Tokyo Vice author, video game reviewer and journalistic bad-ass Jake Adelstein has recently tore National Geographic Television a new one over what he sees as reckless endangerment of sources. He was part of NGT's new documentary on yakuza, something Adelstein has become something of an authority on.
Trouble is, Adelstein is a man of his word, much like those more ruthless types he covers. So when NGT did a bait and switch and changed their “factual accuracy” approach to “general accuracy”, possibly putting lives at risk, Adelstein sent all of NGT’s money back and asked to have his name completely removed from the project.
“I would rather lose my life savings than have anyone lose their life or their fingers for the entertainment of NGT’s viewers,” Adelstein says in this in-depth run-down of the situation. Calling what the NGT crew did “parachute journalism” aka jumping into a situation with no understanding of the larger issues at hand, he points out the cultural and societal differences between what one’s “word” means to someone like a member of the yakuza versus “an LA based ‘film director.”’
“Would I believe the word of three yakuza over the word of an LA based ‘film director’ who brags about his reputation for doing awesome ‘dramatizations’ and ‘re-creations’? Mmm…Yes. I’d believe the yakuza every time, in this case. The yakuza do have standards and practices. They are not particularly high standards but they exist.”
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Adelstein’s article is gigantic, full of documentation, the conversation spilling well on into the comments. Much like his book, it’s a fascinating read and a rare insight into the real, unromanticized world of the yakuza and the press.