Fearing the Obama Effect

By Caryl, Christian; Kashiwagi, Akiko | Newsweek International, November 3, 2008 | Go to article overview

Fearing the Obama Effect


Caryl, Christian, Kashiwagi, Akiko, Newsweek International


Byline: Christian Caryl and Akiko Kashiwagi

Japan blocks most online campaigning--but insurgents are starting to push the rules.

In the summer of 2007 toshiaki kanda, a freelance video journalist, decided to run for the upper house of the Japanese Parliament as an independent--no easy feat in a country where machine politics still rule. But as a techie, Kanda was hoping that he could improve his prospects by harnessing the power of the Internet.

He bet wrong. No sooner had Kanda declared his candidacy than he collided with an election law that banned him from using his Web site to update voters on his campaign. Instead, he had to waste countless hours putting up posters around Tokyo--"the ultimate nonsense," he says wryly. A loophole in the law did allow him to post podcasts daily--but those didn't exactly reach the masses. On election day, he won only a handful of votes

Surprising as it sounds, Kanda's frustrations are fairly typical. The Internet may be transforming political campaigns in other countries, as candidates use it to mobilize supporters and harvest donations. In the United States, Barack Obama has proved a master of the new art and has raised record sums on the Web. Yet campaigning on the Internet still proves virtually impossible in Japan, because the country's political establishment fears the medium's formidable potential for change.

The problem has nothing to do with hardware. Japan is one of the world's most wired countries; 60 percent of its citizens have high-speed broadband and e-commerce is thriving. More blogs are written in Japanese than any other language. Politicians do use the Web for some things--listing schedules or recounting what they had for lunch or, in Prime Minister Taro Aso's case, turgid accounts of the history of his constituency.

Try to use the Internet in an actual campaign, however, and you run into serious obstacles. The first hitch is Japan's 58-year-old election law. (Originally intended for printed matter, the law has been extended to cover virtual material as well.) Once an official campaign has started, candidates are barred from updating their home pages, launching or amending blogs--podcasts are allowed because the law applies only to text or images--posting political statements or sending text messages to mobile phones. Additional regulations prohibit donors from using credit cards online to support candidates, effectively preventing online fundraising.

Then there are the informal restric-tions. Some 80 percent of Japan's broadband infrastructure is owned and operated by a single company, NTT, which has been criticized for using its dominance of fiber-optic networks to undermine competitors who want to offer alternative content. The formerly government-owned company was privatized in 1985, but its managers still retain close ties with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the bureaucracy. (Retired bureaucrats routinely end up with lucrative jobs in the industries they once supervised.) Meanwhile, the all-powerful Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications doesn't just plot the national telecommunications strategy, but also regulates networks--making it a player and a referee, a combination of functions usually separated in other countries. The result is a system critics worry tends to favor the status quo.

As Kim Jung Hoon, a Keio University professor who is lobbying for liberalization of the Japanese Web, puts it, Japan "is ruled by a very stable and old political system. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Fearing the Obama Effect
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.