Media Mix, Nov. 1, 2020

University of Tokyo

Here’s this week’s Media Mix, which is about the controversy over the six rejected nominees for the Science Council of Japan. As pointed out in the column, it was Akahata, the press organ of the Japanese Communist Party, that broke the story, which naturally gives rise to the suspicion that had they not reported on it, it may not have been reported by anyone. In the Aera article cited, Honorary Prof. Tatsuru Uchida of Kobe College made the claim that the media and the public in general are probably not surprised that the Liberal Democratic Party would reject pro forma appointments to a government-related group for political reasons. He says that ranking politicians, bureaucrats, and journalists according to their loyalty to the ruling party became normalized during the administration of Shinzo Abe, and the public has absorbed this truth, not to mention the press. It goes without saying that they would do the same thing with academia, and no one in academia might have protested if the JCP hadn’t raised its own voice. After all, the six rejected scholars didn’t call up any reporters and tell them that the LDP may have broken the law by not appointing them. They probably accepted it as well. However, once the JCP did make a big deal out of it, the rest of the media fell in line and so members of the Council were solicited for their views, and they then said that what the Cabinet did was wrong. This docility may be a function of how universities are structured and promotions are administered. No one wants to risk their careers protesting against what they probably see as a lost cause. After all, when the government took away professors’ right to govern themselves in 2014, they didn’t rise up and complain. According to Uchida, most universities now are essentially limited corporations, which means instructors and professors are treated as salarymen, and the government knows how to control people who see themselves as employees of a company rather than members of an institution. 

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