Dear Mr. Teriyaki, The Blowback

Here are some of the reactions in the blogosphere to Dean Koontz’s "Mr. Teriyaki" speech.

From It’s Matt’s World:

It should be kept in mind that Koontz isn’t some anonymous man wearing
a white sheet over his head. He is a mainstream American author, whose
books have sold in the (probable) millions…
Koontz didn’t utter the words "chink" or "jap." Yet can it be disputed
that his speech was racist? It’s important to realize and understand
this, and not shy away from labeling it what it is. This is the only
way we can move forward and progress as a society.

There are
those who would argue that racism exists today only in the form of the
occasional march of men in white sheets, or whenever the "n" word is
uttered, or some member of a minority is dragged from the back of a
moving vehicle. But all that does is insulate us from the reality that
still exists. Racism is not dead, it is simply more insidious than it
used to be. It comes in the form of kids beating up on other kids
because "the Asians are smarter." It comes in the form of a popular
novelist stirring the pot of racial tensions and the bitter past. It
comes from comedians making jokes based upon racial stereoypes and bad
impressions of various ethnic accents. To ignore all of this and not
call it what it is, is to be complicit in the racism of the 21st
century. Surely, we can do better?

From Amy Ridenour:

Get a clue!  Black people were victims of slavery.  Jews were victims of the Holocaust.  Japan conducted the Bataan Death March.  Personally,
I’m not one for Bataan Death March humor. Doesn’t strike me as funny,
but not because I would fear offending the perpetrators, but because I
would not wish to make light of the horrors experienced by the victims.  The
difference between a victim and a perpetrator is a very clear one. It’s
odd, and rather worrisome, that some people don’t seem to see it.

From LAist:

Koontz doesn’t see anything wrong with his personal story of writing to
a Japanese movie executive and addressing him as Mr. Teriyaki while also
referencing low points in Japanese history to try to get his point across. He calls it George Carlin-esque. The difference may be though that a comedian
is just making jokes while, if Koontz’s anecdote is to be taken at face value,
Koontz really engaged in this behavior.

From Galleycat:

Steven Barrie-Anthony reports that "Koontz blames the brouhaha on
‘some sort of an agenda,’" and dutifully records the author’s
explanantion that he can’t be a racist because "I was a poor kid with a
Jewish grandmother and a great-grandmother who was black, [and] I grew
up in a dirt-poor family." Koontz also describes the letters that
prompted the controversy: "There’s some political incorrectness in it,
but nothing mean." 

Right. "We could have a few sake and reminisce about the Bataan
Death March" is absolutely not a mean thing to say to a Japanese
executive, just good-humored political incorrectness.

5 thoughts on “Dear Mr. Teriyaki, The Blowback”

  1. I’m sure I’m in the minority here, but…
    Who cares what Dean Koontz says?
    And if the answer is because he’s a famous person and was speaking in public, well… when have famous people ever not said stupid things?

  2. Amy Ridenour is a five-star idiot. ” Japan conducted the Bataan Death March.”
    That makes sense if 1)you believe in collective guilt, which doctrine was explicity rejected by the Allies at the Nuremberg Trials, and 2)the colective guilt even attaches to those who weren’t alive at the time the acts were perpetrated.

  3. Peter,
    Perhaps there’s no collective guilt. But Japan still hasn’t acknowledged that it was responsible for doing it. Worshipping Class A war criminals from WWII as war gods and enshrining them (look up Yasukuni) don’t help Japan’s position. I’m quite sure that you’ll find Germany intolerable if Germany worships Hitler as a “war god”, would you? So why is that it’s not OK to kill white people, but OK to torture and kill Asians?

  4. Dear Stella:
    “Koizumi apologizes for Japan WWII role
    By Donald Greenlees International Herald Tribune
    SATURDAY, APRIL 23, 2005
    Japan’s prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, made an unusually public apology for his country’s World War II aggression at a conference here Friday. His remarks preceded a meeting set for this weekend with China’s president, Hu Jintao, to try to defuse a diplomatic row over how Japan interprets its wartime history.
    Speaking to a gathering of more than 100 Asian and African leaders, Koizumi expressed “deep remorse” over the pain Japan inflicted on its neighbors in Asia. While Japanese leaders have extended such apologies in the past, it is rare for a prime minister to address the issue in so public a forum.”
    Most of Japan’s current population weren’t even born when the war started or were very young and have no responsibility for their nation’s foreign policy at the time. There have been and continue to be a very small number of right-wing extremists who defend Japan’s past aggression and believe Japan has a right to an empire, like the infamous example of novelist Yukio Mishima and his handful of followers which ended with his ritual suicide. These movements have always been marginal in post-war Japan, as have extreme left-wing movements.

  5. Dear Peter:
    Japan’s war-hawks and nationalists may seem “extreme” and marginal to you, but they’re very powerful in the government. Koizumi, after issuing the apology, went to Yasukuni (where class A war criminals from WWII are enshrined as I mentioned previously), which sparked outrage and protests from other surrounding Asian nations.
    Koizumi’s apology seems hollow since Japan refuses to accept that it has committed all kinds of atrocities all over Asia during WWII.

    And yet a significant portion of the Japanese population does not agree on the precise parameters of Japan’s war guilt. Koizumi’s visit certainly destroys any good will occasioned by his Aug. 15 speech. For every Japanese bureaucrat or politician who expresses remorse for the war, there is another who will make an inflammatory remark. During the past year, Education Minister Nariaki Nakayama has several times lauded a revisionist history textbook that minimizes the Japanese military’s role in forcible wartime prostitution. Notes Jeff Kingston, a professor at Temple University in Tokyo: “The bottom line is that there is no consensus in Japan on war responsibility. If there’s no consensus on memory, you can’t assume responsibility—and without responsibility, you can’t move to reconciliation.”

    The above excerpt came from October 05 issue of Newsweek In addition to all these issues, Japan is involved in terrorial disputes with almost all of its neighbors, which is seen as Japan’s clinging to its past military ambition by Asian countries.
    As a person living in Japan, I notice astounding lack of awareness and ignorance among Japanese, including even those who participated in the war, about what really happened. Some even argue that Japan had to enter the war to liberate Asia from the western influence. The Japan’s Ministry of Education further promotes this by having revisionist history textbooks, which talk about the sacrifices Japan had to make to liberate Asia. Many young Japanese students believe that Pearl Harbor was staged by the U.S. and that the atomic bombs were dropped to show off the U.S. power, not to end the war.
    BTW — words are cheap. Japan has never made reparations to the victim nations or the people who suffered during WWII. The apology Koizumi made in April is seen more as a strategic move to placate its neighbors in its bid for the UN Security Council permanent seat.


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