Monday, March 14, 2011
I’m sorry, I just had to laugh – sarcastically - several times over the weekend watching the media coverage of the horrible disaster in Japan. No laughter about the earthquake and ensuing tsunami and abundant human misery, but derisive laughter at the media “coverage” of the problems with the nuclear reactors. They were bound and determined to scare us to death, rather than report the news.
The first thing that becomes apparent, whether you’re watching CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox or CNN is that the anchors and reporters know virtually nothing about nuclear power – how it’s generated, how a reactor works, the basics of reactor design, or anything related to the technology of generating nuclear power.
But they sure do know “Chernobyl” and “Three Mile Island.”
I almost fell out of my chair Saturday morning when one of the networks…I lost track which one, because I was switching around so much….put on Bill Nye, “The Science Guy.” By all means, let’s get a TV personality (who does hold a degree in Mechanical Engineering) to comment on the unfolding disaster. The years have not been kind to Bill, and Hi-Def TV does him and his thickly pancaked makeup no favors. He tried valiantly to answer the anchor’s questions, but the anchor, of course, kept steering him to the worst possible scenario. “Yes, Bill, but what if there’s another earthquake? Won’t that spew the radioactivity directly into the atmosphere, killing millions instantaneously?”
Later in the day, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer had the Japanese Ambassador to the US on live, and asked him the same question about five times….something along the order of “isn’t it true that the reactor has already melted down and millions of people are in grave danger?” Then it was “how recent is your information?” which elicited “about one minute before we went on the air I was briefed by my government in Tokyo”, followed by something along the lines of “yah, but isn’t it possibly true that the reactor has already melted down and you may just not be aware of it.” You get the idea.
The next morning, one of the anchorettes “learned” (the TV folks love that word) about some magical pill (an iodine pill) that was being given to people possibly exposed to radiation, which would “ward off cancer.” (Dammit! We can’t those of us in the US have this magic pill that wards off cancer??)
I’ve said many times that television’s default position is “excess.” Every news person on every channel I watched did everything they could to gin up fear and unease, rather than to ask questions which would elicit information and help explain the situation. If a “guest expert” would dare to suggest that perhaps we really don’t have enough information right now to really know what’s going on, the interview would be quickly terminated, and the ginning up of fear would continue.
I don’t expect news folks to be experts of any stripe on something as complex as nuclear energy. But I do expect them to show some restraint in advancing their agenda, the central credo of which is something like “nukes are bad, and this proves it”.
Posted by Tim Morrissey at 2:11 PM