TIME Magazine’s Japan Fail

This is almost a carbon copy of my BBC post, but I was linked to this Time Magazine article titled “Sorry, But Japan Still Can’t Get the War Right”[sic] (alternatively titled, “Abe’s Statements on War Responsibility Anger China, South korea”[sic]).

Time Magazine on Japan

The article reads like an experiment in bad journalism.  But let’s take a really quick look at it anyway.

Here is the opening paragraph.

“After weeks of muddled statements, verbal gaffes and bungled photo ops, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made one thing unintentionally clear: He thinks Japan did little wrong in its years of war and colonial expansion, and he sees no reason to apologize now.”

Those are some serious accusations.  One would assume that after a statement like that, evidence to back it up would follow.  Nope.  In the entire piece there is exactly one quote attributed to Prime Minster Abe, which doesn’t even appear until the fourth paragraph:

“The definition of aggression has yet to be established in academia or in the international community.”

That is the only quote from him.  And it is not even that controversial.  If we want to talk about Japan’s actions during World War two, as the justice representing India on the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal said,

“I have arrived at the conclusion that no category of war became criminal or illegal in international life….  Apart from the question of legality or otherwise of the means designed to achieve this object it must be held that the object itself was not yet illegal or criminal in international life.  In any other view, the entire international community would be a community of criminal races.  At least many of the powerful nations are living this sort of life and if these acts are criminal then the entire international community is living that criminal life, some actually committing the crime and others becoming accessories after the fact in these crimes.  No nation has as yet treated such acts as crimes and all the powerful nations continue close relations with the nations that had committed such acts.”

“…perhaps at the present stage of the international society the word ‘aggressor’ is essentially chameleonic in conception and may only mean leaders of the losing party.”

And if we want to talk more broadly about “aggression” and “wars of aggression” we have many much more contemporary examples to pull from (such as the Iraq War or the war in Libya) that may or may not be aggressive wars depending on which scholar you ask.  Clearly Prime Minister Abe is completely right is saying that “aggression” is not a clearly defined term.

However, that is still a far cry from saying that Japan “did nothing wrong” or “sees no reason to apologize.”  In fact, the article contradicts itself further along when it states:

“Abe now says he fully accepts the apologies issued by previous administrations.”

What?!  You just said that he “sees no reason to apologize.”  How can he accept all the previous apologies issued by Japan and not see any reason to apologize at the same time?

So not only did this “journalist” not provide any support for his wild accusations, he disproves them himself, in the same article that he made them in.  If there wasn’t such a huge language gap between the US and Japan that ensures no one connected with Abe will ever read this article I would predict a libel lawsuit.

But that’s just it.  This article really just points to the huge and growing gap between the English-speaking world and Japan.  TIME Magazine who published this piece opened their Tokyo bureau in 1945, right after the end of the war; they closed it permanently in 2010.  This article on the political views of the Japanese Prime Minister was written by their war correspondent for crying out loud.

This is the kind of thing you get when you just get anyone to write anything about Japan for you to throw up on your website, trusting in catching titles, misinformation, and the name “Japan” to bring in the readers.  I wouldn’t expect the quality of articles on Japan published in the English-language press to get better any time soon.

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