Media Mix, Aug. 7, 2021

(c) 2021 Pankeki o Dokumi Suru Seisaku Iinkai

Here’s this week’s Media Mix, which is about the new documentary feature, Pankeki o Dokumi Suru, about Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and his peculiar brand of survival politics. As pointed out in the column, one of the overriding themes of the movie is that Suga and his predecessor, Shinzo Abe, mostly work on feelings of resentment that guide their decisions and actions, and that includes Suga’s almost patented disregard for what others think. His hostility toward the media is unsubtle and entirely deliberate, but he also doesn’t have any use for fellow politicians who feel as if he owes them something since he happens to be the leader of the nation. During one long sequence in the movie, Hosei University Professor Mitsuko Uenishi analyzes Suga’s behavior and speaking style during Diet deliberations and has a grand old time pointing out how everything about him indicates his utter contempt for lawmakers who are simply trying to get a yes or no answer out of him. Given Uenishi’s reactions, you might get the feeling that Suga, in fact, enjoys baiting his interlocutors, but over the course of the movie the larger impression is that this attitude is bred in the bone. When his LDP colleagues are interviewed they betray a kind of admiration for Suga’s ability to push people away, which they think is a rare but necessary talent for a politician. Shigeru Ishiba says that Suga doesn’t kiss ass and that his “intuition” is sharper than most people’s. Others say that while most politicians lie as a matter of course, Suga doesn’t, and that if he says he’ll do something he will. These observations don’t necessarily contradict his reputation for stonewalling and obfuscation, which obviously can be considered beneficial skills if they are exercised for your sake. Last Friday, Suga was ridiculed in the press for skipping a whole page of his prepared boilerplate speech in Hiroshima for the anniversary of the atomic attack. Most media made it sound as if he was being lazy or inept, but more likely he just didn’t want to say the part about ridding the world of nuclear weapons, because he’s already said elsewhere that he has no intention of joining the worldwide campaign to denuclearize, despite Japan’s history with regard to nuclear weapons. It was somebody else who said that the papers of the speech had gotten stuck together, not him. So, yeah, he doesn’t lie, especially if he can get someone else to do it for him. What you see is exactly what you get. 

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