The media and the authorities misinterpret the spirit of protest

In a conversation that appeared in the August issue of the monthly magazine Hanada and reported by the Mainichi ShimbunFormer Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said parties “which have been criticized by some as anti-Japanese” are now “strongly opposed to the organization of the Olympics”.

Abe’s caller, former news anchor Yoshiko Sakurai, is a well-known conservative expert, and Abe cited two pet peeves from the Japanese right, the Asahi Shimbun and the Japanese Communist Party, as leading the way. of the protest movement against the Olympics.

Given the context, Abe’s comment made it sound like he was speaking in a bubble for a small audience, making the protest movement centered on a desire to put Japan in a negative light. Although Sakurai mentioned that opposition parties have expressed concern that the Olympics will exacerbate the spread of COVID-19, she and Abe attributed it to politics, ignoring the fact that much of the public is against games for the same reason.

In this regard, it should be noted that the metropolitan police department organized anti-terrorism and riot drills in order to be prepared in case the anti-Olympic protests turn violent. Although a number of anti-Olympic protests have taken place so far and none have been reported to have turned violent, the media express police concern without making a clear distinction between the protests carried out. by civic groups and possible terrorist actions. Such coverage could strengthen Abe’s equation between “anti-Olympics” and “anti-Japan”.

Meanwhile, protests by groups that explicitly target what they perceive to be anti-Japanese sentiments are often treated differently by authorities and the media. An art exhibition scheduled to be shown in Tokyo has been postponed indefinitely due to threats from groups who believe certain works, including a famous statue of a Korean war “comfort woman”, denigrate Japan. Protesters outside the Osaka venue, where the exhibit was due to be held later this month, damn ask to cancel it at high volume, which will likely happen because the venue says it cannot guarantee the safety of staff and visitors, which means they believe the protests could turn violent. In fact, things got violent when part of the exhibit was shown in Nagoya. The issue was further clouded by Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura, who said that “illegal behavior is unacceptable … people are free to express their point of view that exposure is bad. “

This is the strategy of some right-wing groups: adopt a posture of potential violence in order to intimidate those they disapprove of, knowing that their right to freedom of expression will be protected by the authorities and that the media will deal with all of this. like a battle between partisan interests. This dynamic was better illustrated by another recent confrontation on creative content.

In April, a documentary entitled “East Asian Anti-Japan Armed Front”Opened in a number of Japanese cities. The title refers to a radical left group active in the 1970s who saw Japan as the author of oppression in East Asia before, during and since World War II. The group identified the large Japanese company as a major culprit and bombed the headquarters of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in 1974, killing eight people. At least one former member remains in prison, a few have been released after serving their sentence, several have died and others are still at large.

The film is an attempt to explain why the group came into being and what their goals were, drawing primarily on interviews with two surviving members who have served their prison terms, as well as relatives of others. members and people who supported the group at any given time. . South Korean filmmaker Kim Mi-re specializes in subjects associated with labor movements, and she discovered the Anti-Japan Armed Front in East Asia while researching day laborers in Japan. . In an interview with Money Gendai in AprilKim said she “sympathizes” with the group’s stated goals, and not just because of South Korea’s subject status under Japanese colonial rule. Like Japan, she said, South Korea has exploited its own people as well as workers from other Southeast Asian countries in order to become more powerful economically. His goal was to find out what was going on in the group.

Nationalists tried to prevent public screenings of the film. A cinema in Atsugi canceled the film’s scheduled screening following pressure from the right. At a press conference in May, the chairman of the distributor, Sanshiro Kobayashi, explained that the police called the cinema before the opening of the film to say that groups had asked to use the public roads near the building where the theater was located for the purpose of protest , and the manager relented, claiming that he did in order to ensure the safety of staff and customers.

Conversely, a Yokohama theater decided to go ahead with screenings even after sound trucks showed up, demanding their cancellation and claiming that the box office proceeds would be used to fund the front. In addition, two protesters clashed with the director of the theater in person, claiming that the film tolerated the activities of the Anti-Japan Armed Front in East Asia, which, according to the theater lawyer, is not true. On the one hand, the front no longer exists, and, anyway, the film does not plead for the front, but rather tries to explain its social and political aims.

Kobayashi said these right-wing groups were effectively violating theaters ‘right to free speech by using methods that interfered with theaters’ activities, which is against the law. While there have been instances in the past where police have stopped such protests, the continued success of the strategy, exemplified by the controversial art exhibit, indicates a lack of consistency on the part of authorities to protect the floor, no matter who protests.

By extension, the neglect of the mass media to distinguish between opposition to those in power and intimidation of those not in power indicates something even more troubling.

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