A PUBLIC BETRAYED by Adam and Takesato Watanabe Gamble

A PUBLIC BETRAYED

An Inside Look at Japanese Media Atrocities and Their Warnings to the West
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KIRKUS REVIEW

An absorbing, if perhaps overly alarmist, study of Japanese print media, focusing on the lurid weeklies called shukanshi.

Japan, notes freelance investigative reporter Gamble and media-studies professor Watanabe (Doshisha Univ.), is a spectacularly literate nation; the largest of its daily newspapers, Yomiuri Shimbun, boasts the highest circulation of any in the world–its 10,000,000 readers equal the combined audience of the top ten dailies in America. Yet this same literate audience also devours semi-pornographic weeklies that, the authors assert, help maintain a dysfunctional status quo and preserve myths and downright lies: that Japan is a harmonious and ethnically homogeneous country that was as much an innocent victim as any other nation in WWII, that the Holocaust never happened, etc. Gamble and Watanabe offer a detailed account of the differences between American and Japanese readers, which, tellingly, centers on one great distinction: Americans mistrust their media, while Japanese swear by theirs, perhaps a reflex of an educational system that "has traditionally taught students to avoid criticizing those in positions of authority and to accept what they are told." So they do, and what they are told tends to be politically conservative, vicious against the powerless and the "different," mendacious, and inflammatory. In this climate, even the comparatively staid Japanese Newsweek sensationalizes; the American version called Martha Stewart "the queen of perfection," whereas the Japanese edition labeled her a "corrupt queen," a small but significant distinction. Put a tabloid industry at the service of rightist lies and distortions–the "comfort women" asked for the job, the mass murder of Chinese civilians is an anti-Japanese slander, and so forth–and you have all the makings of what the authors call "media atrocities," a useful if itself sensationalist term. And the worst of those atrocities, they sensibly hold, "in Japan and throughout world history, have been made possible through the silence of those in the mainstream."

Well argued and written; of much interest to students of the media and international politics.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-89526-046-8
Program: Kirkus Indie
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