Wednesday, August 03, 2005


There's a (disturbing) article in the New York Times today about the increasing tension between China and Japan. (My major thought on the substance of the piece is banal: nationalism sure is a destructive force in this world; too bad that people continue to stir it up, all over the world.) But what struck me most about the article was the sheer straightforwardness of certain passages:

Both governments are encouraging nationalism for their own political purposes: China to shore up loyalty as Marxist ideology fades, Japan to overcome long-held taboos against expanding its military. With the impending 60th anniversary, both are trying to forge a future on their version of the past.


The conservative news media [in Japan] have helped demonize China, as well as North Korea, to soften popular resistance to remilitarization. Sankei Shimbun, the country's most conservative daily, recently ran a series about China called "The Threatening Superpower."

Can you imagine the Times writing sentences of such straightforward honesty about domestic politics? Just try: "The Bush administration is encouraging nationalism for its own political purposes"; "the conservative news media have helped demonize Iraq to soften popular resistance to war." It's frankly impossible to imagine the Times would ever write such sentences outside of the Op-Ed page.

(Troll repellant: Of course by writing such a hypothetical sentence I am not suggesting that Iraq did not have a horrific government prior to the U.S. invasion... any more than the Times is implying that China and North Korea have good governments.)

My sense of why this is the case is because neither the U.S. nor any major group in the U.S. (political party, major lobbying group) has any stake in this fight -- oh, I'm sure there are people with a strong sense one way or the other, but there isn't any organized partisanship, at least not in a major way. Without the need to be (superficially, artificially and apart from any actual facts about an issue) "fair", the Times is freed to be, simply, honest.

Would that they would do so here.

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