“Thanks to all of you,” posted newly elected PM Shinzo Abe on his Facebook page, “we have taken the first step to taking back Japan.”
Writing in Sapio (Feb), web watcher and editor Junichiro Nakagawa points out that during the December election campaign, other than Shinzo Abe, there have been no politicians who so frequently issued appeals to Internet users.
Although Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto does frequently send Twitter messages, these mainly express his usual political philosophy and you seldom see what could be described as an “appeal,” Nakagawa says.
But Abe, on the other hand, receives from several thousand to as many as 40,000 “likes,” responses to his posts, and quite a large number of comments as well.
What concerns Nakagawa is that many of the Internet users who flock to Abe’s Facebook page show indications of leaning toward the so-called “netto uyoku” (or “neto-uyo” for short) groups.
Just after the ballot counting began in the recent general election, and it became apparent that the LDP was headed for a landslide victory, the comments on the web plainly pointed to participation by people with right-wing sympathies. For instance, they used the telltale exhortations such as “Please take back Japan from ‘certain Asians’ who have their sights set on Japan’s territory” (a reference to China and North and South Korea). Or, “A general attack can be expected against the malicious and treasonous anti-Japanese mass media, business organizations and high-level bureaucrats.”
To appeal to such supporters, Abe has posted criticism of these unnamed “certain Asians.” Last August, after then-president of South Korea Lee Myung-bak landed on Takeshima, Abe wrote, “The Japanese government should make a severe protest, including the recalling of Japan’s ambassador to Korea.” And after Abe visited the Yasukuni Shrine on Aug 15, he posted, “It is time to reconsider how to approach diplomacy in northeast Asia. That is the way recompense the brave souls (who died in Japan’s wars).
“A nation’s sovereignty and security are important, but that is all the more reason why remarks by responsible politicians should be taken seriously,” Nakagawa writes. “Up to now, harsh remarks have been rare．These kinds of inflammatory remarks are the sort of things for which the ‘neto-uyo’ have been waiting for a long, long time.”
Along with the criticisms of neighboring countries, there have been attacks on the mass media. When reporting the arrest of an NHK announcer for groping a woman on a commuter train on Nov 16, Mino Monta’s morning program on TBS and affiliates accidentally flashed Abe’s image on the screen.
Two days later, an entry on Abe’s page asked, “That happened two days after the day the Diet was dissolved. Is this the start of a negative campaign?” This was followed by “In the past, when I ran in the previous general election, TBS intentionally ran a photo of me when broadcasting a report about Unit 731 (the Harbin, Manchuria-based bacteriological warfare unit), which was a form of malicious subliminal manipulation aimed at discrediting me. Are they up to these things again? For the month ahead, it’s going to be a battle against reporting in the mass media.” Then issuing his “declaration of war,” he wrote, “I will join with all of you [his readers] to fight them.”
One reason why Abe is popular with the “neto-uyo,” writes Nakagawa, is that the right wing has positioned its greatest enemy as the “anti-Japanese mass media,” and now, in their eyes, he comes across as a “tragic hero,” victimized by that media, who has made a political comeback with the aim of seeking revenge.
As Abe appears to have several hundred thousand followers on Facebook, Nakagawa concedes that the number of followers with right-wing sympathies may be no more than a small minority. Now that he heads the government, it remains to be seen whether he’ll use Facebook as a launch pad for more rightist demagoguery, or whether he’ll simmer down and adopt a broader perspective that places importance on what’s best for the country.