The tempest in a teapot whipped up by a segment on the British quiz-cum-comedy show “QI” has prompted debate on cross-cultural sensitivity. The BBC has apologized for the segment, which, contrary to a statement issued by Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara, did not make fun of its subject, the late Tsutomu Yamaguchi, who was a victim in both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings. If anything, it made fun of the British railway system, which was found wanting in comparison to Japan’s.
The main complaint is that any exploitation of the atomic bombings for the purposes of levity is hurtful to the survivors, their families and the Japanese people in general, regardless of the content or target of the joke. The laughs, in this instance, were evinced by the irony of the situation: A man who was burned in one atomic bombing was able to board a train to go to a city where he suffered — and survived — another. Depending on your threshold for humor, insult was added to injury when some of the guests on the show tried to make jokes (“He never got the train again, I tell you”), which is what they’re paid to do.