Occidentalism
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Plunge’s folly

October 4th, 2006 . by Matt

Curzon over at Coming Anarchy has a post called “Is fluency in a language required for regional expertise?” Go and read what Curzon had to say before you read this.

I do not think that language ability is important in discussing broad political trends, but it is important if you want to get down to the nitty gritty and analyse a society. Knowing the language will also help avoid what I call ‘plunges’s folly’. Plunge’s folly occurs when one completely lacks knowledge of the target language (along with the cultural knowledge that usually comes with it), and results in the faulty analysis of a society.

Here is the post from Plunge Pontificates that really spells out why language knowledge is required for intelligent discussion of local issues.

In a post called ” Japan’s Morals Continue to Decay at the Expense of Women”, Plunge quotes this article from the English edition of MDN news. This post was part of a series of posts designed to prove Japan’s ‘Moral Decay’.

Large numbers of Japanese women are falling victim to teams of sneaky men who run up behind them, rip down their undies and then send footage of the attack throughout the world via the Internet, according to Shukan Jitsuwa (5/25).

“These movies of guys lifting up women’s skirts and even tearing down their panties are spreading everywhere. At first, I thought they were all set-ups, but the footage with the women shocked at what they’ve just been put through is actually all real,” a writer on Japan’s underground DVD market tells Shukan Jitsuwa. “They’re all underground movies, so the faces and other parts you see are all real. And it’s the horrified reaction of these women that’s apparently the biggest turn-on for the perverts who are into this kind of thing. They’re really popular.”

Naturally, the women being targeted for these heinous productions are outraged. And, with about 30 women being targeted for every DVD filled with footage of the attacks on sale, there are many people being victimized.

“There are currently five DVDs on the market that specialize in Panty Dropping. Simple math suggests that at least 150 women have been targeted indiscriminately if each movie has 30 victims,” the writer says.

The method the filmmakers are using is simple. Film crews are made up of at least two people — one who operates the camera, and the other who actually does the shedding. Crews pick a target and follow her until they find what they consider to be the right spot, then one of the men races up behind her, whips up her dress, rips down her underwear and speeds off into the distance, with the whole episode over in a matter of seconds.

Plunge’s reaction to the article is –

This disgusts me. Track em all down, the ones that do it, the ones that film it, the ones that sell it, the ones that buy it… all of them. Put them in pit and leave them there.

And –

There has got to be a way to track these guys down. I mean, they are selling this crap. They are filming it. There has got to be a way!!!

Unfortunately, the article the Plunge quoted came via a soft porn magazine. If Plunge had Japanese language fluency (or any Japanese ability at all), he would have known that and not taken the article so seriously. On his comments section I decided to let him know about his error. First I asked him a question that is relevant to the theme of “Is fluency in a language required for regional expertise”.

I wrote –

Question: Why do you write about Japanese social issues you have no first hand knowledge about? It is one thing to write about political stuff, territorial disputes etc, and another to write about social issues that you have never experienced and likely do not even care about, beyond trying to paint Japan as an abnormal country.

I added –

Addition: In your salacious, eager haste to make Japanese look bad, you have quoted the “Shukan Jitsuwa” via MDN waiwai, which are both basically softporn with tales of mothers giving their sons blow jobs. There is a moral problem here, but it is with your monomaniacal desire to find ‘evidence’ that gels with your prejudice towards Japanese people.

That should be enough to get someone to investigate and try to validate their information. Instead Plunge replied –

From the guy who likes to comment on Korean’s behavior with topics like ‘finger chopping wacky.’ Or would you try to defend those posts as ‘political’ and fair game? All of this is intermingled. Social decay, moral decay and lack of character directly affect a nation and is worthy of comment.

Matt, recently what I have been commenting on is the continued moral decay in Japan and the way it is affecting society. Instead of looking at the issue, you’d rather make comments about the blogger. Does this mean you accept such things as normal, just part of Japanese society and not worthy of being commented on? I’m finding the comments of bloggers and those that read blogs almost as disturbing as the articles themselves. Take the recent posting on Japundit about the 9 year old pin up. You actually have people trying to defend it. I find it digusting and repugnant. So, I’ll continue to comment on it and blog about it.

People on Japundit where Plunge commented were also questioning his ideas concerning the article. Plunge responded to his critics on Japundit in this way

Oh please, give me a freakin break. The problem is that certain right-wing-japan-loving-japan-can-do-no-wrong bloggers and blog readers can’t handle a post that says anything other than Japan is perfect. A perfect example is your disingenuous characterization of my blog and what it is about. Keep it up though. I’m sure your puppet masters are pleased.

Of course, the article was false, and Plunge finally admits it to be, but not without the input of people (like myself) that do actually have language fluency.

So I would say for social commentary, local language fluency is essential. Like Curzon, I notice many instances of Plunge’s folly in the media about issues concerning Japan.


21 Responses to “Plunge’s folly”

  1. comment number 1 by: ponta

    These movies of guys lifting up women’s skirts and even tearing down their panties are spreading everywhere.

    It takes a lot of imagination and bias to believe it.
    In this case , I am not sure even language fluency was needed, what was needed is just common sense.
    And whether this is real makes difference in the argument for moral decay in Japan.

    One might argue
    (1)this kind of things happening everywhere in Japan is moral decay of Japan
    (2)pornography of this kind is a symptom of moral decay.

    (1) is not true if this is not happening in reality.
    (2) can be true without (1) being true .but it needs to be reinforced by further discussion, like the argument that the pornography for private use is moral decay or something like that.

    Anyway I need to be careful myself when I criticize other countries.

  2. comment number 2 by: jodi

    While knowing the language is definately a huge advantage I don’t believe it is necessary to being an “expert” because there are ways around it when doing academic research without losing one’s expertise. One way a lot of scholars get around the language problem is by partnering up with someone who is fluent in the language and sharing responsibility of the research.

    If you read a lot of academic journals, especially regarding China, it is not at all uncommon to see that one of the authors is fluent in Mandarin and that one of the responsibilities of that person is to do the field work for example (ie. interviewing and stuff) while the other author(s) will analyze the data and contribute in other ways without compromising their “expertise” in the project. Their lack of Mandarin does not at all diminish or disregard their knowledge on the topic at hand. (And if it’s good enough to be published in an academic journal, it’s gonna be a hard case to prove they aren’t “experts” per se.)

    For example, there are a lot of scholars out there who are not fluent in Mandarin but would very much qualify as experts in the field of Chinese economic development due to experiences in China, joint research with Mandarin-speaking partners, and just reading the massive amounts written in English about the topic.

    I would think that knowing English is probably more advantageous than you give it credit for because a lot of stuff is written or translated into English.

    As for Plunge’s mistake, part of it could be the language disadvantage but what about cultural ignorance?

    For example, I am not fluent in Korean, but I know enough about Korea or whatever to realize that anything quoted from the Hankyoreh is going to be left-leaning. I also know anything written in the American publication The Onion is going to be a joke. It’s all based on cultural awareness.

    I’m not convinced Plunge’s lack of Japanese put him into the hole he fell into. I would be more apt to blame it on cultural ignorance in this case. Even Japanese language knowledge may not have saved him since he relied on an English version.

    I am not, however, disregarding the value of knowing another language and the advantages it brings a person. I do not, howver, think it is a qualification one needs in order to analyze a culture or society intellectually or to be considered an “expert” in the field. Experts not fluent in the language of a certain society do have alternatives such as a wide network of connections to folks who can speak the langauge and co-work with them on a project.

    Also, as I said before, knowing English is also a huge advantage for the linguistically untrained. There are so many things written and translated into English that it perhaps has retarded English speakers’ progress in learning a foreign langauge (which is unfortunate).

  3. comment number 3 by: BananaBoi

    I simply refuse to believe there is a moral decay in Japanese society because of a few hentai men dropping girls panties on the streets. Plunge is creating a storm in the teacup by nit picking isolated incidents of anti-social behaviours. Nice try Plunge but no cigar for you! 😛

  4. comment number 4 by: Schopenhauer

    Only someone outright looking for anything and any reason to attack Japan could possibly believe that a wave of women having their skirts pulled down on film was occuring. It takes not only linguistic, but also cultural ignorance combined with prejiduce and a strange naivety. Here is some groundbreaking news Mainichi WaiWai is a scandal rag! Its a good lesson to learn that the news you see on the train and read in English is not always reputable. Which he would know if he really did care about the issue. He doenst care about the issue however, only how to attack Japan. Admittedly though, even the Japanese tend to be way more pessimistic than necessary about their society and country …..

    Oh and congradulations to the people who made those videos! You are the ones that really did your job well, you actually got some more suckers to think those videos were real!

  5. comment number 5 by: smackout

    Who invented panties seal wrapped in vending machine!?
    Hmm

  6. comment number 6 by: YoungRocco

    Bananboi:

    How are you enjoying your Chuseok weekend?

    I simply refuse to believe there is a moral decay in Japanese society because of a few hentai men dropping girls panties on the streets.

    I agree, Hentai alone is not indicative of moral decay in Japan.

    However, there are other acts that reveal a serious moral laxity in modern Japan:

    http://mdn.mainichi-msn.co.jp/features/news/20060917p2g00m0fe001000c.html

    Which is worse? The crime itself, or the decades of cover-up?

    Take Care.

  7. comment number 7 by: ponta

    Youngrocco
    What your article show is not moral decay in modern Japan but moral conscience is working in Japanese society.
    There was a crime, the criminal tried to cover it up.
    The incident was revealed.
    It was taken up Japanese media.
    And here is an old woman who suggests that the incident as we know it is not all there is to it.
    Japanese media bought it up.
    The government pledged to investigate.
    What is wrong with it in view of morality?

    On the other hand, I can not feel but hypocritical nature of Korea society where they keep blaming the past wrongs Japan did , for which Japan apologized, while ignoring the past injustice South Korea did, and the enormous evils that is present and apparent being done by North Korea.
    I asked you to name the incidents done by South Korea after WWⅡ,where civilians were killed. You remain silent about it. Either you are not informed or you are afraid of telling them because other Koreans bash you if you do thatーーーis that it?
    Which is worse?
    One is that the media takes up the crimes and the government pledge to investigate, and another is that people are left ignorant about its bloody history and the present bloody situation and people are made, by media control and the government orientation and so on , to turn their eye to the past wrongs that other nations did and hate them.
    Plunge loves Korea ーーーbut I am afraid, in the wrong way. I am afraid Plunge was a victim of such a society. I hope you are not.

  8. comment number 8 by: tomato

    Junk videos, DVDs and magazines are just proof that Japan is a full-fledged free-minded society. Without junk, there would be no rich popular culture. It’s amazing some nations just can’t understand what “freedom of expression” implies. You can’t just take the goodies and throw out the junk.

    Countries with governments that go around and prohibit what they think are “junk” are…well, to say it nicely, troubled. They tend to lack real rich popular culture, and the society becomes rigid and strained. Innovation stops. No wonder why there is constant influx of people immigrating from you know where to the US, Australia and even Japan!

  9. comment number 9 by: wiesunja

    No wonder why there is constant influx of people immigrating from you know where to the US, Australia and even Japan!

    Hahaha…I love this. Even the most virulent, dog-like Korean bigoted nationalists (who are actually just inferiority complex harboring sad idiots who realize their country is pathetic but hate to admit it) have no rebuttal to this fact even after screaming about how superior their race and blood is. The truth hits them hard like a train as they know that while their countrymen leave Korea in droves dying to escape the hell hole lifestyle, noone in their right mind would ever think about immigrating to a 3rd world dump like the land of the morning “calm”…cough cough.

  10. comment number 10 by: chonko

    Hi Young Rocco,

    I applaud that brave woman in the article, and all of the people who read that article in my office said how impressed they are with how open the Japanese media is for printing a story openly which discusses a dark part of their past. On the other hand, in Korea, you would never be able to see this as we know how Korea hates to have any of its ugly and dirty secrets to be exposed. They just do what they are best at which is cowardly and sneakingly coverning up the ugly truth of its wartime attrocities in Vietnam, Tsushima, etc. as well as the present barbaric acts committed by N. Korea. Oh, every single 3rd grader in Korea can name the two girls who were accidentally run over by the US Army tank, but when asked to name the sailors who who was killed in the naval skirmish with a N.Korean ship back during the 2002 even the Prime Minister of Korea could not name a single one. Yep, typical Korea..lets totally ignore our own faults/evils but lets totally beat a dead horse in finding the most miniscule of foreign countries’ negatives.

    By the way, it looks like perhaps there is some hope for all. Too bad you will never see this article in an actual Korean newspaper. (The truth?? Hush hush! We cannot dare show anything which portrays our superior race of people as being bad!)

    http://english.chosun.com/w21data/html/news/200312/200312210026.html

  11. comment number 11 by: Matt

    Hey weisunja, please stop using animal analogies in relation to Koreans. Thanks.

  12. comment number 12 by: BananaBoi

    YoungRocco,

    I have to give two thumbs up to the Japanese Government, Health Ministry, Japanese media and especially former nurse Toyo Ishii. Without her recount of the tragic incident, the world will not know that beneath the apartment blocks may lie more dead bodies of PoWs (may God bless their souls)

    I urge you to cease using red herring tactics and stay on topic at hand.

    btw…I am eating a moon cake while I’m typing this. Hope you are enjoying your Chuseok weekend!

  13. comment number 13 by: YoungRocco

    Gentlemen:

    How are you doing?

    Your comments on Korea are interesting.

    But they are completely off topic. Remember, this is article is about moral decay in Japan. When Matt, Mr. Bevers, or Darin decide to put up a post about moral decay in Korean society we can discuss Korea at that time.

    What your article show is not moral decay in modern Japan but moral conscience is working in Japanese society.

    Indeed, moral conscience is working. The only problem is that it is working 60 years too late. Why did this woman wait until 2006 to reveal crimes that occurred in 1945?

    The government pledged to investigate.

    I’m sure it did. The only problem here is that there is a conflict of interest. Keep in mind that the government is investigating not only the crimes committed against POW’s but it own decades of cover-up. It is doubtful whether the government will investigate this horrible incident in an objective manner.

    Do remember that the Japanese Government, unlike Germnay, still refuses access to thousands of pages of documents concerning WWII:

    Reference: http://www.nesa.org.uk/html/unit731.htm

    Chonko:

    Interesting link. But keep in mind that South Korea is the first country in Northeast Asia to write a law protecting migrant workers.(Aco Concerning Employment Permit for Migrant Workers) This is definitely a move in the right direction for Korea.

    On the other hand, there is no such law protecting migrant workers in Japan.

    Tomato:

    Countries with governments that go around and prohibit what they think are “junk” are…well, to say it nicely, troubled.

    Indeed. This is why you should urge your government to come clean with records documenting the attrocities committed by unit 731 during the Second World War. The Japanese scientists and government officials involved in these crimes must take responsibility for what they have done.

    Don’t allow the Japanese government to continue prohibiting information on its war crimes.

    Gentlemen, enjoy the rest of your day.

  14. comment number 14 by: ponta

    Remember, this is article is about moral decay in Japan.

    No the topic is not moral decay in Japan, you changed it because you, a Korean person, want to talk about moral decay in Japan for some reason. just as Plunge, a victim of Korean society wanted to demonize Japanese while ignoring the injustice that is going on in Korea.

    The topic is you need language skill to understand other culture otherwise you host nation’s influence give you heavy bias on what you are writing.

    Indeed, moral conscience is working.

    I am glad you agreed.

    Interesting link. But keep in mind that South Korea is the first country in Northeast Asia to write a law protecting migrant workers.(Aco Concerning Employment Permit for Migrant Workers) This is definitely a move in the right direction for Korea.

    I am glad to hear that. However, the law is often just a guidance in Korea, it is often said.From mobile sex to group sex, Korean sex industry thrives despite—or because of—Special Law So be careful.

    Don’t allow the Japanese government to continue prohibiting information on its war crimes.

    I agree.
    Why don’t you start your own business?

  15. comment number 15 by: tomato

    Don’t allow the Japanese government to continue prohibiting information on its war crimes

    Just because S Korea does things like that, it doesn’t mean that Japan is doing it, too. Be careful in careless speculations and jumping conclusions…even though I understand you coming from an authoritarian and ultranationalistic state.

  16. comment number 16 by: ponta

    Be careful in careless speculations and jumping conclusions…even though I understand you coming from an authoritarian and ultranationalistic state.

    I called national diet library. In principle every resouce is free to read as long as the right to privacy is not violated.
    rule
    And if you want to know about 731 troops, there are many
    sites
    and books
    in Japanese.
    In this sense, language might be essential to know what is going on in the targeted country.
    As tomato says, just because Korea Blocks Pro-Japanese Websites, it does not mean Japan is doing it.

  17. comment number 17 by: randomcow

    haha – Youngrocco you really are a classic! First Matt posts about Plunge who quotes a story in the MDN Wai Wai which ends up being bullshit. Then you go and quote THE EXACT SAME NEWSPAPER in order to bolster up your point of view.

    And it’s not the first time you have used flimsy evidence to back up your flimsy claims either. Along with the MDN Wai Wai, you might want to exclude the wikipedia articles with an obvious pro-Korean bias in future.

    Indeed, moral conscience is working. The only problem is that it is working 60 years too late. Why did this woman wait until 2006 to reveal crimes that occurred in 1945?

    I guess we could ask the same question about the alleged comfort women now, couldn’t we? If these prostitutes honestly thought a crime had been committed, where was their moral conscience 60 years ago?

    RC

  18. comment number 18 by: GarlicBreath

    Is youngrocco trying to hijack another thread? How long will this go on.

  19. comment number 19 by: YoungRocco

    Randomcow:

    A pleasure to speak to you once again.

    Randomcow, I would ask that you calm down and keep an even temper.

    If you belive that what you write has merit, then there is not need to yell.

    On the other hand, if you wish to somehow mask a lack of intellectual content, screaming has been to known to work on a few occassions.

    In any event, let me allay your concerns.

    haha – Youngrocco you really are a classic!

    Why, thank you, Randomcow.

    First Matt posts about Plunge who quotes a story in the MDN Wai Wai which ends up being bullshit.

    Refrain from using profanity, young one. Swearing reflects lack of self-control.

    Using profanity could also be misinterpreted as desperation stemming from a losing argument.

    Be careful, Randomcow.

    Then you go and quote THE EXACT SAME NEWSPAPER in order to bolster up your point of view.

    The problem with the article wasn’t so much that it was in the Mainichi Daily, the problem was that the article in the Mainichi Daily linked to an article from a softporn magazine.

    The article that I quoted was not from a softporn magazine.

    If you believe that the article I referenced contains factual errors. Feel free to perform the due diligence necessary to support your belief.

    If you don’t have proof, then what you’ve written to me must be received with the skepticism accorded most errant speculations.

    And it’s not the first time you have used flimsy evidence to back up your flimsy claims either. Along with the MDN Wai Wai, you might want to exclude the wikipedia articles with an obvious pro-Korean bias in future

    You are free to criticize my claims as you see fit. However, the best way to criticize my claims is to engage in rational debate. I believe you are capable of doing so, so why havent you? You seem to prefer using all caps and using profanity. This is unfortunate.

    As for Wikipedia, keep in mind that there are more Japanese language articles on Wikipedia than there are Korean language articles. This would imply that there are a higher number of Japanese who use wikipedia than there are Koreans.

    If you believe that Wikipedia is “pro-korean” I urge you to prove it. Provide examples of pro-korean bias in Wikipedia.

    You might want to keep this in the back of your mind: Just because Wikipedia disproves your misconceptions does not means its “pro-korean.”

    Randomcow, I sincerely want to see you develop into a rationally minded person. Don’t be afraid to speak up. You have nothing to fear from honestly and clearly questioning my views. Don’t feel so intimidated that you hold in your anger and resort to swearing.

    Have an eventful day.

  20. comment number 20 by: YoungRocco

    Ponta:

    How are you doing?

    In principle every resouce is free to read

    But in practice, there are thousands of documents that are restricted.

    One wonders exactly how many skeletons–literal and figurative–might be uncovered if the libraries materials weren’t restricted and censored.

  21. comment number 21 by: ponta

    YoungRocco

    Randomcow:

    A pleasure to speak to you once again.

    Randomcow, I would ask that you calm down and keep an even temper.

    If you believe that what you write has merit, then there is not need to yell.

    On the other hand, if you wish to somehow mask a lack of intellectual content, screaming has been to known to work on a few occassions.

    In any event, let me allay your concerns.

    You look much smarter if you give up this style of writing.
    And remember just because you take thing emotionally it does not follow that others take things emotionally.

    If you believe that the article I referenced contains factual errors.

    I showed you the errors. I call the national diet library,
    In principle nothing prevents you from researching what you want. If you want to prove your point, just give us the name of the document, and show us the fact that you can not read the document in question because the government intervened.The burden of proof is now on you.

    As for Wikipedia, keep in mind that there are more Japanese language articles on Wikipedia than there are Korean language articles. This would imply that there are a higher number of Japanese who use wikipedia than there are Koreans

    Just because there are more articles by Japanese , it does not follow that there are more Japanese users. And in any case, the fact has nothing to do with the reliability of the article related to Korea.

    If you believe that Wikipedia is “pro-korean” I urge you to prove it. Provide examples of pro-korean bias in Wikipedia.

    Nobody is claiming this.
    But it is a fact that Dokdo article is distorted, and evaluation of the colonization is different from the mainstream western specialists.
    Moreover I showed you the article about Kaya in Korea version that omitted the important sources.

    Randomcow, I sincerely want to see you develop into a rationally minded person. Don’t be afraid to speak up. You have nothing to fear from honestly and clearly questioning my views. Don’t feel so intimidated that you hold in your anger and resort to swearing.

    You look much smarter if you stop this way of writing.
    What is the reason for keeping this style of writing despite the warnings by Matt and others? Some deep psychological needs? or you mistakenly think this way of writing strengthen your argument?

    But in practice, there are thousands of documents that are restricted.

    One wonders exactly how many skeletons–literal and figurative–might be uncovered if the libraries materials weren’t restricted and censored

    Hmmm is that so in Korea? I guess you agree with a historian.

    In the South one particular decade—that between 1935 and 1945—is an empty cupboard:millions of people used and abused by the Japanese cannot get records on what they know to have happened to them ,and thousands of Korean who worked with the Japanese have simply erased that history as if it had never happened. Even lists of officials in local genealogical repositories (country histories, for example) go blank on this period(Bruce comings)

    In case of Japan, I showed you the large numbers of links to the sites and books about 731 troop. It is not taboo.

    In this case , it is much better if you understand Japanese to understand
    what is being written on these sites and books., and that is the topic of this thread.
    As a side note, if you are worried about moral decay in Korea, your worry might be legitimate. because she want to blame others while ignoring their own wrongs. I guess a a series your comments is a proof.