Vigilante video: digital populism and anxious anonymity among Japan’s new netizens

Nathaniel M. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Over ten years before the deadly 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, Japan was reckoning with its own wave of Internet-fueled xenophobic activism in public spaces. Amid a second decade of recession in the early 2000s, nationalist activity coalesced in anonymous chat rooms and message boards in Japan. In contrast to the surprisingly inclusive space that prior rightist generations had inherited from imperial pan-Asian ideology and post-World War II experiences of shared social marginality, a new activist movement that came to be known as the Action Conservative Movement (ACM) pursued an aggressively xenophobic, racially framed form of nationalism, based not on the social margins but rhetorically grounded in the center of Japan’s middle-class society. This article identifies the centrality of self-made digital media and three genres of video work facilitating ACM mobilization of supporters from the virtual to the physical public sphere and explores issues around anonymity and truth telling such video work entails.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-86
Number of pages20
JournalCritical Asian Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2020


  • Japan
  • Populism
  • digital video
  • online politics
  • right-wing activism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Sociology and Political Science


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