April 07, 2016

Major league politics

"Mini-Super Tuesday" GOP results (Mainichi News).
On a slow news day (sans an earthquake or explosion somewhere), two "international" topics have been getting equal coverage on NHK news programs this spring: U.S. presidential politics and Japanese players in Major League Baseball.

And after every big primary, the former gets even more attention.

Whatever the United States does is hugely important to Japan's national interests. Along with the sprawling navy base at Yokosuka, a whopping 20 percent of Okinawa's land mass is taken up by U.S. military bases (too much, frankly).

But considering the local political geography, Japan knows that good fences (enforced by U.S. military muscle) make good neighbors. The Okinawans certainly don't like it, but the Japanese government won't be chanting, "Yankee, go home!" anytime soon.

There's also the sheer weirdness value. This is a case of "American exceptionalism" that is literally that.

Almost all democracies on the planet are governed by some sort of parliamentary system that effectively does away with these sorts of at-large elections and political free-for-alls (imagine if the president were elected by Congress).

And yet I'm struck by how different the commentary isn't. Japanese news coverage proves that that the mass media echo chamber knows no boundaries. Whether inside-the-beltway or inside-the-Yamanote, the mindset is remarkably the same.

"If it bleeds, it leads" is universal, and the nightly news in Tokyo could convince you that Japan is as violent a place as Detroit. Except that what you are seeing are reports distilled from a population of 130 million and condensed into a single broadcast.

It's as if every news bureau on the planet has a crime and mayhem and Donald J. Trump quota to fill every evening.

NHK likes illustrating stories about Trump with the least flattering stock photos on file. To be sure, Trump's inexplicable Japan-bashing is a tired relic from the 1980s. But NHK also plays up Trump's anti-immigration rhetoric as if it were shocking to the senses.

Unmentioned is that (outliers like North Korea aside) Japan has the toughest immigration policies on the planet. Trump should boast that he's going to make America great again by implementing Japan's existing immigration laws, word for word.

On the other hand, another unshakable truth about Japanese propriety is that, however unlikable, a notable public figure still gets an honorific if his status warrants it. So along with all the other candidates, it's Trump-shi. More about what that means next week.

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# posted by Blogger Katherine Woodbury
4/08/2016 6:53 AM   
I think there's something to be said for the atavistic need to "kill the king."

In folklore/mythology, the sacral king was (supposedly) a king who was sacrificed at springtime for the sake of a good crop. Folklorists will point out that even if it did happen (and it may not have), kings were canny enough to find themselves substitutes when spring rolled around.

Still, it tokens something fairly deep with the human psyche. We have a need to kill our kings and what better way to do it now-a-days than through the media! (Of course, one has to wonder why THESE "kings" can't find any decent substitutes; it rather implies that the definition of a crazy politician is . . . someone who wants to be a politician.)