Reporter Christopher Johnson’s twitter feed making certain mid-level employees at Panasonic and Google in Japan a little nervous.

I wrote a bit about reporter Johnson last year, after he had gained some exposure as being a person detained from re-entry in Japan early last year due to some visa snafu. As it turned out, Japan and Mr. Johnson worked the situation out a couple months later, but not until after there was some not-well-defined internet brouhaha between Johnson and a couple of previous coworkers, where it’s not clear why the coworkers/associates were hounding Mr. Johnson in the shadows on the internet.

As it goes with the unregulated internet, these January 2012 troubles were picked up by another website, the previously blogged Japan Probe, which dedicates part of its efforts to badmouthing the content of articles written by major newspaper organizations—specifically identifying reporters, like Hiroko Tabuchi and Martin Fackler of the New York Times, or Kyung Lah of CNN.

The level of disagreement expressed on Japan Probe would go beyond the mere disagreement with what was reported, into insinuations of whether the reporters were capable of reporting. In one case, details about a divorce were included at one point (although that posting may no longer be part of the current display).

Japan Probe has also printed material criticizing academic and human-rights activist Arudou Debito, whom I know casually, and, in the past couple years, has tended to focus on some of the content coming from Mr. Arudou’s blog. It’s a fairly well-trafficked blog in the Japan-side expat community, maybe receiving 800 unique hits a day when it was publishing daily.

Chris Johnson’s story, having appeared on Debito.org in early 2012, was then more prominently (and negatively) featured on Japan Probe throughout early 2012, with defamatory content against reporter Johnson.

Here is what I don’t quite get though: I suspect most everyday people understand that when you defame a reporter anonymously over the internet, you will make your website a topic of either that reporter’s attention; or, if the reporter is part of a bigger news outlet, you will flag the site in the notes of some social-media monitor working for the media group.

So if I read the Johnson twitter feed right (the ones being posted), Mr. Johnson has concluded, probably by strong circumstantial evidence, that Ken Yasumoto-Nicholson of Panasonic and Eido Inoue of Google Japan are by some measure involved in the defamatory content on Japan Probe. Additionally, that they use “Japologism.org”, a successor site to the Debito-criticizing, defunct “Tepido.org“, to carry forward negative criticism about targets on Japan Probe.

Now, good reader, this all goes into the bin of “Japan does not regulate what foreigners in Japan do to other foreigners connected to Japan”, (either as fellow residents there or former residents). What I’m saying there is that internet behavior that no honestly Japanese person would ever dream of doing (because of the ramifications), is engaged in without so much as a second thought by certain expats who, for one reason or another, call Japan home.

That two middle-aged, midlevel key employees (of some-reported importance) within their respective companies, do this routinely, is something that would make you sit back in your chair and really read that laptop again.

When I initially wrote about antics in the Japan-side expat blogosphere, I concluded that these individuals were content to sit behind the scenes and goad others (twenty-something JET teachers, for example) into this sort of behavior. Setting the table for the party, so to speak.

Now, the suggestion in what Mr. Johnson is reporting is that these men actually spend their working day involved in the activity. Employed by major Japanese companies or Japanese units of American ones, where in both cases, the American market is so critical to the profitability of the firm. Employed during the day, and employing sock puppets to wile the day away.

When this latest piece hits, it will be interesting to see what research has been done. I have my own tick-file of items that have appeared on Mr. Yasumoto-Nicholson’s site, and it will be something to match the sock puppets to the alleged cowards behind the anonymous words.

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13 thoughts on “Reporter Christopher Johnson’s twitter feed making certain mid-level employees at Panasonic and Google in Japan a little nervous.

  1. Interesting timing that japologism would give a 504 error today. Coincidence?

    While I’ve opted to keep my head down during all of this, I’ve been following this back and forth internet drama since it started around 2008 or so when all that billowy kimono nonsense was growing. I am amazed at how big it got and how much that group of internet personalities have gotten away with in broad daylight when it comes to defamation.

    Thank you for keeping tabs on all of this. If it weren’t for bloggers like you, this story would probably be quickly forgotten.

    I really look forward to reading the next piece.

  2. “What I’m saying there is that internet behavior that no honestly Japanese person would ever dream of doing (because of the ramifications), is engaged in without so much as a second thought by certain expats who, for one reason or another, call Japan home.”

    So you’ve never heard of 2ch then?

      • You said “no honestly Japanese person.” Last time I checked, 2ch is a Japanese-language message board, and as such, almost all of the users are Japanese. I also disagree with the idea that very few people use it, as it receives millions of posts a day.

        I think you might be trying to say that this behavior is not in line with Japanese values. but as you are not Japanese yourself I don’t think you are the arbiter of that.

          • Hi Hoofin!

            Thanks, as always, for interesting posts!
            For what it’s worth, I agree with you about 2ch. Most of the Japanese I know think that it’s full of loonies. ‘Millions of posts a day’, from a population base of over 100 million (with multiple posts made by the same people on different threads, or as replies) is hardly representative of the Japanese people, I think.

            As for Japan Probe, I used to read it occasionally for entertainment value; many interesting and amusing little stories that would never make the mainstream press, gossip news, etc. However, maybe about 2 years ago, it began to change in tone, becoming more J-nationalist in it’s approach and opinions. The comments also became more combative and nationalist, I feel. As far as I can make out, posts are now fairly infrequent, and for some time (1 year+) Japan Probe appears to run two basic stories; ‘evil’ Koreans/Chinese keep attempting to provoke ‘blameless’ Japan, and ‘terrorist’ Sea Shepherd is keeps attacking those poor J-whalers. With the odd cute animal story thrown in.

            For the life of me, I don’t understand why NJ (I believe that your own analysis shows most views of Japan Probe are from outside Japan) indulge in such vehement ‘J-nationalism by proxy’.

            • It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye, eh?

              Like Jim, I pretty much gave up on Japanprobe a couple of years ago. I think it (they) actually did a creditable job countering the hysteria in the overseas press immediately after the Tohoku disaster, but they’ve not let up on the rabidly pro-Japan propaganda since. I can’t improve on Ourmaninabiko’s turn of phrase when he called it/them ‘the self appointed lapdog of the Japanese establishment,’ which made it all the more surprising that he popped up in that (TL;DR) post by Johnson listed as one of their ‘cohorts’. Just because lots of people disagree with you doesn’t make it a conspiracy. Well, it might be, but that doesn’t mean everyone’s in on it. Some of them might just think you’re wrong…

              None of which answers the most pressing question though, which is: how do people have this much time on their hands? How?

            • I haven’t followed every twist and turn of this spat, which now does appear to become something that will only be resolved in a court system either in North America or Japan.

              You are correct that blogger Ourmanin Abiko and Hikosaemon were, at some point in 2012, identified as participants in the more tortious conduct. And very likely incorrectly. I think the story caught their attention around the same time (maybe a bit before) it did mine. This was when it was a denial of entry / visa issue.

              What seems to have happened since, was that certain individuals took the initial report as their chance to go along one, or both, avenues:

              1) “Here’s our chance to get in some shots in our multi-year feud/fight with Johnson”, and/or

              2) “Another identifiable person mentioned on the Debito.org blog! Here’s our chance to “correct the facts” (engage in defamation or false light tort behavior, where we think we’re immune).”

              The mistake the individuals made, it seems to me (having never met any of these parties in real life), is that they pursued a target who is, in fact, a genuine reporter. And although these exposes are not being published in broad media, they do stand alone pretty well as research pieces.

              Internet will never provide good, direct evidence—at least not cheaply and not without having to go obtain a lot of court discovery. What the internet is better at is offering cheap, strong, circumstantial evidence.

              To your final question, I also am amazed at the time on the hands of certain individuals. It sounds like they do very little actual work in their companies, and need (choose?) to fill their time with these type of internet “hobbies”. I saw this with certain commenters and lurkers from the JET Programme.

              I don’t waste my time with internet bickering; and I do avoid the notion that what goes on over the internet is somehow removed from the legal sphere. I really feel that they’ve confused free speech rights with tortious behavior.

  3. Hoofin, finding the time is the easy part. Japan still has the image of the salaryman who works long hours and gives his life to the company, but it was never true. The fact was, and still is, that most employees of Japanese companies are at work for a long time every day, but spend most of it goofing off, sleeping at their desks (coz they work so damn hard, right?), or daydreaming. Check out the data on productivity. The average US worker goes home on time, but kicks salarymens butts in productivity terms.

  4. It’s amazing these two do this, Yasumoto-Nicolson in particular when the company he works for has literally bled red ink for a long time now. He’s just asking for problems.

  5. Pingback: Japanese Online NewsTrolls or media watchdogs?: Japan’s foreign-born defenders » Japanese Online News

  6. Pingback: Recent mention in the article on (or in) the Japan Times, re the Japan-side expat blogosphere and personal attacks on reporters. | Hoofin

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