Last night all TV channels were running "specials" of Horie and his rise to fame and his recent troubles. The newspapers and TV reports were so amazingly detailed you might think they had been preparing these shows for months. The shows remind me of the scenes in movies where the mob throws vegetables and jeer at the accused during public hangings. This swing from hero to villain is a common thing in Japan. However, I think Horie pissed off more than the usual share of big-shots so he's got a number of powerful constituents fueling the flames. Regardless of his guilt or innocence, I find this public flogging and mob jeering rather disgusting.
My wise attorney in Japan always tells me to try to stay out of the press. There is an old saying in Japan that the press always get to use you twice. They write about you to push you up and they write about you to tear you down. This is clearly the case with Horie.
Things Horie has said in his book and on his blog are being featured prominently in the media. In his book, Horie makes some strong statements. He says that money can buy anything and also talks about cutting chonmage (the samurai hair knots). Both of these statements are stupid and provocative statements in my personal opinion. Note to self: be careful about what you write and say.
This also reminds me of various other public figures that I've known in Japan. I used to work closely with chairman Shima of NHK (the national broadcasting company) and watched as he rose to fame and gained a sense that he was running Japan. I remember being in his office watching a Diet meeting. He grabbed the phone and called someone and told him, "I TOLD so-and-so not to say it that way!" and slammed the phone down. He also regularly told foreign heads of state that he ran Japan. However, when he decided to take on the ruling party and try to make the public broadcasting independent of government control, he was smacked down hard and fast by the LDP. (NHK's budget requires approval by the Diet which is controlled by the LDP.) Ousted with a minor scandal, I remember going to the funeral of his son shortly after his ejection from NHK. The company had ordered former co-workers at NHK not to attended his funeral. Mr. Shima passed away several years later lonely and completely powerless.
There is a long list of people who have been hyped and then smacked down by the media. I would say that those who piss off the media and the ruling party seem to get smacked down the hardest. I know a number of people who have fallen with various scandals, but have rebounded several years later. Many people who were smeared with the Recruit scandal years ago are now back in play.
My advice to people who are thinking of becoming public figures in Japan:
1) Manage media exposure - Take breaks from media appearances and be wary of articles that want to make you look better than you really are. Try to get out from under labels that at first glance may appear flattering but could piss people off or make you look stupid.
2) Don't believe the hype - Obvious point, but EVERYONE seems to get a dose of invincibility madness when the get glowing press and get shuttled around in motorcades. This madness is the weakness that will be exploited.
3) Don't say or do ANYTHING that might be used to tear you down - Japan (not only Japan) is full of situations where people break the law because everyone else does it. Sometimes it feels like securities and corporate statute are at the level of traffic laws - things that can be ignored as long as you don't get caught. The problem is, just because everyone else is doing it, it doesn't mean it won't be used against you. Especially if you are going to take on the establishment, you have to keep yourself squeaky clean.
4) Don't piss people off for fun - There are plenty of situations where people will get pissed off with what you do. There is no point in pissing people off on purpose. Resist the urge.