Media myths dispelled by author doing undercover study
Tokyo, 1st January 2024 – Published as an article in the Japanese newspaper Sekai Nippo. Republished with permission. Translated from Japanese. Original article
Each Individual Believer Is Unique
Part 4 of an interview with Masaki Kubota (窪田順生), author of “Infiltrating the Former Unification Church”
by Seisaku Morita (森田 清策)
I have observed the persons of the International Federation for Victory over Communism for a while, so I honestly wasn’t surprised by what I heard from the believers. However, the believers were more diverse than I thought. The way they approach their faith is different from person to person. While there are people who are surprisingly devout, there are also those who are not. The degree of faith varies among believers. Among the Japanese believers who live in South Korea, there are on the one hand those with quite a strong personality, but on the other hand also those with a calmer view of their own way of life.
I had thought that the concept of “mind control” seemed “fishy” even before I started the interviews, but when I listened to each believer, I felt they had free will in abundance, so much so that I wondered how it was possible to say that they were under mind control.
Even within a family, it’s completely different how close the father, mother and sons feel to the religious organisation. For example, the donation is supposed to be one tenth of the income, but there are many believers who are not able to achieve this, while others say “three tenths”, or even “one third”, to the dismay of their families. Some were critical of the religious organization, while others expressed their own opinions on the way the headquarters should be.
The media has frequently reported on the families of defendant Tetsuya Yamagami and Sayuri Ogawa (pseudonym), but clearly each family’s situation is different, and it is up to each believer [how much they donate].
Besides, I also work in corporate crisis management, so I understand that scandals inevitably occur in large organizations. Sometimes, there are even people who pass away due to power harassment. Including the former Unification Church, the larger a religious organization becomes, the more unavoidable scandals are.
When I interviewed Tomihiro Tanaka, the president of the religious organization [in Japan], he said that he had visited the field more often because of the issue of requesting a dissolution order. Otherwise, he wouldn’t understand what’s happening on the ground. The second generation believers are starting to express their own opinions, such as planning symposiums themselves. After covering the inside of the organization, I thought it would be nice if the organization would become even more open from now on.
– Is it a made-up image that believers are mind-controlled and have had their free will taken away?
It may be misleading to say “ordinary”, but because there are many ordinary people, various problems occur just like in large corporations. The idea that everyone is mind-controlled and acting on orders is, I think, a very distorted view.
– In writing the book, you interviewed more than 50 believers. At a symposium hosted by second-generation believers, the organizer said, “There are tens of thousands of people who have become believers because they were moved by the doctrine.” In response to this, Eito Suzuki said, “I haven’t seen such people, at least not in the first generation.” What about the believers you interviewed?
I was also surprised by Eito Suzuki’s remarks. In my interviews, there were only believers who had joined because they were moved (laughs). If they weren’t moved, they would quit, and I think it’s precisely because they continue to be moved that their faith becomes energy. Regarding that energy, I can only honestly say, “I admire it.”
– Where does this difference in perception come from?
Eito Suzuki and I have had different lives and careers. Our ways of thinking are different, so we each have our biases. Former believers who have left the faith may say they were “deceived”. If you continue to interview such people for a long time, you might end up making such remarks.
(Interviewer: Seisaku Morita)
Featured image above: Masaki Kubota. Photo/graphics : Sekai Nippo
Masaki Kubota (窪田順生) is a non-fiction writer who has contributed to weekly and monthly magazines. He has also worked first as a producer, then as an advisor for TV-documentaries. He is journalist for a weekly magazine and a newspaper, and editor of a monthly magazine. In addition, he works as a media consultant, having conducted over 200 public relations consultations and media training sessions (training on how to handle interviews).
His books include
- “Spin Doctor – Techniques of Information Manipulation Used by Professionals Who ‘Hush up Bad Information’” (Kodansha Alpha Bunko – 2009), which deals with Japan’s political and corporate public relations strategies, and
- “14 Stairs – Reportage on the Niigata Girl’s 9 Years and 2 Months Confinement Case” (Shogakukan – 2006), which won the 12th Shogakukan Non-fiction Award for Excellence.
- His new book, “Infiltrating the Former Unification Church – the Complete Story of the Request for a Dissolution Order and the Deepest Secrets of the ‘No Good Coverage’”, is currently on sale.
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