GaaSyy’s Arrest a Warning against Carelessly Choosing Candidates

The fact that a candidate was fielded without regard for their qualifications, and with priority given to creating a buzz, likely led to the expulsion of a House of Councillors member and his subsequent arrest. Political parties should take this lesson seriously.

Former upper house member Yoshikazu Higashitani, who goes by the name GaaSyy, has been arrested on suspicion of such charges as repeated intimidation in violation of the Law on Punishment of Physical Violence and Others. Higashitani is believed to have been effectively deported from the United Arab Emirates, where he was staying. He was taken into custody by the Metropolitan Police Department upon arriving in Japan.

Higashitani is suspected of repeatedly making intimidating remarks on YouTube to an actor and two other people from February to August last year.

If he continued his heinous postings during the upper house election in July last year, it is utterly shocking.

Higashitani has drawn attention as an “exposing YouTuber,” repeatedly posting on his site purportedly secret information about celebrities he had interacted with.

Last year, Higashitani ran for the upper house from the then NHK Party while staying in the UAE, and was elected for the first time in the proportional segment. He received nearly 290,000 votes, the highest among the NHK Party candidates. However, even after winning the election, Higashitani continued to miss Diet sessions and did not return to Japan. In March of this year, he was expelled from the upper house and lost his status as a member of the upper house.

Diet members are in general exempt from arrest when the Diet is in session. It is extremely serious that Higashitani was able to evade arrest by using his status as a shield.

It was also deeply misguided for him to claim that he “would be wrongfully detained if he returned to Japan,” as if he were a victim of state power.

There is nothing wrong with a political party fielding celebrities, such as athletes and TV personalities. It is important to have a diverse range of people participate in politics.

However, fielding a person of questionable character for election to public office is unacceptable, no matter how many votes he or she is expected to garner.

Immediately after the upper house election, Takashi Tachibana, then leader of the NHK Party, said of Higashitani, “He does not have to attend the Diet even once.” This was extremely ignorant.

With the proliferation of social media that allow anyone to freely express their opinions, more and more people are becoming popular for outrageous words and deeds and earning advertising revenue from their postings.

This situation itself represents an unhealthy trend, but it should not be used by political parties to attract votes and expand their party strength. Members of the Diet need to realize that they are “representative of all the people” as stipulated in the Constitution.

Freedom of expression should be respected, but malicious postings that violate the law should not be allowed to go unchecked. Social media operators have a responsibility to take such measures as deleting inappropriate postings from their platforms.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 6, 2023)