Quantcast
Latest Stories

Social network gaffes plague Japanese politicians

By

In this Nov. 23, 2012 photo, Osaka Mayor and co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party Toru Hashimoto, foreground center, along with Shingo Nishimura, foreground right, a former member of the House of Representatives, waves to supporters during their party’s election campaign in Sakai, Osaka prefecture, western Japan. Hashimoto apologized after saying, and later tweeting, that sex slavery by Japan’s Imperial Army before and during World War II was a “necessary” wartime evil and suggesting that the U.S. military patronize adult entertainment to help reduce sex crimes committed by American troops. AP/Kyodo News

TOKYO — On the Internet, no one can save you from yourself. That is a lesson many Japanese politicians have learned recently in painful, awkward and at times costly fashion.

In the latest flap, a senior reconstruction official in charge of helping victims of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear crisis was dismissed last week after he used a scatological insult on Twitter to deride civil activists.

Another official’s loss of composure at a U.N. committee meeting might have gone unnoticed in another time, but today it’s on YouTube. Even Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been reproached for remarks on Facebook that some deemed disrespectful to his opponents.

Japan only began allowing use of social media in political campaigns in April. As campaigning heats up for a pivotal July 21 election for the upper house of parliament, this relatively new tool for reaching the public appears as much a liability as it is a blessing.

Japanese politicians and government agencies control access to information through a system of press clubs, and to keep their memberships, traditional Japanese media often have overlooked politicians’ gaffes. Politicians’ aides also help them avoid making embarrassing comments on TV and in print media. But those filters disappear when a politician posts a comment online.

“It takes only one emotional sentence. Once you hit the comment or tweet button, it’s too late. You’re caught by gaffe watchers on the net, with your true nature exposed,” said Junichiro Nakagawa, an editor at the Internet news site Shunkan Research News.

Yasuhisa Mizuno, the former Reconstruction Agency official for Fukushima-Dai-ichi victims, was fired over this tweet: “Attended a meeting where I was merely yelled at by leftist (vulgarity). Surprisingly, I’m not outraged. I only have pity for their lack of intelligence.”

He posted the comment March 7, but it was overlooked for several weeks before “gaffe watchers” discovered it and made it more widely known.

In late May, Hideaki Ueda, Japan’s representative to the United Nations’ committee on torture, shouted while defending Japan’s judicial system against criticism by an envoy from Mauritius who said its lack of protections for suspects’ rights was “medieval.”

Speaking in somewhat broken English in footage shown on YouTube and an official website, Ueda said, “Certainly Japan is not the Middle Age. We are one of the most advanced country in the field.”

To giggles from the audience, he shouted, “Don’t laugh! Why you are laughing?”

“Shut up! Shut up!” he said. By Wednesday the video had been viewed on YouTube more than 200,000 times. The footage was also repeatedly shown on mainstream Japanese TV and in newspapers until the Foreign Ministry reprimanded him last week.

Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto said and tweeted that sex slavery by Japan’s Imperial Army before and during World War II was a “necessary” wartime evil. He also used Twitter to post his suggestion that the U.S. military patronize adult entertainment to help reduce sex crimes committed by American troops.

U.S. officials characterized the comments as “outrageous and offensive.” Hashimoto, a co-founder of the nationalist Japan Restoration Party, apologized, but only for his adult entertainment remark. He has continued tweeting his assertions about the Imperial Army’s use of prostitutes.

Sophia University political science professor Koichi Nakano said gaffes by politicians and others spotlight a lack of sensitivity to a variety of issues, and to opposing views.

“The society that leaves such problems unchecked could become one that is insensitive,” Nakano said. “People gradually lose sensitivity and then think nothing of it anymore.”

One word that has drawn attention is “leftist,” which is being used as a catch-all term for liberals supportive of minority rights and pacifism, and who sometimes challenge conservative values.

The media and the political opposition are taking Abe to task for using the term too casually. Abe has also called former Prime Minister Naoto Kan a leftist, criticizing his civil activist background and relatively lenient stance toward North Korea.

Abe, who is known for his nationalist and hawkish views, complained in a recent Facebook entry about hecklers at a public rally. “A group of leftists came into the crowd, intensely trying to interfere with my speech by shouting into a loudspeaker and banging drums, full of hatred,” he wrote

“Mr. Abe, what do you mean by ‘leftists?’” asked Hideo Matsushita, senior editor at the liberal-leaning Asahi newspaper, in a commentary published Sunday.

Many of the hundreds of comments attached to Abe’s Facebook entry expressed support for his remark, along with hatred of the political left, ethnic Koreans and China. But others questioned for using the word “leftists” to describe hecklers who were apparently opposing Abe’s plans to join a U.S.-led trans-Pacific trade bloc.

Matsushita said Abe showed a lack of respect for dissent and was fanning animosity toward Japan’s neighbors and ethnic minorities.

“What’s the point of making a distinction between the left and the right?” he asked.

Since taking office in December, Abe has mainly focused on the economy. But his wider agenda includes revising Japan’s pacifist constitution to allow a stronger military and building what he calls a “beautiful country” through patriotic education, traditional family values and respect for the emperor. Some critics say his plans harken back to the militaristic atmosphere prevailing before and during World War II.

The emergence of Hashimoto’s Japan Restoration Party and the Liberal Democrats’ victory in December elections is seen by many in Japan as a swing to the right that has been accompanied by verbal attacks on Japan’s sizable ethnic Korean minority both on the Internet and in street protests, where members of ultra-rightist groups have shouted threats like “Kill Koreans” and “Go back to Korea.”

Hundreds of thousands of Koreans comprise Japan’s largest ethnic minority group. Many are descendants of workers shipped to Japan during its 1910-1945 colonial rule of Korea. Decades later, they still face widespread discrimination in education, business and marriage.

Anti-Korean sentiments have prompted a group of lawmakers and experts to propose excluding “hate speech” from the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of expression.

“These problems underscore Japan’s lack of human rights awareness, and the world is raising its eyebrows,” said Kazuko Ito, a lawyer who heads Japan’s branch of Human Rights Now.


Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter




Recent Stories:

Senator’s kickback from pork bigger than those of Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – Lacson 5 mins elapsed 43 out of 414 Etihad passengers yet to be found, tested for MERS-CoV – Palace 11 mins elapsed Filipinos coming home from Mideast must obtain MERS clearance – DOH 20 mins elapsed ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe 45 mins elapsed Maid confesses in killing of 2 and stabbing of employer in Laguna 1 hour elapsed SM to rebuild Tacloban hospital 1 hour elapsed N. Korea finally offers condolences over ferry tragedy 1 hour elapsed PSEi slips after 4-day rally 1 hour elapsed
Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Japan , politicians , social networking

  • Cue_Vas

    In a democracy, these are called gaffes.
    In a dictatorship, this is called “official state media.”



Copyright © 2014,
.
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
Advertisement Advertisement
  1. Nokia to be named Microsoft Mobile
  2. Senator wants to probe PH slow Internet connection
  3. PH has slowest internet in Southeast Asia
  4. Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  5. Facebook page launched to help people on Pag-asa Island kill boredom
  6. SC junks motions vs cybercrime law
  7. Did Deniece Cornejo lambast Vhong Navarro on social media?
  8. Judge in Apple v. Samsung patent trial fed up with smart phones in court
  9. Apple offering free recycling of all used products
  10. CFOs slowly getting tech-savvy
  1. Did Deniece Cornejo lambast Vhong Navarro on social media?
  2. PH has slowest internet in Southeast Asia
  3. Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  4. Mommy Dionisia sings ‘Riking Bull,’sends netizens ablaze
  5. Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  6. Tech company: Change passwords or suffer ‘Heartbleed’
  7. Judge in Apple v. Samsung patent trial fed up with smart phones in court
  8. Philippines may watch ‘blood moon’ online
  9. Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  10. Smart phone apps and sites perfect for the Holy Week
  1. #RejectedBbPilipinas2014Questions flood Twitter
  2. Did Deniece Cornejo lambast Vhong Navarro on social media?
  3. Netizens fall in love with Crimea prosecutor Natalia Poklonskaya
  4. Mommy Dionisia Pacquiao scores, takes over social media
  5. Nude and so dangerous
  6. Mommy Dionisia sings ‘Riking Bull,’sends netizens ablaze
  7. Russia tries to curb Crimean prosecutor’s Internet fame
  8. Memes flourish after Pacquiao victory
  9. PH has slowest internet in Southeast Asia
  10. Netizens thank Capa for Lee arrest

News

  • Senator’s kickback from pork bigger than those of Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – Lacson
  • 43 out of 414 Etihad passengers yet to be found, tested for MERS-CoV – Palace
  • Maid confesses in killing of 2 and stabbing of employer in Laguna
  • N. Korea finally offers condolences over ferry tragedy
  • 16 CADPI sugar refinery workers now out of danger after toxic shower in Batangas
  • Sports

  • UP nips St. Benilde; Adamson blasts RTU in Filoil women’s caging
  • Kevin Garnett responds to Raptors’ GM F word
  • Albert Pujols hits 500th HR of major league career
  • UST posts twin kill in Filoil pre-season cup opening day
  • Wizards beat Bulls in OT to take 2-0 series lead
  • Lifestyle

  • Entering the monkhood a rite of passage
  • Haneda International Airport: A destination on its own
  • Wanted: Beauty queen with a heart that beats for the environment
  • Kim Atienza: At home with art and design
  • Life lessons I want to teach my son
  • Entertainment

  • Bollywood Oscars, film stars come to Florida
  • Ex-Fox exec denies allegations in sex abuse suit
  • Kris Aquino backtracks, says Herbert Bautista and her are ‘best friends’
  • Summer preview: Chris Pratt enters a new ‘Galaxy’
  • Bon Jovi helps open low-income housing in US
  • Business

  • SM to rebuild Tacloban hospital
  • PSEi slips after 4-day rally
  • Toyota sells 2.58 million vehicles, outselling GM
  • McDonald’s 1Q profit slips as US sales decline
  • SEC approves SM’s P15B retail bond offer
  • Technology

  • ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe
  • Viber releases new design for iPhone, comes to Blackberry 10 for the first time
  • Engineers create a world of difference
  • Bam Aquino becomes Master Splinter’s son after Wiki hack
  • Mark Caguioa lambasts Ginebra teammates on Twitter
  • Opinion

  • One-dimensional diplomacy: A cost-benefit analysis of Manila’s security deal with Washington
  • No ordinary illness
  • Reforest mountains with fire trees and their kind
  • Day of the Earth
  • When will Chinese firm deliver new coaches?
  • Global Nation

  • Filipinos coming home from Mideast must obtain MERS clearance – DOH
  • US Secret Service in Manila ahead of Obama visit
  • Palace thanks Estrada for successful HK mission
  • Hong Kong accepts PH apology; sanctions also lifted
  • China won’t budge, wants PH gov’t to apologize to HK
  • Advertisement
    Marketplace