Authority’s Authority

The last few entries of this blog has concerned itself with recent moves to increase censorship in Japan. Some examples of these include increased enforcement of obscenity laws (possibly as a consequence of Tokyo’s bid to hold the Olympics in 2020,) the push to revise the Japanese Child Pornography Law to include manga and anime, the call to re-write the Japanese Constitution to limit free speech in cases where there is threat to the public interest or public order*, and discussions on nationalizing restrictions on a minor’s access to media. These are all important topics but smaller, incremental stages of censorship can also have profound consequences when left unquestioned.

Truth be told, creating justification for enacting laws or restricting freedoms is actually relatively easy, especially when as part of an extension to pre-existing laws. You simply need to convince certain parties in control that it is in their own self interest to do so, and then they will dutifully work toward convincing their coworkers and voters of the need to revise the law.

What works most is to sell the law on fear. Almost any activity can be framed as being dangerous and anti-social. First, you must identify extreme examples within that activity, elements that nearly everyone would find offensive or reprehensible. It does not matter if those unfortunate examples are the result of poor decision making or freak accidents. What matters is to find examples that can be exaggerated, recycled into sound bites, and make it embarrassing enough and thus put people on the defensive for being associating with that activity.

Accompanying the presentation of fear is a solution that isolates, circumvents or removes the identified undesirable aspects. The solution will more than likely involve legislation or administrative policy changes instead of common sense precautions. Some of those who engage in that activity will be compelled to embrace such regulation out of the desire to remove the cloak of suspicion that has been attached to themselves. There may even be those that extrapolate their own fears upon those alleged dangers, and thereby work toward establishing a new regulatory mechanism.

Once the new law is in effect and the law’s critics are marginalized, a new norm has been created for what is acceptable and what is not. What was legal has now become illegal. The fear that was present before can now be claimed to be contained–identified, demarcated and quarantined–by some type of regulatory mechanism. Now it is possible to construct a new fear within the new norm and change the standards yet again. Even if you find resistance to further changes, the creation of new fears make it easier to avoid explaining the rationale behind why the old norms were replaced by the current norms. The current norms are the good norms and we must make them better, the argument will go, so questioning how things were acceptable in the past is immaterial.

Fear is a powerful seller. If you watch television carefully and picked apart all the advertisements that you are exposed to, you would be amazed at how many products are marketed based on fear: Fear of being unsanitary, fear of being ugly, fear of not eating healthy, etc. The same logic applies in cases where you are selling laws to voters.

What is more difficult is cementing authority over identifying these fears. Anyone can claim a bogeyman exists. But only those in authority can claim that the bogeyman is legitimate and is a credible threat.

For example, when a child cries about monsters under the bed, the child’s claim have little authority over adults. But if a topic pertains to something adults have little understanding of, or if they preconceptions regarding the subject, a person who claims to have authority will have more sway over the public. An example of the former is the Y2K controversy regarding computers while an example of the later would be the debate over regulating video games. Generally speaking, the public has little expert knowledge regarding computing program coding and human psychology, therefore if an expert makes certain claims, their statements carry greater weight as their credibility is harder to verify, and as consequence, experts may be able to secure stronger authority in the process and even arise to become an authority figure, an individual people will reach out to in order ascertain affairs they have little knowledge on.

The legitimacy of an authority figure can become particularly entrenched in cases where it is hard to prove their claims as wrong. For example, an authority figure might claim school uniforms will improve children’s behavior. If records indicate children’s behavior show improvement following the adoption of school uniforms, if will be difficult to disprove that the adoption did not play a positive role. Unless controlled and careful studies are conducted, it is impossible to say how the adoption of school uniforms contributed to the children’s behavior–economic factors and parental involvement may have had much more of larger impact. The problem with social sciences (which also includes some aspects of criminal behavioral studies) is that it is very difficult to conduct controlled experiments. Even if children’s behavior worsens, the expert could claim that the children’s behavior would have deteriorated far more had it not been for the adoption of school uniforms. Because few people are experts of child psychology, sociology, and criminal behavioral studies, anyone perceived to be an expert over these sciences would enjoy advantage in exerting authority over others.

Those that can claim authority over a topic, and where by their authority is unquestioned, will enjoy an even greater say in establishing justifications for creating further laws and regulations. An expert on microbiology’s call for more meat inspectors will resound better when compared against a shoe salesperson making the same plea. A doctor’s claim for more (or less) sex education will carry a certain amount of weight simply because they are doctors. It is immaterial whether or not the claims made by these experts are absurd, as only another expert can credible refute them, and therein lies the problem–Once an individual or an institution becomes an authority, and has the power to exercise influence over others in the same field, it becomes difficult for other dissenting experts to question that authority.

This same phenomenon takes place over the debate of obscenity, vice, and pornography–the common assumption among the public is that some sex is fine, but beyond a certain point, sex leads to deviancy and constitutes a criminal act. The question of why sex of certain type is illegal is sometimes left out. In too many cases, as long as the sexuality and its representation resides within the confines of mainstream society, it is not questioned. Any deviation from the social norm is treated as a transgression, even while what is being transgressed is sometimes not addressed, or some vague and abstract construct is evoked, as in something is found to be injurious to public morals.

Authorities’ power to define the transgression regarding obscenity particularly powerful in Japan where the public does not have a voice in determining what is obscene or not–Japan does not have a jury system pertaining to obscenity.

The Japanese Police have tremendous sway over determining what is obscene and how much of it can be permitted. Judges ultimate do decide what material can be considered obscene or not in a court of law, but since so few cases are actually come for debate in court and because the police are careful in only going after cases where they feel certain they will secure a conviction, the line that determines obscene and what is not obscene is largely determined by police. If the Japanese police raids you, it is obscene. If the police does not raid you, it is not obscene…probably.

Why did I add qualify that last sentence with such an ambiguous statement? It is because the police in Japan have both the leeway and the authority to change what can be defined as obscene, and it can change.

Recall how I wrote about standards for worth (and hence the need for protection) of certain works can change depending on the political climate if freedom of expression is not adequately observed. But when it comes to sexually explicit material social attitudes change quite rapidly, and how authority reacts to these changes also oscillates wildly between acceptance, indifference, repudiation, and repression.

In my next blog entry, I hope to discuss some recent major shifts in how the Japanese police go about enforcement, and thereby highlight how authority can redefine norms arbitrarily and yet enjoy considerable legitimacy.


The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has drafted a revision to the Japanese Constitution in 2012 that would radically revise how citizen’s rights and limitations to state power would be managed. The 2012 LDP draft is even mentioned in Wikipedia’s English entry on the Japanese Constitution, but there are also good articles featured in the Asia-Pacific Journal and the East Asia Forum.

This entry was posted in bureaucracy, censorship, child pornography issues, harmful material, nonexistent youth, public morality and media. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Authority’s Authority

  1. Dark says:

    In the last few months, I’ve been very tired & stressful because of my life & all of these stupid piece of shit (I’m very sorry if some of you got mad over my words) Every single day I live in fear that the next day, or even later of the current day would be the time when some titles, publishers, editors, mangakas…. got burst because a certain group of asshole, brainless, blah blah blah & stuck-up old farts/hags believe their works are violating public’s order, or even worse than my worse nightmare, this whole bullshit of a bill got debated all over again (plz be remind that this is still “deliberated pending”, for how long? hell should I know)

    Since Mr. Kanemitsu has just uploaded this article, my deepest of deepest of deepest apology, but I’d use this to venture lots of my ideas, thinking over this matter. I hope, but not certain, it’d help to release parts of my stress (it’d be good if I can just release all of them, since I can’t take it anymore). I also hope to hear opinion from Mr. Kanemitsu and/or other people.

  2. Dark says:

    Next (very sorry for the double post. It’s rather long)

    Don’t know what to say, I’m speechless.

    So basically, we’re living in an extremely uncertain society, where the police can just raid you anytime just because certain brainless old men complain? Uhm hum. Check

    The Japan’s society is very flip-flop regarding obscenity things. Whenever some old men in power complain over certain thing, the police will just burst it out, before the clueless normal people start to understand what the heck is going on. Check

    So what is going on next? I don’t know. There’s a certain phrase in this place, basically meaning the more you’re fear/hope what would happen, the greater chance it will actually happen. That’s why I try not to think about that. But like I mention above, I’m almost paranoid when spending every day in fear the worse would happen.

    What would we do to block those whole bullshit happen over & over again? I think Mr. Kanemitsu, you just say it yourself above. The Japan’s society does NOT have a jury system to judge what is obscene & what is not. So I believe what we should do, and we should do hard, asking greater, harder push from corporations in the industry (DAMN, can’t believe I say all these) and/or people with great influences, to create a system where the SOCIETY itself has its own VOICE over the matter in question. You people, Mr. Kanemitsu, depend too much on a certain group of basically a dying generation (whoever at their 60s & beyond say they’ve never had a single type of sickness is virtually a big fat lair. And yes, I do believe people like that can die anytime) to decide what is acceptable and what is not.

    DAMN, can’t believe I’m saying this. Need to clarify that I do NOT like lobbying works, never had been, never will be. This would be the 1st time in my life that I say I’m fully support the idea that we should just lobbying the hardest we can, to prove that it is US, the tax payers, who PAY for the goverment’s SALARY, not some stupid, dying moRONlists or feminists.

  3. Dark says:

    Again (extremely apology, don’t block me thinking I’m spamming. These are my own thinking over the months since May)

    You know, I’ve been thinking, thinking & thinking very hard about this. It is a big storm, a very very very big storm. So what are we gonna do to live through all these? I don’t know. Again of again, like I mention above, I’m living my everyday in fear, checking this blog, ANN, Comic Defense, or even tabloids like 4chan or sankaku… hoping to find some bright light to at least lighten up this whole darkness. None so far, nothing big particularly happen…. YET, but it is the same when you face a tropical hurricane (I’m in SEAsia, so I might know this better than many of you). The more calm the whole surroundings is, the bigger, worse & powerful the storm itself MIGHT be.

    I’m tired, very very tired. I can’t even sleep some nights. So I try to comfort myself:

    Let’s just put it this way. For thousands of year in the time of Greek and Roman, the science rise & shine at its finest. But when the Church came, it ended. Again, for thousands of year in Europe, free speech was nothing but a dream for some, and the worse for the others. A clueless society, blindly follow what the church said WITHOUT questioning anything. A ruthless authority, anything you said or done would be dubbed “against the king/church” & off with your head, or be burned alive. For thousands of year, freedom of speech, freedom in science…. was nothing but a lost dream. Almost none but a few brave souls who actually went against all the oppression those dynasties/monarchs forced on our heads. How many men & women, even children, has lost their life at that time, sometimes simply because they drew some strange images? Countless. So why did people just stop fighting & accept what religious leaders told us were the only truth? Because that was, and still is, the nature of free speech: Do NOT ever hope that you can just cut off free speech simply be enforcing more & more oppression. The more you try, the more & harder people will fight you. And if you try too much or too hard, it will backfire to you & cost you your life, hence many revolutions in history.

    After thousands of time, nowadays we look back, and ask ourselves: What in the name of the fucking hell were all those blah blah blah for? Did the church kill science completely? Nah. Did all those kings, queens, dynasties….successfully force their wills, believes… on to us? I doubt that. So what the hell were all those bloodshed for? What if not because the society did NOT have their own voices, and the authority just did what they like/want, and worse of all, NOBODY do anything to change, or at least to give the society their tools to voice their concerns?

  4. Dark says:

    Do all of them familiar to you? Because it is exactly the same as our current situation & the whole bullshit of a moral panic over the matter.

    So I think, and believe it from my heart, that the history just repeat itself. Maybe in another thousands of year, this would happen in the same manner of the war science/free speech vs religions/dynasties. Maybe at that time, anime, manga, games, especially type B titles, borderline-H titles become parts of our daily life, just like science nowadays. Maybe at that times, there will bound to be some dumbsuckers who cry wolf over anime/manga, but people will just “yeah right, blah blah blah & blah blah blah, crying over a couple of drawing images? you’re simply stupid” and brush them off. And most importantly, maybe at that times, people will look back, at all the fuss about restricting this, restricting that, or at all those arrests, and simply ask themselves, just like we’re today: What in the fucking hell were wrong with those people? It’s just drawing, imagination. It’s not like it’d happen in real-life. Nobody got hurt by those (except people with a few screws loose, of course). So what the fcking hell were all those for? Did all those arrests serve any good? Why blah blah blah over a couple of drawing, while they themselves just made things worse for them?…………. What/Why/How, it’s only a simple answer: Human’s mind actually still the same as a kid saw the light under the bed & sleepless all night, thinking some monsters hiding there.

  5. Dark says:

    Aaaaaaaaa………so tired, so stressful. I think I’d better stop here, before got kicking out (^__^)

    Before I stop, I’d like to say something more: It’s very simple. I think it is about blooding times the whole industry immigrate onto the internet. I suppose lots of people in the industry will support this idea, because it’s mean to cut off more & more unwanted spending, like the money for the buildings, the offices, marketing…. blah blah blah

    I also think it is time for us to learn from people like TPB’s team. You might or might not agree with me, calling them thieves. But I don’t think you can deny the fact that despite all kinds of effort from copyright maximalists, moRONlists & blah blah blah, they’re still live on, and live strong. That is because their ideas do NOT depend on any particularly moral/law/whatsoever you may call. Their ideas depend on a simple fact that freespeech (in one way or the other) has to be respected at all cost. Any objection is bullshit, and need to be wiped out.

    Similar to that, we can start sites based on torrent, magnet, or sharing softs like Share or Winny. That way, people can just download your products wherever, whenever or however they want –> It will help improve significantly your sales, rather than just depend on local market, which is shrinking every day. Of course, you have to set up protections, so that everyone can download or view your contents online without fearing anything around you.

    It’s also a big plus point, since you can cut off a bunch of unwanted money, like paying for offices, paying for printing machines, and blah blah blah….. Remember, even at this times, you still pay for all of those AND the money for IT services. You can take your sites offline to cut off paying, of course, but at these eras? Nah, I dont think so.

    And another of course, since we’re talking about business here, you also have to set up a paying system suitable for anyone, anywhere, not just your local market. It should be if you pay a certain $$$, you will be able to read latest chapters of certain titles, or be able to download whole volumes of HOT titles, rather than wait for days, or download parts of tankobon EACH hour/day…

    There are many more solution, but the point is, in the end, importing the whole industry onto the internet, coorporate with tech giants, or even set up your tech team yourself…. to deal with all those dumbass out there. Don’t you agree with me? Isn’t it about time we’re fed up with all those old timers, stuckup hikikomori who always crying all over the place simply because their nieces, granddaughters…. wear a not-too-long skirt? Rather than cut off one or two branches, I think it is about times, or soon enough, we will have to think of solutions to keep them outside of the door, rather than just let them in & hear all days all those blah blah blah from times to times.

    Better stop here, though I still want to say more, before someone kill me for spamming (^O^)

  6. Mike Creig says:

    Oh, ye of little faith, Dark.

    I’m not giving up! I always see the bright side of things no matter how bad they are!

    In my opinion, if this stupid revision does pass (I pray it doesn’t), all of Japan’s mangaka should sue the LDP, New Komeito, the police, UNICEF, etc. in a class-action lawsuit!

    • Dark says:

      I try to have more faith, my friend. Believe me, I do. I mentioned it about, didn’t I? I try to look anywhere I can, from this blog, from many news sites, to even tabloids like sankaku

      Yet I do NOT see the light at the end of the tunnel, YET. Maybe NOT YET.

      Sue who? Who gonna take that case? The Japanese supreme court? Please. I don’t think I can count on those old, tired & might die anytime timers (they can die right away for all I care). You didn’t read what mr. kanemitsu write in the last topic? The Japanese court, from after WWII to TODAY, only successfully found 8, read EIGHT, cases violating the constitution and overturn them.

      I’m tired already (damn, only 29, and all these worries make me grown old already?)



      Shit. Deeply sorry for my word. Just can’t contains myself anymore. Maybe I should give it up, forget about anime/manga & who know, go to the Africa, play with elephants. At least no BULLSHIT trying to BAN elephants because of their DUMB moral panic

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