Chicago Sun Times
Japan, media still deny Nanking massacre
BY ADAM GAMBLE AND TAKESATO WATANABE
(more info click here)
Adam Gamble and Takesato Watanabe are co-authors of A
Public Betrayed: An Inside Look at Japanese Media
Atrocities and Their Warnings to the West (Regnery
December 4, 2004
Here's something compelling to think about on Pearl
Harbor Day, Dec. 7:
Last month on Veterans Day, the world learned of the
tragic death, apparently by suicide, of Iris Chang, the
youthful American author of Chinese descent who wrote the
1997 best-selling history The Rape of Nanking.
Chang's book did more than any other work to reveal the facts of
the 1937-38 Nanking massacre in which the Japanese Empire raped
untold thousands and murdered perhaps as many as 300,000 unarmed
Chinese civilians and soldiers.
Many in Japan still officially deny the massacre took place
despite historical evidence and eyewitness accounts establishing it
as unimpeachable fact. Outcry among them succeeded in derailing a
Japanese edition of Chang's book.
Intolerably, official denials of the massacre continue to this
day among Japanese government officials and media editors. The same
day news of Chang's death broke, the Japanese publisher Shueisha
Inc. said that it would bow down to conservative Japanese
politicians by censoring material about the massacre in one of its
Forty Japanese assemblymen and others mounted a protest against
Shueisha's weekly magazine, Young Jump, over a historical cartoon
(a serious and popular adult genre in Japan) titled ''Kuni ga Moeru''
(the country is burning), by artist Hiroshi Motomiya. The cartoon's
offense was that it depicted Japanese soldiers brutally killing
unarmed people in Nanking as the historical fact that it is.
Acquiescing to the protests, the owner of the magazine apologized
for running it, promising to censor it out of the book version.
Such censorship on behalf of mainstream Japanese media and
politicians can be compared to mainstream Germans denying the
Holocaust, or mainstream Americans denying slavery.
Chang wrote The Rape of Nanking when she was just in her 20s. It
enjoyed phenomenal success, but she was widely pilloried in Japan.
Some credible scholars (both Western and Japanese) have criticized
aspects of Chang's work (especially some of the photos used). But
no serious scholar has denied the gist of The Rape of Nanking --
that it was one of the most brutal war crimes in history.
When inconvenient historical facts are conveniently denied and
censored by power brokers in authoritarian regimes such as North
Korea or Iran, we call it despotism, Orwellian, even evil. But what
should we call it when such facts are denied by elected leaders and
mainstream media in Japan, while journalists who champion the truth
experience reprisals? How do we reconcile this with Japan's status
as one of the world's leading democracies, the second largest
economy, and one of the closest allies and trading partners of the
United States, prominent in its support of the Bush
administration's war on terror, eager to alter its constitution to
allow more aggressive military deployment?
As media scholars know, since World War II the
Japanese media evolved a plutocratic ownership structure, a cozy,
subordinate relationship with the government, and a tendency
towards infotainment and sensationalism. It frequently tolerates
biased and factually inaccurate reporting extending to casual
anti-Semitism, and de facto censorship extending to Holocaust
denial. Chang called such silencing a kind of ''second rape'' in
the inexorable logic of genocide: First, people are killed, and
then the memory of killing itself is killed. ''Media atrocity'' is
a strong description but apt in such cases, which strike at the
heart of human rights and democratic freedoms that voices like
Chang's struggled to uphold.