Debating the Alt-Right 101. Case Study: Japan

That the alt-right has a somewhat disturbing fetish towards Asia, and more specifically Asian women, is well known. Despite their rejection of immigration and outright hostility towards foreigners, leading alt-right figures are repeatedly seen with Asian girlfriends and wives, or having Asian characters tattooed on their bodies.

But this article will focus on one country in specific that has captivated alt-right members since the movement’s inception: Japan.

Now, white supremacist fascination with Japan is certainly no new occurrence. In World War Two, Nazi Germany’s foremost ally on the eastern front was Japan. However, it can be rather easily argued that this was an alliance of convenience, rather than any true admiration of Japan on Hiter’s part. With the alt-right, the admiration seems to be rooted in genuine respect and a desire for emulation.

When debating self-proclaimed followers of the rising alt-right ideology, one of their go to examples to ‘prove’ that a homogeneous society is in every way superior to a diverse one is Japan. Pointing out that the notoriously xenophobic Japan has an exceptionally low crime rate and an extremely high life expectancy rate is to them prime evidence that immigration is for the most part detrimental to society.

Are they right? Is Japan truly a haven of safety and prosperity, primarily due to its homogeneity? Let’s find out.

That Japan has a very low crime rate compared to other countries is for the most part true. In Japan, crime rates have consistently fallen throughout the years. It tends to rank lowest on global crime index ratings, while at the same time ranking highly with regards to safety. And, as the alt-right are so prone to tell us, Japan is indeed highly homogeneous in its ethnic makeup, Roughly 98% of its population is ethnic Japanese. So from the outset, this would mean that the alt-right are correct: Japan is highly homogeneous, and it does have one of the lowest crime rates in the world. However, delving a bit deeper into the subject reveals some underlying details that alt-right debaters tend to omit from their orations. Ironically, some of these stand in direct opposition to alt-right tenets.

A 2014 report by the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime that analyzed global homicide rates ascribed a variety of reason to Japan’s well-known low percentage: low levels of gun ownership (in direct opposition to the pro-gun conservative alt-right), increases in comfort of life, an extremely high percentage of solved cases acting as a detriment to criminals (more on that later), and a relatively low gulf between the rich and the poor (contrary to the often libertarian mindset seen with alt-right members). A reason strangely absent is the alt-right’s hyper-focus on ethnicity. The report does mention the presence of social strife in more diverse communities, but it goes on to note that non-natives are more likely to be victims of violence rather than perpetrators (pp. 58–59).

So here we are presented with some reasons for Japan’s low crime rate that the alt-right is loathe to tell us. Rather than mostly being a result of its homogeneous makeup, the low numbers are rather attributed to a variety of social and economic factors. As noted earlier, an important factor for Japan’s low crime rate can be found in its legal system. Ostensibly boasting a staggering 99% conviction rate which acts as a strong deterrent to aspiring criminals, a closer look reveals some questionable aspects to this image of perfection.

The first thing one notices when looking more closely at Japan’s legal system is its over-reliance on confessions. While numbers tend to differ slightly, these percentages have been noted as being as high as 80% of all convictions. In Japan, suspected criminals can be held for as long as 23 days, without officially being charged with a crime. On top of that, police can and often will begin their questioning before a lawyer is present to provide legal aid to the suspect. These interrogations often last for hours on end.

Naturally, this places a large amount of stress on the suspect, regardless of their guilt. As such, this method, coupled with a mentality of ‘ guilty until proven innocent’ has led to a disturbing number of false confessions and convictions. Indeed, the phenomenon is so notorious in Japan that they have their own word for it: Enzai, or falsely accused. The Japanese government has taken steps to remedy this issue in recent years, but it will take some time to see these efforts reflected in its legal statistics.

But these numbers apply to the conviction rates of Japan, not its overall crime rates. How does this knowledge affect crime rate statistics? Aside from acting as a deterrent, one thing this system of extremely high conviction rates has fostered is a ‘must win’ mentality among prosecutors. When a country has a near 100% conviction rate, nobody wants to be the minnow who failed to get a conviction. The only cases that go to trial are thus those prosecutors are utterly convinced will lead to conviction. In other words, we rarely hear about any cases that never made it to trial, as they don’t enter into the statistics.

Another thing to consider is crimes that go unreported or unprocessed altogether. Despite Japan’s structurally falling nationwide crime figures, stalking incidents have continuously been on the rise. While this does not necessarily mean that stalking incidents themselves have increased with those numbers (for instance, it could also be attributed to increased awareness by the public), the fact that so few of these cases actually reach prosecutors is concerning.

Similarly, domestic violence against women has also risen throughout the years. While Japan has certainly made large strides in the ways it treats these incidents, domestic violence remains one of the least reported crimes, with one of the lowest conviction rates.

To be perfectly clear, these are not problems exclusive to Japan. Many, if not all countries in the world struggle with issues such as domestic violence or obsessive stalking. The point being made here is that, while Japan’s reputation as a bastion of safety is in many ways warranted, one should always keep in mind that raw numbers don’t always tell the whole story.

Despite the image of perfection the alt-right likes to sell us, Japan, like any other country, suffers from a number of serious problems. And ironically, a major one of these can be attributed to that which the alt-right vehemently argues Japan does not need: immigration, or rather, the lack thereof.

Japan has been dealing with the structural problem of an aging population for many years. A staggering 28% of its population is aged 65+, with another 12% nipping at its heels at 55–65. This has largely been attributed to increases in life quality. Japan stands firmly at the top of most life expectancy charts, generally averaging an astounding 85 years. Ostensibly a positive thing (after all, people are living longer), this, of course, also means that people are not dying, leading to a higher age average. The ageing population is predicted to severely impact the economy in the coming years.

One of the biggest consequences of having such a high percentage of aging citizens is that they will all retire in the coming future. This will lead to a massive drain in the workforce. As it stands, Japan does not have enough young blood to make up for this socio-economic problem. The reasons for this are extremely varied and too complicated to fully investigate in this article. But one can think of such things as more women choosing their careers over starting a family, or phenomena like Hikikomori

A natural solution to such a problem would be to bring in outside workers. In other words, to stimulate immigration. Yet there is one thing where the alt-right and Japan find common ground, and that is a strong reluctance towards immigration. This is certainly not a new phenomenon. Japan has historically been heavily anti-immigration, which took form under an official policy called ‘Sakoku’. It took the forceful arrival of Commodore Perry and his warships for Japan to finally end its centuries long isolationist policy. Yet this in turn led to dissatisfaction among the populace, and eventually civil war.

Japan does not seem to have an immediate answer to its ageing problem. And with the economy shrinking in this year’s opening quarter for the first time in eight consecutive quarters, the effects of its reluctance to take one of the ‘obvious’ routes out are slowly beginning to show itself.

If throughout this article I gave the impression of attacking Japan, I deeply apologize. This article is not an attack on Japan. Indeed, I greatly admire various aspects of the country (I even watch anime, get off my back!). Rather, what I tried to do is use Japan as an example to show the insidious ways in which the alt-right argues its points. Does Japan have an extremely low crime rate? Yes. Is its ethnic makeup highly homogeneous? Most certainly. Does that mean that homogeneity equals low crime rate? Well, no, because correlation does not imply causation. It is one of the most basic tenets of science, yet it is a favored one of the alt-right to abuse. It’s an easy way to trick people to support your side, because most people don’t have the time to do the research required to analyse these claims.

This is the first article in a series that will put some of the alt-right’s favorite talking points under the microscope.

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