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Japanese Political Candidates Go Dark Online 91

Posted by kdawson
from the sounds-relaxing-actually dept.
maximus1 writes "A 59-year-old election law prevents Japanese candidates from blogging and twittering during the campaigning window. So, on Tuesday, 1,370 Japanese will stop all online activity. Candidates get a brief slot on public television, usually in the early or late-night hours when few are watching, to make their pitch. The rest of the time is spent campaigning in neighborhoods, walking through the streets, and making speeches outside railway stations. If opinion polls are to be believed, the Aug. 30 election could be the law's last stand. Voter turnout among the young is poor, and some believe it's because the old-fashioned method of campaigning has failed to energize a population that is surrounded by digital media from the day they are born. 'The Internet must be made available for election campaigns as soon as possible,' the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's second-largest newspaper, wrote in a recent editorial."
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Japanese Political Candidates Go Dark Online

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  • by rumith (983060) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @05:23AM (#29116329)
    In Japan, only old people vote.
    • The Ministry of Agriculture noted that.. "The agriculture ministry is now finally in charge of Gundam."
    • In Japan, only old people vote.

      Freedom is being able to have a camera around your neck no matter which country you visit.

      • freedom is being able to have a camera around your neck no matter which country you visit, unless you don't want it there. Also, you get to choose where to point the camera.

        • by Thanshin (1188877)

          freedom is being able to have a camera around your neck no matter which country you visit, unless you don't want it there. Also, you get to choose where to point the camera.

          Is there a time limit? How long do you have to keep the camera for the country to be free?

          Also, is it freedom if you're given a reasonable selection of acceptable targets you can point your camera to?

          The third question is related to William Wallace and possible historical inaccuracies, so I'll leave it for later.

    • Truer than you'd believe. See my essay [google.com] on the problem.

      /self-promotion

    • Isn't that a global trend? It's not like you get anything useful out of voting, like an iPhone or something, right? Why vote?

      Regarding Japan... that is actually one of the plot points of 1990's manga, Sanctuary. [wikipedia.org]
      Everyone should read it. It is one of the things that made Korben Dallas the man he is today.

    • Exactly!

      Perhaps people will eventually learn that as soon as they start ignoring governments those governments become irrelevant to their lives. When there is a majority of people for whom government is irrelevant then governments as a social paradigm will be on the fast track to decline and eventual evaporation.

      The corollary to this is that the mafia only survives on the fear and willingness of their victims to pay protection.

      Edwin

  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @05:28AM (#29116349)
    What an excellent idea. Instead of saturating the media with insincere sound-bites from politicians who are judged more by their hair, makeup and height than their policies or competences, people actually get to meet the individuals they'll be voting for and are able to judge the person who wil represent them.

    Maybe what we need is a news blackout on anything political as soon as an election is called. Make the candidates work for their election and getting comment from real people.. They'll still lie through their teeth, but they'll have to do it up-front and personal, to the voters - which is a much less forgiving environment.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CRCulver (715279)

      Instead of saturating the media with insincere sound-bites from politicians who are judged more by their hair, makeup and height than their policies or competences, people actually get to meet the individuals they'll be voting for and are able to judge the person who wil [sic] represent them.

      People will still have little to judge the politicians on than their personal appearance. It's not like the politicians actually have time to discuss serious policy when they do these neighbourhood walks. It's just sm

      • That is still preferable to seeing each candidate on television for 30 seconds, each of them saying "My opponent is a jerk".
    • Yeah, instead they drive around in even the most remote road with large megaphones blaring the message of dear potential president-sama... I just fucking want to relax in the sweltering heat.
    • by eheien (94444) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @06:25AM (#29116583)

      I'm guessing you don't live in Japan, because if you did you'd probably think otherwise. Unless you like hearing endless parades of megaphone blasting vans, with high pitched voice women screaming nothing but "Please vote for Tanaka! Thank you! Please vote for Tanaka! Thank you!".

      And if you want to talk about judging politicians by their hair, former Prime Minister Koizumi was known as "Lionheart" because of his hairstyle. Most Japanese I've spoken to identify him merely by his hair, and can't name a single policy he enacted. In almost all respects, I'd say the Japanese system is a good example of what to avoid rather than emulate.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        On the contrary, the megaphone vans is an excellent system for weeding out bad candidates.

        In the days before an election, I'd sleep in in the morning, with a notepad next to my bed. Every time I'm awakened by one of those vans, I write the candidate's name on the notepad and go back to sleep. Come election day, I go to the voting booth and pick the best guy on the ballot who is NOT on the notepad. Serves the sleep-disturbing selfish dickwads right.

        • by eheien (94444)

          Hahaha, I've had the exact same thoughts!

        • On the contrary, the megaphone vans is an excellent system for weeding out bad candidates.

          In the days before an election, I'd sleep in in the morning, with a notepad next to my bed. Every time I'm awakened by one of those vans, I write the candidate's name on the notepad and go back to sleep. Come election day, I go to the voting booth and pick the best guy on the ballot who is NOT on the notepad. Serves the sleep-disturbing selfish dickwads right.

          In a related story, I was watching television at about 5PM here in Staffordshire just before the 2007 local elections when I heard one of those vans. This was unusual and annoying as we don't seem to get them much around here (I'd never heard one before, and I've never heard one since). I heard it loud and clear over the television though, telling me to vote for the "Ratepayers' Association" in the coming election. I did vote, I saw their candidates, and did not vote for any of them (I had three votes to gi

          • by Golddess (1361003)
            Kinda makes you wonder, if they know it annoys people, it could be one of the opponents to that person running that van.
            </tinfoil_hat>
      • by Moryath (553296)

        So in essence, what we need is to force the candidates to have debates instead of monodirectional campaigning.

        Right?

      • Unless you like hearing endless parades of megaphone blasting vans, with high pitched voice women screaming

        So long as they play audio from their AV DVDs, I would very much like to hear endless parades of megaphone blasting vans with high pitched voice women screaming.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Rogerborg (306625)

      So, basically you only want career politicians (or students or similar worthless types) to get into office?

      In your scheme, how does someone who's currently working in an actual job find the time to knock on enough doors?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by SydShamino (547793)

        The same problem happens all over the U.S. already, though, through policies enacted by the "enraged public":

        - In Texas, legislators are paid around $30k per year, but can't hold a regular job during lege years. I think you have to be self-employed, independently wealthy, or retired to run and hold office.
        - Across the country, term limits force someone who perhaps left their actual job to immediately start looking for another job. Of course, many companies won't want to hire a regular 8-to

        • by dkleinsc (563838)

          In Texas, legislators are paid around $30k per year, but can't hold a regular job during lege years.

          That's nothing. The New Hampshire House is paid $200 per 2-year legislative term, which leads to a lot of homemakers and retirees in the House. On the flip side, though, each representative has only about 3000 constituents, so it's not hard to contact and influence your state representative (in some cases easier than contacting and influencing municipal officials who can have as many as about 12000 constituents).

    • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @09:57AM (#29118191)

      What an excellent idea. Instead of saturating the media with insincere sound-bites from politicians who are judged more by their hair, makeup and height than their policies or competences, people actually get to meet the individuals they'll be voting for and are able to judge the person who wil represent them.

      Maybe what we need is a news blackout on anything political as soon as an election is called. Make the candidates work for their election and getting comment from real people.. They'll still lie through their teeth, but they'll have to do it up-front and personal, to the voters - which is a much less forgiving environment.

      Right, that way only incumbents will be able to easily get their names in front of people. Even better, then the politicians can pass all the laws that will make people howl during the news blackout. Man, you are a genius, the politicians would love a law like that.

    • With the current method, the politicians reach a very tiny portion of the population indeed; only those who are within ear's reach of the megaphones. They will occasionally appear on designated street corners and preach to the masses, but few, if any, bother to stop and listen, because nobody wants to stand around outside when they've got places to go.

      The Japanese system is very, very broken, and as others have mentioned, the only people who get any kind of face time are those who already have campaign syst

    • "Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power." --Abraham Lincoln
    • No, instead what they do is drive around the city all day in sound trucks festooned with campaign posters, bunting and giant speakers, with the candidate waving from te window an a woman chanting 'Mr. Kanagawa for city council! Please vote for Mr. Kanagawa!' etc over and over again in a sing-song voice at deafening volume. For weeks. It's enough to drive you mad. I'll take political ads any day. At least you can turn the TV off.

  • by BBCWatcher (900486) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @05:28AM (#29116351)
    The law was put in place primarily as an incumbent protection scheme, to prevent those pesky opposition candidates from unnecessarily agitating those pesky voters. Many forms of overt political expression are banned or curtailed. Even billboard advertising, for example, is highly restricted. The law worked: the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has ruled Japan for about 99% of the post-war period. However, on August 30th, the LDP is looking especially past its sell-by date, so it could well be a historic change election.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @05:46AM (#29116431)

      This is definitely not true. The laws which regulate the election advertisements where largely introduced in the 1990s by the LDPs opposing parties. In this time the LDP was for the first time since more than three decades removed from the government by the voters, because of several bribery scandals. The coalition of several other parties then reformed the election system to reduce the power of the LDP. In this reform the laws regulating campaigning before an election where severely tightened.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Abcd1234 (188840)

        Indeed. Specifically, laws which restrict campaign advertising and so forth put the parties on even footing, as otherwise a large incumbent party could easily out-spend and out-advertise the smaller parties.

        Of course, the Internet is a whole other ballgame. Anyone can publish on the web, and so while I can understand the restrictions placed on, for example, TV advertising, they make little sense when applied to the Internet.

      • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @10:02AM (#29118259)

        This is definitely not true. The laws which regulate the election advertisements where largely introduced in the 1990s by the LDPs opposing parties.

        From the summary, "A 59-year-old election law prevents Japanese candidates from blogging and twittering during the campaigning window." I checked the article actually says the same thing. Now according to the math I was taught 1990 was only 29 years ago, so I either the article got it wrong when the law was passed, or you are talking about something other than what the poster you responded to (and both the summary and the article) was.

    • by hoarier (1545701)

      the LDP is looking especially past its sell-by date, so it could well be a historic change election.

      If that happens it would be remarkable, given that the party (MinshutÅ) expected to win is a spin-off from the LDP. Like the LDP it consists of factions, and the two that are by far the largest back members (Hatoyama and Ozawa) who started off in the LDP. Better to think of it as LDP Lite.

      Still, there are alternatives whose success would bring "change" of a sort. There's the distinctive-voiced Matayoshi Jesus [wikipedia.org], who urges harakiri, and there's the Happiness Realization Party [wikipedia.org], run by a guru who's making m

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by JanneM (7445)

        If that happens it would be remarkable, given that the party (MinshutÅ) expected to win is a spin-off from the LDP. Like the LDP it consists of factions, and the two that are by far the largest back members (Hatoyama and Ozawa) who started off in the LDP. Better to think of it as LDP Lite.

        Actually, whatever the faults of the DPJ (and they are legion), there is a great deal of value simply in changing ruling parties at all. The nearly unbroken rule is by now bad for Japan and bad for the LDP as well. Th

        • by hoarier (1545701)

          a summary of the parties and issues at play in the current election here: http://janneinosaka.blogspot.com/2009/07/all-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about.html [blogspot.com]

          An excellent guide. Well done!

          For real in-depth coverage (and I mean in depth) in English, check out Tobias Harris' blog here: http://www.observingjapan.com/ [observingjapan.com]

          Ah yes: "In constituency X, conservative machine politician A leads conservative machine politician B. In constituency Y, conservative machine politician Q leads conservative machine politician P."

          I was nodding off before I reached any "depth".

          • by JanneM (7445)

            Ah yes: "In constituency X, conservative machine politician A leads conservative machine politician B. In constituency Y, conservative machine politician Q leads conservative machine politician P."

            I was nodding off before I reached any "depth".

            You're doing him a disservice. His district-by-district overview isn't meant to be read right through; if you have an interest in a particular race (say, for the district where you live) you can look it up there to get the quick summary.

            If you look through his normal

            • by hoarier (1545701)

              Well, yes, he's conscientious and informative. I'd agree that the final stage in the transition of the Japanese political system from one of conservative/feudal patronage sometimes irritated by union-backed center left to one of rivalry between an organization of conservative/feudal patronage and a spin-off feudal organization of conservatives is one that merits books, PhD theses, and news stories. But somehow this rivalry between two organizations whose primary appeals are (as you perceptively put it) "We

              • by JanneM (7445)

                ..if a growth of irreverence helped put an end to candidates' nervous dependence (in posters, etc) on complete vapidity, so much the better.

                If only that was the only reason. The thing is, all aspects of the election campaign is very tightly regulated in law. I mean, ridiculously so - did you know that there is a maximum number of explanatory pamphlets each candidate is legally allowed to print and distribute, and that the limit is just a fraction of the number of eligible voters in their districts? The post

                • by hoarier (1545701)

                  I didn't know all of that but I did know most. And some I know to be wrong.

                  There's no law that says your election poster must be vapid. Indeed, wingnut candidates (stereo)typically use the space to say what they believe or why you should vote for them, rather than using it to show their neat hairstyle, improbably white teeth, and (until very recently) white gloves. It could be that mainstream parties now think that text of any kind beyond a mere sentence or two carries fatal connotations of wingnuttery. I s

  • Wait, what? (Score:4, Funny)

    by danhm (762237) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @05:31AM (#29116367) Homepage
    Japan outlawed political candidates from using Twitter 59 years ago, eh?
    • by lxs (131946) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @05:57AM (#29116469)

      Well Japan was always ahead of the rest of the world technologically.

    • by Thanshin (1188877)

      Japan outlawed political candidates from using Twitter 59 years ago, eh?

      The original commandment was "Thou shall not tweet".

      At that time it was incorrectly interpreted as "Thou shall not kill", thus the eternal incomprehension of divine messages requesting the slaughter of thousands of heretics.

      • by SEWilco (27983)

        At that time it was incorrectly interpreted as "Thou shall not kill", thus the eternal incomprehension of divine messages requesting the slaught

        Tweeted that for you.

  • The candidates are required to shut up in the last days before election.
    Then I'd like to know how they are enforcing such a constraint in a large country.
    • by pjt33 (739471)

      A politician campaigning for a contested seat can be sure that the other candidates will jump on any public breach of the law.

  • Walking? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Asahi Super Dry (531752) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @06:04AM (#29116501)
    Walking around neighborhoods? More like driving around in vans with obnoxious loudspeakers. The campaign posters are funny, too. It's obvious that they're heavily regulated as to content and layout. Candidate name, picture, office desired, party name, brief generic slogan. It's like the elections are designed to be boring. I'm almost glad I can't vote...
  • by s09 (1457061) on Wednesday August 19, 2009 @06:43AM (#29116659)
    That old law is just prohibiting distribution of documents and figures, and actually some candidates just put audio files on their web and did not get arrested. So, if you want to make some yen, you can launch strictly-sound-only-twitter service.
    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by Mishotaki (957104)
      wait... sound-only delivery service... you mean Podcast?
      • by s09 (1457061)
        Actually, that candidate I mentioned did use Podcast..but you can not follow Podcast like Twitter and you can not find podcast files by searching with names of politicians pronounced in those files. Under the law, during the campaign period, names of their podcast files should not identify their names or policies, because names (or desciption) of such files will likely to be considered as distribution of documents.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Too damn bad that Japanese ban doesn't apply to the US, where STASI-inspired use of the internet has apparently become acceptable.

    Anybody got the balls to put in a FOIA request for all the emails the White House received to that address? Care to take your chances with Chicago thug politics writ large?

    • I sent one in about my ex-wife, hopefully they will nap her.
      J/K, But flag@whitehouse.gov needs to be abused every which way possible.
    • by Hellhog (1617707)
      Nothing like yet another off-topic WAH WAH I'M BEIN' OPPRESSED whine.
  • Perhaps a similar law, probably not as restrictive, could help the US by curbing campaign commercials and excessive bumper stickers and the like.
    • by Zorch43 (1171555)
      Excessive Bumper Stickers? Really?
      • by operagost (62405)
        Yeah, I can't wait until the compliance officers from the Ministry of Conveyance Adornment come around. I hope we don't get into an argument over whether ichthys stickers or "Spongebob" window shades constitute "regulated political speech".
  • by Anonymous Coward

    One of the four parties you can vote for this time is the "happiness realization party"

    http://www.hr-party.jp

    (Actually, it's a scam party, but it will be interesting to see how many votes they get)

  • It should be mandatory that every major network give equal time to every candidate. Maybe a half an hour for each candidate ever few weeks leading up to the election. No stupid debates, simply spell out what they represent, what they want to do, etc. It would be nice to see biographies on each candidate; not personality pieces about how great each guy is, but actually talking about their background, education, what they've done, etc. Obviously, this stuff should all be available on the web, but I think the

    • I is fact.

      I'd also like to see campaign contributions banned. There should be a pool of money provided by the government specifically for campaigning. That money is then equally distributed amongst all the candidates. Fundraising events can still be held but the money should go into the pot and not directly to that candidate.

      Of none of this will ever happen. Politicians will never do anything to limit their power.

      You appear to be saying that if I want to use my money to support a particular candidate (or to oppose a particular candidate), I should not be allowed. What about my time? Is it ok if I tell everyone I talk to why I think they should vote for or against a particular candidate? Is it ok if I send email to everyone on my email list about a candidate?
      Politicians will happily do some of what you suggest, because despite what you appear to think, every form of campaign finance limitation favors the incumbents

    • Then how do you decide who is a candidate and gets a piece of the pie? What if I decide to run for senator in every state just so that I get a few million bucks in campaign stipends. Heck, I'd even spend it all on commercials about how awesome I am, and campaign events where free food is provided to anyone who comes to support me.
      The fact is that campaign fund raising is one way to separate people who are serious about running for elected office from those who really just want attention for some other r
    • by amilo100 (1345883)
      No stupid debates, simply spell out what they represent, what they want to do, etc.

      Dude, debates are good. In a lot of countries the ruling party is scared of debates and thus tries to avoid them. Simply spelling out your policies does not help. A good example is the South African president. He will say (without flinching) that he will root out crime and corruption.

      You really need opposition parties to shed some light on that.

      I'd also like to see campaign contributions banned. There should be a
  • Each party/candidate should get an official homepage where they could go all out however they want to. They should also be required to submit a detailed description of their values, goals and how to get there (then a compendium "Election 2009" would be published containing all these plans for the public to discuss).

    Other than that they should stay the hell out of the media, off the billboards, off the news, off any kind of promotion that can be bought for money.

    Meh...democracies suck. Make me emperor
    • Other than that they should stay the hell out of the media, off the billboards, off the news, off any kind of promotion that can be bought for money.

      So, are you saying that the news should not be able to tell us which politician voted for which law, because that might affect the next election?
      As for other promotion that can be bought for money, are you saying that I shouldn't be allowed to buy air time, or billboard space to promote the candidate of my choice? What about posting my opinion on my blog? If I can buy promotion to support or oppose some candidate, why can't the candidate?
      If I can't buy promotion to support or oppose a candidate, what abo

  • (The stuff in general, but sounds like this specific one too)
    Seems like a classic case of an old law not-really-fitting new situations. Properly adjusting old law to new environment = generally a good idea.

    "surrounded by digital media from the day they are born." Ain't that right, BTW...one of my cousins recently had a baby, and there was Facebookage within the hour. :P

  • The old way of campaigning in japan is also incredibly annoying. I was in Tokyo during some elections a couple years ago, and they were driving around in trucks at 8am blaring campaign slogans or something via loudspeakers.

  • I remember a couple of guys, seems like they were in Minnesota- they were blabbing about a candidate, and it was in the pre-vote window, and they were taken to court....I just don't remember hearing any more.

    Seems like a place known as the citadel for liberty, where "Freedom of Speech" has been made so well known, that we'd never permit such a bill. Or the one coming up where the FCC can decide to re-instate the Fairness Doctrine again and render AM radio worthless. It did, before.

    Without it, this disaster

  • I've been in Japan at election time and the campaigning system is archaic. The local candidate drives around in a car of supporters waving enthusiastically at people in the street, with loudspeakers blaring (if the candidate was Mr. Tanaka): "I am Tanaka! I am Tanaka! Please vote for me. Thank you very much. I am Tanaka! I am Tanaka! Please vote for me. Thank you very much" ad infinitum. That's all the policy you'll ever hear. I was with a friend who waved back at one of these annoying vans. I asked "So who

  • ...posting "endorsements" from a million sock puppet blogs, comments, etc.?

    I mean if they are doing it over an anonymizing network, what's stopping them?

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