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Three Books in the Bag (or, A Year of Living Creatively)

It is always worth a celebration when you get a book project finished. You naturally want to share with the world the results of your labor, and you watch with great anticipation how your work is being received one way or the other. These past few years I’ve been lucky enough to get at least one book project (and sometimes two) brought to completion in a year’s time.

About this time a year ago I started burrowing down into my work — deeply investigating, researching, then writing, rewriting, editing, re-editing. It was a long haul and, I confess, at times I wondered what I had gotten myself into by taking on so much with barely enough time to sleep or to literally exhale.

A year later, and the results are finally in for all to see. The creative spirits, as I like to think of it, kept me productive and busy this past year. I’ve surpassed my own past personal records now by getting not one, not two, but three book projects in the bag this past year. So, naturally, I get to celebrate and share this personal milestone by (how else?) writing even more words for people to read. Such is the life of an impassioned writer….

Putting it to the Tests

As anyone who has spent time living and working in Japan can tell you, the language business is a major industry (some might even call it a racket), with lots of money to be spent by consumers and lots of money to be made, in turn, by publishers, by private and public language schools, by bookstores and on down the line.

Nowhere does that seem more apparent than in the testing field, with its promises of helping Japanese young people to pass the seemingly endless array of exams that will let them open doors and overcome various barriers in society, and ostensibly lead them to find a measure of success in life. And ranking high up there in the royalty of the Japanese testing field is the Test of English for International Communication, or TOEIC.

At any given time, there are literally dozens of TOEIC and other related test books on the shelves of booksellers throughout the Japanese archipelago, so choosing just the perfect study guide to help you pass that big exam on the test day can be a daunting task for any student or learner of a language. That’s where the “racket” part comes in: The educational quality of these kinds of testing books, like any other genre of publication, can range from totally worthless to remarkably high.

I have always consciously aimed for the latter. For several years now I’ve been invited by a few different Japanese university professors writing for various publishing houses to participate in making TOEIC test books to be used at the university level throughout Japan. I’m not a full-time educator, but I do have one hand in the academic field as a university-level instructor of journalism, so naturally I do take great pride in putting out something that will have real meaning for the students and other readers who eventually use them.

Hot off the presses are two new books I’ve co-authored that have just been released by the Tokyo-based Asahi Press, one of the major publishers of educational books in Japan.
Step-Up Skills for the TOEIC Listening and Reading Test (Level 2) is an intermediate-level TOEIC book that my fellow authors and I have created from scratch. As with past TOEIC books, I’ve not only done writing and editing on this one, but also some of the graphic design work as well, which means I had some say both in the substance of the book and in its style. And if I may be so humble in saying so, I think this one is our best TOEIC book yet as a team of four authors. The high editorial quality is there, and it really catches the eye as well (though you probably wouldn’t know it by the plain-looking book cover). But trust me — as far as TOEIC books go anyway, this one rocks.

The other book of ours that Asahi Press has just released is
Step-Up Skills for the TOEIC Listening and Reading Test (Level 3), an advanced-level book that we had published in the past with a different cover. We have updated the contents to include some of the new changes in the TOEIC testing procedures and polished up the contents with our magic touch as co-authors. The result is an old book of ours being given a new lease on life.

Asahi Press is releasing these two books (and another one to be published later) together as its first-ever foray, I’m told, into the marketing of its TOEIC books as a set series — something they have not done before. So our books will apparently be the test case to see how well this strategy works, and Asahi Press is no doubt counting on the past strong sales of our books as individual projects to continue now that those books are released as a new three-part series. We’ll have to wait and see how it goes, but somehow I’m confident that classroom instructors across Japan and their students will give it a thumbs-up, as they have so graciously done in the past.

I have to give credit here where it is due: We could not have pulled all this off without the teamwork and cooperation of everyone involved. Some publishers can be like plantation owners to work for, but the good folks at Asahi Press have been nothing but flexible and supportive in making sure every that little detail is worked out to our liking as authors. And the efforts of that cooperative partnership have indeed paid off, both sales-wise and in the personal satisfaction that comes with knowing you have put out a damn good book for the people to read.

So, if you are a teacher of the TOEIC test somewhere here in Japan who is looking for substance and style in your lessons, look no further. Our brand-new TOEIC book series is now off and running, and how it does in the long-term future will be determined, of course, by none other than you and your students.
Yoroshiku!

Spies and the Media — A Love Story

My third book project for the year is one that I’m especially proud to be a part of. The U.S.-based media watch group
Project Censored puts out a book annually on what it deems are the top censored news stories that went unreported or misreported by the esteemed U.S. corporate press, and this year marks the milestone of 40 years for the group.

My contribution to their new book,
Censored 2017, is a chapter titled “Played by the Mighty Wurlitzer” about the historically close relationship between the U.S. government’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the institution of the free press in the USA. We all know that the freest press on the planet used to play footsie with the CIA, but what many of us probably don’t know or may not remember is that the relationship between the spies and the journalists never really ended. It was a “tryst” born of shared anti-communist, propagandistic Cold War values in the late 1940s, and continues 70 years later in the digital age in a much more subdued and hidden way. In other words, the two are still fooling around together and keeping it very discreet.

Is this healthy for a democracy? Definitely not, when you consider the finer details of that CIA-press relationship, as I did over the course of several months. There were no naïve notions on my part going into this investigation, of course, since I knew what I was diving into from the start. But as I pored through news archives and databases, public and private documents and all sorts of printed and online sources of information, it became clear that the CIA-news media relationship had gone far deeper than the press itself had ever reported in the past, far deeper than those in academia had ever researched, and certainly far deeper than the U.S. government had ever dared to admit to the public.

The big, influential news companies — the
Washington Post and New York Times newspapers, Newsweek magazine and the CBS television network, to name just a few — were the guiltiest parties when it came to cooperating with the CIA in its various clandestine operations and keeping those ties a secret from the public. Journalists worked covertly for the agency as paid (or non-paid) operatives, CIA officers were given press credentials and posed as reporters, and the U.S. Congress just looked the other way until it was forced on a few occasions during the 1970s to hold public hearings on the issue.

I won’t ruin the suspense by naming the names here; you can pick up the new
Censored 2017 book and read all about it there. But suffice it to say that you are going to find out more about the CIA and the news media than you probably knew about or cared to remember.

I will add that I noticed a distinct pattern emerging in my investigation, one I hadn’t expected to find so clearly: Starting from about the early 1970s, some big news reports would surface in the media about the CIA and journalists working together, the story would generate controversy (or not) for a short time, the U.S. Congress might investigate it (or not), then the story would die out and the media would conveniently forget about it. Then, a few years later, the same cycle would play out, and then die out again. Over and over that pattern would repeat. And still the news media establishment treats this as an invisible story today. Why the continual memory lapse on the part of the media and the refusal to confront this issue openly and honestly over the course of several decades? What is there to hide? Why not just “come out” and admit that the press has been cooperating with an agency as unlawful as the CIA? Isn’t openness with information what the free press in America is supposed to be about? Or is a “free press” about something else entirely?

The spark for this chapter on the CIA and the press actually came when I was researching the “Dark Alliance” story of the 1990s and the fate of journalist Gary Webb in breaking the big CIA-contra-crack cocaine story back then, in a chapter I was writing for Project Censored’s previous book,
Censored 2016. I had dug up so much information on the CIA-press relationship in the course of doing that “Dark Alliance” chapter that I knew I had to devote a whole chapter in itself to the CIA-media story in the future. The good folks at Project Censored were receptive to the idea, and now you have the whole story in your hands in Censored 2017.

This is by far the longest, most substantive piece I’ve ever gotten published, and I can’t think of a better book in which to have it released. Project Censored has been fighting the good fight for 40 years in keeping the media honest and relevant to our daily lives, and I’ve long been a fan of their work. I’ve now contributed essays of my own to five editions of the yearly
Censored book (and edited/ghostwritten a couple other Censored book essays by Japanese authors), and it’s been a great experience all the way. Just as I’ve done above with the Japanese books, I have to give credit where it is due: to everyone at Project Censored and at the New York-based Seven Stories Press for their teamwork, cooperation and flexibility in seeing it all through to fruition. I’m convinced that there is great power in joining forces with other like-minded, dedicated people for a common higher good — in our case, the informing of the public and the holding of news media accountable in society.

So, hats off to all those who have worked so hard together to get the 40th anniversary edition of
Censored 2017 out to the people. It’s been a long time in coming. We all benefit from the timely and important information the new book provides us, and we will continue to benefit for as long as Project Censored is around and doing its good work. Which is surely more than we can say for certain U.S. government spy agencies and some of their lapdog followers in the American poodle press.

‘Censored’ — the Missing News Stories

How come I never heard about that in the news?

If you’ve ever asked yourself that question about some important issue you’ve found out about long after it occurred, then you’re not alone. I find myself asking that very same question every year around this time, when the latest edition of the annual
Censored book comes out in the United States.

Censored 2016 has just been released, and with it comes the same old question about why I’ve never read, viewed or heard about certain big news stories that were not really considered “hot news” enough to be reported in depth by the major U.S. news media companies (and by extension, the corporate-dominated Japanese press as well).

Project Censored, the California-based nonprofit media-watch group that compiles every year the top 25 unreported or underreported news stories of the year before, and Seven Stories Press, the New York-based publishing house that has enough courage to print each year’s Censored book, have done it yet again with Censored 2016. Among the top 25 censored stories are a few news topics that you may have remembered seeing covered well in the independent news media (but not in the corporate press) sometime during 2014 and 2015, other stories that may strike you as vaguely familiar (“Where have I heard that story before?”), and other stories that will no doubt leave you scratching your head and wondering why and how they disappeared from the news radar of the big media companies — or why those stories were never on the radar in the first place.

Stories like what? Well, for instance, take
Censored 2016’s No. 14 censored story about how the population of “displaced persons” (refugees, exiles or other victims left homeless by war or poverty) around the world has hit an all-time high of 50 million people and rising. Only now are we seeing the big media companies in the U.S. and elsewhere superficially covering the issue with the waves of “immigrants” pouring into European countries from areas where the U.S. is waging war. But the story was there all along — what took big media companies so long to catch up to the issue?

Or what about other top censored stories in
Censored 2016, such as the Pentagon and NATO encircling China and Russia with a ring of U.S. military bases and missile defense systems (the No. 13 top censored story)? Or how about the No. 9 censored story: how tens of millions of American citizens living in poverty appear far less in news coverage by the big media companies than a few hundred U.S. billionaires do? (No big surprise there, but that reporting gap should not even exist in the first place.)

A top censored story in
Censored 2016 that hits close to home for us here in Japan is this year’s No. 5 censored story: “Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Deepens”. Japanese corporate media reporting of the ongoing Fukushima nuclear crisis — and yes, it is still at a “crisis” stage more than four years after the 2011 nuclear accident — has been shameful enough, but U.S. and other foreign media coverage of Fukushima seem to have been just as bad or even worse. The New York Times, among other big media companies, tends to downplay the Fukushima catastrophe as the “worse nuclear accident since Chernobyl”. Actually, folks, Fukushima is the worst nuclear accident ever in the history of human civilization. But somehow that seriousness gets distorted by the time it reaches us through the airwaves and headlines of the big news companies.

If the ongoing mass die-off of marine life all around the Asia-Pacific region that we are currently seeing is any indication, then Fukushima will be recognized as much more than a nuclear accident and more accurately as the trigger for even more extreme natural disasters and ecosystem breakdowns that we will be seeing in the coming years.

Japan is also represented in
Censored 2016 with another important essay concerning Fukushima and censorship: a piece by Japan-based U.S. filmmaker Ian Thomas Ash and how his film on Fukushima and radiation effects on Japanese victims, A2-B-C, has faced direct and indirect censorship in Japan, post-Fukushima.

And I too am privileged to have contributed a chapter in this year’s
Censored 2016, titled “‘Dark Alliance’: The Controversy and the Legacy, Twenty Years On”. It has nothing to do with Japan per se, but rather is focused on the “Dark Alliance” investigation in the U.S. in the mid-1990s by the late journalist Gary Webb. I was quite familiar with Webb’s investigative series — and the connections it made between the CIA, crack cocaine and the right-wing Nicaraguan contras paramilitary groups — having covered it at the time (and since then) for independent media on the Web.

Twenty years after “Dark Alliance”, I look back on the controversy surrounding that important series and hope that I do justice with my chapter in the new
Censored book in honoring the legacy of both “Dark Alliance” and Gary Webb, who I consider to have been one of the best investigative reporters of my generation.

I will have much more to say about my chapter in
Censored 2016 a few months from now, when the actual 20th anniversary of “Dark Alliance” rolls around, so please be looking forward to that.

For now, all I can say is: Buy the new
Censored 2016 book, if knowing the truth is important to you. I referred earlier to the book’s organizer, Project Censored, as a media watch group, but that is not quite accurate. As the new book shows, Project Censored stands on the frontline of not only criticizing the news media but is also an active force in helping to encourage up-and-coming journalists to fill in the news gaps that so many employees of big news media companies routinely miss. It’s been exciting for me to be involved with Project Censored, first as a big fan of the yearly Censored books for many years and now as a contributing writer.

“Do you trust your country’s news media?” — this is a direct question I throw out to Japanese and overseas exchange students in one of my university journalism courses in Kyoto every year as a point of class discussion. And the answer that usually comes back from most of them is a resounding
No! I then try to direct the discussion toward this idea: So, what do you think is the solution to trusting the news media again…and what are you going to do about it?

Project Censored is doing something about it. And you can too, by picking up your own copy of the new
Censored 2016 book some time soon and supporting the important work the organization has been doing for more than three decades. In the process, you will be supporting the kind of reporting you really want to see every time you open the pages of a newspaper or magazine, turn on the TV, listen to the radio or check out a news website — real news as opposed to “junk food news”, as Project Censored calls it.

So, how come you haven’t heard about this big story or that one in the news before? Treat yourself to a copy of
Censored 2016 and find out exactly why you haven’t. It may well be the best book purchase you make this whole year.

The Stain of Sexual Slavery

The Japanese government’s censorship of nationally used school textbooks — deleting or downplaying the many bad things Japan did during World War II — has been going on for decades. But it is only recently, with a neo-fascist prime minister back in power, that such official censorship is now moving into dangerous areas beyond Japan’s borders and into textbooks used in overseas countries.

In January of this year, the Tokyo-based publisher Suken Shuppan
announced that it will drop the terms “comfort women” and “forcibly taken away” from newly published textbooks to be used starting in the new school year in April. It is widely assumed (though not confirmed or denied by the publisher) that the pressure for such a change came from the government itself.

Terms like
慰安婦 (ianfu, literally “comfort women”) and 強制連行 (kyosei-renko, “forcibly taken away”) are sensitive, loaded terms in Japan, even after all these years. That is because they convey how the military of Japan had kidnapped, coerced or physically forced thousands of fellow Asians into slave labor and sexual slavery during the war.

Perhaps emboldened by their success at such textbook censorship at home here in Japan, some right-wing Japanese historians have now turned their ire toward a university-level textbook published in the United States and are disputing some of its contents.

Far-rightist prime minister Shinzo Abe recently expressed “shock” from the floor of Japan’s parliament about that particular U.S. textbook and
pledged to do what he could to make sure the “correct” view of Japan’s history is reflected in the book instead.

That textbook, titled
Traditions & Encounters: A Global Perspective on the Past, is a hefty, 1,000-page world history textbook published by McGraw-Hill in the United States. I have recently obtained a copy of the new sixth edition of this textbook from the publisher and am considering whether I will use it as a supplementary book for my own university course in Japan this coming school year.

So, let me share with you the precise part of the U.S. textbook that has Abe and other right-wing revisionists in Japan all up in arms. It appears in the book’s Chapter 36, “New Conflagrations: World War II and the Cold War”, at the bottom of pages 874-875:

Comfort Women
Women’s experiences in war were not always ennobling or empowering. The Japanese army forcibly recruited, conscripted, and dragooned as many as two hundred thousand women aged fourteen to twenty to serve in military brothels, called “comfort houses” or “consolation centers.” The army presented the women to the troops as a gift from the emperor, and the women came from Japanese colonies such as Korea, Taiwan, and Manchuria and from occupied territories in the Philippines and elsewhere in southeast Asia. The majority of the women came from Korea and China.

Once forced into this imperial prostitution service, the
“comfort women” catered to between twenty and thirty men each day. Stationed in war zones, the women often confronted the same risks as soldiers, and many became casualties of war. Others were killed by Japanese soldiers, especially if they tried to escape or contracted venereal diseases. At the end of the war, soldiers massacred large numbers of comfort women to cover up the operation. The impetus behind the establishment of comfort houses for Japanese soldiers came from the horrors of Nanjing [China in 1937], where the mass rape of Chinese women had taken place. In trying to avoid such atrocities, the Japanese army created another horror of war. Comfort women who survived the war experienced deep shame and hid their past or faced shunning by their families. They found little comfort or peace after the war.

That’s it, in its entirety: two paragraphs, 235 words in total, out of a thousand pages in the textbook.

One of the book’s authors, University of Hawaii professor Herbert F. Ziegler, recently got a firsthand taste of how Japanese government censorship works during a surprise visit to his campus office by a representative of Japan’s government, insisting that those two paragraphs were wrong and needed to be changed.
This eye-opening interview with Ziegler reveals just how far the government of Japan will go to whitewash the truth of history, even in foreign countries.

Ziegler, in the interview, appears at a loss in understanding why the Japanese government is going to such great lengths to rewrite this U.S. history textbook. But take a closer look: The answer is right there in the first paragraph, third sentence, reading “...the army presented the women to the troops as a gift from the emperor...”.

If you live in Japan long enough, you learn to read between the lines where Japan’s royal family is concerned, and it seems that what is
really offending the right-wing Abe administration of Japan most (aside from the high numbers of women listed as sexual slaves) is the fact that the emperor’s honor is unforgivably stained by the notion that the imperial Japanese army “presented the women to the troops as a gift from the emperor”.

That phrase, I would say, is undeniably true but is also open to being misconstrued. The army of Japan probably didn’t officially announce to the troops at the time: “Now, these girls are a gift from the emperor, boys. Go and have some fun with them”. But on the other hand, it didn’t need to say it. It would automatically be assumed by the troops that those thousands of Asian girls — many of whom were not even women yet — were “property” of the imperial Japanese army and that they, the soldiers and officers, could do whatever they wanted with them. “A gift”, in fact, may even be too polite a term to describe the brutal institution of sexual slavery that Japan had in place in those days.

We would also do well to understand that unlike Germany and Italy, Japan as a fascist military state fought the war in the name of Emperor Hirohito, who, like all other emperors before him, was considered a god under Japan’s indigenous Shinto religion. In other words, World War II for Japan was every bit a holy war in its own way as the kind we see today by a small but violent element of Islamic fundamentalism. Different names, same game.

Of course, Emperor Hirohito, under the terms of postwar surrender by the Americans, renounced his divine status and was treated from then on simply as a “symbol” of the Japanese state. He was no longer a god and held no political power. But alas, old thinking dies hard, and there is still a “cult of the emperor” in Japan among rabid rightists today that treats the slightest perceived staining of the emperor’s honor as an inexcusable act that must be protested or avenged.

So far the publisher, McGraw-Hill, to its credit, has resisted any pressure by the government of Japan to censor the offending parts of the book. Likewise, a group of U.S. scholars has also recently stood firmly behind the textbook and its U.S. authors. In return, however, a group of Japanese scholars has turned up the heat and vowed to fight on, sending a couple of respected academics from its ranks to attack the U.S. textbook
before the foreign and Japanese press in Tokyo just a few days ago.

Japanese society may be used to blatant censorship of this sort, but the rest of the world is a different story. Book publishers in overseas countries, unlike their timid counterparts in Japan, are not going to roll over and play dead at the first sign of an unhappy and bullying government. My hope is that both McGraw-Hill and the U.S. textbook authors spell out in no uncertain terms what the arrogant revisionists in Japan can do with their suggested “corrections” for this book.

But much more importantly than that, we should remember that the so-called staining of the Japanese emperor’s “honor” pales in comparison to the horrific stain of sexual slavery that destroyed the lives of tens of thousands of innocent girls and young women from countries throughout Asia during that part of the 20th century. Until Japan comes to term with the sheer inhumanness of its past system of institutionalized rape and sexual slavery, it will continue to be distrusted and isolated among its fellow Asian nations in the future.

Not only should school textbooks around the world continue to publish the facts about Japan’s imperially sanctioned system of sexual slavery during World War II, those textbooks would do well to devote much more than two paragraphs to one of the darkest periods of recent human history. The whole tragic truth about the victims of sexual slavery, uncut and unpolished, must continue to be told.

Where the Real Obscenity Lies

Rokude Nashiko, a manga comic book and visual artist based in Tokyo, was arrested in July of this year and detained by police. Her crime? Posting and distributing information pertaining to vaginal art — thinly disguised, sculpted images of her own genitals, to be exact. She faced a possible two years in prison for making such “obscene” images public through her website, which she operates openly and legally.

Thousands of people in Japan, and apparently abroad too, took exception to the heavy-handed Japanese police actions and
put a public petition in motion. Within a week Rokude Nashiko (her artistic name and a play on words, loosely translated as “Good-for-Nothing Girl”) was released from custody, the police apparently too embarrassed by the publicity to keep her any longer.

Under her real identity and name of Megumi Igarashi, she
had a few words to say upon her release from jail about the hypocrisy of targeting the female sex organ as something bad. “It is contradictory,” she said. “In trains [in Japan], sexual images are presented in ads hanging from the ceiling, and kids and others can see them even though they do not want to. That’s more unpleasant.”

She hit a sensitive nerve of hypocrisy there. Sex and sexual innuendo are advertised and promoted everywhere in Japan — in public transportation, in sports newspapers, on television, in print media, in official advertising campaigns, you name it — and since females are usually the sex objects in those ads and males the target audience, they are deemed to be acceptable to society. But turn the game around and frame a woman’s vagina as art for art’s sake (rather than merely for profit), and it is found to be somehow “obscene” and corrupting of public morals.

But where does the real obscenity lie in Japan? In a country where sexual harassment runs rampant in the Japanese workplace and women are forced to be silent about such abuse or lose their jobs (or worse), is that not morally obscene? Or how about
businesses practices like this by a Japanese airline — is this to be considered as a morally acceptable way to make money?

Japan is known as one of the porn capitals of the world, and the average Japanese teenager would have no problem getting access (through vending machines, for example) to printed materials of hard-core pornography, including child porn. It was only this year that
Japan banned the possession of child pornography — “finally”, as the headlines of overseas news stories blared — though that child porn ban does not apply to Japan’s mega-profitable manga comic book industry. What’s not obscene about that whole picture?

Laws do exist in Japan against stalking and rape, with a
stronger anti-stalking law put in place just about a year ago. But the laws still appear to be loosely enforced by police, and any women wanting to report such crimes will still have to face a demeaning, degrading experience in dealing with law enforcement authorities. (In the case of rape, Japanese police will usually escort the woman back to the scene of the crime and have her “re-enact” the rape for their records.) As a Japanese female friend of mine put it to me some years ago: The police are the last ones in Japan that a woman wants to go to for help after she has been sexually violated. And the list of hypocrisies goes on.

But don’t get me wrong; I’m no prude. I appreciate the art of erotica in Japan as much as anybody else does. After all, Japanese artworks known as
shunga from a few centuries ago are today considered classical, highly respectable art forms that are exhibited at museums the world over and that command very high prices on the international art market (viewer discretion advised). Yet these respected artworks are a whole lot more sexually graphic than any of artist Megumi Igarashi’s original deko-man or “decorative pussy” art creations, as she calls them. Why the double standard?

Though Igarashi managed to beat the rap earlier this year, the police in Tokyo weren’t done dealing with her. They arrested her again just last week and
charged her once more with violating obscenity laws — and this time, they also charged a Tokyo shop owner with displaying Igarashi’s "obscene" artwork in a store window. The artist now again faces two years in prison and a hefty fine.

To me, that is the real obscene thing in Japan: punishing a genuine artist from expressing herself and, in the process, censoring and silencing a voice like hers that challenges the phony morality we see in all spheres of life in Japan when it comes to the treatment of women.

My earnest hope is that Igarashi fights her case long and hard from here on, and with enough public outrage arising to shame Japan’s self-righteous (and probably sexually repressed) guardians of public morals into backing off once and for all. I’m ready to support her.

The Good-for-Nothing Girl’s only offense may have been that her idea of “art” turned off some conservative Japanese males in positions of authority instead of turning them on. But Megumi Igarashi is no criminal and her work harms no one. Let her, and others like her, express what needs to be expressed about sexual inequality and gender double standards in this society. To do anything less would truly be obscene.

Fighting Back in the War on Truth

The American people do love their wars. Every few years there’s a new “war” declared on one thing or other that the news media pick up, run with and replay to death. “The War on ______________” (fill in the blank) is always on the socio-political menu somewhere, somehow in the United States, like a perpetual soup d’jour.

Scan the news and the Internet these days and you find no lack of such wars. A perennial favorite is The War on Drugs, which the U.S. government purports to be dutifully fighting (at the same time that U.S. government agencies are actively but covertly involved in the global drug trade). There’s also The War on Cancer, The War on the Common Cold, The War on Poverty, The War on Illiteracy, The War on Pornography — yes, even a “War on War” and a “War on Peace”. And of course, we all know by now about The War on Terror and the toll it has taken on the world.

I don’t buy these kinds of “War on ______________” (never have), and I agree that we can dismiss most of these so-called “wars” as the creation of power-hungry, fear-driven people high up in business, politics and media. But there is one kind of war that I think we all need to start taking a little more seriously, lest we find ourselves in a very dangerous place in the not-too-distant future. I’m talking about what’s being called The War on Truth.

We are seeing very ominous signs that government agencies in the U.S. and in many other countries have less and less tolerance for those who investigate, report, expose or blow the whistle on unethical or illegal activities. A war on truth in the U.S. is being led at the very top by president Barack Obama, as best evidenced in his war on whistleblowers regarding national security issues, as well as in the cases involving WikiLeaks and the whistleblower formerly known as Bradley Manning.

Whether you are a journalist, government employee, company worker or just a concerned citizen anywhere in the world, you stand a much greater chance of being punished, investigated, spied on, harassed, brought before a court or put behind bars if you reveal something that someone, somewhere wants to keep hidden from the public. We can see plenty of examples in the news about this these days, and it’s a trend that seems be international in scope and certainly not limited to the United States.

Maybe it’s the power of the Internet to disseminate and publish information widely and instantly that is behind this increased paranoia and lack of tolerance for having the truth made public. I don’t know the exact reason why. But I do know what I see and I do know the direction we are headed in, and it concerns me enough to want to sound the alarm in whatever way I can.

If The War on Truth thrives on fear, hidden agendas and illicit and illegal activities, then what is the solution? That’s easy: more truth.

Keep putting the truth out there. Keep reporting, keep investigating, keep blowing the whistle on military and government corruption, and keep speaking truth to power. Speak your truth with courage and conviction, even if it means that you are isolated from circles of family, friends or colleagues. Do not be intimidated by threats of punishment — speak out more than ever. That is what I truly believe and what I try to practice myself in my work and in my own life.

As we all know, though, there is no one absolute truth. Truth always comes in shades of grey: One person’s Highest Truth is another person’s Grand Lie. In other words, don’t be self-righteous and fundamentalist (i.e., good versus evil) about possessing the truth, as some right-wing national TV media in the U.S. and elsewhere tend to be. Simply present, report and speak the truth with facts, evidence and explanation. The power inherent in truth cannot be denied and will speak for itself — and will reach people.

So that’s why I say: Fight back in The War on Truth. Now is not the time to keep silent. It is time for all people of good conscience to really start banding together and standing up to bullies at the highest levels who will not hesitate to destroy someone’s career or put an individual in prison to make the political landscape just a little quieter, a little more peaceable, a little less restless and a
lot less questionable.

When the sledgehammers of authority stand poised and ready to crush noisy protesters, bloggers, reporters, citizens, workers, whistleblowers or whoever, then I would like to see all of us unite, stand up with our backs straight, rally around the intended victim and send back a very clear message of resistance, and support our defense with a good offense: the truth itself.

It is an overused cliché, to be sure, but “Know the truth and it will set you free” also happens to be quite true. I suspect that those in authority know that too, and that the thought of all us being set free from their webs of lies makes four-star generals, presidents, prime ministers, company chairmen, religious leaders and so many others more nervous than they would like to admit.

So, stand up and report more truth — the only antidote to fear and control. Unlike many of the dubious, media-created “wars” we see today, The War on Truth is one war that can be won by the simple act of shining more sunlight over and through the shadows. Let each one of us do whatever we can, in our own ways, to shine that light of Truth wherever it is needed.

Fukushima and Censorship 福島と検閲

過去2、3ヶ月で私が最も興奮したニュースは、ニューヨークのセブン・ストーリーズ・プレス社が毎年発行する本の最新版、「CENSORED 2013: The Top Censored Stories and Media Analysis of 2011-12」という本がリリースされたことです。この本は、カリフォルニア北部に本拠地のあるプロジェクト・センサードというメディア監視団体によって監修・編集されています。

興奮している理由は、本書に初めて、「On the Road to Fukushima: The Unreported Story Behind Japan’s Nuclear-Media-Industrial Complex」 というタイトルで寄稿したからです。私の寄稿は、日本のニュース・メディアの検閲に関する広範囲な問題と、2011年3月の福島原発事故に関するものです。

アメリカやいたるところでの『軍産複合体』についてはよく知られています。つまり、アメリカが絡む継続的な武力衝突にとって重要な軍事部門と産業部門の親密なパートナーシップのことです。日本では、原子力産業、メディア、一般的な産業が深く関連している状態なので『原子力・メディア・産業複合体』という表現を私は思いつきました。私たちが考える以上に、それらは深く結びついているのです。

インターネットの新聞のアーカイブ、古い雑誌や絶版の本、その他さまざまな情報源を使って、福島原発事故への下地を作るのに寄与した原子力産業とニュース・メディアの忘れられた歴史を遡って調べ、まとめようと決心しました。

日本のメディアの最高権力者、故正力松太郎(読売新聞、日本テレビ放送網元社長)が日本で原子力を確保することに非常に重要な役目を果たしたことに、私の寄稿では焦点を当てています。また、日本の国民が決して知らされることのない政治的、あるいは企業の実質的な『権力の中心』に関して、自主検閲フィルターとなっている、日本の『記者クラブ』の役割についても説明しています。

「CENSORED 2013」の私の寄稿をまだ読んでおられないと、驚かれたことでしょう。この本をすぐにオーダーして、福島原発事故とメディアの検閲について今まで知りえなかったことを発見されることをお勧めします。この本を購入することによって、
プロジェクト・センサードが過去30年以上行っているアメリカやそれ以外の国々のニュース・メディアの監視という重要な任務をサポートしていただけます。

個人的に私から:
プロジェクト・センサードとセブン・ストーリーズ・プレスのみなさん、何年にも渡り時間と労力をかけて、世の中のメディア検閲に対し果敢に闘い続けてくれてありがとう。それを求め、そのために闘わなければ、決して私たちは真実を知ることがないでしょう。

The most exciting news these past few months for me has been the recent release of the book CENSORED 2013: The Top Censored Stories and Media Analysis of 2011-12, the latest edition of a book that is published every year by Seven Stories Press in New York. The book is compiled and organized by the media watch group Project Censored, based in northern California.

It’s exciting because I have contributed, for the first time, a new chapter to this book, titled “On the Road to Fukushima: The Unreported Story Behind Japan’s Nuclear-Media-Industrial Complex”. My chapter concerns the broad issue of news media censorship in Japan and the Fukushima nuclear accident of March 2011.

We all know the about the “military-industrial complex” in the United States and elsewhere: that close partnership between the sectors of military and industry that is responsible for the constant state of warfare that the U.S. finds itself in. I came up with the phrase “nuclear-media-industrial complex” to best describe that close relationship in Japan between the sectors of nuclear power, the media and industry in general. They are more closely linked than most of us know.

Using online newspaper archives, old printed editions of magazines, some out-of-print books and various other sources, I set out to retrace and summarize the forgotten history behind nuclear power and the news media in Japan that helped pave the way for the nuclear accident at Fukushima.

I focus in the chapter on the crucial role that Japan’s most powerful media mogul, the late Matsutaro Shoriki (former head of the
Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper and NTV television network) played in securing nuclear power in Japan. I also cover the role of the Japanese “kisha (reporters’) club” system that acts as a self-censoring filter for much of the truth behind the political and corporate “centers of power” that the public in Japan is never informed about.

If you haven’t already read my chapter in the new
CENSORED 2013 book, then I guarantee that you’re in for a few surprises. I encourage you to order your copy of the book today and find out more than you ever wanted to know about Fukushima and media censorship. By buying your copy of the book, you will also be supporting the important work of monitoring the news media in the U.S. and other countries that Project Censored has been doing for more than 30 years.

And from me personally: Thank you to all the folks at
Project Censored and Seven Stories Press who put so much of their time and effort, year after year, to continuing fighting the good fight against media censorship in society. We will never know the truth if we don’t pursue it and fight for it.
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