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Right-wingers Behaving Badly, Asian Edition

April 20th, 2008

China’s pissed:

“Reaction [in China to protests in Japan] would be huge in comparison to the reaction against protests in France,” in which Web sites called for a boycott of French products sold at Carrefour stores, an international issue expert said, pointing out that negative feelings toward Japan remain strong in China due to historical issues.

A man in his 30s who runs a Web site that is popular with many Chinese “patriots,” told The Yomiuri Shimbun, “Chinese people won’t forgive [Japan] if the Japanese do the same things as the Americans and Europeans, such as making distorted reports about the Tibet issue.”

Well, China asked for it, and now they’ve got it. Seriously, did they expect that they could hold a summer Olympics and not have Tibet take the opportunity of a world spotlight to rebel? And when scattered protests break out in various nations, do they really think that threatening other countries is the way to make things better?

As for Japan, I bet they must really be scared at the threat this guy is making. Because, after all, Japan is so used to and dependent upon China forgiving it. Haven’t the Chinese been just the picture of forgiveness? Not that Japan hasn’t gone the full distance in asking for it, but China has come even less close to giving it.

If nothing else, these Olympics will serve an important purpose: to demonstrate that China is not ready to be an internationally respected leader of any global interest. Hell, they might even outdo the Bush administration.

But then again, Japanese right-wing extremists have been behaving badly themselves:
At a special preview of “Yasukuni” demanded by rightwing groups, some of the 150 members criticized the controversial, but award-winning, documentary about the so-named Tokyo war shrine and even threatened to sue the state for subsidizing part of its production. Rightwing groups arranged the preview so their members could have an opportunity to watch the film before passing judgment on it. Lawmakers demanded and got an earlier preview. …

One in the audience suggested he and his like-minded colleagues should sue the agency and the state, demanding the return of the film’s subsidy. Another said the movie should not be shown in Japan because it would give the impression that the war Japan waged was an act of aggression. “This is no good,” he said. “I absolutely do not want this movie to be screened.”

Mitsuhiro Kimura, one of the preview’s organizers and the president of Issui-kai, a rightist group, “I would like to produce a pro-Yasukuni movie with about ¥15 million” in agency subsidies.

My first reaction is, “right-wing extremists can force the government to give them a special screening so they can trash the film?” How did that happen? Lawmakers getting a screening I can understand, but the extremists? What official say do they have in this?

Of course, the rightists are extremely vocal about such things, and people on the other side tend to shut up, especially when the rightists threaten them with loud, hostile protests and even violence. These extremists have something of a hold over social commentary in Japan, often getting their message out in a louder and more aggressive fashion–and they are not shy about intimidating others.

An interesting contrast would be the 1995 Smithsonian exhibit of the Enola Gay fuselage. When text for the exhibit was released and it seemed to show sympathy for the Japanese victims of the bomb, American veterans and right-wing groups protested that the text was an “attack on America’s conduct in the war,” and successfully got the Smithsonian to tone down the message to a minimalist description. Historians then objected right back–but they did not have the clout that the right-wingers did. Conservatives controlled Congress at the time, and started threatening the Smithsonian with budget cuts and investigations. Intimidation of a different sort, but still intimidation.

And, oh yes–Japan protested as well, as they did with a similar Enola Gay exhibit in 2003. Hmm. Someone want to remind them of this in light of the Yasukuni protest?

It’s not as if Japanese cinema doesn’t get its share of right-wing sops; from heavily anti-American documentaries on the Tokyo Tribunals to a right-wing revisionist love letter for Hideki Tojo, Japanese cinema has without doubt leaned toward right-wingers’ view of history. Even Akira Kurosawa, long neglected by Japanese viewers, enjoyed a popular comeback when he produced a film about Nagasaki which featured Richard Gere delivering a heartfelt apology from America to Japan.

But films which portray the other side of things tend to get this kind of reception in Japan. Not to say that this doesn’t happen elsewhere, but at least in debates on such subjects in the U.S., both sides tend to get heard. Right now, there is some doubt that this movie on Yasukuni will even see the light of a public film projector.

  1. ykw
    April 21st, 2008 at 02:46 | #1

    China blocks wikipedia. I think that is amazing.

  2. Luis
    April 21st, 2008 at 08:53 | #2

    China blocks a heck of a lot more than just WikiPedia! They block hundreds if not thousands of web sites–many directly, and many others by keywords, I believe. When I was there, I could not get through to half the web sites I normally visit. Ironically, some Chinese guys at the Internet cafe helped me out: they pointed out how to use RealPlayer as a browser, which somehow got around at least some of the blocking.

  3. April 22nd, 2008 at 07:27 | #3

    Thanks– very good tip Luis. Will have to try it.

  4. Luis
    April 23rd, 2008 at 01:00 | #4

    Umm… will have to try what?

  5. Sei
    April 23rd, 2008 at 01:26 | #5

    try using RealPlayer to get around the blocking when I’m there.

  6. Stuart
    April 23rd, 2008 at 05:33 | #6

    This bit about the movie reminds me of the whole deal with history books in Japan. They don’t want books with any mention of Nanjing and events there. If it shows the bad parts of their own histories they don’t want to know. The same kind of thing happens in the South of the United States when they try to teach kids that the Civil War was a “war of northern agression” and leave out all the bits about how the South was trying to reinstitute the slave trade.

  7. Luis
    April 23rd, 2008 at 08:35 | #7

    Sei:Oh, that. Just open Real Player, go to the File menu, and choose “New Browser.” I don’t remember anything else as it was several years ago, I wasn’t watching the guy too closely, and all the software was in Chinese. At the time, I just assumed that there was something about the browser that made it able to avoid the blocks–certainly, I was pretty surprised that Real Player could even do a browser window, so I thought that the Chinese government had overlooked something about it. I don’t know how it worked, nor do I know if the Chinese government has blocked off that particular avenue since then. If it doesn’t work anymore, I’d suggest visiting an Internet cafe and see if the geeks there know what to do.

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