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Japanese government dismantles freedom of the press (freedom.press)
237 points by sprucely on Dec 10, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 110 comments



Neo-nationalism seems to be on the rise everywhere. Look at the UK (Scotland trying to secede, the crazy extreme right-wing party getting seats in Parliament, etc.), France (the National Front did very well in recent elections), South Korea (IIRC, textbooks are edited to replace history with nationalist propaganda), Israel, Turkey, Russia, China, Donald Trump, etc. etc.

When is the last time you heard someone stand up and point out how dangerous nationalism is, how it's historically led to wars, massacres, and other oppression and brutality. I suspect the public, hearing no criticism or counterpoints, goes along with the nationalists.

Where are the liberal and moderate conservative elite? Asleep at the wheel? Cowed? Complacent?


While I agree with the spirit of your post, your premise is wrong. Being nationalistic has nothing to do with being conservative; there is no correlation there. Many liberals are blindly nationalistic as well.

Intense nationalism does cause conflicts (look at the US and Russia relationship at the moment), often fabricated for pure political gain by controlling/power individuals.

Very few individuals look at the core of an issue, but instead follow the example set forth by people in authority positions and/or the frenzied click-baiting-gotta-get-eyeballs-on-as-many-ads-as-possible media.

For example, a Russian jet is shot down over Syria by Turkey. Almost immediately the spin machine kicks into high gear to paint a picture of a plotting Putin carefully strategizing how to dismantle NATO by means of getting his soldiers killed (which makes little sense)... all because the nationalistic side says "USA good, Russia bad". People died, we should have some compassion.


> Being nationalistic has nothing to do with being conservative ...

I disagree strongly with this point: The more nationalistic parties, pushing nationalistic and nativistic (e.g., anti-immigrant) plicies, are always conservative: The Republicans in the U.S., the Tories and the right-wing extremists in the UK, the Republicans and National Front in France, the LDP in Japan, Likud in Israel, etc. Internationalists, international cooperation, and international organizations are the province of the left and of moderates.

In the U.S., a common conservative criticism of liberals is that they are unpatroitic and 'don't love America'.

> Intense nationalism does cause conflicts ... often fabricated for pure political gain by controlling/power individuals. / Very few individuals look at the core of an issue, but instead follow the example set forth by people in authority positions

Agreed. That's what I was referring to when pointing out the lack of response by liberals and moderates in authority positions - why are they silent?


    > Anti-immigrant policies, are always conservative.
I'm less familiar with this in the US, but in many other countries unions, which have traditionally been leftist-leaning organizations, are a major force against liberal immigration policies.


Good point, though I think that's for economic reasons and not for nationalistic reasons. Unions in the U.S., for example, long supported (and organized) immigrant workers who already were in the country and were early supporters of civil rights for blacks.


I think you're falling for the fallacy of assigning political opinions to a one-dimensional spectrum of liberal v.s. conservative, and doubly so by asserting that your opinion on a given issue can only be caused by being on one end of that spectrum.

Even if you assume a one-dimensional political spectrum there's plenty of reasons for why someone might by for or against immigration for any number of reasons.

For simplicity's sake let's use the stereotypical US definitions of conservative and liberal, even then you can find plenty of reasons on both sides to be for and against immigration.

You could be conservative and be for it because you're a business owner and it implies cheap labor, or against it because you're also a xenophobe and just don't like people from other countries.

You could be for it as a liberal because you believe in some pan-nationalistic idea of humanity without borders, or against it because you think the influx of cheap labor will ultimately create a lower class within society which interferes with the project of a socialist state.

You mentioned Scotland as an example among the rise of the rise of right-wing ideals in Europe. I think it's entirely unrealistic to mention that in the same paragraph as nationalism leading to "massacres, and other oppression". If anything bad things might happen because Scotland is being denied national autonomy, just look at what's been happening in Ireland.

Sometimes people just want to do their own thing in their own little piece of the planet. I myself am from Iceland which has a long history of a nationalist movement that has nothing to do with any of that stuff. Sometimes people just want a bit of self-determinism without negatively impacting others. Ascribing that desire to left or right or conservative or liberal is a gross and inaccurate oversimplification.


Nationalism has a strong component of devotion, an emotional attachment, to the state. Its a derivative of statism, which itself is a derivative of tribalism. You can have either liberals or conservatives subject to such an emotional appeal to the state. Due to the strong emotional appeal in nationalism, the political ideology is more nuanced. In classic liberalism, power comes from the individual who then grants a revocable delegation of that power to form a state (government). In conservatism, power comes more broadly from society, culture, and affinity for stability. The Bolshevik revolution is an example of a left of center revolution, it certainly was nativist, nationalist, and was not conservative. The Cultural Revolution, likewise a left of center revolution, its ideology was very centered on empowering the individual, it was nationalistic, nativist (the purging of "impure elements" of Chinese society), and certainly not conservative.

There are many examples of liberal and conservative nationalist movements. I think it requires some research to demonstrate if one or the other is more inclined to nationalism, or jingoism.


Thanks for raising some interesting issues

> the political ideology is more nuanced ... I think it requires some research ...

I agree on one hand. On the other, any issue like this is much more complicated than what can be presented in an HN comment, so we all need to simplify things a little.

> You can have either liberals or conservatives subject to such an emotional appeal to the state

In theory, yes. I find this response by you and others to be odd. Nationalism is a tenant of conservativism, I believe, and I think that's widely accepted; I think most conservatives I can think of would embrace it. It almost seems like people are pushing back against anything that reflects badly (in the context of my original post) on conservatives, and/or are trying impose a theory of equivalence on a real situation where it doesn't exist. But I could be wrong, of course; I don't see significant evidence I'm wrong, I see plenty in my favor, but it's not conclusive.

I'd have to find a list of parties and their positions to know for sure, which is beyond the scope of what I'm going to do for this discussion. I'd be interested in seeing it if someone has one. More valuable would be surveys 'nationalist' attitudes, however those are defined, and other political beliefs (a quick online search didn't turn up any).

The correlation doesn't have to be perfect, of course. Some here pointed out the Scottish National Party, a left-wing but nationalist (or separatist) party. Also there is the Christian Democratic Union in Germany; its leader and German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, is pro-immigration (though I don't know about the rest of the party). Also, we might learn some nuance to tmy simplistic model by understanding what drives those parties.

> The Cultural Revolution, likewise a left of center revolution ... was nationalistic ... and certainly not conservative

It was indeed the opposite of conservative! I'm not sure I agree about nationalism. It was mostly the radicalization of a younger generation to reject and take power from the prior one (with plenty of self-serving political machinations mixed in, of course). I'm not sure how to map 'nationalism' to something like that. Also, much of Chinese communist ideology was service to the proletariat and, I think, to international Communism (and against capitalism), and not to the state.


Wars are a particularly fine pointed example of nationalism. Woodrow Wilson, Democrat, liberal, World War I. F.D.R., Democrat, liberal, World War II.

Nationalism a tenant of conservatism is absurd. My degree is in political science, it's not widely accepted. Nationalistic sentiment within the U.S. Republican party, and conservative libertarians? Perhaps. But that is a narrow sample.

Widely accepted is the actual denotation of nationalism, which doesn't include left vs right tendencies.

Consider emotional attachment, appeals, devotion, strong desire to easily identify nonbelievers, all part of nationalism. Similar to religious belief, but involves deification of the state (or some idealized future version of it, via violence, like the 2nd coming).


One example for a non-nationalist conservative party would the German CDU (Merkel's party): They were one of the driving powers behind the ECSC, EEC and later EU, and staunchly pro-NATO, even at the cost of German sovereignty.


I agree - in fact if you read the comment you responded to ... :)


> The Bolshevik revolution is an example of a left of center revolution, it certainly was nativist, nationalist, and was not conservative.

Actually, it was a fascist coup pretending to be a "left of center revolution".


Untrue. Difficult to have fascism when the state isn't strongly supporting businesses. For the simple version, Mussolini's description is good: fascism is better called corporatism.

Revise your understanding of fascism.


Fair enough. It's better to say authoritarian. Lenin was a dictator, and spawned generations of them. Also, he was supported by the Kaiser, to keep Russia out of WWI. Fascism is much closer to corporatism. But I'd call it authoritarian corporatism.


"Nationalism has a strong component of devotion, an emotional attachment, to the state."

Actually, as the name itself suggests, it is about devotion to the nation not the state. Nationalism never ceased to be promoted, even after ww2, but the attention bias caused much of it to go unnoticed. The so-called "rise" of today's nationalism is in fact more of a rise in public awareness to it from (globally) opposing sides.


> Actually, as the name itself suggests, it is about devotion to the nation not the state

Nations are called States commonly. Sometimes even referred to as "Nation-States".

The USA is unique in that we have states within a nation, rather than a single nation state and/or provinces.


"Nations are called States commonly." "The USA is unique in that we have states within a nation"

I understand where you are coming from, but I have to disagree that nation and state is the same. They are different as concepts (state is organized territory, nation is people), and although usually states and nations reside in roughly the same place, not all of them do! USA have managed to develop itself as a nation to some degree, but there are enough countries out there that didn't! To understand this it's enough to look at the states with separatist movements or in general at ones in which the feeling of appurtenance to the country is very low to say the least. There are people inside the same country very foreign to each other (speaking from group attachment perspective), close to the report between any given two foreign people on the planet. Is India a state? Well, it has states within it, like USA, and its overall organization is like a state too. Is India a nation? Not really! People inside it fought together for independence, and they may have common problems like a nation does (defense, foreign policy, etc), but the ethnic groups in there although living peacefully with each other don't really adhere much to something "national". Not yet at least. It's the same with Iraq, a state inhabited by different ethnic groups which the head statesmen failed to make a nation from. The same for a bunch of African states. Nation is different from the state.


Technically they are two different things, in the language of political science. I'm don't know exact definitions, but a nation is something a group of people have an emotional attachment to, a cultural entity; a state is a political entity. If you're lucky, the two coincide and you a have a nation state.

The U.S. usage of 'state' has a different meaning. Maybe when the states were more independent entities (with their own currencies, militias, etc.) around the time of the Revolution, it carried the standard meaning.


> criticism of liberals is that they are unpatroitic and 'don't love America'

Being patriotic has nothing to do with being nationalistic. It's one thing to love your country, support it, etc... but it's another thing entirely to believe your country is so great, all others fail in comparison, everyone's out to get you (because you're so great), your nation must always be "top dog" and set all global policies, etc...

Being ultra-nationalistic could be paralleled with a phobia of sorts.

> lack of response by liberals and moderates in authority positions - why are they silent?

They aren't silent. The US Executive Branch is currently liberal (as is the State Department, and Secretary of Defense... all foreign policy makers), and certainly has aided the growing sense of extreme nationalism with all the anti-non-european-countries rhetoric. The general message often conveyed is, if you aren't part of North America or Europe, then you're out to get us.

This instead of saying "We may have our differences, but we have worked together in the past and achieved great things, and we can work together now to achieve great things."

> The more nationalistic parties, pushing nationalistic and nativistic (e.g., anti-immigrant) plicies, are always conservative: The Republicans in the U.S., the Tories and the right-wing extremists in the UK

This is extreme partyism, and just as wrong as extreme nationalism.

All parties are guilty. As are all ideologies. They just have different ways of showing it.


In many countries other than the US, patriotism is seen to be crass at best and dangerously close to nationalism at worst. The dearth of national flags adorning houses in Australia, England and Germany are part of this.


> Internationalists, international cooperation ... are the province of the left and of moderates.

This is the first time I've heard this charge. Consider which group is constantly demonized for globalization, and which group riots at WTO conferences. Democrats, for the last 100 years, have been protectionists.


Hmmm ... interesting points.

On one hand, conservatives in the US have rejected multilateralism. For example, the latter Bush administration openly denigrated and ignored the UN and our European allies. Conservatives criticize even attempting to follow international law or legitimizing US military action through multilateral support, calling it weakness. They say they don't want to be tied down and see the US going it alone. Also, they tend to be more isolationist. Fringe conservatives (a small group) talk about UN black helicopters and world government conspiracies.

On the other, you bring up some good points:

> Consider which group is constantly demonized for globalization, and which group riots at WTO conferences

Just some ideas:

* Perhaps globalisation isn't international cooperation as much as international action - it's seen as the US imposing itself on other nations. The economic equivalent of military action.

* Maybe the WTO is an exception to that, or maybe it's the US creating a legal and bureaucratic tool to further it's power.

* You're mostly talking about the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. They are substantial, but the moderate wing rules and the progressives also criticize Bill Clinton and Obama for globalization.

> Democrats, for the last 100 years, have been protectionists.

This I strongly disagree with. Clinton brought NAFTA to the US, Obama is trying to implement the TPP. That's more than any GOP administration since ... I don't know when. There are protectionist elements in both parties, including unions and progressives among the Dems and businesses in the GOP; I don't think it favors one or the other (but that's just my impression).

> This is the first time I've heard this charge.

I assure you it is nothing new. I will point out that you are talking about economic issues, which is perfectly valid; I was thinking of political issues such as immigration, conflict, etc.


> Perhaps globalisation isn't international cooperation as much as international action

I'm not sure what kind of cooperation has a more positive impact than economic. It brings peace and prosperity.

> Clinton brought NAFTA to the US, Obama is trying to implement the TPP.

NAFTA was Bush Sr. The GOP has a lot of reasons to resist the TPP, but the main beef seems to be the executive branch's attempt at role reversal in the crafting of legislation.

> I will point out that you are talking about economic issues...

All politics are local, and nothing weighs move heavily on the minds of voters than an empty stomach.


> NAFTA was Bush Sr.

NAFTA was negotiated under George H. W. Bush, but passed (by Congress) during (and with the support of and active lobby by) the Clinton administration.

> The GOP has a lot of reasons to resist the TPP, but the main beef seems to be the executive branch's attempt at role reversal in the crafting of legislation.

The GOP (including as recently as this year) has supported what you characterize as this "role reversal", through legislation on fast track negotiating authority and trade promotion authority.


>> Perhaps globalisation isn't international cooperation as much as international action

> I'm not sure what kind of cooperation has a more positive impact than economic. It brings peace and prosperity.

I agree that economic cooperation brings peace and prosperity (speaking very generally). My point is that many see globalization not as cooperation but as an economic assault.

There's a long history of it: Back in the 19th century at least, trade "agreements" with weaker countries were often signed under threat of military action. In the early 20th century, the US military protected US corporate investments in the Americas. The U.S. overthrew Iran's government in the 1950s when they threatened to take control of their own oil industry. Many trade deals long have been considered to be one-sided, benefitting only a few narrow interests in the U.S.

I'm not advocating that side, only making the case that they have a strong reason to doubt that globalization is cooperative.


It's mostly right wingers who favor authoritarian and moralistic social policies worldwide. I understand that the concept of patriotism is abundant and malignant within the American mind on both sides of the aisle, but elsewhere, it's not as evenly distributed.

Compassion is a forbidden concept in geopolitics as it is currently practiced, though I wish we'd force room for a little more.


The SNP (Scottish National Party) isn't nationalist in the usual sense of the word. It's well to the left of, and more liberal than, the other UK parties, with the exception of the Greens, and potentially Labour if Jeremy Corbyn remains leader.

It's better described as separatist.


> It's better described as separatist.

Nationalism is not part of the political spectrum. You can easily have right and leftist Nationalists.

They're separatists because of the belief of a strong Scottish identity. That is basically the definition of Nationalism.


The SNP are very much pro multiculturalism, the 'nationalist' agenda in Scotland is about the long and complex history with England/Westminster, not the rest of the world. It is about self-determination and it is difficult to get a handle on from abroad as the media fails in it's attempts to understand what the Scottish referendum is really about (as did many Yes voters). This could have something to do with almost all of the Scotland's media being controlled from south of the border, which emphasizes the point really.


> The SNP (Scottish National Party) isn't nationalist in the usual sense of the word. It's well to the left of, and more liberal than, the other UK parties

Thanks; that's a great counter-example. I wonder how the politics works - what draws liberals to support it? Is it the usual xenophobia, or something else?

Incidentally: At the time of the referendum, I watched a debate between leading advocates on both sides. A major priority for both sides was to emphasize how national health care, referred to as a treasured institution, would be preserved if their side won. Apparantly everyone in Scotland loves it.


In the SNP case, and the other example I was thinking about - the multiple regional parties in Spain which defend their secession from the main country (see the recent Catalonia independence movement) - I'd say the nationalism is rooted in the basis of the right of self-determination, which is very dear to the Left.


> the basis of the right of self-determination, which is very dear to the Left.

That's an interesting perspective. I think of that as more libertarian and right-wing. In the U.S., those supporting states rights (over the federal government) are overwhelmingly on the right. The left is stereotyped as wanting a 'nanny state'.


Ah, you are talking about individual self-determination, but I was talking about self-determination of "a people", as declared in the first article of the UN Charter. This doesn't mean a lack of government, or a smaller one (in terms of "nannyism"). In this example, the Scots and the regions of Spain consider themselves a different "people" from the whole country (with different languages, culture, etc) and want independence to form their own (possibly "nanny") State and government.

That said, the concept of libertarianism and reduction/elimination of government being right-wing is mostly a (relatively recent) American invention. The long history of Anarchism and individual libertarianism, including in the US with fellows like Benjamin Tucker, was mostly left-wing and anti-capitalist, since Proudhon coined the term.


> I wonder how the politics works - what draws liberals to support it? Is it the usual xenophobia, or something else?

I believe the Scottish in support of independece are that way because they are sick of being ruled by a succession of governments in Westminster that they feel do not represent them or serve their interests in any way. The Tories have never been successful in Scotland and yet Scotland is currently under the heel of 10 years of seriously right-wing Tory class warfare.

They would be right in my opinion. I'm British (English) and I believe Scotland should have voted Yes. I feel they would be better off without us. At least they would be able to choose.


I would have hoped the world moved on to post-nationalism by this point. I can't say I had much hope for it, though.

I don't know if it's right to link all the countries which seem to be heading toward a more nationalistic government together, though. I think each case has its own causes and conditions.

For example, in some parts of Europe, it's the real or perceived threat to national security, and lots of reporting on terrorist attacks, and party leaders knowing how to take advantage of this.

What's the cause in Japan? Could it be that there's fear over what's happening in Europe, or could it be a threat from China, or something else completely?

The question is interesting to me, as I'm a wannabe immigrant. What would life be like if the trend continues? As I said, for my own wellbeing and happiness, I would have hoped we'd be heading toward post-nationalism. It's as if the "us and them" divide in Japan (this is the only country I know of) wasn't strong enough already.


>What's the cause in Japan? Could it be that there's fear over what's happening in Europe, or could it be a threat from China, or something else completely?

Threat of China, and the sense of angst that comes from 2 decades of economic stagnation, I'd wager...


Economic stagnation for whom? Correct me if I'm wrong, but the majority of younger Japanese seem to hate Abenomics and his ultranationalist policies.

The majority of the jobs and wealth in Japan is concentrated in its fast aging populace. From what I can tell, it is these interests that are pushing for a return to Japanese ultranationalism, not the people affected the most by Japan's stagnant economy.


Nationalism doesn't lead to wars, massacres and other oppression and brutality. That's tribalism leading to that. Tribalism is one of those built in human behaviors we have that we can't get rid of. People have tried with globalism, with cultural marxism, with communism. The pendulum always swings back toward tribalism because genetics is a powerful force. Nations are the people, not the dirt, as is pretty obvious to see after 3 decades of mass immigration.

If you want real danger, you should want to curb and reverse the mass immigration we're still seeing. History is very clear on this point; if immigration continues unabated, eventually the immigrants will become targets. Hopefully it's just expulsion that they're targeted for, but genocide isn't unheard of in these situations.


The meaning of nationalism (and tribalism) is not clearly defined, at least not in this thread. I thought about that as I wrote my comment, but I decided I couldn't cover every contingency ...

Without disputing the definitions, I agree with some aspects of what you say, but I disagree about that there is some inevitable bad ending. Generally, as the U.S. shows, it turns out well.

The U.S. is filled with the descendents of immigrants who think of each other as 'Americans'. Today's nativists are the descendents of immigrants that suffered the same discrimination. A few examples: Ben Franklin (and his peers, AFIAK) openly disparaged German immigrants, Italian and Irish immigrants used to riot against each other ... generations later, does anyone care? I read a study that said by the third generation, 3% of immigrants spoke the language of their former country and 80% married outside their group (I might misremember the stats to a degree).

> The pendulum always swings back toward tribalism because genetics is a powerful force.

I don't think it's tied to genetics. People are tribalistic about all sorts of groups that aren't genetically related to each other, and over time the groupings change. I believe genetic studies show enormous diversity within groups.


"The meaning of nationalism (and tribalism) is not clearly defined"

Wikipedia would have been helpful: "[Nationalism] can be expressed as a belief or political ideology that involves an individual identifying with or becoming attached to one's nation." "Tribalism is [...] a way of thinking or behaving in which people are more loyal to their tribe than to their friends, their country, or any other social group."

None of these in itself implies that it also has to bear a negative emotional charge of any kind. I think you're confusing nationalism/tribalism with xenophobia.


> Nationalism doesn't lead to wars, massacres and other oppression and brutality. That's tribalism leading to that.

Could you explain the difference between nationalism and tribalism?

> If you want real danger, you should want to curb and reverse the mass immigration we're still seeing. History is very clear on this point; if immigration continues unabated, eventually the immigrants will become targets. Hopefully it's just expulsion that they're targeted for, but genocide isn't unheard of in these situations.

Are you saying that we should deport the immigrants for their own good?


> Could you explain the difference between nationalism and tribalism?

A tribe could be described as a people of common genetic ancestry. On the occasion they have an ancestral homeland, that's called a Nation. For example, the Germans have Germany, the French have france, etc. If you were to replace the German people with Syrians, for example, the nation of Germany would cease to exist. The Syrians living in Germany have no loyalty to the nation. The loyalty the Germans have for their nation (or their nationalism) is only a function of the fact that Germans live there and they feel that is their home.

> Are you saying that we should deport the immigrants for their own good?

Nothing makes a Tribe feel more fiercely nationalist than a perceived invasion from an outside group. That really triggers the deep seated need we all have to ensure our genes and our race survive. That means expelling the invaders, one way or the other. The Reconquista is a good example of an event that was somewhere in the middle. There were lots of wars, lots of deportations, but not an outright genocide.


> A tribe could be described as a people of common genetic ancestry.

I'd agree that they share an ethnicity (depending on how that's defined!) but I think there is no genetic basis, and that studies have shown great genetic diversity within ethnicities.

There is no real rhyme or reason to how humans group themselves. It's not like they carefully review specifications and test solutions before they choose. It's on an emotional level.


>Nationalism doesn't lead to wars

I think doesn't always lead to wars might be more accurate. In history you see Germany at war with France more often than Germanic and Francophone tribal groups sparing.


Evolution is our friend here. Keep non-tribalism more adaptive than tribalism, hold out for a few centuries while rewarding non-tribalism and penalizing tribalism, and the problem will evolve away.


They haven't pointed it out because the relationship is unclear. E.g. the soviet union was leftist, but engaged in oppression, wars an brutality. The left in Europe have no more respect for free speech than the right in Japan, they just censor different things (so called hate speech).

I would say that it is the moderate liberals and moderate conservatives who value freedom most, because (almost by definition) they don't have some ideology that they consider more important than mere freedom.

Indeed, the far left think of freedom (especially freedom of speech) as a false equivalence between liberating and oppressive speech, (we can see this in the "safe spaces" movement), while the far right think of freedom as open season for degenerate, but appealing, ideas.


I'd say Scotland was an example of things getting more laid back in that some Scots wanted independence and the British Government kind of said whatever, have a vote. Compare that to say Erdogan or Putin freaking out if the Kurds/Ukrainians want to do their own thing.


Well, there's not been any tanks yet, but the only reason they gave a vote was that they thought they'd narrowed the options down sufficiently that they'd win soundly and have a mandate. A bit of a political miscalculation. As is the offering of a vote on the EU to avoid the right wing splintering, yet the business interests the conservatives represent don't want that to happen and the voter intention, once again, is not doing what was expected.

There's a reason that even members of his own party consider David Cameron to be a) winging it, b) very lucky.

We'd likely have seen the ugly side of the UK state if the vote had gone against them, they were already openly threatening to financially ruin an independent Scotland.


Nationalism is a disease of the mind that is among the most pernicious. I am vocal about this whenever the issue arises.

The trick, of course, is convincing the proles. For the most part, people understand tribalism, but not humanism. Perhaps intellectually a small fraction of people will agree that strong moral feelings about their country may lead to brutality, but most will not assent to the idea that any tribe is as vulnerable to committing genocide as any other.


I'm certainly no fan of tribalism; but if you think in terms of "convincing the proles," you can probably answer your own question as to why you can't persuade anyone.


The concept of proles is just a convenient shorthand that I used; I assume most people fit the bill as selling their labor for a living, the conventional definition of proletarian.

The admission that most people can but won't think for themselves drives my thoughts on this matter. There is a large segment of the population whose media diet consists of middlebrow newspapers, talk radio, and primetime television-- these media will absolutely never divest them of a tribal mindset.


If only it were that simple. A fair percentage of the ultra-rightwing voters in NL are university educated. You're not going to get too far if you label everybody that votes for these parties as people that 'won't think for themselves'. They do, they just end up with the wrong conclusions for all the right reasons.


>the crazy extreme right-wing party getting seats in Parliament

The BNP doesn't have any seats in Parliament.

I assume you might be referring to UKIP?


The BNP have been replaced by UKIP.


The label applies to both. But just one gained seats in May.


Technically speaking UKIP lost half their seats in May :)


It's happening in New Zealand to a similar extent. This current government is raiding journalists homes who publish things they don't want[1] [2]. Even more worryingly the government recently bailed out the other major broadcasting company, and replaced the CEO with a friend of the prime minister. It didn't take long before journalists who were sometimes critical of the government were replaced [3].

1 https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/hager-police-rai...

2 http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/290989/police-raid-du...

3 http://www.nzherald.co.nz/entertainment/news/article.cfm?c_i...


For a country whose culture already stifles expression and speech, this is bad news. I'm proud that supposedly so many Japanese stood up to protest these legislative actions. Having lived there, I can say that the government comes across as way more untouchable and heightened than here in the US, and that it takes a LOT before action can be taken against them. The US messing in their politics in order to get more aid in their wars is infuriating and makes me worry for the future of such a rich country.


Had a friend who lived in Japan for 35 years whose opinion of Japanese politics was basically that the ruling party were the largest and most powerful of the triad gangs.


You mean Yakuza, not Triad?


yes


So, as an average citizen in the country, what should I do?

I'm just a tech geek guy. I write software at work, and I teach sometimes (for CS related topics). I write OSS. I occasionally write a blog, but feel terribly helpless for spreading my view with that. I don't think going to a rally helps the cause that much (because I feel it only pleases the curious media). I'm probably a bit more politically aware than the average people here, but I don't want to devote myself to much political activities.

Probably I should continue to do the small things that I'm currently doing (e.g. occasionally bringing up the topic to friends and advocating more openness of the society, etc.), but what else? Does anyone have any idea?


I wish this post gave a better treatment to the discussion. By presenting such a stark claim on a blog, with little justification it leads to polarization that may make some who are open-minded to the issue actually take such concerns less seriously.

I don't have any answers myself, I'm learning a lot but here's what I glean:

- Reporters without borders (RWB) is a neutral cause dedicated to investigating freedom of the press in various countries, they explain their methodology on their website.

- RWB has moved Japan down to 61 on the list of nations with the most free press. However, the US is at 49 for comparison, so saying Japan has "Dismantled freedom of the press" because they are 61 seems to be an overstatement

- The piece presents a theory that America is trying to use Japan's military. Time will tell.

- The style comes across as vaguely rambly

If anybody who's not too emotionally involved in the topic has some recommended reading I'd love to hear more.


I feel saddened by this this. But at the same time I see Japan in a very complicated situation with China expanding its maritime influence in the region.

If it doesn't flex its military muscle (needing the secracy for it) it may find itself in a vulnerable situation against China. Although on the other hand it really doesn't stand a chance against China's nuclear arsenal.

If China used a nuclear warhead would the US riposte in the same manner?

What I don't get is the "Japan to battle in the middle east". Is this a "you scratch my back and I scratch yours"? Or just a cover for not saying "we're preparing for an eventual conflict with China"?


> Although on the other hand it really doesn't stand a chance against China's nuclear arsenal.

I beg to differ; According to the U.S government, Japan maintains a latent nuclear program. According to their assessment, Japan can go from "Hey, let's build a nuclear weapon stockpile" to actually having that stockpile in as little as a few months. (Source: http://zidbits.com/2012/02/which-country-is-closest-to-build...)

Germany comes in second place and could have nuclear weapons nearly as quick.

> Or just a cover for not saying "we're preparing for an eventual conflict with China"?

Right now, if North Korea launched a missile at California, Japan would have to watch as it sailed over Tokyo. They legally cannot shoot it down in protection of their ally. Japan wants to change that. They want to be able to protect and assist their allies in more than just a minor supporting role. Japan was there in Iraq and Afghanistan, they just weren't in combat roles. They were there providing medical aid and resupplies.

People (incorrectly) think that Japan is trying to become 1935 imperial Japan again. That's not it - they just want to be like everyone else. Right now, they have less freedom (militaristicaly) than everyone else. Significantly less than Germany too.


    > Right now, if North Korea launched a missile
    > at California, Japan would have to watch as
    > it sailed over Tokyo.
This doesn't detract from your general point, but I was curious to see if this particular thing was true.

If you use the "measure distance" tool on Google Maps you can see that even if North Korea launched an ICBM from the southernmost part of their eastern coast to the southernmost part of California it would only intersect Japanese territory by a few miles, at the point of Rebun Island northwest of Hokkaido, something they could trivially avoid. They'd have a much bigger practical problem with having to fly it over Russia than Japan.

In order for its course to go anywhere near Tokyo they'd have to be aiming said ICBM somewhere midway around Argentina, around a thousand miles south of Buenos Aires or so.

Don't let the Mercator projection interfere with your sense of reality.


It doesn't look good that the leadership must constantly "reinterpret" Article 9 to do this, though. Though I don't necessarily disagree that Japan should be beefing up its defense right about now, the whole situation would smell better - and probably have a better result - if the government just rewrote Article 9 out of the Constitution entirely and allowed itself to provision armed forces on the same level as other nations without having to justify everything. (And, for God's sake, just leave the press alone already.)

Maybe the Overton Window just isn't there yet, though.


You bring up a good point, but Japan could beef up its military defenses without also shutting down the press. You'd think that the USA of all countries could be clear about that distinction and urge our ally to maintain a free press while also endorsing their participation in military operations.


Given their mutual histories, I suspect both China and South Korea expect that Japan is preparing for conflict with them, so attempting to provide "cover" in that regard would only make Japan look duplicitous, regardless of Japan's actual intentions.


What makes it even harder to understand is that it was basically the US that forced Japan to demilitarize after WW2. Now we want to ask them to fight our wars?

The possible cover for not saying "we're preparing for an eventual conflict with China" is even more troubling. It was previously the case that the US would handle Japan's defense and the Self Defense Forces would, of course, provide self-defense. Are they planning for a conflict that is not defensive?

It is indeed a very complicated situation.


> the US that forced Japan to demilitarize after WW2. Now we want to ask them to fight our wars?

To be fair, the U.S has literally been asking Japan to change its constitution since 1968. They've been trying to get them to be actual military allies for 50 years now. Understandably, Japan has been perfectly fine with the status quo. And who can blame them? They had Uncle Sam footing their defense bill -- at least, until recently. Now Japan has to pay the U.S for that protection in a cost sharing agreement. The U.S wanted to close up shop and leave. They also wanted to leave South Korea as well, believe it or not. Both countries now pay the U.S to be there.


> To be fair, the U.S has literally been asking Japan to change its constitution since 1968. They've been trying to get them to be actual military allies for 50 years now.

Before that, actually. As early as the late 1940s, once it became clear that the Cold War was going to be a thing, the US was leaning on Japan to beef up militarily in the hopes of countering Soviet influence in the area. Savvy politicians in the era were not necessarily pacifist, but they could say "gee, sorry guys, but the Article 9 that you put in our constitution won't let us. Guess you'll have to keep your bases here and help defend us from those darn Soviets yourselves," then throw the money they saved not having to field a military towards economic development instead.


> What makes it even harder to understand is that it was basically the US that forced Japan to demilitarize after WW2. Now we want to ask them to fight our wars?

That was 70 years ago - the world has changed a lot in that time.


If you could redesign a system of government free from major flaws we see today, how would it work? Current systems almost seem to have a tendency to "breed" the types of malevolent, inefficient, greedy and problematic power structures we see. I think that at the root of the problem are natural human flaws. It seems almost certain that given enough time, no matter how well intentioned people are, the cumulative effect of our natural flaws inevitably evolves the kind of system/culture that attracts and perpetuates these flawed tendencies. I think the process could be compared to natural selection. Has anyone thought about it like that? I'm curious. Is it possible to design a system of government which would not be influenced by inherent human flaws? A system which, by design, has a tendency to "select" characteristics that shape it to be more beneficial, free from its current flaws?


A government and enforcement (military/police) entirely made up of robots running open-sourced and transparent AI? So that everyone could see all the factors that go into their decisions, and the short- and long-term benefits that the AI calculated for all parties affected by its rulings.

I mean, if the core issue is natural human flaws, then removing humans from the process altogether, like we do with all our other routine automation, seems to be the inevitable solution.

The problem, of course, is deciding who gets to decide the initial set of rules, and when to patch what...


Some form of sortition probably;

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sortition

Basically treat political office as a civic duty, much like jury duty.

Give them a very generous salary and have a maximum term after which they can never be reinstated.

Also ban completely any form of financial lobbying.


I don't know how this worked back then, but what prevents acts of corruption or any other kind of power abuse from the instated public figures' part? BTW, the power itself legitimizes lobbying, so this may sound a little cynical but when you ban means convenient for corruption then it simply goes underground until it finds its way to being legit again in some form. Maybe this is the way it's supposed to be (the cynical part) - the game of life and the ever-present competition inside our species?


Pick 30 random people and replace them every 3 months. The new laws have to be voted on by either a referendum or a large random draft (1000 people) (which are also often replaced).

Problems are: keeping the random random. People in general making immature decision, like lowering the taxes.


Good luck implementing anything that takes longer than three months to bear fruit.


Remove a government monopoly and solve the problem with competition:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polycentric_law


"In preparation to join US wars, Japan dismantles freedom of the press". What US wars? Populist hogswaddle. Such assertions should be backed up if you're going to make them. As for the supposed rise of "nationalism", to the average liberal, ANY movement in the direction of national security, or any display of pride in one's country, is not just nationalism but fascism, racism, and worse.


The problem is, you claim you want liberals to love America, but what you actually want is for them to love only the specific idea of America that you've constructed. If I say "I love America because it was founded on the idea that liberty is more important than security," then you put me down in the "hates America" column.


@sprucely -- thanks for the downvote -- you prove my point.

https://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=sprucely


What are you trying to do here? You think you know who downvoted you, and you're...calling them out? By...linking to their public user page?


Why does it look like democracy is on a declining trend all over the world, even as the Internet is more used by more people than ever?


Exactly because the internet is used by more people than ever. On one side, the bad guys find it increasingly difficult to hide their misbehaviours, to which they react with crackdowns; on the other, the average person is now so swamped in information and things to do/watch/read, that his or her appetite for old-school organizing is vastly diminished (politics is slooooow, terribly boring, usually frustrating and occasionally humiliating).


Observer bias


Indeed, we live in a time of unprecedented democracy. But confirmation bias reigns supreme, people read from news sources which confirm their preconceived notions of the world. The Hacker News community is as susceptible to this as anyone else.


I think that the Japan public debt house is starting to crackle and they do not want the public to know. Thus they are silencing the media.

Here is a graph of Japanese debt to GDP ratio http://www.tradingeconomics.com/japan/government-debt-to-gdp

Here is demographic Changes in Japan's population. It shows a top slope, population starting to fall. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Japan#/media/F...

So a retiring Japanese population is going to pay for rising public debt. Sustainable in the long run?


You forgot to mention that Japan is the biggest creditor in the world and the one that possesses more foreign net assets than even China.

So even if debt is colossal, it has the assets to maintain it for a long time.


I have never seen the emdash overused this badly.


Once again the US exporting "corporate democracy"


Don't blame the united states for everything. Totally unlike the situation described in the article, I can assure you that Americans have all the freedom in the world to criticize the government. We are fortunate in that regard.


The US government found many ways to cut back on free speech. Most direct is probably the fact you don't get to stay part of the Presidents press core if you regularly say bad things about them.

But, there are thousands of little things that add up to surprising levels of control.


That's hardly an effective way of suppressing dissent or criticism against the President. The press corps is not the press.


On it's own it's not a big deal, but you don't control 320 million people doing just one thing.

So, the surprising thing is not that it works, but that nobody thinks of it in terms of free speech. After all, of course news organizations will chase profits so access becomes a useful tool.

PS: Press releases are not just a means of corporations using lazy reporters to spread there message.


I don't think it's entirely fair to characterize Americans as being "controlled" by the media or the government. If the president (Obama in particular) had that much power to influence popular opinion through propaganda, we would have an actual national healthcare plan right now.


What's the basis for believing that President Obama wanted an "actual national healthcare plan"? Did he get negligible funding from the health insurance sector?


The US government does not have a single viewpoint so it's message is not unified on a wide range of issues. But, things like the food pyramid have a huge impact on how people think.

Consider, did the Fed have anything to do with the recent housing bubble and burst? Well, bubbles become self sustaining up to a point, but was there anything that caused a huge amount of money to slosh into the housing market?

Now, let's take a step back. Are houses a good investment in the abstract?


>Totally unlike the situation described in the article, I can assure you that Americans have all the freedom in the world to criticize the government.

I'm assuming you have not studied what happened to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the last American of his level of influence to fundamentally criticize the government.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther_King,_Jr.#FBI_an...


Yes, and much more recently we had the IRS stifling political groups that oppose the current administration.

But there's a difference between government stifling of speech illegally and government stifling of speech legally. At least with the former there are legal avenues that can be pursued to correct the situation.


There's not much difference to the person being stifled, at least, not initially.

Yes, you can litigate absurdly expensive court battles (assuming the government allows itself to be sued), have your voice silenced for the years and years your case takes to work its way through the courts, and then, assuming you win, finally get to say what you want a whole decade or more after the fact.

Legal avenues are great like that for people that want to delay, distract, and disrupt.


There's not much difference to the person being stifled, at least, not initially.

There's a huge difference between a government being able to send the police in broad daylight to do its bidding and beat you up or jail you for breaking the "subversive speech law" vs having to deal with some bureaucratic agency making you jump through endless hoops trying to get your group's 501c tax status.

That's all before you even think about getting into a courtroom.


To his credit, the article does mention:

> For many years, Washington’s Japan-handlers have pressed Tokyo to introduce repressive legislation to protect secrets concerning the US-Japan security alliance


Fortunate? Freedom of speech (et al.) is a birthright, NOT a privilege. If only the people of Japan stood up for their rights..


> If only the people of Japan stood up for their rights..

As mentioned in the article, there already are massive protests around this issue.

What more could they do? Try to take down the government by force? Even if they succeeded, I'm sure the U.S. would be happy to step in to "calm the waters" and impose martial law outright.


They don't need to have a violent revolution. They can just vote for a different party in the next election cycle. If the votes aren't there, revolution wouldn't succeed anyway.


"They can just vote for a different party in the next election cycle."

The last time they tried that (2009), the different party was literally more of the same. The only thing worth mentioning about the following two elections was their extremely low turnout (the lowest ever in Japan's modern history in the latter).


Revolutions do not need a majority. I think our best guess is that fewer than a third of the then colonists (USA) supported the proclamation of independence.

It is true though that with FPTP, you don't really need a majority to win elections either so it might be a wash.


The difference between a right and a privilege seems to be a matter of definition ..




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