Japan Social Media Roundup: More Of The Good, The Bad & The Bizarre

By Arturo R. García

As Andrea noted in Monday’s links, there’s a whole lot of ridiculousness going around as the world watches the events in Japan unfold. But there’s also been a couple of positive notes among the weirdness.

The Good

The #prayforjapan hashtag, which spread over Twitter, has spawned its’ own collection of tweets from the scene, well-wishes, and first-person accounts, including this:

“I received an email from my Korean friend: “The only country to have experienced nuclear attacks. The country that lost the WWII. The country that suffers from typhoons every year and the earthquakes. However, isn’t Japan the country that always stood up and overcame such difficulties? Gambare. Gambare.” FYI, I am crying right now.”

Also, CouchSurfing.org has created a group specifically for members who can either use temporary housing during the crisis, or make their own homes available for those displaced. This note has been added to Monday’s Open Thread on fundraising efforts, which we encourage you to visit for donation options, or if you know of any charity efforts going on in your area.

The Bad
Call it a collision of tension and media “accessibility”: Even as she tried to report on the opening earthquake and tsunami early Friday morning, CNN anchor Rosemary Church found herself becoming the story after criticism surfaced online accusing her of making light of the situation. Here’s some Mediaite video of Church’s live report:

Based on that, said Chris Taylor at Mashable, at least one infamous statement made during the telecast was attributed to Church by mistake:

The anchor in question, Rosemary Church of CNN’s International Center in Atlanta, did not make any “Godzilla jokes.” One of her guests, an American eyewitness named Matt Alt, describing the video footage, said “these waves of debris, it is almost like a monster movie.”

Tweets at around this time slammed Alt, misidentified as a CNN reporter or anchor, for making a “Godzilla-esque” reference. Later retweets removed the “-esque.”

Church’s words could not be accurately described as “joking”. Her tone, clearly irksome to many viewers, is another question. An anchor with some serious news chops — she covered 9/11 and the fall of Slobodan Milosevic, among other major events — Church also has a bubbly, Australian-accented voice. Some of her statements around 2:15am ET, according to the Twitter stream, may have sounded inappropriately jovial. That’s when the earliest cluster of results for “CNN laughing” appear:

Far less ambiguous was CNBC’s Larry Kudlow’s error. In (apparently) trying to explain to viewers that the stock market had not been affected too negatively by what had happened, Kudlow said, “The human toll here looks to be much worse than the economic toll and we can be grateful for that.” Kudlow subsequently apologized – via Twitter, of course, and not on the air.

The Bizarre

When disaster hits, it doesn’t take too long before people start victim-blaming “in the name of God.” And sure enough, you had your Glenn Becks of the world grasping at thorned straws. But as Phillip at YOMYOMF noted, in this case it’s also hitting closer to home:

Senior pastor David Yonggi Cho of South Korea’s Yoido Full Gospel Church (the largest church in the whole world for those keeping score) told an online newspaper that the quake may have been punishment for the Japanese people’s refusal to accept Christ: “Japan sees a lot of earthquakes, and I think it is regrettable that there has been such an enormous loss of property and life due to the earthquake. Because the Japanese people shun God in terms of their faith and follow idol worship, atheism, and materialism, it makes me wonder if this was not God’s warning to them…I hope that this catastrophe can be turned into a blessing and they take this opportunity to return to the Lord. We in Korea look at Japan and think that at this juncture, more than a physical earthquake, it is in need of a holy spiritual earthquake.”

Even Shintaro Ishihara, the governor of Tokyo, got into the act yesterday when he told reporters that the earthquake and tsunami were divine punishment (tenbatsu) for the Japanese people’s sinful lifestyle.

Even the faux-religious tried to get in on the act, like “tamtampamela,” the YouTube user who sought – and got – plenty of attention with a rant of her own, which included this breathless declaration:

On Wednesday at the start of Lent, believers all over the world came together and we have been praying specifically for God to open the eyes of Atheists all over the world, literally in every corner in every direction; any place that there is an Atheist we’ve been praying for God to open their eyes and to see that there really is a God that he does exist and that he loves them and that he is the God of the Bible – that the Bible is true.

And just a few days, not even a few days later, God shook the country of Japan. He literally grabbed the country by the shoulders and said “Hey look, I’m here.”

Oh it’s just so amazing to see how God can just answer prayers like this and I am just so overjoyed and so encouraged for the rest of this Lentle season, I am going to be praying even harder than I have ever before.

On Monday night, though, she … well, she didn’t exactly show remorse. She released a brief, rambling video saying she had been “trolling for a year,” which apparently meant the whole thing was supposed to be a joke, before closing her account.

And speaking of bad jokes:

Keep it classy, gentlemen.

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Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable Keanu Reeves John Cho newsflashes.

Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at team@racialicious.com.

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  • little mixed girl

    That the governor of Tokyo, a city that was also shaken by strong earthquakes last Friday, would say that this is, “Punishment from the gods”, is so stupid. This is a guy who has also talked on about how Nigerians and Africans are ruining Tokyo by selling drugs, and has openly declared his dislike of foreigners in Japan. And yet, he’s going to continue to run for office, and will probably win. He should consider himself lucky that the Japanese media, from what I’ve seen, hasn’t covered his remarks (until Tuesday every channel was non-stop earthquake coverage and no other news).

    If people are surprised that there’s no looting in the hardest hit areas, they shouldn’t be and this is why.
    Every city and town is comprised of wards (ku) and within each ku you have smaller divisions (ie- naka-ku, blah blah-cho/machi). Every few blocks, especially on main streets you can find a small map of the immediate area.
    That map tells you where you are and where evacuation centers are.
    Within a small section inside a ku, there would be 1 or 2 evacuation centers. There are also signs on the road near the evacuation center that points out where it is and how many people it can hold.

    This past summer, there was massive flooding in parts of western Japan, and most people were evacuated to schools and community centers (both places of refuge).

    Next, there’s no way to predict that this would happen. Everyone was/is in the same boat. Having a large bank account doesn’t mean that you could get out early, or that your house would be left undamaged. People aren’t looting because, there’s nothing to loot. To be bluntly honest. If a tsunami wiped out your city, or a large section of your city, and took the grocery store, the electronics store and the toy store with it…what is there to loot? There are little or no fights because, again, everyone is in the same boat. And the demographics of many small Japanese towns are heavily tilted to the 65+ crowd.

    Finally, more than the disaster preparation and the fact that the average person knew that there was a place that they could evacuate to. The most telling reason of calm for me is that right after the tsunami hit, people knew that the government was headed to help them. And within a few hours, that was the case, government agencies were making their way through towns. The next morning, tv crews showed people standing in line at convenience stores and grocery stores that opened their doors to sell or distribute the food they had.
    People knew that they were in a bad situation, but they also knew that help was coming quickly and all they had to do was sit tight and wait.

  • Pagan

    I am particularly fond of the religious folks who turn every NATURAL disaster into divine retribution by whoever their god may be. Thanks for the laugh folks. Now onto more serious matters, I am watching with utter horror the footage of Japan. My heart goes out to each and every one of you and you remain in my heart.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ahmed-Sanchez-De-La-Cruz-Kim/58700922 Ahmed Sanchez De La Cruz Kim

    I think what we all need to do is to stop giving these insensitive remarks any more attention than they already have.

    This disaster is really sad, and for people to make very crude jokes is for me some that is very wicked. The people who support or laugh at some of the crude jokes are pretty messed up in the mind as well.

    These jokers have no justification besides cowarding behind free speech, the sake of art (or comedy), being politically incorrect, etc.

    I should probably stop typing or thinking about them. It’s not healthy to get mad at words.

  • Anonymous

    Some people are really insensitive if not downright racist about this. Talking about “Japan is going to get nuked again,” implying that people don’t care about third world nations (in relation to Haiti) and that some people only care b/c of anime and manga.

    Another person made a group on Facebook where if he reached his goal of getting over 1,00 people to join he would donate $500. Of course, comments are hit and miss.

    The US hasn’t changed much . . . can you imagine if this happened to China? Comments would be much much worse.

    • Bagelsan

      implying that people don’t care about third world nations (in relation to Haiti)

      I actually think that might be a fair critique; I’ve seen less racist crap about Japan than I saw about Haiti… A lot of it in the form of praise for how polite and well-behaved the Japanese have been during the disaster, you know not like those people who are black loot.

      • Anonymous

        I suppose it could be taken as a fair critique. But I thought of it more as a reason to be apathetic. As in, this is the way people have always been and always will be. I mean yes the general American attitude toward most parts of the world is very uniformed and can be downright racist and ethnocentric. But the way the person said it, I couldn’t view it positively or as a critique really.

        It was said in response to one of my friends asking why people seemed to care more about Japan versus Haiti.

        “People don’t care about 3rd world countries. It’s just that simple.”

        Not, Americans/US citizens but just “people.” It just seemed like a very lazy and apathetic statement to make so it bothered me.

        But I feel you on your rationalization. This country just hates black people. But it’s view of Japan is rather . . . fetishist, based on white male heterosexual fantasy, orientalism, Japan is weird, Japan is cool . . . etc. I don’t feel it’s that much better.

        I’m just so angry this week.

  • Anonymous

    Add this to the good: Ryan Higa (youtube’s nigahiga) has a “Honk for Japan” video where he donated $600 for earthquake relief based on the number of honks he got standing on a street corner in LA. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cciUXpITsu0