Thursday, July 05, 2007

When the media calls time...

Due to the focus of much of the literature on media and politics, and generally the news that filters to us, we often think that the media-politics vicious cycle is a US-UK phenomenon. This vicious cycle finds what Steven Barnett referred to as Rottweiler journalism, which describes those like Newsnight's Jeremy Paxman who bombard their 'prey', usually a politician, with questions they are reluctant to answer. We also find the conflation by the media between entertaining and informing [infotainment]. These encourage politicians and their spin doctors to hide facts that show them in a negative light and offer news packaged in an entertaining way in order to gain positive coverage and lead the agenda. But this is not simply an isolated feature.

In the run-up to the Japanese General Election for the Upper House (House of Councillors), 29th July, the current defense minister, Fumio Kyuma, remarked that the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were "something that couldn't be helped". This was said in the context of the US wanted to end the war before the Soviet Union occupied Japan and expanded its sphere of influence into the Pacific Ocean, but that was not how the media reported his comment.

Kyuma was forced to resign as the media condemned him for justifying the US attack, being insensitive to those families still suffering the effects of the radiation and fallout, and it is argued that it could bring down the Liberal coalition government already in trouble over Japan's the Social Insurance Agency's bungled maintenance of premium payment records. Comments from a colleague who is an expert in the area suggest that the media have decided that the coalition should lose and is dredging up negative stories wherever they can be found. The Kyuma crisis comes as the Social Insurance problem was becoming a non-story and public attention was shifting. So it is not just the UK press that gang up on a government they feel is either going to, or should, lose.

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