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Le Monde Diplomatique Excusing Terror

Leftwing paper’s tactic: Excusing terror and portraying victim as perpetrator

Standing truth on its head – excusing terror and vilifying victim – Le Monde Diplomatique published in its June 2023 issue a very strong contender to the title “Biased article of the year”.

Derogatory terms

Already in the headline – Moonies embedded in Japanese political life – the derogatory term “Moonies” is used. It appears nine times throughout the article, in the French version even more.

The expression is often used deliberately by leftwing and anti-religious campaigners in order to make fun of and belittle the Family Federation, formerly the Unification Church, and its members.

In its handbook for journalists, the large global news agency Reuters says: “‘Moonie’ is a pejorative term for members of the Unification Church. We should not use it in copy and avoid it when possible in direct quotations.”

Another derogatory term used many times in the report (25 times in the French version), is “cult” (“sect” in many languages). In the article “Why ‘Cults’ (and ‘Brainwashing’) Do Not Exist – An appeal to avoid labels that have no accepted scientific meaning and are used as tools of discrimination,” one of the world’s leading experts on new religious movements, Dr. Massimo Introvigne, writes,

“at the end of the last century, the vast majority of religious scholars stopped using ‘cult’ and replaced it with the less ambiguous term ‘new religious movements’.” (article published in the magazine Bitter Winter 27th March 2023).

Radical leftwing paper

But it is not only new religious movements that have been called “cults”. Various European communist parties, e.g. those in Italy and France, have been called cults loyal to Moscow. The Soviet Communist Party was called a personality cult under Stalin. And Le Monde Diplomatique is clearly a leftwing paper.

It was once part of the liberal Le Monde, but in 1996 radical leftwing employees, thanks to a huge donation by militant left-winger Günter Holzmann (1912-2001), were able to buy one quarter of the shares of the monthly publication. A leftwing association of readers acquired another quarter, enough to be able to control the direction and editorial line of the paper, even though 51 % of the capital still is in the hands of Le Monde.

Historian Walter Laqueur (1921-2018) calls Le Monde Diplomatique “the main organ of Castroism” (Reflections of a Veteran Pessimist, Routledge 2017). Castroism is based on the ideas and Marxist theories created by Che Guevara, Raúl Castro, and Fidel Castro, leaders of the Cuban Communist Revolution.

State as vanguard of the anti-cult movement

Above-mentioned Dr. Introvigne mentions another brand of communism out to destroy new religious movements,

Beijing display. License: CC Attr 3.0 Unp. Cropped

“During the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the China Anti-xie-jiao Association, which coordinates the fight against the religious movements banned as xie jiao (‘heterodox teachings’, often, but less correctly translated as ‘evil cults’) published a theoretical reflection on the role of the CCP within the world ‘anti-cult movement’.

According to a Marxist analysis, the study says, xie jiao (but throughout the article there is a constant reference to the Western category of ‘cults’) are ‘political cancers’ that nobody will be able to ‘completely eliminate overnight’. The CCP has consciously assumed the mission of being “the vanguard of the anti-cult movement” on a global scale.” (Chinese Communist Party, “The Vanguard of the Anti-Cult Movement”, Bitter Winter 8th July 2021)

In China – as in France – the state has its own anticult movement. It is completely controlled by the Chinese Communist Party. There are public officers to crack down on “cults” in every village and neighbourhood. Every party member is encouraged to become an anticult activist.

And in the opening paragraph of the article in Le Monde Diplomatique it says about Japan, “the country still has few controls over religious cults.” Xi Jinping might well have said the very same words.

Excusing terror

Shinzo Abe. License: CC AL 4.0 Int

Throughout the article the Unification Church is blamed for the assassination of Shinzo Abe. Just consider the opening sentence;

“The Unification Church’s far-reaching links with the party of Japan’s former prime minister Shinzo Abe led to his assassination […].”

The actual killer is made into victim; Abe and the Unification Church are the guilty ones. Truth completely stood on its head.

The Japan Times pointed out in an article 16th April 2023 that this style of reporting – excusing terror and giving positive media coverage to a terrorist – is dangerous indeed. It may well lead to more terror. (Don’t Allow the Attack on Kishida to Become a Trend, by columnist Gearoid Reidy)

Le Monde Diplomatique is of course not the first leftwing paper excusing terror.

The Japan Times writes in the same article,

“Instead of recognizing this [the terrorist’s alleged grievances against the Unification Church] as bitter delusion and focusing on the concerning security lapses surrounding Abe’s killing, media reports instead gave Yamagami bizarrely sympathetic coverage and even took up his cause against the church. For months, Japan’s front pages and TV shows were dominated by links between the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the Unification Church.”

Terror exploited for political gain

The Japan Times also emphasizes that the terror attack on Abe “was exploited for political gain.” The Le Monde Diplomatique article should not just be seen as an attack on a religious movement. It is even more a deliberate attack on a conservative party known traditionally to have been opposed to communism. The worse you make a particular religion look, and the closer you portray the links between that religion and the party, the worse you make the party of Shinzo Abe appear. It is a simple strategy, really.

So-called “ties”

And the Le Monde Diplomatique article reports about “far-reaching links”, “close links”, “Unification Church network within the LDP”, “connections with the church”, “links to”, “ties to” throughout the article.

And having contact is made to appear as something really bad. Politicians “admitted” contact. The Japan Times writes,

“A relentless barrage of stories focused on how senior politicians, including Abe, met with the church representatives, but failed to provide the context that politicians everywhere routinely associate with interest groups, particularly those with money.”

The paper points out that “ties” often meant little more than attending a meeting or shaking hands.

Communist front of activist lawyers

Masumi Fukuda
Masumi Fukuda. Photo: FOREF

Award-winning Japanese writer Masumi Fukuda, recognized for her investigative journalism, shows exactly how the assassination of Shinzo Abe was used for political gain. In several articles in the monthly magazine Hanada from December 2022 to March 2023, she reveals how a leftwing group of activist lawyers managed to paint the picture that it was the Unification Church that was to blame for the assassination.

Fukuda writes,

“Almost all of the lawyers in the Network were affiliated with the former Socialist Party and the Communist Party, who strongly opposed the enactment of the Anti-Espionage Law, were connected with extremist groups and North Korea, and were ideologically leftists and self-styled atheists. In contrast, the former Unification Church is an anti-communist and conservative organization that opposes atheism.

It is clear that this was an ideological battle between the two camps. Attorney Hiroshi Yamaguchi also clearly stated, ‘We want to make a big public announcement [about ‘spiritual sales’] because it will be good for containing right-wing activities, especially for preventing the passing of the Anti-Espionage Law.’” (Hanada)

Hiroshi Yamaguchi, excusing terror
Hiroshi Yamaguchi. Photo: Bitter Winter

The bulk of the content in the Le Monde Diplomatique article comes from this leftwing network of activist lawyers (National Network of Lawyers Against Spiritual Sales). Eito Suzuki, a campaign journalist associated with the network – known as the most vicious anticult-journalist in Japan – is given prominent space. The executive director Hiroshi Yamaguchi is quoted extensively. Nowhere is it mentioned that the network is a communist front and producer of anti-religious propaganda.

The same Fukuda also discloses that the network of lawyers for nearly thirty years was deeply involved in abducting and confining members of the Unification Church,

The logo of Monthly Hanada

“There were lawyers who became rich through these cases, as did deprogrammers and Christian pastors involved in the abductions, who received substantial amounts of money from the relatives of the believers they deprogrammed. When the lawyers were consulted by the believers’ parents, they first introduced them to the deprogrammers.

Yoshifu Arita
Yoshifu Arita. License: CC ASA 3.0 Unp. Cropped

If and when deprogramming was successful, the lawyers took over from the deprogrammers as ‘handlers’ of the former believers, made them plaintiffs, and filed lawsuits. The anti-Unification-Church group, including Attorney Kito and journalists Yoshifu Arita, and Eito Suzuki, still defends deprogramming to this very day, and claims it was performed to ‘protect’ the former members of the Unification Church.” (Hanada)

In another article, Fukuda writes,

“The Network would not hesitate to use all means to destroy the former Unification Church. They are willing to tell all sort of stories, including lies, to achieve what they believe is a righteous purpose. They often throw the words “anti-social” and “cult” at the former Unification Church, but considering their involvement in the abduction and confinement of believers, one may wonder whether they are not more deserving of these labels themselves.” (‘Sayuri Ogawa’: When ‘Apostates’ Slander the Unification Church. 5. Why the Story Is Not Believable, Bitter Winter 6th March 2023)

Judging by their article, one may certainly wonder if there are elements within Le Monde Diplomatique who also support confining and deprogramming believers, like the fellow communists within the Chinese Communist Party do, brainwashing more than a million Uyghurs in “reform camps”.

Anticult academic

Another “expert” Le Monde Diplomatique gives ample space to, is Yoshihide Sakurai. He is considered an anticult academic, and said to be the Japanese version of Stephen Kent, a Canadian professor emeritus of sociology of religion, who has worked closely with anticult groups. Yet, Sakurai’s anticult sympathies are not mentioned at all by the French monthly. He is simply presented as a “professor of sociology”.

Hiding essential facts

An old trick of campaigning journalism or advocacy journalism of the sort that Le Monde Diplomatique exhibits here, is to hide key facts. The result is half-truths, the part that profits you the most. Eito Suzuki is presented as an expert journalist. The fact that he is associated with a radical leftwing network of activist lawyers is hidden. The same trick is employed throughout the article.

Mixing facts and claims

Another trick is to mix facts with suppositions, claims and opinions. Already the headline of the French version “Japan in the Clutches of the Moon Cult” (Le Japon dans les rets de la secte Moon), we see the tendentious tone of the entire content. This is not factual reporting, but a wild claim. For those who know European history, it is certainly reminiscent of the myth of the Jewish conspiracy to take over the world.

Inflammatory allegations

The same type of wild claims we see in another inflammatory allegation (in the French version) “the cult lures people into its nets.” (la secte attire les gens dans ses filets). Just as incendiary is “the infernal cycle of donations then began” (Le cycle infernal de dons se met alors en route). Or consider: “The cult has extended its tentacles into other parties.” (French version. The English simply says, “The Unification Church’s network extends to other political parties too.”)

False claims

Some of the content doesn’t even qualify as half-truths; there is not even a grain of truth in them. One such false claim is that the ideology of the Unification Church includes Korean nationalism. Fact is that the movement is emphasizing international marriage and the love of all nationalities and people of all skin colours. All nations ought to serve other nations and the world, and not pursue their own interests selfishly.

Many other false claims appear in the part about Sayuri Ogawa (pseudonym – merely presented as a 26-year old in the English version). Le Monde Diplomatique (French version) even admits that she suffered from “mental disorders” (de troubles psychologiques). One might expect a serious publication to refrain from publishing grand statements from a mentally unstable person.  Fukuda investigated Ogawa’s claims extensively, and concluded,

“Her parents’ testimony and the ‘Hanada’ magazine’s investigation clarified that what Sayuri told the media may not conceivably be true.” (‘Sayuri Ogawa’: When ‘Apostates’ Slander the Unification Church. 5. Why the Story Is Not Believable, Bitter Winter 6th March 2023)

Le Monde Diplomatique claims that the family of Abe’s assassin had been ruined by huge donations. In the French version, not a word is said about the family being devastated already when the father committed suicide – a long time before the mother met the Unification Church. The French text omits the suicide and simply says that she lost her husband.

The French text may easily be read as if the terrorist was involved with the Unification Church for thirty years: Yamagami recalls “trente ans d’histoire entre [lui] et l’Église de l’unification” (thirty years of history between [him] and the Unification Church). The fact is that according to church records he was never a member.

The article also claims that the Unification Church is pressuring members to make large donations. This is a standard allegation from the anticult movement. The above-mentioned Dr. Massimo Introvigne criticizes such a claim, saying,

Dr. Massimo Introvigne
Dr. Massimo Introvigne. Photo: FOREF

“In its general principles, the Unification Church’s theology of donations is surprisingly similar to its Catholic and Protestant counterparts. […]
Ultimately, the problem is theological and philosophical. For a believer, donations may be deep spiritual experiences. For an atheist, or somebody who believes that groups such as the Unification Church are not “real” religions, no caution would be good enough, and no donation would ever be recognized as the fruit of a free and reasonable choice.” (The Abe Assassination. Donations to the Unification Church: Separating Facts from Fiction, Bitter Winter 3rd Sept. 2022)

Aggressive hate rhetoric

One curious aspect of the story published by Le Monde Diplomatique is that the French version is much more aggressively negative to the Unification Church than the English version. Could it be related to the fact that the French state has its own anticult movement? Just like communist China. That may well create a climate where the kind of aggressive hate rhetoric and anticult propaganda that the French monthly displays, is allowed.

Text: Knut Holdhus

Featured image above: The building of “Le Monde diplomatique” in Berlin-Kreuzberg; Rudi-Dutschke-Strasse/Charlottenstrasse. Photo: Fridolin freudenfett / Wikimedia Commons. License: CC ASA 4.0 Int. Cropped


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