Saturday, February 10, 2007

Them and us

Mainichi is a mainstream news company in Japan, which publishes a daily Japanese-language newspaper and has both Japanese and English language web sites. Crime by foreign residents is a greatly hyped issue in the media here for various reasons, so when the latest foreign crime figures were released, it was hardly surprising that it hit the headlines. Japanprobe, who helped to bring the racist "gaijin hanzai" magazine issue to prominence, noticed an astonishingly deception in Mainichi's coverage:

Here is their Japanese version of the story - headlining a 35-fold increase in foreign crime over 15 years in the Chubu area, and omitting to mention that the primary reason for this is simply that there has been a massive increase in the number of foreigners living in such rural areas (relevant quote from unrelated discussion: "In the past 19 years of moving back and forth, I have seen the JET [foreign English teaching assistant] program go from 1 teacher in my prefecture to over 250 today").

The English version of the same story instead leads with the large drop in crime in Tokyo, and although it does also report the increase in rural areas, it at least finds the space to mention the obvious fact that this is basically due to the increased number of foreigners living there.

In fact, there has been a large overall drop in the foreign crime figures over the last year, and anyway any half-way competent analysis would show that the crime rate of foreigners is lower than that of Japanese anyway, and any long-term upward trend is just because there are many more foreigners here than there used to be. According to this link UK ex-pats have a crime rate barely one-tenth that of the natives! (Of course we tend to be educated professionals rather than enslaved factory workers on so-called "training courses".) And the widely reviled US military are comparably well-behaved, despite basically being 25 year-old testosterone-filled sociopaths of modest educational attainment (only joking, the handful I have met have invariably been polite, friendly, model ambassadors for their country, if slightly more boisterous than most Japanese).

As you might have guessed, what pisses me off isn't just the distortion in the news presentation (no real surprise there) but the fact that Mainichi are trying to hide this from the foreign residents, by providing a much watered-down version of the story in English. Like the publishers of the gaijin hanzai magazine ("In principle it is a magazine written in Japanese and sold in Japan. Then, it’s for Japanese people to read it.") they obviously don't want or expect us to understand what they are saying about us behind our backs. Surprise!

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