Freakonomics on Sumo Wrestling

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The non-fiction bestseller Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner — a book about using economic methodology to analyze a whole host of social behavior — is currently huge in America, and I finally got a chance to read it over the last week. I was intrigued by the chapter looking at sumo wrestling being fixed. Essentially, the authors make the case that wrestlers who have a 7-7 record going into the last match win a statistically-improbable number of bouts against wrestlers who, regardless of the outcome, will finish the tournament with a winning record.

I’m not a sumo expert, but I’ve never heard anything about this widespread sumo fixing in Japan. Has anyone out there heard about this from Japanese sources? Is this a commonly known fact outside of the Freakonomics readership? The book claims that two wrestlers were hoping to out the system at a press conference but died mysteriously and simultaneously at the same hospital beforehand. (The police did not investigate for any foul play.)

These patterns of collusion between sumo stables seem to resemble other kinds of collusion in the Japanese media, political, and economic world, but I would wager that fixing “non-scripted” events in Japan can only continue as long as those involved have an informational advantage over the consumers/citizens. Would this practice continue even if sumo fans started receiving open and full information about the topic?

W. David MARX (Marxy)
September 8, 2005

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

187 Responses

  1. JB Says:

    “(…) I would wager that fixing “non-scripted” events in Japan can only continue as long as those involved have an informational advantage over the consumers/citizens.”

    There you go judging Japanese culture by western standards :/
    Well… i shouldn’t complain, since that’s what makes this blog fun to read :)

  2. marxy Says:

    Well, no. The point of my blog is that a lot of what we explain as mystic “culture” is really just information asymmetries and power imbalances. Like the whole pakuri debate: if “copying” artworks is only bad in the West, why do Japanese people themselves complain about it? Isn’t the fact that they go unreported more a product of the media being aligned with companies instead of consumers?

    Would Japanese people want sumo to be fixed if they knew the extent to which the practice existed? That’s an unanswerable question since it’s hypothetical, but we are naive to think that Japanese consumers and citizens have the same power and access to information as their international counterparts and are acting “differently” only because of pure cultural factors.

  3. Jrim Says:

    I’ve heard rumours about this before – but, then, I’ve heard the same things regarding K-1 and Pride, both of which seem pretty “for real” to me (I mean, Christ, I saw someone get KO’d by a knee in the face at a Pride match – if that was faked, it was pretty darn convincing). Do the Freakonomics guys give any more information? That stuff about the two wrestlers dying before they could out the system sounds pretty sensational – who are they, and when did this happen? Or is it just an urban myth that Steve’n’Stephen have taken too seriously?

  4. marxy Says:

    Pride and K-1 seem to be pretty much all controlled by the yakuza, and there is a lot of overlap between the production of Pride/K-1 and music acts. Online souces claim that Burning (music/talent production company) owns Proceed, which does a lot of fight promotion/production.

    I’ve never heard anything direct about rigging in those fields, but if they’re run by organized crime, I don’t know why there wouldn’t be fixing.

    The Freako authors claim yakuza presence in sumo promotion/production, which sounds believable. But it makes sense that they would hide it a little more than K-1 since it’s a traditional culture and national pride, not just entertainment.

  5. marxy Says:

    I checked the footnotes. The info on the sumo wrestlers dying is from a 1996 Time article by Irene M. Kunii and Hiroki Tashiro called “Sumo Quake: Japan’s Revered Sport Is Marred by Charges of Tax Evasion, Match Fixing, Ties to Organized Crime, and Two Mysterious Deaths.”

    Steven Levitt and Mark Duggan’s original journal article was “Winning Isn’t Everything: Corruption in Sumo Wrestling” American Economic Review 92:5 (December 2002) pp 1594-1605.

  6. Johan Says:

    I’ve heard the rumours of 7-7 match fixing before. I read it in an English book on Sumo dating back to sometime in the early 1980’s. I will check the name of it later.

    However, I think there are conspiracy theories that say that more than just bouts between 7-7 rikishi are fixed. Many people believe that Sumo is as fixed as Pro Wresting… I don’t personally subscribe to those theories, but the 7-7 one eerily often comes true.

  7. Carl Says:

    I’ve heard that Steve & Steve tried to shop this story to the J-press, but no one wanted to touch it. It’s understandable, I guess.

  8. Jrim Says:

    There’s an illuminating interview with ex-wrestler-turned-sumograss Keisuke Itai here:
    http://www2.gol.com/users/coynerhm/sumos_dirty_secret.htm

  9. Jrim Says:

    Just read the original paper – those guys came up with some pretty alarming findings. Mind you, I can’t pretend to be much of a statistician myself.

    Carl: agreed. I just Googled “yaocho” – looks like the only Japanese publications that’ve touched these kinds of stories before were, surprise surprise, the shukan… Interesting to note that then-cub reporter Shintaro Ishihara was one of the first whistle-blowers, too. My, how the mighty have fallen.

  10. JB Says:

    Well… i do believe Japanese people act differently out of cultural factors, mainly because i want to believe in it :) deep down i know they are not much different. Then again i’m all pro micro-culture while the tendency is for globalization :(

    In defense of “Pakuri” i would say that while J-pop sounds to me a lot like something out of euro-festival in the 80’s, differently from the 80’s euro-pop it’s quite enjoyable, i think the way they remix and refurbish some musics improves them — i mean that takes some training right ;)

    But… then again, since my biggest connection to j-pop is with anime op’s/ed’s, it may not mean much!

  11. j. Says:

    From Has pro wrestling invaded the dohyo?

    Former Komusubi Keisuke Itai: “I wrestled against Azumazeki, when he was called Takamiyama, three times, and all three matches were rigged. In fact, during my 12 years of (upper division) sumo (1980-1991), probably 80 percent of the matches were fixed.”

    Sumo World magazine publisher Andy Adams: “The origin of yaocho (match-rigging) goes back to the Edo Period, when there was a greengrocer — yaoya — who bet on matches and became infamous doing this, so we can assume that yaocho goes back to the Edo Period. It has been with sumo a long time. It has been exposed (in the past) and it is going through another set of exposes now.”

    … the most recent major exposure of match-rigging in sumo came in a series of articles which appeared in Shukan Post between February and April 1996. In those articles authored by Konoshin Suga (a former rikishi and later sumo elder Onaruto), and co-authored by Onaruto’s fellow-rikishi Seiichiro Hashimoto, charges were made not only of match-rigging, but also, among other things, or prevalent tax evasion, drug use and sex orgies in sumo. Before the last installment of the series was published, and before the compilation book came out, and before the 53-year-old Onaruto could appear at the FCCJ as he had promised, he and Hashimoto (55) died on the same day (April 14 ) in the same Tokyo hospital of the same mysterious disease. Just a coincidence? One must wonder.

    And a “gangster-like” connection

  12. Momus Says:

    The point of my blog is that a lot of what we explain as mystic “culture” is really just information asymmetries and power imbalances.

    This is a bit like saying “A lot of what we call ‘history’ is really just mistakes people made which they wouldn’t have made with 20/20 hindsight” or “A lot of what we call ‘art’ is just people failing to question whether the artist knows any more than they do” or “A lot of what we call ‘class struggle’ is just the result of power imbalances” or “A lot of what we call ‘politics’ is just a bunch of backroom pacts between government and organised crime”.

    The trouble with this blog is that it uses the veil metaphor rather than the theatre metaphor for society. It proposes that there is a “truth” that’s veiled, and that if the veil were snatched away (by Marxy, natch), all that would be left would be “the truth about society”. But in the theatre metaphor, you’d be snatching away theatrical costumes, not veils, and the result would be that the play itself was snatched away, and the “willing suspension of disbelief” (a contract between the audience and actors) interrupted. You’d be interrupting a contract, not revealing a truth.

    If we look at rigged sumo with the veil metaphor, it’s simply a lie. If we look at rigged sumo with the theatre metaphor, it’s an impressive piece of theatre, and still a perfectly valid cultural form. The fact that pacts and deliberation rather than physical strength and chance determines the outcome does not make the sport less interesting, just more social.

    Please remember that the “truths” of sociology are people’s perceptions, not the sociologist’s convictions. For instance, religion “exists” in sociology as something people believe. It has a social reality. It’s not the sociologist’s job to disprove the existence of God and show that believers are “wrong” and that religion is a lie.

    The question then arises, if you’re not a sociologist, what are you? An evangelist or theologian, perhaps? But for which religion?

  13. Momus Says:

    My feeling about Steven Leavitt is, well, why do we want an economist to explain human behaviour? Human economic behaviour, possibly, but things like sport rigging and why black people name their child Jermaine? Isn’t that a bit like calling in a plumber to administer last rites?

    Using an economist to talk about culture is reductive. It may make for an amusing bestseller, but we have to ask why money is considered a good explanatory tool for things which go beyond the financial? One possible answer is that, for the people buying Leavitt’s book, money is more than money. It’s some kind of religion.

  14. Jrim Says:

    Isn’t that a bit like calling in a plumber to administer last rites?

    I think you’re overdoing it a bit here. Steve’n’Stephen’s paper on match rigging in sumo is merely using the analytical techniques employed in economics to examine data collected from sumo matches. That, to my mind, is a little different from using economics to explain match rigging – which is what you seemed to imply they were doing. I think a better analogy might be that of trying to explain human psychology purely in terms of neurology. It’s a reductive approach, yes, and I think that anyone taking it risks missing “the bigger picture” – but that’s not to say that such types of analysis have no merit.

  15. nate Says:

    whereas the globetrotting artist is the person we should turn to for cultural analysis?

  16. matt Says:

    the momus vs marxy debate is on again..

    Please forgive my attempts to simplify your perspectives, its just that they both seem to be so true in many ways..

    If i had to score the two in any kind of blow-by-blow matchplay kind of sense it’d run something like this:

    momus scores! ..on belief in community, shared values, identity as personal theatre, and an optimism that transforms his whole view on society

    but for all its excellent qualities, japan is stricken with a social system that encourages corruption, a population educated to steer away from politics, and with 50 years of US/LDP domination, lacks many of the civil society mechanisms that moderates things like race-hate, environmental degradation, political corruption etc

    so marxy scores! on a more realistic view of what actually goes on here.

    seems to me that momus’s “theatre” metaphor of japan is a much brighter and appealing view than marxy’s “veil” metaphor, but doesn’t it all depend on what your expectations are ?

    If you read/watch/osmote enough japanese language media, you do realise that there is more of an obvious veil than other countries. If you just take any given story & read the domestic japanese language take & the international english news take it becomes immediately apparent.

    example: the charles jenkins- hitomi soga reunion in indonesia some months back.

    NHK news take: a blow-by-blow account of the romance of their reunion (snip: he’s staggering down the stairs.. it looks like his pacemaker is about to blow a fuse.. she’s looking like a racehorse with gas.. they..they’ve touched hands.. oh this is just amazing)

    International news take: koizumi orchestrates reunion several in cynical pre-election stunt.

    this side of the story never made it to any major japanese news outlet. While i’ll admit that personally, the bizarre theatre of the reunion was fascinating, the fact that NHK never even alerted their viewers to the fact that they were being emotionally manipulated again by their government is a perfect example of the veil at work…

    So the desire to pull away the veil is pretty much irresistable, because as momus points out the truths of society are people’s perceptions.
    And what they perceive comes filtered through a media so compliant with government wishes it may as well not exist.

    This slows change, allows corruption to fester, racism to breed..
    if your expectations are for a more tolerant, vibrant & open society in japan, then tugging at that veil is worthwhile.

    Because whatever metaphors you dress it up in, being blind to the machinations of the biz-gov-gang triad is not, in the final analysis, an optimistic view of japan after all.

    rigged sumo might be a “valid cultural form”, but by the same argument, racism, murder, corruption are all valid cultural forms too, because you’ve removed any element of morality from the equation

  17. matt Says:

    oops, that should read:

    “International news take: koizumi orchestrates reunion in cynical pre-election stunt.”

  18. nate Says:

    momus chooses theater… well how about strip clubs.

    would people want to visit if they didn’t think they had a chance with the girls? maybe not. how about if they new that the girls are being held against their wills while the russian mafia threatens to murder their families?

    If someone took away that costume of eroticism and betrayed the horrific underbelly of some types of adult business, the world would be a sadder, less magical place, wouldn’t it.

    the uninformed consumer, while a handy market for the artist, is the perfect vessel for malevolent amorality, and preservation of injustice.

  19. Momus Says:

    Yes, but we all have to decide whether we’re academics or evangelists. And there’s something fishy about using academic tools to evangelize on behalf of changing the system… especially someone else’s system. Don’t you see how easily the “science” of academic methods (statistics, proofs, the idea of “progress towards the truth” etc) can lend itself to the legitimation of an ethnocentric position? In other words, academic method can be a veil for a cultural position, no matter how much it poo poos cultural explanations.

    I think this is the case with both Marxy and Levitt. It’s the underlying assumptions that are troubling, ie Levitt assuming that nobody would give their child a black-sounding name if they knew that employers tend to interview people with black-sounding names less, and that therefore having a black-sounding name costs money. (Why doesn’t he just come right out with the idea that being black costs money and is therefore irrational?) It’s an absurd reduction of the complexity of human cultural behaviour to a model of economic self-interest, which is itself, of course, a cultural behaviour and an ideology, the ideology of rationality, individualism and self-interest which the Adam Smith school of economics prefers.

  20. Jrim Says:

    In other words, academic method can be a veil for a cultural position, no matter how much it poo poos cultural explanations.

    What, “veil” rather than “theatre”?

  21. matt Says:

    there’s something fishy about using academic tools to evangelize on behalf of changing the system..

    well another option is to use machine tools to evangelize on behalf of changing other people’s systems but we’ve seen the results of that approach quite recently in places like Iraq & London.

  22. der Says:

    Could you be more stuck in the 80s? ethnocentricity?? What next, logocentricity?

    Yes, but we all have to decide whether we’re academics or evangelists.

    I like that one. (Didn’t you actually call yourself an evangelist recently, Momus? But I forget, consistency is not a virtue.)

    Momus, can you please rate the following statement as either true, false, or, just for you, as “using wrong binaries. neither true nor false. there is no truth”:
    – The “Japanese system” is so unlike all others that it can’t be touched by “Western” analytical tools (whatever non-patronising meaning it can have to qualify tools in this way), and that hence suffering produced by “the system” (e.g., through bullying, glass ceiling-ism, tea-pourer reductionism, racism, you name it) is uncomparable to suffering produced by “the system” in, say, the US.

  23. r. Says:

    why is momus asking us to choose here between the veil and theatre metaphors? we can have both, can’t we, and use them when we need them. for example:

    welt-parlament as veil to be lifted…
    http://www.whitehouse.gov/

    and as theatre…
    http://www.nato.int/

    or is that the other way around?

  24. der Says:

    And, this being neomarxisme, maybe understanding is not the ultimate goal, but rather fighting for freedom is.

    “But there is no one freedom. Understanding vs. explaining, Gadamer vs. v. Wright. The big narrative vs. the many narratives. Etc. pp.”

    Man, coming here really makes me feel nostalgic. I don’t seem to know any 80s-pomos anymore. Where did they all go? Hang in there, pirate!

  25. Momus Says:

    In other words, academic method can be a veil for a cultural position, no matter how much it poo poos cultural explanations.

    Okay, in the spirit of and/and I’ll use the theatre metaphor here too:

    “In yet other words, academic method can enact a theatre of cultural position, no matter how much it poo poos cultural explanations.”

    The more I read Neomarxisme, the better I think this description is of what goes on here. It’s a “theatre of cultural position”. On my blog you hear about my Japanese girlfriend and what I actually do in my life, and it all tends to fit with my arguments about culture. But on Neomarxisme there’s a tactical silence about personal relationships and about what Marxy actually does day to day (remember how he didn’t tell us about his meeting with the Shobus crew, for instance), leavened by occasional semi-admissions that Marxy’s positions here are theatre rather than an actual lived experience. He tells us from time to time that he’s actually quite happy in Japan, for instance, and somewhat appalled by what he sees when he goes back to the US. So there’s something very theatrical going on; you can almost picture him putting on the costume and make-up (sage-gladiator-evangelist) as he comes towards the blog.

  26. der Says:

    The private is the political!!! Having a Japanese girlfriend (and talking about it. lots) equals anti-ethnocentricity! You can’t prove or even argue for your thesis “people are being deceived in country x, for commercial interests” without telling us all about your feelings towards country z! And noodles! And fucking! And dicks! It’s all theatre! Listen, Iraqi women! It’s all theatre! I don’t want to play anymore! Just because I’m not used to rational argument, and I like to dress up, I think everybody else does, too!

  27. Momus Says:

    By the way, I think you’ll find that the idea that the facts depend on the perspective of the observer isn’t just a brief, crazy notion thrown up by 80s postmodernists. Most intelligent people have come to the same conclusion, including Einstein (it’s a central part of the Theory of Relativity).

  28. r. Says:

    momus say: in the theatre metaphor, you’d be snatching away theatrical costumes, not veils, and the result would be that the play itself was snatched away, and the “willing suspension of disbelief” (a contract between the audience and actors) interrupted. You’d be interrupting a contract, not revealing a truth.

    and i say: hey, speaking of that hip ‘theatre metaphor’…here are some HOT PIXXX of people judging members of their society by their own standards!

    http://glitchslaptko.blogspot.com/2005/08/everybody-must-get-stoned.html

  29. Chris_B Says:

    Yeah there have been lots of reports of sumo fixing and pro-wrestling has been fixed since its introductoin in the Occupation (Riki Dozan anyone?).

    I dont think the Japanese public is blind to this, what do we call it again? oh yeah… “willing suspention of disbelief”

    Marxy: whereas generally I agree with the info vacuum thing, I’m just not sure how well it stands up in regards to the business of entertainment. Too much of being entertained is the voluntary willingness to be entertained, no?

    momus: you iz all over the place here I cant follow yer thread of edutainment today. I whack at thee with my claymore of linquistics demanding yer surrenderification.

    r: of course all politics is a bit of veil and theater. How else are the sausages gonna be made and the wars sold?

    der: as to where they went, I’d guess the good bits became freakin obvious and the rest went to the dustbin of bad thought, or they are living under an assumed name working in a diner along a highway somewhere far from any centers of culture.

  30. der Says:

    Most intelligent people have come to the same conclusion, including Einstein (it’s a central part of the Theory of Relativity).

    Oh, don’t be so predictable! Why do people still regard physics as the hallmark of real science, and then begin to make non-sensical references to certain theorems? (I’ve heard this being quoted as support that science is compatible with religion.)

    It’s of course utter rubbish (just let me say: c is constant. As is h. And so on. So there!). (Actually, it’s normally Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle that is quoted here. Which still can’t be reduced to “the facts depend on the perspective of the observer”.)

    What statements about the behaviour of atoms and sub-atomic particles can possibly have to do with statements about political systems is beyond me. Just because effects of light can sometimes best be described using probability distributions and sometimes using particles with mass you can’t criticise Japan?

    (Next up: experiments on colour perception. Sapir-Whorf mysticism.)

  31. Momus Says:

    momus: you iz all over the place here I cant follow yer thread of edutainment today. I whack at thee with my claymore of linquistics demanding yer surrenderification.

    I think we’re singing from the same hymn sheet today, Chris. I totally agree with you on the “willing suspension of disbelief” thing. But it’s possible that you’re “all over the place” in your positions on this — weren’t you arguing a while back that people wearing cosplay swastikas should be chased and thumped? Or were you just disinclined, in that situation, to suspend your disbelief?

  32. Momus Says:

    What statements about the behaviour of atoms and sub-atomic particles can possibly have to do with statements about political systems is beyond me

    Really? So you see no connection between relativity and relativism?

  33. der Says:

    So you see no connection between relativity and relativism?

    Well, no. Enlighten me.

  34. Chris_B Says:

    naw man, that aint no suspention of disbelief, thats a firm belief put to action, you seemz con-fused. maybe you need a nap?

  35. Momus Says:

    Enlighten me.

    Relativity, Relativism and Moral Education spells out the connection.

  36. der Says:

    Well exactly. Thank you.

    (And now I’m beginning to feel bad about this all. This is obviously not your area of expertise, and I’m letting you run into the open knife. But you could have avoided that. And also, you obviously haven’t read this paper, so you really care about your claim to the point of recklessness.)

    Just a few quotes from the paper: “If there are insufficient grounds, logically as well as empirically, to establish an entailment relation between relativity and epistemological relativism, perhaps it is possible to infer cultural and ethical relativism.” (p.8) “Apart from the unsavoury implication that a value like human rights, too, is culturally specific, an initial problem with the view embraced by Benedict, and by many others, turns on the issue of logical consistency.” (p.11)

    And for the benefit of googloosers finding this discussion, here’s why you should please never, ever cite the Theory of Relativity as support for Relativism:

    While
    “Special relativity considers that observers in inertial reference frames which are in uniform motion relative to one another cannot perform any experiment to determine which one of them is in “absolute motion”.”

    it rests on the following:

    The speed of light in vacuum is a constant (specifically, 299,792,458 metres per second).
    The laws of physics are the same for all observers in inertial frames.

    Thus, it relies on the statement “everything is relative” being false, and on their being absolute, immutable facts.

    So please, if you want to argue for difficulties, perhaps unsurmountable ones, in comparative cultural studies, don’t turn to physics in search for support. Say something like “the nets of causes and effects that govern complex systems like societies are too intricate to ever fully describe them, and all reductions are not only information-lossy, but also distorting and devaluing the results”.

  37. Momus Says:

    Actually, that was a rather bad paper to link, since, although it sums up the links in the popular mind, and in the art and culture of the 20th century between relativism and relativity quite well, the author disagrees that Einstein would have wanted this popular perception of his work, or that Einstein was himself a relativist.

    Here’s an encyclopaedia article about relativism:

    “The concept of relativism has importance both for philosophers and for anthropologists, although in different ways. Philosophers explore how beliefs might or might not in fact depend for their truth upon such items as language, conceptual scheme, culture, and so forth; with ethical relativism furnishing just one example. Anthropologists, on the other hand, occupy themselves with describing actual human behavior. For them, relativism refers to a methodological stance, in which the researcher suspends (or brackets) his or her own cultural biases while attempting to understand beliefs and behaviors in their local contexts. This has become known as methodological relativism, and is specifically concerned with avoiding ethnocentrism, or applying one’s cultural standards to the assessment of other cultures.”

    I think one of the ironies the Momus-Marxy disputes is that in many ways he’s more of a relativist (the second type, the anthropological type) than I am. In other words, he believes he can “bracket” his cultural biases and judge Japan from some kind of neutral position. I tend to want him to admit that he’s doing so as an American, with the subtext that American ways of doing things are better. Thus I try to show that his effort to avoid ethnocentrism is actually a worse form of ethnocentrism, because it adopts the guise of “pompous universalism”. The fact that this universalism wears the fig leaf of liberalism (“we are helping the suffering people of Japan by not seeing their problems as cultural, and therefore inevitable”) doesn’t make it any less arrogant or conservative in its overall effect (which tends to be “reform in the direction of the West, and capitalism”).

  38. der Says:

    OK, so before you’re off changing the issue again, can you please, just for the record, and just because I’d quite like to hear it for once, say that you were wrong? And that Einstein shouldn’t have been dragged into the debate, and that most probably, he doesn’t belong to the “most” in most intelligent people, who have apparently come to the conclusion that the facts depend on the perspective of the observer, because in fact, he did not come to this conclusion.

    This does not entail that you are disowning that claim (and your membership in the class of intelligent people), there may very well be other supporting arguments for Relativism.

  39. der Says:

    From Sumo to The Special Theory Relativity in a few easy steps: everything is possible on neomarxisme!

  40. Jrim Says:

    From Sumo to The Special Theory Relativity in a few easy steps: everything is possible on neomarxisme!

    I think it’s just because marxy hasn’t got out of bed yet.

  41. nate Says:

    marxy says: assertion and observation.

    momus replies: your having an interest in those matters is incorrect.

  42. Momus Says:

    OK, so before you’re off changing the issue again, can you please, just for the record, and just because I’d quite like to hear it for once, say that you were wrong?

    The paper I linked to provided considerable illustration of my position, which is the belief that there’s a connection between relativity and relativism, but ultimately disagreed with it and tried to show that Einstein would also have disagreed with it. However, I don’t think I was wrong to say that Einstein said that “facts depend on the perspective of the observer”. This is indeed a key part of his work:

    “As for time: it does not in absolute terms, exist; it is “relative to the position and speed of the observer…”

    It would be absurd to say that what the world did with this idea—link it to relativism, to Modernism, to Cubism, to post-colonialism, to deconstruction and so on—was “an error” just because we think Einstein himself wouldn’t have approved.

    Debate on the relativism-relativity link continues (Time thinks the link is valid, Slate doesn’t, for instance), but even critics of the idea that there’s a connection don’t disagree that there’s a connection in the mind of the public, and of artists and other opinion-formers. So whether that’s what Einstein really meant or not, it has become a cultural fact.

    And that Einstein shouldn’t have been dragged into the debate

    Well, he may be kicking and screaming, but I think he deserves a small place just as one of the architects of relativism, whether a willing one or not! At that point in the debate there was an attempt by people to describe any sort of relativism as “quaint 80s pomo”, which is just silly. I was trying to widen things — relativism is a key part of the last 100 years of the intellectual tradition of the West, and Einstein plays a big part in it. Sorry, no recantation! You’ll have to burn me at the stake…

  43. der Says:

    You really do remind me of an Intelligent Design advocate, in many ways. The only defense in the end may be satire. Japan was created by a flying Spaghetti monster, perhaps, that drafted the contract that now benefits all?

    (It is the dishonesty, that I find most appalling, though. First you try to bolster your argument by appeal to authority (“most intelligent people, including Einstein”), then, when shown that the appeal is false*, you retract to saying that it may be so**, but that many people have made this false appeal. You cannot possibly assume that anyone falls for this strategy, and if you do, you have an insultingly low opinion of the audience here. It’s not about burning at the stake (self-victimisation, also a favourite rhetorical figure of the religious right), it is about owning up to (the entailments of) your claims.)

    *Do I really have to explain again that a crucial part of the theory is the postulation that the constancy of the speed of light is a fact “for everyone”, and hence that there is at least one fact that is not relative (regardless of the awkwardness of calling facts relative)? And do you really need to get spelled out why from “at least some facts (or rather, their truth) are (is) absolute” you don’t get any support for your thesis?

    **Actually, you give us another appeal to authority, the jury is still out, Time vs. Slate, rather than responding to the argument brought to the table (see note *). You can always pull people claiming all sorts of things out of the Google; that doesn’t make all positions equal.

  44. Momus Says:

    It is the dishonesty, that I find most appalling, though. First you try to bolster your argument by appeal to authority (“most intelligent people, including Einstein”), then, when shown that the appeal is false*, you retract to saying that it may be so**, but that many people have made this false appeal.

    Your argument here is full of holes, I’m afraid. First, where is the dishonesty? I was widening the relativism argument from the absurd reductionism of smug people upthread trying to limit it to 80s pomo, when in fact it’s been one of the major shifts in Western thinking. And yes, of course Einstein played a part in that. It’s not hard to see absolutist conceptions of the universe threatened by Galileo’s discovery that the Earth goes round the sun, Darwin’s discovery that we are descended from apes, and Einstein’s discovery that time is relative to the time and position of the observer.

    Now, you’re quite welcome to lay greater emphasis on Einstein’s mention of the constancy of the speed of light — the one thing, in fact, that he said was not relative — and call this “crucial”. But it’s only “crucial” to an attempt to re-instate absolutes, when in fact the thrust of most progressive thinking influenced by science has been to dethrone and de-centre them. So I’d say it’s you who’s being intellectually dishonest. What’s your agenda here? Why do you want absolutes re-instated, why do you want to recruit Einstein to that cause, and why do you want to see relativism as some temporary aberration from the 1980s? Where does that lead?

  45. der Says:

    By the way, I think you’ll find that the idea that the facts depend on the perspective of the observer isn’t just a brief, crazy notion thrown up by 80s postmodernists. Most intelligent people have come to the same conclusion, including Einstein (it’s a central part of the Theory of Relativity).

    Never mind my “agenda”, and never mind all the other noble causes you are fighting for. Just tell me, is “the idea that the facts depend on the perspective of the observer” supposed to mean “the idea that all facts depend on the perspective of the observer”, and if so, is this “a central part ot the Theory of Relativity” or not?

  46. r. Says:

    nick say: why do you want to see relativism as some temporary aberration from the 1980s? Where does that lead?

    i say: i think that leads right here –> http://imomus.com/

  47. Momus Says:

    Just tell me, is “the idea that the facts depend on the perspective of the observer” supposed to mean “the idea that all facts depend on the perspective of the observer”, and if so, is this “a central part ot the Theory of Relativity” or not?

    I don’t think you have to be Einstein to say that relativity is a central part of the Theory of Relativity, Der. That’s not to say it’s all Einstein said. You’re grabbing at straws now.

    You sidestepped my question about where the re-instatement of absolutism actually leads us, intellectually.

  48. Momus Says:

    (And r. misunderstood it: where does seeing relativism as a pomo aberration from the 80s lead, not where does pomo lead? Thanks for the joke, though. Proof that humour is also relative.)

  49. marxy Says:

    Wow. Welcome back everyone.

    As Nate hypothesized, I just got up. I’m on CST now.

    I think “soft” cultural anthropology has an important role in explaining human behavior, but I don’t understand why those types of analysis can’t be made on top of “hard” economic data. My problem is not finding “cultural” explanations, but starting the debate at those points. What is good about Freakonomics is that they use data and economic tools to show that what we perceive to be causal factors are generally just simple correlations. Maybe Levitt can’t explain why there’s sumo fixing just through economics, but he can show that it does exist. Freakonomics is not a stopping point, but a more accurate starting point for debate.

    As for the black names chapter, most of that is lifted from Stanley Lieberson’s excellent book “A Matter of Taste.” He’s a sociologist, and his book uses data analysis to show that naming behavior changes over time due to internal trend movements more than external cultural factors. I recommend the book to anyone who wants to learn about how trends work.

    And about my private life: 1) I’ve always assumed that my readers would find it pretty boring 2) I try to keep my friends far away from my controversial positions. If the mob finally decides to put a hit on me, I’d rather it just be me and not everyone else in my circles.

  50. Momus Says:

    So you’d admit that there’s often a gap between your feelings and your thoughts about Japan, then, Marxy? That your theories are, in some sense, intellectual cosplay, theatre?

    A gap between feelings and thoughts, by the way, is one of the things that psychological researchers say Western people do more than the Japanese, who tend to think-feel. (It’s also something men do more than women.) Some call it hypocrisy when people don’t “walk it like they talk it”, but I’m happy to call it play and experimentation.

  51. Jrim Says:

    So you’d admit that there’s often a gap between your feelings and your thoughts about Japan, then, Marxy? That your theories are, in some sense, intellectual cosplay, theatre?

    Yes, of course! That’s EXACTLY what he’s saying! Look:

    1) I’ve always assumed that my readers would find it pretty boring 2) I try to keep my friends far away from my controversial positions.

    Sorry, but am I missing something here…?

  52. der Says:

    I begin to think that you may possibly really not see the point here, Momus. I give you a hint: from “some, but not all facts (or rather, things that appear as factual), are relative to the observer” you do not get any currency for “everything is relative”. None whatsoever. It still requires you to find other ways to prove the relativity of other facts, only an universally quantified statement would exempt you from that. Appeal to Einstein’s theory hence doesn’t buy you anything. (As opposed to appeal to the tradition of reception in fields other than physics, although I don’t think that buys you anything either.)

    Now here’s the intellectual dishonesty: sometimes you appeal to the laws of logic (buuhuu! laws! we are against that!), preferrably when pointing out weaknesses in other people’s opinions, sometimes to make a point yourself. (And for your benefit I assumed that the mention of Einstein was not just an appeal to authority, but rather a claim that from his theory follows something else.) When logical weaknesses or factual errors are pointed out in your own posts, you seem to suddenly disregard the laws of logic, sometimes covertly (yeah, well, crucial for you and your evil agenda, not crucial in the sense as “from this follows something else”), sometimes by discrediting them. Or you simply move somewhere else, claiming to never having really cared for what you said anyway. This is what I call dishonest.

    Here’s another example: You sidestepped my question…. It is customary, at least where I come from, that issues are dealt with one after the other (especially if a logical connection is assumed between them). The issue was still whether the theory of relativity lends support to relativism, and your latest offering was and yes, of course Einstein played a part in that., not fully satisfactory, I think.

    It becomes increasingly difficult for me to make sense of what you say, though.

    It’s not hard to see absolutist conceptions of the universe threatened by Galileo’s discovery that the Earth goes round the sun, Darwin’s discovery that we are descended from apes, and Einstein’s discovery that time is relative to the time and position of the observer.

    I don’t know what “the absolutist conceptions of the universe” are (plural, so I take it there is more than one? interesting.). It seems to me, however, that all the discoveries you cite are perfectly compatible, in fact brought about by, the assumption that what is a fact is not relative to the observer.

    my question about where the re-instatement of absolutism actually leads us, intellectually.

    As I said, I don’t know what absolutism is supposed to mean in this context, but I am not sure whether the question of where a scientific claims leads to is relevant to its truth. (Caveat: ethical statements do not have a truth-value. So the claim that some behaviour has bad (under some interpretation of “bad”) consequences is one that argues for or against the desirability of a certain behaviour, not for truth.)

    And here’s my hidden agenda (besides not liking intellectual lazyness): I think having one too many Feyerabend leads right to George W. Bush and his minders being able to denounce journalists and scientists being reality-based.

  53. marxy Says:

    I usually disregard my own experience in Japan because it is atypical of the Japanese experience. This is the weird “relativist” dance I do with Momus. I judge according to “objective” sociological, economic criteria, where Momus judges by “subjective” Japanese-based criteria. But then I refuse to use my own pleasurable, highly-relative experience as an absolute measure, where Momus uses his own personal love of Japan as the universal standard for the Japanese experience. It’s all highly confusing and idiosyncratic.

  54. Momus Says:

    The reason I keep harping on about this stuff is that there is an obvious connection between these ideas:

    culture – divergence – cultural diversity – cultural relativism – pluralism – equality – collectivism

    There’s also a connection between these ideas:

    hard data – convergence – universality – monoculture – absolutism – inequality – individualism

    I read far too many arguments here which approximate to the second sequence.

    Here — from a Stanford University c”Why psychologists need to study cultural diversity”, is a good argument for considering the first sequence:

    “Researchers from five universities presented studies that suggest the field’s understandings of the structure and functioning of the mind may be rooted in a set of centuries-old Western philosophical assumptions about what it means to be a person or a group member in an individualist-oriented society. Psychological research may have mistaken specific cultural twists for universal principles because most of the research subjects, as well as the researchers over the past 50 years, have been Americans or Europeans.” …

    “Minds are created and maintained, said Hazel Markus, by individuals’ participation in various social worlds – worlds “based on our country of origin, region of the country, ethnicity, religion, gender, profession.”

    “These worlds don’t just tell us what to think and feel and do,” Markus said, “they structure how we think, feel and behave. Our social worlds are organized by some culture-specific meanings and practices, and very often these are so much a part of everyday life that they are invisible to us.”

    Now, the question of who you are personally (who is “Marxy”, for instance?) is important because it situates all the arguments in a person with a gender, an ethnicity, a set of alliances, a way of thinking, etc.

    I can see two motives for leaving that out. One would be to universalize the arguments, give them more authority, present them as something that transcends cultural specificities. That would be a “sequence 2” motive. The other would be to disavow the ideas, to see them as starting points, to experiment, brainstorm and play. That would be a “sequence 1” motive. Therefore, for me, more honourable. That’s the “cosplay” thing. It could even be “cosplay” to pretend to be snatching away veils and calling things like rigged wrestling immoral (because they’re “not what they seem”) when in fact you’re just trying to find out how things work. But it would be slightly ironic, ne?

  55. Chris_B Says:

    der: you’ve done a man’s work here, but you must realize that momus is a professional bullshit artist. This is what he does for a living, and he really seems to enjoy it. You are really only feeding the troll here if you expect him to give on even a single point. His professionalism is his unspoken agenda, the one he will never admit to.

  56. marxy Says:

    culture – divergence – cultural diversity – cultural relativism – pluralism – equality – collectivism

    If this was true, wouldn’t Japan – a “collectivist” society – be the most accepting of other cultural traditions, the most accepting of intrasocietal pluralism, the most progressive in terms of social equality, and the least strict about following absolute rules?

  57. Jrim Says:

    Sorry, was it just me, or did Momus just try to pass off a press release as some kind of hardcore academic treatise? His link didn’t work, but when I Googled the title I got this:
    http://www.stanford.edu/dept/news/pr/96/960212aaasmarkus.html
    Apologies to ole Eyepatch if I’m barking up the wrong tree here.

  58. Momus Says:

    You’re right, Der, I don’t really think that logic has “laws”, I”m afraid. I think it has habits. Since one of your habits is a kind of set theory (Einstein didn’t say that everything was relative, so we can’t cite Einstein as an authority on the relativity of all things) I’m surprised you didn’t run the same logical tests on your opinion that postmodern relativism leads straight to Bush discounting “the reality-based community”. It may well lead to that, but unless it only leads to that, it’s hardly a refutation of postmodernist relativism. And don’t you also say that “the claim that some behaviour has bad (under some interpretation of “bad”) consequences is one that argues for or against the desirability of a certain behaviour, not for truth”?

  59. nate Says:

    Yea, momus has found the very core of inequality and absolutism here in the guise of one david marx.

    Momus, maybe what youre missing is that marxy is a graduate student writing on the matters he’s studying. He presents his the data of his findings, and the odd bits he comes up with here on the internet to a ragtag group, because that is the thing that he does that is special. Jean writes about design, Yuki about photography mostly. You write an awful lot more about relativism than most bloggers.

    Marxy maintains a blog about the underbelly of Japanese popular culture. It’s what he knows, and he knows it a lot better than anyone else around here. Most of the time when you critique his entries, you are objecting to his entire practice of investigating the underbelly of anything at all. If you’re so relativist, can’t marxy have a space to occupy with a little bit of “so-called” objectivity?

    why have you selected him as the standard bearer for enlightenment thinking?

  60. der Says:

    Chris, I guess you’re right. He had me there for a moment. It’s sad, I would have really liked to see him admitting to not being able to uphold a claim (something you’d think girly men would easily do), not just for the sheer rarity value of that, but also because it would have made me respect his stance so much more (because it would show that even according to it statements can actually be false sometimes, which otherwise I don’t see how they ever can (provided they don’t come from Marxy)).

    (More worringly, I’ve spent half a day’s work here, and I’m not sure my employer is too happy about that..)

  61. alin Says:

    I judge according to “objective” sociological, economic criteria, where Momus judges by “subjective” Japanese-based criteria.

    those criteria you base your arguements on change quite fast and the previous one is proven wrong or exagerated or relevant only historically for that short period etc. ////////>>> something like the yakuza on the other hand (for something extreme and as kitano takeshi said as a metonimy for all japanese society) managed to use the same methods and effectually prove their methods valid for a much longer time.

  62. Chris_B Says:

    der: I also enjoy tilting at the windmill of momus. After all I’ve been pointing out the thing about how he cant break his persona/facade of his public image and how that is what butters his bread for mothns in various places but he has yet to grace me with even a putdown on the matter. I guess one day I’m hoping he’ll lead me on Mr Momus’s Merry Relativist Ride

  63. der Says:

    must not feed the …. aw, whatever, the day is wasted already….

    You’re right, Der, I don’t really think that logic has “laws”, I”m afraid. I think it has habits.

    Me, I personally don’t believe that nature has laws either. I just think that things have the habit of falling towards the center of gravity. I also don’t think that football has laws. Any activity can count as playing football.

    Since one of your habits is a kind of set theory (Einstein didn’t say that everything was relative, so we can’t cite Einstein as an authority on the relativity of all things)

    Set theory? I’d call this predicate logic. In which you could formalise set theory, but whatever.

    I’m surprised you didn’t run the same logical tests on your opinion

    Ah, so you don’t have to, but I do?

    It may well lead to that, but unless it only leads to that, it’s hardly a refutation of postmodernist relativism. And don’t you also say that “the claim that some behaviour has bad (under some interpretation of “bad”) consequences is one that argues for or against the desirability of a certain behaviour, not for truth”?

    Yup. I wasn’t claiming that this was a refutation. It’s just a (evidence-based) worry I have. I’m not exempting myself from a piece by piece refutation. That’s why I even built you the bridge of saying that there may very well be other supporting arguments for Relativism, just not the one you gave. (Which I still haven’t heard you retracting.)

  64. Momus Says:

    Most of the time when you critique his entries, you are objecting to his entire practice of investigating the underbelly of anything at all. If you’re so relativist, can’t marxy have a space to occupy with a little bit of “so-called” objectivity?

    Two observations on that.

    1. I notice that when I weigh in, Marxy’s comment rate goes up from a handful to over 50. And each time I link from Click Opera, people come here in droves. Not bad for Neomarxisme’s ratings, and not bad for debate. Is “space” really what he needs?

    2. I’m not at all objecting to the entire practise of investigating the underbelly of anything at all. I find these entries illuminating and interesting. But I’m particularly interested in contradictions that emerge. I want to know who is investigating, with what preconceptions, and whether the problems that emerge are purely Japanese (is wrestling ever rigged elsewhere? Well, one of the first things I learned about Western wrestling was that it was entirely fake! And it’s not just wrestling — what about all this stuff about drugs and professional athletics!). I want to know what gives someone the confidence to say about another culture that it’s in some way “wrong” or “mistaken” in its habitus, especially someone trained in the social sciences, where such statements are normally taboo. Because, contrary to the stuff coming from people like Chris about how I’m a “troll” and a “bullshit artist”, in fact my position here is the normal one, the default position, in terms of academic norms. In universities like Stanford there are more Hazel Markuses than Marxies. In fact, he would never get a job as a social scientist at Stanford unless it swung drastically to the right!

  65. der Says:

    Or maybe this is all an exercise in giving Momus enough rope to hang himself. Which he dutifuly does, repeatedly, although he keeps insisting he is making macrame…

  66. Chris_B Says:

    der: whoohooo! zing!

    momus: please understand that I’m “country simple” and where I’m from finely crafted bullsit is an artform. Think of it as a sort of compliement rather than an insult. I enjoy your form much more than your content for the most part. I point out that you are a professional because its the literal truth, you derive your income from the written or recorded incarnation of your persona. The “Troll” reference is old school Internet. If the shoe fits…

  67. marxy Says:

    Getting back to the post topic: the “scandal” about sumo being rigged is that it is not just entertanment, but a national pastime. We all know professional wrestling is fake, and no one would bother looking at the stats to prove it’s “fixed.” Baseball is a better analog, perhaps, and seeing that players had to face Congress about steroid usage shows how seriously Americans take the “fairness” of the sport.

    Do Japanese people perceive sumo as pro wrestling or their version of baseball? I’m not sure, it’s that cut and dry – especially seeing that their baseball is baseball. But I get the picture that all of these fields being run by the yakuza – from a business perspective – are run much differently than “cleaner” fields. When extra-legal powers of persuasion are on the table, participants tend to act in much more acute non-rational ways.

  68. Momus Says:

    Do Japanese people perceive sumo as pro wrestling or their version of baseball?

    Well, I’m sure you’re all very eager indeed to hear Hisae’s take, the first (and usually the only) Japanese person who gives an opinion on the subjects raised on these threads. Hisae knew about rigging in sumo, but didn’t think all Japanese knew about it. She said knowing it was rigged was irrelevant to the enjoyment of sumo, though: sumo is about spectacle, tradition and aesthetics, it’s not really a sport. It has very ancient roots in Shinto. Women are usually not allowed to be present when sumo matches take place, and this too, she says, has Shinto roots.

  69. V.L. Says:

    I think Momus just hangs out here to feel (intellectually) young.

  70. der Says:

    And what’s her take on Einstein?

    (Genius? Misogynist? Messiah? Alchoholic?)

  71. marxy Says:

    Both Buddhism and Shinto have traditions that proclaim women – who naturally menstruate – are “unclean.”

  72. Momus Says:

    As does Judaism, Islam…

  73. alin Says:

    this has gotten reall silly

  74. alin Says:

    this has gotten realy silly

  75. marxy Says:

    As does Judaism, Islam…

    And that’s why women are not allowed to come near certain athletic events in the West.

  76. nate Says:

    actually the shinto roots ought to make the fight fixing a real affront to the japanese people. The system is intended to select the strongest men to act as guardians of the realm against the spirit world.

    And turning to Hisae for thoughts on sumo may well be like turning to momus for thoughts on F-1. It’s niche sport. Since the top level fights are broadcast from 4pm to about 6pm, the number of people that actually can watch it is pretty small, and among those, the ones that do are generally pretty conservative (that is to say they wouldn’t likely be living in a foreign country with a anti-racist fashion-strategizing conceptual artist). That said, her comment about knowing it was rigged not effecting the enjoyment of sumo, and calling it not really a sport seem a little off base. If you don’t watch sumo, then there is very little that could effect one’s enjoyment. There have been people vying to make it an olympic sport for decades now, so maybe instead of “not really a sport”, how about “not just a sport”?

    Having watched pretty regularly for the last two years, I don’t know what to say about the fixing. My non-collectivist ways tend to make me feel a bit cheated if cheating is really endemic, but the 7-7 cases, I’m not bothered by the potential fixing there.

    It is odd that people with something to lose, namely a potentially huge sum of money and their livelihood, winning against those with very little to lose in single matches is a surprise. It’s even pretty natural that people would potentially take a dive, or offer bribes to fix the fight given those circumstances. The statistics, or at least that particular statistic is the least likely to me to indicate systemic corruption.

  77. nate Says:

    quoth the momus: I want to know what gives someone the confidence to say about another culture that it’s in some way “wrong” or “mistaken” in its habitus, especially someone trained in the social sciences, where such statements are normally taboo.

    Marxy, I think, says no such things about Japan. He looks at clearly corrupt practices, and sometimes less clearly corrupt ones, and comments. He’s not saying that onsen are evil, he’s saying that fight fixing, organized crime, and a slanted media are deceptive unfair practices. What momus always objects to is marxy seeking some objective truth… insisting that there is no such thing. momus, who understands japanese people (he must, he approves of every single thing japanese) knows that if there were such a thing the truth would rob the japanese people of their beloved theater. He knows when it’s best for the people to deceive them.

    What gives momus the confidence to declare my home country and his own wrong? General consensus?

    When it comes to lying to the people because you know what’s best for them, there is no artist anywhere who has had half the impact of my president. He’s been defending cultural principles through deceit for a long time… and for that I’m proud to bestow upon him the golden eyepatch.

  78. marxy Says:

    The statistics, or at least that particular statistic is the least likely to me to indicate systemic corruption.

    The statistics seem to back up what the “whistle-blowing” wrestlers are claiming: that those receiving rigged wins have to “pay back” the opponent at the next match.

    Itai claims that 80% of all matches are rigged, which is an extremely damning statement, but generally unprovable through data.

  79. nate Says:

    before I get ready for work, a thought on the pro-wres comparison. What keeps pro wrestling afloat, despite everyone knowing it’s a sham, is the spectacle, but not in a way comparable to sumo.

    It’s the screaming “I will bury you” while pounding a wrestling boot on the podium, and all of the explicit narratives created to give purpose and meaning to the comparatively boring fights.

    Sumo does not present variation in matches other than the wrestlers, and they carry much less complicated narratives… most of the time, little more than a win-loss record and a hometown. If the fights are fixed, the compensatory offering is very small here.

    (maybe reality tv is so popular because it escapes the need to recompense with good story line by being “real”)

  80. nate Says:

    yeah, like I said, I bristle at the idea of 80% of matches being fixed. doesn’t seem impossible in the least, but it would be a shame.

  81. v.l. Says:

    I think that Momus understands a lot about Japan aesthetically, but not much beyond that or, more importantly, beneath that. In fact, his usefulness as a writer is eclipsed the very moment you realize that by reading him, you aren’t really understanding Japan itself any better, you are simply understanding how Momus himself ‘understands’ Japan. A perplexing proposition, since he may sometimes be ‘right’ about Japan, but usually (once he starts explaining himself) for seeminlgy ‘wrong’ reasons. David is, conversly, often ‘wrong’ for the ‘right’ reasons, and thank goodness we don’t find him blogging about pure aesthetic topics, an area where all the number crunching in the world won’t help.

  82. Momus Says:

    Momus understands a lot about Japan aesthetically, but not much beyond that or, more importantly, beneath that. In fact, his usefulness as a writer is eclipsed the very moment you realize that by reading him, you aren’t really understanding Japan itself any better

    I agree with part of this; my take is an aesthetic one. But I think the usefulness of that is that aesthetics pervades Japanese culture in ways we in the West find hard to comprehend. When you say “more importantly, beneath [aesthetics]”, for instance, you’re setting up a classic Western high/low binary, with aesthetics something “high” and elitist. But in Japan that isn’t the case. Ordinary people are much more preoccupied with the aesthetics of everyday life than with the kind of questions that come up so regularly on Neomarxisme: “Are they lying to us?” “Is it really based on a true story?” and so on. You could probably understand Japan quite well without recourse to the concept of “truth”. You could never understand it at all without recourse to the concept of “beauty”.

  83. Sameer Says:

    A thought on プロレス … (I’m more familiar with American rather than Japanese, so I will address the 米国 style)

    Until about 30 years ago, pro wrestling promoters were exponents of the “carny” philosophy: keep the marks fooled at all times. The majority of fans probably did think they were witnessing a real fight; in reality, though, the matches were predetermined, just like today. Many legit journalists covered the “sport” like a real competition.

    Since the 1960s, this modality between wrestling providers and wrestling consumers has gradually eroded. Canny investigative reporters, word of mouth, and perhaps even better public education have removed the mystifying power from the hands of the carnies. Today everyone takes for granted that wrestling is “fake.” This shift culminated in 1999, as the World Wrestling Federation’s “Get It?” ad campaign acknowledged what everyone else knew.

    Still, knowledge that the result is predetermined does not debase the drama and breathtaking athleticism of a great match. Today, Japanese fans tend to have more respect for the athletic feats inherent in プロレス than do American fans, though even they are aware that the stuff is “fixed.”

    I don’t know whether the Japanese fans experience sumo as more like プロレス or more like a real sport. But it’s important to note that a “worked” sports-entertainment product can be perceived in either way.

  84. Jrim Says:

    I agree with part of this; my take is an aesthetic one. But I think the usefulness of that is that aesthetics pervades Japanese culture in ways we in the West find hard to comprehend. When you say “more importantly, beneath [aesthetics]”, for instance, you’re setting up a classic Western high/low binary, with aesthetics something “high” and elitist. But in Japan that isn’t the case. Ordinary people are much more preoccupied with the aesthetics of everyday life than with the kind of questions that come up so regularly on Neomarxisme: “Are they lying to us?” “Is it really based on a true story?” and so on. You could probably understand Japan quite well without recourse to the concept of “truth”. You could never understand it at all without recourse to the concept of “beauty”.

    Momus: thanks, you finally said something I could actually understand. Cheers. Anyway – I’m not sure if truth is really so obsolete here. What you said made me think immediately of the hoary old concepts of honne and tatemae (your “real feelings” and your “public face”) – people say one thing, but mean another, etc. etc. So the way things appear and the way things are is often different – but appearance ain’t everything. Anyway, I’m off to get my toes trodden on by obasan at the Aichi Expo. Later.

  85. alin Says:

    Sumo does not present variation in matches other than the wrestlers, and they carry much less complicated narratives… most of the time

    this is the type of thing always recuring on neomarxisme and makes the whole thing a sort of wingey expat club. and totaly unconvincing, often highly ofensive. Sumo does present an infinite number of variations to people who can appreciate it.
    Applying the logic above you could say the same about haiku, yasujiro ozu, ramen, the japanese landscape and just about everything

  86. alin Says:

    my little yakuza reference one-liner was not web-trolling but…

    The sumo training methods, hierarchies organisational framework and whole paradigm is actually much closer if not identical to the yakuza than to any sports club / contest in america. that is also an integral part of it’s beauty and sophistication for the people really into it. take that away you will probably gonna end up with the rather uninteresting spectacle of a couple of fat guys bumping into each other (they actually do that in england or somwhere as a pub sport don’t they)

  87. alin Says:

    guess something along the same lines could be said about judo at some point in the past // however the idea of sumo becoming an olimpic sport and so forth; i’m personally inclined to think that the whole so-called ‘globalization’ project, which the olimpics was an early manifestation of, will be over and done with before that might happen.

    //it’s actually much nicer to just wake up and drop a thought or two here later on when the testosterone level has lowered.

  88. nate Says:

    alin. Your quickness to offense is pretty lame. Especially since you don’t seem to disagree with what I said or what I think. is that how you counter that “testosterone level”? by being offended?

    sumo does indeed present infinite possibilities, but so does trainspotting. What keeps pro wrestling alive is a sensationalism that is quite fortunately lacking in sumo. There’s daughter of the owner being kidnapped and made into a zombie in sumo. Unless you are reading different sumo magazines than I do.

    My point was Sumo does not work well as a fictional narrative because it is fighting reduced to the bare essentials. The variations lie in the details and most especially in what happens within the ring. that is to say, there is “no variation in the matches”. You can be as much of an aesthete or historian as you like, but it’s really the stripped down nature of the fight in sumo that makes it sumo.

    dork.

  89. nate Says:

    rather: there’s NO daughter of the owner being kidnapped and made into a zombie in sumo.

  90. alin Says:

    just because the air is thin and i can, carrying on from the above i’ll try spell out a point where you reformists tie yourself in a knot and end up with a paradox where all you’re left to do is talk to each other and reassure each other and console each other and pat each other on the shoulder.

    as a typical scenario, a couple or so weeks ago someone was crying over the japanese family being broken, the wonderful japanese food tradition dissapearing being replaced by fast food and the like. if that WAS actually the case it should only be reason for you guys to rejoice since if you think social reality that would be a perfect implementation of your agenda.
    1. the family: the family system is actually the template on which all the evil things you want changed are based on; from kaisha to yakuza to education and it’s obviously the fact that one’s formative years are spent in such an environment that makes one tolerant, not only tolerant but appreciative, commited etc to things that you guys wouldn’t put up with in your worst nightmares. rejoice ..
    2. the food thing: as momus often likes to mention at least half the TV time is devoted to japanese cooking (where there’s obvioulsy no room for political and philosophical stuff). If, imagine, people really did give up on the whole trad. food thing and seriously got fast-foodey efficient. the ridiculously long TV time would have to be allocated to other stuff and there is a chance some of it would be given to the kind of stuff you want to see. Especially if people would stop being brain-washed by endless cooking-shows and be free from the sempai-type terror they get in the family first. rejoyce, viva MacD and out with the family.

  91. alin Says:

    alin. Your quickness to offense is pretty lame. Especially since you don’t seem to disagree with what I said or what I think. is that how you counter that “testosterone level”? by being offended?

    you’re right i often react to the meta-narrative running on neo-marxisme than to follow particular threads. mea culpa.

  92. nate Says:

    bush tends to claim that the family is the basis of everything in america too.

  93. jasong Says:

    Always interesting here…OTT, but interesting.

    Asked friend and J-times journalist/sumo expert Mark Schilling if he wanted to weigh in on this topic — hopefuly he will!

    Slightly off topic (though some of his views do fit this blog — he uses the word “collusion”), but what do you guys think of Dave Spector?

    http://metropolis.japantoday.com/tokyo/538/interview.asp

    And…Momus is refreshingly optimistic about Japan and life in general and his posts are interesting. 日本人論 needs to be balanced — his posts are a good counterpoint to all the “Japan is broken” shtick (Japanese people know the score, don’t they?).

  94. r. Says:

    nick say: Ordinary people are much more preoccupied with the aesthetics of everyday life than with the kind of questions that come up so regularly on Neomarxisme: “Are they lying to us?” “Is it really based on a true story?” and so on.

    and i say: are you saying that they aren’t capable of being interested in both of these, as i’m sure you, david, and moi surely are? would their lives be diminished in any way if they started asking themselves these kind of questions as well as occupying themselves with aesthetic ones? if so, how? if not, why argue so hard to show that they DON’T need this kind of thought. a fair level of constructive self-crit of one’s own soceity is almost never a bad thing, right nick? you want so badly for japanese people to be ‘japanese’ people that you’d deny them these facets of thought…in an effort to protect your constricted understanding of them.

  95. Carl Says:

    Momus seems to be calling for more transparency from Marxy (tell us about your girlfriend, let’s us know your agenda, etc.) but the theme of this entry is Marxy wants sumo to be more transparent. And a lot of his past themes have been about wanting more transparency in Japanese media, be the specific topic the Densha Otoko, the Goro Trial, jimusho payola, or whatever . So why it necessary that some grad school dude’s blog be transparent or else we’re being suckered by the illusion of objectivity, but it’s OK for Japanese media to be totally opaque?

    I mean, I’ve actually been in the same room as Marxy (unknowingly at the time). I can write him messages on this site, and he’ll respond to them. How much more transparent does he need to be? Is the suggestion just that it’s morally wrong of him to use a psuedo-third person style for his actual blog entries themselves? In contrast, I’ve never met the NHK news team, and probably even if I do send them a message to ask about the subtexts I’m picking up in their stuff, I’m not going to get a straight answer.

    How is Marxy’s goose different from their gander?

  96. Carl Says:

    Thinking slightly more, I think a lot of this rivalry comes when Marxy will tweak Momus for using some lame metaphor on his blog, like the Shotoku Taishi = Keitai Culture thing.

    On the one hand, if you treat Momus’ blog as pure theater, it’s not bad. Shotoku Taishi causing the keitai culture is something sort of funny to think about and a relatively novel observation. On the other hand, if you take Momus’ blog as a source of truth (which Marxy seems to have done), then obviously it’s crap. There’s no real connection between ST and cellphones; Japan has changed shitloads since the year 600 or whatever, and there’s no way his seed of multitasking could really be the root of today’s blooming Japan. If anything, multitasking is sort of anti-ye-olde-Japan, since “Zen and the Art of X” is all about doing one thing insanely well.

    So, it’s both true that Momus was wrong in that instance, and true that Marxy was a little bit off base to point it out, since truth presumably wasn’t Momus’ game at the time; thinking up funny “connections” was.

    BUT! The Einstein thing is a genuine miss for Momus. I mean, Relativity -> Relativism isn’t a novel formulation, and anyone who knows anything about Relativity at all knows the connection is bogus. Einstein wanted the theory to be called the Invariance theory and was a life longer believer in the Forms, anyway. So, since it’s only fair to judge Momus by his own, non-truth finding aims, I’ll leave out the fact that Einstein isn’t related to relativism, and condemn Momus only for the fact that the supposed connection isn’t interesting or novel. Also, that he refuses to admit that it’s a lame connection is very poor spirited of him.

    In summation, I say, things are best judged in the field that they want to be judged in (though one ought not be afraid to take them out of their field from time to time either). So, judge Momus the quality of his style, and judge Marxy on the quality of his truth. In the Einstein case, Momus’ style was insufficient, and worthy of razzing. As for the truth of what Marxy says, I can’t think of any instances of failure off the top of my head.

  97. Momus Says:

    Delighted as I’d be to accept credit for “thinking up funny connections” re: the Thumb-Tribe-as-Shotoku-Taishi idea, in fact I have to draw your attention to a whole tribe of people who helped me come up with the idea. First there’s University of Southern California research scientist Mizuko Ito, Keio University lecturer Daisuke Okabe and Misa Matsuda of Tokyo’s Chuo University, who wrote the book “Personal, Portable, Pedestrian: Mobile Phones in Japanese Life”, which “debunks popular assumptions about why mobile culture evolved as it did in Japan” and draws a parallel between the Thumb Tribe and folk hero Sontoku Shinomiya. Then there’s Xeni Jardin who wrote about the book in Wired. Then there’s Hisae, who suggested Shotoku Taishi as a better analogy than Sontoku Shinomiya.

    Another demonstration of the power of collective thinking is the relativity-relativism link. When Time magazine chose Einstein as its personality of the 20th century back in 1999, Managing Editor Walter Isaacson wrote:

    “Einstein’s theory of relativity not only upended physics, it also jangled the underpinnings of society. For nearly three centuries, the clockwork universe of Galileo and Newton—which was based on absolute laws and certainties—formed the psychological foundation for the Enlightenment, with its belief in causes and effects, order, rationalism, even duty. Now came a view of the universe in which space and time were all relative. Indirectly, relativity paved the way for a new relativism in morality, arts and politics. There was less faith in absolutes, not only of time and space but also of truth and morality. “It formed a knife,” historian Paul Johnson says of relativity theory, “to help cut society adrift from its traditional moorings.” Just as Darwinism became, a century ago, not just a biological theory but also a social theology, so too did relativity shape the social theology of the 20th century.”

    The team disapproving of this relativity-relativism link, or simply disapproving of postmodern relativism in general, includes certain commenters here on Neomarxisme, David Greenberg on Slate… and the good folks over at Gospel.com.

  98. Momus Says:

    Gospel.com.

  99. nate Says:

    carl, mostly agree, but you’ve got to admit, that marxy is not just statistics. his talk is laden with “shoulds”.

    each presumes a lot about his reader. marxy, that we agree on certain semi-concrete ideals about consumer choice and transparency. he doesn’t actually spend much time arguing in favor of those ideals, because frankly he shouldn’t have to.

    unless you make the momus objections. momus is hardly free from sin, but he generally partakes in a brand of skepticism that is indeed hard to counter. he is literally always asking questions like “what’s so good about being free?” that are quite repugnant to the most of us. strangely, he sees his utterly bottomless skepticism as the sunshiney view of the world, and those who favor democracy and freedom blindly as pessimists.

    What gives him strength is that we are “only” talking about pop culture, here. when we leave the world of the arts and media, he usually gets a touch less relativist.

  100. r. Says:

    momus say: a whole tribe of people who helped me come up with the idea

    r. say: i:m sure they were glad you gave credit where credit was due in your article!

  101. nate Says:

    momus’ tribe of people idea: writing about traditional japanese culture as the source of modern japanese “good” culture is what the cool people are doing. writing about traditional japanese culture as the source of modern suffering and inequality is super square.

  102. Momus Says:

    I meant to get to Robert’s comment, but I think it also fits Nate’s point here. Quoth Robert:

    nick say: Ordinary people are much more preoccupied with the aesthetics of everyday life than with the kind of questions that come up so regularly on Neomarxisme: “Are they lying to us?” “Is it really based on a true story?” and so on.

    and i say: are you saying that they aren’t capable of being interested in both of these, as i’m sure you, david, and moi surely are? would their lives be diminished in any way if they started asking themselves these kind of questions as well as occupying themselves with aesthetic ones? if so, how?

    Actually, I do think these two mindsets are somewhat at odds, or, to be more precise, their intersection is perceived completely differently in the Eastern and Western traditions.

    I’ll give three examples of how a concern with “truth” interferes with a concern with “beauty”.

    1. Suspension of disbelief. If you don’t suspend disbelief in a theatre or at a film, but think always (and in an irritated way) about how life has been faked with props, scenery and make-up, you’re likely to restrict the emotional range of your response to the art. Hence, conflict between truth and beauty.

    2. The second example I’d sum up with the Yiddish proverb “when the housewife is lazy, the cat is industrious”. When you exclude politics from everyday life other things step in to take its place. Things like sex, food, shopping, art, beauty. Can there be any doubt that the pleasantness of life in Japan is partly due to the absence of conflict and its replacement by various forms of celebration? Much of Japanese public life (and blogs by Japanese people) is suffused with an apolitical sense of “Isn’t it delightful!”, whereas many American blogs, and much American public life, has a political but passive aggressive, cynical, pissed, feisty negativity to it. “Isn’t it shitty?” it seems to say.

    3. Asking “feisty” questions like “Are they lying to us?” and “But is it really based on a true story?” may make some of us feel like plucky individualist Davids taking on some corporate Goliath, proclaiming the Emperor naked, etc. But are we really being as smart as we think we are? First of all, are our questions relevant? If sumo is a kind of religious spectacle or theatre, does it matter if it’s rigged? Secondly, are attitudes like “question everything” culturally neutral? Can we not only advocate taking an individualist stance to members of a collectivist culture, and prescribe squabbles to a harmony-based culture, but tell people from quite a different tradition (and even Marxy accepts these basic differences when he uses the orthodoxy / orthopraxy distinction) that their lives will be better if they start shouting “Tell us the truth!” instead of “Isn’t it delightful!”?

  103. r. Says:

    nick,
    nice try, but too blockish, since your list fails to take into consideration the groups of people out there (in japan and in other countries) that seem to be saying 1) “tell us lies!” and 2) isn’t the truth delightful?”

  104. r. Says:

    nick,
    also the “binary” YOU set up between the West HAVING binaries and the East NOT having binaries is the most laughable binary of them all. chinese metaphysics (which you should probably be googling even as you read this) have had a HUGE (explicit) impact on japanese social, aesthetic and philosophical pre-meiji thought. the influence is still there, although much more implicit. in a way, both the west and the east have “forgot” their respective metaphysics, but that doesn’t mean that they were never there to begin with.

  105. nate Says:

    The housewife and the cat are there to protect the livelihood of the house in that metaphor. It’s not that “when the housewife is lazy, flowers will spring up through the bathroom tiles”.

    consumers, and citizens can and should live apolitical lives, just as no one should starve, or die for lack of medical treatment. we’re all aiming toward a brighter future here, but momus, you’re relying on this cat. a cat that you can’t be sure exists. we’ve seen other kitchens go into terrible disarray in the past for want of an informed, freedom-and-equality-favoring voting populace, assuming that democracy alone is enough. democracy plus a corrupt media kept Bush in office, and brought him in in the first place. a politically pliant media played no small part in rise of that guy who used to hang out where you do now… you know to one with the funny mustache.

  106. r. Says:

    i thought i was the guy with the funny mustache…

    anyway, it might be a good idea to go BACK to what david was actually asking in his post at this point.

    “Would this practice continue even if sumo fans started receiving open and full information about the topic?”

    i think the keyword here is WOULD, no? just GIVE them the information, and let THEM make their own choices about this.

    also, it might be a good time to introduce these links.

    french semiologist roland barthes on pro-wrestling

    http://social.chass.ncsu.edu/wyrick/debclass/rbwres.htm

    http://faculty.goucher.edu/eng215/barthes_wrestling.htm

    http://xroads.virginia.edu/~DRBR/wrestlin.html

  107. der Says:

    I think what Carl wrote a couple of comments up is a good summary of the situation. (And is related to what I was trying to get at a while ago when I said that Momus is a journalist / essayist, not an academic.) Momus is simply not concerned with things like truth; and feeling slightly guilty about this, I presume, he comes up with various justifications why one doesn’t have to (logic has no laws, only habits; false binaries all over the place; person X at famous university Y wrote something similar).

    He is basically providing entertainment, by coming up with “novel connections that make you see things in a new light” (that old thing from art school). (More often than not, these connections come out of Google, but whatever.)

    The only problem I have with this is when this theatre suddenly pretends to be science, i.e. something that can have real consequences. There I think it is dangerous to erode the standards of discourse. (Like, e.g., accepting the entailments of your statements; using logic to get from statement A to statement B; avoiding fallacies.)

    What Marxy does on the other hand is normal science, with a bit of campaigning thrown in, perhaps. But I haven’t seen any real discussion of why the aims of that campaigning should be bad. (Way up in the comments: if some system z produces some set of consequences k that are perceived by participants p as undesirable, should not something be done to disable k? Items to be discussed: is k really result of z? Is k really perceived as undesirable? What should be done? I don’t see why not everybody should be able to join in into such a discussion, regardless of the culture he or she (or his or her significant other) grew up in.)

    As an aside, I admire the strength of Momus’ feeling of self-importance. Most people I know would have squirmed in pain had they accidentaly exposed their favourite mode of research (the I-feel-lucky google button) by citing a paper that claims the opposite of what they want it to. (And as to whether you would get a job at Stanford’s sociology department with such research… perhaps you would, but hopefully, there are checks against charlatans even in sociology departments.)

  108. Momus Says:

    What Marxy does on the other hand is normal science, with a bit of campaigning thrown in, perhaps.

    If you’re comfortable with that combination, fine. But isn’t that a slightly odd combination? The scientist-campaigner? Aren’t causes generally considered to get in the way of investigations, ie the old cop show cliche of the sergeant taking the detective off the case because he’s getting “too close to it”, (ie shagging the widow or subliminally homo-erotically attached to the killer)?

    But I haven’t seen any real discussion of why the aims of that campaigning should be bad.

    I seem to discuss nothing else on these threads! Let me just give you something to chew on, though. Japanese people don’t see themselves as losers for enjoying sumo wrestling when it’s fixed by the yakuza. But they might well see themselves as losers if they had to take lessons from foreigners in who and what to believe. “Wake up to the fact that you are a loser for listening to your own media, and listen to me instead!” would be a very insulting message to Japanese people… if any were here.

    But if Neomarxisme is, as I suspect, actually a talking shop where slightly dissatisfied and disappointed ex-pats feel somewhat superior and exchange largely phatic messages which allow them to feel as if they’re in control of their Japanese experiences, well, that would be fairly harmless, wouldn’t it?

    As for self-importance, to tell people from another culture that their institutions and customs are all wrong takes some beating. I don’t think my basic position of admiration comes anywhere near that.

  109. Chris_B Says:

    carl and nate said some good stuff earlier regarding theater and entertainment and somewhere something was said about some campaigning here. robert also pointed out the elephant in the room about binaries and got real close to something thats been scratching at my brain about this site and that one and others.

    Here’s the itch I been wanting to scratch: we got two M’s telling us how it should be. Both positions (at their extremes) deny other methods of thinking. marxy backs his position up with numbers and facts on the ground, momus backs his up with the soft skulled circular logic of modern day left wing circular reasoning. Either that or positing his “binaries” in a frame of reference that looks much like the Cliff’s Notes version of Candide.

    Of course both writers have adgendas, all do, but thats hardly the point or the problem. I personally could give a rats ass what either one of em’s girlfriend things about some grand topic in that a survey of one is not going to produce anything more than an opinion. I find myself compelled more by citations of facts on the ground and figures than of social soft science (N.B. that not all social science is soft). In the end what oinks me most about Momus’s reasoning is his fundamental refusal to admit modes of thinking which dont agree with his worldview. The lack of compromise and an agenda based solely on what is essentially an objection by denial. Marxy has his should moments for sure, and some of the views dont bear long term consistancy (not that I expect dogmatic adherance in a personal web page) but at least I’ve seen him admit fault.

    So to simplify, Momus makes good theater, Marxy makes for interesting reading and discussion.

    Anyways I’m now going to have a delightful sensual experience reading up on the LDP vs DPB sumo match this weekend.

  110. Momus Says:

    I personally could give a rats ass what either one of em’s girlfriend things about some grand topic in that a survey of one is not going to produce anything more than an opinion.

    This may be completely eccentric of me, but when Marxy is saying “I wonder what Japanese people think of x?” it seems sensible to say “Well, why don’t we ask one?” I mean, it’s called empiricism, isn’t it? And sure, one Japanese person isn’t all Japanese people’s opinion, but it sure beats all-gaijin, which these threads would otherwise be! I’m keeping a count of the number of ways you guys find to dismiss the one Japanese person’s opinion in these threads, by the way. It’s one of the things that makes me think these conversations, despite the stats and charts, aren’t a classroom where we’re “trying to understand Japan” but a kind of treehouse for the lightly wounded.

    In the end what oinks me most about Momus’s reasoning is his fundamental refusal to admit modes of thinking which dont agree with his worldview.

    Well, Chris, it may be my “modern day left wing circular reasoning” (that choice of words makes you sound like Rush Limbaugh, by the way), but I do enjoy this thing called “dialectics”, where someone has a thesis and someone else an antithesis. It sort of spoils things if we all get wishy washy and muddy our views with the views of our opponents (although that does happen too, it’s called synthesis).

  111. r. Says:

    nick say: to tell people from another culture that their institutions and customs are all wrong takes some beating.

    r. say: speaking of taking a beating, i say again, here’s a reason why i’ve no problem with telling folks from another culture that their institustions and customs are all wrong!

    http://glitchslaptko.blogspot.com/2005/08/everybody-must-get-stoned.html

    waiting for your clever rebuttle

  112. nate Says:

    the fall tournament starts on sunday, don’t forget. Look for 琴欧州 to fuck up now that he’s been promoted.

    again momus, I don’t believe you can use your girlfriend as the standard here, unless she really gives a damn about sumo. why do you presume that japan doesn’t care about sumo match fixing? I know your narrative about japan means it makes no sense for them to care about it, but do you have evidence other than an english speaking expat’s opinion?

    (I know you’ve been arguing against the presentation of evidence in favor of agreeing with the right people, but…)

  113. Chris_B Says:

    Unfortunately the DPJ vs LDP policy evaluation was over about as quickly as an actual sumo match.

    Momus: If I wanted the opinion of one Japanese female I’d ask the one about a meter away from me, if I wanted the opinions of more than one person I’d ask my co-workers. The proverbial rat’s ass is that I know that what I’m getting is a very limited demographic’s idea about a topic. I regard the opinions of Hisae as a matter which is linked to your personal life more than anything else. As has been pointed out were there more Japanese people participating in our little discussions then we might all see more opinions.

    As far as Rush goes, well he’s a good public speaker for a populist (in the unpleasant sense of the word) but he hardly represents my world view. Unlike Mr. Limbaugh I’m very dissapointed by the left wing in recent years. I really do want to see a clear agenda from the left but I feel that opposition itself is now the agenda. How does that apply to your writings you may ask; it seems to me your adgenda of opposition is that of opposing any voices which point out how the facts on the ground here differ from what you present. As a broad sweeping example if one could generally say that people here are more concerned with aesthetics than problems, how do you explain year on year increase in the number of urban voters for the DPJ? It sure as heck is not the looks and charm of Okada-san

    Actually I dont see alot of evidence of dialectics in your online discussions (not having conversed with you in person I cant comment on that). What I frequently see and often point out is your consistant refusal to give ground. Perhaps diatribe is a better term than dailectics or synthesis.

    Please note that I believe you are capable of better than what I see from you here and on click opera. I have stated my theories as to why you are unable to break the proceneum (except in the most Rosencrantz and Gildenstern sort of way) of you theater, perhaps you could expand on that someday? Pretty please?

  114. Momus Says:

    If I wanted the opinion of one Japanese female I’d ask the one about a meter away from me, if I wanted the opinions of more than one person I’d ask my co-workers. The proverbial rat’s ass is that I know that what I’m getting is a very limited demographic’s idea about a topic.

    I really would like to know what your Japanese significant other and your colleagues think about topics like sumo wrestling fixing.

  115. Chris_B Says:

    well since you asked a personal question and dodged all the others, I’ll tell you. She says she has heard of fixing and doesnt care since she has no interest in sumo or any other professional sports. As for my co-workers, that will have to wait till next week when I can ask around.

  116. Chris_B Says:

    Oh and BTW, we’re married so “signifigant other” isnt the right term as it has an implied ambiguity as to the commital status of the persons in question. My guess is that term came about when adults wanted to dignify their non committal relationships beyond the adolescent sounding boyfriend or girlfriend.

  117. Momus Says:

    So she does see sumo as a sport, but doesn’t care that it’s fixed? (As opposed to seeing it as a rite and not caring that it’s fixed…) Interesting.

  118. Momus Says:

    So far what the Japanese people on this thread have in common is ‘not caring that sumo is fixed’. Remember that Marxy said:

    ld wager that fixing “non-scripted” events in Japan can only continue as long as those involved have an informational advantage over the consumers/citizens.”

  119. Chris_B Says:

    actually the concept of sport vs rite did not come into the conversation at all so your comments dont apply. to expand a bit on her scarce words on the topic based upon years of observation, the subject shows no interest in either public ritual performances nor athletic competitions of any sort. Please dont stoop to putting words in the mouth of anyone in my house.

  120. der Says:

    This may be completely eccentric of me, but when Marxy is saying “I wonder what Japanese people think of x?” it seems sensible to say “Well, why don’t we ask one?”

    No, it’s not. Except if you are happy with a margin of error of around 98%.*

    I mean, it’s called empiricism, isn’t it?

    No, it’s not.

    You should go easy on the multi-syllable words for a while.

    *Before you get all hot and bothered and fail to understand the point again, asking one is what is not sensible. But it’s good in general to see you come round to the beauty of empirical methods. So we agree that these are empirical questions, which can be answered without knowing the blood type of the experimenter?

  121. marxy Says:

    I am now in NYC and running around, but I just want to add that non-Western systems can still deviate from their own ideals and endure massive corruption. You could clean out mafia envolvment in Japanese entertainment and culture, and it wouldn’t all go to hell.

    And if theatre was the goal of sport in Japan, wouldn’t the big shots be less pressed to close off all talk of rigging? I don’t know if people get killed trying to tell everyone how fake Pro Wrestling is.

    Also, asking Hisae about sumo is like asking George Plimpton about NASCAR.

  122. Virginie Lebeau Says:

    Actually, asking Momus about something is like, well…asking Hisae about something. But to her credit, she is a girl–and a menstruating one at that I’ll wager. Therefore quite unclean! Hence barred from entering the Sumo ring (rigged or not), and by extension limited. And to the extent that she is limited she is thus, logically speaking, cute. A perfect circle!

  123. nate Says:

    I’ve been asking around for months trying to find who actually likes and watches sumo, and I’ve never found a single woman who does. Of the literally hundreds of middle schools students I’ve broached the subject with, less than ten had any interest whatsoever. Among a few dozen teachers I’ve asked, only one was interested. the most likely group to like sumo was cops, but I’ve only ever talked to two of them. They both watch when they get the chance though.
    According to my boss, when he thinks of a sumo watcher, he thinks of a conservative old man, or a foreigner (that was at my probing though).

    I’ve said it before…although Hisae is likely a care-taker of rabbits, and great person all around, her circumstances set her far apart from the average consumer of pop culture in japan. She seems to agree with momus all the time, which is to their credit as a couple, and gives a big hint as to where momus refines his feelings about japan.

  124. r. Says:

    this is a bit of a tangent, but as all of you out there who are really following sumo probably already know, there is a bit of a ‘foreign’ wrestler boom going on now in the sumo world. with a growing group of highly-talented up-and-comers, especially from eastern european (caucasian) countries and ‘asian’ countries (i.e. mongolia). now as far at the sumo as a rigged sport thing goes, the interesting thing would be to compare the progress of these non-japanese athelets up the rungs of the sumo ladder (some of them are already quite high up). if the sumo as pro-wrestling/spectacle idea holds water, even athelets of equal or surpassing skill probably won’t be ‘allowed’ to the ‘Oozeki’ position, since they would be playing the role of the foreign ‘challenger’ who accentuates the victory of the home team.
    similar things happen in japanese baseball, where the pitching records of some japanese ‘legends’ are not ‘allowed’ to be broken by non-japanese players…by pitching the foreign sluggers rather unhittable balls at critical moments where they stand a good chance of belting one out of the park and into the record books.
    i’ve no problem with sport as spectacle as long as everyone plays ‘fair’

  125. alin Says:

    Thomason was a highly acclaimed American baseball player, comissioned by the Tokyo Giants, who was injured preseason and left Japan having never played a game.

  126. Carl Says:

    >>What Marxy does on the other hand is normal science, with a bit of campaigning thrown in, perhaps.

    >If you’re comfortable with that combination, fine. But isn’t that a slightly odd combination? The scientist-campaigner?

    Momus, if you’re really a post-modernist, don’t you know your Kuhn? All scientists are campaigners.

  127. Chris_B Says:

    r: the question then becomes will sumo go the way of occupation period proresu.

    marxy: if you can, please get me a bottle of “Manhattan Special Coffee Soda”. I’ll reward you hansomly!

  128. mad jap Says:

    It is very normal and traditional to rig anything on Japanese TV or radio.
    Radio DJ reads letters written by the staff wirter everyday.
    I’ve done it, both of the reading and the writing ;)

    Especially entertainment stuff is set up.
    Hey, Pro-wrestling? K-1?
    The spectators know that the performers have scripts but they are enjoying to watch it as an entertainment.
    If you are Japanese, it is pathetic not to know it.

  129. Jrim Says:

    If you are Japanese, it is pathetic not to know it.

    Damn, a lot of my Japanese friends must be pretty pathetic, then. I’ve asked quite a few people about whether or not K-1 and Pride are rigged, and the closest I got to a yes was “well, I’ve heard rumors, so maybe”. I don’t think it’s quite the same as pro-wrestling, where it’s probably safe to say that everyone except pre-adolescent boys know that’s it’s all for show. And that still leaves the question: what about sumo?

  130. Momus Says:

    Thank you, MadJap, nice to see another Japanese voice added here! The score so far: there have been three Japanese opinions offered on this thread, and all have said that they don’t care that sumo is fixed.

    A lot is riding on this for Marxy’s general thesis about Japan, remember. He likes to join things up into a bigger picture, and he did just that at the end of his entry about sumo:

    These patterns of collusion between sumo stables seem to resemble other kinds of collusion in the Japanese media, political, and economic world, but I would wager that fixing “non-scripted” events in Japan can only continue as long as those involved have an informational advantage over the consumers/citizens. Would this practice continue even if sumo fans started receiving open and full information about the topic?

    It looks as though the answer is yes, the practice would continue if everyone knew about it. Everyone does know about it, and doesn’t care. And, by extension, they know but don’t care about other sorts of collusion in the media, political and economic world. So this idea of an “informational advantage” is simply not an accurate picture of contemporary Japan.

    What it is an accurate picture of, though, is conspiracy theory. “I know something that you don’t know, and they know something that you don’t know, and if you knew it the bottom would fall out of your world.” Thoughts like this keep the conspiracy theorist feeling important. But how on earth does the conspiracy theorist respond when the very people he’s saying know nothing about the conspiracy and would be shocked and horrified if they did, do know and aren’t shocked at all? A sensible conspiracy theorist would probably shift from the metaphor of conspiracy to the metaphor of contract, but come on, who expects conspiracy theorists to be sensible?

  131. mad jap Says:

    Sorry, it was too strong.
    I meant almost all big fans of pro-wrestling, K-1, Pride know it. Back to Sumo topic.

  132. Momus Says:

    I’d add one observation about conspiracy theorists, especially those who study marketing at postgrad level. It’s always difficult to know what side they’ll end up on. By placing themselves in between the masses and a core elite, and seeming to “reveal” the machinations of the core elite to the masses (and whether the masses are listening, or are as ignorant as portrayed, or care seems oddly irrelevant) they make themselves appear both populist and privvy to inside knowledge. We joke a lot about Marxy getting hit by the yakuza on these threads, but a much more likely outcome of these investigations is that he will, at some later stage of his career, using his populism as proof that he can be “the people’s friend in the core elite” and his conspiracy investigations to show good inside knowledge of the way of the world, attempt to insert himself into the very “collusion” he portrays himself here as unmasking and undermining.

    There’s only one obstacle to this fiendish scheme: Japanese racism. Marxy will never enter the Japanese core elite, simply because he’s not racially Japanese. His future in Japan looks likely to resemble that of the tragic Debito Aruduto: a string of futile legal battles with Japanese institutions, great and small. He does, however, have a shining future in America. Which begs the question, shouldn’t he right now be revealing the machinations of American power to the masses? Is poor old Japan just target practise? Does he fear biting hands that may one day feed him?

  133. Momus Says:

    (One solution to the above dilemma: become slightly sardonic and judgemental Japan correspondent for Time magazine, Slate, etc., ie “spy in the cab”.)

  134. mad jap Says:

    I apologize to you guys for posting a comment before reading well. I have to go soon to meet my friends, but I’ll ask them to get their opinions there.
    later.

  135. Jrim Says:

    Everyone does know about it, and doesn’t care.

    Yes, everyone does know about it! Just look at Mad Jap’s next post – he/she wasn’t even talking about sumo. So that’s two Japanese people so far who know about rigging and don’t care – and, what’s more, both of them freely admit that they’re not even interested in sumo. A unanimous vote, then: everyone in Japan is aware of this so-called “conspiracy” and couldn’t give a hoot. Let’s all stop talking about the issue and divert our senseless blathering to topics we really know about. I’m English, so I guess I could talk about cricket or something. Anyone care to join in?

  136. Momus Says:

    I understand why you would be in denial, after all, you’re on the losing side of this one. But fine, let’s go through every person in Japan one by one and see whether they know or care about sumo fixing. But Marxy has raised the stakes very high:

    a lot of what we explain as mystic “culture” is really just information asymmetries and power imbalances

    This lays out the argument not just about sumo but about “the Japanese media, political and economic world” that if people in Japan knew how they worked, these customs would collapse and a lot of what passes for “unique Japanese culture” would be revealed as a sort of error, corruption or exploitation. Now, given the Japanese people’s love of stability and affection for their own life and habitus — not to mention the fact that they don’t read Neomarxisme — this “information leading to collapse” scenario is extremely unlikely. But if it should occur, the question of what would replace the “error” arises. Something more “modern”, “reformed” and “in line with international standards”, perhaps? Something more American, maybe? Or more Chinese, since China looks set to overtake the US economically very shortly, and is alreeady the big local power in Asia, and shares many cultural features with Japan?

  137. j. Says:

    The following are excerpts from my e-mail exchange with mad jap earlier today that prompted him to join the discussion. Hopefully, they will round out his take on the matter. They are posted with his permission.

    Yaocho never exist in Sumo!! it’s our national sport!! must be holy and nothing dirty is
    acceptable there!! you are a mad gaijin!!
    I know there are lots of fixed games to make interesting topics and movements. They are still
    depending on the effect of mass communication, but even mass-c doesn’t treat them well these days.
    because of luck of heroes.
    as a fact, old or innocent people still believe somo is a holy sport. it’s not surprising that they get surpised at knowing the truth.
    i’m not sure how many people know it. but if all old people are counted, (the number would be high).
    (My wife) didn’t know about yaocho in sumo (and said she wouldn’t be surprised if it were true). … So, is it a secret?
    Or everybody knows, but they don’t care?
    one sumo wrestler ‘Itai’ came out (about) everything which he had been asked for doing yaocho by upper people. that led to a big dispute at that time.
    but he had gone soon quickly and quietly, since the sumo association got rid of him from the stage.
    those kinds of things are massive taboo and japanese don’t care the deep truth either.
    besides, that doesn’t make money. now it is maybe an oblivion dust already among most people.

    … in 1996, two ex-sumo wrestlers were going to give an interview to foreign journalists about
    yaocho in sumo.
    But before they could do the interview, they both died the same day in the same hospital of some sickness. We ran the story in The Japan Times.
    the victims are Itai’s master and senior. the (sumo federation) denied the existance of yaocho but didn’t accuse Itai. they wrapped it up leaving big grey zone. scary.
    … why don’t people want the whole story?
    that is Japanese thing. look at the WW2, we dislike to gaze at our own terrible things. and we don’t know how to handle it.
    Come on! You’re Japanese and you can handle it! You also know this sumo story, and admit that it’s
    pretty scary.
    OK, are these stories not reported because:
    1. The media are scared to tell the stories, or
    2. The Japanese public don’t want to read such
    stories?
    answer is definitely 1. people don’t know what mass media is. they believe everything on tv or paper is truth.
    “Hey, mass media is just a tool to know and THINK!”
    but now i feel it is changing. because of the popularization of internet. it’s impossible that
    everyone becomes interactive (still only less than 30% know ‘Google’) but i hope people have more
    opportunities to know and think.
    (During my five years as an editor of) The Japan Times we had many fights with the Japanese editors, who wanted to censor or cut stories that cast Japan in a negative light.
    i’m really scandalized at Japanese mass media’s “self-control”. it is really crap. they are just
    too timid to lead to a dispute. that is a fabrication!
    Do japanese care if sumo is fixed? Would yaocho continue in sumo if fans knew that it is happening?
    they would apologize but nothing would change. i think. we need robocop to accuse them.

  138. Momus Says:

    The fact that these revelations were made (by Shintaro Ishihara! Ha, conspiracy-as-populist-core-elite-enterism right there! And then by wrestlers themselves, and then by the Japanese tabloids, international media, etc, and finally Neomarxisme), and that sumo continues as before, and that the first whistle blower is now Tokyo’s right wing major, and that “japanese don’t care the deep truth”… doesn’t this all rather suggest that Marxy’s “informational advantage” theory is wrong?

  139. Jrim Says:

    i’m not sure how many people know it. but if all old people are counted, (the number would be high).

    Okay, apologies to Momus. Though I still object to your use of the word “everyone”. However, look at all the other stuff Mad Jap said:

    people don’t know what mass media is. they believe everything on tv or paper is truth.

    look at the WW2, we dislike to gaze at our own terrible things. and we don’t know how to handle it.

    i hope people have more opportunities to know and think.

    i’m really scandalized at Japanese mass media’s “self-control”. it is really crap. they are just too timid to lead to a dispute. that is a fabrication!

    Tell me: how much of that suggests that Marxy’s wrong in beating the “informational advantage” drum?

  140. Momus Says:

    Well, two answers to that. Either

    1. Mad Jap is “a Japanese person who doesn’t think like most Japanese”

    or

    2. Japanese people are very self-deprecating, but nevertheless don’t wish to change the things they apologise for.

  141. Momus Says:

    By the way, one question no-one has asked on this thread (we were too busy debating the Theory of Relativity) is key and central, I think: Has sumo always been fixed, or is it something recent? Is match fixing integral to the very conception of sumo, or is it something that’s crept in late in the day? If fixing (and the hierarchies of wrestlers) are not a recent introduction but part of the system of sumo right from the start, it may be that sumo is not threatened by corruption, but by those who claim to be trying to root out corruption. Sumo might become a victim of exactly the sort of openness that Marxy complains doesn’t exist in Japan. Shall we campaign for magicians to publish their tricks next? Shall we banish all mystery from the world? And what if people know how magicians do it, and still go to magic shows?

  142. j. Says:

    Momus says: I’m keeping a count of the number of ways you guys find to dismiss the one Japanese person’s opinion in these threads, by the way. It’s one of the things that makes me think these conversations, despite the stats and charts, aren’t a classroom where we’re “trying to understand Japan” but a kind of treehouse for the lightly wounded.

    But when another Japanese joins the discussion, and his opinion doesn’t support Nick’s line, as outlined by Jrim, Nick dismisses him:
    Mad Jap is “a Japanese person who doesn’t think like most Japanese”
    How is it that most Japanese think, Nick?
    Like Scottish expats in Berlin?

    As for point 2: Japanese people are very self-deprecating, but nevertheless don’t wish to change the things they apologise for.

    Based on what mad jap has said, I believe it should read more like: Japanese people are very self-deprecating. They don’t wish to gaze at their own terrible things, much less change or apologise for them.

  143. Jrim Says:

    Momus: that’s a fair point. j addressed the historical roots of bout-fixing in an earlier post here. To whit:

    Sumo World magazine publisher Andy Adams: “The origin of yaocho (match-rigging) goes back to the Edo Period, when there was a greengrocer — yaoya — who bet on matches and became infamous doing this, so we can assume that yaocho goes back to the Edo Period. It has been with sumo a long time. It has been exposed (in the past) and it is going through another set of exposes now.”

    The thing is, you’re overdoing the point if you compare sumo to a magic show (or to pro-wrestling, for that matter). A better comparison would be boxing – another sport that has a long history of corruption and bout rigging, but continues to be given proper newspaper and TV coverage (a Japanese friend of mine pointed out that the absence of such coverage for K-1 and Pride [except for such momentous occasions as the Akebono vs Bob Sapp fight] suggests that they might not be “for real”). If you read Steve’n’Stephen’s original paper, you’ll find that they’re not suggesting that all of sumo is rigged – rather, the statistical phenomenon they describe is only evident in the final few days of a sumo basho, and then only among those wrestlers whose rank is in jeopardy. In a Time magazine interview with Keisuke Itai, the wrestler-turned-supergrass claims that 80% of bouts were fixed – an even higher number, but still not everything. However, in the same article, “one of Japan’s highest-ranking sumo officials” is quoted as saying:

    When this is out in public, it will threaten the existence of the Japan Sumo Association… You have a long look on your face that says, ‘What’s the problem? This has been around for a long time.’ But at some point, we need to put an end to this.

    Note that he says Japan Sumo Association rather than sumo – i.e. the sport’s governing bodies would be likely to go under, as opposed to the sport itself. Either way, his is a very clear admission of guilt – one that says there is a problem and that it needs to be rectified. And if such an important insider feels that way, well… you do the math.

  144. Momus Says:

    when another Japanese joins the discussion, and his opinion doesn’t support Nick’s line

    Mad Jap’s opinion does support my line, though! He thinks that most Japanese know sumo is rigged and don’t care. The only difference between my position and his is that he apologises profusely for this state of affairs!

    The situation is very interesting, very orthopractic, if I may say so! Mad Jap (I’m going to assume he’s a he) now seems to feel embarrassed to have come into the discussion at the request of j, and then added balast to my argument. It looks like disloyalty to j, his friend, who was on the other side. So, to avoid offending anyone, Mad Jap apologises for not studying the thread. What he may mean is that he’s sorry for commenting before he knew the strategic alliances on the thread. He now seems willing to change (or at least blur) his stance to correct this. This he does by making a distinction between himself and “most people”, and apologising for Japanese backwardness and naivete. Someone seems to have got to him in between his first and subsequent postings!

  145. Momus Says:

    (Actually, correction, it’s not accurate to say j. was “on the other side”, j. was just adding information. And the self-self-presentation of Mad Jap being unlike other Japanese — not being hoodwinked by the media — is obviously the result of him working in the media: he cheerfully admits to making up reader’s letters! Hence, perhaps, the apologies too. But naturally I say “carry on making up those letters, as long as they’re good ones!”)

  146. j. Says:

    Mad Jap (I’m going to assume he’s a he) now seems to feel embarrassed to have come into the discussion at the request of j, and then added balast to my argument.

    Now who’s propagating conspiracies?
    Reread the posts; your timeline is skewed.

    Mad jap’s first apology was in response Jrim’s post:
    If you are Japanese, it is pathetic not to know it.
    Damn, a lot of my Japanese friends must be pretty pathetic …

    His second and only other apology was for posting without having read all previous posts.
    At this point, all he had said was that all Japanese knew that Pro-wrestling and K-1 were fixed.

    How were these apologies showing embarrassment for disloyalty to me, blah, blah, blah?

    The next post referring to him was by me, and as I said, it was the excerpts of e-mail we had exchanged earlier in the day, not after his apologies.

    Check again. He hasn’t apologised since my post quoting our e-mail exchange.

    It looks like disloyalty to j, his friend, who was on the other side.

    Other side to you? Show me where I take a side regarding this topic.
    Are you simply upset because I chided you for dismissing mad jap’s opinion? Grow up.

  147. nate Says:

    well, lets say that most japanese people know and don’t care. then what momus is spending all his time arguing about is that marxy is wasting his time. And better yet, wasting it because they already know. So where’s the harm? best I can figure, momus is trying to save marxy time, and does so by reducing the entire world to structures of fluid relativity.

    And we have seen evidenced that among the three japanese people that have voiced an opinion, two who have no interest (and most likely close to zero information beyond what appeared in the tabloids several years ago) think maybe it’s rigged. one gives mixed signals.

    I don’t think we’d find, no matter how long we looked someone who really fits the bill here. Loves sumo and pays attention to it, even though they know it’s rigged. Until someone of that frame of mind rolls in, were listening to reviews of a play that the reviewer didn’t attend.

  148. Momus Says:

    Other side to you? Show me where I take a side regarding this topic.

    I corrected that before you posted, j. — check the timeline!

  149. Jrim Says:

    Below the belt even for you, Momus! Classic stuff. Hee hee.

  150. Momus Says:

    I don’t think we’d find, no matter how long we looked someone who really fits the bill here. Loves sumo and pays attention to it, even though they know it’s rigged. Until someone of that frame of mind rolls in, were listening to reviews of a play that the reviewer didn’t attend.

    I agree with you that Marxy’s position would be a lot easier if things were narrowed down to such a specific task. But Marxy’s fondness for joining things up and making a “big picture” has led him to make his case wider, not narrower. It’s not just about sumo, he says:

    These patterns of collusion between sumo stables seem to resemble other kinds of collusion in the Japanese media, political, and economic world, but I would wager that fixing “non-scripted” events in Japan can only continue as long as those involved have an informational advantage over the consumers/citizens.

    So it’s about “fixing events in Japan” and it’s about “consumers/citizens”, not just about “fixing sumo matches” and “sumo fans”. That’s the way Marxy has set it up, and he suggests people just don’t know what’s going on. It’s an “informational imbalance”, and nothing to do with culture. He’s using the same positivistic terms Steven Levitt uses in his book. Call it “freakonomics”.

  151. Momus Says:

    (And by the way, the irony of “freakonomics” is that, despite the book’s emphasis on stats rather than culture, the book is a bestseller in the US because Americans love to assign numerical values to things, and especially monetary values, and are somewhat uneasy with cultural explanations. It’s in their culture!)

  152. j. Says:

    I corrected that before you posted, j. — check the timeline!

    Yes, we were apparently busy typing at the same time and you beat me to the post button. Omedetou.

  153. Jrim Says:

    Americans love to assign numerical values to things, and especially monetary values, and are somewhat uneasy with cultural explanations. It’s in their culture!

    Momus: for someone so given to chastise anyone here for putting words into the mouths of Japanese people, who are you to take such liberties with the citizens of the good old US of A?

  154. marxy Says:

    Again I want to restate that both sumo and the Japanese mass media create their legitimacy on the idea of presenting “reality” and both take massive measures to silence any evidence about rigging or fabrication. This idea that “everyone knows” or “no one cares” seems to be false because otherwise no one would trust the media to start with. There are basically no “media watch” organizations in Japan or even the floated idea that sometimes sumo/media is lying, but most of the time it’s real. There’s a general feeling that some of it may be faked, but the people at top of the fields pretty much hush up all major discussions on the topics. According to polls/surveys, trust of mass media is much higher in Japan than in America.

    But let’s take the moral/ethical question out: does a massively-believed, fabricated “reality” have an impact on social disssemination of information or not?

  155. x Says:

    “Kenji enjoys sumo, because he likes the idea of two men engaging in a fair fight, to determine which one has reached a greater degree of self-mastery. In fact, Kenji has religiously watched sumo for ten years, every day after work. However, one day, Kenji finds out sumo is not based on competitive self-mastery, and is, in fact, staged to support organized crime. Kenji feels betrayed, because he would never support a corrupt, uncompetitive sport. This realization retroactively tarnishes the enjoyment Kenji derived from ten years of his life, in turn robbing Kenji of time – which represents the very essence of his existence.”

    Or, from another point of view, which any person who is not busy acting pretentious will find concondorance with:

    “Big lies hurt real bad.”

  156. dzima Says:

    He (Marxy) does, however, have a shining future in America. Which begs the question, shouldn’t he right now be revealing the machinations of American power to the masses? Is poor old Japan just target practise? Does he fear biting hands that may one day feed him?

    Using economic reasons to explain or to influence culture/social behaviour/etc is what politicians do on a daily basis. So maybe in the future we will have Marxy, Mayor of Pensacola (D-FL), in action.

    By then, Krist Novoselic will be Mayor of Seattle so we will have the “pop sociology” of American politics also in action for sure!

  157. Momus Says:

    x, I’d like to know where you got that “Kenji” text, because it’s such a non-Japanese way of looking at sumo! Two individuals keen to prove their self-mastery by competition… The passage might work better if you said “Jim enjoys sumo, etc”… Please don’t think you gave a culturally-neutral way to describe sumo, or that only pretentious people take cultural difference into account.

    Marxy: But let’s take the moral/ethical question out: does a massively-believed, fabricated “reality” have an impact on social disssemination of information or not?

    If we’re taking the moral/ethical thing out, the word “fabricated” is not pejorative, right? All societies are fabricated, and all social acts need a framework which is also fabricated. Human social reality, as well as the physical fabric of human cities, is all fabricated by us, and none the less real for that. It is not problematical to believe in something fabricated, especially not if we believe in something fabricated for us, with our interests in mind. Your mistake here is the assumption that knowing that something is fabricated undermines its legitimacy. Why should this be the case?

  158. j. Says:

    So, to avoid offending anyone, Mad Jap apologises for not studying the thread. … He now seems willing to change (or at least blur) his stance to correct this. This he does by making a distinction between himself and “most people”, and apologising for Japanese backwardness and naivete. Someone seems to have got to him in between his first and subsequent postings!

    Ah, mad jap’s response, according to Nick, was apparently changed (a fabrication!) to appease me, and hence its legitimacy is undermined.

    But wait: Your mistake here is the assumption that knowing that something is fabricated undermines its legitimacy. Why should this be the case?

    Indeed.

  159. der Says:

    It is unbelievable, Momus. You cannot tell me you didn’t realise that Marxy meant “present something as true which isn’t” with “fabricated”, not “man made”. Of course society is man made, and not given by God; that’s got little to do with whether one description of it (or aspects of it) is appropriate or not.

    I continue to be puzzled: is it dishonesty, i.e. twisting the words just to make a point, or stupidity, i.e. understanding only what you like?

  160. Momus Says:

    Well, I thought mad jap was being orthopractical rather than orthodoxical; he seemed to be manoevring to position himself according to consensus and alliances rather than individual innate convictions. I wasn’t finger-wagging at all, and I wouldn’t call that “fabrication” in the pejorative sense. He admits fabricating letters for a radio show, for instance, and all I’ve said is “Gambate! I hope you do it well!”

  161. j. Says:

    (mad jap) seemed to be manoevring to position himself according to consensus and alliances rather than individual innate convictions.

    And again. OK, Nick, at what point did mad jap seem to manouvre to position himself according to consensus?

    Was it his second post, when he apologised for calling pathetic all those Japanese who were unaware that pro-wrestling and K-1 are fixed?
    Or was it his third and final post, in which he apologised for not having read the thread in its entirety?

    Nick, where in any of mad jap’s three brief posts he can be seen to be manoevring to position himself according to consensus and alliances rather than individual innate convictions?

    Perhaps you’re referring to my lengthy post in which I quote our e-mail exchange?
    That’s well and good, but as this was conducted earlier in the day — and at the time without any plan to post it anywhere — I wonder how mad jap could be prompted to show any alliance?
    Well, in fact he doesn’t, and you’ve already graciously apologised for accusing me of taking sides when I’ve remained steadfastly neutral on the topic.

    In that post of mine, taken as it is from an exchange earlier in the day, how can mad jap suddenly manouvre to position himself according to consensus and alliances rather than individual innate convictions, especially when at that point he’s blissfully unaware of the existence of Neomarxisme?

    Hmm, so nothing there in that post of mine either, right?
    Oh, then it must have come later, right? Well, that would only leave mad jap’s three posts.

    So again, Nick, quote for me the part in his three posts where mad jap suddenly manouvres to position himself according to consensus and alliances rather than individual innate convictions.

    No, I don’t see it either.

  162. Carl Says:

    Momus reminds me of Bush in his non-admission of even minor mistakes.

  163. marxy Says:

    Bush didn’t lie about the Iraq war as much as “fabricate” it, right?

  164. Momus Says:

    It is unbelievable, Momus. You cannot tell me you didn’t realise that Marxy meant “present something as true which isn’t” with “fabricated”, not “man made”.

    That reading is excluded by what Marxy said, if you read it, Der. He said

    But let’s take the moral/ethical question out: does a massively-believed, fabricated “reality” have an impact on social disssemination of information or not?

    Now, your definition of fabricated–“to present something as true which isn’t”–brings ethics straight back in, because it means “a lie”. Marxy is leaving them out, he says, so we can only assume the other meaning of “fabricated”: the more neutral sense of constructing and creating objects and meanings.

  165. der Says:

    Now, your definition of fabricated–“to present something as true which isn’t”–brings ethics straight back in, because it means “a lie”.

    Sure, because epistemology is the same as ethics.

    (It probably is on your crazy planet, but that’s a different story. So in your world you can’t say “he lied, and it was the right thing to do”? In your reading, that would have to be “I declare act x (of stating something as fact which isn’t) morally wrong and morally right”, a contradiction.)

  166. nate Says:

    I get the impression that the non-sumo watchers here think that the reason people watch ie because they love the ceremony of it. Momus thinks the interest in competition is “such a non-Japanese way of looking at sumo! Two individuals keen to prove their self-mastery by competition”.

    huh? so people are actually watching sumo for the colorful robes of the referee? Just like people actually watch baseball for the 7th inning stretch, right? People watch and enjoy it as a sport… just like boxing. And where people claim that boxing is often rigged, the boxing organizations have gone to great lengths to present at least the idea that it’s not.

    I’ve watched a lot of sumo, on occasion with japanese people, and no one really cares what’s going on between the matches. Not me, the japanese people watching on tv, or the japanese people at the event. Until the rikishi face off, everyone is talking.
    I think you’re imagining that every damned thing in this country is tea ceremony. Competition is a much more lively part of the pop cultural dialogue than silent aestheticism. Read manga, watch tv, go bet on keirin or dog fights. Walk into a junior high, high school, college, or workplace sporting club. athletics and all competition as the expression of self mastery is much more common than any other idea about competition in japan you want to present.
    In fact, the issues surrounding the retirement of a yokozuna in sumo revolve very explicitly around self mastery, as does most of the dialogue presented by sumo commentators including the former rikishi.

    calling that “a non-japanese way of looking at sumo” is such a load of crap. now who’s putting words into the mouths of japan?
    not everyone in this country is a girly girl.

  167. Momus Says:

    Der, you’re really slithering around now with this claim that Marxy’s “massively-believed, fabricated “reality”” has no moral or ethical content. The concept of lying is necessarily pejorative, and to argue the case for a “good lie” you’d have to make a complex moral argument based on the lesser of two evils, etc.

    What’s comic about Marxy’s original statement is that he claims to be bracketing moral concerns, and then makes a description of the situation which is so judgemental and morally loaded (a so-called reality that isn’t true and that everyone believes). This is fairly typical Marxy; “hard science” from some book or other (here, a book where an economist looks at a sport, amongst other non-economic actitivites), then, when the smoke clears, a severely judgemental stance on the culture of Japan (and nowhere else).

  168. nate Says:

    again, momus, this blog is about the thing that marxy specializes in. japanese pop culture.

    he doesn’t presume to have special knowledge about every subject under the sun. it’s only appropriate that he talk about, and criticize (and praise) japan the most.

  169. Carl Says:

    Momus, you seem really offended by the idea of economists in general, let alone economists who think about non-monetary things. Have you no love for your countryman, Adam Smith? I mean, economics is just a form of theater: economists enjoy using math and statistics to “prove” ridiculous things in their journals, but everyone knows it’s all just a game. Haven’t you ever read a Paul Krugman column in the New York Times? What’s so offensive about economists pretending that they’re into self-mastery of mathematical concepts when it’s “really” just them engaging in sophistry?

    My beef with post-modernism is it seems like no one can ever be completely consistent in their application of it.

  170. Chris_B Says:

    Carl: I share your seniments in the last statement. It all seems like one big circle jerk of $5 words to me. Its a shame because underneath all the foolishness, some genuine ideas exist.

  171. der Says:

    The concept of lying is necessarily pejorative,

    No, it’s not. As I illustrated with the example, the only “necessary” part (as in: part of the truth conditions of sentences containing it) is “to present something as true that, as is known to the speaker, isn’t”. The ethical judgement is an additional presupposition (“and it is wrong to do so”).* Presuppositions can be cancelled, as my example showed. (My example showed exactly that it isn’t a necessary part; how difficult it is to actually do the cancelling is irrelevant.)

    In any case, my formulation purposefully didn’t use the word “lie”, but rather only the truth-conditional part (“present something as true that isn’t”), so as to make this clearer.

    It is true of course that in most societies knowingly telling untruths is disapproved of — but your point seems to be that in Japan presenting something as true that isn’t / lying seems to be not disapproved of in certain areas.

    *You can probably make an argument that it is a scalar implicature.

  172. Momus Says:

    This is getting silly, but honestly, der, are you trying to tell me that you really believe that when Marxy said he was going to set moral/ethical considerations aside, and then characterised the situation in Japan as ‘massively-believed, fabricated “reality”‘, he was actually doing what he said he was doing, and excluding all ethical and moral considerations? Are you his lawyer or something?

  173. Carl Says:

    My previous post was sarcastic, but here’s something serious.

    Momus, what do you think about America’s Fox News Channel claiming to be “Fair and Balanced?” Basically everyone in America except for the Right Wing True Believers realizes that the station leans heavily right, so the claim is basically transparent theater. On the other hand, the claim does have serious implications, namely it implies that every other station that isn’t heavily right wing is distorting their message so as to advance a “liberal agenda.”

  174. Carl Says:

    One more minor clarification: Paul Krugman is mostly full of crap since he only shows the economic numbers that agree with his conclusions, but he sure is a fun read, isn’t he?

  175. Momus Says:

    Momus, what do you think about America’s Fox News Channel claiming to be “Fair and Balanced?” Basically everyone in America except for the Right Wing True Believers realizes that the station leans heavily right, so the claim is basically transparent theater. On the other hand, the claim does have serious implications, namely it implies that every other station that isn’t heavily right wing is distorting their message so as to advance a “liberal agenda.”

    Fox News is rigged, and everyone knows it’s rigged (by “rigged” I mean that the outcome of any ideological clash that appears on Fox will be fixed in advance; let’s call it Fix News). But Fox News is clearly situated. It’s seen as a brand with a clear identity and a clear position on things. I’d oppose “clear” to “transparent”, which is how other networks try to portray their news coverage. Fox’s clear situation (rather than transparent attempts at “balance” — always a poor metaphor for those who believe questions have more than two sides) does indeed force other networks to consider their own situation… and consider it as a virtue.

    While I deplore the Fox News’ views, I think its strong identity, its situatedness, is a virtue. This is what the Democrats lack in the US, and something they could learn from. On the other hand, situatedness can lead to a cantankerous, bickering atmosphere which sounds political but ultimately isn’t: “the wilderness of opinion”, I sometimes call it. You could also call it “the showbiz of position”. It’s an occupational hazard for “the commentariat”, and I don’t exclude myself from that class.

  176. Carl Says:

    Good answer.

  177. aclockworkforeign Says:

    Momus also has a severe stance (albeit one lacking in judgement) on the culture of Japan, or at least, these days he seems to. If you plunder his Daily Photo writings from 4 or 5 years back, though, I think a tinge of suspicion or doubt is still palpable, like in this Metro article that he borrowed from his own earlier Daily Photo entry (circa 2002).

    http://www.metropolismag.com/html/content_0302/per/

    Of course, an attentive reader will see that over the past half-decade, he has managed to ‘work thru’ his secondary feelings that “…something is horribly wrong here” (his primary feelings on japan were mostly sheer bedazzlement–par for course) in his own po-mo way.

    This in of course the crux and the point at which Momus and Marxy’s secondary and tertiary reactions to their Japanese experience tend to diverge.

    I should say that his current attitude of being affirmative to a fault (regarding Japan) is in and of itself somewhat suspicious, but I do appreciate his journal for its novelty and wit, but not for anything else.

    It seems that Momus has finally and indirectly answered the Minekawa-esque question that he was faced with back in 2001: “Does your way of life [or thinking] need a room?” Momus has mangaged to find some comfort within the four walls of his virtual thoughtspace (his own Roomic Cube, finally?), but seems to have some aversion for Marxy’s. Perhaps he’s drifted closer to the “hikikomori” postulate he suggestes here:

    http://www.imomus.com/thought130801.html

    But is his now more of a distanced reclusion (from Japan), semi-vicarious and jealously guarding its own delusory exclusivity?

  178. Momus Says:

    Ooh, it’s fun to be analysed. Like going to the shrink or the fortune teller! I wonder if Marxy enjoyed the bit where I predicted his entire future (choice between becoming Debito Aruduto and a Time Asia correspondent)?

  179. aclockworkforeign Says:

    Momus,
    It was a pleasure to give that analysis. Thanks for being such an interesting subject! As to the whole ‘ghost of Marxy future’ question, I think something else that you said (was it here or elsewhere, I can’t recall) will probably come to pass, i.e. Marxy being in an important position in America working on Japanese problems. Of course, if we replace America with Europe, it doesn’t take a Relativity Theorist to figure out that you have inadvertently described the ‘ghost of Momus present’…at which point your prediction about Marxy whithers a bit.

  180. Momus Says:

    Well, I may live in Europe, but most of my ‘work” is now in the US, so maybe I was really talking about myself!

  181. Chris_B Says:

    Momus sez about Fox’s “virtuous” ideology This is what the Democrats lack in the US, and something they could learn from.

    Whoah there nelly! you sound like me sounding like Rush Limbaugh now.

    To your credit I think that you know very well how to butter your bread, in that Americans will happily pay good solid greenbacks for your particular ideology. We really are suckers at heart for some clear cut Hollywood style presentation of “the other”. I really should stop challenging you to breack character in public if I’m gonna pay respect to your public character.

  182. marxy Says:

    I don’t see myself being the next David Arudou, but thanks for the vote of confidence.

  183. Jrim Says:

    It’s not David, it’s Debito!

    [slaps marxy with a multi-million yen lawsuit]

  184. nick Says:

    i just read this, and not to bring it up again, but while doing the math as an physics/engineering student i think the line between relativism and (special) relativity is pretty clear. as is the chain reaction this idea caused, which i guess lead to non-sensical postmodern arguements. einstein himself used relativism to describe relativity with:

    “When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute and it’s longer than any hour. That’s relativity.”

    i hate to “appeal to authority” but if anyone understood relativity i guess it would have been that guy.

    now for my other two physics/engineering cents, i think these liberal arts arguements are great :) there’s no right answer and people gain currency by repeating other people and rearranging words? even when logical a->b style arguements are introduced, they can be ignored by simple wordplay. it’s like magic to me: convince the other person you are right, and it becomes so!

    and on sumo: my personal opinion is that japanese people wouldn’t care if sumo is rigged, just like they wouldn’t care if koizumi turned out to be a 6-headed demon-beast. if it doesn’t stop them from having a happy, shiny day, then it simply doesn’t matter. which is one of the things i both love and hate about japan.

  185. nick Says:

    (sorry if this doubles, but my last post disappeared into obscurity)

    so, not to bring this up again, but from my experiences ding the math as a physics/engineering student, the line between relativism and (at least special) relativity is pretty clear. and the effect the idea had on philosophy is undeniable, resulting in these ridiculous “everything is relative” postmodern debates i so enjoy reading. einstein himself used relativism to explain relativity with:

    “When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute and it’s longer than any hour. That’s relativity.”

    i hate to “appeal to authority” but i guess if someone understood relativity, it was this guy. (or newton, since this kind of reasoning also explains newtonian relativity, [ie. inertial reference frames, etc] which is what most people think of.) but anyways, aren’t appeals to authority the lifeblood of liberal-arts arguements? whenever i work with some of y’all there has to be a 10^9 citations or else it isn’t a proper paper. there’s no truth in the liberal arts, just links to trusted individuals. the more links you have, the closer it gets to a mesh network, so when one person gets discredited you still have 5 other legs to stand on…

    and on sumo:
    my opinion is that japanese people wouldn’t care is sumo was rigged, just as they wouldn’t care if it turned out that koizumi was really a 6-headed man-beast. if it doesn’t interfere with their happy, shiny day, then it simply doesn’t matter. which i absolutely admire. and simultaneously resent.

  186. Momus Says:

    But which of those two postings are we to believe? In one Koizumi is a man-beast, in the other a demon-beast. One cites Einstein, the other cites Newton and Einstein. One compares “liberal-arts thinking” to magic (although “convince the other person you are right, and it becomes so!” sounds more like science to me than magic), the other compares it to “a mesh network” (whatever that is).

    I think I’ll go with Koizumi as man-beast, it sounds more scientific.

  187. nick Says:

    eh, as i said, the 1st one disappeared without explanation, so I tried to reproduce it (and failed, it appears)

    but liberal arts thinking is like magic to me. in science if people can’t reproduce your findings, its probably wrong. which is why relativity is accepted (it stands up to expirimental scrutiny) and string theory is not (it is untestable). in the liberal arts, there’s no truth. if you have some idea about society, its merit lies in how many people agree with you. as an opinion, it is essentially untestable. this is why you argue for days about some post with no resolution. you know that your opinion is not absolutely correct (or rather is just one of an infinite number of right answers), but if you can just get one or two more people to agree…

    and on why i included newton the second time (aside from being scatter-brained) is that most people don’t realize that relativity didn’t begin with einstein. in fact, most people think they understand einstein’s version of relativity, and when asked to explain, they’ll just tell you about newton’s.

    and finally, as someone pointed out before, you seem to be no stranger to google, and you write for wired? i’m sure it’d take you about a 10^-9 second to figure out what a mesh network is.