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DHC Television: Cosmetics and Conspiracy Theories

SNA (Tokyo) — Japan’s ultranationalist elite, shut out of the mainstream discourse of a significantly civil society and venues such as broadcast television, have found a cozy new home for their creative history and effusions of ethnic supremacy on the American website YouTube. Although there is much to choose from, one major enterprise is a flurry of programs made under the umbrella of DHC Television.

Call it the next chapter in the history of the net uyoku, who can tune in to watch their xenophobic diatribes given the window dressing of wonky legitimacy.

The operation is funded exclusively by the highly-visible cosmetics and supplement company DHC Corporation. Rare for Japan, its chairman Yoshiaki Yoshida would seem untroubled at having his products associated with ethno-racism.

Claiming that the ancestors of today’s Japanese arrived more or less to a man from Siberia, Yoshida makes the embarrassing playground boast that they are hence the only “Europeans” in Asia, and therefore are fundamentally incompatible with their presumably less plasmically virtuous neighbors.

Recently, he decreed on the DHC website that “fake Japanese” ethnic Koreans should “return home,” and at the same time he regurgitated a conspiracy theory about them having undue influence in Japanese politics, media, and law.

Yoshida would seem unafraid to invite the kind of foreign backlash suffered by APA Hotel after it championed historical revisionist ideology, and his pet television project has him on course to be the country’s chief disseminator of incendiary hate propaganda.

On DHC Television, the palette is broad, and not all the offerings are overtly political. Some focus on art or culture—Japanese, naturally.

Many shows ran for a limited time and are no longer available (for example, Bookworm Paradise, hosted by Nanjing Massacre-denying scholar Shoichi Watanabe, was discontinued upon his passing at age 86), but among those still on offer, a few take center stage: Toranomon News analyzes the news of the day; News Girls (represented on the show’s set as “News Girl”) is a variety show with a news focus; DHC Polish Your Pretty: Extreme Beauty provides beauty tips; Your Ally: The Supplement is about nutritional supplements; while Reckless Conversation Bar: Leaks usually features commentators chatting and drinking in an exclusive bar.

The news-oriented shows most clearly communicate the channel’s ideology. At first glance, Toranomon News and News Girls might even seem to be simply a hard right take on daily events, and their criticism of how the Japanese media focuses on fluff while glossing over stories that matter even has a trace of validity.

But the more extreme content ranges from conspiracy theories so harebrained they barely warrant the word “theory”—that those protesting the US bases in Okinawa are foreign spies or funded by Chinese and South Korean elements with the aim of weakening Japan for an imminent attack; to language that a twelve-year-old would find cruel—North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un is often referred to as “eryngii,” the implication being that he looks like a mushroom and deserves no respect as a human being.

In most cases, the supposedly “taboo” topics they revel in discussing are off limits in mainstream media discourse less because of political correctness and more because Japan is an educated society.

Commentators tend to be long-time journalists, scholars, or politicians—some of them Diet members—united in their scorn for the “liberal parties” and the “liberal media,” especially the middle-of-the-road Asahi Shinbun. However, the right-leaning Sankei Shinbun and Yomiuri Shinbun also come in for criticism when they’re not being conservative enough.

Politicians and others with whom they disagree are denounced as “anti-Japanese.” Their Dear Leader—the long-serving yet now unpopular Prime Minister Shinzo Abe—is a member and vocal defender of the unabashedly revisionist Nippon Kaigi, which is an association that aims to disembowel Japan’s pacifist constitution and return the land to its pre-war Imperial magnificence—among other cheerful goals.

Any news story that hints at criticism of Abe (except when he’s not being rightwing enough), wavers from the glory of Japanese ethno-nationalism, or suggests a possible stain on Japanese “honor” (a crucial keyword on this channel), is met with indignant disbelief and disapproval.

One major source of fixation is the Moritomo and Kake Gakuen scandals that have dogged the Abe administration for the last year and a half. Despite being a legitimate political outrage—one which has included lies, forgeries, and a suicide—DHC Television pundits regard it as at best a rankling distraction from the glories of Abe’s rule, and at worst an opposition party coup d’état.

This latter assertion was made by a commenter on the May 11 episode of Toranomon News (since removed from the internet), in which he compared it, in all seriousness, to the February 26 Incident of 1936.

Like Brexit and Trump supporters, they see themselves as the rare, righteous patriots swimming frantically against the current of a society swelling ominously ever more liberal and international.

In the United States, this kind of persecution complex-based news commentary, complete with earnest whining and joyous saber-rattling, is often associated with the 1990s talk radio boom that predated Fox News, and was perhaps precipitated by the 1987 repeal of the Fairness Doctrine. It flourished in part because Americans spend a large amount of time in their cars.

Although Abe seems to have failed for now in his attempt to demolish Article 4 of Japan’s Broadcast Act (the doctrine’s equivalent), it may no longer matter. These days, any would-be Alex Jones or Ann Coulter can upload television that is instantly accessible around the world, and viewable in almost any daily situation—for example on the train, which is how many Japanese commute to work.

Despite presenting itself as truth-to-power straight talk on mostly spare sets, DHC Television employs a debilitatingly crass approach to advertising, and the programming is deeply saturated with publicity for a hodgepodge of merchandise from one of the top cosmetics and supplement companies.

Shows like Polish Your Pretty and Your Ally: The Supplement are manifestly aimed at selling DHC products, while Reckless Conversation Bar: Leaks strides the line: radically conservative public figures select the same tiny bar to meet and chat, doomed to forever imbibe and wax eloquent about their parent corporation’s alcoholic beverage line—oddly little else is on offer.

Not to be outdone, a string of commercials for miracle-working DHC products (“Raw Placenta” capsules anyone?) and an episode of Your Ally: The Supplement are always clamped on the hindquarters of political flagships Toranomon News and News Girls like an enthusiastic horde of curative leeches.

Unsurprisingly, they drain the gushing firewater of any sediment of impartiality.

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