Photo/Illutration Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga with Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, at the prime minister’s office in November (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

The protagonist of a serial TV drama recently aired by Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) is a newscaster who sticks to his principle of never rocking the boat.

He puts his heart and soul into making comments without any substance, such as, “I believe, after all, that sports are about physical exercise.”

In the real world, we do not hear anyone speak like him.

Except, perhaps, for our prime minister. Yoshihide Suga’s parlance may bear more resemblance to the empty words of the fictional newscaster than you might think.

His inaugural catchphrase, “a Cabinet that works for the people,” sounded hollow because it was so obvious. But it may pale before his more recent remarks about holding the Tokyo Olympics despite the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Every time he was asked about the risk of staging the Olympics amid a spread of infections, Suga reiterated, “We will protect the lives and health of the people” and “We will hold a safe and secure Games.”

The Tokyo Olympics will be held in the capital under a fourth COVID-19 state of emergency, without sufficient explanations given about infection control measures.

Calls for strict self-isolation to reduce the flow of people will coincide with a gigantic event that will mobilize a large number of people.

It has been long pointed out that the government is issuing self-contradictory messages.

“It’s like stepping on the gas pedal and the brake at the same time,” some critics have said.

Still, the oxymoron seems to know no limits.

In George Orwell’s dystopian near-future novel “1984,” a surveillance state pushes what is called “doublethink” on its people.

By repeating essentially oxymoronic statements, such as “War is Peace,” “Freedom is Slavery” and “Ignorance is Strength,” the surveillance state paralyzes people’s senses.

What is being pushed on us today may be akin to doublethink.

In my mind’s eye, I see someone reciting mantras, such as “Self-isolation is festive” and “A spread of infections is safe and secure,” deep in the heart of the International Olympic Committee.

--The Asahi Shimbun, July 9

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.