Members of a Nation State

Members of a Nation State

For a long time, the Mainichi Daily News website had a popular feature called WaiWai that translated salacious articles from Japanese tabloids into English. Not all Japanese tabloids are made the same, of course, but the WaiWai editors gleefully placed them all under the overarching word “weeklies” as to equate the deep investigative journalism on politics and entertainment in Shukan Bunshun with the pure fictionalized sensationalist garbage of Jitsuwa Knuckles. WaiWai could then scour the deepest and darkest corners of newsstands for the most ridiculous stories and act like this junk was a legitimate part of the mainstream Japanese media environment and worthy of reportage.

Thanks in part to the screed of this roustabout1, the Japanese “blogosphere” realized for the first time a few months ago that a top newspaper’s website was offering the world stories on Japanese mothers fellating their sons to bolster academic acumen and a Roppongi restaurant letting customers sodomize animals before eating them. Thus rose a great populist wrath, and Mainichi has since been on a pathetic slapstick comedy mission to issue as many apologies as humanly possible. WaiWai is now six feet under, and head editor Ryann Connell is locked up in virtual house arrest.

When the debacle erupted, I generally forgot about my earlier criticism against WaiWai and assumed the blow-up was another 2-Channel witch hunt. Today anonymous masses would scream against Mainichi, tomorrow they would scream against McDonalds giving out too many ketchup packets. But this very non-judgmental Global Voices Online article reminded me of the true WaiWai depths: why in the world would Mainichi Daily News happily publish a clearly-untrue article about Japanese flying to Ecuador to murder children as sport? Hard not to feel sympathetic to Japanese individuals living in Ecuador worried about the impact of such a story floating around the internet removed from its original palpably-dubious context.

For me and a lot of my peers, the WaiWai controversy could be boiled down to a lapse in journalistic ethics: an intentional obscuring of diversity in shukanshi accuracy, a cynical scrounge for sex-driven stories in order to boost web traffic, “creative” translation that distorted the nuance of the original articles. There has been a loud counter-criticism from the foreign community that “WaiWai was just bringing Japanese journalism to light,” and I agree that a lot of WaiWai’s heavy misogyny simply reflects Japanese shukanshi‘s chronic objectification of women. But the Mainichi feature was never some kind of detached, sociological “objective look” at Japanese tabloid journalism: WaiWai exploited and amplified the original prurience for commercial gain.

These criticisms on journalistic context and methodology do not, however, appear to be the driving thrust of the Japanese grievance. Anti-Mainichi sentiment has spread past simple “2-ch mobs” of anonymous flamers. But almost all the disparate parties seem to share a similar set of concerns: Waiwai’s articles insinuated a Japanese obsession with sexual fetishism and the “easiness” of Japanese women. One of the protest’s main tropes has been “Japanese women have been literally crying after finding out what is being said about them on WaiWai.” A Japanese commenter on META no TAME tried to link WaiWai with a rise in sexual crime against Japanese women: “Since waiwai started in 1999, there happened immediate 100% increase of Japanese women raped outside Japan, and it is on going [sic].” I very much doubt this is an accurate statistic, but the statement reveals a deep grief that a flawed “WaiWai version of Japan” has been transmitted loudly to the rest of the globe on Mainichi’s infrastructure.

I find the death threats and calls to “drop a nuclear bomb on Australia” reprehensible and overblown, but they do reveal that this is not a simple case of demarche against impoverished “journalistic ethics.” The passionate anti-Mainichi mobs believe that Ryann Connell and his crew are “racist” and the foreign staff of WaiWai intentionally chose and worded translations in order to embarrass and debase the Japanese people. Forget cynical profit motives, this is another volley in the age old war between peoples of different racial descent.

Indeed, most of the anti-WaiWai screeds have possessed a noticeable amount of “nationalist” sentiment. This blogger Tonchamon has been identified as a “key leader” of the anti-WaiWai movement, and judging by the Korea was Created by Japan and China’s Despotism Shakes the World tomes recommended at the left, I am guessing he is extremely invested protecting the image of Japan in relation to other foreign countries (especially Japan’s hostile and “ungrateful” Asian neighbors). There are surely non-nationalist Japanese with bones to pick with WaiWai, but the “damage to motherland” angle has become central to the entire affair. This wiki on the debacle features a parody Mainichi Shimbun ad stating: “We no longer need a newspaper that scorns our country.” (母国を侮蔑する新聞はもういらない。)

In the past we have discussed whether otaku are “right-wing,” and although many strongly suggest that the “net uyoku” are distinct from pure anime-loving nerds, the two sections definitely haunt the same pages and halls of the internet. There does not seem to be a palpable discomfort with the nationalist sentiments that form most of the counter-attack against WaiWai. This suggests to me that: young computer-involved Japanese are more likely to base their identity on being members of a nation state compared to their peers in the United States. I do not mean nationalism here to necessarily imply militarism or jingoism: simply a deep concern with national identity and national image. And this net nationalism is mostly disconnected from the political process: 2-Ch schadenfreude about Koreans rarely links to a pro-LDP position over DPJ, etc. (Apparently, the Japanese Communist Party and proletarian literature are blossoming with the growing NEET and freeter segments of society.) But in this ideology, the individual’s relation to his nation state is key, and there is thus a need to protect the image of that nation-state in order to protect his/her own identity.

As an American of the liberal persuasion, I am naturally inclined to be suspicious of a personal identity that concerns itself with “defending” the national image. The United States deserves all the (non-violent) hate it gets for invading Iraq, and before that, for supporting countless dictatorships and oppressing democracy in the name of “anti-communism.” (And the list does not stop there…) I cannot imagine ever getting bent out of shape that an American media source “scorned the image of our country.”

But this is essentially a matter of taste as much as politics. Chuck Klosterman perfectly captures this collective taste culture in his book Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto where he recalls a mass email sent to his friends:

Here was the conceit of my email: I gave everyone two potential options for a hypothetical blind date and asked them to pick who they’d prefer. The only thing they knew about the first candidate was that he or she was attractive and successful. The only things they knew about the second candidate was that he or she was attractive, successful, and “extremely patriotic.” No other details were provided or could be ascertained.

Just about everyone immediately responded by selecting the first individual. They viewed patriotism as a downside. I wasn’t too surprised; in fact, I was mostly just amused by how everyone seemed to think extremely patriotic people weren’t just undateable but totally fucking insane. One of them wrote that the quality of “patriotism” was on par with “regularly listening to Cat Stevens” and “loves Robin Williams movies.” Comparisons were made to Ted Nugent and Patrick Henry. And one especially snide fellow sent back a mass message to the entire e-mail group, essentially claiming that any woman who loved America didn’t deserve to date him, not because he hated his country but because patriotic people weren’t smart.

This pretty much sums up my own conscious and unconscious biases against pronounced patriotism. There are plenty of people in the United States who hold a 2-ch-esque unwavering belief in the sanctity of the nation state, but these sentiments are markers for such ideological and cultural divides that they could never exist as the unquestioned basis of a non-political internet grievance like the WaiWai incident. Moreover, the subconscious political position of non-political blogs on the English-language internet is clearly “left-wing” or at least moderate Democratic with a cynical libertarian streak. Any statement of “how dare someone attack America” would invite immediate calls of “troll.”

In Japan, Korea, and China, generic internet users have shown themselves to be very, very concerned with defending their own nation states against outside interests. This does not mean they do not complain against internal organizations within a dialogue of fellow countrymen, but when the frame of the debate is “Nation vs. Nation” or “Nation vs. The World,” the default position mostly appears to be “nationalist.” Japan, however, probably pales in comparison to China and Korea on this count. How many non-sound truck soldier Japanese can you see killing the Korean national bird over the Liancourt Rocks? Net users may not represent the total nation, but we cannot deny that defending Japan’s global image is a passionate issue for the loudest plurality on the internet, with few signs of a countervailing ideology to temper.

Those not wanting to accept this conclusion have to make a choice: either the anti-WaiWai mob is a limited “nationalist” phenomenon rejected by offscreen “liberal” internationally-minded elements in society, or most highly-involved Japanese internet users are perfectly comfortable with nationalist rhetoric. There are voices that the WaiWai debacle started from an-anti Mainichi cabal attempting real estate espionage or right-wing punishment for Mainichi’s printing of the Soka Gakkai newspaper, but legions of regular users do seem to support the efforts to punish the newspaper giant. Anti-WaiWai sentiment does not, of course, prove that Japan is on the path of invading China or taking “Takeshima” by force, but it does point to a divergent development of “internet culture” between this country and the American-dominated global standard. Surely, there are taste cultures in Japan that reject nationalism, but they have not taken the dominant position online.

Footnotes:

1 I admit I was wrong about one thing: Ryann Connell is not Irish.

W. David MARX
July 24, 2008

W. David Marx (Marxy) — Tokyo-based writer and musician — is the founder and chief editor of Néojaponisme.

112 Responses

  1. Adamu Says:

    I also had no idea of WaiWai’s more extreme articles. Those ones you mention almost make me want to erupt in nationalist outrage.

    Your main point – “most highly-involved Japanese internet users are perfectly comfortable with nationalist rhetoric” is right on the money! I might take your argument even further though – it’s not just the Internet, people here in general, whether liberal or conservative, accept the basic premises of Japanese nationalism and would have a natural sympathy for the rightwing bloggers.

    That the net-rightists are active in a controversy that shames Mainichi shouldn’t surprise anyone. But why take their arguments at face value? The rightist activists can be brazenly cynical, as you might have noticed when they suddenly started caring deeply for the plight of the Tibetan people when the Olympic torch came to Japan. This was a golden opportunity to get one over the Mainichi, a perennial “enemy of the state,” and the rightists ran with it the only way they know how — at full speed and with maximum shrillness.

    Critically, WaiWai was low-hanging fruit. Shaming the Mainichi is a moral no-brainer that makes participants feel simultaneously superior and an accepted part of the group.

    And there is a long history of Japanese people fuming over bad press overseas… I am sure many felt that it was no less than treason for Mainichi to devote an entire feature to unflattering portrayals of the nation. It’s a crime people are familiar with and ready to condemn at a moment’s notice.

    I mean, apart from a minority of intellectuals, expats, or the most Westernized Japanese, just what “taste cultures” in Japan do you see as rejecting nationalism? For a lot of people here, liberalism and nationalism are not mutually exclusive. Except on the fringes, everyone seems to accept the basic premises of Japan’s unique awesomeness in one way or another; or if it’s rejected on one issue (the war, the economy) it’s reaffirmed in another (often the food, the inscrutability of the language, what have you). And even a lot of the more liberal Japanese I know harbor something of a distaste for the Koreans.

    These are just a few examples, but it is clear that this was a scandal ready-made for nationalistic-tinged outrage.

  2. W. David MARX Says:

    just what “taste cultures” in Japan do you see as rejecting nationalism?

    I agree that there aren’t many. A lot of the “Japan is not nationalistic” crowd points to people off screen, but I think that they are a relatively silent group if they even exist in large numbers.

    Nationalism does not have to mean jingoism, and if we see nationalism as “loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially : a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests” then I think Japan lacks a strong anti-nationalist public sentiment. Even the hard left feels very nationalistic, due to the post-war subservience to the U.S.

    I personally am not particularly nationalistic, but instead of saying “nationalism is bad,” I just wanted to non-judgmentally point out a big difference between baseline political ideologies in Japan and the Western nations I am familiar with.

  3. Aceface Says:

    Always makes me wonder about English speaking nationals talk about “nationalism” as something foreign.

  4. W. David MARX Says:

    I think my point with the Chuck Klosterman thing is that nationalism is not necessarily “the default ideology” for youth identity in the United States.

  5. Matt Says:

    IS nationalism the default ideology for youth identity in Japan? Many of the Japanese I’ve interacted with, particularly in my youth, expressed shock at my interest in their country and seemed in a hurry to get OUT it. They are now happily leading expat lives in America and Europe. Admittedly most of them were from well-off, urban or suburban families. Could what you’re describing simply be a case of an extremely vocal minority, amplified by the empowerment of internet anonymity?

  6. W. David MARX Says:

    That’s the question: I am sure we all know non-nationalists, but why is there not a place to visibly see a non-nationalist ideology or a strong backlash against 2-ch amongst people of the same age/demographics?

  7. Matt Says:

    I’m not sure that you’ve convinced me that a lack of head to head debating online is indicative of increased nationalism. You and I were raised in a culture that places a huge emphasis on oral argument, and “standing up for yourself.” Do the schools here even have forensics clubs?

    Hiroko (my wife, who is Japanese) adds this as well: “I think you’re applying an American standard to a Japanese situation. We aren’t taught to formulate arguments or debate issues in school. Most normal people wouldn’t even consider wading into a debate with anonymous people on 2ch. By hiding their names, those posters essentially disavow any responsibility for what they’re saying. It doesn’t represent nationalism, but it does highlight a big issue in the Japanese educational system: Japanese people simply aren’t taught how to debate.”

  8. W. David MARX Says:

    Okay, but why is right-wing nationalism and not left-wing internationalism the “bully” side? Where is the proof that there are all these good-natured liberal democratic internationalists out there who are too meek to protest? I think that the central conceit of “identity based on a nation-state” is pretty much cross-ideological here.

    Chuck Klosterman’s experiment is so illustrating about American culture in that openly hating patriotism is such a default position for hipster young people. Why is that default not manifesting itself in Japan anywhere?

  9. W. David MARX Says:

    So there are a few scenarios here:

    1) Majority is nationalist
    2) Silent majority is not actively nationalist, but has no problem with the basic tenets of nation-state identity (this is my guess on what is going on)
    3) Silent majority is anti-nationalist but cannot stand up to “nationalist bullies”

  10. M-Bone Says:

    Something to consider – I think that the default American, etc. online position that you mention ->

    that we have a global standard (your words) that is not about ethnicity or culture, but about a general embracing pluralist liberalism….

    is also NATIONALISTIC. It identifies something about a particular group that defines that group and makes it `better` than others (I don`t think this is bad, BTW. If there was no nationalism in America, there would be no reason for the country to continue as a cohesive unit). Saying that you are not nationalistic or ethnocentric can become a powerful form of nationalism if it becomes a standard for belonging or a reason why your group is better.

    Let`s face it – the mainstream (okay, the literate and online) in Canada, US, Australia, New Zealand all belive that they have the `best` formula for multi-cultural pluralism that sets their particular nation state apart as a leader (this has been shaken in the USA, but is right on for other groups). Obama`s rhetoric, striking a real chord online and off, is set strongly in this type of nationalism.

    The big difference is that Americans, Canadians, Kiwis, and Aussies do not associate nation with ethnicity. Japanese overwhelmingly do.

    In any case, for Japan, I think that we have to differentiate more clearly between combative neo-nationalism and plain old nationalism. Let`s not forget that being `peaceful` is a major feature of old school Japanese nationalism (ie. why we are us and why we are great). There are plenty of taste cultures that still love them some peace. Japanese being nationalistic about peace has helped to keep them out of wars in the post WWII period.

    Most people do, however, think that `Japanese` are something special and distinct (once again, nothing wrong with that). I`ve seen recent polls that place Japanese as second highest in the world (Hungary is first) for `proud to be a part of the nation`. Something like 95% of Japanese also answer that they would like to be born Japanese again in the next life. This like, however, does not carry over to support for the state / government or to support for neo-nationalism, however, for the reasons suggested in the original post and some of the other comments.

  11. Aceface Says:

    How about

    1)Majority is non-nationalist.

    2)Silent majority is not actively anti-nationalist,but has no problem with the basic tenets of cosmopolitan universal identity(this is my guess of what is going on)

    3)there are minority who think of themselves standing up to “internationalist bullies”.

    4)and gaijins are overreacting as always.

  12. W. David MARX Says:

    I don’t think it’s “over-reacting.” I am not saying, “Japan is nationalistic, therefore XYZ.” I never linked this nation-state identity to policy.

    If anything this piece is about “why liberal Americans get freaked out with the standard mode of visible Japanese rhetoric” rather than about Japan.

    “a general embracing pluralist liberalism….

    is also NATIONALISTIC”

    Well, no, it’s “ideological.” It kinda blurs the picture to say that being anti-nationalist is also nationalist. Is being anti-racist also racist?

  13. old nate Says:

    Not to totally disallow their opinions, but people who befriend foreigners at a young age and ultimately leave Japan can hardly be considered a strong counterexample to the assertion that the general populace (who don’t befriend foreigners, don’t live in Tokyo and don’t want to live anywhere else) is vaguely nationalistic.
    The friends of “us foreigners”, by dint of being the friends of foreigners are a tainted well.

  14. M-Bone Says:

    `It kinda blurs the picture to say that being anti-nationalist is also nationalist. Is being anti-racist also racist?`

    Not the same.

    These people are not being anti-nationalist at all, just saying so. Our group is great and exists as a coherent group because we are pluralist, not nationalist. This is nationalistic.

    Saying that our multi-culturalism is embracing and great is also putting your culture above those that are not (in binary relationship, othering, all that).

    Very interesting debate going on now in Canada about Islamic immigrants. Some people are down on them because they do not embrace multi-culturalism (by being anti-gay and controlling women`s lives and having contempt for other religions, as the argument goes). Here we have nationalistic people saying that their multi-culturalism is the best and using it as an excluse to attempt to exclude another culture. They are anti-multi-cultural, multi-cultural nationalists.

    These contradictions exist all over the place at present.

  15. W. David MARX Says:

    I don’t think we even need to go as far as “excluding other races” to peg the internet “voice” as “nationalist.” The idea is just that “defending your own nation’s honor” is high up on the list of issues.

  16. old nate Says:

    m-bone seems to be mean that
    nationalist = “holding the opinion that your nation’s current opinions are good” rather than “my country is good”

    and therein seems to be wrong.

    Call that cultural imperialism if you like, but it ain’t nationalism.

  17. Aceface Says:

    old nate:

    You are confusing a jingoism and a nationalism.Me think.

  18. M-Bone Says:

    Marxy wrote: I don’t think we even need to go as far as “excluding other races” to peg the internet “voice” as “nationalist.”

    M-Bone: I gave the example of the Canadian anti-multi-cultural, multi-culturalist nationalists not to suggest that the American net tone is like that, but to show that such ideological contradictions are possible in response to your assertion that an anti-nationalist nationalist cannot exist.

    I think that the nationalism of American young people (as manifested in ideas that multi-cultural pluralism is great and makes their country great) is a potential force for a lot of good. We sometimes don`t identify it as nationalism because we agree so completely with its world view and vision of human rights.

    I think, however, that it is identifiable as nationalism and manifests itself online in a variety of ways – some of them very defensive or offensive.

    Let`s look at it this way – I think that we can all agree that one of the major tropes of the English J-blogsphere is a dislike of Japanese ethnocentrism. This also comes up in `JET rants`. Assertions that Japan is `backward` or needs to `catch up` with the `norm` are all over the place. At the extreme, you even see people who clearly don`t like racism suggesting that `Japanese` (an essentialized image of a group) are racist and coming dangerously close to becoming anti-racist racists in the process. There are two liberal, pluralists from America having this conversation in a gaijin bar somewhere in Japan right now. If anyone has any doubts about this being a big thing, just look at BigDaikon or Japan Probe.

    What is at work here? We have people who see their nation`s value as lying in multi-culturalism. They see that as being better than exclusive ethnocentrism. Thus they see their country as being better than others and talk about Japan as having to catch up – a clear example of assigning nation value which is a major side of the process of defining nationalism. I`m not going to put myself on the outside here – this is exactly why I think that my country is good.

    Of course, all of this can work in good ways (sticking up against racists at home). Which is one VERY common sight on the American net and something to be praised.

    Nationalism goes beyond the definition that you gave above -it is not only about defining who are you, but also who you are NOT (this is the regular self-other thing). In harping about the `other` (ethnocentrists) I belive that American net liberals are engaging exactly the type of attempt to define `us` and `them` and why `we are good` that is described by major definitions of nationalism.

    Old Nate – I`m using the dominant definition of nationalism current in the Humanities – that of Benedict Anderson and the `imagined community`. Not that different than Marxy`s original suggestion.

  19. M-Bone Says:

    Addition: Just as my like of multi-culturalism is the foundation of my Canadian nationalism, I manage a bit of doublethink and also have an attachment to Japanese ethnocentrism as it contributes to popular culture works that I consume, to a peace ideology that I admire, and creates social situations that I enjoy.

  20. Ryan Morrison Says:

    Is it possible to be a gaijin and a Japanese nationalist? If so, I think I’m becoming one. The only time I’m not annoyed by the newspapers here is when I come across that rare article written with the “national interest” (admittedly, a problematic term) in mind. Most are written from this phony “global perspective,” which eerily resembles that of the mainstream media in the U.S. (Try sometime lining up today’s Asahi and Sankei Shinbun with yesterday’s NY Times: the international news articles and op-eds are nearly identical.)

    For understandable reasons, nationalism has been regarded as evil for the last sixty or so years, but I think it’s starting to make a comeback— and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In political science, there’s been the resurgence of realists like Walt, Mearsheimer, and others. In politics, populists like Pat Buchanan, Ron Paul, and Ralph Nader seem to have only increased their following in recent years. On the net, there’s antiwar.com. And in the blog-world, there’s Philip Weiss and others who argue that “national interests”—however imagined the notion of “the nation” might be— cannot be ignored.

    If America can have its resurgence of nationalism, why not let Japan have theirs?

  21. statiq Says:

    I think you’re spot on with the Chuck Klosterman test. This is a perfect illustration.

    However that divide in the perception of nationalism might not just be a Japan vs. the West thing, but rather a World vs. the West divide.

    It is a common truth of the western collective unconscious that too much nationalism leads to terrible consequences (WWII) therefore a large numbers of westerners (me included) consider that even a moderate dose of patriotism is already a step in the wrong direction.

    But in my opinion, this is only true for the west. In other parts of the world nationalism may be viewed as a perfectly valid tool of self-affirmation. It is a mean of resistance against a perceived (or actual) western cultural or economical dominance.

    “Since we feel we are not being treated fairly and as equal on the international scene, we have to stand up for our country”. This is a true fact of politics for a lot of non-western countries, hence many leaders being able to play the us-against-them card.

    In essence it is probably easier to reject nationalism when your nation is part of the dominant international culture. If you don’t feel that your culture/identity is a part of that, but rather that you are left out or worse under attack by external elements, then the nation state is still a relevant frame of reference.

  22. Bryce Says:

    “Chuck Klosterman’s experiment is so illustrating about American culture in that openly hating patriotism is such a default position for hipster young people. Why is that default not manifesting itself in Japan anywhere?”

    Kayama Rika’s pop theory on nationalism claims that the superficial expressions of patriotism that one apparently sees in Japan result from the loss of an oedipus complex – ostensibly due to absent fathers. That is, kids no longer see the reason to rebel against authority and therefore are more comfortable with the notion of the state.

    Whatever.

    I tend to think that displays of national pride have always been present in Japan – even the most left leaning newspaper maintains the most iconic Japanese symbol for both its brand and its name. But this sort of ‘brand nationalism’ happens everywhere, your comments about Americans being turned off by nationalism notwithstanding. In post-modern little New Zealand the nation is used to sell insurance and sausages, among other things.

    But in order to have any effect, such ‘brand nationalism’ has to cultivate an instinctive attachment to the nation. I think that is what you are seeing here.

    And this is where I disagree with M-Bone. While arguments about Canadian multiculturalism vis-a-vis ‘traditional’ Islamic values do involve a discussion of what constitutes ‘national values’, I don’t think this is what is going on in the Japanese commentary about Wai-Wai. I admit that I have not looked at many posts on the subject in Japanese, but the ones I have seen (and commented on) tend to be argued from the position of “we are a group of people – don’t shit on us – You whities have a history of this sort of thing – just look at Rudyard Kipling” perspective. There are very few positive national values espoused, be they an attachment to ‘samurai’ values, ‘peace nationalism’ or whatever. I’m sure some espousal of positive values does exist, but I haven’t really seen much of it.

    And I think this is normal. After 9/11 the term ‘anti-American’ was bandied about incessantly, but aside from a vague attachment to freedom which many other ‘peoples’ share, I couldn’t really get many Americans to tell me what the ‘American’ in anti-Americanism meant. Several Americans told me independently of each other that it was the freedom to walk down the road eating a hamburger, but I don’t think many people would argue that this was what 1789 was really all about.

    The kneejerk reactions we see with the Wai-Wai case are probably amplified by the fact that the column was translated from Japanese, a language that is generally spoken only in Japan (in other words, the old self/other ‘we can criticise our nation but not you’ dynamic). However, call me a Marxist if you will, but I think the reaction reflects an empty nationalism that has been cultivated by elites to sell stuff. I don’t think it is dangerous.

    I am also not sure it is misplaced. While I don’t like seeing major news organs changing their editorial policy because of criticism from the sidelines, I agree with the discontents that Mainichi’s decision to run Waiwai on its site showed a degree of immaturity on the part of a ‘mainstream’ media organ.

  23. Bryce Says:

    “In political science, there’s been the resurgence of realists like Walt, Mearsheimer, and others.”

    Really? Walt and Mearscheimer are considered hideously outdated in the
    IR circles in which I dabble (rather deeply). I also think the Ron Paul phenomenon was an adverse reaction to the nationalist elements of the Bush Administration, and I don’t see Pat Buchanan running for president again. Even Nadar has been swamped by Obamania.

  24. W. David MARX Says:

    I think another important point I want to re-raise is that saying bad things about Korea in public, while showing your face, is not particularly okay.

    So when 2-ch allowed a bunch of people to really voice what “they were thinking,” the net result (pun) could have been anything: pro-Communism, anti-ketchup packets, etc. But it was a massively loud din of anti-neighbor nationalist sentiment.

    However that divide in the perception of nationalism might not just be a Japan vs. the West thing, but rather a World vs. the West divide.

    I agree. American power has distorted most local political ideologies. The main question for Japan is still, are we a subsidiary state of the United States or not?

    In essence it is probably easier to reject nationalism when your nation is part of the dominant international culture.

    I think most Americans and Westerners, who have generally held the reigns to “global culture” for a long time, would absolutely consider Japan to be an integral part of contemporary life. This is why a deeply nationalist id seems so troubling and counter-intuitive.

  25. Ryan Morrison Says:

    Statiq is absolutely correct when he says: “In essence it is probably easier to reject nationalism when your nation is part of the dominant international culture. If you don’t feel that your culture/identity is a part of that, but rather that you are left out or worse under attack by external elements, then the nation state is still a relevant frame of reference.” Well put.

    And Bryce, you are right about there being many in the IR world who consider Walt and Mearscheimer “hideously outdated.” Their ideas and methods are indeep far from hip. If anything, they’re old-school, paleoconservative-leaning realists. But the hip, left-wing internationalists who dominate IR (and social sciences in general), by focusing excessively on ideology and philosophical platitudes, have tended to overlook state power, which W & M see as the driving force in international relations.

    And though the Ron Paul camp is a diverse group, I think his base regards itself as the nationalist opposition to an administration that has discarded “national interest.” Those on the left who see the Bush Administration as excessively “nationalist” are misreading things.

    My apologies to Mr. Marx for getting so off-track.

  26. Adamu Says:

    If you think it’s not cool to be patriotic, you guys need to watch 30 Rock. Perhaps in reaction to the incessant branding of Democrats as unpatriotic, Liz Lemon has at least once ranted that liberals can be just as patriotic as the next guy.

  27. Bryce Says:

    Yes, my apologies for going off track too, but I want to address this:

    “Those on the left who see the Bush Administration as excessively “nationalist” are misreading things.”

    Bush has consistently maintained that the Middle East should be built in the image of his nation and used a nationalist discourse of victimhood to promote a war of choice. Doesn’t get much more nationalist than that. In fact, John Dower made a point of comparing the Bush presidency with the nationalist government of 1930s Japan, so I’m in pretty good company when I assert this type of thing.

    I also don’t really think that interest in (neo)realist theories of IR indicates a new nationalism. Walt and Mearscheimer (and Waltz)’s theories are about the functioning of the international system as a whole, not about the ‘correct’ way for particular states to conduct foreign policy or view the nation.

    “Japan to be an integral part of contemporary life. This is why a deeply nationalist id seems so troubling and counter-intuitive.”

    I still don’t really get what is so troubling about a bunch of people concerned about the way their nation is presented to the world. Personally, I don’t care what other people think of my country, but pride in the way others see your nation seems to be a fairly universal phenomenon. And they are venting their frustration at a JAPANESE institution. “Conduct yourself better abroad” seems to be the message here, kind of like when news networks in the States take each other to task for “not supporting the troops” or “giving America’s enemies the wrong message.”

    Also, this has happened before in Japan. In the 1990s Japanese TV networks pulled shows like “Endurance” off the air when it was discovered that Americans and others were getting their hands on them and laughing at the ‘crazy Japanese’. The difference now is that the disaffected have the Internet. That’s all.

    Finally, an interesting comment someone over at NBR made was that one of Mainichi’s responses to the Wai-Wai controversy was to instate a female editor, hardly a reaction one would normally associate with ‘nationalism’. Perhaps then, by encouraging Mainichi to inject more female perspectives into its editorial content, this ‘nationalism’ has had quite liberal results.

  28. Bryce Says:

    Just to follow up on my comment about the American news media we don’t know if an the same sort of reaction would occur in the U.S. but mainstream American media companies probably wouldn’t be stupid enough to devote a column to tabloid journalism about their own countires in foreign language broadcasts. I don’t know if the major media American outlets have any ‘news for foreign consumption’ websites, but the BBC has ‘foreign sites’ both in English and Chinese and you don’t see Wai-Wai type material there, which is kind of the point.

  29. Rory P. Wavekrest Says:

    USA! USA! USA!

  30. W. David MARX Says:

    Which, of course, is a collective joke about the idiocy of super-patriotism.

  31. Ryan Morrison Says:

    Bryce: While a grad student in the states, I actually attended that John Dower lecture where he compared the Bush administration to the government of Japan in the 1930s. (Not that that means anything.) It was a very moving speech, and Dower had many good points. But I think to blame nationalism for, specifically, the disaster in Iraq, is to ignore the broader picture.

    There’s no doubt that the rhetoric of the Bush administration is often couched in nationalistic/patriotic terms, which the media of course echoes. But the rhetoric used to talk about the war and the ideology that drove us into war are two very different things. My point is that the ideology that drove us to war had nothing to do with any nationalist agenda (even if Bush himself thought it did); in fact, most of the ideologues who pushed for war openly scorn the “old notions” such as the nation, sovereignty, etc.

    I don’t mean to sound like a defender of nationalism– believe me, I’m not– but I think we must be aware that nationalism’s anthetitical ideology– “globalization” or whatever you might call it– can be just as dogmatic and unpleasant as nationalism.

  32. M-Bone Says:

    Let`s not forget that one of the major aims of Japan`s militarist nationalists in the 1930s and 1940s was to form a borderless, tariffless zone in East Asia free from `old notions` such as the nation and sovereignty.

  33. Sora Says:

    日本語で失礼します。

    ネット上で右翼的言論が左翼的言論よりも目立つ理由の一つは、左翼はネットに頼らなくとも現実社会に堅固な組織を築いているからではないでしょうか?

    2チャンネルの影響力をいくら過大評価しようとも、共産党や社民党、またこれらに依然としてシンパシーを抱いている朝日新聞などの主流メディアの力には遠く及びません。

    「右翼が1000人集めて集会を行っても新聞記事にはならないが、左翼が50人集めて集会でもすれば新聞の一面に載る」などといわれたものです。

    「扶桑社教科書不採用運動」においても、その運動力は依然として健在です。

    日本人がよく口にする「ユニーク」については、欧米白人キリスト教社会の依然として根強い独善的優越思想に対する防御的主張である場合が多々あることも指摘しておきたいと思います。

  34. Sora Says:

    日本の右翼の危うさをアメリカ社会に見出そうとすれば、それはキリスト教右派・原理主義者でしょうか?
    日本では一般にアメリカのもっともリベラルな側面しか紹介されていませんが、これら宗教右派の「気味の悪さ」は筆舌に尽くしがたいものがあります。しかも普段はごく普通でむしろ「いい人」も珍しくないだけに戸惑います。

  35. MaidoOido Says:

    One thing I want to point out to you all here is the fact that there is no Gaijin-san who will debate with Japanese people on the 2ch.
    You have a language barrier? If you can’t understand the Japanese language, you will not be able to know what the essentials of the WaiWai affair are. They have noting to do with nationalism, IMO.
    There is an English board on the 2ch and you can join and talk about them.
    Your multi-language abilities, multi-multicultural view and opinions of Journalism in Japan are needed. I think the 2ch is a far better place than you imagine.

    Will you use your racism card and withdraw into a Gaijin shell like this place?

    さて、ディベートを始めようか!

  36. W. David MARX Says:

    I think you misunderstand the point of this essay: I am not saying, “Net right-wingers are wrong.” I am saying, “For me as a liberal American, the base ideology of the complaint is not a natural one.”

    I, at least, am not looking to “debate Japanese people” at least in this context. I was trying to analyze the nature of the general tone.

  37. Aceface Says:

    Anybody saw the 80’s dystopian schi-fi flic “Escape from New York”?

    In that movie,the whole Manhattan island becoming a some sort of penal colony and inmates are enjoying libertarianesque self dependence with no interferenece from wardens.

    And to me,that is the metapher of 2ch in Japanese media-sphere.
    They are blatantly nationalistic because they are so isolated and marginalized from the mainstream that few would care about what they say,unless some of these posters go off line and start stabbing people in the strret of Akihabara.
    That’s why no decent person wants to go in there and tell them what’s right things to post or not based on post-war Japanese sense of political correcctnesst.

    2ch denizens had unusual leverage over mainstream media on Waiwai case,simply because they could spread negative information on internet which could drive off good numbers of ad clients from Mainichi Degital News site.

    But this doesn’t make 2ch more influential media organ compare to heavy weight like Mainichi,nor political rightism is on the rise in Japan.

  38. W. David MARX Says:

    This was interesting:

    http://aki-akiaki.blogspot.com/2008/07/how-beastiality-restaurant-was-made.html

    It’s always good to go back to the original sources.

    But this doesn’t make 2ch more influential media organ compare to heavy weight like Mainichi,nor political rightism is on the rise in Japan

    I intentionally avoided making either of these points in my essay. I am just asking, why is nationalism the main ideology when you allow speech free from social condition? And why does 2-ch etc. tend to breed a “hive mind” instead of a “conflict” between dueling ideologies?

  39. MaidoOido Says:

    W. David MARX Says: “That’s the question: I am sure we all know non-nationalists, but why is there not a place to visibly see a non-nationalist ideology or a strong backlash against 2-ch amongst people of the same age/demographics?”

    I think there is another 2ch in the 2ch that can’t be seen by “our” eyes. It a very interesting place to settle in.

    Anyway, I don’t need the Mainichi Newspapers any more because they won’t report on the WaiWai affair and they try to cover up the fabrication and sexism scandal.

  40. MaidoOido Says:

    “And to me, that is the metapher of 2ch in Japanese media-sphere.
    They are blatantly nationalistic because they are so isolated and marginalized from the mainstream that few would care about what they say, unless some of these posters go off line and start stabbing people in the strret of Akihabara.”

    君は日本語読めるの?
    Do you understand Japanese?

    “That’s why no decent person wants to go in there and tell them what’s right things to post or not based on post-war Japanese sense of political correcctnesst.”

    I think I’m a decent person. Leave it to me!
    BTW, why you won’t do that?

  41. W. David MARX Says:

    “君は日本語読めるの?”

    Haha. Aceface’s Japanese is pretty good, MaidoOido.

  42. MaidoOido Says:

    “They are blatantly nationalistic because they are so isolated and marginalized from the mainstream that few would care about what they say”

    But I don’t think this is correct. It sounds to me like propaganda against the 2ch. LOL

  43. Mulboyne Says:

    There’s an interesting comment in the Yomiuri editorial about the closure of “Ronza”:

    http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/editorial/20080725TDY04302.htm

    …The e-mail magazine “a–Synodos” is distributed twice a week. “Synodos” is the Greek word for forum. The e-mail magazine calls into question the standard way thoughts are formulated and conveyed among the public. “a–Synodos” editor Chiki Ogiue, 26, said: “When a youngster says he or she dislikes South Korea, for instance, most established opinion magazines tend to brand such a person as a ‘rightist youth.'” “The youths, for their part,” Ogiue said, “can hardly figure out why such a linkage has taken place”…

  44. j echo Says:

    I wrote a long long reply that was erased. Here is a redacted version:

    1. Globalization: this is linked to the liberal pluralism that has been fomenting in the US. Nationalism is one way for weaker countries to resist US-led global capitalism….thus, how easy it is for Americans to deride such countries as fascist, backwards, parochial. How easy it is to forget how this faith in the free-market is inevitably linked up to American nationalism (aka the Am. way of life) and obscure the powerful resurrection of white ethno-nationalism post 9/11.

    2. Japan is only a “weak” country vis-a-vis the US. Actually, Japan is an amazingly powerful and rich coungry…yet this is a fact conveniently forgotten by both western commentators and Japanese nationalists.

    3. “2ch users are simply otaku” is the most intellectually lazy and socially irresponsibly way to both excuse and contain the problem of racism in Japan.

    4. Racism? Nationalism in Japan is inseparable from other myths- like the one nation, one race, one class, one language line. The blurring of nation as race is one reason why explicit nationalism is often tempered in the US media: there is too much anxiety and too many ways that the discourse of multiculturalism fails and exceeds the happy Cold War Melting Pot face.

    5. Why is nationalism bad? At the very least, lets stay aware that there really is NO SUCH THING as a universally applicable thing called national culture, language, ethos, and so on. Or would the dismantling of a neat entity called “Japan” or “Japanese culture” make Japanophiles explode?

  45. M-Bone Says:

    Aceface being accused of not being able to read Japanese belongs in some kind of all time J-Blog discussion hall of fame.

  46. Aceface Says:

    Yeah,and coincidentally this happened while I’m in the middle of the debate for the ownership of Takeshima/Dokdo in one of the Korea blog and got my ass kicked for not writing in English by some Korean American dude.

    So Marxy,where did my big thesis on the 90’s and 2ch denizens I posted last night?
    I’ll be completely offline for about a week,so I need you to find it and put it on the forum.

  47. Bryce Says:

    Ryan: ‘in fact, most of the ideologues who pushed for war openly scorn the “old notions” such as the nation, sovereignty, etc.’

    Yes, but in favour of American exceptionalism at times. In any case, I think we agree more than we disagree. I don’t see nationalism as the primary ‘purpose’ for the war, more a mood that was a) there anyway, and b) cynically cultivated to justify the attack on Iraq. The importance of political rhetoric though lies not so much in whether those that issue it believe as how those who receive it are convinced or affected. Republican politics circa 2003 were based on the manipulation of nationalist sentiment (ask a Frenchman). In my mind this makes Bush & co nationalists whether they were true believers or not.

    Sorry about the sidetrack, everyone. This’ll be my last non-Japan related spiel.

  48. Chris Says:

    I’m not going to wade into this debate (although I find it really interesting), just wanted to thank you Marxy for picking up the two global voices articles. Writing these blog round-ups is a lot of work, and in their “raw” form translations of Japanese blog posts, forum comments etc. are not always very meaningful to a foreign audience. So this kind of article, where you take these translations and incorporate them into a commentary/narrative, are really important in getting people talking about these issues at a deeper level.

  49. M-Bone Says:

    It seems like posts by myself and Aceface have been eaten by the software.

    Until my other post gets re-summoned somehow, I thought that I would bring this up –

    These types of defensive moral panics are nothing new in Japan. There was that `Yellow Cab` thing in the early 1990s that has more than superficial similarity with the WaiWai thing (defense of the honor of Japanese women abroad, concern with the national image, etc.).

    It is ironic however that the yellow cab thing (the idea was that Japanese women in the States were being called Yellow Cabs because they could easily be picked up for a ride) was not true – it was made up by Shukanshi – the translation of the articles of which is behind the moral panic now….

  50. Brian McVeigh Says:

    Meanwhile over at Debito
    http://www.debito.org/?p=1850

    Imagine if a Japanese journalist living in a country like, lets say, Australia, uncovers bad news from all over the place, about how a beggar sucked off a crocodile or
    how some weird woman made her kids eat haemaroid cream. Lets face it, bad behaviour and outright perversion are not restriced to the frampold Japanese. Look hard enough and you’ll find it in any nation.
    Then, print all stories in weekly Japanese interent journal / news website about Australia.
    Australians get annoyed about being depicted as a nation of weirdos, columnist gets harassed by squad of squinting men.
    Cue debate about resurgent nationalism in Australia etc

  51. Adamu Says:

    Debito’s right! Some of my work for Mutant Frog was translating news articles on chikan and horse racing, so one reason I liked WaiWai so much was because it put me out of business. Some ZAKZAK articles etc. are truly interesting windows into the world and it really would be a shame not to present them.

  52. Adamu Says:

    Observing Japan has some good discussion of the nationalism issue here:

    “But that doesn’t mean that the Japanese people are actively opposed to the hyper-nationalist agenda. They are opposed to governments that neglect bread-and-butter domestic issues — and as Mr. Abe learned, they are willing to punish said governments — but if a government satisfies those needs, the public is willing to give some leeway to the government on foreign and defense policy, leaving a strong nationalist prime minister the freedom with which to pursue the kind of nationalist agenda M. Dujarric claims isn’t an issue in Japan.

  53. Aceface Says:

    Debito(and SMH)is wrong.
    http://rockhand.cocolog-nifty.com/blog/2008/04/post_6f5f.html

    http://rockhand.cocolog-nifty.com/blog/2008/06/waiwai_e855.html

    http://rockhand.cocolog-nifty.com/blog/2008/07/post_5b1e.html

    “Australians get annoyed about being depicted as a nation of weirdos, columnist gets harassed by squad of squinting men.
    Cue debate about resurgent nationalism in Australia etc”

    You don’t have to imagine such situation,Brian,and it didn’t even take an imaginary Japanese journalist living in Australia to make the whole nation angry.
    An anonimous You-tube poster had already made entire nation angry,even the foreign minister had to make a comment to protect the dignity of his nation!

    http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,23014405-2,00.html?from=public_rss

  54. Bryce Says:

    Yes, and let’s not forget Bart versus Australia, an episoide of the Simpsons that inspired a number of complaints by Australians about representations of their national culture and resulted in an apology from the creator of the show. Here, pg. 47:

    http://arapaho.nsuok.edu/~aldridga/Dobson.pdf

    Interestingly, I don’t think many Australians cared too much about the episode, and the complaints mostly originated from a few hard core ockers who designated themselves guardians of Australian heritage, so there is a direct correllation to what is going on in Japan.

    And then there are the Australians’ cross-Tasman cousins, a few of whom are perhaps somewhat more insecure about their national identity.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/1/story.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=3565319

    Some Americans also fret about Pew surveys which show that foreigners’ views of the U.S. are increasingly negative.

    I guess it is normal for some people (and especially those from nations that attract little attention overseas) to be precious about the international reception and depiction of “their” culture. However, in Japan that “preciousness” is more often linked to some notion of “neonationalism” than in other counties. I guess that’s because we “enlightened” westerners like to think of ourselves as above that kind of behaviour, when clearly “we” aren’t.

  55. Bryce Says:

    “but if a government satisfies those needs, the public is willing to give some leeway to the government on foreign and defense policy, leaving a strong nationalist prime minister the freedom with which to pursue the kind of nationalist agenda M. Dujarric claims isn’t an issue in Japan…”

    Of course, first you need a government that is willing to satisfy those needs, which for the medium at least, does not seem to be likely, given the intractable social problems that Japan is facing with, for example, the pension issue.

  56. Bryce Says:

    “Some ZAKZAK articles etc. are truly interesting windows into the world and it really would be a shame not to present them.”

    The point, Adam, is that the sleaze that Waiwai peddled can be found elsewhere by anybody with a google search. People who want that kind of stuff can find it there:

    http://www.asiansexgazette.com/asg/japan.htm

    If ZakZak ran human (or in this case animal) interest stories that would have been acceptable to the mainichi’s broad readership, then they could have run them in the main paper and avoided the salacious stories that appeared in WaiWai. There is no real point in using the MDN as a delivery vehicle for such junk, especially when it doesn’t appear in the vernacular edition of the newspaper.

  57. Aceface Says:

    “But that doesn’t mean that the Japanese people are actively opposed to the hyper-nationalist agenda. ”

    Like always,I have to be VERY skeptic with this.What’s “hyper-nationalist”agenda,anyway?

  58. Bryce Says:

    And once we have defined ‘hypernationalism’ I’d be very surprised if anybody could show me some evidence to back up the notion that it is hard to find Japanese people who oppose such an agenda.

  59. mozu Says:

    “But that doesn’t mean that the Japanese people are actively opposed to the hyper-nationalist agenda. ”

    It’s an old song that has been sung for 63 years. To be honest, I’m tired of this kind of alarmism. The “hypernationalism” is impossible unless “big one” comes, j’assure.

  60. mozu Says:

    I add that this post of Observing Japan is relatively well balanced and well written compared to other alarmist fantasies.

  61. W. David MARX Says:

    Hey, “There are no nationalists in Japan” crowd. What boobie magazine should I read that has a left-wing agenda as intense as Weekly Playboy’s right-wing agenda?

  62. Aceface Says:

    Try with SPA!

  63. W. David MARX Says:

    I know SPA is pretty up on the “working poor” but how much are they actively speaking out against anti-China/anti-Korea sentiment?

  64. Bryce Says:

    I don’t think anyone here is arguing that ‘there are no nationalists in Japan’.

    Besides, boobie magazines are hardly the forum for a ‘left-wing agenda’.

  65. W. David MARX Says:

    They are in the U.S., no? Playboy was always a serious arrow against the right-wing christianists and relatively liberal on a lot of social issues.

    Also:

    http://aki-akiaki.blogspot.com/2008/08/waiwai-correspondentss-club.html

    Interesting thing to note that Zainichi Tokken o Yurusanai Shimin no Kai – Citizens’ Group against Special Rights for Zainichi took a leading role in the WaiWai protests. That name makes them out to seem like wholesome decent internationalists, right?

  66. Bryce Says:

    >Playboy was always a serious arrow against the right-wing christianists and relatively liberal on a lot of social issues.

    Yeah, but there have been few “right-wing christianists” in Japan arguing that the ladies can’t get their tits out for the lads.

  67. W. David MARX Says:

    I would argue that the dominant hard-right is extremely pro-boob, with the terrorist uyoku side even getting some of their money from the skin trade.

  68. Bryce Says:

    “I would argue that the dominant hard-right is extremely pro-boob, with the terrorist uyoku side even getting some of their money from the skin trade.”

    No argument there. Abe was, if anything, an arch-boob. But one thing that the boobie magazines in both the U.S. and Japan have in common is that they are both vehicles for iconoclasm. Playboy challenged the cloying moralistic American mainstream in the 60s and 70s and was part of a social upheaval that changed the face of the United States. Whether the boobie magazines in Japan – which challenge mainstream conceptions related to Japanese liberalism and antimilitarism – will have the same effect, remains to be seen. Nevertheless their constant agitation tends to confirm that such ‘left wing’ tropes ARE the mainstream. I’m somewhat sceptical as to whether they have an impact, mainly because Playboy’s liberal content and its sexual material were both part and parcel of the same agenda: liberalism in general and sexual liberation in particular.

    Unless you can argue that there is an strong element of sexual liberation to the ‘left wing agenda’ in Japan, they will continue to be an unlikely forum for people voicing such views. It’s more likely that they will remain as a bit of tittilation for men not used to thinking with their big brain.

  69. W. David MARX Says:

    True, true. But if you are really interested in believing that women are mainly objects, Japan sure has a lot of magazines that will back up your anti-feminism. I don’t find the bikini girls on the cover of Shukan Jump or Shukan Magazine “obscene” as much as reinforcing some pretty rigid gender roles very early in life.

  70. M-Bone Says:

    “What boobie magazine should I read that has a left-wing agenda as intense as Weekly Playboy’s right-wing agenda?”

    You could read any number of manga in Shukan Jump or Shukan Magazine that have wishy washy anti-war / anti-violence / anti-state themes.

  71. W. David MARX Says:

    I guess I added “gender equality” to the mix. That further raises the bar!

    I think having “vague literary themes” is a bit more subtle than Weekly Playboy’s outspoken “We Hate China” mantra.

  72. Bryce Says:

    “I don’t find the bikini girls on the cover of Shukan Jump or Shukan Magazine “obscene” as much as reinforcing some pretty rigid gender roles very early in life.”

    Yes, and it is not restricted to right-wing titty mags either. Shukan Asahi occasionally puts scantily clad women on its covers, albeit not as gratuitously as other magazines. Feminism is just not as strong a part of the left-wing agenda in Japan. I think one of Japan’s leading feminists once argued that this was because women had it good in Japan – better to be a housewife than a salaryman. It is not an argument I accept, but still, there it is.

    That is not to say however, that the fact that liberals in Japan aren’t trying to get their views heard in trashy publications means that there are fewer of them. It’s just that those views have more currency in major publications.

    As an aside:

    “But if you are really interested in believing that women are mainly objects…”

    That was an impersonal “you”, I hope.

  73. Bryce Says:

    Not that SJ or SM are “right wing titty mags”.

  74. M-Bone Says:

    “I think having “vague literary themes” is a bit more subtle than Weekly Playboy’s outspoken “We Hate China” mantra.”

    Yeah, but a round of Jump tankobon sells over 25,000,000 copies. We have to find something to explain why 75% of Japanese teens think that there is “no such thing as a just war” or why only 15% say that they would fight for their country (Dentsu surveys 2005-2006 -> let`s not get started about Dentsu again). Manga looks as good as anything.

    Also, dosen`t the Nikkei and all of its related magazines and publishing going on about “we love China because we make money together” trump Playboy?

    Playboy`s weekly sales have fallen by HALF (over 400,000 to just over 200,000) since 2001 – this coencides directly with Japan`s period of conflict (stress) with China. Could it be that Shueisha is pushing Playboy in a rightwing direction in order to “brand” a failing book with the rightwing niche? Or is it failing because the rightwing direction is a mistake? Or because righties are turning to 2ch because they don`t get their fix from the mainstream media (I suspect that it is parts of all of the above). Nikkei Business (“we love China weekly”) has only lost 5% of its sales since 2001, bucking the failing reportage magazine trend.

    Shueisha has also been making good $$$ with progressive, balanced China works in its major non-fiction series, and with its kids non-fiction manga (edited by liberal academics with connections to the 1950s Marxists). They do all kinds.

  75. W. David MARX Says:

    Not “you” you.

    This may be not the time to open this can of worms, but I don’t think either left or right in Japan really disavow pretty solid Confucian-derived ideas about social organization. The New Left in the ’60s famously adopted a very rigid Leninist take on old Japanese styles.

    The L and R in the U.S. fight about how to interpret an extremely liberal set of constitutional presuppositions. I am probably being unfair to think that in Japan one group would be fighting for the same ideas of personal freedom from organizational bounds or a break from rigid constructions of the individual in society.

    better to be a housewife than a salaryman. It is not an argument I accept, but still, there it is.

    In one of these roles, you get to booze with rented women on the corporate dime and not get in trouble with your spouse.

  76. W. David MARX Says:

    We have to find something to explain why 75% of Japanese teens think that there is “no such thing as a just war”

    Why equate nationalism with militarism again? You can hate China, Koreans, and think Zainichi should be put in their place without wanting to go to war.

  77. Bryce Says:

    “In one of these roles, you get to booze with rented women on the corporate dime and not get in trouble with your spouse.”

    Haha. In the other role you get to form meaningful relationships with your friends while out for coffee and cake on the corporate dime (otherwise known as a salary) AND you get to berate your errant husband and withdraw his pachinko allowance when he comes home late again.

  78. Bryce Says:

    “Why equate nationalism with militarism again?”

    Because at some stage, if you are going to talk about nationalism, you have to pin down what it is, and in its popular context it is often associated with militarism, so it seems to me to be a fair starting point. I could well argue that hating China and Korea is not necessarily a form of Japanese nationalism as it does not imply love of the Japanese nation, to which you might reply that it does acknowledge the existence of nations and ascribes them a value and therefore it is nationalism. And then we could go around and around in circles.

  79. M-Bone Says:

    “Why equate nationalism with militarism again?”

    Because we were discussing the point that the silent majority are willing to go along with neo-nationalist politicians (or hypernationalist, or rightist). The Abes and the Asos want a more robust military for potential brinksmanship, they want patriotism in school to promote service to `the state`, etc. so the military side of things is of primary importance.

    “The L and R in the U.S. fight about how to interpret an extremely liberal set of constitutional presuppositions.”

    Like why all abortions should be illegal? So where are those American politicians calling for nuclear non-proliferation? Or courageously supporting a landmine ban? Is the American right`s talk about a preemptive nuclear attack on Iran extermely liberal? How many Democrats opposed the Iraq War again? Hasn`t the post 911 government encouraged the population to follow a very collectivist patriotism and lemming like credit orgy that has just about brought the economy to the brink?

    There was a republican candidate this time – Huckabee – who was so far out of this left/right thing that you are presenting that he pretty much could have been from Mars.

    Also, that Confucian comment takes away agency from Japanese women. Also sorta like telling Japanese women that being like American women is the way to be happy.

  80. W. David MARX Says:

    So where are those American politicians calling for nuclear non-proliferation?

    I meant liberal as in “political liberalism” a la John Locke, Rousseau. I am not going to claim for a second that the U.S. lives up to that, but the basic ideas in American debate are about how to define personal liberty. Conservatives and liberals have very different ideas on that. I am not also claiming that the U.S. is thus BETTER than Japan because of this debate, but I don’t think the same political philosophies are at the heart of the debate. And why would they be?

    Also, that Confucian comment takes away agency from Japanese women.

    I see. So they are choosing not to be shacho at Mitsubishi.

    It’s just as “rude” to say to Japanese women, “This is how to be happy” as it is to say, “I am making you happier by giving you fewer choices.” It’s not hard to see that genders are not equal in society and one gender is intentionally trying to keep it that way.

  81. M-Bone Says:

    “I see. So they are choosing not to be shacho at Mitsubishi.”

    You could say that through the high growth decades, they were wisely choosing not to work 16 hour days. Masses of Japanese woman saw a way to leave the work grind to men and enjoy more free time and disposable money than, I would wager, any similar group globally. While I wouldn`t have any of that myself and I think that the glass ceiling that remains is deplorable, I certainly don`t blame anyone for opting out. If we are going to talk about social constructs – the common American assumption that personal value is found in work outside of the home is a paradigm that is rarely questioned.

    The genders are not equal in Japanese society and there are some very good reasons why Japanese women are exercising choice to not protest widely.

    Program on TV the other day about the aftermath of that earthquake resistance apartment scandal a few years back. A guy with a wife and kid was stuck with a 4000man loan for one of those apartments. His wife took the kid and left him. The response of the Japanese courts – men who are economically damaged are worthless; if your wife leaves you in this situation she does not have to share the loan and if she was a housewife, you have to take care of her financially – she takes half of everything but the debt; don`t even think about getting custody of the kid; don`t expect to see the kid more than once a month if the woman even allows it at all. Japanese women love this sort of gender inequality. It swings both ways. Plenty of Japanese women sincerely pity American women who climb the corporate ladder into thier late 30s and endure years of miserable fertility treatments to have a first child. Such is their historical agency. I`m certainly not going to tell Japanese or American women what to do either way. The lack of outrage in Japan, however, suggests that clear choices are being made and that there are other alternatives to American work-based feminist assumptions.

  82. W. David MARX Says:

    I feel like my own troll, but…

    You could say that through the high growth decades, they were wisely choosing not to work 16 hour days.

    Whoa, whoa. You are saying that starting in 1945, women had the open option to become management track members of corporations? Clearly the “you stay at home, we go to work” thing was decided for them as it was everywhere else in the world. Or the, we men wear whatever suits and ties we want, but you wear these uniforms we chose for you.

    I`m certainly not going to tell Japanese or American women what to do either way

    It’s not about telling anyone what to do with their lives, but giving genders the exact same rights to make that choice themselves.

    The lack of outrage in Japan, however, suggests that clear choices are being made and that there are other alternatives to American work-based feminist assumptions.

    I wouldn’t automatically read “lack of outrage” as “lack of grievance.” This is a metaphor too far, but were all African-Americans in the South happy with Jim Crow before Rosa Parks did something about it? I mean, they got so much out of the inequalities! They didn’t have to work no full time jobs or use yucky “whites only” water-fountains.

  83. Bryce Says:

    Yeah, all that…

    So what was the point again? Oh yeah.

    Japanese right wing titty rags + no sense of feminist outrage about sleazy depiction of women on the margins of the publishing market + the lack of a moralising christianlike establishment afraid of breasts = no need to come up with a liberal narrative of empowerment to justify the fact that your readership wants to look at breasts. Instead, try to create a market by selling pictures of naked 18 year olds and stories about their first time and aiming for the “China is a threat” hole that the mainstream papers don’t cover.

    Left wing weeklies with spotty analysis but a nevertheless serious tone, meanwhile, remain strong sellers and don’t need to put breasts on the cover in order to attract readers. Hence few (or fewer) left wing titty rags.

    QED

  84. W. David MARX Says:

    Instead, try to create a market by selling pictures of naked 18 year olds and stories about their first time

    If we are talking about Weekly Playboy, try 11 year-olds.

  85. M-Bone Says:

    “You are saying that starting in 1945, women had the open option to become management track members of corporations?”

    The first postwar election saw more women elected to the Diet than any other. There were plenty of opportunities for change and collective action – especially with the Americans around pressing for it anyway. It didn`t materialize, however. There were pressures, as well as personal choices, behind this. I think that the will was not there because the “prize” was so crappy.

    You could say that when Japanese men declared “We`ll work ourselves to death while you spend a few hours a day doing light chores”, Japanese women just walked away laughing. Japanese housewives poll as having the highest levels of happiness of anyone in Japan and on a statistical level, have the lowest rate of suicide across several Japanese age groups. As long as this is true, lots of Japanese women will continue to believe that the chauvinists have been fooled into supporting matriarchy.

    As for the Jim Crow stuff (great metaphor too far, BTW), I see what you are saying. However, among Africian Americans, there were many who deplored the situation and those who started to make their way into the intelligentsia (in the north) put forward a lot of radical reformist perspectives. The points that I made earlier are largely gleaned from conversations with Japanese feminist academics (and writings). On the whole, they don`t have a lot of interest in radical alternatives. I see this as being due to rational attempts to find better positions within the existing system. If I`m not mistaken, you argue that patriachy has limited the discourse to the point where real alternative choices can`t happen. We both agree that the situation in Japanese business is a bad thing and that change would be a good thing for Japanese women who want to chose that life path. Perhaps we should leave it at that.

  86. M-Bone Says:

    I think that we can all agree that the 11 year old camel toe has got to go.

  87. Bryce Says:

    “If we are talking about Weekly Playboy, try 11 year-olds.”

    Fine. But the explanation stands.

  88. Adamu Says:

    Marxy said:

    “the basic ideas in American debate are about how to define personal liberty. Conservatives and liberals have very different ideas on that. I am not also claiming that the U.S. is thus BETTER than Japan because of this debate, but I don’t think the same political philosophies are at the heart of the debate. And why would they be?”

    And later:

    “It’s not about telling anyone what to do with their lives, but giving genders the exact same rights to make that choice themselves.”

    Can we admit to ourselves that in debates like these we (meaning “Westerners” living in or somehow “watching” Japan) tend to hold Japanese society to our own standards without taking the time to understand what the real debate is or questioning whether what we think is even relevant?

    Someone earlier asked why people like Marxy don’t write in Japanese or participate in 2ch debates and the like. And it’s a valid question that can’t JUST be explained by lack of language ability.

    I have a theory: there is a basic, shared discomfort among Western Japan watchers to engage Japanese culture on its own terms. And that includes even some of the most culturally integrated.

    It’s amazing how it can seem like at one point Marxy’s calling for us to pay attention to the realities of Japanese thought while at another he appears to jump to conclusions. I dont want to pick on Marxy because I know he’s aware of this issue, but the two quotes above are a good illustration of what a struggle it can be.

    I think it’s only natural that people in Japanese society have a highly situational set of values, institutions, and practices. And for better or worse depending on who you are, Japan works as a system. You might not like or accept parts of it but that’s a very real and powerful thing that needs to be respected. And any change has to come from within that system.

    And that is a fact we have to understand and accept before we can ask questions about things like what women’s role in that society should be. And I don’t mean that just in some snobbish “you don’t get Japan” sort of way. Without knowing the facts on the ground, what can you mean when you argue for women’s rights or less overtime or a more mature attitude toward China or how the world looks at Japan?

  89. M-Bone Says:

    While Marxy`s posts have certainly left him open to the suggestion that there are contradictions in his views, I`ll be the first to admit that I`m not entirely comfortable with the points that I put forward either. In fact, the arguments that I made about Japanese women could be said to be close to the culturalist approach of (another blogger who does not get along well with Marxy and will not be named by me here). I`ve been very dismissive of (mystery blogger`s) culturalist approach in the past myself.

    I think that the best way to step outside of this “discomfort” that you mentioned is to deal with individuals or single sources / body of work instead of systems. While there may be a “Japanese system” there are so many webs of relationships and means of expression within in that there is really no point to try to vision the whole thing (Wolferen famously tried, only to conclude the the system has no center or some other silliness). Another potential approach is to look at a large amount of source material to see how the Japanese positions relate to one another.

  90. W. David MARX Says:

    I think Adamu taps into The Question of how to make any sort of objective (or subjective) judgment on Japan.

  91. M-Bone Says:

    When making judgements, why not actually integrate a counterpoint rooted in Japanese discourse into your one`s own writing?

    Of course I, Adamu, and Marxy all do this sometimes but not always.

  92. mozu Says:

    I think the contradictions Marxy and some commentators in this blog sometimes reveal are good natured ones. Uncontradicitionary stace on political and social matters is generally boring.

    >the arguments that I made about Japanese women could be said to be close to the culturalist approach

    I prefer to call the pragmatic and contexual approach(PC approach?) because I dislike the word “culture”. While I admit the possiblity of the progress brought about by the growing number of foreigners and new Japanese, I think the social progress can be achieved basically within historical and social contexts of this country and as Adamu say, this condition is not peculiar to Japan. That’s because I trust basically the political wiseness of Japanese feminists. My only discomfort with them(not all of them) is the neglect and oblivion of grass-root movements even if these seem to “deviate” from authentic feminism.

  93. Adamu Says:

    Well as always, judgments have to be based on facts and rational argument. That just becomes a struggle for people with ingrained prejudices, and it’s an undermining force among expats because we straddle a line between insider and outsider status.

    Why, for instance, is it so easy for someone like Bill Emmott (former chief editor of The Economist and expert chopstick user) to write semi-regular articles in the Nikkei peddling his former publication’s neoliberal agenda to the Japanese public? Well, first and foremost, he’s a well-connected friend of the Japanese elites and if he wants to post an item in Keizai Kyoshitsu then by golly Nikkei is going to let him.

    But perhaps more importantly he’s regarded as a Serious Expert and not one of these droning expats. In Orwellian terms, Emmott is an Inner Party member while the expats are more like the old man Smith approaches in a pub to ask what life was like before the Revolution (he only understands meaningless anecdotes and cannot provide an accurate picture of pre-IngSoc London).

    Emmott bases his credibility not on language expertise or number of years in the country (though his status as former Japan correspondent figures heavily into his public profile) but more on his deference to the great Milton Friedman and the apparent sensibility and of his arguments. This sort of street cred carries him when he writes in either language.

  94. Aceface Says:

    I think that’s a bit harsh on Emmott since I’ve read almost all of his work in Japanese.
    He is one of the very few writers who had written against “revisionist Japanologists” who predicted Japan would take over the world by 2000.And after all,he was the chief editor of the venerable magazine(and it was during his reign that The Economist achieved the globalist media institution status.)I don’t surrise him being treated as master gaijin expert in Japan.Also,I don’t think he dumps his “neoliberal” agenda in many of pieces I’ve read in J-media.

  95. Adamu Says:

    OK perhaps I exaggerated.

    Maybe the real contrast with a lot of expat writers is simply that Emmott is respected because he’s a good writer who makes consistently reasoned arguments and ran a successful magazine to boot.

  96. W. David MARX Says:

    He doesn’t pour soy sauce on his rice! You know how hard that is to pull off???

  97. mozu Says:

    I pour soy sauce on my rice. What’wrong?

  98. mozu Says:

    How about this one?

    http://d.hatena.ne.jp/gatonews/20080813/1218646407

    I agree with them. I think the failure of Mainichi is its misunderstanding of true enemy. As I pointed out in meta no tame before, the most powerful force of Anti-Mainichi has been “married women”(“既女”). They misunderstand this fact stupidly and impute everything to “2ch right-wingers” who seem to cry loudly. While I’ve never had any sympathy with usual 2ch cynical patriots, I’ve been applauding a good fight of “married women”.

    Anyway the colonial desire for “ASIAN WOMEN” or the recent emergence of Neo-Orientalism(I believe since 1990’s) is secondary issue for me. What I hope is that this incident will lead to something good for this society, although I remain a bit pessimistic in this development.

  99. Adamu Says:

    Interesting article. In the scenario the author describes, Mainichi never saw this as a consumer/customer service issue and instead felt like they were being attacked by unscrupulous Internet goblins.

    I still think the jury is out on whether there were “puppetmasters” who intentionally whipped up controversy over WaiWai, but it doesnt really matter (personally I think there is no distinction between the housewives and 2channelers because they ARE the 2channelers… I mean where else is “Mrs. Watanabe” going to discuss her online currency trading?). As a national newspaper, Mainichi let a small corner of its media empire damage its entire brand. It was a mistake to associate something like that so closely with Mainichi Shimbun and then leave it without adult supervision.

    The damage could have been less if they had put it on some lesser subsidiary site with the association to Mainichi a few steps removed.

    Well since WaiWai has turned into a shameful sore point, its death by itself is probably a net good for a lot of people. And its a chance for Mainichi to regroup and consider a more responsible (and better thought out) approach to its English media (though you have to wonder if they really give a crap about it since it is so removed from their core business).

    Bad: Posting a lot of dubious translations in a crass attempt to drive up hits.

    Good: Buy hot blog upstart Neojaponisme, fund a responsible and interesting site on Japan (but do it with smart search engine optimization and ad strategy), and join it to a profitable ad network like pajamas media.

  100. M-Bone Says:

    “personally I think there is no distinction between the housewives”

    That`s a very good point. At present, we don`t really know much about 2ch posters.

    Something crossed my mind – how many people post racist stuff on 2ch? Is it 1000 really prolific racists? 100? 100,000? We don`t have much insight into this at all. We know that people read sensational crime Korean posts, but we also know that people read sensational crime Japanese posts and weird stuff about the USA as well. Are the people who post this stuff representing the mainstream? Or are they just really into it?

    Point for comparison – Aceface (who is certainly not netto uyo or racist or anything) seems to have increased the comment traffic on English J-blogs by a good bit (if you count his posts and the responses of others). I`d guess at least 10-20%. Really brings home how one person or a few people can have a BIG impact on a net discussion enviornment.

  101. W. David MARX Says:

    100 comments!

    Anonymity again strikes its head as a problem: we have no idea who actually has grievances. It could be one guy, it could be 10,000 married women.

    how many people post racist stuff on 2ch?

    My follow-up is even more important: how many people tolerate racist stuff? 1 million? 20 million? Maybe I just don’t see the right pages, but I see pretty much a LOT of people agreeing either explicitly or tacitly in the comment threads…

  102. Adamu Says:

    Wikipedia to the rescue (figures are of visitors not posters as of 2005):

    9.9 million users

    Age distribution:

    10-19: 20%
    30-39: 30.7%
    40-49: 21.9%
    50-59: 12.5%

    For comparison, Japanese blog users to doubled to 20 million between 2005 and 2006, while 2ch users have only grown about 20% since the 2003 total of 7.7 million.

    The total number of posts peaked in 2005 and has since dropped gradually.

    2ch has slipped in Alexa rankings from 34th in 2004 to 294th as of the Wikipedia posting some time in 2008.

    According to current NetRatings data 2ch is not in the top 10 and is beaten out by some blog sites like FC2.
    http://www.netratings.co.jp/ranking_NV.html

    Currently about 2.7 million posts per day:
    http://pv.40.kg/suzume/

    Most popular message boards are for news and real time commentary on TV shows. Least popular include “pedagogy” and “adultaccessory”.

    Current hot threads are about “Maki-chan” winning a silver medal and Darvish stepping up to the mound with (gasp!) a shaved head, presumably a response to his poor performance in the Cuba game.

    Still, for a single site it remains huge, though it is no longer synonymous with the Japanese Internet (or at least it shouldn’t be but still is in the popular mindset).

    Also important to note that there are many imitation 2ch sites that operate on similar premises. The Akihabara killer used atwiki, for example. And of course, on these sites and most of the Japanese Internet anonymity rules the day. I blame the mainstream media’s fearmongering.

  103. Aceface Says:

    You see,I always think Waiwai is reverse Gaijin Hanzai File.

    The difference is Waiwai was on the website of the nation’s third largest paper for about five years and the contents comes from Tabloid crap like Jitsuwa Knuckles and added creative translations.

    Gaijin Hanzai File was sold right next to Jitsuwa Knuckles in convenience stores near you for about a week,and the contents were picked up from the mainstream papers crime section and added the tabloind sensationalism.

    The disapearance of former achieved the elevated status of issue regarding press freedom within FCCJ.
    http://www.e-fccj.com/

    And the disappearance of the latter was seen as the victory against the Japanese xenophobism among the expat community.
    http://www.debito.org/?cat=27

    The similarity is few outside of internet knew it’s existence before the internet campaign and their effects on Japanese public opinion were close to zero.

  104. mozu Says:

    >It could be one guy

    No way. And my post has been read and linked by so many women bloggers(both adult and young) and they participate in Anti-Mainichi by using their real human relations. すんごい怒ってる

    >Aceface
    Well, I award again la medaille d’or de l’hypocrisie to our venerable FCCJ.

  105. M-Bone Says:

    “My follow-up is even more important: how many people tolerate racist stuff? 1 million? 20 million? Maybe I just don’t see the right pages, but I see pretty much a LOT of people agreeing either explicitly or tacitly in the comment threads…”

    You make a very good point. What I want to say, however, is that we don`t really know either way. I have generally looked at two types of things on 2ch – anime and manga reviews (never seen a racist comment there) and war memory stuff. I did a survey of a 1000 post Nanking massacre thread that popped up around the 70th anniversary. It was a big argument. I counted 600 posts from affirmers and 400 or so from deniers. They seem to have come to a conclusion that more or less reflects the academic consensus – massacre did take place, but it was mostly POWs. The right stop arguing that there was no violence but argue that the killings of POWs under the circumstances in Nanking were allowable under international law (this is a correct but morally reprehensible argument). The left makes the same point that the vast majority of academics do – a lot of killings is a lot of killings. People do go on 2ch and strike back at the right, but my single example does not prove anything – we just don`t know how common any of this is.

    My concern is that if the current positioning of 2ch in the scholarship (etc.) is maintained, it will stand for decades as a representation of what “Japanese youth” were thinking in the 2000s without anyone ever having quantified it (and no academic has even done a qualitative look that is as good as what you and other bloggers have done from time to time).

    I`m also not comfortable with the idea that 2ch is a unique Japanese racist space while the English net is more or less clean of that stuff. Youtube comments are an absolute sewer. There are threads that literally have 20,000 anti-Japanese posts (calling for the Japanese to be killed to the last, etc.). Now, we assume most of these are coming from Chinese or Koreans (once more, with no evidence) but there is no way that anyone who posts on Neojaponisme, for example, is going to go over there and stick up for Japan or call people on every racist thing that they say. Nobody has that kind of time so we just end up leaving that particular sewer to fester. Are we giving tacit agreement or just giving up? When one looks at the number of comments, it seems like that is the major site of discussion of Japan on the English-web, not the blogs, and it is damn racist. I even see anime videos and Japanese movie trailers where people, unchallenged, decide that it is as good a place as any to throw in a quick “#&$% Japan” (and that would be a tame example).

    Somebody needs to put some serious manpower together and do a huge survey of just what is being said on 2ch and in which discussoins.

  106. W. David MARX Says:

    I just want to thank everyone for their excellent comments here. I don’t know if I am even 100% behind my original thesis anymore, but I feel like we’ve had a discussion that needed to be had.

  107. Aceface Says:

    That comment by Marxy should be the end of this entire thread,but I still have some more to say.

    Does anyone realized when you search for groups with the word “Japan” in Facebook,the top on the list is “Fuck Off Japan,Leave the whales alone” with membership of 230.717 people?(Out of curiosity,I also searched for groups with the word “Norway”.The top of the list was “Fuck you I’m from Norway” and the founder was bitching about Sweden….)

  108. M-Bone Says:

    http://www.mutantfrog.com/2005/06/02/philly-cheesesteaks-suck-my-trip-to-philadelphia/

    I think that we have all made our points, but I just looked at these comments on Mutantfrog and just had to share them as part of this thread. Some of them should go into some kind of anthology of internet crazy.

    So much hate (check out that one about being corrupted by Japan)!!

  109. Aceface Says:

    “Philly Cheese steaks sucks” is Japan’s fault? Never knew.

    I also didn’t know about this either.
    “Early rising creates Japanese nationalism”,says a Cambridge Japan scholar.

    http://www.upi.com/Science_News/2008/08/19/Early_rising_creates_Japanese_nationalism/UPI-21211219187100/

    (HT to Ampontan)

  110. mozu Says:

    Ah, this nonsense seems to be intended to parody all the fuss about Japanese nationalism.

  111. M-Bone Says:

    I stayed up late last night to watch the (normal, petite) nationalist aftermath of Japan`s softball gold and ended up getting up late this morning.

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