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Debito on TV

August 20th, 2008 . by Matt

Debito managed to get on TV to complain about police harrassment during the G8 summit.

He claims to have been treated like a terrorist. I listened to the recording he made of the policeman talking to him, and I do not think it was like that at all. Perhaps the police were looking for foreign agitators, but found a naturalised one instead 😉 .

28 Responses to “Debito on TV”

  1. comment number 1 by: LB

    I will give credit where credit is due: he did a lot better with the sound bites (which he doubtless practiced) than he did live and unscripted at the airport (based on what he caught on his Secret Agent Man recorder). It would have been interesting to see him actually trying to answer a question he wasn’t prepped for – I’ve heard him fall apart trying to answer coherently in English.

  2. comment number 2 by: The Overthinker

    Surprised to hear he still has a fairly strong accent. I have noticed that Americans in particular seem to have a strong accent when speaking Japanese. Where is the airport recording available? Probably Debito.org, come to think of it….

    If he wasn’t considered a potential security threat, why was the cop talking to him in the first place? Cops should be trained to be able to spot threats beyond superficial appearance, especially at airports.

  3. comment number 3 by: LB

    Overthinker – hey, I resemble that remark! 😉

    But we got nothin’ on the Aussies if you’re looking for “heavily accented Japanese” (or English, for that matter). 😉

  4. comment number 4 by: ponta.


    Where is the airport recording available? Probably Debito.org, come to think of it….



  5. comment number 5 by: Bryce

    Oddly, I thought that during the press conference he garbled his Japanese more than when he was stopped by the cop. The whole press conference is online.

    In any case, I’m not sure it is worthwhile attacking the man over his spoken Japanese. Many illustrious ‘foreigners’ have lived in adopted countries for many years and never lost their accent. Not to say Debito is illustrious, but his accent is irrelevant.

  6. comment number 6 by: LB

    Bryce, you are correct that his accent is irrelevant. However his Japanese ability or lack thereof is not. He regularly holds forth on what this or that bit of written Japanese means, and has often been found, shall we say, wanting in ability to either understand what he is reading or in being able to convey that to people who cannot read the language by themselves. Actually, sometimes he comes out with explanations or “translations” that he just seemed to grab out of the air. I suspect that was what he really meant when in defending the Wai Wai column he said that it was revealing what Japanese were trying to keep as some “secret code” for domestic consumption only – to him, it is code, and he hasn’t really broken it yet. If not for sources like Wai Wai he would probably be unable to determine what the Japanese were “saying” (if you can call Ryan O’Connell’s fabrications “reporting what the Japanese are saying”).

  7. comment number 7 by: Bryce

    I understand what you are saying, and I have challenged debito on translations in the past (to be precise, it was his insertion of words into his translation of the Police Execution of Duties Law that aren’t there in the Japanese). Nevertheless, there is a difference between speaking and reading. I know people who can read Japanese, but can’t speak it for peanuts. And the same applies to some readers of English. Pointing out the high incidence of translation mistakes is fine, but I’m not sure his lack of total fluency in all situations is relevant.

  8. comment number 8 by: Matt

    Overthinker, he was eyeballing the cop for a while before the cop came over and talked to him. Surely that counts as suspicious (挙動不審)。

  9. comment number 9 by: ponta.

    I don’t care his accent. I don’t care his lack of adequate vocabularies. His speech barely makes sense.
    (My English is no better than his Japanese, his Japanese is as bad as my English)
    What matters is his ability to read and write in Japanese.When he criticizes, he often does it based on misunderstandings. He rarely writes in Japanese when the problem, if there is any, should be discussed among the Japanese.I think that that is the problem.

  10. comment number 10 by: Jerry Billows

    Have you all seen the latest brouhaha on Debito’s blog.

    He’s encouraging his followers to re-edit his Wikipedia entry to include only positive, self-serving information and remove the criticism section and anything which he disapproves or dislikes entirely, despite it being both sourced and verifiable.

    Wow, this public display has the potential to seriously backfire if they actually try it. I think Wikipedia has rules about when and how subjects can edit their own entries, especially when they’re publicly directing others to only include self-serving material from primary sources like Debito.org.

  11. comment number 11 by: KenYN

    Recalling Stephen Colbert’s Wikipedia incident, perhaps we should try to add that the population of “Japanese Only” signs has tripled over the last six months.

    I agree with some of his arguments, such as his daughters shouldn’t be named (but they should of course be mentioned) and as a biography it should list all his books, but when he says things like only other authors of books on Japanese human rights should be quoted he is getting way out of line!

    I also noticed that he seems to have listed it for deletion.

  12. comment number 12 by: Jerry Billows

    I don’t he has listed it for deletion; he’s tagged it for it lack of neutrality (which is a kind of weak accusation).

    I also agree that his kids shouldn’t be named, but his other arguments are really out of line. He’s trying to manage his own article by having Debito.org be *the* source for the entry. That’s going to backfire on him, not to mention add to his already notorious reputation.

  13. comment number 13 by: Matt

    I wonder why Debito’s blog has been used as a source while other blogs are being rejected as sources?

    BTW, there is one thing I can agree with Debito about and that is that wikipedia is horribly biased when it comes to controversial issues. These days I only look at wikipedia for film and video game reviews, which it does very well.

  14. comment number 14 by: ViinatoMoh

    Matt: Because Debito’s blog was written by him – it’s treated like a self-published source by the subject. Self-published blogs written by other people are not used.

  15. comment number 15 by: ViinatoMoh

    BTW Wikipedia does not like relying on self-published sources, so the claims Debito makes in some circumstances cannot be used as there is no third party source to verify the claim.

  16. comment number 16 by: ViinatoMoh

    “BTW, there is one thing I can agree with Debito about and that is that wikipedia is horribly biased when it comes to controversial issues.”

    Matt, which examples in particular?

  17. comment number 17 by: LB

    “I also agree that his kids shouldn’t be named”

    Except the problem here is Debito himself names them on his website here: http://www.debito.org/onsenreport.html

    That is the argument that has gone around on Wiki (read through the discussion section of his page). Wiki is citing Debito’s description of the incident, and on his own website (and I believe in his book) he names his daughters repeatedly, even saying they are the reason he does what he does. Now he’s turning around talking about the possibility of “internet crazies” threatening his daughters but he still names them on his own site.

    I will have to side with Wiki on this one – if the person they are discussing openly names his own family as being part of an issue, it doesn’t make any sense for Wiki in covering that same issue to turn around and refer to them as “persons A and B” while providing a link for verification purposes to a source written by the main protagonist where he names those same people.

  18. comment number 18 by: Matt

    Matt, which examples in particular?

    Kenkanryu on wikipedia. See the talk page too. I posted something on the talk page but nothing ever happens.

  19. comment number 19 by: Jerry Billows

    LB —

    I think the problem is that Debito acknowledges how stupid and irresponsible it was to include the names as part of the story, in his writings, etc., to allow journalists to photograph them together and take their names, and disseminate that information.

    I’m sure you’ll agree that he’s too proud to openly state that he made a mistake by doing this, so he’s just skirting around the issue by talking about BLP isses. That’s fair enough — it was thoughtless to bring his kids into his politics in the first place, but the question really is: should Wikipedia perpetuate his obvious mistake?

    That’s a tough one.

  20. comment number 20 by: Jerry Billows

    I tend to agree that Wikipedia shouldn’t.

  21. comment number 21 by: LB

    Jerry – the problem is Wikipedia cannot not perpetuate his mistake. They supposedly require verification of content on their site. That verification is Debito’s writings, such as his web site, on which still, today, he names his daughters. He may well have made a mistake by dragging them into this (and I think he did, in a big way), he has the ability to go back and edit his writings. He can take down references to his daughters from his site – he has chosen not to.

    So what is Wikipedia to do? Take down the names and say “he took his daughters to the onsen and trouble ensued, so he said to (daughter A) xxx”, with a link to the supporting source material wherein he names his daughters himself? Even if they do that are they not continuing to reveal who his daughters are?

    Now, if Debito took down every reference to his daughters’ names from his site and was somehow able to round up every copy of his book, delete their names from there as well and redistribute the text with redactions, then we might be able to say Wiki should not name the girls either. But he hasn’t, or won’t, or can’t, so Wiki is under no obligation to “un-name” someone Debito names himself.

  22. comment number 22 by: LB

    Oh, and Jerry, I am not sure Debito does realize that. Didn’t he just publish his daughters’ names (or at least the older daughter’s) late last year in his gripping angst-filled drama of going back to the States and confronting his parents? I am pretty sure he named names then too. That would still be on his site somewhere too I’m certain.

    So it is a bit disingenuous of him to demand Wiki stop doing something he himself is doing. But then, that is par for the course in Debito-world.

  23. comment number 23 by: KenYN


    33 hits


    55 hits


    28 hits

    Of course, by kicking up the fuss about his kids being named, threads like this on are only going to make their names more well-known.

  24. comment number 24 by: Jerry Billows

    LB —

    You might be right at all; Arudou might not recognize his mistake because I don’t understand why he doesn’t fix the problems on his own website.

    I checked the archives, and sure enough, Arudou’s recent essay (“Homecoming”) is still on his website for all to read.

    More interesting is the fact that despite his protests to Wikipedia about removing his daughters names (privacy issues), he names his daughters repeatedly in his writings — not to mention libel his own father.

    Don’t know if this pasted link will work, but:


    Thought you might be interested in reading it again. Yes, I think the phrase you’re looking for is “Ironic, isn’t it?” 🙂

    Now, if he could only go back and edit out all of the names there, along with a clarification time stamp, I could finally say, “Well, at least he recognizes his mistake and wants it changed for the better.”

  25. comment number 25 by: The Overthinker

    Just to zip back to the accent thing briefly, I wasn’t *knocking* Debito for having an accent, I merely expressed mild surprise he still had one after so long, and commented that in my experience, Americans in particular seem to find it hard to let go of their accent. That doesn’t apply to Japanese alone, of course. I make no comments regarding his Japanese level, though I was not overly impressed to read on his New Year’s Resolutions for 2007 that he had only read one publication in Japanese for pleasure, and that was a comic book.

    As regards this latest move, the question is, why haven’t the legions of Debito supporters already rewritten it before he stepped in and looked like a whining child (“Mama! The other kids on the playground are saying nasty things about me! And not referencing my website!”)? He blames “editor bias,” though since anyone can edit it, that’s akin to blaming the world.

    Personally I find Wikipedia very useful, if you want to know about Sibelius, for example, or the history of salt. But the more controversial the topic, the more the real information is found in the Discussion pages….

  26. comment number 26 by: Bryce

    I’m glad that the people who edited it put the comments about the n’ger incident in.

    I’m also glad there seem to be rules for accepting minors. Debito is right – websites shouldn’t broadcast the names of minors unless they are public figures in their own right. It’s a lesson he could learn himself.

  27. comment number 27 by: Bryce

    P.S. What happened to the comments? It seemed they were frozen there for a while.

  28. comment number 28 by: john k

    I do recall, at the time, there was a BBC journalist and British Newspaper journalist also given a hard time by the police at the G8…

    I’m told my accent is quite good, but i speak so few words it ain’t tricky to master those i do!!..just wish i could remember more words…doh!

    My mother speaks with a very strong accent when she speaks english, despite living in the UK for more than 50 years…