A couple months ago I took National Public Radio to task for some of its Amateur Hour reporting from Japan. The famously dull-witted Fox News infamously reported that a Tokyo nightclub was, in fact, a nuclear power plant, a/k/a The Great Shibuya Eggman Foul-up.
Here we go again. This time it’s The Economist.
In sum, Japan’s Prime Minister Naoto Kan has just survived a No-Confidence vote in the Japanese Parliament (or Diet). The article linked-to in the preceding sentence is from The Guardian and offers a good summation of the, shall we say, less-than-optimal political situation in Japan.
Then there’s The Economist piece, written by “H.T.” (that’s how the author’s identified, just “H.T.”). While much, even most, of the “political intrigue” seems factually on-point, H.T. throws out a couple of howlers that typify today’s penchant for half-baked journalism, such as it is.
I always roll my eyes at writers (who are, what? 19 years old?) who proclaim the Tohoku quake/tsunami “an unprecedented disaster,” as H.T. so proclaimed in his or her piece in The Economist. Yes, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant maelstrom was, for Japan, “unprecedented,” but the writer doesn’t distinguish Fukushima Daiichi (where no one’s died, yet) from the other events of March 11, 2011. Rather, H.T. seems to be blissfully unaware of the past 90 years of Japanese history, including the Great Kanto Quake/Fire of 1923 (90,000+ fatalities), Hiroshima (70,000-80,000 immediate deaths), Nagasaki (40,000-75,000 immediate deaths) and the fire-bombings of Tokyo, Osaka and every major industrial center/city in 1945.
Not to diminish the scale of the destruction or the daunting challenge of rebuilding the Tohoku Coastline, but, c’mon, dealing with wrenching disasters (whether natural or man-made) is not exactly “unprecedented” in Japan. Had H.T. merely written, “unprecedented in contemporary Japan” they would have been accurate. My point is that bloomers like that undermine the credibility of any further analysis. And this is The Economist, which should hold itself to a standard somewhat higher than CNN or, gad, Fox News.
Then, at the very end of the article, and with utter Fox-like Drama, H.T. declares that Japan has not emerged “stronger” following the quake, tying JAPAN in with the fortunes of one, single, political leader. At this writing it has not yet been 90 days since the shocking and tragic events of March 11. And virtually everyone (except maybe The Economist?) concedes that the rebuilding effort will take years — 5-10, and scars will forever remain. But The Economist has already declared “Game Over” for Japan. How sloppy. How lazy.
Will the last competent journalist please turn out the light as you leave the room?
. . .
Post Script: While we’re at it, let’s give “Dishonorable Mention” to this June 2 article (from “Yahoo Finance” and written by one Al Lewis) regarding an Idaho home, foreclosed upon and, interestingly, infested with garter snakes. In speculating on who might be interested in occupying such a home, now owned by the mortgage division of J.P. Morgan Chase, Mr. Lewis wonders aloud:
“Possible buyers might include some guy with a flute and a turban…”
I can hardly wait for Mr. Lewis’ next piece on the Japanese stock market, you know, that’s run by buck-toothed men, sporting thick, round glasses, all named “Tojo.” Or Mr. Lewis’ upcoming articles on “lazy blacks,” “Mexican banditos,” “stupid Pollocks,” “drunk Irishmen,” or “greedy Jews.”