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HOME  > Past issues  > 2017 July 12 - 18  > Wartime newspapers volunteered to become war-promoting instruments
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2017 July 12 - 18 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Wartime newspapers volunteered to become war-promoting instruments

July 12, 2017
“Now that some major media are willing to snuggle up to power, all media in Japan should recognize again that their raison d’etre is to watch those with power with a critical eye,” said Tsukamoto Mitsuo, a professor emeritus of Chuo University.

Tsukamoto wrote an article published in Akahata on July 12 about how wartime newspapers had wholly been embraced by those in power. The following is the gist of his article:

The 1938 National General Mobilization Act and the 1940 establishment of the Cabinet Intelligence Bureau led government authorities to transform their way of controlling speech and thought from “repressing” to “embracing” favorable thoughts and opinions. At the same time, it began controlling people’s ways of seeing the world.

The mobilization law gave authority to the Imperial government to mobilize goods and the “national spirit” as resources for war. The year following the enactment of this law, the first Konoe Cabinet set up a government commission for “general mobilization of the national spirit” under Prime Minister Konoe Fumimaro.

Members of this commission included the chief editors of major newspapers. In short, the press voluntarily entered the very support system of Imperial rule. Thus, newspapers and other media fell so low as to become instruments boosting people’s militaristic stances. Then, in 1940, as the central organization to oversee such mobilization instruments as the press and mass media, the Cabinet Intelligence Bureau was launched.

This bureau had many subordinate organizations to the “Imperial Aid Association (Taisei Yokusankai)”. The bureau had about 600 members and wielded great power. Persons who assumed the top position of this control center included a former NHK chairman as well as a person who later became the president of Asahi Shimbun.

After Japan initiated the Pacific War on December 8, 1941, the bureau had total control over the press, becoming the power behind the scenes for “Imperial headquarters’ announcements”. All the major newspapers by this time already began driving the public to support the war with headlines reading, “Repel America’s ambition!” (Dec.8, 1941, Mainichi Shimbun), “Fight for the Great East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere!” (Dec.9,1941, Mainichi Shimbun), and “Dedicate everything to the struggling country!” (Dec.9, 1941, Asahi Shimbun). Therefore, it was easy for the bureau to dominate the press.

The newspapers were reduced to feeding misinformation from the Imperial headquarters such as, “American and British fleet and their transport convoy completely destroyed” (Aug.10, 1942, Asahi Shimbun), and “Landslide victory in Solomon Islands” (Oct.28, 1942, Asahi Shimbun). Their spreading of lies about battle achievements continued until Japan’s defeat in the war.

Two days after the start of the Pacific War, newspaper companies and news agencies in Tokyo jointly organized a “mass meeting” in order to set the mood for the war to annihilate America and Britain. These media called themselves “weapons of ideological warfare” and newspaper reporters “warriors of ideological warfare”. They made it their mission to contribute to gaining public support for national policies.

In this way, wartime newspapers had an important part to play as a component imperative for the Imperial government and military to carry out the war.
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