Japanese Blogging and Anonymity


Both Japanese conservatives and Western orientalists are quick to claim that a lack of visible, external opposition to the social system in Japan is serious proof of a society built on perfect consensus. Now with the expansion of new media in Japan — namely, BBS’s, blogs, and online forums — the world gets a less-mediated view of how individual Japanese see their society. Those hoping for an outpouring of discontent have generally been disappointed with the current blog boom‘s pedestrian, non-controversial content, but I think we’ve yet to see some ultimate level of “free” expression.

The heavily critical chatter and information exchange on the national BBS 2-ch shows that the Japanese are happy to vent, rant, and criticize when giving the promise of anonymity. The popularity of “anonymous blogs” further confirms this idea. This phenomenon suggests quite clearly that social pressures, norms, and conventions are the number-one barrier towards self-expression in Japan, not media access. Japanese running personal blogs under their own name know that they must take social responsibility for their ideas and opinions, and under this pressure, generally step away from critical topics. (Yuki says so herself.) Just like Japan’s weekly tabloids rarely use bylines in order to protect the writer from backlash, anonymity is the most obvious self-protection strategy on the Internet as well.

Anonymous blogging and BBS posting could still lead to an information revolution in Japan, but anonymous sources have almost no credibility. When writers take responsibility for their own words, they also bestow upon them any trust located within the position of the author. A well-written anonymous essay criticizing the Bush White House would be perceived differently than one openly known as the work of an Republican ex-White House staffer. At present, I can read about many taboo topics on 2-ch, but I must go elsewhere to validate the information.

All in all, the Internet appears to be a mere extension of “regular” social space, and the most important factor for change in Japanese behavior is a chance for anonymity. But the oligopolistic mass media will probably exploit this natural desire for anonymity to further demonstrate how ideas generated in the blogosphere are fundamentally untrustworthy.

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

14 Responses

  1. r. Says:

    well if yuki says so herself, it MUST be true. don:t let yuki become your hisae, david!

  2. marxy Says:

    Yuki needs to start disagreeing with me ASAP or Momus will start finding a way to question her “authenticity” as a Japanese perosn.

  3. Chris_B Says:

    and the masses will be right… most of the ideas generated out of the various websites, message boards, Usenet threads, etc. are indeed funamentally untrustworthy.

  4. Momus Says:

    the most important factor for change in Japanese behavior

    Don’t you sometimes feel a bit like a Baptist missionary, going to the other side of the world, thumping an irrelevant Bible (in your case the Bible is the assumption that words like “free” and “individual” are transparent universals) and just taking it for granted that people must be changed, that their blogs are all about the wrong things? I’d be howlingly embarrassed to parade presumptions like these daily.

  5. Thomas Says:

    Momus, I have to say your comments on this blog, and your posts on your own blog, have a far more missionary bent, are far more manichean, are far more concerned with who is right and who is wrong, are far prescriptive than anything here. I’d be howlingly embarrassed to parade such presumptions daily.

  6. marxy Says:

    Momus, I’m one of those nutty people who believes that the media should attempt to describe reality and not just supply nformation that supports the ruling parties.

    (I also think democracy is swell, racism is bad, and women deserve equal rights, but please don’t tell anyone outside of this site…!)

  7. Chris_B Says:

    momus: shouldn’t you be hanging around with the girls instead of competing in this testosterone filled dog eat dog manly environment?

  8. marxy Says:

    Speak of the devil, these two Japanese blogs have recently been debating the anonymity “factor”:

    Yaasu no Henshin

    jmseul’s “jiji wo kangaeru”

  9. rachael Says:

    not related to this post, but have you seen the popmatters short review?



    i guess that’ll be tomorrow’s post :p

  10. marxy Says:

    Ha ha. Thanks for that link:

    For those too lazy to click…

    “Solid though unmemorable reproductions of the music of Ayumi Hamazaki, the Beach Boys, and Nintendo pepper the proceedings, a random bedroom enthusiast’s uninspired production. Let’s keep the arts faculty in the university, shall we?”

    I’m evidentally too nerdy for music nerds.

  11. r. Says:

    bible-thumper said: I also think democracy is swell, racism is bad, and women deserve equal rights, but please don’t tell anyone outside of this site…

    and former bible thumper says: hear, hear! i totally agree with what david is saying…that is, momus better hope too many of his clique over on clique opera don’t make it over to this blog, where the mighty fall on a semi-weekly basis.

  12. Momus Says:

    For those too lazy to click…

    You missed out the bit about “fashionable postmodernism”!

  13. r. Says:

    nick be sayin’: you missed out the bit…

    and robot be sayin’: isn’t david so disingenuous?

  14. Chris_B Says:

    regarding anonymity vs named authorship: not only does named authorship (or at least masthead authorship) imply that someone will take responsibility for the words, but in theory it means the writer stands behind what they wrote and is willing to take consequences as well as praise.

    It seems to me that concept is still quite strong here, even in the workplace using the ringisho system whereby everyone who stamps a proposal is accountable for it, whereas in the USA and Europe it has less weight than it used to. Momus’s writing is a great example. He seems to feel free to write whatever and let the consequences or factuality be damned.