This article examines narrative manipulation of police violence involving journalists, the police, and activists in late Meiji Japan to explore the political potential of popular media. I scrutinize the so-called Red Flag Incident of 1908, in which fourteen socialists were arrested for fighting with policemen in the streets of Tokyo over red flags with anarchist slogans. Scholars have studied this incident as a prologue to the nationwide crackdown on socialists, which in turn led to the 1910 High Treason Incident that resulted in the execution of twelve socialists for allegedly plotting to assassinate the emperor. Immediately after the Red Flag Incident, however, newspapers highlighted the four female socialists taken into custody, embroidering their stories with a variety of theatrical metaphors. Simultaneously, the gendered narratives allowed the radical political message to circulate in the form of entertainment, eventually inspiring both intensified state persecution of radicals and women's diverse engagement in politics.
1 October 2016