Hopefully, this link is consistent and doesn’t vanish like the Asia Times one did from March.
I was alerted to the article based on a number of hits I received to a blog post from earlier this year. Reading through the latest piece, by a Germany-based former freelance reporter, it feels like it’s the latest volley in a back-and-forth between another certain freelancer and the group of harassers associated with the “Tepido” blog of Ken Yasumoto. Even from springtime, it seems like this is a quintessential online “flame war”—only now, moved into digital opinion media that is sponsored by news outlets.
Usually, when I merit a mention or quote in these, it’s my being referenced for having referenced what someone else has had to say about the silly fight. (I call it a silly fight, because, well, let me ask you: how many internet flame wars really ever get resolved over the net? None, right? Sides get made, and keep going until they flame out. The internet oxygen runs out, and then, fffffffffpppp . . . )
The only truly interesting part of the article, and some of the previous rehashes, is how the tortious or criminal element in the behavior is never addressed. A lot has been made recently of the American government’s supposed collection of internet data—including anything that has been sent using encryption or anonymizer techniques like Tor. It would not surprise me that the Japanese government also collects a lot of data, in “meta” form, that originates from Japan. Edward Snowden fingered the United States, but really, do you honestly think that other countries don’t record the internet?
To me, recurring articles about how reporters are being specifically targeted and slandered by a very small group of Japan-side-expat (apparent) nutcases and sociopaths becomes boring very quickly. What’s more of a question is why the Japanese government doesn’t crack down on people who use the internet that way, in Japan. You know that the Japanese government has as sophisticated a set of resources as any other modern country. They can easily figure out who, among that group of expats, is on the internet for bad purposes. Yet, you never hear of any charges being brought against either a foreigner, or one of these minted “Japanese citizen” foreigner expats. Not one. None. It’s not because Japan really can’t identify them, or get hard evidence. I think it’s more this thing of “Japan” (rulers in Japan) liking when the foreigners are going at each other, or playing one set of foreigners off another. A tradition since Meiji.
Now that the JT has made clear that the same set of big name reporters (Hiroko Tabuchi, Martin Fackler, Kyung Lah, oh, and of course, Christopher Johnson) have been getting slandered over the internet, won’t the next opinion piece / article be more along the lines of: what is society going to do about it?
What do we do about it?
[Update 8/13/2013: Christopher Johnson has had a pair of interesting posts about events surrounding the appearance of the article in Japan Times. Particularly, I wasn’t aware that there was a Hiroko Tabuchi phenomenon on Twitter. I had to check and see if I do follow her on the service (yes), but I only read her work as it appears on the New York Times website. What a different perspective, when you see this other, more casual, Tabuchi. Makes me think a bit.]