Sunday, January 21, 2007


The above video is a TV commercial for the Democratic Party of Japan in advance of the approaching Diet session and this summer's election (hat tip: Trans-Pacific Radio and Mutant Frog).

I wish it weren't so. I'd like to think that this ad was actually made by an LDP operative seeking to discredit the DPJ; I mean, really, this ad seems to be telling viewers that the DPJ, despite its supposedly seasoned leadership, is unable to pilot Japan's ship of state through the stormy seas of the twenty-first century.

At the same time, however, I disagree with the posts on this ad at both of the above-mentioned sites. Is this ad awful? No question. I may be working for a senior DPJ member, but that doesn't stop me from groaning when watching this. If anything, my involvement with the DPJ makes this more painful to watch. But Japan is new to this kind of politics. The idea of tailoring a message that can be delivered in a thirty-second TV spot is alien to the Japanese style of democracy, which depends on personal ties and direct, sustained contact with voters.

Accordingly, being relatively new to democratic politics rooted in delivering messages to large audiences via impersonal media, it is hardly surprising to see an ad like this. At present, the learning curve is pretty steep, and while part of me hopes that Japan can avoid the temptation of slickly produced attack ads (all too common in American politics -- check out Slate's intermittent "Damned Spot" feature for examples) -- Japanese political ads are bound to get better soon. So given Japan's relative inexperience with mass communication politics, I'm neither surprised nor (too) disappointed by this ad.

Besides, you want groan-inducing? Check out Prime Minister Abe's weekly video podcast.

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