Media Mix, July 1, 2018

Here’s this week’s Media Mix about the ongoing Kake Gakuen veterinary school scandal. The focus of the column is on the “lie” that a Kake official admitted to, and the subsequent press conference held by the school to point out that both he and the school’s head, Kotaro Kake, a close friend of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, would be punished with pay cuts. The lie centers on a meeting between Kake and Abe in February 2015 that the school and Abe say never took place. As pointed out in the article, it would be very easy to prove that no such meeting happened if either the prime minister’s office or Kake produced an official itinerary or schedule showing what the two men were doing that day, but all they can do is “confirm” that no such documents exist, which is an odd way of proving that something didn’t happen.

However, the scandal’s contours take in a whole lot more that wasn’t mentioned in the column, the main element being PM aide Tadao Yasase’s 2015 meeting with officials from Ehime Prefecture, at which, according to those officials, Yanase invoked Abe’s name to gain favor for approval of the Kake veterinary school. Yanase had attempted to erase this matter by resorting to the usual trick: He says he doesn’t remember any such meeting. Bad memory, of course, is the laziest and most common form of denial because it can’t credibly be challenged. The fact that the Kake official admitted to lying, therefore, is something of a radical act in coverup methodology, and some might say it’s very “Japanese” (the samurai falling on his sword for his lord), but in the larger scheme of things the Kake official had little to lose except a few weeks of face.

But there’s a larger matter that the scandal’s neverending intrigues are covering up, and that’s the worth of the school itself. All the energy expended on proving that Abe or Kake or their men lied might be better invested in questioning the value of the school in the first place. As the online web magazine Litera pointed out, the veterinary school is “fourth-rate.” Kake’s institutions are money-making enterprises that add little to Japan’s brain trust or work force. Litera goes on to say that while the Kake veterinary school was being approved the education ministry was cutting the budget for the University of Tokyo, mostly in the area of research. Sure, people who lie to cover up political malfeasance should be called out, but first get your priorities straight.

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