How to Fool the NYT? Cloak Self-Promotion in 'Odd Japanese' Story

Are Japanese people so afraid of street crime that they’d try to blend in as a vending machine? Well, an artist with an ironic streak and a good sense for reporter manipulation convinced The New York Times last month that they are. Ampontan responds in kind.

The Times article reported on work by the artist Tsukioka Aya (月岡彩): a set of collapsible vending machine suits, in case you want to blend in on the street. Aside from considering a 2003 work of art a contemporary trend, the Times‘ Martin Fackler swallows Tsukioka’s bait and prints her artist’s narrative verbatim.

To get the reader’s attention, Fackler declares that the suits “are greeted here with straight faces” (doubtful) and includes a truly indefensible “nut graf” full of classic tropes about “the Japanese”:

These elaborate defenses are coming at a time when crime rates are actually declining in Japan. But the Japanese, sensitive to the slightest signs of social fraying, say they feel growing anxiety about safety, fanned by sensationalist news media. Instead of pepper spray, though, they are devising a variety of novel solutions, some high-tech, others quirky, but all reflecting a peculiarly Japanese sensibility.

Let’s be fair to Fackler. The article later does acknowledge that these pieces are examples of chindōgu (珍道具, “strange tools”), a movement of odd-ball inventions that Ampontan points out has both Japanese– and English-language websites. (I’ll also allow for the possibility that Fackler submitted a less credulous story that editors changed to emphasize the crime angle.)

It’s the truly credulous tone at the top of the article that leads Ampontan to declare the Times deceased, its present operations being merely postmortem spasms. Read it.





2 responses to “How to Fool the NYT? Cloak Self-Promotion in 'Odd Japanese' Story”

  1. Paul M Avatar

    nice blog post, enjoyed it…

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