Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Japanese nuke disaster - a media meltdown too!

Ever since it began, the nuclear diaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in northern Japan has also proved to be a media disaster. Coverage of the event has been all over the map and continues to confuse people at a time where precise information is most important. A good part of the reason for this confusion seems to come from Japan itself, where "damage repair" is not simply confined to the reactor site, but to the boardroom and official press briefings as well. It has been reported that Tokyo Electric Power Company, the operator of the complex, has a history of of falsified safety reports, fatal accidents and underestimated earthquake risk. If this is the case, why should such dishonesty change now when the company faces its biggest challenge ever? Indeed, the Japanese government itself has been accused of a cover-up. Does this remind us of something? Making matters worse, international agencies that are supposed to protect and inform us in times of a nuclear crisis apparently have a hidden agenda. In the U.S. there has always been problems with the ‘politicization’ of nuclear energy.

Given all that disinformation and media manipulation it's no surprise that U.S. reports of the nuclear disaster and its global effects are replete with mixed messages. However, that situation is made even worse by news or informational organizations that have their own corporate agendas. On one end of the spectrum are outright propaganda outfits like Faux "News" (Fox News) who even promote radiation! Less overt, but seemingly just as pro-corporate, National Public Radio (NPR) has a history of nuclear industry bias and NBC is actually owned in-part by nuclear reactor maker GE. These outlets often make use of questionable information from nuclear industry lobbying groups, passing it off as news. But such manufactured media is not limited to the United States. Public relations hacks and commentators in Australia, the UK, and elsewhere are engaged in the effort as well.

Add to all this the propensity for most all media in this day and age to suffer from a highly limited attention span. Always on the lookout for the next new thing, editors and reporters may be some of the most sensation-driven professionals among us. "If it bleeds it leads" is the infamous tagline associated mainly with the mainstream media, but that sort of voyeurism is partly derived from human nature. The media simply makes an art of it. Now, we see the multiple meltdowns in Japan, not to mention the thousands who died in the earthquake and tsunami, fall from the headlines or be pushed aside by the war in Libya. The fact of the matter is: the Fukushima meltdowns have the potential to be the WORST NUCLEAR CRISIS EVER. The media needs to stay on the case.

So, where does one go to get the actual facts? Didn't we ask that same question last year during the BP oil disaster in the Gulf? Wasn't there just as much disinformation and spin coming from government and industry? Given the dynamics of the so-called "Information Age", it is left up to us to seek out a wide range of information on our own and decide for ourselves what is relevant and factual. I guess that's the same as it ever was, only there's more of it.

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