If you’re reading this post, one of two things has happened: the Washington Post has scrapped a story about American anime fans and stigma or that story was published today.
I’m writing from the perspective of July 15, exactly ten minutes after getting off the phone with the Post reporter, J. Freedom duLac. When he emailed me to ask if he could call me about the post I had just written on my blog, Should anime conventions screen for sex offenders?, my hands shook while I wrote my affirmative reply. Carefully, agonizingly, I drafted a three paragraph statement that I would parrot out to him on the phone, basically a summary of my article.
However, when duLac called the next day, that wasn’t exactly what he had in mind. He was interested in anime fan stigmas. Nevermind this one incident of sexual assault. Is our community clouded by this unsavory misrepresentation in general, he wanted to know.
I explained Lolicon and Hentai. We discussed the demographic of fans, how it’s always getting younger. We talked about the upcoming Otakon.
“Of course,” I said, “If it turns out the sex offender didn’t like lolicon anime, then this is an isolated assault incident like any other.” I reminded the reporter that the instance itself didn’t happen at the convention, where there are hundreds of staff and Security personnel.
duLac asked if this incident really was isolated, or if local anime conventions are battling a problem with sexual assault. I let him know that this was the only one I’d heard of, and it didn’t even happen at an anime convention.
I steered the conversation to Katsucon’s policy. That it’s a reactive policy that treats future attendees like potential criminals. I mentioned how in the ANN forum post for the article, one commenter wrote,
“Leave it to the sickos to make the rest of us older guys that go to cons feel like eyeballs will be watching us double now. I already have issues with going to cons and being the odd man out, and this guy has to make it just that much harder. We as a fandom don’t need the stigma of jerks like this making us look like pedophiles and creepy rapists.”
duLac thought he might be able to build a story around that one comment. He said he’d do some research and let me know.
I wanted to keep talking about the case, how it was isolated. That’s when I had a flashback to my reporting days at the local paper in Fredericksburg, VA. I’d be on the phone with a source, trying to find out all the facts about the restaurant opening. And all the restaurant opener wanted to do was ensure that I was going to make her restaurant look good.
I have an agenda. I don’t want him to think anime fans are bad people. This isn’t one journalist talking to another. I’m in too deep here to be a journalist.
This should be a turning point for me. The moment I realize I’m too involved in the fandom community to report on it without my love pouring out. Instead, this is the moment I realized that nobody is completely objective.
In J-school, one professor suggested that if we wanted to be true journalists, we would stop voting in elections. We would take our voting cards and register as Independents, just in case somebody found them. In order to pretend we don’t have preferences, we should give up one of our rights as citizens.
After duLac and I hung up the phone, I sent him an email with a list of links. I included all the most recent string of anime porn related arrests. I sent him a Katsucon PR contact. When I thought I’d given him enough information to write an objective story, I sent it.
I’m compromised. I’m biased. I’m in too deep. But I’m committed to getting the awful truth out, if there really is one. If it turns out there’s no connection, he’ll see that. I know the fandom won’t let me down.
I spoke again with duLac at Otakon and gave this topic some more reflection. Read about it in Part II.