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Home » Archives » February 2007 » Editor of Fear-Mongering Magazine Responds to Critics

Editor of Fear-Mongering Magazine Responds to Critics

Saturday, February 17, 2007 Posted: 04:27 PM JST

The editor of the Gaijin Hanzai Ura Files has responded to his critics. We post his response, followed by a rebuttal by Debito Aridou:

CRIME
Why I published 'Foreigner Underground Crime File:' Editor makes his case and responds to critics
By Shigeki Saka, Editor, Eichi Shuppan Inc

Japan Today
Friday, February 16, 2007 at 07:03 EST

TOKYO — Ever since publishing a magazine called 'Gaijin Hanzai Ura Fairu' (Foreigner Underground Crime File) last month, I have been subject to a campaign of harassment. In particular, some emails I’ve received have been quite vicious — and have included threats to my life. I have to admit that, although the ferocity of this reaction has surprised me, the basic emotions have not.

The topic of foreigner crime is taboo in Japan, with people on both sides of the issue distorting the facts and letting their feelings get the better of them.

On the Japanese side, the 'foreign criminal' is a beast who lurks everywhere and wants nothing more than to destroy Japanese people and their way of life. Whether it’s a North Korean agent kidnapping our daughters or a Chinese thief invading our homes, many Japanese are convinced that foreigners should be treated with suspicion and fear.

This attitude makes it impossible to have an informed conversation about where real foreign criminals come from, or the reason they commit their crimes. In fact, one of my goals in publishing 'Gaijin Hanzai Ura Fairu' was to help begin a frank discussion of the issue.

On the other side, many foreigners consider any suggestion that they engage in lewd or criminal behavior to be an unacceptable insult. This can be seen quite clearly in the reaction our magazine elicited in the Western media, and especially in the online community. The army of bloggers who bullied FamilyMart convenience stores into removing 'Gaijin Hanzai Ura Fairu' from their shelves have decided for everyone else that this book is so dangerous that it cannot be read.

Yet I wonder how many of these 'puroshimin,' or 'professional civilians,' have read — or even seen — the magazine. I suppose the same right to free speech they claim for themselves should not extend to those who might want to buy and read our publication.

What these people are ignoring is a simple truth: there are no lies, distortions or racist sentiments expressed in 'Gaijin Hanzai Ura Fairu.' All the statistics about rising crime rates are accurate, and all the photographs show incidents that actually occurred.

For instance, it is true that on June 19, 2003, three Chinese nationals murdered a Japanese family — a mother, father and two children aged 8 and 11 — and dumped their bodies into a canal in Fukushima. It’s true that Brazilians and Chinese account for over half of the crimes committed by foreigners in Japan. It’s true that American guys grope their Japanese girlfriends daily on the streets of Tokyo.

That’s not to say that some of the criticism leveled at 'Gaijin Hanzai Ura Fairu' is unreasonable. Bloggers have called attention to a few of our crime scene photographs, in which we have blurred the faces of Japanese people but not those of foreigners. Let me respond by saying that, if we had covered up the foreigners’ faces, the reader wouldn’t be able to recognize them as foreign, and the illustrative power of the image would be lost.

Use of ‘niga’ doesn’t have emotive power of English word

Another criticism I have heard involves our use of the term 'niga,' which appears in the caption of a photo showing a black man feeling up his Japanese girlfriend on the street. I would like to stress that this term has none of the emotive power in Japanese that the N-word does in English — and to translate it as such is unfair. Instead, 'niga' is Japanese street slang, just like the language used in the other captions on the same page.

Finally, some critics point to the absence of advertisements in 'Gaijin Hanzai Ura Fairu' as evidence that we are financed by a powerful and rich organization. Nothing could be further from the truth. The reason there are no ads in the magazine is because we couldn’t find any sponsors who wanted to be part of such a controversial project. However, in one way I wish we did have the backing of such an influential group: I would feel a lot safer if I could count on them for security!

Having been given this opportunity to share a message with Tokyo’s foreign community, I would like to stress three points. First, before foreigners rush to accuse me and my staff of racism, or to label our publication a typical example of Japanese xenophobia, I would ask that they consider how quick their own culture is to view the Japanese as subhuman. In World War II you labeled us 'monkeys,' and in the bubble economy years, you considered us 'economic predators.'

Second, as our country becomes increasingly globalized and more foreigners come here to live and work, the Japanese will be forced to confront the challenges of a pluralistic society. Only by honestly discussing this issue and all it entails can we prepare our culture for this radical change.

Finally, if we can manage to openly discuss the issue of foreign crime in Japan, we will have the opportunity to address our own problems as well. Sure, we could continue to run away from the topic and remove books from shelves, but in doing so we are losing the chance to become more self-aware. What we need to understand is that by having a conversation about violent and illegal behavior, we’re really talking about ourselves — not as 'Japanese' or 'foreigners,' but as human beings.

Shigeki Saka is an editor at Eichi Publishing Company in Tokyo.

============================

Rebuttal by Debito Arido:

============================

Why I published 'Foreigner Underground Crime File:' Editor makes his case and responds to critics

First of all, let me thank Mr Saka for taking the trouble to respond. Most people of his ilk do not come forward with their views and hold them up to scrutiny. (The publisher himself hides behind the name 'Joey H. Washington', which is legally questionable) So I offer these comments hopefully in the same spirit with a bit less defensiveness, and hope that a constructive dialogue, which Mr Saka indicates he wants, will ensue in future.

Ever since publishing a magazine called 'Gaijin Hanzai Ura Fairu' (Foreigner Underground Crime File) last month, I have been subject to a campaign of harassment. In particular, some emails I’ve received have been quite vicious — and have included threats to my life. I have to admit that, although the ferocity of this reaction has surprised me, the basic emotions have not.

Right from the start we get the underlying current of the mindset behind the response: A perpetual feeling of victimization on the part of people who threw the first stone. As if the critics are the bad guys guilty of 'harassment'. Agreed, there are limits to how far criticism can go, and once there is a threat of violence the line has been crossed. But ye shall reap. You wilfully create an inflammatory book and put it on bookshelves nationwide, you will get inflammatory reactions. As an editor in the publishing world, Mr Saka should by now be used to criticism. But to cry about his own treatment in the media, after publishing something this distorted, shows a definite lack of self-reflection that will do him little good as a professional in future.

The topic of foreigner crime is taboo in Japan, with people on both sides of the issue distorting the facts and letting their feelings get the better of them.

The meaning of 'taboo', even in Japanese, means something that cannot be discussed. However, there has been much discussion about foreign crime since 2000, from Ishihara to the NPA to the tabloids to the Wide Shows to the respectable press. Not taboo at all, and for an editor to get this word so wrong in even a formal debate calls into question his qualifications as an editor and wordsmith.

As for distorting the facts, GAIJIN HANZAI does a respectable job of doing it all on it’s own (starting from the very cover, where 'gaijin' are going to 'devastate' Japan if we let them, and where 'everyone' will be a target of 'gaijin crime' this year). Saying that people on both sides are getting it wrong (even if true) is no defense, and no license to do it yourself.

On the Japanese side, the "foreign criminal" is a beast who lurks everywhere and wants nothing more than to destroy Japanese people and their way of life. Whether it’s a North Korean agent kidnapping our daughters or a Chinese thief invading our homes, many Japanese are convinced that foreigners should be treated with suspicion and fear.

I don’t want to get hung up on semantics here (as I have not seen the original interview in Japanese), but here we have the victim complex combined with the editor clearly admitting which side he’s on. 'Our' side. 'Our' daughters. 'Our' homes. As opposed to crime affecting everybody badly, which it does. You can’t do 'us' and 'them' when criminals are indiscriminate sharks who treat everybody as food. Especially since almost all criminals in Japan are Japanese no matter how you fudge the 'facts'.

Whether or not the foreign criminal is out to 'destroy Japan' (as opposed to take advantage of it for profit motive like any other criminal regardless of nationality) feels more like a figment of Mr Saka’s active imagination. Last I heard, there are no real anti-government anarchic groups out there run by foreigners; that’s usually the domain of the Japanese radicals.

This attitude makes it impossible to have an informed conversation about where real foreign criminals come from, or the reason they commit their crimes. In fact, one of my goals in publishing 'Gaijin Hanzai Ura Fairu' was to help begin a frank discussion of the issue.

This 'attitude' being referred to here is not the fault of the critics, but the fault of the instigator, in this case the people who funded Mr Saka and Eichi Shuppan. By all means, let’s have an informed discussion about where crime and criminality comes from. But putting it in terms of racial and nationality paradigms certainly does not inform the discussion. Given how blunt these tools of analysis are as social science, this book generates far more heat than light.

Criminality is completely unrelated to nationality anyway. By offering no comparison to Japanese crime, there is no chance for informed conversation whatsoever since it is not grounded in any context. Which means the entire premise of your book is flawed and not on any search for the truth.

What you are getting, however, IS frank discussion. But you pass that off as 'harassment'. Your positioning yourself as the victim switches off so many intellectual avenues.

On the other side, many foreigners consider any suggestion that they engage in lewd or criminal behavior to be an unacceptable insult. This can be seen quite clearly in the reaction our magazine elicited in the Western media, and especially in the online community. The army of bloggers who bullied FamilyMart convenience stores into removing 'Gaijin Hanzai Ura Fairu' from their shelves have decided for everyone else that this book is so dangerous that it cannot be read.

Here we go with the victim mentality again, where an 'army' of bloggers (I’m amazed the translator didn’t use the word 'horde') 'bullied' innocent victim convenience stores into submission. This odd world-view assumes a) non-Japanese are that organized (Believe you me, they’re not! Unless you get their dander up like your magazine so effectively did.), and b) the convenience stores were powerless to stop them (No, the shopkeeps–and EVERY other Japanese I have shown this magazine to–reacted to your rhetoric, particularly when one showed them the pages with the interracial public displays of affection–with shame and revulsion. One didn’t even need fluency in Japanese to inform the discussion. You made our job incredibly easy for us.)

No, the shopkeeps and distributors, who apologized not out of fear or compulsion, decided for themselves that this book was offensive and not worthy of their racks. As did your advertisers, as you admit below.

Yet I wonder how many of these "puroshimin," or "professional civilians," have read — or even seen — the magazine. I suppose the same right to free speech they claim for themselves should not extend to those who might want to buy and read our publication.

Let’s walk through this Trojan Horse of logic. You deliberately put out a book that will aggravate a section of the Japanese population. If anyone successfully protests, you say we are censoring you. Drop the tatemae, already, and stop hiding behind pat and half-baked ideas of 'free speech' when the honne is that all you want to do is sell books. And it was after people actually SAW the mook that shopkeeps followed through with sending them back.

(And for those who haven’t seen the mook, here’s the whole thing, scanned, and available for free:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ultraneo/sets/72157594531953574/)

What these people are ignoring is a simple truth: there are no lies, distortions or racist sentiments expressed in 'Gaijin Hanzai Ura Fairu.' All the statistics about rising crime rates are accurate, and all the photographs show incidents that actually occurred.

No lies, such as talking about Japanese penis size? Or that a Mr. 'Joey H. Washington' published this book…? Anyway…

You fill the book with statistics, yes. But three tests of telling the truth is telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. By leaving out any mention of Japanese crime, which is, if anything, more likely to target Japanese and devastate the Japanese way of life, you leave out the whole truth. This is a distortion, which is inaccurate.

So are the statistics about rising crime rates. Many crime rates in certain sectors (and in general, according to recent news) have fallen. So have the numbers of visa overstayers EVERY YEAR since 1993. Maybe you didn’t get all that in before press time. Or maybe you just did not feel that these 'facts' were convenient enough for inclusion.

For instance, it is true that on June 19, 2003, three Chinese nationals murdered a Japanese family — a mother, father and two children aged 8 and 11 — and dumped their bodies into a canal in Fukushima [SIC–It was Fukuoka]. It’s true that Brazilians and Chinese account for over half of the crimes committed by foreigners in Japan. It’s true that American guys grope their Japanese girlfriends daily on the streets of Tokyo.

For instance, it is true that a woman in Wakayama fed her neighbors poisoned curry rice. It is true that a Tokyo woman killed her husband with a wine bottle, cut him into little pieces, and threw him away with the nama gomi. It is true that a man killed a British hostess for his own sexual predilections. It is true a man killed his Dutch partner in Paris and ate her. It is true that a prostitute strangled her patron, dismembered him, and walked around town with his penis around her neck… Need I go on?

All of these criminals were Japanese. How would it feel if I were to write a book and publish it overseas saying you should never eat curry in Wakayama because Wakayama people might poison you. Or that one should never marry a Japanese woman because she might bludgeon you with a bottle and cut your prick off?

Or that a Japanese robber posing as a doctor poisoning everyone in a bank shows that Japanese are more devious than Westerners because they have to kill everyone in the building in order to get at the money? I bet there would be howls from the media and even the Japanese embassy.

And the groping thing? The Japanese government has to take measures to segregate public transportation because the 'chikan' problem is so bad here. The differences between this and that is that it’s harder to photograph the same acts happening in a crowded train. And that it is consensual. Which means it is not a crime, and beyond the scope of this book.

That’s not to say that some of the criticism leveled at "Gaijin Hanzai Ura Fairu" is unreasonable. Bloggers have called attention to a few of our crime scene photographs, in which we have blurred the faces of Japanese people but not those of foreigners. Let me respond by saying that, if we had covered up the foreigners’ faces, the reader wouldn’t be able to recognize them as foreign, and the illustrative power of the image would be lost.

Another Trojan Horse of logic. No, Eichi Shuppan didn’t block out the gaijin faces because they didn’t think there would be any trouble from them, especially legally. Why not leave in the Japanese faces for more illustrative power that the situation is Japanese vs gaijin? Because you’d be slapped with a lawsuit for invasion of privacy, that’s why. Again, lose the tatemae.

Use of 'niga' doesn’t have emotive power of English wordAnother criticism I have heard involves our use of the term 'niga,' which appears in the caption of a photo showing a black man feeling up his Japanese girlfriend on the street. I would like to stress that this term has none of the emotive power in Japanese that the N-word does in English — and to translate it as such is unfair. Instead, 'niga' is Japanese street slang, just like the language used in the other captions on the same page.

You are seriously trying to argue that nigaa is not derived from the English epithet, that the Japanese streets just spontaneously came up with it to describe people with high melanin skin, or that it has no emotive connection to its root?

I wonder who elected Mr Saka representative of all Japanese when it comes to interpreting how we feel about epithets. Every Japanese I have shown this book to (and I have shown it to thousands) has recoiled at the word (and one display to the shopkeeps gets it quickly removed from the shelves). Try saying it on Japanese television or using it in the respectable press. And try being the target of 'jappu', 'nippu', 'yellow monkey', 'yellow cab' etc. anywhere in the world and see if that 'street slang' defense works.

Same with the word 'gaijin', used in every situation in the book (even the title) except when citing police statistics (where the official word is 'gaikokujin', of course). Even here we translate it as 'foreigner', which is not the same word with the same emotive power either. But interpretation of epithets is less the property of the speaker, more the person being addressed. And Mr Saka’s attempt in an earlier explanation to say 'this book is for a Japanese audience' (which he does not make in this essay) is a facile attempt to exclude or deligitimize the non-Japanese resident’s voice from the free and open debate he so highly prizes.

Finally, some critics point to the absence of advertisements in 'Gaijin Hanzai Ura Fairu' as evidence that we are financed by a powerful and rich organization. Nothing could be further from the truth. The reason there are no ads in the magazine is because we couldn’t find any sponsors who wanted to be part of such a controversial project. However, in one way I wish we did have the backing of such an influential group: I would feel a lot safer if I could count on them for security!

I am looking forward to your next expose on the Yakuza and their methods of crime. Then I think you would have some real security concerns. A few angry letters in your email box does not a similarly life-threatening harrassment campaign make.

You still haven’t answered the question of where your funding came from. And the fact that advertisers had more sense than to be associated with your mook (and shopkeeps and distributors, once notified of the contents, also quickly washed their hands of you) should be some cause for self-reflection on your part.

Having been given this opportunity to share a message with Tokyo’s foreign community, I would like to stress three points. First, before foreigners rush to accuse me and my staff of racism, or to label our publication a typical example of Japanese xenophobia, I would ask that they consider how quick their own culture is to view the Japanese as subhuman. In World War II you labeled us 'monkeys,' and in the bubble economy years, you considered us 'economic predators.'

Cue victim complex again. We Japanese been done wrong (one or two generations ago, when Japanese were likewise contemporarily calling gaijin 'devils', 'barbarians', 'lazy illiterates'…). So it justifies our doing wrong right back. How far back do we have to go here to justify the use of historically hateful and insulting epithets in the present day? And does Eichi Shuppan really want to sink to the level of the bigots (found in every society) who use those terms of debate?

Second, as our country becomes increasingly globalized and more foreigners come here to live and work, the Japanese will be forced to confront the challenges of a pluralistic society. Only by honestly discussing this issue and all it entails can we prepare our culture for this radical change.

Cue the possession complex again. 'Our country' belongs to us too. We live here, and pay taxes and contribute to Japanese society the same as everyone else. Only by honestly dealing with the fact that Japanese social problems are not so easily blamed on foreigners, or on an internationalizing society, can we prepare 'our culture' for the challenges of Japan’s future.

The operative word here is 'honestly'. But thanks to books like GAIJIN HANZAI, which conflates criminality with nationality, I think that is beyond the likes of Mr Saka, Eichi Shuppan, or their anonymous patrons.

Finally, if we can manage to openly discuss the issue of foreign crime in Japan, we will have the opportunity to address our own problems as well. Sure, we could continue to run away from the topic and remove books from shelves, but in doing so we are losing the chance to become more self-aware. What we need to understand is that by having a conversation about violent and illegal behavior, we’re really talking about ourselves — not as 'Japanese' or 'foreigners,' but as human beings.

So why isn’t the book entitled 'NINGEN HANZAI'? Because it’s not about talking about violent and illegal behavior 'as human beings'. Nor about our 'own problems', but rather about 'gaijin' and the evils that they do because they are gaijin. And how in some places in the book they should not be here in the first place and how we must defend ourselves from them. The problem being pointed at is not 'ourselves'. It is about 'them' and how they hurt 'us'.

=======================

In conclusion, the reason why the mook should not go back on the shelves:

In my view, when one publishes something, there are of course limits to freedom of speech. Although Japanese laws are grey on this, the rules of thumb for most societies are you must not libel individuals with lies, maliciously promote hate and spread innuendo and fear against a people, and not wilfully incite people to panic and violence. The classic example is thou must not lie and shout 'fire' in a crowded theater. But my general rule is that you must not make the debate arena inconducive to free and calm, reasoned debate.

GAIJIN HANZAI fails the test because it a) wilfully spreads hate, fear, and innuendo against a segment of the population, b) fortifies that by lacking any sort of balance in data or presentation, and c) offers sensationalized propaganda in the name of 'constructive debate' (when I don’t think Mr Saka has any intention of doing anything more than selling magazines; he is on no search for the truth–only wishes to hawk wares for wareware nipponjin). Dialog is not promoted by fearmongering.

Even then, we as demonstrators never asked for the law, such as it is, to get involved. We just notified distributors of the qualms we had with this book, and they agreed that this was inappropriate material for their sales outlets. We backed that up by proposing a boycott, which is our inviolable right (probably the non-Japanese residents’ only inviolable right) to choose where to spend our money as consumers. We proposed no violence. Only the strength of our argument and conviction.

It’s not like this is a fair fight here–we do not have an entire publishing house at our disposal, with access to every convenience store in Japan, so we can publish a rebuttal side by side. And the fact that the Japanese press has completely ignored this issue is indicative of how stacked the domestic debate arena is against us. You think the domestic press is going to go to bat for us and naturally restore balance to the national debate on foreign crime?

We did what we could, and it worked. Especially since the tone of GAIJIN HANZAI did our work for us. You should be kicking yourself for making our job so easy.

========================

Again, I thank Mr Saka for making his ideology so plain. Ultimately, he comes off as a crybaby who sees other people going about their business, gets angry because the people there remind him of someone who stole his girlfriend in grade school, then puts up posters accusing those people of ruining his neighborhood. Then wonders why people get angry at him, and accuse them of violating his freedom of expression when they pull those posters down. If this is the best argument the bigots in Japan can muster, then Japan’s imminent transition to an international, multicultural society will go smoother than expected.

Keywords: opinion_item

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