Yesterday in London (early this morning in Japan), the US women's soccer team played against Japan for Olympic gold. It was a squeaker, but America won 2-1.
While the Associated Press interviewed Japanese fans who said things like, "Given that the United States is such a good team, the result is not surprising" or that they were proud how hard Japan played, a number of US fans took to Twitter to call the Japanese players "Japs" and claim revenge for Pearl Harbor.
These assholes are certainly not representative of your average US soccer fan, the US women's team, or your typical American—all of which probably thought Japan played a good game. However, they are representative of the morons who tweeted "Japs" and "Pearl Harbor" enough to cause those words to trend.
That's right, after the game, the words "Japs" and "Pearl Harbor" even started trending on Twitter. These kind of folks—"Twacists"—are not new, and one soccer player even got in legal hot water for allegedly writing a racist tweet. Welcome to the internet.
If US soccer fans want to avenge something, they should want to avenge their FIFA World Cup loss to Japan. For these individuals running at the mouth on Twitter, that's probably beside the point. It's all rather unsettling for the US team, which was nothing but sporting and respectful during the match.
For a minute, however, let's try to navigate the logic—rather, the lack—of someone actually trying to equate this win with Pearl Harbor. Would the firebombing of Tokyo, Osaka, and Kobe—firebombing that bombed those cities flat and killed numerous innocents, including children—be payback? Or how about dropping two nuclear weapons on the country, killing over 200,000 civilians? So does this, a soccer game, finally make up for what happened at Pearl Harbor? We square now?
"These guys are spewing out discriminatory remarks while playing FPS games online. This is normal."
It's not Japanese who keep dwelling on the war—if anything, they are often blamed for trying to forget large chunks of it. But with that desire to move on from the country's darker moments, there's also a desire to push forward and not get hung up on past conflicts. Talk to older Japanese—people in their 80s—who grew up during those horrible wartime years, who walked to school as bombs were being dropped on them and their friends, who had a hard time finding food, who saw innocent people die. They aren't still pointing fingers at the US for losses they suffered, and as of posting, enough Japanese people aren't taking to Twitter to cause terrible war memories to trend. They're not doing this because the war was very real, with grandparents talking to grandchildren about growing up during that conflict.
This "avenging Pearl Harbor" isn't a new thing—just like when the Japanese female team won the FIFA World Cup, morons start shooting their mouths on Twitter, slinging slurs and insults. Before Twitter, people could carry on like this online in forums—heck, they could do offline, too. But Twitter gives them a big megaphone—a megaphone that often is tied to people's real identities (ditto for Facebook, obviously). Yet, that doesn't stop people on either site from being unapologetically racist.
"If someone wants to broadcast their discrimination crap to the whole world, go for it," wrote one individual on 2ch, Japan's largest bulletin board. "Ignore those idiots." Those are wise words—ignore these idiots. That's certainly possible, but harder when you see words like "Japs" and "Pearl Harbor" trending on Twitter right after the match. Then it just becomes depressing that the same platform that can bring us altogether, can also show how divisive—and stupid—some still are.
The reaction on 2ch has varied—from ironic amusement to disgust. Jaded as ever, some 2ch users find it wryly funny that people are throwing around these slurs—even going as far to jokingly write the word over and over again. Others are saying things like "Americans don't have history" or "This shows Americans are awful", stuff like that. While some are saying that it's not even worth replying to these Twitter morons, others note that these individuals probably aren't even soccer fans.
"These guys are spewing out discriminatory remarks while playing FPS games online," wrote one 2ch user. "This is normal." The stereotype that this short of speak is "normal" is sad—that this is how one can explain away these outbursts. The notion that people are simply acting as they usually would, but that they are now able to broadcast that to the entire world is both powerful and utterly depressing. Social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook give everyone a microphone. That doesn't mean everyone should have a microphone, but they do now.
Websites like Japan Probe and Motherboard have been logging these "Japs" and "Pearl Harbor" tweets. 2ch has even been translating them for Japanese netizens. You can view them in the links below.
(Top photo: Julian Finney/Staff | AP)
Kotaku East is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.