National

‘Outrageous prejudice’: Publisher suspends publication of Shincho 45 following furor in LGBT community

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

Shinchosha Publishing Co. has announced one of its magazines will effectively fold after carrying articles that its president said contained “outrageous prejudice” against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

In a statement released Tuesday evening, Shinchosha said it will suspend publication of the monthly magazine Shincho 45, which debuted in 1985.

Its October issue, which is currently on shelves, will be the last edition before the suspension, the firm said.

“It is undeniable that our editing of articles and scrutiny of feature series in the pipeline has grown perfunctory over the years as we struggle with the magazine’s dwindling circulation and numerous trials and errors,” the publisher said in the statement.

It is this compromised vetting process, Shinchosha said, that led to the publication of the articles slammed by President Takanobu Sato as full of prejudice against — and showing a “lack of understanding” toward — LGBT individuals.

“We both thank and apologize to our readers and all parties concerned for their support and cooperation over the years,” the company said, adding it will conduct a thorough review of its editorial system.

The latest decision means Shincho 45, although technically suspended from business, will all but “fold,” the firm’s public relations executive, Yukihito Ito, told reporters Tuesday evening.

The downfall of Shincho 45 was precipitated by Mio Sugita, a junior lawmaker in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Sugita, author of the book “Naze Watashi wa Sayoku to Tatakaunoka” (“Why I Fight the Left”), contributed a contentious article to the August issue of the magazine, labeling the LGBT community as “unproductive” in terms of childbirth.

Her assertion that taxpayer money shouldn’t be spent on policies supporting same-sex couples because, according to her, they were not productive, soon sparked an outpouring of criticism and prompted thousands to protest and call for her resignation.

Then in its latest issue, Shincho 45 dug itself into a deeper hole by running a large series — spanning nearly 40 pages and comprising seven different articles — defending Sugita’s remark under the title “What’s so Wrong About the Mio Sugita Article?”

Among those subject to the most fierce backlash was an article contributed by conservative commentator Eitaro Ogawa.

In it, Ogawa asserted that LGBT is ultimately a “sexual preference” and an “absurd” concept on par with “SMAG” — a term he said he coined himself to denote “sadist,” “masochist,” “ass fetish” and “groper.”

If society has to protect LGBT people, Ogawa said, “shouldn’t our society also protect the rights of gropers (who) can’t resist the urge to grope once they have caught a whiff of a female’s smell on a crowed train?”

“If someone dares to complain SMAG is absurd, to hell with that. To someone as traditionally conservative as I am, LGBT sounds equally absurd, too,” he wrote.

Ogawa, for his part, explained in a Facebook post dated Monday that the coining of “SMAG” was merely a hypothetical example of how the society’s “premature” recognition of the rights of a minority could “turn extreme to the point of insanity” and that he himself is not defending molesters on trains.

Outcries over the October issue nonetheless ensued.

Soon after someone defaced a sign near Shinchosha’s headquarters with protest graffiti that changed it to say “Did you read that hateful book?” from “Did you read?”

Sugita’s apparent discrimination against the LGBT community has caused widespread repercussions elsewhere, too.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was successfully re-elected as LDP president earlier this month, was forced to respond to a groundswell of anger against her while campaigning for a third term.

Abe, speaking during a TV debate, said Sugita’s diatribe against “unproductive” same-sex couples hurt his feelings because he himself is childless and that she should be more mindful of her words as a politician.

Still, he refrained from calling for her to step down and give up her seat, saying “she is still young.”

And in Wakayama Prefecture, a small bookstore is drawing praise on social media after announcing it has withdrawn the sales of all new titles published by Shinchosha.

The temporary pullout is meant to be “an act of protest against propagation by Shincho 45 of derogatory commentary against sexual minorities,” Shota Shimada, the owner of the store Books Plug, said in a statement.