Media Monitor

WaPo Goes Monocellular

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Tokyo -- It's always a little revealing when one of the major US newspapers like the Washington Post or the New York Times writes an editorial on Japanese politics.

In the first place, they seem to be unable to view policies in Tokyo through any other lens than US-Japan relations; and secondly, they almost always reveal, quite inadvertently, the fact that they are not really paying close attention in any case.

A WaPo editorial today reveals both of these characteristics and more.

On the face of it, the editorial's leading point is to encourage Americans not to completely ignore politics in Japan and to recognize that Tokyo still matters and important issues are at stake.

Of course, if the editors of the Washington Post truly believe what they wrote, there's no reason why they couldn't put their money where their mouth is and expand their regular news coverage of current affairs in Tokyo.

However, the real point of the editorial is to launch yet another media hatchet job on Ichiro Ozawa.

The manner in which the WaPo editors choose to introduce Ozawa to their readers is worth quoting at length:

"Incumbent Prime Minister Naoto Kan is being challenged by Ichiro Ozawa, a longtime backroom power broker who has dreamed and schemed for decades in hopes of becoming the out-front leader. Exactly what governing philosophy Mr. Ozawa would bring to the job is hard to say, because his professed ideologies have mutated over the years. But in his current incarnation he is less friendly to the U.S.-Japan alliance, and more attracted to China's dictatorship, than most Japanese leaders -- and, according to polls, than most Japanese."

The Washington Post manages to pack in several wrong-headed and, frankly, slanderous assaults on Ozawa in just this one paragraph.

What sets Ozawa apart from many of his contemporaries is precisely that he DIDN'T try to become prime minister on several occasions in the past when he might have easily done so. If the WaPo editors are correct and Ozawa's long-held "scheme" was to become the "out-front leader," then there is no reason that he couldn't have achieved his goal in the mid-1990s within the framework of the old LDP.

From this point alone, we can understand that the WaPo editors are either deeply ignorant of recent Japanese political history, or else deliberately trying to manipulate the feelings of their readers.

A secondary point is that it is not clear that Ozawa has no "governing philosophy" or that his "ideologies have mutated." This is yet another case of commentators taking Ozawa's refusal to explain himself publicly as a license to present whatever interpretation of his behavior they wish.

Finally - and quite slanderously - there is no evidence whatsoever that Ozawa is "attracted to China's dictatorship."

Clearly, Ozawa does believe in the vital importance of friendly relations between Japan and its giant Asian neighbor. That seems sensible enough to us. But how the WaPo editors move from this point to the conclusion that it is China's "dictatorship" that appeals to Ozawa, is something that should cause anyone to marvel.

Frankly, this is the caliber of logic that should remain confined to the rightwing soundtrucks blaring their martial songs through the streets of Tokyo. It is not something one would expect to find in a leading American newspaper.

It seems possible that the Washington Post's little anti-Ozawa tirade may be attributable to their annoyance that Ozawa recently dared to describe Americans as "monocellular" and "simple-minded" when speaking before a group of Japanese lawmakers.

The fact that Ozawa also confessed at the same time that he personally "liked Americans" was not deemed worthy of mention - probably because it didn't fit the preferred editorial line.

In the end, any serious reading of today's editorial in the Washington Post can only lead to one of two conclusions: Either Ozawa is right and Americans are indeed "monocellular" (in the sense that they react predictably to criticism), or else the WaPo editors are indeed quite clever - but also morally unfit to hold their positions as opinion leaders in American society.

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