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Nous ne sommes pas Charlie: Voices that mock authority in Japan muzzled

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For those who think political satire doesn’t exist in Japan, take another look at the now-infamous performance by the Southern All Stars on NHK’s “Kohaku Uta Gassen” New Year’s Eve concert.

Sporting a Hitler mustache, lead singer Keisuke Kuwata took what most interpreted as a dig at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his jamboree of historical whitewashers.

“Textbooks run out of time before modern history, the part we most want to know,” sang Kuwata in “Peace and Hi-Lite.” “Why do people forget the stupid, tragic things we did in the past.

“Raising fists will not open hearts,” he went on, calling the villain at the heart of the song “the emperor in the emperor’s new clothes,” and asking, “Didn’t we have enough (of this) in the 20th century?”

Given the political climate, and the fact that nearly half the households in the Kanto region were tuned into the show, it was a brave piece of political theater. It was also pretty rare.

Japan has few political comedians and no satirical magazines or cartoonists to speak of. There is no Charlie Hebdo, “The Daily Show” or The Onion, the U.S. satirical magazine; no “Monty Python” or “Spitting Image,” landmark British comedy shows that mercilessly lampooned the powerful.

Openly mocking politicians is often considered bad form. Satirizing the Imperial family is not only culturally verboten — it’s dangerous. Kuwata came close when he pretended at another concert last year to auction off a medal he received from the emperor.

British writer Will Self describes satire as the “deployment of humor, ridicule, sarcasm and irony in order to achieve moral reform.” The test, he says, is to apply H.L. Mencken’s definition of good journalism: It should “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.” It should also leave the subject looking, well, as ridiculous as possible.

There is a long tradition of using jokes to undermine the powerful, which is one reason why you don’t hear many in North Korea — not in public, anyway.

So why does Japan seem to have largely abandoned the field? The question often invites cultural cliches: The craving for “consensus” and the fact that Japanese people supposedly consider social order more important than abstract concepts of free speech and human rights.

Those explanations miss another reason, however: intimidation. Challenging power, even with humor, is risky, as Kuwata found out. Predictably, right-wingers hated his stunt and picketed his management company, forcing him to issue a desultory mea culpa.

For lovers of satire, that sad denouement was all too typical. Student Yamato Aoki, who made people laugh when he set up a website poking fun at Abe, also apologized for causing offense — the whole point of satire. Not surprisingly, Abe didn’t get the joke. The thin-skinned prime minister criticized the website as “despicable.”

Tough guys are surprisingly sensitive to criticism, too. Filmmaker Juzo Itami was famously beaten and slashed across the face by the yakuza in 1992 after he satirized them in the brilliant “Minbo no Onna” (“The Gentle Art of Japanese Extortion”). Itami gleefully overturned years of cinematic mythologizing by portraying the mob as stupid, venal and weak.

If there was a tipping point in the war on satire, we might pick December 1960. Chuo Koron magazine published a landmark parody in which the narrator dreams that left-wing revolutionaries take over the Imperial Palace and behead Crown Prince Akihito and Princess Michiko in front of a cheering crowd. After watching the Imperial heads roll, the narrator has an angry exchange with the Meiji Emperor’s wife.

The dowager empress tells him he owes his life to the Showa Emperor, Hirohito, who “saved the country” by surrendering unconditionally on Aug. 15, 1945. “How can you say that, you shitty old hag?” says the narrator. “Damn you! Our lives were saved because people around your grandson persuaded him to! Unconditionally!”

The satire — unthinkable today — provoked fury in the Imperial Household Agency, and among ultra-nationalists, who demonstrated daily outside Chuo Koron’s Tokyo offices. Finally, on Feb. 1, 1961, a 17-year-old rightist broke into the home of Chuo’s president, Hoji Shimanaka, killed a maid with a sword and severely wounded Shimanaka’s wife.

The incident had profound consequences for freedom of the press in Japan. The author, Shichiro Fukazawa, went into hiding, Shimanaka apologized repeatedly, Chuo Koron pulled in its horns and other publishers followed suit. Bungei Shunju magazine balked at publishing the followup to Kenzaburo Oe’s anti-rightist novel, 17, and no mainstream publisher ever dared to publish such a satire again.

Ironically, Fukazawa wrote the piece to warn about the radical left, according to the editor who replaced Shimanaka at Chuo Koron.

“It was a story about the terror of revolution, but what remained in the mind was the visceral image of the crown prince and princess’ heads flying,” says Kazuki Kasuya, who helmed the magazine until 1978. “It was a mistake to publish such an inflammatory article during what was a revolutionary situation in Japan. The article itself was the problem, not the reaction to it.”

Japan faced another crisis 30 years later with similarities to the one now faced by France: a dangerous, well-financed death cult that attempted to set up its own caliphate, intimidated and attacked journalists, and reacted murderously to being lampooned.

Aum Shinrikyo used elite lawyers to muffle the media and intimidation to silence critics. It tried to murder several journalists, including freelancer Shoko Egawa, before gassing the Tokyo subway, killing 12 people and injuring thousands.

“In many respects, Aum is the prototype for al-Qaeda, and its devotion to mass murder, its religious base, and its attachment to modern technology,” wrote U.S.-based reporter David Kaplan in 2007.

Once again, it was lone iconoclasts like Kuwata who called them out. Cartoonist Yoshinori Kobayashi and ubiquitous TV commentator Dave Spector were among the small number of those who began to ridicule them. As a result, they both famously ended up on Aum’s assassination list. “They didn’t have a sense of humor,” Spector recalls laconically.

Spector says there is little desire in Japan for political satire.

“They’re too comfortable with each other here,” he says. “Abe is taking media people out to dinner all the time. Japan is so small you run into each other all the time — it’s not like Washington, where you never see those people.”

Most people understand why Kuwata apologized, he says: appeasement. “It’s his management company that issues the apology — it’s a way of getting the rightist groups off your back, because they don’t stop. People here are savvy enough to know that if you don’t apologize, they keep going — just move on.”

The lack of a major forum for mockery has pushed those in Japan with a taste for edgy, offensive humor to cyberspace. Thousands of tweets have been posted since last Tuesday lampooning Islamic State with digitally altered photos of the two Japanese hostages and their Islamic State tormentor.

In one, the knife in the hands of the man widely believed to be “Jihadi John” has been replaced with a camera on a stick as he takes a selfie. Another shows the jihadist using his knife to carve meat from a kebab stand.

As The Washington Post noted, with two men facing a gruesome death, the hashtagged images “may seem silly, perhaps even reckless.” But they also, perhaps unconsciously, tap into a long tradition of poking a stick in the eyes of people who would otherwise have us cower in fear.

Naturally, the tweets have provoked controversy and criticism. It seems that many people like the fact that Japan’s humor is generally considerate and respectful. The problem is that some people in power don’t deserve respect. Or consideration.

Comments: community@japantimes.co.jp

  • kyushuphil

    Sure, consensus has been long in Japan — but so have been many free minds.

    The difference now is the cult of materialism. TV advertising, and other venues of ads, don’t just sell brand name items. They also present the ads in contexts that suggest human values as an extra part of every purchase.

    So we don’t have just physical objects (and services) for sale, but more ominously the profound lies that freedom, popularity, friendship, good marriage, happy family life, and many more human emotional needs all come with the package.

    This absolves schools of having to do anything themselves with human values. So schools don’t. They have become relentless factories, assembly lines, where nobody learns to write an essay, have a point of view, see another human, or raise a question.

    Schools can ignore the human because, in this modernity, materialism itself, consumerism for all demographics, does everything. That’s the great lie, the beguiling promise, to which all schools surrender.

    Who can expect any humor in a nation so totally besotted with the most gross and vulgar lies ever marketed?

    • Oliver Mackie

      As you may recall, I am, along with yourself, a great believer of teaching self-expression through writing. There are points where we differ though. First, to insinuate that there is no humo(u)r in Japanese society is disputable. The style of mockery displayed by Charlie Hebdo seems to me to be more reflective of the greater acceptance of aggressive behavio(u)r in Western society, rather than an indication of a greater prevalence of humo(u)r. Equally disputable is the claim that Japan is particularly besotted with materialism. Indeed, comparing the scales of remuneration at the top and the general attitude among all sections of those who reign and/or rule of mistrust of those who through business or politics seek personal enrichment, rather than promotion of the nation, points to a much more balanced approach to material concerns than in Europe or North America.

      It is also important to note that describing Japan as a consensus society (though, to be fair, you note many free minds) is controversial, given that there has been no word in the Japanese language equivalent to ‘consensus’, until the recent adoption and absorption of the English word, resulting in a katakana derivative.

    • Japanese Bull Fighter

      I’d like to see it demonstrated that there is any more of a cult of materialism in Japan than there is in the US or the UK. In point of fact, the widely cited “brand consciousness” of Japanese consumers has declined very substantially in the 40-plus years I’ve been in and out of Japan. I think anyone who raises this issue is guilty of extremely ethnocentric, even racist thinking. It’s OK for Americans to be brand conscious but not Japanese. Do you really think that Americans buy a Mercedes Benz or a BMW solely on the basis of performance? Do Americans buy Apple products solely on the basis of performance? Look at some of the specialized trade publications about advertising and marketing in the US and get back to me on the Japanese cult of materialism.

      As for Japanese schools, you are utterly clueless, to put it bluntly. I have two children in Japanese public schools (age 14 and 11). What you describe is nothing like the reality. There may have been a time when your generalizations might have had a smidgen of vality but that time is decades ago. Do a search on “Common Core” and “testing.” In the last couple of decades US public school teaching has come to be dominated by “teaching to the test” to a degree that vastly exceeds anything Japan ever had and which it certainly does not have now.

    • Aileen Kawagoe

      Obsession with brand name materialism is so passe, something associated with the pre-Bubble era, I’ve lived in middle class residential neighbourhoods for over ten years, and see no evidence of the chase after brand name goods, Jp might buy such goods as gifts for relatives and friends, but for themselves are more likely to shop for the affordable range like Uniqlo and Muji. Public school kids have always worn uniforms and are not allowed watches for the reason that they don’t have to show off or become obsessed with brand names, no partying culture either, so daily life expenditure is much more modest and less materialistic than Western cultures, as far as I can see.

    • Aileen Kawagoe

      “…where nobody learns to write an essay”. This has been repeated so often, it seems a truism. But I have children in public schools, and there is a great deal of writing, and expressive and descriptive writing, essays done in the normal course of learning. What is true is that there is no essay component in national tests, or the Center entrance exams. But the criticism about multiple choice exams format applies equally to both the US and Japan, which are the only two countries in the world which have exclusively MC national entrance exams. On the other hand, individual universities and faculties in Japan hold their own entrance exams, and some require essays. As to essay writing skills, my observation is that having left essay writing out of national testing circuit has a number of benefits. We presume that making essay writing a test subject means more creative minds, but what it creates is an entire industry of copycat essay writers, thousands of O and A level children in the UK and commonwealth nations rely on model essays, Cliff Notes almost from the beginning of schoollife. By contrast, when I listen to Japanese children read their essays (or I read those on the schoolwalls), they are refreshingly “real” childish voices, yes, full of naivete, but that mirror real feelings, thoughts and observations…very different from the cookiecuttermolded Asian and essays of the UK. Last month, the education panel has submitted recommendations to the Education Minister, a revamp of the entrance exam system is expected in 2020, which will now include essay writing as well as written answers to exam questions. Japanese have been always sensitive to criticisms of the West, but sometimes addressing these do not address underlying causality, and reforms like merely introducing essay-writing into exams will only bring new problems, and we will have younger and younger generations who will not only study content to the test, but now also write essays to testing standards. Currently, students write for self-chosen topics, themes and with a great deal of freedom from standardized assessment. They also write newspapers and are encouraged to write for prefectural and national essay contests, yet now critics are driving one of the more enjoyable and freely creative areas of Jp education into the testing arena. It would have been better to have merely introduced essay writing, focusing on expository, debate and discussion skills at the high school levels and introducing a critical thinking exam like the CRWA test, instead of reworking over those great aspects of the Japanese education system that actually work. The Japanese lower elementary public school system is actually a wonderful carefree system still free of testing constraints and pressures, any pressure comes from the quarter of the “shadow education system” which comes from individual parents who feel pressured to prep their children to pass the entrance interviews to private or escalator schools. I have to agree with Japanese Bull Fighting on the stereotyping statements that have been made. The system here barring pre-college prep years, actually is potentially less prone to “teaching to the test” than all of the OECD top performing Asian nations, and the UK. PM Abe’s new drive to higher English standards for eg., has immediate unintended consequences, with most private schools now announcing that English has become a testable entrance requirement, this only drives the testing prep mania further and further down to earlier grades, always penalizing the poorer segments of society. Many of the stereotypical criticisms by Westerners of Japan seen here are driven by a superficial understanding of Japanese society, and when heeded in an equally superficial manner bring about bandaids, not solutions, worsening the plight of Japanese students and exacerbating the problems they face on the psychological front.

  • Max Erimo

    I find there to be very little humour in Japan. The so-called comedians “owarai-geinin” have very limited repetoires.
    At schools nobody is taught to think critically or even to think. Pass the exams, given the expected answer in an interview, do not deviate from the script. Robots.
    The current situation is a perfect subject for the very important Japanese morals classes. How about posong the questions to students,
    “Do you think the terrorists will release the hostage and why?” and secondly
    “Do you want the terrorists to realease the hostage and why?”
    This will show clearly that the Japanese students have no concept of the big picture outside their windows. A very scary thought.

    • KenjiAd

      At schools nobody is taught to think critically or even to think. Pass
      the exams, given the expected answer in an interview, do not deviate
      from the script. Robots.

      There might be some truth in what you wrote, but your characterization of Japanese students is hyperbole (“nobody is…”). I was educated in Japan and at one time was a faculty at an American university, so I do feel I know something about differences in student attitude between the two countries.

      First, of course students in Japan are taught to think critically, at least at college level or higher. What we are not actively taught, compared to typical American college-level students, is how to express ourselves, particularly in spoken language.

      Perhaps partly for cultural reasons, Japanese students are not as actively encouraged to speak out as are American students. Japanese students are invariably bad at this even in their native language.

      Second, as to your second sentence – “Pass the exams, given the expected answer in an interview, do not deviate from the script.” Now what you said is not restricted to Japan. I’m sure you know many American students practice hard for SAT. Also Job seekers in America are advised to rehearse the “right” answers for standard interview questions.

    • http://www.turning-japanese.info/ Eido INOUE

      Ah, the old racist canard: “Japanese are robots.” As for the “no critical thinking skills” meme, that’s actually been called into question in formal studies in recent years.

      To quote the FT article from April of last year, “Countries that excel at problem-solving encourage critical thinking”:

      The OECD published an assessment of the problem-solving skills of teenagers around the world. About 85,000 teenagers in 44 countries and regions took the tests, where the challenged students to see if they could think without using rote memorization, and to deal with and solve problems that were unfamiliar, had incomplete information, and surprises.

      Students from the main western European countries – England, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium – all performed above the average, as did pupils from the Czech Republic and Estonia. In the rest of the rich world, the US, Canada and Australia also performed above average. But the laurels were taken by east Asian territories; Singapore and South Korea performed best, followed by Japan, and the Chinese regions of Macau and Hong Kong.

      That result poses a challenge to schools in the west. Critics of east Asian education systems attribute their success at maths and science to rote learning.

      But the OECD’s assessment suggests that schools in east Asia are developing thinking skills as well as providing a solid grounding in core subjects.

      • Internet Terracotta Tiger

        Good to read your response, Eido Inoue. I don’t think constantly snarking, criticising, and complaining all the time has anything to do with freedom or individuality, I think willingness to work with others yet offering constructive criticism where needed with dignity, respect, and tact is a sign of maturity. It’s one area where I find Japanese society has a lot to offer. Respect is often a two-way street, and the increasing trend among some North Americans towards snarky, disrespectful vulgarity isn’t necessarily more “free” than efforts to address differences of opinion with some dignity.

      • Internet Terracotta Tiger

        It could also be argued that some of the same tiresome, passive-aggressive racisms and highly predictable snarking are a little bit, umm, … conformist!

      • kyushuphil

        Good. Maybe we’re ready to up the essay writing.

        The OECD international testing shows Japan, and other Asian countries, doing super in math thinking, science thinking, and critical reading skills. So why not add on to this with really good teaching in writing — frequent writing, many kinds of prose?

        Many Japanese know about their fellow countrymen’s skills in the things OECD tests. Yet they remain impatient with how too many of their fellow countrymen are reluctant to ask questions — especially if it means making any authorities uneasy.

        You know this, yes? If you ask, I’ll give you a few basics in those Japanese calling for higher personal standards, less conformity. They are not racists, by the way.

      • Toolonggone

        That’s a typical description of education by business newspaper. Making a generalized assessment based on limited sample (85,000 teenagers from 44 countries= 1,931 people per country). And no information about student’s socio-economic demographics. That’s how people in the power like to judge how country is doing in education–instead of how students in each country are doing. Reason why many people are skeptical of PISA.

    • Japanese Bull Fighter

      Your picture of Japanese schools is simply false. It is blatant stereotyping. I have two boys aged 14 and 11 in ordinary Japanese neighborhood public schools. What they get is nothing like what you describe.

      Test passing is much more of a feature of American education than it is of Japanese education. Since the introduction of “Common Core” and “No Child Left Behind,” American education has become dominated by “teaching to the test.” There is an immense critical literature on this. You can find it for yourself. Don’t take my word for it.

      And, speaking as a Japanese, I find a sweeping generalization like “robots” highly offensive, even racist.

    • Toolonggone

      That’s exactly what is happening in the US education system today. Many states across the nation are implementing meaningless state-standardized tests or so-called PARCC(with a seal of approval by Pearson) as early as second grade. In some states like Florida, they even plan to test kindergarteners!!! Many kids are forced to sit in for hours to take the test–not once. Not twice. SEVERAL TIMES a year!!! That’s why parents are instigating OPT-OUT movement across the nation.

  • J.P. Bunny

    While not a fan of this social media stuff, I’m glad that it allows some people to express their opinions through satire. What passes for humor here is jumping up and down, yelling, and smacking each other on the head, by so called TV personalities. Everyone and everything else seems to be off limits. There are plenty of politicians here that are on a par to Sarah Palin, but never will we see them lampooned.

  • KenjiAd

    For political satire to exist, there has to be a sizable population who would consider politics to have some entertainment value, like sports. Japan doesn’t have that population.

  • Japanese Bull Fighter

    This article begs an obvious question. Are societies with a substantial amount of media satire better societies than those without? I don’t remember satire stopping the Vietnam war. I don’t remember satire stopping the invasion of Iraq. I haven’t seen satire stopping the shooting of young black guys by white cops. Satire didn’t stop the CIA for using torture. Satire didn’t stop the NSA for engaging in massive surveillance. An alernative interpretation would be that some countries have a large amount of political satire because (1) there is so much more to satire and (2) that’s about all you can do because otherwise people are essentially powerless.

  • Internet Terracotta Tiger

    The implication that Japan is conformist and North America isn’t, after 30 years in Canada, a year in the US, and four in Japan is quite lost on me. What exactly about just about every guy between age 13 and 30 wearing a hoodie and a baseball hat on backwards isn’t conformist? How about every guy between 13 and dead having to show real or faked interest in yesterday’s game to prove he’s “one of the guys”? Huge queues of cars at third-rate coffee chains, where people line up for almost an hour for truly awful coffee drowned with cream and sugar so you don’t have to taste the coffee? Some homeland for those of us who would lecture to the Japanese or to anyone about conformity!

  • Aileen Kawagoe

    Not relevant to Jp materialism. Branded goods are no longer sought after by locals, they cater to wealthy Chinese and other Asian tourists, which is why whenever bilateral relations are tense or in a slump, business concerns rise and there is always a lot of videoclips of the empty shopping boutiques.

  • Aileen Kawagoe

    It might help us all to remember that we did not fashion (error corrected) the structure nor the heritage of the complex world we now live in. Rolf Dobelli’s book “The Art of Thinking Clearly” is the best book I could remember for discussions such as this, I would recommend especially his chapters of false causality, correlation and also hindsight. How easy to blame every ill and tragedy like Fukushima on the lack of critical thinking or even the alleged greed, corruption of its politicians and bureaucrats. Where does the root cause begin, with the poor thinking of politicians, gov officials during Fukushima, with the flawed design of the American nuclear reactor, with the fact that nuclear was the only option Japan it had after the various oil crises it had in order to survive, or the capitalistic free trade system which has the West banging at its door to buy its nuclear and other trade products, or should we go further back, and say if Japan didn’t feel the need to work so doggedly hard according to the opportunistic and conquering capitalistic principles in an industrial world and financial system built upon the critical thinking? of the West? Where does the blame or cause lie? How could we have foreseen the once clean and green nuclear could have imploded in Japan’s face? Yes, easy to say upon hindsight. It was because of nuclear energy that Japan with its great carbon emission reduction record was the best choice at the time to host the Kyoto Protocol where nearly every nation back then signed to reduce its carbon emissions footprint, only the US and Cuba I think it was back then refused to sign? Ironically now the US is beating down Japan’s door to reduce its carbon footprint, which it cannot do at the moment ever since it has had to shut down all its nuclear reactors since Fukushima and rely on the less green options to power its energy grid. With Russia and China cutting acting in international waters to cut off Japan, everytime it discovers new maritime resources, we should be able to understand there are limits to critical thinking as a catchall cause-and-effect for solving problems and complex events. In effect, hindsight is actually something no human has. So now, we, and especially poets, now with hindsight hanker for a non-nuclear landscape, no cars, non material world to leave as few of our carbon footprints as possible. Japan has a good record of replanting and reforesting its forests, but even so, it merely buys timber from Borneo and elsewhere depleting others’ resources. Without materialism and greed, how many shops and industries and services in Japan would go bellyup immediately and in the short run, how many more suicides a year. Easy for poets to pen, and while try for a more sustainable landscape we must, not so easy for the rest of us who must eat and man our shops. Easy for disgruntled foreigners and Nobel Prize winners to jump a “sinking ship” saying Japan’s woes are due to the lack of critical thinking of its people, even though it was still really built upon the back of dogged hard work and tight cooperation of its people. Japanese society and the roots of its problems are not so black and white, its solutions not so simplistic as to be solved by merely adopting critical thinking of the West, if it were as simple as about having more critical thinking and freedom and free trade, one would think America should have been able to solve for example, its own gun and homicidal troubles with its many free and critical thinkers by now, a problem which kills more preschoolers than suicides kill all of Japan’s youths and young adults in a year. I don’t have to have the last word here, but I do get tired of hearing trite old phrases blaming Japan’s lack of critical thinkers for everything, from why it isn’t no. 1 (who says it has to be no. 1 anyway?), for its lack of innovation, for WWII, for Fukushima, etc, etc. In any event, with or without educating more critical thinkers, there is a very real inconsistency between being able to rise up to the 21st century challenges of the competitive world of churning out and innovating more products that the world wants, and turning our backs on it and yearning for the simpler, more uncluttered, and less earth-and-soul damaging life.

  • Rebane

    Japan is not a democracy yet. Period.

  • GBR48

    You might want to look at this another way, as many news media have now ‘gone Japanese’ in a desperate attempt not to upset anyone whose standpoint may be backed by firepower.

    The murders in Paris certainly cleared up a few things. First of all, if you want to get things done, kill people, because it works. The craven cowardice of news media around the world in surrendering their hard fought national, legal rights to muslim complaints and threats, despite not being muslim nations and not being bound by Islamic law, speaks volumes.

    Having raised a white flag, desperate not to cause offence to one group, surely journalists no longer have the right to offend any group. Why should Japanese newspapers feel they can upset the democratically elected government of Japan or challenge state secrets legislation passed by it, when they won’t upset a group who form a tiny minority of their population and whose offended state has absolutely no status in Japanese law?

    Why respect journalists when they are cowards? Why trust what they publish, when it will have been filtered so as not to offend specific groups? Why should muslims get special treatment? OK, no members of the LDP are going to threaten to kill people, but surely they deserve at least the same rights when dealt with by the media as those whose beliefs are alien to the Japanese nation and who represent a tiny minority of its population.

    So from now on, can we expect any story that might offend anyone to be spiked, or just those that offend people whose opinions have the backing of murderers and criminals?

    In the response to the Charlie Hebdo incident, journalists around the world can hang their heads in shame. Their industry died that day, and they are responsible for that, not Islam.

    Those in France who picked up a gun and went out to change the world by murdering people succeeded, far more than the Islamic State (or any army) has, probably in recorded history, and far more quickly. And if anyone has any doubt about how to make a difference, the sword is considerably mightier than the pen.

    Or to put it another way, the bad guys won. And they won easily.

    If the response to the Third Reich in 1939 had been this cowardly, every parliament building in Europe would today be flying a flag with a swastika on it, from its roof.

  • Roan Suda

    I suppose I enjoy juvenile tastelessness as much as the next fellow, but
    the fact that the Japanese do not have anything comparable to “Spitting Image” is surely not simply due to the “right-wing” boogieman that foreign journalists love to scare us with. As for The Daily Show, it is not “the establishment” that Jon Stewart attacks; in fact, he is quite comfortable with it. His views are almost entirely predictable: lefty elitist. How many laughs would he get if he made fun of, oh, let us say, Obama’s pal Al Sharpton, Nancy Pelosi, Planned Parenthood, or the gay lobby? What David McNeill really seems to want is not genuine satire but more “progressive” propaganda. When was the last time the Japan Times published a cartoon that did not lampoon the Abe government or an editorial that was not squishy “liberal”? Why is the Asahi Shimbun (approvingly) described as “liberal” and other publications as “right-wing”? (Incidentally, McNeill refers to the “Meiji Emperor’s wife.” Surely he means Empress Teimei, the mother of the Showa Emperor, who, as it happens, worked behind the scenes against the war.)