Is Japan Sliding Back Into Fascism?
As we’ve previously reported, the Japanese government is reacting to Fukushima by introducing a bill which would ban journalism. The bill has passed the lower house, and is expected to pass the upper house this week.
A Japanese Senator notes:
The path that Japan is taking is the recreation of a fascist state. I strongly believe that this secrecy bill represents a planned coup d’état by a group of politicians and bureaucrats ….
The bill would grant agencies which no longer even exist the power to classify secrets. And Japanese officials admit that it will be used to classify what’s really going on at Fukushima.
The entire process has echoes of George Orwell. If enacted, the secrecy law would allow government ministries to declare just about anything they want classified. It now even appears that trying to cajole information from someone privy to a state secret could warrant jail time. In other words, if I grab a beer with a bureaucrat and ask the wrong question, could I end up in handcuffs? Ambiguity reigns.
Last week, the No. 2 official in Abe’s governing Liberal Democratic Party, Shigeru Ishiba, issued a dark warning to anyone like me who might dare to question the bill. In a Nov. 29 blog post, the LDP secretary-general likened any such challenge to “an act of terrorism.”
“How can the government respond to growing demands for transparency from a public outraged by the consequences of the Fukushima nuclear accident if it enacts a law that gives it a free hand to classify any information considered too sensitive as a ‘state secret’?” Reporters Without Borders asked in a Nov. 27 statement. Essentially, the group argued, Japan “is making investigative journalism illegal, and is trampling on the fundamental principles of the confidentiality of journalists’ sources and public interest.”
“Welcome to the land of the setting sun. Let’s see how much darker it will get,” Tokyo-based investigative reporter Jake Adelstein wrote in a Nov. 30 Japan Times op-ed. As Adelstein pointed out, the secrecy bill bears a resemblance to Japan’s pre-World War II Peace Preservation Law, which gave the government wide latitude to arrest and jail individuals who were out of step with its policies. Parts of the bill also echo the George W. Bush-Dick Cheney power grab that was the Patriot Act.
Japan’s press-freedom ranking is already in free fall. In 2013, its standing dropped 31 places from 2012 to a new low of 53rd out of 179 countries, according to Reporters Without Borders. Japan now trails South Africa and the Comoro Islands off Mozambique. The main culprit behind this year’s drop was weak reporting on radiation risks at Fukushima — a problem that’s sure to get even worse as incentives for media self-censorship increase. If you think the powerful bureaucrats who really run Japan are too opaque with their fiefdoms and secret handshakes now, just wait.
What’s odd, and should greatly worry Japan’s 126 million people, is the urgency behind Abe’s push to pass the secrets bill. The prime minister hasn’t implemented a single structural reform in almost 12 months in office. Not one. He’s taken no important steps to deregulate, shake up or remake an overmanaged economy. But this particular legislation apparently needs to be passed, like, yesterday.
It’s up to the terrorists — sorry, concerned members of the public to speak out if they want to stop him.
(America is no different. In the U.S. today, peaceful protest is treated as terrorism.)
Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev says that the Chernobyl nuclear accident caused the collapse of the Soviet Union. Is the same thing happening to Japan today after the more severe Fukushima accident? After all, nuclear accidents can bankrupt entire nations …
Maybe, but there are other forces at play as well. For example, the ruling party is trying to repeal the constitutional provision preventing Japan from waging war. As the Daily Beast notes:
Japan is about to take a giant step back into its oppressive past. When one also considers Prime Minister Abe’s stated ambition to restart Japan’s nuclear power plants and remove Article 9 from the constitution, the article which prevents Japan from waging war, it seems like the Empire of The Sun may be moving towards darker times.