Atlantic Monthly Publishes Ridiculous Story About “Censorship” of Emperor’s Speech
The Atlantic Monthly’s website has published an article by Michael McAteer that claims the Japanese media has “censored” remarks made by Emperor Akihito in a speech marking the anniversary of the March 11th disaster:
The remarks in question were:
“As this earthquake and tsunami caused the nuclear power plant accident, those living in areas designated as the danger zone lost their homes and livelihoods and had to leave the places they used to live. In order for them to live there again safely, we have to overcome the problem of radioactive contamination, which is a formidable task.”
The remarks are not at all shocking. There is nothing that contradicts the official position of the Japanese government, which has repeatedly stated that the decontamination of the Fukushima exclusion zone will not be an easy task.
McAteer is either clueless or intentionally misrepresenting the situation:
While this statement may seem more obvious than radical to outsiders, underneath the Imperial-grade Japanese understatement were two ideas that have become quietly explosive. First, he seemed to suggest that the nuclear crisis is not over, a “formidable task” yet to be overcome. This noticeably contradicts the government’s official stance that Fukushima has achieved a cold shutdown and, for all practical purposes, the crisis is over. Second, it implies that it is not yet safe for people to return to areas stricken with high levels of radiation, at least not before the “formidable task” is “overcome.” This, again, contradicts the government’s position that it is now safe for people to return to almost all areas and that neither Tokyo Electric Power Company nor the national government are obliged to assist in long term evacuations.
There is no contradiction of the government’s position. The Fukushima exclusion zone remains an exclusion zone. There are still many areas where people are not allowed to return to their homes.
The central claim of the article is that the Japanese media “censored” the Emperor’s speech:
Live daytime broadcasts of the event contained the whole speech and newspapers printed it in its entirety. But, by that evening, all of the major news programs aired edited versions of the speech without his nuclear comments, which also went unmentioned and undiscussed on the heavily watches news shows.
Rather than censorship, it is a reflection of how the news media works: live speeches get shown in their entirety, and later news broadcasts contain soundbites instead of the whole speech. The Emperor’s remarks about the nuclear disaster were not controversial or newsworthy, so it is easy to understand why the media didn’t focus on them.
There is also a failure to provide convincing evidence that the nation is in an “uproar” about the “censorship” of the speech. McAteer relies on just a few internet comments as evidence of Japanese public opinion.
McAteer’s reporting has also been blasted in the comments section of his article:
“I think this entire story is an silly attempt to create something from nothing. I watched the Emperor’s speech uncensored and uncut on NHK as they ran it live. Secondly, the “formidable task” bit is the Emperor simply talking about all the recovery and decontamination efforts that remain. There has been no “official government statement” that it’s all safe to move back in (thousands remain evacuated) and suggesting the Emperor was referring directly to cold shutdown, rather than something more general, is just raw (and inaccurate) speculation by this author.
There is no uproar here, friends. A few tweets and a chatroom conversation on the day of the event simply don’t count as the pulse of an entire society.” – Scott T. Hards
“As this strangely composed article itself points out, “Live daytime broadcasts of the event contained the whole speech and newspapers printed it in its entirety.” And the full text of the emperor’s address remains available, in both English and Japanese, online.
Ultimately this piece can be boiled down to one phrase in the opening sentence: it’s a description of some minor activism fermented in “online discussion boards and social media in Japan.” It’s not nearly as newsworthy as the citizen groups who protest in front of the TEPCO headquarters down the street from my office every single day, and their far more vigorous presence would hardly count as “Japan in uproar.”
Strange article. Terrible headline. But I suppose “Right-of-center cranks meet like-minded souls on Twitter, shout in public about non-issue” wouldn’t pull in the hits quite as well.” – Peter Durfee