Japologism.com Manifesto take 2

Thanks for all your input to the previous manifesto post!

Now, I’ve thought a bit more, and I think the watchword I want is "constructive". Both Tepido.org and Debito.org could be seen as "destructive", so I think trying to make a positive contribution (to what?) is a noble endeavour. Sparked by the discussion around Govinda Prasad Mainali, it seems a number of my readers go further than just the English press and a quick online Japanese newspaper search, thus perhaps we can arrive at a fuller understanding of news past just the headlines. One of the reasons for posting about the Mr Mainali story is that I suspect other sites may see this as just "The Japanese fitting up The Gaijin again", thus I wanted to try to present a fuller story. (Note: It of course seems very clearly a case of the Japanese prosecution and one of two judges fitting up a foreigner in a vulnerable position.)

So, with that in mind, if we get a good discussion going about various issues, it would be useful to summarise the output and produce a FAQ-like highlight of the matter at hand. Furthermore, sharing the output through somewhere like Google Docs and placing them under some form of Creative Commons licence would mean that they can outlive this blog.

Leave a comment ?

21 Comments.

  1. Definitely need a FAQ of some sort, it was a big weakness of tepido. Newcomers missed a lot of the earlier material, which was the most important in spelling out the long history of outrageous claims and the quite disturbing acts of the Crusader attacking his enemies in the real world, and context was lost. This made it very easy for newcomers, even those who are not Crusader fans, to just dismiss it as a “hate site”. If they don’t know the stories, it’s understandable why they’d question the motives of the site.

    A FAQ needs an explanation of how “japologism” is a joke as in the manifesto. Explain that we know there is racism in Japan, but we just want to expose the lazy BS claims of those whose new motto seems to be, “Racism! – It’s Everywhere You Want It To Be!” just so they can get attention and/or satisfy their need for personal revenge against the country that “betrayed” them.

    Would Google Docs or Cloud or Hammer-Space or whatever they’re calling it now require every contributor to have a Gmail account? How to do something like that without revealing the emails of contributors to the Crusader’s Harassment Corps? I assume some kind of open wiki won’t work as there needs to be a way to keep trolls from trashing it.

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  2. @Level3: Yes, I did consider that the shared aspect might not appeal to some people. Wikis are more privacy-protecting, but then creating accounts becomes a pain in the bum, then dealing with vandals, etc.

    An ideal solution for source code is github, but I don’t think it would handle document files too well.

    Update: Github offers a wiki – that could be a very useful solution…

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  3. I like the idea of this becoming something more constructive, broadly helpful and persistent, though I’m struggling with how to make it different (and better) than the dozens of blogs, etc. out there already.

    I guess the message is that life here doesn’t have to be hell here, for you or your family, be you here for a couple of years or the rest of your life, and being fundamentally content (with all the usual ups and downs of life) doesn’t require selling one’s soul to the devil — a little common sense and perspective can go a long way.

    I think part of the key to being meaningful to a broad enough audience, will be representing a good spectrum of foreign residents, from the so-called “FOTB Eikawa” to the long-term, linguistically and culturally fluent seishain sage.

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  4. Iago raises some good points about what would make this blog different.

    i. It has an open agenda: it is about helping people to live here and get over culture shock and cut through the anti-Japanese bias and “look at ME in wacky Japan” focus of many fora.

    ii. It is not a “personal” blog, and not a confessional. Of course, Ken runs it, but it welcomes many voices, who try to bring facts, figures, research etc to help people make sense of their experiences and what they hear, just as much as personal stories. It does this because as it stands, nowhere else does this, at least not honestly (you-know-who) or competently.

    The thing is, all that is terribly worthy. It needs that sense of fun, a desk on which to bang one’s head, that made Tepido enjoyable.

    iii. It’s a place people can let off steam about some bollocks or other that’s been published somewhere – why it’s wrong and why it matters that it’s wrong (misleading, stereotyping).

    For example, I’d like this:

    http://guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/jun/08/why-japan-prefers-pets-to-parenthood?cat=lifeandstyle&type=article

    taken to pieces. It’s being trailed on the BBC World Service. It’s by the same journalist who tried to read Japanese culture from the fact that people wait for the green man at crossings even if there are no cars – as in lots of countries around the world that aren’t Britain. I think ampontan had had a go at some of the research it’s based on, but it’s worse than that.

    In many parts of Tokyo, it is easier to buy clothes for dogs than for children

    :headdesk:

    and the brilliantly misleading:

    In Tokyo, it is easier for Horikoshi to find a canine daycare centre for Tinkerbell and Ginger than it would be to find a nursery place for a child.

    :headdesk: :headdesk: :headdesk:

    I hope this site is made of mahogany.

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  5. @ VK

    Yikes, that article is by Roland “My dad’s Michael, and he reads the news” Burke; a man who (according to a friend who used to work for the beeb) could not speak any Japanese when he was posted here as correspondent.

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  6. @Pessoa:

    Private Eye once suggested (pre-tsunami) that Buerk had been complaining that he was being underused. It was framed as an irresponsibly shortsighted neglect of East Asian affairs. With hindsight I think it wasn’t that.

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  7. Ken, one thing you should do is cease being so self-abasing. Letting Debito say tepido was a hate site, or a stalker site, knowing it to be untrue but not making a strident defense, gives him the moral high ground.

    The discussions here and on tepido are far more civil than what is found on Debito, and we know that Debito has has to approve every post before it appears, so we must assume that when a racist comment appears without rebuttal by Debito, that he agrees with it.

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  8. beneaththewheel

    Following what Matt says, one last final statement at Tepido.org would be a great thing. What the site was about, what it was started, what it tried to do, and also what it tried not to do, and what it may’ve done by mistake (and letting people decide for themselves and so forth).

    I like the way the manifesto of this site is going. I’m watching eagerly,

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  9. Tepido.org, like it or not, was antagonistic by nature simply because it defined itself by the actions of one outside person. This prevented the group from really having an identity of its own, and more importantly prevented it from ever becoming anything bigger than the person it was originally focused on.

    This ‘re-branding’ of the site (hey, I work in advertising, these are the terms I think in) is a step in a really positive direction that will allow the group to be defined by the contributors here. This will enable it to grow and thrive in its own directions, even as the original target of Tepido fades away.

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  10. re. the whole crosswalks thing: that’s a meme that has been been repeated for years (decades?)- it just won’t leave the toolbox of the lazy & lackwit reporters who cover Japan. Funny thing, as I always see Japanese (say those in a hurry or otherwise impatient) cross against the light when there are no cars.

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  11. @sublight:

    (Arse. a long post again. Sorry everyone)

    You’ve touched upon a point I’ve been trying to articulate.

    The problem with tepido.org was not that it was excessively focussed on one person, but that people’s perceptions of this focus devalued the bigger message.

    Arudou is the Platonic ideal of the alienated gaijin (regardless of what passport he holds). No matter how intellectual or crude he gets, there’s always some gaijin just like that that you’ve met in a bar somewhere. A focus on him brought a lot of quality material to the site because we didn’t have to assemble nonsense, bile, confusion and paranoia. It was done for us. As an illustration, I believe Big Daikon has found the hypnotic power of Arudou’s activities so strong that it has a “no Debito” rule, because any mention derails discussion.

    At the same time, it has been common in internet and real world chat for people to argue apologetically :roll: that while Arudou has serious faults, it’s great that he’s trying to fight for human rights (even if he is censorious, abusive, vindictive and inactive).

    The draw of tepido.org was that someone intelligent enough and intellectually honest enough (and charismatically funny enough) had decided to put their foot down and say “Stop this nonsense.” Directly, the site was saying “stop” to Arudou, but I think it evolved to say “stop” to a wider group of phenomena that had depressingly widespread currency.

    Giving up Arudou is not an easy thing.

    But this is where the conversation can start to turn constructive. One of the tasks of Japologism can be to analyse how, from where and why some foreigners end up with a view of a country that they would find preposterous if held about their own. What, for example, makes an Arudou, or a Johnson, or a Kyung Lah – or (bless him) a Roland Buerk.

    Another of the tasks is to treat commentary on Japan as if Japan is a real place and not a canvas for fantasies. This is done through the simple satirical act of taking commentators seriously: if a major national newspaper implies that there are more dog clothes shops in Tokyo than children’s clothes shops, treat them as if they meant it and have researched it. If a commentator claims that the police plan to read foreign ID cards with detectors at 20 metres, hold them to it, and ask where men with detector funnels are. This approach sets a fun standard. It can help us understand how even dull technical reports – if based in reality – take on a beauty of their own compared to garbage served up for clickbait in the JetSet-fellating international press.

    A third – and crucial, and ironic – element is human rights activism. One of the best defences of tepido.org was that whenever it picked up on genuine, defined complaints that surfaced on debito.org, it tried to act on them. It’s true that these problems might never have become public without debito.org, but it’s also true that they wouldn’t have been resolved had somebody not been watching debito.org with mistrust.

    As such, Japologism will do itself a great service if it has an “if you have a genuine complaint” section. It’s crucial that we can point to bona fide organisations who can give advice and perform advocacy, and that there are people we know or people who post who can help to solve certain less serious problems on a face to face basis. Shit does happen to foreigners here as foreigners here.

    I disagree a little bit with sublight’s suggestion that a focus on debito.org brought no unity. A bunch of people increasing in number found a place where they could rail and bitch, and rail and bitch because it mattered. It’s better that we don’t focus on one person, but it would be terrible if we lost the passion that that focus allowed us to have. The density of wrongness our travelled friend displays is difficult to reproduce. We should respect that.

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  12. @VK:

    You’re absolutely right.

    I think that if a mainstream publication, like the Japan Times as a random example, publishes a story or opinion[ated] piece that is absolute uninformed pants, then it is appropriate material for a rebuttal (referring to the classical term for apology — maybe the manifesto should refer to the Classical definition of Apologetics?).

    People are getting paid for peddling that stuff and, more to the point, [a few] people are paying to read it. The consumer deserves to be protected.

    Think of the children!!

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  13. …Oh, and yeah — the site has to have a personality. Again, agreeing with @VK here. Without some character, sense of humour and irreverance, it’ll just be one more of many Japan FAQ sites.

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  14. We need some place to to be able submit articles that need “new ones” ripped for them.

    E.g. There is a LOT of lazy reporting done in this article re: Japan I just came across:

    http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2012/06/10/immigration-lessons-for-the-u-s-from-around-the-world/?hpt=hp_c1

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  15. @chuckers:

    Are there other blogs that take reporting like this and give it a good, but humorous slapping? A Private Eye on lazy international reporting could be a nice recurring feature.

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  16. @VK, I second your concern about the recent Guardian article. It’s full of shoddy reporting- for instance it quotes Dr. Kunio Kitamura, whose “sex surveys” have been revealed to be merely flawed “anketo” funded by the Health Ministry with a tiny sample size (3000 people with a 57% response rate):
    http://www2.ttcn.ne.jp/honkawa/2465.html

    Ampontan has a takedown of this survey, you may not like his politics, but he has the chops:
    http://ampontan.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/suckers/

    btw, a couple of years ago a doctor stopped by my place of employment to give a sex ed lecture to the students- according to him Sapporo has some of the highest rates of sexual activity among minors, and Kushiro has the highest abortion rate in the nation. So at least up here in the north they have interest in doing it. It must be those long winters…

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  17. Interseting, and perhaps a little bit relevant, blog from The Economist:

    Almond’s Ostrich.

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  18. @iago:

    Aside from the obviously relevant bits about trying to deliberately ignore and suppress opinion you don’t like, Almond also comes up with this stunning admission:
    “The most insidious effect of our [oh so enlightened liberals’] addiction to right-wing misanthropy has been the erosion of our more generous instincts. “

    Rephrasing to the honest version: “I’m an asshole because the other side is just so darn evil, so it’s OK.”
    I can see why Team Macro-Aggression-3/11-Truther are so enthusiastic to drop their regular coverage of The Troooooth and put all that effort into portraying those who disagree with them (plus a few innocent bystanders) as the Devil. If they can paint the Enemy dark enough, it excuses their own behaviour – at least in their own minds. A coping mechanism for the pangs of guilt they must feel, unless they’re sociopaths or something.

    They also tend not to wonder why the violent threats only come from their side. Nor distance themselves from those who make them. Nope, they Twitter follow those psychos. And that is a damnable offense, I hear. :wink:

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  19. @Level3:

    Three screens down from the Credible Hulk(*), we have this gem;
    >I wonder if it’s really worth
    >allowing ‘dissenting opinions’ on this
    >forum, given that they are not really
    >opinions at all but symptoms of a
    >psychological condition.

    We’re not the Devil, we’re mentally ill! :shock: :evil: :headdesk: :headdesk:

    (*)Which I liked, by the way…

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  20. @Tony In Saitama:

    Yeah the Credible Hulk was doubly funny, because debito sure as hell doesn’t follow the claim it makes, unless he counts citing himself.

    But given his history, that kind of projection is no surprise. But is he now saying he approves of taunting and harassing the mentally ill? Shouldn’t we get the “Good job, buddy!” Special Olympics anything goes treatment instead of “Fuck you.” and “Begone!” :roll:

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  21. The Chrysanthemum Sniffer

    So hang on, are we allowed to cite debito.org these days?

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