Japanese comedian’s online criticism shows political correctness beating free speech

By Chen Yang Source:Global Times Published: 2018/1/7 19:08:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

According to Japanese media, comedian Daisuke Muramoto said in a TV program on December 31 that if the Senkaku Islands (Diaoyu Islands in China) are "invaded," Japan should wave the white flag and surrender. In the show "Asamade Nama TV!" of TV Asahi, the performer said he couldn't understand why some people think that China or North Korea will invade Japan. He also said that Okinawa is the territory that Japan seized from China. The comments were immediately attacked by scholars and members of the Congress. Muramoto was deluged by online criticism and labeled childish with low intelligence.

Although 37-year-old Muramoto is identified as a comedian, he has published volumes of essays, written columns for magazines and made several public speeches. His recent words seem abrupt but are not accidental. On December 17, Muramoto criticized the government for the presence of US forces in Japan's Okinawa and said on the program on Fuji TV that for Washington, Japan is not a good state, but an easy country. The thoughtful young man who thinks deeply about the situation in Japan later tweeted that he would introspect what he said on the program, but would not change his views.

The 30-year-old "Asamade Nama TV!" program has had immense influence on Japanese society. It invites people from the left and right to talk about a political topic at the last weekend every month. The debates help form free opinion, which is essential for a democratic society.

However, considering criticism against Muramoto this time, political correctness has been put above freedom of speech on subjects like sovereignty, although the Japanese Constitution guarantees free speech. It reveals erosion of the concept of free speech in Japanese society, which is disturbing.

Muramoto's words to some extent represent the voice of the youth of Japan and of the silent majority. A survey by the cabinet office on October 27 showed that 62.2 percent participants cared about the Diaoyu Islands issue. This shows a decline of 12.3 percent compared with 2014, demonstrating that Japanese people's interest in territorial disputes has been waning, and the younger generation has become more rational about the so-called China threat theory.

Therefore, since the discourse power is mainly in the grip of the middle-aged and the elderly who have been unable to shun the Cold War mind-set, Muramoto's words seem to be unacceptable. But the younger generation will form a more objective and rational view of China through independent thinking.

In the recent past, Japanese society has leaned right and conservative. The hype on the North Korea threat and China threat theory by the government of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has also aggravated Japanese people's anxiety on China. However, more Chinese have been visiting Japan in the recent years, which helps them better understand modern Japanese society and creates more opportunities for the Japanese to meet ordinary Chinese citizens.

Enthusiastic and kind-hearted Chinese are changing the Japanese people's long-existing stereotypes of China and its people. Muramoto's views have been formed in this context.

China follows a path of peaceful development and remains firm in pursuing an independent foreign policy based on peace. Thinking that China may invade Japan is groundless and ridiculous. The controversy over Muramoto's comments shows that the Japanese elite's knowledge of China is limited and they still harbor a resentment against the country. Muramoto didn't say anything wrong. He just spoke the truth.

The author is a PhD candidate at the Graduate School of Sociology at Toyo University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn Follow us on Twitter @GTopinion


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