Confronting Paul Watson and Sea Shepherd
This is bold-faced racism in its most cynical form. Reading them conjures images of American wartime propaganda and also depictions of many Japanese people in The Cove. They are basically one and the same.
I don’t think Watson believes such accusations, although, for a guy whose grasp of history is so tenuous that he cites Francis Drake as a source of inspiration, I wouldn’t put anything past him. I think he knows that the Japanese, and Asians in general, are easy to demonize, because during determined moments in history denizens of the United States and Europe, as well as Australia, have felt acutely threatened by them. Depicting the Japanese as a savage and cruel people has been going on since they bombed Pearl Harbor and were knocking on the door of Northern Australia in 1942. It is also much easier to paint them in this light than it is to do the same with pretty, blonde-haired blue-eyed people in Norway and Iceland.
Whaling, by the way, was basically brought to a halt in Japan by the Second World War. However, after the “sick” and “perverse” US had razed most of the country with two atomic bombs and an extensive fire bombing campaign that left many, including some of my family (just children at the time) on the brink of starvation, none other than General Douglas Macarthur encouraged its reinstatement as a way to provide protein for the population.
Watson has written that the Sea Shepherds have also targeted Scandinavian countries, which is true, but does not change the fact that a disproportionate amount of their PR is directed against Japan. I have also not been able to find any racist rants like the one printed above about Scandinavians.
I was in Japan late last year to visit friends and family. I didn’t talk to anyone who regularly ate whale meat, but I also didn’t talk to anyone who was overtly against it. It’s my impression that for many Japanese, citing whaling as a source of “national heritage” is another way of saying “I’m not going to let some fat, aggressive White man tell me what I can and cannot eat.” Despite being half White, I think this is a pretty solid motto to live by and if the scales were reversed, and it was the Japanese or the Norwegians who were slandering us for eating, say, tuna, most people would feel the same way.
However, in the case of killing whales, it is misguided to argue that two wrongs make a right. American, and to a wider extent European imperialism is often stupid, coercive, hypocritical and self-serving. It brought right wing dictators to Latin America in the eighties and has ravaged much of the African continent. But this isn’t an issue of nationalities or culture, it’s an issue of trying to stop the killing of whales, and on a larger scale, trying to establish rules that allow humans to sustainably exploit oceanic resources. Targeting poor, disenfranchised fishermen, making false claims to boost TV ratings, squashing any sort of debate that questions your stance, and demonizing Asians with racist rhetoric is not going to make the smallest dent in whaling, it’s only going to polarize an already very divided world. Scientific study of whale populations and the greater oceanic environment combined with informed governmental lobbying with the aim of pushing our governments to put pressure on other governments is going to stop it, or at least start us down the correct path. Only by increasing our knowledge of the world’s aquatic ecosystems can we begin to impose regulations on the way it is currently being heedlessly exploited. On a popular level, Sea Shepherd is not increasing our knowledge, it is retarding it. Real activism that produces real change is difficult, boring, and doesn’t play well on hour long, prime time spots on the Animal Planet channel, but, if combined with enough publicity, it can force people to take notice.
Rastovich and Slater are in prime positions to affect this type of change, but we can also do our parts by supporting NGOs and initiatives that are working toward positive goals, and boycotting self-serving propaganda organizations, like Sea Shepherd, whose only real end are TV ratings and publicity that reinforce their ugly and already bloated white messiah complex. Change, when it comes, will probably be slow and incremental, but the boring truth behind true revolutions is that they are seldom, if ever, televised.