In Japan, Hitler & Co Are Cool Lovers and Comic Super-Villains

Germany and Japan both are respected democracies guided by the rule of law. Both uphold human rights and the freedom of expression. But they also engage in serious censorship. How’s that? Of course they would never call their own censorship ‘censorship’. “Censorship is only if the enemy is doing it. If we do it, it is called law and moderation.” German visitors to Japan are often shocked (at first) to witness all the “illegal” things that are legal here, like opening shop on Sundays, nude images of teenagers (those under 18), and symbols and images of organizations that are outlawed in Germany. This post is about the latter.

TOKYO - When Western countries demand from Eastern countries to safeguard “freedom of press,” what they really mean is that Europe and America would like to have complete access to Asia’s media and publications. And when they cry “censorship,” that usually means that Asian countries don’t comply. In both scenarios, what the West doesn’t want - must not want - is reciprocity. There’s no way, for example, that Germany would ever allow Chinese, Russian, Indian, Islamic, or Japanese values, customs, and traditions to penetrate the European heartland. In other words, “freedom of expression” is new-speak and code for Westernization.

“This all is not to say Germany is as bad as Russia or China with regards to oppression of “inconvenient” ideas or “incorrect” views - certainly Germany is a liberal democracy. But the notion that Germany is entirely censorship-free and that nobody here is repressed must be vehemently refuted.”

Germany is a peculiar case of double standard and hypocrisy when it comes to freedom of expression. Outwardly, it propagates the idea of ‘freedom safe heaven’ where everyone is allowed to speak one’s mind. This is of course complete nonsense. It’s like denying the laws of physics. Of course speaking one’s mind can have severe consequences to one’s job, reputation, and social status in Germany. Foreign languages are ‘no-speak’ in German schools and universities. Migrants must speak German or else are threatened with expulsion. Newspapers shun Asian words in their publications for fear of foreign subversion. Movies and games are heavily cut. Songs and lyrics, too. Images and symbols that incite hatred or represent violence or reward crimes are illegal. Books are censored, too. Germany is the land of laws and regulations, which by definition means that a thousand things you can do in the jungle of Shanghai or Bombay are unthinkable or even impossible in the orderly towns of Munich or Berlin. The mass media recklessly censors its critics. Of course they call it “moderation”, not censorship. The effect is the same. Corruption in Germany is rampant. It is shielded by self-censorship. When we read about the big German scandals of the last years -Deutsche Bank, Bayer, Fifa, VW, etc.-, it is mostly the mighty USA that exposes their crimes. In fact, without outside investigation (and constant surveillance) by a far more powerful nation, we would probably have never heard about those German wrongdoings. Last, German society is a nasty class society. A few well-connected elites own most of the country, and control the rest.

You want to change any of this? Good luck to ever get published. Germany has no dissidents. It’s not even a word in German. Dissidents do not exist, must not exist. (Like gays in Iran or democrats in China.) This all is not to say Germany is as bad as Russia or China with regards to oppression of “inconvenient” ideas or “incorrect” views - certainly Germany is a liberal democracy. But the notion that Germany is entirely censorship-free and that nobody here is repressed must be vehemently refuted.

One of the most notorious realms of censorship in Germany is the political. That has to do with Germany’s historical past. During the period of de-Nazification after WWII, hundreds of terminologies, concepts, images, and symbols associated with Hitler’s Third Reich were banned from textbooks and outlawed in the public. Many documents and Nazi propaganda were censored, such as Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf‘. The Swastika, the SS-logo, and the ‘Heil Hitler’ salute were outlawed by the Penal Code.

The Germans are very uptight about it. To them, this is not “censorship” but protection (of the state) from dangerous thought crimes. Accordingly, when Germans travel abroad to China, India, America, or Japan, and see all this immoral stuff floating around in the “open market of ideas,” they often get quite hysterical and are easily upset: “Don’t you know these things are bad and forbidden?!” Far from it: In Japan, Hitler & Co are cool lovers and formidable comic super-villains:

This is a comic book (manga) discovered in a bookshop in Tokyo, Japan. In Germany, the public display of the Nazi symbol ‘Swastika’ is illegal. The publisher as well as the owner of such comic books in Germany could face penalties, according paragraph 86 a of the German Penal Code (StGB).
In Japan (as well as in the USA, by the way), the display of Nazi images and symbols is not illegal, as it is in Germany. This Japanese comic book (manga) tells the story of Hitler’s downfall and is uncontroversial in Japan. In Germany, however, the state’s attorney could be called to investigate, according to paragraph 86 a of the German Penal Code (StGB).
Never get used to it: Seeing Adolf Hitler in a Japanese comic book (manga) as lover and super-villain is bizarre and, perhaps, incomprehensible to a reader who was born and raised in Germany and thus told a thousand times that  those things are bad and illegal.