Hodo Station/Terebi Asahi Reaches a New Low
Robert D. Eldridge, Ph.D.
Public scrutiny toward the media is the highest it has ever been in Japan. Disappointment and dissatisfaction reached an all-time low following the Asahi Shimbun’s revelations about its intentionally misrepresenting the comfort women issue using false testimonies in its stories for more than two decades.
Amid this situation, the reader would think the national media would be especially careful to avoid misrepresenting or misportraying situations that can easily be discovered. But it seems old patterns and ingrained ideology is hard to break free from.
On December 7 this month, Terebi Asahi, a broadcast company owned by the left-wing Asahi Shimbun, did a short—very short—story on the arrest of a self-admitted domestic terrorist who is believed to have used lasers on U.S. aircraft flying into and around Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.
The news itself was not only disturbing—that he used lasers on our pilots previously and the police found lasers when they searched his home in Ginowan City—but the way it was reported was almost as bad.
First was the length of time devoted to the story—an act of domestic terrorism—was only about 45 seconds.
Related to the first point is the next one: that the story included no commentary by either the host, Furutachi Ichirō, his assistant, or the beholden professor of constitutional law who was on the show to provide additional information and insights as sort of an interpreter of the news.
This lack of commentary was particularly curious in that Furutachi is known for going on and on when criticizing anything considered conservative or center-right but chose not to comment on an act of terrorism. It is extraordinary that he did not. Furthermore, the professor in question is a constitutional expert and would have been helpful in explaining why terrorism cannot be tolerated in law-abiding societies. And yet he did not speak. This, too, is inexplicable.
Moreover, and the third point of concern was that the story was placed very low in priority on the show, 11th, to be precise. France’s supposed shift to the right politically was given higher priority than an act of domestic terrorism in Japan.
The fourth point that was of great concern was how Hodo Station employed footage of MCAS Futenma. The way it did so was done to create the image that there are many aircraft at Futenma, a trick known as “image sōsa,” or creating an impression about a certain situation through manipulating information.
How Terebi Asahi did it was through two ways. In both cases, it used old footage. Once scene showed the fifteen KC-130s making up VMGR-152, which moved to MCAS Iwakuni in July 2014 (as part of the U.S.-Japan Special Action Committee on Okinawa recommendations of 1996), still being at Futenma. That image alone showed that the footage was old.
On top of this, Terebi Asahi showed CH-46s still being at MCAS Futenma, and while that scene appeared only a few moments, my recollection is that it showed two squadrons. Not only was the footage, therefore, more than three years old (when both squadrons were still assigned to Futenma), but it used footage when there was more than the usual amount of aircraft there—a temporary occurrence—thus attempting to give the impression of there being a lot of aircraft there.
This image manipulation was probably not easily recognizable to the average viewer (and thus explains why it can be so effective). However, for someone familiar with the operations of the base and politics surrounding it, as well as with the deceitful methods of the media, it was truly disgraceful, particular as Terebi Asahi has a local affiliate here and certainly has more recent footage than what it presented.
There is no doubt this was done intentionally. What is more worrisome, however, is whether Terebi Asahi was indirectly endorsing the terrorism, by suggesting that the suspect, Hiraoka Katsurō, who is not even from Okinawa to begin with, was justified in his actions due to the implied heavy presence of aircraft at the base.
Having witnessed Terebi Asahi go out of its way to misrepresent subjects it was reporting about, it would be surprising if it said (again), it was an “honest mistake.”
Actions like this feed the public’s mistrust of the media. I have not watched Hodo Station in months or years due to its intentionally biased reporting, but when I did see it earlier this month, I saw again firsthand how irresponsible it can be. Its irresponsibility, and that of other media outlets, are the biggest factors in the worsening of the Okinawa problem, and sadly fail to clean up their act or hold themselves accountable, an issue I first wrote in these pages about six months ago.
My new year’s wish, therefore, is that the media becomes a respected, objective source of information and enlightenment, rather than of ignorance and ideology.