Power, Corruption, and Media Scandal: The Case of Japan

Monday, 11 July 2016: 11:45
Location: Hörsaal 23 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Igor PRUSA, The University of Tokyo, Japan
Media scandal can be defined as revealed transgression of individual elites (political, coporate, cultural). It becomes publicly disclosed (usually via whistleblowing), framed by more or less conflicting media outlets (with certain effect on the public) and is eventually publicly denounced (leading to individual and institutional consequences). On the one hand, media scandal is a universal “social fact” (Durkheim), originating in social institutions and media cultures, and arising from the ground where various transgressive “movements of life” and effects of institutions intersect. On the other hand, scandal is an “empty signifier” (Burkhardt), and the recognition of certain behavior as “scandalous” – including the way it is narrated and mediated – is until certain extent a culturally-specific process. This talk develops a model of scandal mediation in Japan, during which the mainstream media, the power elites, the business circles, and the organized crime (yakuza) intersect in a political and journalistic “field of struggle” (Bourdieu). In terms of its social function, we approach scandals as narratively structured “social dramas” (Turner) and secular rituals that follow major moral disturbances in society in order to re-instate the imaginary equilibrium (Durkheim). Furthermore, we conceptualize (not only Japanese) scandal as mediatized ritual of pollution, purification through exclusion (scapegoating), and eventual re-integration. In order to illustrate the collusion a corruption of the power elites in postwar Japan, the function of scandal a non-transformative pseudo-ritual, and the disputable role of the media as “democracy-watchdog”, we scrutinize the most recent Japanese scandals with global reach: the 2011 Olympus scandal, the 2015 Toshiba scandal, and the 2015 Olympic logo scandal.