The Net’s a wide world to monitor! (More on the Japan health insurance dodger issue)

I’m not one of these to try and “fix” the internet. I think everyone knows that anyone with a keyboard can go to town, and so, you know, I just comment on it.

First, the postings from the “good guys”: catching Shawn’s commentary over at Let’s Japan.org, it turns out that, yes, the Japan Times did pick up on the latest publicity bulletin out of the Choicers at freechoice.jp after all.

The title is wrong, but maybe in as much as incomplete, where it says that foreigners can skip social insurance. As the actual article explains, and like we’ve all been saying since well back last year, the immigration won’t deny a visa simply for not being enrolled in health and pension insurance here. That is this whole Guideline Eight. But it doesn’t mean you get to skip your social insurance.

Here is a confusing quote within the article:

Immigration Bureau official Aiko Oumi said, “We just want to persuade foreigners to join the social insurance, but we heard from many people that the original version sounded like having social insurance is a requirement.”

I think Oumi-san meant, “sounded like having social insurance is a requirement from the immigration office”, because just a paragraph-or-so later, the reporter says:

Foreign and Japanese residents are required to sign up for the social insurance system under the Health Insurance Act and the National Pension Act, but there are no legal sanctions for not doing so.

So, as I’ve been saying, nothing changed. People, basically no matter who they are (i.e. with very rare exception) have to be in. No sanction sounds to me like you don’t have to pay additional money, like a fine or penalty, for not enrolling. But the likelihood is very strong that you have to pay the premiums you are supposed to.

It’s also very clear that effective in a few weeks (start of the new fiscal year), people are going to start checking much more carefully about who’s in and who is not. That article doesn’t give very much confidence that there has been any “victory” for the Choicers at all.

In fact, it sounds like that same crap I hear in America, with the Birthers and Teabaggers and the lot. They grab some issue with very little justifiability, and then they start trying to media-market it, and put out as much disinformation as possible, to throw sand in the normal functioning levers of government.

Minoru Matustani, the reporter, was probably fed five or six lines to get him thinking the situation was one thing, when in fact nothing has changed about whether people are supposed to be enrolled. And the immigration people had already said they wouldn’t “enforce” the guideline—it’s old news. Some people suspected that not seeing the guideline deleted (an irrelevancy, anyway) called into specific question that aspect of the Choicers’ media effort.

But most of us realized that, without the Choicers getting Labor and Health to make a concrete statement about non-enrollment, what the Choicers have been doing has been a publicity stunt.

I mean, check this out. The Yomiuri had carried something in early February, that a reader shared with me yesterday. I missed it then:

(Click to enlarge any of these):

According to the article, immigration would not be asking for insurance cards (turns out to be false — they will!), but whoever put Yomiuri on the story got the immigration worker to give a quote.

The Choicers co-chairman was also quoted in the article as saying,

“It’s a human rights issue. Japanese have the choice of whether to be on public or private insurance, and foreigners should have the same right,” Schwermer added. “People can feel relieved that they won’t be penalized for not being on public health insurance.”

But apparently later, the Choicers put out a webpage, saying, no, no, Schwermer had not said that at all! [Update: maybe another "now you see it, now you don't" thing. So here is the Google cache as of 3/6, or check out the screen shot, below.]

(Click to enlarge:)

But the strange thing about it, is that the rebuttal is written as if Yomiuri was coming to them for the news, when in fact the Choicers put out a press release to Yomiuri.

Then, the Choicers criticized Yomiuri for contacting Kaj Schwermer “on his private cell phone” (oh my! Of all things!) rather than the “official” number on the press release. Then, the site goes on to comment, and I quote, that “this is not following the protocol of proper journalistic practice”! At which point you might just want to barf or something.

You put out a press release inviting news coverage. You make a quote to the paper—one that frankly does not read as if the Yomiuri pulled it out of thin air, but was probably meant as an aside to “set the tone” for what they’re hoping the press will report. (“Hey, the Japanese can buy private policies, and it’s a FUN-DA-MENTAL huMAN rights issue!!! HYuuuMAN ri-iiiiiiiights!” But really, they want what was in the press release reported. Not what was actually coming out of their mouths.)

So that is, setting the tone to mislead the reporter as to background, which the Choicers are great at because they just ignore the many people who have called them on it.

Well, suddenly, that little bit of “aside” ends up as a quote in the main story. Oh, shit! So the only remedy at that point is put something on the net for those who trackback to your site.

“No no! Kaj was so badly misquoted! He never said that!” and the like. Although it sounds very much like what these guys were saying from about September.

It’s just this whole crap about “protocol” and “official channels” and “using the private cell phone!” “We appreciate the news coverage,” as their little web piece starts out. Heck, you sought their news coverage.

If it weren’t just needlessly misleading people, and wasting both reporters’ time with personal agendas, and also government workers’ time with the same personal agendas, it would simply be comical. Rather than much more sad than comical.