Chapter 58 – Media Involvements
BETWEEN FOUR WORLDS: CHINA, RUSSIA, JAPAN AND AUSTRALIA.
BETWEEN FOUR CAREERS and FOUR LANGUAGES.
Meanwhile here in Japan things were happening which made me realise I did not need to be chasing vague Australian possibilities.
For some Japanese reason the media had decided they wanted my thoughts.
Sometime in the late seventies I had become a regular voice on the late night NHK (national television) education channel program, for a program called shiten ronten (views and debate).
The program gave you 15 minutes (later reduced to 10, thankfully,) to voice your ideas about any topic of choice. And since I had a lot of topics I ended up with a lot of voice.
I was free to speak, unrehearsed and without a script. But since I was speaking to a national audience I soon decided a script would be better than my disjointed mumblings.
Trade and economic frictions were one topic. Another was urging the Japanese to get out and discover their beautiful countryside.
Program ratings were low (around two percent), but the audience was quality. And even two percent in a nation of 120 million is a lot.
The main NHK channel also had me on some of their round table ‘think talks.’ Japanese-style management was a popular topic.
There the ratings were much higher.
Even Japan’s dominant rightwing and conservative media seemed happy to have me talking.
I was invited often for the rightwing Fuji TV’s Channel Eight regular Sunday AM discussion program.
Host for the program was the conservative commentator, Takemura Kenichi, with whom I had done that very successful taidan book – Yuunikuu na Nihonjin back in 1970.
In the early eighties he had also used me a lot on his Channel Four current affairs morning program – Seso Kodan.
(As mentioned earlier, the MC for the program was demure young lady called Koike Yuriko.
(She lived near our Sugamachi apartment in the Yotsuya area and we would meet occasionally for meals or drinks.
(But I sensed a strong political conservatism and the friendship never went deeper. She came from a militaristic Hiroshima family.
(But at the time she showed little interest in politics.
(I would never have predicted she would end up as a shrewd politician who would eventually become Japan’s Minister of Defense and Governor of Tokyo.)
Other TV Channels would also use me from time to time. One way or another I was getting a lot of exposure.
2. Print Media
The print media were also looking after me, Nikkei especially, mainly because of my long-standing relationship with them going back to the late 1960’s.
They had me as a regular columnist in their newly-launched Nikkei Business magazine. There I could sound off regularly on the weakness of Japan’s service sector, and the emotional foolishness of Japan’s stock market and land booms (we were still in pre-Bubble times).
Nikkei would also use me often for interview comments on budgets and other economic developments.
For one year in the early eighties they gave me a small, free-wheeling weekly column for the front page of their evening edition. Surprisingly, I got more reaction from that rather casual effort than I did from many other more serious media activities.
Even the evening editions of Japan’s main newspapers are able to attract serious readers.
That said, even educated Japanese prefer arguments to be presented lightly rather than in serious frontal discussion.
(Years later I was to get a similar response from a series of articles I did for the JAL Agora magazine.)
On the other side of the media spectrum, the mildly progressive Tokyo Shimbun gave me a regular 600 word column for more serious topics.
It ran alternatively with Ronald Dore, the progressive UK economist.
But that all ended abruptly when I upset them with my views about the killing of the MRTA hostage takers who took over Japan’s embassy in Peru in 1996.(Note 1.)
Dore continued much longer.
Bungei Shunju, the journal of archly conservative opinion in Japan, was even keen to run me at length on the Northern Territories question, which surprised me greatly.
Shokun, Bungei’s belligerently rightwing offshoot, followed up with a two-way (taidan) interview which surprised me even more.
I discovered that the Right in Japan are quite happy if you place much of the blame for the territorial dispute on the US – for having forced Japan to renounce the islands at San Francisco in 1951, even if in public they liked to denounce Moscow for ‘illegally’ taking the islands.
Even the ultra-right were happy to use me. Sankei Shimbun’s Seiron magazine had me for interviews on education problems.
The only print medium I had problems with, ironically, was the progressive Asahi stable. For most of my Japan existence they had ignored or avoided me.
I never found out why though I suspect they did not like the way my views on Japan’s culture were embraced by the rightwing and conservatives.
But as the debate over organ transplants heated up in the late nineties, I felt Asahi would be the ideal outlet for a piece pointing out how Tokyo’s refusal to allow transplants was forcing young Japanese children to go to Australia to receive organs that young Australian children needed.
In other words as a result of Japan’s inward-looking attitudes, Australian children might die in order to save Japanese children who should have been treated at home, and would have, but for Japan’s medical conservatism.
What kind of ‘internationalism’ was this, I asked? Asahi rejected the piece outright.
(Later I was told that Asahi, like many on the left, opposed transplant legalization for fear it would lead to a revival of Unit 731 and other wartime vivisection horrors – a strange way of thinking.)
I then gave the article to the conservative Yomiuri, who ran it in full, and happily. It produced a strongly approving reaction from a progressive doctors’ group which even asked me to give a speech (I declined, citing clinical ignorance).
But most of my media efforts were focussed economic and educational reform.
More on that in following chapters.
1. The MRTA were a basically non-violent, leftwing revolutionary group deemed illegal by the Peruvian government. Their main demands in the Embassy crisis were the release of their comrades, including their leader’s wife, from Peru’s notoriously cruel prison system, and for improvements in that system.
My advice in the article (and earlier to a surprising call from the Japanese Foreign Ministry) was to persuade the Peru government to offer to allow the MRTA to function as a regular political party in exchange for their leaving the embassy.That advice did little to stop the authorities from organizing a raid. All the MRTA people, women included, were killed with no chance for surrender.
Taken from original website:
Access to Foreign Media, and My Yugoslavia Problem
1. Foreign Media Access -CNN, IHT etc.
2. Yugoslavia Breakup – Croatia. Bosnia, Kosovo
3. Japan Times
By now it should be clear that my existence in Japan depended very much on access to media outlets, and that access was far from guaranteed.
I have already described my opportunities, and problems, with the Japanese media – the problems beginning after my argument with the Nihon Keizai Shimbun about the economy, and continuing during Japan’s love affair with Koizumi’s suicidal structural reform.
I would have more of the same up-and-down experience with foreign media.
But here my problems were largely of my own making – my distress over the events in Yugoslavia in the late nineties especially.
1. Foreign Media Access
Initially my access to foreign outlets had been good.
The world had wanted to know about the Japanese economic miracle and the trade problems it was causing.
The world was beating a door to any available commentator with a few ideas and a voice.
I was usually available in Tokyo. Quite a few came to my door.
CNN was one outlet. They used me quite a lot, until they cut back their intelligent, hard-working Tokyo operation.
All the other US channels also used me at one time or another.
I could also run occasional articles, even columns, in various English language newspapers and magazines in Japan.
But apart from the International Herald Tribune (see below) I never had any regular and serious foreign outlet.
At the height of the Koizumi nonsense I tried to get a carefully considered piece into the Financial Times, pointing out the mainly cultural reasons for Japan’s chronic lack of domestic demand and the need for fiscal stimulus.
I knew that journal too was in love with the promised Koizumi ‘structural reforms’. But I thought it had enough integrity to run something different.
I did not get even the courtesy of a reply, let alone access.
That was bad enough. Far worse was having eventually to end up in much the same situation with the International Herald Tribune.
International Herald Tribune
For over twenty years I had had a good connection with that Paris-based US newspaper of quality.
They had approached me in the early seventies, back in the days when their coverage of Japan was weak.
They would run almost anything I sent them, especially on foreign policy.
One reason, I guess, was that I was one of the few outside contributors willing to type up my copy and head for the central post office to mail it off to Paris. In those days we did not even have fax machines.
IHT articles invariably produced a reaction in Japan, especially with the Gaimusho.
Indeed, one rumor said that the two papers regularly delivered to Gaimusho desks were the IHT and the Far Eastern Economic Review, and I was writing for both of them.
But all that was soon to finish. The FEER ended up under rightwing US control and has lost authority as a result.
The IHT too started to turn conservative, with many of its articles taken directly from the Washington Post.
Outside contributors were cut heavily. I was not excepted.
But it was the Kosovo question that finally finished me, in much the same way that the Koizumi problem had finished me with the Japanese media.
Kosovo was also to leave me profoundly disgusted with Western politics, which was to create something of a problem for me since I was already fairly upset with the Japanese version too.
2. Yugoslavia On My Mind
In the early 1990’s, fresh from their disastrous meddling in post-Soviet Russia, our Western policy planners (and the Vatican, it appears – see Emperors Clothes website) turned their attention to Yugoslavia – a country I had been involved with back in the fifties and had followed closely ever since in the context of Soviet bloc politics.
Having wrecked the economy of the former USSR and encouraged its breakup, the policy-planners had quickly realised that here was a chance to weaken the independent-minded but still pro-Moscow Serbs.
And by encouraging Yugoslavia breakup they could also in one swoop gain four extra fiefdoms in central Europe.
Independence for Slovenia I could just understand. I had been there in the fifties and could sense its cultural identity.
But when I heard that the West was determined to support and encourage Croatian independence, despite its large Serbian minority, I knew there would be trouble.
We Australians had long known about the Ustashi, that Serb-hating, fascist-leaning, Croatia-based organization. Its attacks on Yugoslav government facilities in Australia and elsewhere were both frequent and deadly.
The Serbs had lost one million people during World War Two, mainly at the hands of pro-Nazi Ustashi Croatians whose atrocities are said to have shocked even the Germans. Now postwar they were at it again.
Clearly the idea of making the Serbian minority accept Croatian domination again was out of the question, or so we thought.
True, as Serbian militants tried to assert independence and recover some of towns and villages from which they had been ethnically cleansed by the wartime Croatians, there were atrocities, by both sides, with the Serbian atrocities gaining almost all the publicity in the Western media.
‘Ethnic cleansing’ it was called. But only the ‘cleansing’ by the Serbs was noted.
Clearly separation of the two peoples was the only possible solution, with Serbs retaining some autonomy or the right to link up with Serbia proper.
But that was not to happen. With Western approval and support the Croatians were able to expel the Serbs completely, with no mention of Croatian ‘ethnic cleansing’ in the Western media.
Later, the bloody expulsion of almost half a million Serbs from Croatia’s Krajina area – the largest, least ambiguous, least publicised and arguably the cruelest example of ethnic cleansing during the entire post-Yugoslavia troubles – was also to be seen as acceptable by the West.
In all, Belgrade was forced to accept close to one million refugees from its former territories, mainly from Croatia.
And yet it was the Serbs, not those responsible for the refugees, who were supposed to be the ‘ethnic cleansers.’
As yet another example of black being converted into white, this one deserves some sort of prize.
Bosnia saw much the same Western hypocrisy.
No one seemed to want to realise that Bosnia, like Croatia to some extent, was an artificial entity, in which Tito had deliberately included a large Serbian minority in a bid to portray Yugoslavia as a multi-ethnic state where everyone could live together happily (provided Belgrade had firm control).
The Serbs there had also suffered their share of wartime atrocities, this time at the hands of both pro-Nazi Croatians and pro-Nazi Muslims
Demanding that they accept Muslim majority rule plus a Croatian minority input was insanity – murderous insanity as it proved to be.
Here too quick and early separation of the peoples was the only answer.
And since no one was willing to do it peacefully – “we must respect the integrity of the (artificial) Bosnian state”, was the excuse – it had to come about through massive slaughter, by both sides.
Needless to say, the Western policy-makers responsible for the slaughter were delighted to blame the Serbs for the bloodshed.
(I once asked Akashi Yasushi, whom I knew quite well and who had been the UN representative there in charge of peace-keeping forces, about his Bosnian experiences. In a sad voice all he could say was that ‘whatever you do there you will end up being criticised by someone.’
(He was to be ousted by the West, the US especially, for the sin of seeming to be too fair-minded and neutral.)
True, Western protests against the Serbian revenge killings of Muslims in the Srebrenitsa area were justified – several thousands were taken away and killed, it is claimed.
But no one bothered to look at the killings of Serbs in scattered villages in that once Serbian-majority area that had been going on for some years beforehand, also in the thousands.
In Kosovo it was even worse.
The Serbs there had already suffered one bout of massacre at the hands of pro-Nazi Muslim Albanians during World War Two, which had effectively reduced them to a minority in an area sacred to the Serbs for historical and religious reasons.
Even so, Belgrade was willing to give autonomy to the postwar ethnic Albanian majority there.
Tensions between the two peoples continued, however, and control was returned to Belgrade in 1991.
But with the Serbs in control, the Albanians moved to total non-cooperation.
Soon a guerrilla war was underway, with Western-armed ethnic Albanians, operating from Albania as the Kosovo Liberation Army, beginning activities by wiping out defenceless Serbians living in isolated rural areas – ethnic cleaning in the purest sense of the word.
However, when the Yugoslav army finally took some very justified defensive and retaliatory measures to put an end to this atrocity, it was they who were to be condemned as the ‘ethnic cleansers’ (by this time and after Croatia and Bosnia the word was very much in vogue among the Western commentators, almost none of whom seemed to know anything about the situation on the ground in Kosovo, or Bosnia for that matter).
(I once asked one of them whether he knew that much of the territory being fought over in Bosnia had been Serbian territory prewar. He showed surprise and promised to check. I never heard any more from him.)
This in turn gave the West its excuse for the vicious, vandalistic bombing of Serbia, to force Kosovo independence.
The excuse for this bombing was the 1999 Rambouillet meeting where the West tried to force on Belgrade one of the most disgracefully one-sided documents ever imposed by the West on a victimised nation, which is saying a lot.
Apart from anything else, its original version had included a clause which would have required Belgrade to allow NATO troops free movement throughout all of former Yugoslavia.
As even Henry Kissinger put it: “The Rambouillet text, which called on Serbia to admit NATO troops throughout Yugoslavia, was a provocation, an excuse to start bombing. Rambouillet is not a document that an angelic Serb could have accepted. It was a terrible diplomatic document that should never have been presented in that form.” (Daily Telegraph, June 28th 1999)
Later the inclusion of that clause was admitted to have been a ‘mistake.’
But once again, don’t expect our policy-makers to apologise for the mistake. They had already used Belgrade’s reluctance to accept that mistake as an excuse to justify the vandalistic bombing of Serbia they had been wanting to do from the beginning.
Nor expect anyone, apart from Wikipedia, to look at what actually happened at Rambouillet. Yet even they do not look at the strange relationship between the US representative, Madeline Albright and the young handsome KLA leader Thaci.
For that feisty lady, the moderate Ibrahim Rugova whom Belgrade had accepted as a leader in an autonomous Kosovo, was dull, old and boring.
Partly on the basis of that personal whim, much of Serbia’s infrastructure was to be destroyed and several thousand of its citizens killed.
And the West talks about morality in foreign affairs.
Soon, with the KLA in control, more ethnic cleansing was underway in Kosovo, this time not only of the Serbs but also Jews, gypsies (both favorite targets of pro-Nazis around Europe) and even moderate Albanians who had tried to coexist with Serbs.
In little more than ten years, the Serbian population had been reduced from 30 percent to 10 percent though killings and forced expulsions.
But the Europeans continued to gloat and boast how they had had bravely to resort to ‘robust measures’ (their favorite word nowadays for any form of brutal force) to put an end to the evil of Serbian ‘ethnic cleansing’, even though the remaining ten percent Serbs now have to live in protected enclaves to avoid being further ethnically cleansed.
The Europeans today boast how as a result of their union and cooperation they have not only made a complete break from Nazi Germany days. They also claim to have prevented the outbreak on any war on the European continent since 1945.
Somehow they manage to forget that what they did to Serbia was not only war. It was a direct throwback to pre-1945 Nazi anti-Serb hatreds, bombings and atrocities, with massive weaponry and phony excuses used to force a small European nation into submission.
Does it get any more degrading than this?
In a long career involved with foreign affairs I had seen any number of instances where Western propagandists had managed to change black into white and vice versa – all the way from the 1962 Sino-Indian border war and the 1964 Tonkin Gulf affair, to the Georgian attack on Ossetia being presented as a Russian attack on Georgia and the Ukrainian refusal to pay for Russian gas being presented as a Russian attempt to blackmail Europe.
But few were as bad as Kosovo.
Indeed, for me this was as ugly as Vietnam, with every day bringing fresh news of the dreadful destruction being rained down on a brave people – the only European people west of Russia to have resisted the wartime Nazi invaders.
Worse, its attackers included a large number – Hungary, Bulgaria, Italy, Romania, not to mention Germany itself – who had gone along with the Nazi invaders. The alleged Vatican role was especially ugly.
I had to try to get something into print, even though it was clear that IHT went along with the Western view of events, as did almost all the commentators.
But one after another, my agonised articles to the IHT went to the rubbish basket.
In desperation I asked whether I could at least be allowed to have a letter to the editor, which they ran but with a garble that made it seem weird.
From then on all further copy from me on any topic – on the Japanese economy mainly, but also something trying to set the record straight on Tiananmen – was axed automatically.
I seem to have been put on a kind of black list of weirdo wannabe contributors to be avoided.
3. Japan Times
Fortunately I was still able to get my material, including Kosovo, published in the Japan Times.
Though based in Tokyo, its online version had global reach. Indeed, I often got the earliest and best comments from overseas rather than domestic readers.
(The reactions to my Kosovo piece ranged from the Serbian ecstatic to Albanian excruciating.)
Here I was able to write about any topic I liked, with a minimum of censorship.
I was, for example, able to dig out the facts of the so-called Tiananmen massacre (yet another major black information distortion victory for our Western propagandists – see my JT articles on this website).
Getting out the facts over another distortion – this time Georgia and South Ossetia – was also a satisfaction.
Even better I was able to use the articles, with good Japanese translations by the still uncomplaining Yasuko, as the basis for this website kindly set up by one of my former Nakadaki residents.
Later I was able to include some Russian translations by a Russian journalist friend in Tokyo.
There is a special pleasure in having one’s articles preserved in this way.
The only problem I ever had was when I wrote a piece saying it was understandable China distrusted Japan if an outfit like the rightwing Nippon Zaidan held such political sway.
The Zaidan got its funds from a highly dubious motorboat racing gambling monopoly given to Ryoichi Sasagawa by the LDP, who in turn had got his funds and political power thanks to wartime plunder activities in China.
The Zaidan protested violently, threatening legal action, claiming (falsely) that it, like Sasagawa, was a great friend of China.
JT got rather agitated; the Zaidan was an important customer. The problem was eventually solved, but only with some damage to myself.
In seeking more detail about Sasagawa I discovered something interesting.
The many volumes of Kodansha’s Encyclopedia of Japan carry biographies of anyone and everyone relevant to Japan, no matter how unimportant, going back centuries.
Even haiku poets of the 16th century get a mention.
But there was no mention of Sasagawa – a key man in Japanese postwar politics and in helping the LDP maintain its control.
No doubt Kodansha too had run into the Zaidan’s hostility and preferred to stay away.
Using its immense financial and political resources, the Zaidan has since moved even further into the mainstream of Japanese society.
Which means that people like myself have to move even further out, I guess.
I talk more about this problem in my next chapter.