Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Control Of Knowledge

This monument on the island of Okinawa must be a memorial to something that didn't happen, if we're to believe Shinzo Abe of Japan. The former Prime Minister was ready to delete all references to the event that gave rise to the Suicide Cliff Monument.

Kenzaburo Oe wrote a series of essays about Okinawa and what happened when the Japanese were on the verge of losing the island to American forces as World War II came to an end. The author said that surviving Japanese soldiers told him that the military went around and encouraged civilians to kill themselves rather than face capture.

Here's a grenade, the soldiers said, go blow yourself to bits. Otherwise the Yanks will rape and torture and murder you.

Mr. Oe became the defendant in a defamation suit that was filed by a former soldier, who claimed that none of that ever happened. The plaintiff had plenty of support from those who would like to deny that Japan ever committed a single atrocity. They'd like all references to mass suicides on Okinawa and the rape of Nanking to be erased from written records. Don't let the kids learn of it, and eventually it will all go away.

Sorry lads, said Judge Toshimasa Fukami. He ruled that there was plenty of evidence that Japanese soldiers passed out grenades like so much candy. The only places where civilians killed themselves en masse were villages that hosted Japanese troops. People who survived the invasion of Okinawa testified that their own military urged them to take their own lives. Mr. Oe is not guilty of defaming anyone. He told the truth.

Like most nations, Japan is open to outside influence and outside information flows in. A government can't control knowledge in such a situation. The evidence always rises to the top.

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