Tagged: News

Do Suicide Reports Increase Suicides?

Nearly two years ago, in “Copycat Japanese“, I wrote about how I thought the media’s sensationalistic reporting of teenage suicides was to blame for spurring on more suicides. Recently, this suspicion was confirmed when I found out about researcher David Phillips’ studies from the 1970’s that showed a significant increase in not only suicides, but also car accidents and plane crashes in the days after a suicide is reported in the mass media. The explanation for all the traffic accidents is attributed to those wishing to commit suicide without placing a burden of guilt on family or friends.

I bring this up because of a recent teenage suicide in the U.K. A 17-year old boy, threatening to leap from the roof of a public building, was goaded into jumping by youths in the street below. The article I read, but won’t link to, gave an in-depth analysis with full color pictures of the victim and location, and the title included a disgusting quote from one of the youths in the street below. It may have been a quote, but it is stuck in my head and keeps reminding me of the article.

The story has triggered the usual public criticism of modern society in Britain, with the government, the education system and the parents being handed the blame. Yet all this publicity, as David Phillips showed, is only likely to encourage more suicides.

Are we to believe the media don’t know they influence copycat incidents? That can’t be the case because many countries have journalism codes to control the reporting of suicides. No. We have to accept that the media is well aware of the consequences of its actions and is putting profit before people, and that is simply unforgivable.

Who Owns Japan’s Media?

The U.S media is often criticized for ignoring major news stories or covering them with obvious bias, and more people are becoming aware that this is because the media is owned by just five major corporations – General Electric, Time Warner, Viacom, The Walt Disney Co. and News Corporation.

The media is an incredibly powerful tool for social control, so I’ve been wondering if a similar situation exists in Japan…

On November 12th 2004, The Japan Times reported that the Yomiuri Shimbun group had a stake in 42 media firms…

The Yomiuri Shimbun Group Honsha admitted Thursday that it effectively owns stocks in 42 media organizations under the names of third parties.

Yomiuri said its shareholdings in 12 of the 42 firms violate the limits set by the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry.

The 42 firms include 24 local television broadcasters and 18 local radio stations, said the holding company of Japan’s largest newspaper.

The owner of Yomiuri Shimbun is the 82-year-old businessman, Tsuneo Watanabe, who Wikipedia describes as having “great influence on Japanese sports and Japanese politics”.

That Wikipedia article links to two articles with highly promising titles:

Shadow Shogun Steps Into Light, to Change Japan, from the New York Times, 2006, and The Most Powerful Publisher You’ve Never Heard of, from The Economist, 2007.

The first article includes some interesting quotes that go some way to answering the question, who owns Japan’s media?

He has recently granted long, soul-baring interviews in which he has questioned the rising nationalism he has cultivated so assiduously in the pages of his newspaper, the conservative Yomiuri — the world’s largest, with a circulation of 14 million.

So he used his newspaper to cultivate nationalism. That’s quite an admission.

Indeed, the paper was a main force in pushing for the more muscular nationalism now emerging in Japan. Shortly after becoming editor in chief in 1991, Mr. Watanabe set up a committee to revise the American-imposed pacifist Constitution. If MacArthur’s Constitution emasculated Japan by forbidding it to have a real military, Mr. Watanabe’s Constitution, published in 1994, restored its manhood.

A media mogul with the power to rewrite the constitution? How did he manage that?

Mr. Watanabe joined The Yomiuri newspaper in 1950 and made his mark as a political reporter. Political reporters in Japan tend to succeed by becoming close to a particular politician. …Mr. Watanabe ingratiated himself so much with one Liberal Democratic heavyweight, Banboku Ohno, he became the gatekeeper at his house. Politicians seeking favors from Mr. Ohno would ask Mr. Watanabe to put in a good word. One young politician helped by Mr. Watanabe was Yasuhiro Nakasone, the future prime minister. They remain close.

Such was Mr. Watanabe’s power that by the 1980’s, he helped broker major political deals.

The Economist article gives us an even closer insight into Tsuneo Watanabe’s political influence. For example, it describes how Mr. Watanabe mediated opposition party leader Mr. Ozawa’s first contact with Mr Fukuda about forming a grand coalition last November. It also says that after former prime minister Shinzo Abe’s sudden resignation, “Mr Watanabe convened the crucial meeting of party kingmakers where Mr Fukuda was persuaded to run for the LDP presidency.”

Mr Watanabe is more powerful than almost any government minister in Japan could ever hope to be. Privately, Yomiuri journalists tell you that they have no choice but to follow the editorial line Mr Watanabe lays down. They are nowhere near as forthcoming to their readers.

Not only have the Yomiuri’s readers been kept in the dark about these events, so largely have those of the paper’s four national rivals. All that has appeared so far is just two editorials politely questioning Mr Watanabe’s involvement.

It seems Tsuneo Watanabe and the Yomiuri newspaper’s series of attacks on former prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, played a large part in his eventual resignation. And after that series was published, Mr. Watanabe was quoted as saying…

I think I can change all of Japan.

Maybe he already has? His newspaper group dominates the media and he’s incredibly powerful in politics. Before you base your opinions on what you read in the paper or see on TV, consider that your opinions might actually be based on Tsuneo Watanabe’s opinions, disguised as facts!

Now, if I can find a connection between Mr. Watanabe and the American media, we’ll have the makings of a global media monopoly!

Japan and the 13,000 Somethings

Quite often, you start searching the web for one thing, but end up with something far more interesting. That happened to me today when I randomly came across a number of Japan related stories based on the number 13,000. Here’s a summary with links to their sources.

World’s tallest building: The 13,000 ft, X-Seed 4000

This huge structure was proposed for Tokyo, Japan, and all construction plans were completed. At just over 13,000 feet (4,000m) tall, it would be larger than its inspiration, Mount Fuji. If built, construction would cost “somewhere between US$300-900 billion”, and it would house up to a million people. Sadly, or fortunately, depending on your perspective, it was only designed to earn the architects some recognition and was never intended to be built. [Sources: Inhabit.com, Wikipedia]

X-Seed 4000

13,000 Japanese poisoned after drinking contaminated milk

Despite its heavy criticism of China’s cardboard-bun scandal, Japan has been, and continues to be, rocked by food scandals of its own. Back in the year 2000, the most serious outbreak of food poisoning in Japan since the Second World War made almost 13,000 people ill after drinking contaminated milk. [Source: The Independent]

13,000 people expected to have lost jobs due to Niigata earthquake

The magnitude 6.6 quake that hit Niigata on July 16th, 2007 caused eleven deaths, a thousand injuries, and brought down 342 buildings. It was reported that almost 13,000 people would be out of work. [Source: Japan Today (expired article)]

Tokyo quake could kill 13,000

If a 6.9 magnitude earthquake hit Shinjuku in Tokyo today, 13,000 people would likely be killed. That may sound a lot, but it is far less than the 140,000 victims of the last major quake to hit the capital, back in 1923. [Source: CNN]

13,000 Japanese students in China

In 2004, there were 70,000 Chinese students in Japan, and 13,000 Japanese students in China. I’m glad there are at least 13,000 Japanese that have a positive view of our neighbors! [Source: Glocom.org]

13,000 Japanese troops in Battle of Singapore banzai attack

On February 13th 1942, in the Battle of Singapore, 13,000 Japanese troops made an amphibious landing in the northwest part of Singapore. Along with existing troops in the country, they took control of the Pasir Panjang area. They faced strong resistance from Malay and British forces, who even defended against a formidable banzai attack. [Source: Wikipedia]

Dangerous Japanese Escalators

It wasn’t long ago that elevators in Japan were hit by all manner of scandals, whether it was substandard steel, entrapment or even crushing, it was the “cool” thing in the news at the time. Everything has its turn on Japanese news. They even play scary music during the news reports to heighten the danger. The topic usually changes each month when it loses its entertainment value, but we’ve had foreign crime, food scandals, drink driving, and school suicides to name a few.

This time, Japanese escaltors are in the spotlight. How could these well maintained, slow moving, automatic staircases be so evil? Read this:

Boys head gets stuck between the wall and the escalatorA 9-year-old boy was seriously injured Tuesday at a supermarket in Hiratsuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, when his head became trapped against an overhanging wall while ascending on an escalator, police said. The boy accidentally dropped some coins over the hand rail. When he leaned out to look for them, his head became stuck between the wall and the railing. [Source: Japan Today]

Of course, this might have just been a freak accident, but no! Japanese escaltors are evil! Why? Because they have also sucked up dozens of pairs of Crocs rubber shoes or similar, this year alone! Yep, they are out to get you!

Crocs gets eaten by escalatorsThe news show I watched this evening, accompanied by the usual scary music, went into great depth to point out the dangers of these evil escalators. They tested different sizes of polystyrene “head” leaning over the rails, and even forced a rubber shoe down the side of the escalator, proving that these are people-eating machines! To add to the terror, experts were called in to testify that these escalators are a menace to society, and the blame rests solely on the manufacturers and the department stores that don’t highlight the dangers to their customers.

This is typical of the Japanese media, and probably that of any country, but it seems way over the top to me. I prefer to consider the millions of people that ride these escalators every day, and then wonder what percentage of them have accidents? Maybe 0.000000001% or something like that?

Sometimes, people should be responsible for their own safety. Don’t lean over an escalator rail, and don’t get too close to the edge of a step. If you’re a parent, point out the dangers to your kids and keep an eye on them when they’re riding the escalator. Accidents can happen, but they can also be avoided with a little vigilance.

Remember: The scary music is there because the news is just a form of entertainment, okay? Don’t let the “news” take our kids’ favorite shoes away! Stand up for Crocs!

Misleading Media

When I first started this blog back in September, I planned to write about Japanese news stories rarely seen abroad, and that’s exactly what I did. I wrote posts such as Woman hurls dog from sixth-floor apartment and Car ploughs into 33 nursery school children. However, as you would have seen from my recent posts, I rarely mention the news anymore, because quite frankly I found it all rather depressing.

Sometime before Christmas I dug up a Steve Pavlina article on overcoming news addiction which prompted me to go without my daily dose of depression. My Business Studies teacher back in high school stressed that we should read the newspaper every day and stay on top of current affairs, but Pavlina lists 13 reasons to the contrary including my favorites:

News is irrelevant. How many news stories are relevant to you personally? Virtually none.

News is predominantly negative. Which headline gets your attention: “Another blissful day” or “Murderous rampage on the subway”? In order to keep you plugged in, news has to shock you out of your complacency. In practice that means it usually has to scare or worry you. News’ primary marketing method is fear.

News is marketing. Think this; don’t think that. Fear this; worry about that. Yes, yes, we’re all gonna die. Make me feel afraid, so then I’ll buy the sponsors’ products to feel better. Global warming won’t seem so bad when I’m driving my new car and popping my anti-depressants. Pump me full of fear; then sell me the cure.

So now that I don’t follow the news, it’s sad to see how people around me are affected by what they see, read or hear in the news. For example, I know a lot of people who were so brainwashed by the media’s take on 9/11 that even suggesting a conspiracy theory provokes angry reactions.

As another example, the media in Japan portrays the Chinese to be anti-Japanese, and many of my students believe it to be true. This combined with sensationalized stories of foreign crime in Japan has made them fearful of foreigners. Most of them consider easing immigration laws to allow foreign workers to come in and relieve the burden of an aging population to be an absolute last resort.

Social activist Arudou Debito, a naturalized Japanese citizen, has written an interesting article for the Japan Times entitled “The Mythological Crime Wave: Public perceptions of crime and reality do not match”, in which he gives examples of how the media is misleading the general public.

For example, there were in fact very few Asahi Shinbun articles on murder in 1985. Yet there were some thousand plus articles in 2000, despite the later date’s lower murder rate!

Particularly when talking about foreign crime, this “news value” changes with the side of the linguistic fence. For example, the Mainichi Shinbun on February 8 headlined in English: “Number of crimes committed by nonpermanent foreigners declines in Tokyo”. The same article’s headline in Japanese: “Foreign crime rises in the provinces: Chubu Region up 35-fold in 15 years”.

On talking about this with my wife Mami, she agreed and added that many news reports involving women include the term bijin, or ‘beautiful woman’, simply because it has a different impact. Which would you rather read? “Woman robs bank” or “Beautiful woman robs bank”? Unfortunately Mami still can’t shake her own news addiction and this blog’s top commentator, Mike McKinlay, gave up on his news diet after just two days!