NYT Explains Peculiar Japanese Customs

The New York Times (3/17/11) presents a look at the Japanese government’s lack of candor about the Fukushima nuclear disaster. At first we’re given the impression that this is something cultural: “The less-than-straight talk is rooted in a conflict-averse culture that avoids direct references to unpleasantness.” We don’t have that problem, I guess.

Then, we’re told, Japanese media are to blame:

Left-leaning news outlets have long been skeptical of nuclear power and of its backers, and the mutual mistrust led power companies and their regulators to tightly control the flow of information about nuclear operations so as not to inflame a spectrum of opponents that includes pacifists and environmentalists.

So the too-critical media helped create this crisisof “mutual mistrust”?The Times had previously led me to believe that the problem with Japanese media was that it was too cozy with powerful institutions. Now I’m being told they’re too critical, which makes them part of the problem.

Finally we come to this:

The close links between politicians and business executives have further complicated the management of the nuclear crisis.

Powerful bureaucrats retire to better-paid jobs in the very industries they once oversaw, in a practice known as “amakudari.” Perhaps no sector had closer relations with regulators than the countryâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s utilities; regulators and the regulated worked hand in hand to promote nuclear energy, since both were keen to reduce Japanâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s heavy reliance on fossil fuels.

Now hold on a second. They live in a country where there is a revolving door between corporations and the regulators who oversee their industries?

I’m glad the Timesgives usthe Japanese word for this, since most U.S. readers have no frame of referencewith which to comprehend such a bizarre practice.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.