Internet: a space for nutters
In many countries, the internet has given space to a huge variety of political views, which are not usually represented in the mainstream media, because the number of followers is too small to make a publication commercially viable. However, costs involved are much smaller for a presence on the net, and there is everything from Jihadist to Marxists, and every possible taste is catered for.
A strong presence of the right
There are many staunchily partisan websites and blogs, and there is an impression that the right is represented more strongly than the left. This is partly because of the discourse of opposition many on the right rely on, viz. we, the little, ordinary, normal people are being brainwashed by powerful media interests which are always run by dangerous lefties, who are working towards some sort of nefarious ends.
Japan is no exception, and there are people who are called netto uyoku – ネット右翼 in Japanese – who use the internet as a medium to propagate loudly their ideas and seek others of similar convictions. Like adherents of any other political persuasion, there are many different views within the group. Netto uyoku is an extremely broad term: they, whether self-styled or called as such, hold divergent views. Some are apolitical traditionalists, others are nationalists, and some are racists.
The nature of the netto uyoku
On important issues such as the economy and Japan’s relationship to the US, the netto uyoku are split. On the economy, some present themselves as victims of globalization, and see that Japanese economy is controlled by the US and its collaborators and puppets (i.e. whichever government currently in power). Others call for a more small-state policy direction on the economy and broadly supportive of Mr Koizumi’s reform. Another fundamental chasm between different strands of netto uyoku is the attitude towards the US. Some want to arm up the self-defence force and send troops to the war zones in Afghanistan, while others feel that such is an unacceptable subservience to America. This difference stretches to the qusetion of US bases in Japan. Some call for closer ties with the US militarily, whereas others call for a reduction if not the total removal of the US troops stationed in Japan. Both sides agree, though, that the self-defence force needs more money and troops.
For the reason that there’s not much that unite them for a coherent programme of policies, and it’s unlikely that the fiercely right-wing fringe will occupy the political mainstream, or organize themselves into a political party. They do not support a political party, though in general they support individual politicians on the hawkish wing of the out-of-office LDP. Some netto uyoku do not believe democracy to be a good system, because it lets in the fifth column. Even if they cannot create a programme of their own, the netto uyoku are galvanized on certain issues and kick up a big fuss, which is still and rightly observed as a storm in a teacup in many cases.
What unite the various strands of netto uyoku are the following: (1) animosity, if not hatred, towards the people and governments of China, North and South Korea; (2) revisionist views on history, especially the WW2; (3) an intense distrust of the established media; (4) disapproval of DJP, Social Democrats, and Communists, seeing these party as unfit and unpatriotic for government; (5) making the self-defence force stronger (and call it an army); (6) repeal or amend Article 9 of the Constitution.
On issues such as amendment to the citizenship laws or Chinese immigrants, the netto uyoku unite and call for action, both in the real and the virtual worlds. They tout actions, which often end up as a failure, as valiant effort against the great liberal / socialist / media / American conspiracy, and can be strangely self-satisfied by the miniscule numbers they can mobilize.
Forever a fringe movement?
In any society, there are racists and other unpleasant people, and the net has given them a place. Netto uyoku, especially on the fringes, are advancing corrosive attitude towards politics. Plagued by weak economy and in a relative decline, many Japanese people have become insecure of their standing. Cherished certainties such as jobs for life have vanished, and there is unease in the society. The question remains whether the Japanese society is strong enough to rebuff the messages of the netto uyoku in the future.