Days after Japan’s devastating earthquake, bodies are still washing up along the coastline, crematoriums are overwhelmed and rescue workers are running out of body bags. But as the nation struggles with the grim reality of a mounting humanitarian, economic and nuclear crisis after a tsunami, some Americans are using the power of social media to unleash insensitive and racist jokes about the tragedy.
In a March 13 post, a blog promoting the need for a University of California, Santa Cruz Ethnic Studies Department posted a collection of racist status updates and tweets gathered from Facebook and Twitter including references to “payback” for Japan’s World War II attack on Pearl Harbor.
“If you wanna feel better about this earthquake in Japan, google ‘Pearl Harbor death toll,’” tweeted Alec Sulkin, a scriptwriter for the Fox animated television show “Family Guy.”
Sulkin has since deleted his comment on Twitter and has apologized for his “insensitive tweet”.
Hateful rhetoric is rampant on the web. Comedian Gilbert Gottfried continues to make lewd jokes about the disaster on his Twitter page and rap star 50 Cent reacted to backlash from his tsunami jokes by tweeting, “Hate it or love it. I’m cool either way 50 cent.”
JACL national director Floyd Mori is also blasting the comments.
“I think comments such as these not only inflame prejudices of the past but cause misinterpretations of the real facts of this major catastrophe,” said Mori. “It’s unfortunate that people have to stoop so low to try to make a name for themselves and get their seconds of notoriety on social media.”
According to public broadcaster NHK, some 430,000 people are living in emergency shelters or with relatives. Another 24,000 people are stranded, it said.