Green-Tea-Baggers in Japan Blame Immigrants and 'Liberal Media' for Their Woes
Ain't globalization grand? Whether it's pint-swilling neo-Nazi soccer hooligans in the UK, chunky, sweet tea-guzzling Glenn Beck fans watching his TeeVee show performed live from their lawnchairs in DC or sencha-sipping wing-nuts in Japan, the unifying theme -- a sense of grievance based on the majority's loss of privilege (fueled by very real economic security) -- is quite consistent (HT: Oliver Willis):
The demonstrators appeared one day in December, just as children at an elementary school for ethnic Koreans were cleaning up for lunch. The group of about a dozen Japanese men gathered in front of the school gate, using bullhorns to call the students cockroaches and Korean spies.
Inside, the panicked students and teachers huddled in their classrooms, singing loudly to drown out the insults, as parents and eventually police officers blocked the protesters’ entry.
The December episode was the first in a series of demonstrations at the Kyoto No. 1 Korean Elementary School that shocked conflict-averse Japan, where even political protesters on the radical fringes are expected to avoid embroiling regular citizens, much less children. Responding to public outrage, the police arrested four of the protesters this month on charges of damaging the school’s reputation.
More significantly, the protests also signaled the emergence here of a new type of ultranationalist group. The groups are openly anti-foreign in their message, and unafraid to win attention by holding unruly street demonstrations.
Since first appearing last year, their protests have been directed at not only Japan’s half million ethnic Koreans, but also Chinese and other Asian workers, Christian churchgoers and even Westerners in Halloween costumes. In the latter case, a few dozen angrily shouting demonstrators followed around revelers waving placards that said, “This is not a white country.”
I've been asked by white supremacists here in the U.S. why it's OK for the Japanese or other nationalities to fight to preserve their "heritage" but it isn't cool for "white Americans." The stock response is that the United States has never, even for one second, been a homogenously "white" country, but a better answer is that it's just as ugly to see happening "over there."
While these groups remain a small if noisy fringe element here, they have won growing attention as an alarming side effect of Japan’s long economic and political decline. Most of their members appear to be young men, many of whom hold the low-paying part-time or contract jobs that have proliferated in Japan in recent years.
“These are men who feel disenfranchised in their own society,” said Kensuke Suzuki, a sociology professor at Kwansei Gakuin University. “They are looking for someone to blame, and foreigners are the most obvious target.”
No such estimates exist for the size of the new Net right. However, the largest group appears to be the cumbersomely named Citizens Group That Will Not Forgive Special Privileges for Koreans in Japan, known here by its Japanese abbreviation, the Zaitokukai, which has some 9,000 members.
If "special privileges" sounds familiar to you, it should. It's the basis of the 'reverse racism' charge. It also informs the idea that gays and lesbians are seeking some kind of "special rights."
The Zaitokukai gained notoriety last year when it staged noisy protests at the home and junior high school of a 14-year-old Philippine girl, demanding her deportation after her parents were sent home for overstaying their visas. More recently, the Zaitokukai picketed theaters showing “The Cove,” an American documentary about dolphin hunting here that rightists branded as anti-Japanese.
"Anti-Japanese," "un-American" ... again, the themes are the same.
In interviews, members of the Zaitokukai and other groups blamed foreigners, particularly Koreans and Chinese, for Japan’s growing crime and unemployment, and also for what they called their nation’s lack of respect on the world stage. Many seemed to embrace conspiracy theories taken from the Internet that China or the United States were plotting to undermine Japan.
Yup, conspiracy theories from the web are central to these ideologies. Death panels, FEMA camps, the North American Union ... you know the drill in English and this is simply its Japanese iteration.
“Japan has a shrinking pie,” said Masaru Ota, 37, a medical equipment salesman who headed the local chapter of the Zaitokukai in Omiya, a Tokyo suburb. “Should we be sharing it with foreigners at a time when Japanese are suffering?”
[Its founder] says the group is not racist, and rejected the comparison with neo-Nazis. Instead, he said he had modeled his group after another overseas political movement, the Tea Party in the United States. He said he had studied videos of Tea Party protests, and shared with the Tea Party an angry sense that his nation had gone in the wrong direction because it had fallen into the hands of leftist politicians, liberal media as well as foreigners.
I'm sure they believe themselves to be a part of a vast, silent majority of good Japanese who are too cowed by the perfidious forces of political correctness to speak out. Restoring some ill-defined "honor" of a mythical past is no doubt central to their rhetoric as well.
Mr. Sakurai admitted that the group’s tactics had shocked many Japanese, but said they needed to win attention. He also defended the protests at the Korean school in Kyoto as justified to oppose the school’s use of a nearby public park, which he said rightfully belonged to Japanese children.
Teachers and parents at the school called that a flimsy excuse to vent what amounted to racist rage. They said the protests had left them and their children fearful.
“If Japan doesn’t do something to stop this hate language,” said Park Chung-ha, 43, who heads the school’s mothers association, “where will it lead to next?”
That's a question that decent people in a number of countries are asking these days.