease and addiction to a one
party rule.

The "system" encroached all rooms of power, allied (but
not friend) with the bureaucracy into a regime that
paralyzed the archipelago and drowns the "Japizen" into

One point, still, is not resolved, the combat against
corruption, abuse of power, attempts to take advantage of
position or ranks.

Months ahead will show if Japanese media show
responsibility or play the same old tune of sleeping in
the same bed with old politicians.

I have my idea on this, but let's see what others think
about it and what they wrote.

How to raise awareness

"When corruption and bribery become so institutionalized
in society that people view corruption as the fixed and
incontestable norm. To break down such a system, the
public’s ignorance of their rights, cynicism, fear of
reprisal and mentality of submission to the status quo
must first be defeated. Perhaps most importantly, the
efficacy challenge needs to be addressed, people need to
believe that they can actually do something about
corruption so that they can act on that belief," writes

Corruption? Look the other way!

"The social, economic and political consequences of
corruption have been widely analyzed, and have been the
subject of numerous writings in many developing
countries. However, corruption in both developed and
industrially advanced countries is generally ignored and
insufficiently addressed. While the nature and
consequences of corruption in advanced societies varies
dramatically, there are many similarities when it comes
to the impact of corruption on democratic institutions.
Japan is one such country worthy of study. Though it is
a highly developed society, corruption and all forms of
bribery are deeply entrenched in Japan's political
culture and bureaucratic functions." " in Japan --
Institutionalizing the Right to Information, Transparency
and the Right to Corruption-Free Governance"

The solution: expose the culprits to public scrutiny

"Media and Politics in Japan. Edited by Susan J. Pharr
and Ellis S. Krauss University of Hawaii Press":

"No country in the industrial world is as media-saturated
as Japan. Its five national dailies -- each with a
circulation of over 2 million -- translate into the
highest per-capita newspaper circulation in the world.
Some 90 per- cent of adults read newspapers daily, and
the average person watches more than three hours of
television a day. Given the rising importance of the
media in all the industrial societies, Japan thus
presents itself as a laboratory for exploring the role
the media play today in democracies...

... Remarkably, despite the widely acknowledged
importance of the topic, relatively few scholars outside
Japan have conducted research on the contemporary
Japanese media's role in politics...

... In industrial societies today, some politicians, no
matter how intelligent their grasp, how astute their
political judgments, or how incisive their issue
positions, cannot be packaged successfully, while others
can. This has led numerous scholars and other observers
to conclude that the media are recasting political
leadership itself, at least in the case of national
political elite. Meanwhile, media-borne scandals --
whether over nannies in America or stashed gold bars in
Japan -- thin the ranks of those who would serve the

As the bureaucracies of the advanced industrial societies
"note, register, inventory, tax, stamp, measure,
enumerate, license, assess, authorize" (to quote the
French anarchist Proudhon) by way of policies that reach
into ever increasing domains of human behavior, the media
become powerful screening devices for vast flows of
information. Only a tiny fraction of the work of the
state in the United States, Japan, or elsewhere becomes
exposed to public scrutiny, and many of the struggles
within bureaucracies and among and between interest
groups represent efforts to capture or deflect media
attention or to turn it to advantage. Not only do
politics and bureaucracy feel the media's presence and
power; so, too, does the public. Despite a vast amount
of research, mystery surrounds the simple act of voting
in a media age: from what confluence of forces and
factors do voters make their decisions on candidates, and
how do the media confound the process?...

How do the media confound the process?

""The Japanese press has never been a particularly active
watchdog," conclude Ellis S. Krauss and Priscilla
Lambert, in "The Press and Reform in Japan," published in
Harvard's Kennedy School of Government scholarly

"None of the scandals of the 1970s, 1980s or 1990s
provide examples of the press initiating and pursuing an
investigation into government misdeeds."" Indeed, the
country's cautious, neutral newspaper culture, it
suggests, may be incapable of leading a crusade against
the society's encrusted uneconomic ways and vested
interests. That's the inescapable conclusion of this
major new study." writes Tom Plate (UCLA) writing about
how non-confrontational Japanese newspapers reinforce a
political culture of caution in "The medium is the

So, from here, where are we? Is it right that "Media
Intimidation in Japan" remains the spear of the regime as
wrote David Mac Neill in "A Close Encounter with Hard
Japanese Nationalism" ?

"Where does hard nationalism end and soft nationalism
begin, and do the high-profile activities of hard
nationalists in Japan have a wider role in helping to
legitimize previously taboo ideas and positions within
society? says Mc Neil. The question of "why censorship
finds such fertile soil in the Japanese broadcasting and
newspaper world" is another enigma of the Japanese
power... "Comfortably wrapped in the notion that
Japanese life is ruled by harmony and consensus, and in
the relative absence, even as an ideal, of the conceptual
freedoms built up over generations in other societies, it
is not difficult to understand why in many instances
compromise comes easiest."

Consensus? Is it the added value attached to conformism
and paralysis? With nowadays few or nearly no foreign
media gatekeepers, except to entertain audiences in
"infotainment" programs? Read the piece of Karel Van
Wolferen down the page*.

Some rather cynical watchers consider the power of
corruption linked to the absence of criticism by Japanese
media (as seen during Koizumi and the role of advertising
like the Dentsu agency) and the islanders who are just
one foot in the grave, the mask glued on the face with no
expression, both oral or physical.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the China sea, a new
Empire is stretching its lead over any regional rival.
But this certainly is an other story...

*On the media, this essay from Karel Van Wolferen:
"The Bureaucracy of American Journalism"

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