In a familiar pattern following the assassination of a public figure, the worldwide media is showing little inclination to dig deeper into the recent shooting of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The brazen daylight attack on Abe — captured on video during a campaign stop, in a country with virtually no gun homicides — shocked the world. Japan’s rates of gun violence are preposterously low by any standard: Just one shooting fatality was recorded in all of 2021.
But why Abe, and why now? The first prime minister to serve multiple terms since 1948 and the longest-serving PM in Japanese history, Abe was a powerful and controversial figure in Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party, the party that has controlled the country for nearly 70 years.
He was a nationalist reactionary, an apologist for World War II war crimes who denied the rape of Nanjing, and a supporter of rearmament and of doubling Japan’s defense budget (he also nominated Donald Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize). But despite looming large in domestic politics, he did not wield any direct power on the day he was killed.
As paeans from conservatives around the world poured in, praising Abe’s deft diplomatic skills and vision, police settled on a puzzling motive behind confessed killer Tetsuya Yamagami’s actions: Possibly based on internet rumors, Yamagami concluded that Abe was connected to the “Moonies,” or the Unification Church, the worldwide movement founded by Sun Myung Moon (that also owns the conservative Washington Times). Yamagami allegedly believed the church defrauded his mother and bankrupted his family.
The leader of the church’s Japanese congregation confirmed that Yamagami’s mother is a member and attends services once a month — but said there was no record of the church soliciting or receiving a donation. Neither Yamagami nor Abe were members, he added.