Close

Support Global Voices

To stay independent, free, and sustainable, our community needs the help of friends and readers like you.

Donate now »

Japan: Two Degrees from Terror

These days, particularly since the events of 9/11, a latent fear of “terror” has come to lurk in the hearts of many a concerned citizen. In a place like Japan, though, “terror” is still far away, disconnected from the events of everyday life. But how far away are the terrorists, really? How many degrees of separation are there between you and them? Certainly at least a few, most would answer; in the case of a high-ranking public official, no doubt more. And what about an elected cabinet member? Well, no one could be further from the terrorists than that.

But networks are funny things, and they connect people in unexpected ways. This week in Japan, the unexpected nature of networks suddenly dominated the headlines [Ja] when Justice Minister Hatoyama Kunio [Ja], only recently appointed to his new cabinet position, revealed in an off-hand comment that a “friend of a friend” of his belonged to the terrorist organization al-Qaeda. Although he later apologized for the statement [Ja], many were not satisfied. While some were calling it the dumbest remark of the month, and others awarded it the “foot in mouth” award, still others were not so gentle in their comments [Ja].

The “degrees of separation” idea, however, was also picked up and discussed by a handful of bloggers in more general terms. Blogger shumpei remarks that:

mixiなどのSNSに見られるようなスモールワールド的な考え方をすれば、6ディグリーズということで、だいたい、「友人の友人の友人の友人の友人の友人」で、だいたい世界の人々とつながるらしい。政治家であれば、「知人の知人の知人」で、だいたい日本の人たちとだいたいつながれるでしょう。芸能界の人間関係図を見ていたりすると、これまた、すごいことになっているわけです。

From the point of view of small world networks seen in SNSs [Social Network Services] such as mixi and so on, through only 6 degrees, i.e. something like a “friend's friend's friend's friend's friend's friend”, you can apparently connect nearly all people of the world. I suppose in the case of politicians, through a “friend of a friend of a friend” you can probably connect nearly all people in Japan. If you look just at a diagram of person-to-person relationships in the entertainment industry, this also is really amazing.

Blogger zarathustra1883 elaborates:

複雑ネットワーク研究でよく引き合いに出される「6次の隔たり」の事例だな。

「6次の隔たり」とは、6人の知人を間に介すれば、世界中のほとんど誰とでも繋がる、という仮説で、俗に「世間(世界)は狭い」ということと対応する。

Seems like a case example of the oft-cited “six degrees of separation” [idea] from research in complex networks.

What is called “six degrees of separation” is the hypothesis that nearly everybody in the world is connected to anybody else through [a chain of] six acquaintances, which corresponds to [the expression in] common speech: “It's a small world.”

まぁ、この場合は、立場が立場なだけに、多少事実関係をよく質す必要はあるが、それほど奇異なことではあるまい。私から小沢一郎や小泉純一郎までだって「友達の友達の友達」くらいで到達するんだから。(そして、これは別に珍しいことではない。)

Well, in this case, there needs to be some verification of the relation of facts, that the situation is as it is said to be, but there is nothing really that strange about this. Because look, you can get from me to Ozawa Ichiro, and to Koizumi Junichiro, through something like a “friend of a friend of a friend”. (Therefore, it's not really that unusual.)

But why did Justice Minister Hatoyama even make the statement in the first place? Blogger amata wonders:

鳩山法務大臣のあの「私の・・・友人の・・・友人が・・・アル○○○で、ございまして。」の喋りの間が絶妙で、どうしても笑ってしまうあの傑作な発言VTR。

This talk by Justice Minister Hatoyama that “My… friend's … friend's is … Al Qaeda” is just so exquisite that I can't help but laugh, this VTR of his masterful statement.

結局あれはナニが言いたかったのか?という疑問がおのずと湧く。
テレビではそのへんが全然判らなかったので新聞で読んだら、あの発言は『問題の友人の友人が髭をつける変装をして何回か日本に来てるので、(空港チェックとして)指紋を取ったほうがいいのではないか。』という発言の中の前半の一部だった。

In the end, what did he want to say? — this question naturally comes up.
Watching the TV broadcast I could not figure this out at all, so I read the newspaper [about it], and apparently it was part of the first half of the statement that: “A friend of a friend, who is involved in the problem [of terrorism], disguises himself by wearing a beard and has managed to enter Japan many times, so I think we need to start taking fingerprints (as a check at the airport).”

Finally, blogger iio at CLASSICA Japan follows the implications of the “friend of a friend” statement to their logical conclusion:

鳩山法相:「友人の友人にアルカイダ」。前に「六次の隔たり」ってのを書いたけど、アメリカの社会学者スタンレー・ミルグラムによれば、友達の友達の……と6人を介すると、みんな世界中の誰とでもつながるんである。ワタシとロナウドだってちゃんと6人でつながったし、中村俊輔にいたってはわずか4人でつながった。だから友人の友人くらいでアルカイダにつながったとしても特に驚くことはない気もする。ていうか、そのアルカイダのメンバーは当然ビン・ラディンとも友人であろうから、法相的には「友人の友人がアルカイダ」ってのは「友人の友人の友人がビン・ラディン」と敷衍することも可能なはずで、そんなふうに発言したらさらに物議を醸したかもしれん。国会で追及されたりしたら大変だ。

Justice Minister Hatoyama: “Al Qaeda, a friend of a friend.” I earlier wrote about “six degrees of separation,” but according to American sociologist Stanley Milgram, if you [trace a path] from your friend, to your friend's friend … through 6 people, you can connect yourself to anyone in the world. Between [Brazilian soccer player] Ronaldo and I there are 6 people, and I am connected to Nakamura Shunsuke through only 4 people. So even if you are connected to Al Qaeda through a friend of a friend, I don't think that it is something to be particularly surprised about. I mean, it is natural that the Al Qaeda member would be friends with Bin Laden, therefore that the Justice Minister is “a friend of a friend of Al Qaeda” means that it is also logically possible that he is “a friend of a friend of a friend of Bin Laden,” but to make such a declaration would probably create another controversy. If he was grilled about it at the National Diet it would be pretty bad.

●「友人の友人の友人がビン・ラディンなどという人物に大臣を任せられるでしょうか!」

「いや待て、そう言うあなたは大臣の友人ではないか。つまり友人の友人の友人の友人がビン・ラディンというあなたみたいな人間に追及する資格があるのか!」

「だがそういうあなたも友人の友人の友人の友人の友人がビン・ラディンということになるのであって……」

 みたいな無限ループとか。なわけないか。

“Can we trust a person who is a friend of a friend of a friend of Bin Laden to be in the position of Cabinet Minister?”

“No wait, aren't you a friend of the Minister? In other words, does someone like you, whose friend's friend's friend's friend is Bin Laden, have the rights to pursue?”

“Yes, but if you think that way, then you are also the friend of a friend of a friend of a friend of Bin Laden……”

It's this kind of endless loop. No?

1 comment

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »

Guidelines

  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices!

Submitted addresses will be confirmed by email, and used only to keep you up to date about Global Voices and our mission. See our Privacy Policy for details.

Newsletter powered by Mailchimp (Privacy Policy and Terms).

* = required field
Email Frequency



No thanks, show me the site