National Geographic deemed less honorable than the Yakuza, a Japanese crime syndicate

If all this is true,
then it requires a thorough explanation from our Society.

I have been working as a consultant on a National Geographic Television documentary on the yakuza since the summer of last year. I resigned on February 24th. I also asked that my name be removed from the program, Gangland Tokyo.

I did this for two reasons. I was not given full access to the materials that would allow me to verify the factual accuracy of the program and thus unable to do my job properly. There are also issues of the program being seen as yarase (やらせ).  Since I can’t verify the factual accuracy, taking the money and continuing would be perfidious. Also, after seeing a rough cut of the program, I now have serious concerns about the safety of all Americans and Japanese sources, friends, and the staff of National Geographic Channel Japan who are involved with this program. There is a chance that the yakuza that have been betrayed by NGT will use violence against those residing in Japan to express their anger. I am even concerned about the safety of the yakuza that agreed to appear in the documentary, probably under false pretenses and false promises. They will face retaliation from their superiors if the program is aired as it is now. Yakuza are people too, a small minority of them are good people in their own right, and once they cooperate with the program, they are also sources. And sources have to be protected. That is the good faith that is demanded in responsible journalism.

I am posting this publicly because I have been unable to reach all the parties involved in this documentary. I will not be shown the final product and National Geographic Television has refused to tell me whom they interviewed or how those interviews were obtained therefore I can’t be sure who is at risk of substantial harm. After consulting with friends in the Japanese police and in US Federal Law Enforcement agencies, who advised that I had a duty to inform all parties involved, which I agree with, I have decided to do this very publicly. National Geographic Television has asked me at least once not to update or inform their Japanese partners about problems with the production (see correspondence and emails). Therefore, I feel that I must do what they should do.

My counsel has advised me that by posting this I will probably face malicious litigation from NGT that will bankrupt me and leave me financially destitute. But after careful consideration, I have made my choice. I would rather lose my life savings than have anyone lose their life or their fingers for the entertainment of NGT’s viewers.

Would I believe the word of three yakuza over the word of an LA based “film director” who brags about his reputation for doing awesome “dramatizations” and “re-creations”? Mmm…Yes. I’d believe the yakuza every time, in this case. The yakuza do have standards and practices. They are not particularly high standards but they exist. Most yakuza have them posted on large ornate scrolls posted on their office walls and written in bold dark cursive: “Any member who engages in theft, robbery, rape and or any other activity that runs contrary to the noble way (ninkyodo) will be expelled.” It’s very clear.

I’ve never seen the standards and practices documents for National Geographic Television, although I have asked to see them many times. The only time I’ve even heard NGT staff seriously mention them was at the room of the Ritz Carlton Tokyo where the director was staying. He was complaining that standards and practices at NGT had issued a new directive which banned all sit-down interviews, “because they’re boring” and required the outsourced film crews to get footage of people “doing things” while being interviewed.

I thought about leaking this state of affairs anonymously so as to avoid legal issues but then I decided that’s the kind of cowardly, sneaky backstabbing behavior that I detest. I’ll speak up for myself, and I will speak for everyone that they have ruthlessly used and endangered for their own profit.

What NGT is doing is tantamount to criminal negligence. Under Japanese law, if during the course of your work you engage in negligent behavior that results in injury, you can be held criminally responsible and arrested. The Japanese penal code refers to this as gyomujo kashitsushisho (業務上過失死傷) or “crimes of injury through negligence in the pursuit of professional activities.”

If they air the film as it is now and anyone is hurt, I’ll be the first one to go to the police and file charges of criminal negligence resulting in injury and/or death. And I will do my best to see that they are extradited. Because recklessly endangering or causing harm to others is a crime here in Japan where the documentary was filmed.

They can’t deny they knew there were dangers. The chain of emails that someone in the organization anonymously sent me establishes that, as well as does this posting.

I can only offer my deepest apologies to all concerned and hope that the producers will do the right thing and not air footage that endangers many, betrays the good faith between journalists and sources, and borders on criminal negligence. I was not involved in the problematic interviews and have no editorial control of the program. Please address any enquiries to National Geographic Television.


Read the whole thing,
including the correspondence & emails.


Dear John,
What in the world is up with this?
Troubling, don’t you think?
Anything you can do to help Mr. Adelstein
and other people who have taken great risks to help National Geographic
but who evidently are potentially in great danger?


NO NEW POSTS will be published here after February 6, 2014. THIS IS WHY.