"...Japan does not have a vigorous tradition of satire."
September 13, 2013 1:40 AM   Subscribe

France has made Japan angry again, this time with insensitive political cartoons about Fukushima. With radiation levels still spiking, and the government only reticently admitting to constant leaks, some are questioning the legitimacy of PM Abe's insistence that Tokyo is safe. With decisions not to prosecute anyone involved in the disaster, it seems that amakudari is, in Japan as in most other countries, still alive and well.
posted by GoingToShopping (43 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Le Canard Enchaine doesn't exactly express state policy.
posted by ersatz at 2:25 AM on September 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Indeed, they're a satirical newspaper, as mentioned in the link. Sorry if that wasn't clear.
posted by GoingToShopping at 2:26 AM on September 13, 2013


ersatz: "Le Canard Enchaine doesn't exactly express state policy"

If the description of the cartoons in the article is correct, nor does it express any sense of humor.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 2:47 AM on September 13, 2013


The Japanese embassy in Paris had lodged a protest against the station, saying it had hurt the feelings of the disaster survivors and hampered efforts toward reconstruction.

How do you say "fatwa" in Japanese? You don't apparently. And look. It works:

French national broadcaster France 2 has apologized to Japan for joking that a Japanese soccer player had performed well thanks to radiation from the nuclear accident in Fukushima.
posted by three blind mice at 3:01 AM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


With decisions not to prosecute anyone involved in the disaster

I'd have been stunned if they'd decided to prosecute any of those crooks and liars.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:42 AM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


"These kinds of satirical pictures hurt the victims of the disaster," Suga told a news conference.


Actually, the disaster hurt them.

This kind of PR wordsmithing is especially vile when some powerful entity has just done something awful and appeals for critics to shut up for the sake of respect or decorum.
posted by maniabug at 3:45 AM on September 13, 2013 [13 favorites]


By placing former bureaucrats in senior positions, amakudari is able to protect the influence of the ministries while simultaneously providing a more direct line of communication between the ministries and the industries they oversee.

Well, here we call it the revolving door, and it serves to protect the influence of the corporations. The ministries' interests are irrelevant.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:48 AM on September 13, 2013


It may be the case that Japan is overly concerned about a cartoon and has been insufficiently concerned about problems at Fukushima. However, whether or not a government prosecutes operators or managers in response to a disaster is not a good indicator of how it prioritizes safety over amakudari. Punishing executives for corruption is one thing, but punishing operators or managers for decisions in the middle of complex situations with lots of uncertainty is not a good way (pfd) to improve safety (slyt).
posted by neutralmojo at 3:55 AM on September 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Gilbert Gottfried would like a (nsfw) word with you.
posted by R. Mutt at 4:09 AM on September 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Okay - in the first article, the French newspaper's apology states that they were trying to make fun of the lackluster performance of the French soccer team. So it makes absolutely no sense for them to have photoshopped a picture of a Japanese player.

So this seems yet another one of a long line of people who make stupidly tasteless offensive jokes, and then when they backfire they try to backpedal and say "but - but - satire!" No, it wasn't satire, you assholes, it was a tasteless joke that you made because you thought it was clever except you're not clever enough to know it wasn't, and it backfired. Suck it up and own it.

Low on the list of Worst Offenses In The World, but damn this bugs me, and I wish the reaminated corpse of Jonathan Swift would come and kick people in the balls whenever they claim something's satire when they're trying to make an excuse.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:23 AM on September 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


So, between this and Hebdo Charlie (previously), the thing that is striking me is not so much the quality of the jokes (which does seem to be pretty meh) but how many of these satirical newspapers/weekly magazines does France have? I can't think of an American equivalent...
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:29 AM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


(I guess maybe The Onion, but that is more of a satire on Newspapers rather than a satirical newspaper IYSWIM...)
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:32 AM on September 13, 2013


It's my considered opinion that Japanese culture generally has no concept of satire, at least, not as it is known in the West. When I lived in Japan, my own attempts at even modest jokes with satire were perceived as mean insults. I even worked with a lot of English Literature majors from Japanese universities who came to the US, and almost all of them read Mark Twain and were familiar with his works, but none of them saw his works as satire at all. I thought I'd recommend they read Bierce, but they didn't seem to have a grip on irony either.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:32 AM on September 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Le Canard Enchainé isn't the newspaper which is going to make the worst jokes about it. I think that the gist of their jokes (I don't refer to the joke about the football player which came from a different -tv- source but only of the kind of humour that's expressed in the paper) is to criticize the ones who make decisions, not the ones who had to suffer of these poor choices.
posted by nicolin at 4:34 AM on September 13, 2013


Cartoon 1, Cartoon 2. The Canard is a little more than a satirical mag. It contains cartoons and parodies but its (almost) century-old reputation as a troublemaker comes from its investigative journalism, insider sources/whistleblowers and political commentary, so it's some sort of small-sized WaPo + Wikileaks + The Onion all rolled into one.
posted by elgilito at 4:35 AM on September 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


We do have Charlie Hebdo, and Siné, now a monthly mag. Le Canard is the most "mainstream".
posted by nicolin at 4:37 AM on September 13, 2013


so it's some sort of small-sized WaPo + Wikileaks + The Onion all rolled into one.

So it's a French Private Eye?
posted by rory at 5:01 AM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Got to practice my French and heartily guffaw this bon matin.
posted by Renoroc at 5:12 AM on September 13, 2013


When I was teaching at a (very low level) university here a couple years back, I was told to teach a course on learning English through comics. It was an interesting course, but I had to change it pretty radically for the second go-round. I'd thought it would be a good idea to spend a chunk of the class on newspaper and editorial cartoons (think Ted Rall and similar stuff). It was a total failure, simply because that style of cartoon just doesn't exist in Japan. Newspapers don't run political cartoons on the editorial page. Sarcasm and snark are just not common forms of expression in Japan, and I've seen foreigners (myself included) time and time again try to be funny, only to fall horribly flat, and create confusion that leads to the awkwardness that comes up when key parts of rules for basic social interaction are broken.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:13 AM on September 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


"...Japan does not have a vigorous tradition of satire."

In its defense though, it does have a vigorous tradition of tentacle porn, which is mostly lacking in France.
posted by Naberius at 5:44 AM on September 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


create confusion that leads to the awkwardness

I learned not to be sarcastic, and still be funny. My favorite moments were when Japanese friends who got the idea of sarcasm, would use it, and then leave me flustered because I didn't see it coming! Those moments are memorable because they were few and far between. The stereotype of Japan not getting sarcasm, well, it exists for a reason. (I find Le Canard to be stoopid and unfunny.)
posted by whatzit at 5:49 AM on September 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Neutralmojo, I agree that, for example, the acting PM should not have been prosecuted. As you said, he was a guy making decisions at a terribly difficult time.
Who do I think SHOULD be prosecuted? The amakudari and their oxygenthief pals at TEPCO. Japan has, sorry guys, earned this disaster. Through decades and decades of political corruption, including but not limited to amakudari, we here on the archipelago manufactured this through our inaction and shitty voting choices. We're kinda backed into a corner here, similar to America, because the very system is so rotten and corrupt that there's not a lot you can do about it while working within it; recently a green party member won more votes than the LDP but didn't win the election because of some arcane rule about party membership implemented about a decade ago. Remind you of anything? Where a politician lost the popular vote but still won the election? :P
Government reports have declared the Fukushima disaster to be "man made," in the sense that it should have been predicted, and that there were ignored red flags aplenty. Research showed that the specific reactor was troublingly vulnerable, but because of the cozy relations between industry and regulators, these reports were swept under the rug.
I welcome the French mockery, and hope we get more of it. My first flight over here was on September 10th, 2001, and you know what? I gracefully accepted first the sympathies of my international friends, and then a bit later, their pissy judgements as we invaded Iraq and squandered our good will.
I remember when the power went out at my Kawasaki apartment on March 11th, the feeling of horror, knowing that many, many people were about to die. I learned a lot from that moment. It makes me incredibly jaded to know that most of the other people on this island didn't. Instead of working for regulatory and political reform, everyone's obsessed with Abenomics, and now we're changing HS textbooks to remove the use of the word "massacre," we're taking Barefoot Gen out of ES libraries, and we're antagonizing South Korea and China at the same time.
It's a mess over here. As it is everywhere else.
posted by GoingToShopping at 6:09 AM on September 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


How do you say "fatwa" in Japanese?

Kaiju
posted by zombieflanders at 6:40 AM on September 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've seen foreigners (myself included) time and time again try to be funny, only to fall horribly flat,

See also John Scalzi's "Failure mode of clever."
posted by fogovonslack at 7:13 AM on September 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Embarrassing that the Japanese government, time and time again, makes mountains out of molehills like this.

I tend to think a lack of as ham-fisted, reductive and simplistic an "art form" as editorial cartoons is a cultural feature, not a bug.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:51 AM on September 13, 2013


Japan does have a very strong tradition of satire, by the way. Yoshinori Kobayashi is hugely popular, for example, although he may not fit into the Western concept of satirist, in that he is both subversive and reactionary/illiberal.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:59 AM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


So it's a French Private Eye?

Yes, indeed. And perhaps it's a sign of the times, but while print publications in general are having a hard time, both the Eye and Le Canard continue to go from strength to strength.

By the way, Le Canard Enchainé (1915) like Private Eye (1961) also has it's own idiosyncratic jargon and nicknames.
posted by Mister Bijou at 8:02 AM on September 13, 2013


Ugh. Le Canard Enchaine *can* be pretty funny, but after four years of living there I'm pretty fed up with casual French racism in all its forms. Every time something like this happens they throw up their hands innocently and cry "What? I do not understand, eet eez just to be funnee!" It doesn't ring so earnest the, like, 90th time you're having to explain to them what "casual racism" means.
posted by Mooseli at 9:16 AM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


So it makes absolutely no sense for them to have photoshopped a picture of a Japanese player.

Sure, it makes sense. When I see the image of the Japanese player with four arms posited as an explanation for the Japanese soccer victory over the French, I don't think "Aha! The Japanese had an unfair advantage! It was all those extra arms they had!", I think "that's absurd!" and the absurdity directs me to think about the real explanation, which is that the French did not play as well as the Japanese. The joker is expecting us to make the inference that obviously the French can't blame those extra arms; they just sucked.
posted by Jpfed at 9:45 AM on September 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


The joker is expecting us to make the inference that obviously the French can't blame those extra arms; they just sucked.

They could have made the same inference by depicting a French player with no arms, or no legs, as opposed to depicting a Japanese player with four arms. So why didn't they?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:52 AM on September 13, 2013


Every time something like this happens they throw up their hands innocently and cry "What? I do not understand, eet eez just to be funnee!" It doesn't ring so earnest the, like, 90th time you're having to explain to them what "casual racism" means.

This... happens quite a lot in the States too. See any of the recent discussions on stand-up comics who hit racist and/or misogynist sore spots. I get kind of tired of France always being singled out for mysteriously exceptional bad humor/racism/cowardice/military prowess (had an eyebrow raised through a recent Syria thread where all of a sudden the French were no longer cowards in war, but had millenia of strong militaristic interventions - stereotypes, they're like quicksand, they fill all the holes), much in the way Japan is often singled out for "weird".

FWIW, Le Canard enchaîné is pretty well-known for being strongly anti-racism, so it may be your sarcasm detectors misfiring. Not meant as a criticism, it can take a while to pick up on that sort of thing.

They could have made the same inference by depicting a French player with no arms, or no legs, as opposed to depicting a Japanese player with four arms. So why didn't they?

Comics resembling this are actually pretty common. Example 1 from Le Monde, 2010.
posted by fraula at 9:59 AM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


some are questioning the legitimacy of PM Abe's insistence that Tokyo is safe

I'm confused about the conclusions in that article. It says that some radioactive water is escaping the harbor, but that 3km off shore the radiation is undetectable. Tokyo is around 300km away. Are they picking up traces in Tokyo proper? (I know very little about how this sort of thing works)
posted by Hoopo at 10:08 AM on September 13, 2013


Japan does have a very strong tradition of satire, by the way. Yoshinori Kobayashi is hugely popular, for example, although he may not fit into the Western concept of satirist, in that he is both subversive and reactionary/illiberal.

I think you are misinterpreting that. He is earnestly fascist, not satirizing fascism.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:28 AM on September 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh.. P.S. Yeah I can find examples of satire in Japanese literature. Alas my old anthologies from my J Lit classes are in storage. But my recollection is that these satires were modeled after foreign sources, and were not mainstream literary movements. I recall reading some social satires in some Keene anthology, but I think he picked those stories because they were exceptional, rather than mainstream.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:36 AM on September 13, 2013


Doesn't Japanese anime contain many examples sarcasm and irony? Maybe the reason it is not done in the papers is not that they're incapable of it but because it is culturally seen as a crude form of communication.
posted by polymodus at 12:05 PM on September 13, 2013


I think you are misinterpreting that. He is earnestly fascist, not satirizing fascism.

I don't know if he could be called fascist, or "earnest" for that matter. Kobayashi does present a (for lack of a better word) "conservative" perspective, but I think the best way to to describe him is still "illiberal."
posted by KokuRyu at 12:27 PM on September 13, 2013


I don't think Le Canard Enchainé should be compared to The Onion. Most of it is proper investigative, in depth political journalism. They've always had the best informants, some of whom are likely to be highly ranked civil servants. They always cut through the bullshit and PR, unlike the rest of the French media, which has a reputation of having an incestuous relationship with the political intelligentsia. Their core business is unveiling corruption, crass incompetence, political party feuds, back stabbing, political gossips, most of it Franco-French, and they never run out of material. They're a unique, much revered, most unassailable institution, very much like a King's jester.

I haven't bought the issue containing the aforementioned strip but it's seems to be one of Cabu's. Knowing him, he's going to really enjoy the controversy.
posted by surrendering monkey at 1:22 PM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Such a high percentage of France's power is nuclear that in order to be able to sleep at night, the French must make fun of the Japanese and portray Fukushima as the result of bungling incompetence.

I wish I knew whether that was conscious or not.
posted by jamjam at 3:31 PM on September 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Comics resembling this are actually pretty common. Example 1 from Le Monde, 2010.

I do not speak French and so I don't know how it resembles the photoshopped pic. Can I have bigger hints?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:24 PM on September 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Perhaps Japan should respond by making light of the French nuclear accidents, which the French have struggled so hard to keep on the down-low.
posted by Twang at 9:56 PM on September 13, 2013


Perhaps Japan should respond by making light of the French nuclear accidents,

Sounds good. Standard operating procedure for humor, Japan-style, would necessitate a guy with an oversize, blinking bow tie and a "bald" wig (he'd also be in his underpants) hitting someone dressed in a striped shirt and a beret and holding an oversize baguette, square on the head with an oversize rubber hammer. HILARIOUS!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:55 AM on September 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I only have one question.

What the hell are those black things the wrestles are wearing?
posted by ymgve at 9:41 AM on September 14, 2013


What the hell are those black things the wrestles are wearing?
This.
posted by elgilito at 10:35 AM on September 14, 2013


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