The Debito-Tepido dispute comes to visit Hoofin to You . . .

The comment chain was on a post from earlier this month, and the chain starts here.

As I know I’ve said here before, both the main guys on that thread are good guys who have been Facebook friends of mine at one time or another. Contrary to what some of the commenters on Tepido have stated, I am 80-20 in support of what debito.org has been about. When you think about your realities, there is very little that you are totally 100% in agreement with. Things are more like 80-20, right?

As I’ve summarized before, Debito Arudou wants to see certain improvements to Japan, and I happen to agree that Japan is really weak on certain things. The more credible people on the Tepido side want to make sure that Japan gets a fair shake on the internet, and I can agree with that, too. As I am always reminding people, a lot of Japanese are stuck in Japan–they have the same problems with their government, and even elections don’t seem to fix it. [It’s just that] I just don’t see it as a useful cheap-assed excuse to start messing with foreigners because some Japanese have it just as bad. I think the better approach is: fix the problems.

Somebody felt I was anti-American because I didn’t agree that yellow ribbons were a form of sacrifice in the post-9/11 American scene. Other people seemed to suggest I was anti-Japanese, because I don’t believe that foreigners in Japan should be treated like some kind of voluntary underclass (especially when our military helps defend Japan and or trade relations help put coins in the pocket).

Some people raised the Fox News-style “fair and balanced” argument, which most people in America who know better are sick of. Their opinion is the fair balance–even going so far as to claim it’s “fact”–and everybody else is crackers. Well, that’s a bucket of sh*t.

We got others who insist that their views must be published on the debito website. Take it from me: you suddenly get eight people’s opinions on an emotionally charged subject, you want to cut-and-redact, too, if you don’t want to generate an even bigger brouhaha. I don’t see why the designated forum of Tepido isn’t satisfactory for their anti-Debito-and-anyone-else-who-defends-the-right-to-say diatribes. But for some reason, it is not. Probably because the same 12 people get tired talking to each other over the internet comment threads. I know I got 84 hits from there today, but it looks like 12 people hitting my one post an average of 7 times each. My WordPress number (page hits) went through the roof, but I doubt my Quantcast number (visits from identifiable computers) will even move.

It makes me laugh. Two of the Tepido posters said they “stopped reading” here months ago. But then, I see the same IP’s popping up as read me from time to time in a given month, and have for the past couple years. You guys don’t seem to know how the internet numbers game, of “who has real traffic and who is a paper tiger?” goes. I had somebody pull that about a year ago with a “blog review” site, which they linked to GaijinPot. I’ve always had more readers since then than before, so I don’t know what to tell you. I would blog if the number were countable on one hand.

Since 2003, and maybe even before with the AOL chatrooms in the late 1990’s, I am surprised at the number of people who use the internet to pick fights, what I termed “delightful bickering” back then. “Hey, I’ve got nothing better to do. Let’s start some delightful bickering on the internet!”

This is what the Tepido site has always seemed to me. Sure, I know the hardcore followers (what’s hardcore out of 12? Six? Four?) feel that they have a bone to pick with Debito Arudou.

– They didn’t like his post 3/11, Fukushima commentary.

– They don’t like the fact that he doesn’t portray Japan as this sunny place where everything is always grand, and those who don’t agree are “whiners” and people with emotional problems.

– They want to be able to go over to someone else’s website and post whatever they want, and have it appear exactly how they said. But even the earlier version of the internet comment board, which was the editorial page of a newspaper, didn’t allow that.

– They want the juice on the right side of the refrigerator, not on the left. Cheese on the left.

– If they can take or win, then that’s what’s right and fair. That’s true justice. Whatever you want, well, why don’t you just clam up? Hey, we made our great deal in Japan in the late 1980’s, and . . . what are you doing here? (Keep the military spending and trade relations open, though. We use that.)

– We can speak the language, due to our time here, and so therefore do not water down our advantage with your talk about equal protection and fundamental fairness.

– Too bad if your [somebody’s] marriage went south. Your Japanese wife should be able to do what she wants with your kid in her country. Who do think you are, anyway? The father?

Stuff like this. This is why Tepido is read by the same 12 people all day. This is why the NJ.com chatboards never took off in the 2000’s, and why the AOL version fizzled in the late 1990’s. Delightful bickerers aren’t well- or long-tolerated in the real world, in “RL”.

Why do they ever get the idea that they are, online?

[Update 9/23/11: It has been pointed out to me that some people do not believe that Debito is still in Japan, and apparently there is a lot of previous commentary about that on Tepido. I can’t say either way. However, I do want to point out that equal protection of the law is something that is a universal quality. When people speak up for the idea, they shouldn’t be shouted down. As I’ve been saying, ideally the embassies should be in the forefront of these kind of issues—not blogs! Trying to shout people down on the topic is smelly.]

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16 comments

  1. Wilford Brimley · September 24, 2011

    Amusing Hoofin.

    It is true that Debito is not in Japan, he left some time ago. Ask him, while he hasn’t said he’s in Japan in quite some time (since his return for his bike trip after the March quake – he wasn’t in Japan then either which is part of the criticism of his 3/11 reporting – that he was using the US/World TV news rather than the Japanese TV news (and getting what the Japanese news said wrong) since he really didn’t have access to the Japanese news), he’s unlikely to lie he’ll either come clean or deflect the question as “irrelevant”. [Hoofin’s Note: I am not able to say. But I do remember reading on his site about a sabbatical and the possibility of him doing something academic overseas (overseas, and thus not in Japan). I imagine this means he must actually be overseas to do it.]

    As for the Tepido and the Trollpidos v.s. Debito and the Debheads, I have never seen anyone on Tepido say that racism doesn’t exist and that inequalities in treatment of individuals in Japan should not be addressed. What I have noticed is they are sick and tired of the Al Sharptonesque antics of Debito and I agree with them. I’m sick of Debito complaining that “foreigners are unique individuals and should not be characterized as all the same” then turning around and talking about “the eye” or rolling every Japanese person up into one neat little box (sexless marriages anyone?) What I have noticed is what Debito likes to call pandering to the racists or [U]ncle [T]omming[,] or whatever he’ll call it next. [Hoofin’s note: I don’t see this on there in the strength you profess. Al Sharpton does a very well regarded MSNBC talk show these days, so you are characterizing the 1980’s Sharpton.] The truth is a lot of the “racism” in Japan isn’t, it’s a misunderstanding or someone who’s had a few misunderstandings and doesn’t want to deal with another one (like the example Debito gave for Eido). [Hoofin’s note: Aw, man. But that means you discount all the many, many times that something bad is done to someone in Japan, where the first or second excuse raised is “misunderstanding”. How can a people who have known about our culture, and dealt with us, face to face, for 160 years still keep having so many misunderstandings?]

    And that’s where a lot of the problem begins, Debito doesn’t want people pointing out the flaws in his logic, perfectly understandable. He doesn’t like it when people prove he’s wrong. [Hoofin’s note: Who does?] So he censors anything that might remotely disagree with him. Hey, his blog [is] his[.] [R}ight[,] right? But when you stifle free debate (and Debito has NEVER freely debated anyone – he runs from it like a groundhog from it’s shadow, and has for years refusing to debate on any forum he doesn’t have an iron control over or reverting to ad hom[i]n[e]m attacks rather than actual debate) and your [his?] points are so weak[,] it’s sort of expected that a group of pissed off people will band together to point out how you are [he is] so wrong so often.

    Wilford “Diabetus” Brimley

    [Hoofin’s Note: I am not aware how much does not appear as offered comments on Debito.org, but it does not look like it’s a debate site anyway. I am letting a lot through on mine this week because I am being nice.]

  2. David · September 24, 2011

    Hoofin,

    First of all, thanks for posting and reading my comments. I read yours as well and would like to respond.

    You wrote: As I’ve summarized before, Debito Arudou wants to see certain improvements to Japan…

    Response: I think most people do. But how you go about solving problems is a big source of disagreement. Equating “gaijin” with the “N” word, for example, is not the way, in my view. Here’s the thing…what exactly is Debito’s purpose for having a blog? At first I thought it was to promote human rights in Japan. But over time I began to think it was designed to promote a left-wing agenda; or maybe an outlet for his personal demons. I think only he really knows. Or maybe not. My point is if you want people to respect your opinions, you don’t selectively censor people like the Chinese government. You don’t make declarative statements unless you can back it up with facts. The two things I like about his blog is that there are others (the usual players) that will call him out (e.g. Level3) when he overreacts, which seems to be quite often. Plus, there is a lot of useful information for living in Japan. That said, everyone wants world peace but you don’t get people interested in your ideas on how to achieve it by alienating them unnecessarily.

    You wrote: Somebody felt I was anti-American because I didn’t agree that yellow ribbons were a form of sacrifice in the post-9/11 American scene.

    Response: Is this in reference to me? I hope not because I asked if you were, I didn’t state it. Moreover, I am certainly not suggesting it is anti-American to disapprove of the wearing of yellow ribbons. I didn’t wear one myself. What I did do is challenge your comment that Americans didn’t do anything meaningful after 9/11. You were factually incorrect. I was hoping you would explain why you made that comment so I hope you are not trying to obfuscate the point I was trying to make. So why did you claim Americans didn’t do anything meaningful after 9/11?

    You wrote: Some people raised the Fox News-style “fair and balanced” argument, which most people in America who know better are sick of. Their opinion is the fair balance–even going so far as to claim it’s “fact”–and everybody else is crackers. Well, that’s a bucket of sh*t.

    Response: I’m not sure what you mean most Americans are sick of “fair and balanced”? Look, there are facts that can be verified and opinions. One reason people are frustrated with debito is that he often doesn’t seem to know the difference. So to him anything Michael Moore or Paul Krugman says is fact. But I know it is his blog. If he wants to publish b.s. then that’s his right. But let’s not kid ourselves. His is not a “humans rights” blog. It is in large part a personal outlet to espouse his own political viewpoints, censoring some who disagree with him. In my view, he’s really not interesting in bringing people together to solve problems. Rather, he’s more like a Michele Malkin or Michael Moore; just a conduit to express misguided outrage. Again, that’s my opinion but I don’t think I’m alone on this.

    You wrote: We got others who insist that their views must be published on the debito website. Take it from me: you suddenly get eight people’s opinions on an emotionally charged subject, you want to cut-and-redact, too, if you don’t want to generate an even bigger brouhaha.

    Response: I saw a movie recently where one of the characters said there are mistakes and then there are mistakes. Wearing white after Labor Day is a mistake. So is invading Russia during the winter. In my opinion, debito is moderating in the same vein that the Chinese government moderates the press. I can feel the frustration that others have felt because here is a guy who purports to be one thing but behaves in another way. Not always, but enough to question his motives.

    You wrote: Since 2003, and maybe even before with the AOL chatrooms in the late 1990′s, I am surprised at the number of people who use the internet to pick fights, what I termed “delightful bickering” back then. “Hey, I’ve got nothing better to do. Let’s start some delightful bickering on the internet!”

    Response: This is absolutely true. However, there are people like myself who feel frustrated when a blog like debito’s puts something – often outrageous – out there and then censors dissent. As I told you before, I first thought his site was focused on human rights in a largely non-partisan way. In a small way, I was expecting to see the shadow of MLK and I got the Black Panthers instead. Lots of rage and hyperbole, rant after rant. Maybe the Black Panthers had some legitimate beefs but they went out of their way to alienate almost everyone including Caucasian supporters. And for what pupose? I seriously don’t think debito is about bringing the ex-pat community together to solve problems or make Japan a better place to live. I think he has his own agenda and I can understand why some people are legitimately concerned that others, including Japanese, might think he represents the ex-pat community.

    You wrote: They don’t like the fact that he doesn’t portray Japan as this sunny place where everything is always grand, and those who don’t agree are “whiners” and people with emotional problems.

    Response: I didn’t copy the other like comments. Hoofin, I really believe you’re being unfair to most people who have issues with debito’s site. There are lot more people there than those who regular visit tepido. There will always – always – be a certain percentage of idiots in any group. But I think you’re wrong to minimize what I believe are legitimate complaints about his website. No clear thinking person is against human rights or bettering the living situation in Japan. But like many, I don’t think debito is the positive force you think he is that will lead to improving things. To be sure, he occasionally raises an issue that needs to be addressed further, such as a father’s rights to custody after a divorce. But I’d rather see someone else run a blog dedicated to improving life in Japan. An intellectually honest blog.

    You wrote: When people speak up for the idea, they shouldn’t be shouted down.

    Response: Or censored.

    Regards,

    David

    • hoofin · September 24, 2011

      David, your lengthy reply, like the other one in this very long series, is something I will have to get to later. I want to point out, though, that I noticed the comments aren’t appearing in order. I am not used to having so many open comments (as opposed to private e-mail), and so I don’t know how to easily fix whatever I am doing to get the response to match the commenter in that nice little box that sometimes appears directly below.

  3. Andrew in Iwate · September 24, 2011

    Just a few points I want to respond to:

    I too was angered by the implication in the previous thread that to be liberal is to be anti-American. (A whole argument went through my head about why that’s so wrong, but I figured it was neither here nor there, us being in Japan.) As far as the people at Tepido, there is a range of political opinions. There’s one guy who sees the world through Fox News goggles. He means well, but lives in a right vs left Fox News approved narrative fantasy land. He’s crazy, and yet we have common ground on thinking Debito is a negative influence. Disagreeing with Debito has nothing to do with conservative or liberal (US) political alignment.

    Internet comments are not like the editorial section of a newspaper. In the newspaper, there is limited space, so there is no choice but to edit. On the internet, there is no such limitation. Any editing or blocking of comments is for purely for censorship. You clearly don’t share Debito’s moderation policy in practice, so I don’t know why you try to defend it. In practice, Debito’s moderation policy is far different from yours.

    Anyway, I disagree with what you’re saying here, but you seem like a reasonable, fair guy. Kudos on the blog.

  4. David · September 25, 2011

    Hoofin,

    That’s fine. But please do me a favor. In your response, I would appreciate it if you explain why you posted that Americans didn’t do anything meaningful after 9/11. I am a firm believer that if someone is going to make a statement like that they need to take responsibility for it and explain further. [Hoofin’s Note: I don’t think I said what you say I said, and so I have to go back and look at it again. As I remember, I said that there were Americans who thought that making symbolic gestures after 9/11 was the equivalent of genuine sacrifice. I want to do it some justice, so give me some time to get back to you.]

    One more thing. It seems one poster and perhaps more readers might have misconstrued a comment I made about anti-Americanism. Firstly, I was in no way implying that liberals are anti-American. [Hoofin’s Note: I am very American.] That would be like implying all conservatives are evil. It[‘]s nonsense. After 9/11 Americans of all political stripes came together (albeit for a short period) because that’s what Americans do when they are attacked. I asked you that question partly to be facetious because no one admits they are anti-American or racist or conservative or whatever even though their words may suggest otherwise. [Hoofin’s Note: I am very American.] Incidently [sic], I try to make a distinction between liberal and conservative and far left/right, the latter representing more fringe groups, and I don’t think I used the word liberal. Regardless, it wasn’t my intention to offend anyone. But if I did, I apologize. I have no beef with anyone who points out America’s or Japan’s faults, for example, because I think that’s what makes a country better. I do, however, have a visceral dislike for people who throw verbal grenades or needlessly disrespect a race, creed, color, country, etc., like the time debito said something about being proud, for the first time, to have been born in America after Obama became president. I don’t think he’ll ever understand how insulting that is.

    David

    • hoofin · September 25, 2011

      Ah, the comment was at the Debito site:

      Hoofin Says:
      September 20th, 2011 at 8:30 am

      Gambare is the yellow ribbon of Japan.

      In America, instead of doing something meanin[g]ful like pay more taxes or volunteer to serve, it became fashionable to display a yellow ribbon “in support of” American troops or whatever the cause might be. This was particularly slick, because not only did it fill the space where the answer to “what are you doing to make things better? (win the war, etc.)” would go, it came across as if the ribbon flyer actually was doing something by the symbolic act.

      So in Japan, telling someone to “gambare”, where you yourself really don’t have to in the same way, is something that is easily abused. No wonder the people who are actually having hard times get sick of hearing it. It’s almost like an insult to people’s intelligence.

      If it were polite enough to respond, “what’s your sacrifice?”, I bet you’d stop hearing “gambare”.

      Yes, what I meant was that people who showed support symbolically, rather than by making a genuine sacrifice, are similar to people in Japan who go “gambare!” to people in very dire straits. You are supposed to help out in meaningful ways. “Showing support” does not reach that standard. Another way to say this is: Actions, not words.

      The game of the yellow ribbon goes back to reaction by certain people in America to the Vietnam War. Sometime in 1980, Candidate Reagan put it out there that America would have “won” the Vietnam War, if only the people back home had showed more support. This was bullshit, but music to one faction’s ears.

      When the debate in 1990 came down to what to do about Kuwait, the pro-war people, I think, pushed the Yellow Ribbon as a “sign” to “show support” for the troops. No tax hikes. No extra pay for the military. Just the ribbon—like you’re going to cheer at the football game.

      When a country is “at war”, as America has been for 10 years, all the people in the country are supposed to make genuine sacrifice—not push it onto “those who serve” (i.e. serve in the military.) We are all called to serve, aren’t we?

      The Peace Church people who I live around understand this very well. They are mostly against war as a means to solve disputes. They place things in very moral terms, and talk is cheap–action is what matters. Remember, the Quakers traditionally held meetings in silence. So, you see, if you really understood America (and you don’t), you would appreciate that there is this 300-year-old line of thinking, that actions speak louder than words. I’m afraid the yellow ribbon was more words than action. MHO.

      • David · September 27, 2011

        Hi Hoofin,
        You wrote: Yes, what I meant was that people who showed support symbolically, rather than by making a genuine sacrifice, are similar to people in Japan who go “gambare!” to people in very dire straits.

        ***Fair enough. I thought you were making an overgeneralization about Americans.

  5. beneaththewheel · September 25, 2011

    I find the word dispute interesting.

    As a person who posts on Debito and Tepido, am I involved in this dispute? Is being critical of Debito’s words in a post at Tepido.org taking sides, or is it just getting involved in a discussion? What if I write the exact same thing at Debito? I don’t think it matters where I write it though, because this is the Internet, and everything is available for everyone to see. Anything I write about Debito (or you for that matter) at Tepido.org is not behind his back (or yours) because he can view the site whenever he wants to.

    I have no beef with Debito (I do think some of his more recent opinions are dangerous, and I can expand on that if needed), and like to discuss the issues he talks about, and that brings me to Debito for a controlled conversation, and Tepido for a free conversation; both dedicated to the same topic.

    Thoughts?

    • hoofin · September 25, 2011

      He he! You ask a very 21st century question. If one directs directs his or her comments out into the internet ether, have they spoken to the other person directly, as in a conversation, or more like candidates in a political campaign? I don’t know the answer (who does?), and I have to think about that one.

      I say that “dispute” is very accurate. Is every visitor or commenter literally part of it? No, of course not. But as a useful generality, yes. Because, by your same logic, where posting out to the internet ether is the same as a personal conversation, you are posting in a group that has a dispute with Debito (as you can see from the number of posts that came here, relative to my usual traffic)–where you could just as well use other means to communicate your thoughts.

      So I have to think more about that.

      • David · September 27, 2011

        Hoofin,

        Ideally, it would be nice to communicate our thoughts on the debito side but he unfairly censors. Anyway, maybe I’m wrong but I think you sort of put yourself out there last spring as debito’s defender. I don’t know what kind of professional or personal relationship you have with him but that’s a hard spot to be in. Reminds of Cheney defending Bush’s invasion of Iraq or Geitner defending Obama’s economic record. That said, whether its fair or not to dump our debito frustrations on you (probably not), I think most of us appreciate your reasoned responses.

        Good luck with your blog and your efforts regarding equal protection under the law.

  6. The Observer · September 26, 2011

    Hoofin,

    I am commenting to make sure you are aware of this. Arudou does not live in Japan any longer. He lives in Canada. He does not work in Japan anymore. The only connection he has to Japan is a passport and relations. He may even be back to David Aldwinckle.

    • hoofin · September 26, 2011

      Observer, I appreciate your comment and that there is indeed this theory out there. Apparently it has been well-played over at the other (Tepido) site.

      Like, for me, the interest that the Tepido Twelve give it is really much more than I can see. Arguably, if he did “emigrate”, as Tepido had said last October (2010), it makes the David Aldwinckle story that much more, how shall I say it? Realistic. Any number of people read the literature and they wonder why he goes on with Japan–especially in an outlier region like Hokkaido. If, as you say is true, Debito went to Canada, I think his story becomes one of somebody who learned the language and really tried to assimilate into Japanese society, but hit a brick wall. (Of course an alternative argument will be that he didn’t try to assimilate because of the so-called activism, but after a while, my head hurts when these topics and the petty debates–the “delightful bickering”–come up.)

      I explained somewhere in the past week that my interest in all the Debito stuff is on the topic of equal protection of the law. What is Japan doing to assure equal protection of the law? The man can be an activist in Canada for that, for what it matters as to where.

      I am sure you people will track down your man, but he isn’t hiding on this site!

  7. Pingback: How come no one understands that Equal Protection of the Law benefits everybody. | Hoofin to You!
  8. Johnny · January 2, 2012

    I was a Debito supporter but I find the non-disclosure issue around him either being or not being in the country quite annoying.

    For whatever reason he has refused to address this point, and it is to his detriment.

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