SNA (Tokyo) — Henry Johnstone Morland Scott-Stokes, patrician amongst Japan’s overseas correspondents since 1964, just lately died in Tokyo on the age of 83, however not earlier than he did untold harm 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.
Turning into bureau chief of a significant newspaper on the wizened previous age of 26 might sound odd right now, 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 “Large Three” English-language newspapers in Japan, as Scott-Stokes later grew to become bureau chief of The Occasions of London and the New York Occasions via the Nineteen Seventies and early Nineteen Eighties. For a person described as “somebody who actually understood Japan,” he spent his complete 58 years in Japan as a purposeful illiterate, unable to fluently learn, write, or converse Japanese.
To be honest, this was regular: Scott-Stokes arose from a bygone era of Japan commentators who had been poorly skilled in social science strategies. That’s truly one purpose 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.
Because of this, abroad readers normally bought the topical “bizarre Japan” tales–dismissively referred to as the “Three Es” of economics, exotica, and erotica–that condescendingly promoted the Japanese as “inscrutable” and the Japanese language as “the toughest on the earth” for foreigners to study.
After all, 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 specifically you grow to be susceptible to the elite, focused by a specific class of individuals with an agenda for distinguished Western journalists.
Often known as “Gaijin Handlers,” this business of knowledge 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 spite of everything, 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 nicely. The picture of Japan transmitted to the surface world was stored “innocent and bizarre,” and Japan bought richer and richer on its commerce surpluses.
However then, seemingly out of nowhere, Japan all of a sudden emerged even wealthier than the USA by way of per capita GDP. Japanese corporations 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 era 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 good, however we might higher see via the propaganda.
Occasions change, and a lot of the previous 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 revenue; he determined to embrace their fascist tendencies.
He first attracted consideration from Japan’s far proper in 1974 along with his signature ebook, a biography in English of his alleged buddy Yukio Mishima. It proved helpful to Mishima’s ilk. With the imprimatur of a pedigreed white man whitewashing certainly one of Japan’s far proper fanatics right into a sympathetic hero, he helped refashion Japan’s fascism for the surface world.
Then, by the 2010s, as journalistic requirements rose and cash bought tighter, Scott-Stokes went all-in along with his Gaijin Handlers, promoting his repute for thirty items of silver.
His 2013 ebook 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 just a few months.
However Scott-Stokes wound up blindsided by its contents. Regardless of his title being on the quilt and his standing because the titular “British Journalist,” it seems that he didn’t truly write the ebook, 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 reality” 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 examine 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 spite of everything.
Additional, he doubled down on minimizing Japan’s “alleged” warfare crimes with whataboutism, evaluating them to the “warfare crimes” of the atomic bombings, and of the “victor’s justice” of the Tokyo Warfare Crimes Tribunal–all Japan historic revisionist tropes. He even argued that the USA, not Japan, bears “prime duty” for the Pacific Warfare.
A few of his absurd claims are nonetheless seen on far proper web sites, reminiscent of, “It’s largely because of Japanese shedding their blood that we entered a brand new world the place colonies didn’t exist any extra and there may be racial equality.”
He concluded, “You shouldn’t be misled by anti-Japanese propaganda however relatively take satisfaction in Japan as a nation,” noting that Japan was “Asia’s gentle of hope” which “liberated Asian nations from white domination” (changed by, the document additionally demonstrates, Yamato domination; they too had been brutal colonizers, in spite of everything). All of this effort was to “defend the Japanese soul.”
Happily, Scott-Stokes’ former employers took duty for their very own, acknowledging of their obituaries that his ebook was “embraced by right-wing apologists for atrocities dedicated by the Japanese army throughout World Warfare 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 satisfaction in, reminiscent of encouraging thoroughbred Wajin bloodlines freed from miscegenation or selling “pure” Yamato males as the one individuals entitled to signify and rule Japan.
However his sympathies for many 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 pinnacle of state, gave their rhetoric a way of legitimacy. And it runs straight counter to Japan’s inevitable future, given its low birthrates and growing older 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 star broadcaster in Japan and frequent commentator at NHK, has introduced that he will likely be “carrying on within the spirit of my father,” no matter meaning.
Ultimately, what’s the measure of a life nicely spent? In my opinion, it’s to go away the world a greater place than you discovered it. By this measure, Scott-Stokes did fairly the alternative.
By passively, then later actively, selling the goals and beliefs that undergird Japan’s fascist xenophobes, he provides no template for Japan’s overseas communities, not to mention his skilled colleagues. His assist 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 might by no means see the apparent–that he was being utilized by elites who would by no means let his kind into their membership.
Henry Johnstone Morland Scott-Stokes grew to become a “helpful fool” to the Gaijin Handlers, destroying his legacy.
For breaking information, comply with on Twitter @ShingetsuNews