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Strong Left-wing Bias in Sensationalist Article

Weekly Bunshun April 26, 2024, p14-15

Japanese Weekly Bunshun basing sensationalist reporting on strong left-wing bias

Assassinated on 8th July 2022. Here, former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe some months earlier, in March 2022. Photo: English: United States Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel / Wikimedia Commons. Public domain image. Cropped

Ever since the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe by Tetsuya Yamagami (山上 徹也) in July 2022, media outlets have attempted to sit down with Yamagami’s mother for an interview. The first known instance of details about his mother being presented by the media, was two weeks after the murder, when she and Yamagami’s younger sister were seen taking a taxi to an estate in the mountains owned by one of Yamagami’s uncles, presumably to avoid being hounded by the media.

Shukan Bunshun with left-wing bias
The logo of the Shukan Bunshun. Public domain image

However, on 26th April 2024, Shukan Bunshun (Weekly Bunshun), a large magazine known for investigative journalism and sensationalist reporting, published a lengthy report titled “100 minutes of direct questions to Tetsuya Yamagami’s mother”.

The Weekly Bunshun is well-known for its sensationalist headlines and narratives that often portray subjects negatively as well as disregarding balanced reporting in favour of grabbing the attention of the reader.

And such a description of Weekly Bunshun is spot on when it comes to its report on the mother of the assassin.

The magazine writes,

“However, as the Bunshun magazine continued to visit Mrs. A’s apartment daily, despite her cautious demeanor, she began to open up reluctantly. Over the course of 100 minutes, Tetsuya Yamagami’s mother shared what was weighing on her heart.”

Shukan Bunshun claims that it interviewed the mother of the assassin for 100 minutes. This is an assertion typical of half-truths. It seems like a feat to have managed to talk to her for more than one and a half hour. But judging by the content of the report, the reporter, or maybe several reporters, had been dogging her.

The Weekly Bunshun admits the mother had an unfavourable impression of the magazine. Journalists managed to obtain her address and literally pestered her by going there every day. The keen reader easily gets the impression that the so-called interview consists of a series of small verbal exchanges with the mother that took place over a longer period of time, whenever the reporters got some feedback from her during their persistent dogging of the old lady. The magazine writes,

“She has hardly responded to media inquiries before, and when approached by the magazine a month after the incident, she simply said, ‘It’s irrelevant,’ and has since remained silent. However, as the weekly magazine continued to visit Mrs. A’s apartment day after day, her vigilance began to seep out.”

The reporter is certainly trying his best to paint a negative picture of Yamagami’s mother, called Mrs. A by the magazine. Even though she had nothing to do with the assassination, she gets the blame. Weekly Bunshun describes her as, “The mother who triggered the madness in Yamagami”, and as being “closely related to the motive for the crime.”

Japan with Osaka
Japan with Osaka prefecture highlighted. Illustration: Wikimedia Commons. Public domain image

But the Japanese magazine has a rather weak case here. Further down the article it is pointed out that the “madness” in the assassin may well have other causes. It says,

“Mrs. A gave birth to her second son, Tetsuya, on September 10, 1980. At that time, the couple lived in a detached house in Osaka Prefecture, but they suffered from a series of family tragedies from the beginning of their marriage. The year after Tetsuya was born, Mrs. A’s mother, who was her emotional support, passed away from leukemia at a young age.

Furthermore, in 1984, her husband, whose alcoholism worsened, jumped from the roof of a condominium. Two months later, Mrs. A gave birth to her third child (Tetsuya’s younger sister), but around the same time, her eldest son was diagnosed with childhood cancer. Due to the effects of chemotherapy, her eldest son lost vision on one side of the eye site.”

Those tragedies happened many years before Mrs. A met the Unification Church, which according to Weekly Bunshun is largely to blame for the tragic fate of the Yamagami family.

Because of her beliefs in the Family Federation, she is portrayed as a fanatic, even though the reporter presents little evidence for such a claim.

The reporter is obviously strongly biased. The magazine writes,

“The journalist felt a sense of discomfort with Mrs. A’s self-assessment, which showed no introspection about her own fanaticism.

Kazuo Shii: communism behind persecution
In Nov. 2022 interview, Kazuo Shii, chairman of the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) said the party is fighting the “final war” against the Family Federation / Unification Church. Here Shii on 30th March 2023. Photo: Attribution: 首相官邸ホームページ / Wikimedia Commons. License: CC Attr 4.0 Int. Cropped

The Weekly Bunshun seems to have completely swallowed the narrative of left-wingers and the Japanese Communist Party, which according to their leadership for obvious political reasons is engaged in a final battle with the Family Federation.

According to this narrative, echoed by the Weekly Bunshun – and a group of activist leftwing lawyers – Mrs A’s relationship to her son turned terrorist, is the key to understanding his motive. The magazine writes,

“Despite the significant impact of the incident on society, Tetsuya Yamagami’s mother, who plays a crucial role in understanding the motive behind the crime, remains silent. Why does Mother A continue to believe in the Unification Church? And has the assassination attempt on former Prime Minister Abe led to any change in her ‘brainwashing’? The key to unraveling these mysteries lies in the harsh and tumultuous life that Yamagami and his mother have experienced together.”

A narrative pointing solely to Mrs A, a member of the Family Federation, is of course ideal for taking the focus away from another narrative, which point to a very different motive.

Occasionally, bits and pieces of this radically different story emerges, as when Shukan Bunshun on 19th August 2023 published confessions made by the relatives of Tetsuya Yamagami.

According to the narrative of the activist leftwing lawyers, Yamagami could not enter university because of a difficult economic situation created by the mother’s large donations to the Unification Church. But according to Shukan Bunshun,

“Tetsuya took entrance exams for various universities, but was only accepted at Nara Sangyo University, which was not the school of his choice, so he chose not to go to university.”

Masao Adachi in 1967
Masao Adachi (1939-), film producer, scriptwriter, actor and member of Japanese Red Army. Photo (1967): 映画評論社 / Wikimedia Commons. Public domain image. Cropped

This other narrative points directly quite far left. Soon after the assassination of Shinzo Abe, a former Japanese Red Army member Masao Adachi (足立 正生) directed and produced a fictional-biographical film called “Revolution+1” about Yamagami, premiered in smaller theatres throughout Japan the day before Abe’s state funeral. In the film, Yamagami is portrayed as a terrorist hero. Some theatres cancelled the screening after receiving many complaints about justification of terrorism. Yamagami himself had said before the assassination that he was starting a revolution. And he has been praised openly by many communists after his act of terror.

A logo used by Palladium Magazine
A logo used by the Palladium Magazine.

The Red Army connection also appears in other media. The San Francisco-based Palladium Magazine, the flagship publication of American Governance Foundation, writes that Yamagami’s father was a student at the Faculty of Engineering at the elite Kyoto University. (Article 2nd Feb. 2023 headlined ‘Yamagami Tetsuya’s Revenge)

Cyzo logo
Logo of the Japanese daily web magazine Cyzo.

There, he became acquainted with revolutionary communism. According to an article by editor Masahiko Motoki in the daily web magazine Cyzo 26th July 2022, he was a good friend of Yasuyuki Yasuda, who studied architecture and became a Japanese Red Army militant, shot dead while carrying out a terrorist attack at Lod Airport in Tel Aviv 30th May 1972. Cyzo wrote,

“During his [Yamagami’s father] time at Kyoto University, he was a mahjong [Oriental tile game] friend with Yasuyuki Yasuda, who later died in the Tel Aviv airport shooting.”

There have been several claims that Yamagami was not able to single-handedly construct his home-made gun used to assassinate Abe. He must have had one or more persons assisting him. Who? The obvious answer would be some like-minded person. And there are obvious indications that such a person might belong to the far left.

In addition to all this, we know that the Japanese Communist Party is the largest communist party in the democratic world with its close to 300,000 members. For 50 years the party has been fighting methodically to eliminate the Unification Church, now called the Family Federation.

Besides describing Mrs A as a fanatic, the Weekly Bunshun also portrays her motherly heart, writing that she has been trying again and again to meet with her son in jail. She has, however, been continuously denied to see him. In spite of this she continues to make the effort to try to get to see him.

The magazine reports,

“A Ministry of Justice official reveals, ‘Once a month, Mrs. A visits the Osaka Detention Center where Yamagami is held. Every month, she applies for a meeting with her son, but Yamagami has consistently refused, and they have never met. Each time Mrs. A is denied a visit, she leaves behind a handwritten letter.’”

The magazine describes the situation of the assassin,

“Yamagami, who was once praised as a sharpshooter during his time in the Maritime Self-Defense Force, is being detained in the Osaka Detention Center.”

Featured image above: Facsimile from Weekly Bunshun 26th April 2024, page 14-15

“Strong Left-wing Bias in Sensationalist Article” – text: Knut Holdhus

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