People not in positions of authority might feel they can do little to change a political situation they disagree with, but for one of the nation’s leading parodists, the answer is simple: ape those in positions of power in an unflattering way.
“Mad” Amano, a leading figure in the field who has contributed to papers and magazines, is severely critical of the administration of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, reckoning that it is being strung along by the United States in Iraq.
“I believe (expressing) anger and ridicule is the most effective weapon for us common people to take a stand against authority,” Amano, 65, said in a recent interview.
“And it’s parody that can express the two key elements and effectively appeal to the senses of people of all ages,” he said, citing how U.S. documentarist Michael Moore used the technique in the blockbuster “Fahrenheit 9/11” to get under U.S. President George W. Bush’s skin and slam his administration.
Amano, too, recently drew flak with his popular Web site The Parody Times, coming under attack from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party for ridiculing Koizumi during the recent House of Councilors election campaign.
Amano poked fun at an LDP campaign poster featuring Koizumi with the catch phrase: “Thinking about this country, build this country,” by offering his own spin of “Thinking about that America, build this vassal country” and taking aim at the Japan-U.S. cooperation in Iraq, as highlighted by the deployment of Ground Self-Defense Force troops to the country on a humanitarian mission.
In late June, LDP Secretary General Shinzo Abe told Amano that the parody ran counter to the facts and degraded the social standing of LDP President Koizumi and the party.
Former Upper House member and Greens Japan party leader Atsuo Nakamura, who copied the parody for his own Web site while running unsuccessfully for re-election in the July poll, was even told by the LDP to delete it.
Nakamura refused to comply and subsequently wrote a response demanding that freedom of expression be respected.
Amano said he “thanks” Abe for his outrage, because it boosted the hits on The Parody Times to some 5,000 a day since then.
“I only corrected the prime minister’s slogan from the viewpoint of the people,” Amano figured, reckoning they see through the prime minister’s “slogan politics.” He said he found it absurd that the LDP would take offense with his actions, since a parody by definition is a false representation.
Amano said he hopes his parodies serve as warnings to the people, for he, like the opposition camp, feels Koizumi has neglected to thoroughly explain his policies to the people, including his highly contentious pension reforms and the troop deployment, in which the parodist claims Koizumi blindly followed in the footsteps of the U.S.
Amano went on to pledge to continue his Koizumi parodies until the prime minister steps down. To this end, he publicized on Aug. 10 a parody book titled, “Recall! Koizumi Don-ichiro.”
“Mad Amano’s works are nothing but funny and bitter satires on contemporary politics, and it’s a pity the LDP has become so sensitive about such proper expressions,” said Rikkyo University professor Takaaki Hattori, an expert on media law.
“It is natural for a political party to become the target of criticism,” he said. “Being the target means having greater public recognition.”
Hattori went on to say the LDP’s ire stems not only from a narrow-minded acceptance of only “convenient opinions,” but also Japan’s cultural climate, in which political parodies, such as those seen in the U.S. presidential election campaign, are few and far between and media criticism is fluff compared with the West.
Amano said he will make the most of his Web site to bring up issues whenever he smells a rat in politics — especially now that media establishments have become less aggressive due to recently enacted privacy-protection legislation regulating organizations that handle personal information.
“Corroborating evidence is the essence of journalism, but also its weakness, and parody is worlds apart from journalism in that sense,” Amano said.
“People have a negative picture in their minds about a wild rumor,” he said. “But when powerless citizens like me notice something suspicious going on in high places and have to send messages, I believe we should not be shackled by the notion of corroborating evidence and instead act by instinct. That’s what parody is all about.”