Here’s this week’s Media Mix, which is about Yoshio Hachiro’s resignation as Minister of Trade, Economy and Industry, though it’s mainly about the enduring dominance of “elites” in all aspects of Japanese life. As I implied in the column, elites more or less run the world, so there’s no particular reason to think they wouldn’t run Japan. If there’s a difference, and I admit it’s a relatively slim one, it’s that the Japanese media take this situation so much for granted that they basically accept it as the natural order; so while there isn’t any concrete proof that Hachiro’s ouster was engineered by some cabal headquartered deep within a bunker under Hibiya Park, the fact that so many media advanced the idea that his gaffes caused “public outrage” (a term used by almost every English language publication that covered the matter) proves at the very least that they thought he deserved to lose his job. As I told my editor, who was reluctant to run the line “we’ll have to take their word for it,” I could find nothing in the available media, in either English or Japanese, that offered proof of this “public outrage.” NHK went out on the street and interviewed a few passers-by who expressed dismay at Hachiro’s remarks, but is that representative of the “public” and does it qualify as “outrage”? In fact, if we use the NHK interviews as a standard, there were just as many comments in letters-to-editor columns agreeing with the “town of death” remark. The only disparaging comments I could find were to the effect that since Hachiro was representing METI, which had a hand in the nuclear accident that created the town of death situation, there was something disingenuous about him saying it, even if he wasn’t in the ministry when the disaster took place. This sentiment goes back to the theory I posited earlier this year in this column about that BBC program joking about the gentleman who suffered both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings. The victims and their relatives own the narrative to that tragedy, so nobody else gets to comment on it, much less joke about it. Hachiro, as a representative of the government that made it possible for the Fukushima No. 1 reactor accident to happen, had no right to identify with the victims, so the town of death comment was inappropriate. But that’s not “outrage” to me.
As for Hachiro’s remark about passing radiation onto reporters, it was a pretty adolescent joke, and thus smacked of desperation. For people to find proof in that joke of Hachiro’s air of superiority betrays a lack of understanding of human nature. It doesn’t excuse him of being childish and needy, but resignation? All he has to do is apologize for acting like a dumb kid and that should be it, but the idea that he has to leave over such a faux pas was obviously pushed by more than public sentiment. Though I didn’t mention it in the column, rumor has it that Fuji TV first reported the joke, and thus every other outlet, not wanting to be seen as having missed the boat, had to report it as well. But the race to put that quote out there was so fast and furious it was difficult to tell who did it first. That’s why all the quotes were unique: every reporter who was there heard something different, meaning they weren’t taking notes when he said it. Did one or more media outlet have it in for Hachiro? I’d say it’s a definite possibility, but in any case, as distasteful as many people found the joke, it didn’t warrant resignation. All it proves is that the media and those who really make a difference don’t care who is doing what in the government. It’s all an elaborate show, because nothing gets done.