SNA (Tokyo) — Henry Johnstone Morland Scott-Stokes, patrician amongst Japan’s overseas correspondents since 1964, not too long ago died in Tokyo on the age of 83, however not earlier than he did untold injury by performing as a overseas handmaid to Japan’s fascists.
A person described as “tweedy” and “entertaining and congenial,” Briton Scott-Stokes was nonetheless a person of privilege, fortunate sufficient to land in Japan as Tokyo bureau chief of the Monetary Occasions solely three years after graduating from Oxford.
Changing into bureau chief of a serious newspaper on the wizened outdated age of 26 might sound odd immediately, however again then overseas journalism in Japan had decrease requirements, and the sphere was infused with neocolonial attitudes in the direction of the “natives.” Fluency in your assigned nation’s language was not required.
Nor was Japanese required on the different “Massive Three” English-language newspapers in Japan, as Scott-Stokes later turned bureau chief of The Occasions of London and the New York Occasions by means of the Seventies and early Nineteen Eighties. For a person described as “somebody who actually understood Japan,” he spent his whole 58 years in Japan as a purposeful illiterate, unable to fluently learn, write, or communicate Japanese.
To be honest, this was regular: Scott-Stokes arose from a bygone technology of Japan commentators who had been poorly skilled in social science strategies. That’s really one motive why newspaper evaluation on Japan on the time was so topical. They merely couldn’t do their very own deep and rigorous analysis within the vernacular.
In consequence, abroad readers normally received the topical “bizarre Japan” tales–dismissively known as the “Three Es” of economics, exotica, and erotica–that condescendingly promoted the Japanese as “inscrutable” and the Japanese language as “the toughest on this planet” for foreigners to study.
In fact, that had the self-serving impact of absolving their willful ignorance. The issue with doing onsite analysis depending on interpreters (in Scott-Stokes’ case, his second spouse) is that professionals grow to be blinkered. Not solely are you much less capable of discuss to the hoi polloi on their very own phrases about their every day lives, however in Japan particularly you grow to be weak to the elite, focused by a specific class of individuals with an agenda for distinguished Western journalists.
Also called “Gaijin Handlers,” this business of data spooks is designed to distract consideration from politically troubling or shameful tales about Japan, and at greatest mislead overseas correspondents into parroting authorities propaganda.
In any case, the Japanese authorities is well-practiced in steering home media and influencing public notion for social management–therefore Japan’s enormously restrictive “Press Golf equipment.”
Till the mid-Nineteen Eighties, the Gaijin Handlers succeeded fairly effectively. The picture of Japan transmitted to the skin world was saved “innocent and bizarre,” and Japan received richer and richer on its commerce surpluses.
However then, seemingly out of nowhere, Japan out of the blue emerged even wealthier than the USA when it comes to per capita GDP. Japanese firms purchased up distinguished abroad properties whereas the US taxpayer footed the invoice for Japan’s regional protection. Abroad editors began demanding that Japan be studied as an financial powerhouse, if not a rival.
That is when a brand new technology of Japan students got here in, the place should you weren’t fluent in Japanese you merely weren’t revered.
We did our personal analysis exterior of presidency meddling, utilizing the identical vernacular sources the Gaijin Handlers learn and tried to obfuscate. We knew their code as a result of we spoke it too. Our evaluation wasn’t excellent, however we may higher see by means of the propaganda.
Occasions change, and a lot of the outdated hacks moved on to different nations or settled right into a quiet life in Japan, residing a innocent twilight existence as cottage consultants of their cups.
Scott-Stokes didn’t. He didn’t simply proceed to depend on his privileged entry to Japan’s elite for his earnings; he determined to embrace their fascist tendencies.
He first attracted consideration from Japan’s far proper in 1974 together with his signature guide, a biography in English of his alleged pal Yukio Mishima. It proved helpful to Mishima’s ilk. With the imprimatur of a pedigreed white man whitewashing one in all Japan’s far proper fanatics right into a sympathetic hero, he helped refashion Japan’s fascism for the skin world.
Then, by the 2010s, as journalistic requirements rose and cash received tighter, Scott-Stokes went all-in together with his Gaijin Handlers, promoting his fame for thirty items of silver.
His 2013 guide Falsehoods within the Allied Nations’ Victorious View of Historical past, as Seen by a British Journalist, got here out in Japanese solely, and it bought an estimated 100,000 copies inside a number of months.
However Scott-Stokes wound up blindsided by its contents. Regardless of his title being on the duvet and his standing because the titular “British Journalist,” it seems that he didn’t really write the guide, not to mention learn it. The Occasions of London reported that he had primarily dictated it to an interpreter.
Later requested about sections denying “as a historic truth” the Nanjing Bloodbath of civilians by the Imperial Japanese Military in 1937, he initially mentioned he was “shocked and horrified” at having been unable to test that “rogue passage.” Then Scott-Stokes reversed himself and stood by what was written. “If I’ve been taken benefit of, it’s with my complicity.” Books wanted to be bought, in any case.
Additional, he doubled down on minimizing Japan’s “alleged” struggle crimes with whataboutism, evaluating them to the “struggle crimes” of the atomic bombings, and of the “victor’s justice” of the Tokyo Struggle Crimes Tribunal–all Japan historic revisionist tropes. He even argued that the USA, not Japan, bears “prime accountability” for the Pacific Struggle.
A few of his absurd claims are nonetheless seen on far proper web sites, akin to, “It’s largely on account of Japanese shedding their blood that we entered a brand new world the place colonies didn’t exist any extra and there’s racial equality.”
He concluded, “You shouldn’t be misled by anti-Japanese propaganda however relatively take pleasure in Japan as a nation,” noting that Japan was “Asia’s mild of hope” which “liberated Asian nations from white domination” (changed by, the report additionally demonstrates, Yamato domination; they too had been brutal colonizers, in any case). All of this effort was to “shield the Japanese soul.”
Thankfully, Scott-Stokes’ former employers took accountability for their very own, acknowledging of their obituaries that his guide was “embraced by right-wing apologists for atrocities dedicated by the Japanese navy throughout World Struggle II” (New York Occasions), and “Scott-Stokes was actually sympathetic to Japanese nationalist right-wingers” (The Occasions of London).
I can discover no particular buy-in from Scott-Stokes for different tropes that the far-right takes pleasure in, akin to encouraging thoroughbred Wajin bloodlines freed from miscegenation or selling “pure” Yamato males as the one individuals entitled to characterize and rule Japan.
However his sympathies for individuals who do, particularly those that lament Japan’s postwar disapproval of “conventional Japanese values,” together with Meiji Period martial coaching and the Emperor as the top of state, gave their rhetoric a way of legitimacy. And it runs instantly counter to Japan’s inevitable future, given its low birthrates and growing old society, as a multicultural, multiethnic society.
The purpose is that Scott-Stokes’ lifetime peddling in and profiteering off of Japan’s mysticism has interfered with seeing Japan’s historical past, and its present-day realities, realistically.
His son, Harry Sugiyama Scott-Stokes, a celeb broadcaster in Japan and frequent commentator at NHK, has introduced that he shall be “carrying on within the spirit of my father,” no matter which means.
Ultimately, what’s the measure of a life effectively spent? For my part, it’s to depart the world a greater place than you discovered it. By this measure, Scott-Stokes did fairly the other.
By passively, then later actively, selling the goals and beliefs that undergird Japan’s fascist xenophobes, he presents no template for Japan’s overseas communities, not to mention his skilled colleagues. His help of people that would by no means grant equal rights to minorities, notably Japan’s Seen Minorities, is particularly ironic and counterproductive.
Future residents and interpreters of Japanese society ought to see Scott-Stokes as a cautionary story. Right here was a person who lived most of his life in a rustic, even tried to rewrite the narrative on it, but remained in a bubble of privilege so opaque he may by no means see the plain–that he was being utilized by elites who would by no means let his sort into their membership.
Henry Johnstone Morland Scott-Stokes turned a “helpful fool” to the Gaijin Handlers, destroying his legacy.
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