Press freedom

Japan: Hey. What are you doing?

Me: Just reading the news.

Japan: Anything interesting?

Me: Nah. Same shit, different day.

Japan: Yeah?

Me: Yeah. Although, there was one story I read recently. It said that there has been a huge drop in the amount of your press freedom.

Japan: Ah, yeah, that.

Me: Apparently you now rank seventy second out of 180 countries. Six years ago you ranked 11th. What happened?

Japan: Well, it seems that my current government has not exactly been staying away from, interfering and pressuring media outlets. Politicians have advocated punishing news outlets that have critical views of the government. Television presenters who have spoken out about the government have been removed from their jobs. Journalists have reported that they have been marginalised or silenced following pressure from politicians.

Me: So the political administration wants to keep people uninformed?

Japan: Well, I think that’s what most governments want. If the media reports the facts about something, governments are very unhappy if they don’t match their narrative, policies and aims.

Me: But for your lawmakers and officials to be so open about this is not good. It feels like something dictatorial governments do.

Japan: Right, yeah.

Me: So, how do your people feel about it?

Japan: Good question. I’m not sure if people know a lot about it because the government isn’t keen on the idea of everybody knowing everything. I mean, it’s not so dissimilar to other countries it’s just at the moment it seems more covert and dishonest.

Me: I really don’t like this.

Japan: Look, it’s nothing new. Governments all over the world are pretty good at getting in the way of the truth. Recently, after the earthquake in Kyushu the NHK Chairman and friend of the government, Katsuto Momii, gave instructions that the public broadcaster should only give the official government line when reporting on the nuclear reactor situation in Kyushu.

Me: Why?

Japan: To make sure that the government’s version of events get lots of airtime.

Me: And, therefore, not the whole truth.

Japan: Yeah, whatever that is.

Me: Hmm. So what are we going to do?

Japan: Well, i don’t know. There’s not an easy solution. The historical precedent for when people are generally helpless against the government controlling the direction of a country through its media isn’t a fun one.

Me: But this is just so amazingly shit. I like you. You’re a well made, amusing, interesting, bizarre, cultured nation and your leaders are actively screwing over its own media and people. This is not making the world a better place.

Japan: True.

Me: So where does this go next? News outlets being more forcefully censored? More dodging of the truth? And where does that lead?

Japan: Erm, well, if you factor in the new state secrets act, the potentially dangerous change in the interpretation of the constitution and the increase in military spending along with the perceived aggression of the USA, China and North Korea, well, in a worst case scenario…

Me: War, what is it good for?

Japan: Absolutely nothing.

Me: What a fantastic group of arseholes your government seems to be.

 

<THIS MESSAGE HAS BEEN APPROVED BY THE MINISTRY OF HOME AFFAIRS>

 

 

 

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May 27, 2016. Tags: , , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Politics

Me: How’s things?

Japan: Not bad.

Me: Can we talk about your politics?

Japan: That’s a bit dull isn’t it? I mean, politics is so concerned with itself and its own opinions. It gets a bit repetitive and boring.

Me: But perhaps your politics is new and different from what i’m used to. Who are the major political parties?

Japan: Well, there’s the LDP and the DPJ.

Me: What?

Japan: The Liberal Democrat Party and the Democratic Party of Japan. Then you’ve got the JPP, the TPJ and the NKP not be confused with the NRP.

Me: Hang on –

Japan: And then there’s the PLP and the JCP –

Me: They sound like industrial chemicals.

Japan: They might as well be. Then we’ve got the YP, the SPP and who can forget the OSMP?

Me: I don’t know. Who?

Japan: Well, most people actually.

Me: And which one of these collections of letters is the biggest and most popular?

Japan: Oh, the LDP.

Me: What? Really? The Liberal Democrats? Ruling you, Japan? I would have expected a conservative party.

Japan: That is the conservative party.

Me: Sorry?

Japan: The LDP is a conservative party.

Me: So they’re not liberals?

Japan: Nope.

Me: And they’re not Democrats.

Japan: That’s right.

Me: But they’re called the Liberal Democrat Party?

Japan: Yes.

Me: So which party is liberal?

Japan: The DPJ.

Me: And how liberal are they?

Japan: Slightly. Very slightly. Ish. Almost.

Me: Is anybody else on the left?

Japan: A couple tiny parties, yeah. The JCP for instance.

Me: …?

Japan: The Japanese Communist Party.

Me: Right, that’s pretty left.

Japan: Oh, yeah, all the way left. Leftfield. Lefty.

Me: And the others?

Japan: Most of the other smaller parties compete throughout the political right-left spectrum for as many votes as they can. They usually do this by annoying everybody during the run-up to an election by driving around in cars or vans with loud speakers throwing bullshit indiscriminately into the ears of the general public at deafening volumes.

Me: Why?

Japan: So they can form coalitions after the elections and pretend to be more important than they actually are. Especially as the LDP always wins.

Me: The LDP always wins?

Japan: Pretty much. They were in power almost continuously from 1955 to 2009 and they’re in power right now.

Me: Wow. How did they do that?

Japan: Well, it helps if your father or a relative is already in power at local, city, prefectural or national level. Then you quite quickly climb the ladder of politics and just keep the party going.

Me: But people vote for them. They must reflect people’s views in the first place. There must be a lot of public consultation and communication going on?

Japan: Erm, yeah, if you mean policy makers and politicians employ “experts” to do “research” to find results that they were already looking for and which are beneficial to their view of things in the first place then, yeah, there’s plenty of that. Masses of it. It’s a whole industry.

Me: And do the media criticise, harrang and question these politicians?

Japan: Hmm, they don’t really like doing that too much. It’s difficult isn’t it?

Me: Why?

Japan: Well, because they’re in power and checking the facts takes time. People don’t have so much of that so it’s much easier to just repeat what the guy in front of the microphone said.

Me: Don’t those guys in front of the microphone ever say or do anything stupid?

Japan: Oh, yes, of course. At least one of my high ranking politicians will say something idiotic that either panders pathetically and hopelessly to a popular opinion or insults, angers or annoys vast swathes of people on a national and/or international level almost every month. It takes a few decades of selective inbreeding to produce a political class that has this level of diplomatic and political incompetence yet still remain in power. It’s an achievement in a way.

Me: So, the political class stay almost continuously cosy, handing out jobs, contracts and research in order to keep themselves and their family and friends in places of power, money and influence?

Japan: Right.

Me: Meanwhile, a docile mainstream media, too pre-occupied with grabbing headlines and seeking sensation so they can make a profit, toes the official line or just regurgitates what it’s being fed to a public that long ago stopped expecting anything to really change because it doesn’t matter who you vote for, a group of politicians will always form a government.

Japan: Sounds about right.

Me: …

Japan: So, is all this new and different from what you’re used to?

Me: Actually, it all sounds horribly familiar.

June 19, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Uncategorized. 2 comments.