And yet Komori Yoshihisa has thrown down the gauntlet, charging the Asahi Shimbun with waging a political campaign against Mr. Abe and his cabinet. He hurls a litany of charges at Asahi: it is trying to present the Upper House election as a “de facto vote of confidence,” when it is no such thing; it has completely ignored the Abe cabinet’s efforts on constitution revision and bureaucratic reform, and Mr. Abe’s diplomatic initiatives to reinvigorate Japan’s foreign relationships; it has continued to focus on sensational reporting and criticism on such matters as Matsuoka’s suicide, the Kyuma indiscretion, and recent revelations about MAFF Minister Akagi’s alleged political funding violations; it has played up the Abe cabinet’s responsibility for the pensions scandal and growing inequality; and for not properly proclaiming in headlines each uptick in the cabinet’s popularity in opinion polls.
In other words, as he repeats throughout this post, Asahi is producing “propaganda” because it wants to see Abe fall.
It seems Komori has been in Washington too long, and listening to American conservatives complain about media bias — in other words, mastering the art of smearing your rivals without actually addressing their criticism.
Does Asahi want Abe gone? Yes, and its editorials have repeatedly made this clear. But then, Japanese newspapers follow the British model more than the American model. No one can mistake the Guardian for the Daily Telegraph. As a commentator at Komori’s blog notes, the opposite of Asahi is Yomiuri, which is slow to criticize the government and which praises the Abe cabinet’s “achievements,” however small and insignificant. Would Komori prefer that Asahi follow the same line as Yomiuri? Why even bother with competing newspapers, then, if they are only competing in how much they can praise the government?
I wonder if Komori’s rant is a sign of the right’s vulnerability in advance of the election. Facing a potentially disastrous defeat the the polls, they may already be looking around for those to blame (anyone but the prime minister, of course). The ferociousness of Komori’s attack on Asahi for suggesting that a major defeat in the weaker Upper House would be a vote of no-confidence in the government foreshadows, I think, the likely response from Abe and his followers in the event that the governing coalition loses its majority.
“The Upper House is not that important,” they will undoubtedly say. “Anyway, the media was focused on distracting, sensational issues, and not our plans for the country.”
The thought that Abe will relinquish power easily when his government rests on a two-thirds majority, which enables the Lower House to govern without the Upper House if necessary (see Article 59), is wishful thinking. Look for others like Komori to begin making the case for Abe staying in office regardless of this month’s returns.