I had long assumed that many people in Japan knew about the alternate theories of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Earlier this year, Diet member Yukihisa Fujita presented evidence before the upper house of the Diet contradicting the official story(1) and urged Japan, which lost 24 of its own citizens in the attacks, to demand a new investigation. This, like most Diet sessions, was televised throughout Japan. The Japanese are highly literate, so it would be odd if they hadn't seen and considered the evidence. Imagine my surprise when a week ago I brought up the approaching anniversary of 9/11 to a group of students fluent in English and discovered they had never heard of any dissenting theory at all and were astonished that there was one.
"No wonder!" exclaimed one young lady who works in an office and plays the viola in her spare time. "When I saw the explosions, I thought, 'This looks just like a movie!' It looked so contrived. But no one ever said anything other than that Arab terrorists had attacked the US." The other students, including artists and technicians, expressed similar sentiments. None of them, save one, a clothing designer, had heard anything. She had just the day before seen a book title that suggested the US had attacked itself. She wasn't sure what to make of that, but left my class aware of the importance of considering it.
This was not the first total dereliction of duty by Japan's media to inform its people, but part of a pattern of Japan bowing to US and other international pressure. "Heads would roll," said one student regarding the silence by Japan's media, which has long been known for its obedience to authorities within Japan.(2) Those authorities have supported the Bush Administration.
Another example is their thoroughness in expunging any mention of dissent regarding the introduction of digital wireless technology. In the US, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 did two things. Well known is that it facilitated the consolidation of media ownership into fewer, more powerful hands, with devastating consequences to free expression. Lesser known is that it forbade mentioning health effects in meetings to determine siting of cell phone masts.(3)
Japan does not boast similar legislation. The media were already on a tight government leash. All that had to be done was reassign jurisdiction of EMR health effects from the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Labor to the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, which has no expertise in health.(4) Their job has been to deny any knowledge of such effects while going ahead full speed with introduction of this new and controversial technology. The media continue to ridicule anyone who brings up the subject, which has been discussed much more openly in Europe. For example, former WHO Director-General Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland's declaration of her sensitivity to cell phone radiation(5) was front page news in Europe, second page news in Canada (so I hear) and deeply buried in Japan and the US, if mentioned at all. Pressure is being applied to silence health effect researchers in all countries(5), but Japan bows to this pressure more readily. They veritably genuflect.(6)
A third example of bowing to foreign pressure to the detriment of the citizens is an unfolding scandal involving a company called Mikasa Foods, which was required under WTO rules to import rice tainted with high levels of pesticides and unfit for human consumption. This could have been used in making paste, but stuck with a surplus which would have cost money to dispose of properly, the company got in the habit of selling part of it as edible rice to confectioners, brewers and other users and pocketing the profit. Many people unknowingly consumed it and businesses have been impacted as the result of having to recall their products.
Then there is thermal energy. Japan, being a volcano-studded, earthquake-prone archipelago, possesses this in abundance and it would only make sense to develop it as an energy source as other countries have, but they haven't done anything with it. Some here speculate that they have bowed to pressure from US concerns once again.
Finally, however, there are the events lying behind the recent sudden resignation of Japan's Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda. He was known to be under pressure from US interests in the form of a visit from David Rockefeller on November 4, 2007, who reportedly requested that Japan purchase ten trillion yen worth of Citigroup stock in order to help prop up the troubled institution(10). This was money Japan, with its own economic woes, just didn't have. Rather than telling the US to get lost, the Prime Minister resigned, leaving the unappetizing can of worms to his successor. Rockefeller will be forced to make another trip to try to woo the new Prime Minister, expected to be Taro Aso, whom average Japanese perceive as someone they can relate to, but who makes awkward pronouncements.
So, do I blame Japan for caving in like this? No, actually. I think they are wise to go along with America to some degree and avoid opposing the Bush Administration openly. In other words, when you consider what happens to countries that don't go along with what America wants, the price may well be worth it. Furthermore, I admit to a sense of sadness as one would have upon seeing an old friend, the "life of the party," bombed out with a three-day beard on skid row. Japan couldn't pony up the money to help out America just one more time.
But I think what it really comes down to is that Asia has gained wisdom from long experience with tyrannical regimes. There are ways of opposing a tyrant while appearing to appease.
So why do I bring this up? It is good to have a map of the political terrain in these times, to know who is supporting the Bush (and I fear soon to be McPalin) Administration, and how deep that support runs.
They are likely to go along with it; yea, even bow to it.