New York Times’ dodgy headline and quotes

First we get the title of the article, “Departing From Country’s Pacifism, Japanese Premier Vows Revenge for Killings“, which to the casual reader may suggest there’s already a squadron of Kamikaze Zeros on their way over.

Next, the body text has the quote that forms the basis of the headline:

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reacted with outrage, promising “to make the terrorists pay the price.”

However, reading the official English translation of his comments, the closest I can find is:

I will never forgive these terrorists. I will work with the international community to hold them responsible for their deplorable acts.

It is possible, I admit, to abridge the full quote to get the shorter one offered by the New York Times, but given that the article author is Martin Fackler, I believe he has deliberately twisted the meaning. Note that on Twitter, he acknowledges that the headline (not the quote) is flawed click-bait:

The headline is not exactly what I wanted to say, but it gets attention

Talking of official versus unofficial translations, I saw this interesting look at another hostage-related issue.  His view is:

It is my experience that non-native speakers of the language being translated tend to produce more fluid but less accurate text

A rather more generous opinion that I have given!

Leave a comment ?


  1. Dedicated Whale Researcher

    Ah, I’ve seen this thing before. It happens when you Vinnie Jones-ify a Japanese translation into English.

    It starts off with, “Imma cut off dere bawls, and fookin fly Karmikaziyes up dere arseholes.”

    and eventually edits down to: “…to make the terrorists pay the price.”

  2. Don’t editors write the lede for articles? In this case, it’s a telling example what agenda America’s “newspaper of record” is pushing.

  3. Ken on another phone

    By the way, on last night’s Hodo Station they had an in-depth look at Abe answering questions in the Diet about the statement, and he clarified that he meant he wished to bring them before a court such as the ICJ in The Hague.

    *puts on tinfoil hat* But of course he would say that…

  4. The whole article does reek of “Fackler”: he’s been pushing the “Japan and Abe are going to start a war!” theme even before he became Prime Minister.

    However, even if Fackler didn’t write the NYT headline (“revenge” isn’t the same as “pay the price”, which can mean “experiences the consequences of the law or justice”), he DID write “pay the price”, which is a very, very loose definition of 決して許さない which is what PM Abe actually said. Following up on that, the MoFA translation is a better, less biased and loaded, translation than Fackler’s: “I will work with the international community to hold them responsible for their deplorable acts.”

    His exact words:


  5. Well, Tabuchi is safer there, as there’s less chance of obese Canadians stalking her and threatening her, so I can see what she means.

  6. Ken on another phone

    Apropos of nothing, I really need to get the :headdesk: button working on mobile by tomorrow…

  7. A debi-dimwit wrote:

    “Don’t doctors in Japan take the hypocratic oath?”

    No, its a western tradition – one that is itself dying out in the western world.
    Japanese medical ethics covers a loyalty to the state and to the community that would allow for reporting suspicious people to the police.

    Let me restrict my search to the exact same site that he used… but this time using Japanese:

    Oops. If only he hadn’t relied on English to search about Japan.

    (additional searches outside that domain show that it’s a tradition among doctors who were taught and practice western medicine– which yes, includes licensed doctors in Japan)

    Debi-dimwit’s right about one thing — it is a dying tradition… but that’s not because of cynicism regarding modern medical care; it’s because the Oath was always, in its pure form, impractical for modern medicine — and most places, if they do take an oath, use a modified form of it.

  8. Today’s text: from the book of That Weird Old Senile Barfly Gaijin

    Japan, on the other hand, constantly recycles yore as lore. For example, 70 years since WWII, it still defines itself in terms of a war with few eyewitnesses left, carefully filtering out the evil that inevitably happens in wartime and revarnishing the near-destruction of a nation-state as something glorious.

    Japan’s media operate a powerful nostalgia mill for our growing population of conservative elderly. And they are receptive to it: Eldsters, I am discovering myself, find happiness by forgetting bad stuff that happened to them. What good is there in remembering things that make you unhappy?

    Of course, that’s fine on an individual level. But for a whole society? The perpetual gerontocracy of Japan’s leadership has happily expanded that into a national narrative and redefined “history” as only “beauty.” Living in a meticulously sanitized past has its uses — even if that means you’re likely doomed to repeat its mistakes.

    I want to walk away, but he seems so lonely.

  9. @Eido,

    Good to see Eoin Hughes actually get his comment through. This was what the Japanese articles said to me: pain-in-the-arse parent obstructs an ER doctor who had actually examined his daughter and given a diagnosis and recommendation (ie he treated her) for two hours straight and the doctor unfortunately flips.

    I thought one of the problems with Japanese was that they were unfeeling robots. This story has me all confused. :headdesk:

  10. Ken on another phone

    VK, it’s all a bit sad and I don’t feel it is worth a full article, but I find it curious that he seems to have made a virtue out of estranging three generations of his family.

  11. Their current brouhaha reminds me how hard up they are for material.
    Their forum of Chinese whispers quickly escalated the story into a lurid tale of venom filled hate doctors dripping spittle and telling innocent babes to die in their own shit.
    Their Japanese born wives clue them in to the hidden world of antiNJ indoctrination classes that all yellow nazi children feverishly attend.

    And then the money shot when one of their number requests a link to THE ACTUAL TEXTBOOK USED IN JAPANESE SCHOOLS TO TEACH ELEMENTARY SCHOOL STUDENTS TO HATE FOREIGNERS.

    suggestions for titles below please

    We are the chopstick people
    Big Nose? Big Problem.
    Maintaining the Wa
    How to spot a Chinese
    They wear their shoes inside

  12. KT88 (active contributor)

    Also –

    Don’t Sit Next to THEM on Public Transport
    WE can eat nattou – can THEY?
    Tatemae for Dummies
    Escape routes for kids with gaijin dads
    Compassionate Communication with Illiterates

  13. People – you DO realize that most of the posters over there now are trolls? They are not serious, they are just folks like JDG who have made it their life’s mission to destroy Debito’s reputation by association.

    Bitching about the stupid things they say is silly – of course they are saying ridiculously inane and racist things, that’s the whole point!

  14. Reverse Troll is Obvious

  15. KT88 (smart, suave AND smug)


    Though nice to have company, methinks your observation is neither new nor news to folks around these parts. You might want to stroll around and have a read – been a while since your last visit?

  16. Do the Japan Times editors not feel any sort of duty of care to their contributors? That latest column is one of the most mental pieces he’s written, and he’s written a lot of mental.

  17. I don’t believe that Debito’s fans are trolling him. I think they are serious. I’ve met some and they are truly a bunch of self-righteous paranoid racists.

    Anyway, regarding the doctor-patient video in question, I have a few comments for Debito or any of his half-witted fans who’ve scrolled here.

    One. The doctor *did* treat and diagnose the patient (s VK said above). He did *not* refuse her treatment. When you say otherwise Debito, you are lying. You read Japanese, you can read the article. Don’t lie.

    Two. There is absolutely nothing — I repeat nothing — in the article or video that suggests the doctor’s verbal attack was race-based. Zero.
    So don’t use that pretext, Debito because when you race-bait like that you are being deceitful (which is typical of your fraudulent ‘activism’)

    Third- The number of monster patients who obstruct hospital procedures by needlessly prolonging a consultation is increasing. 99% of doctors put a brave face on while dealing with these self-entitled twits (unfortunately this doctor lost it. Yeah- it’s not professional and calls for some reprimand, but its understandable). It is not only unbelievably stressful for overworked doctors to deal with monster patients like this but it also means that other patients can’t get treatment because the doctor is being held captive by a single demanding patient.

    This guy harangued the doctor for over two hours. Then he starts barraging them on video while they are all contrite and apologize (and still some of you dumbasses on think the ER staff should also be berating the doctor. Apologies and contrition not good enough? Nah- they’re the wrong race. They deserve it being wa-jin and all).

    And he carries out this insulting barrage to an entire damned ER team. These are busy people! Did you Debito fuckwits ever think that maybe, just maybe, other patients were scheduled to be treated by this doctor but he couldn’t escape this unnecessary two-hour smackdown? Did you ever think that maybe the waiting patients were in more need. Maybe they too were foreigners. Maybe someday they’ll be your kids. Ever think of that?

    Nah, you don’t think of that Debito, because your race-baiting blinds you to common sense and understanding moral prerogatives.

    Three. “Shine” translates literally to “die!”, true, but it is clearly not the same as telling the patient that he hopes the patient dies or telling the patient to die, as Debito tries to make it appear(any more than saying ‘Fuck off’ means to go and have sexual intercourse). For one thing he said it to the father, not the patient. Second, “Shine” is what you say when you are angry. Dem’s fighting words. You know what it means Debito, but again you lie to your readers by rendering the exchange as if the doctor is talking to the young patient and that it expresses the doctors hope or wish. That’s bullshit and you know it!

    Debito, you not only get almost everything wrong in all your ‘essays’, you flat out lie about the details, and advocate obstruction of medical duties.

    So,on behalf of medical staff and needy patients who are severely inconvenienced, even endangered, because people like you who stand up for obstruction simply because the participants are the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ race, I’d like to offer a giant Fuck You to you and your bigoted, ill-informed, lying, fraudulent, morally bankrupt, ‘activism’.

    (Doctors everywhere applaud. Apologist removes surgical gloves and wipes hands)

  18. A welcome post on something not relating to the usual sad sacks, and what should be a topic of discussion post debito (are we there yet??), but it devolves again. Oh well, carry on.

  19. who calls their kid Andrew anyway. it’s a wanker’s name.

    I don’t mind getting my debito hate-on here as nobody seems bothered to talk about anything but. Wading in and moaning like a white cunt won’t help, will it?

    “0h I check this forum everyday but the discourse is just not intelligent enough for me to comment on because I’m an old hand, I’ve been to the doctors and I know the game, 0h yes I know what all the squiggly marks in the newspaper are you know, like, I’ve studied, yeah, I’m sooooo learn-ed.”

  20. I agree to a large extent with The Apologist. Social Networks are all you need to know that there are seriously paranoid gaijin out there that just make stuff up that they genuinely believe, and which they genuinely believe is fighting against racism rather than just being a bunch of creepy bigoted old men. I don’t know if the reason why they tend to be in their fifties is because fifty-something’s go crazy like that, or if it’s that cohort, but Poe’s Law, seriously. One or two may be putting it on, but for such an extended time? Wouldn’t you get bored of it?

  21. Also the sheer amount of time that Jim Di Griz/Steve Jackman spend online posting comment after comment and logging in and out of various sites to up vote their comments must eventually eat into their professional and personal lives negatively.

    You wouldn’t mess up your own life just to wind up a petty, obscure racist going through a mid life crisis. I think the mentals do buy the doctors gibberish.

  22. KT88 (trembling, afraid, foundations rocked)


    “I don’t believe that Debito’s fans are trolling him. I think they are serious. I’ve met some and they are truly a bunch of self-righteous paranoid racists.”

    Have you actually met the man behind the esteemed Jim Di Griz? If so, is he for real? If he is… well, I guess I long-conned myself.

  23. @KT
    I haven’t met JDG (as far as I know) but I’ve met people who have the same scroll running through their heads. I do know one AD regular for certain. It’s a hyperbolic us&them script aimed at anyone with presumed authority and/or privilege.

    I know whatcha mean and sometimes I feel the same way. But this particular case caught my attention for 2 reasons:

    1. This story has moved beyond but is influenced by his ham-handed narrative.

    2. I work in a hospital and I’ve seen first hand the havoc brought about by Monster Patients, especially upon doctors and nurses who are stressed out, can’t function at the level they should, and even quit/become clinically depressed because of these types of self-entitled patients. I’ve been called in to translate in a similar situation when a foreign patient spent the better part of the morning lambasting most of one department’s staff over – oh I forget now – something like how they be served macadamia nuts on a plate rather than in a bag.

  24. Nothing much to nibble at in this month’s JBC, but I did like this quote:

    My vocation has always involved college-age students, and I’ve never quite distanced myself from them mentally.

    Last scene of all,
    That ends this strange eventful history,
    Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
    Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

  25. Ken on another phone

    *sigh* Jeff Kingston gets even dodgier with “vengance”in the Japan Times. I’ll try to write it up tonight.

  26. > It is my experience that non-native speakers of the language being translated tend to produce more fluid but less accurate text

    Nobody pounced on this?

    Native speakers of the language being translated are translating *into* their second language, which almost always results in far *less* accurate text, with the added ‘benefit’ that the writing overall is usually complete rubbish.

    The idea that non-native translators are ‘less accurate, but it reads better’ is just silly; the easiest way to spot errors in a translation is to find the spots where the writing breaks down, it’s invariably because the translator lost the plot somewhere.

    I will say this – translations that are *edited* by non-Japanese-speaking editors are very often less accurate but read better.


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