Here’s this week’s Media Mix, which is about the various schemes to influence public opinion with regard to Japan’s nuclear energy policy. As I pointed out at the end, the press is mainly using the word “manipulate” to describe what the authorities are doing, but I think “manufacture” is a better verb. It has been well-documented in recent months how carefully planned the public relations component of Japan’s nuclear policy has been, extending back to the mid-50s when the Americans recruited a number of high-profile Japanese individuals in government and industry to support the peaceful use of nuclear technology as a means of making the Japanese public more accepting of America’s nuclear deterrence policy. It’s correct to say that people who remembered the war and the atomic bombings had to have their perceptions manipulated in order to accept nuclear energy, but every generation since then has started with a clean slate. Regardless of how you feel about the safety of nuclear energy, the relevant bureaucratic organs and their industry partners felt it necessary to nip debate in the bud as early as possible; which is why the bulk of the money budgeted for the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency goes to “education.” It’s basically a PR organ.
This is just how things are, and for the media to treat it as a “conspiracy” is ingenuous. For sure, the real intent behind the email scheme outlined in the column is hidden, but every few years the press uncovers a similar scheme and reports it as a scoop. Officials are left with red faces and promise an investigation, but nothing really changes because the sensibility behind the yarase (fakery) is one of confrontation. They know that the only people who will make their opinions known in the pertinent public forum are those who are against them, so they feel justified is providing counter-arguments, even if they’re for the most part manufactured. The various mainstream media outlets who breathlessly reported the chicanery going on in Saga neglected to say that, for the most part, the citizens don’t know what to think. As one journalist told Tokyo Shimbun, “The people have a responsibility, too.” In other words, they have a responsibility not to be manipulated; because, in truth, anyone who watched the local TV show in question, the one where Kyushu Electric employees sent in questions, had to wonder why there were almost no counter-arguments. Skepticism is an integral component of democratic involvement, but mostly what the Japanese public exhibits is cynicism: They don’t trust the government, anyway, so why get involved? There is a difference. As Prof. Kawakami also told Tokyo Shimbun, “If the silent majority remains silent, there’s no way you can prevent fakery.”