On my Tuesday night commute home, I spied an advert for the newest issue of weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun. The mag promised five stories on the Kameda fight controversy, including dirt on the Korean judge, an interview with the losing fighter, and explorations into the “dark” figures assisting the father. I immediately picked up the issue the following morning and gave it a read on the Ginza line.
Talk about complete and utter letdown! Bunshun offered nothing new to anyone who had been following the story on the Internet, and moreover, would not even name the yakuza boss in Kameda’s support organization. He is listed merely as “ある広域指定暴力団の幹部” — “a leader for an organized crime group with control over a specified large area.” Any third-rate website will give you his name, a link to his Wikipedia page, and pictures of him with the young fighter.
Conversely, however, this lame showing is a very exciting development. Shukanshi used to be the vital leak in a tightly controlled information system. They managed to break the Lockheed scandal in the early ’70s and bring down the Tanaka government in a time when the newspaper reporters all knew about the bribery but refused to inform the public. But now, these once valiant gossip rags are total wusses compared to the irresponsible, amoral tidal wave of free information on the Internet, crashing over evil-doers and drowning them in the 21st century.
Access to information is no longer a barrier in Japan, meaning that we are less dependent upon the ethical leanings of the mass media. The remaining issue is legitimacy. Although not as trustworthy as newspapers, the shukanshi are semi-legitimate publications. The Internet has yet to win that kind of credibility, but the visibility of Kikko’s blog suggests that legitimacy may be just around the corner. What has been interesting for the last two years is the social contract between the mainstream gossip mags and anarchic cesspools like 2ch. The internet chatter provides the leads, and the editors get to breach taboo topics as if they are just reporting on “voices from the street.”
I hope Shukan Bunshun can follow the Kameda story, use their institutional know-how, ask the right questions, and come to more solid conclusions. But if you are looking for raw data, dangerous claims, and anonymous knights of valor, save your ¥350 and buy a mouse.