Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Japan's Nuclear Disaster and Wall of Shame Reporting

As you've read here at this blog basically from day one of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident crisis in Japan, the western media has been having a field day with the over the top sensationalist reporting. Please! Click on the video and then read on! You just can't make this stuff up!

Well, now more and more people are starting to go on record taking these clowns to task. It's too bad that too many people consider the news god's gospel truth instead of tabloid sensationalism because that's what it basically is.

Pull up a chair, grab a beer, and get ready for some really humorous stuff.

Thank god, there are many others, besides me, who have been skeptical and suspicious from the start and many more people are finally waking up to the prospect that, once again, the mass media is not to be believed by any stretch of the imagination.

There's a guy who writes a blog called, "Squeeze Box Press." I don't know his name but he gets a hero award from me. In his post of March 17th, 2011 entitled: 


He explains that he is starting a Wall of Shame to list up all this crap reporting. It is a wonderful read too. He writes: 

In retrospect, I should have had this idea before, but I guess today I just hit critical mass (not sure if it’s appropriate to use a nuclear energy turn of phrase here): one too many pieces of bad journalism.

So I decided to start a wiki Bad Journalism Wall of Shame and invite some of the other people who were frustrated with some of the shoddy, alarmist, and shockingly wrong journalism we’ve seen since last Friday’s Tohoku quake.

I take everything I read with a grain of salt these days, and have for many years.  When I read an article or see a television report that makes sensational claims, I try to fact check on my own, because I no longer trust most journalists to have done it for me.  There are several major areas that journalists particularly suck at:

  • Science reporting.  I have a degree in fine arts, and I could write better science articles than most science writers could.  Any journalist who suggested that Fukushima could be “another Chernobyl” should be made to retake his 9th grade science class and then have his journalist license revoked.   Oh wait…
  • Reporting on Japan.  JAPAN IS SOOO WEIRD!  JAPANESE PEOPLE HAVE NO EMOTION!  If everything you think you know about Japan was learned from the movies Gung Ho and Mr. Baseball, then maybe you’re not qualified to write an article about Japan.  Also, spending a few days, hell, even a month in Japan (probably in a hotel or furnished apartment, or otherwise isolated location) does not make you an expert on the place.  Nor does interviewing someone who has lived here for a few months (or even year, if living in one of the many gaijin bubbles).
  • Disaster reporting.  Two and a half words: Exaggeration and fear-mongering.
This is not new information.  Not to me, and probably not to you.  However, in the aftermath of the quake, all three of these elements joined together to create (to use a term journalists are so fond of using themselves) the “perfect storm”.  News piece after news piece full of inaccuracies, misinterpretations, and just plain lies.  (My favourites are the photos, shown out-of-context.  For instance, showing a photo of a girl in a surgical-style mask and implying that she was wearing it due to radiation, while the reality is that we’re in allergy season here and many people wear masks to keep pollen at bay.)

The worst offenders are the 24-hour news networks.  A few hours into the quake, I stopped looking at them.  The problem there (as we learned during the 9/11 coverage) is that the anchors feel like they have to keep talking to fill dead air, which means that they inevitably end up saying dumbass things.

But no news source gets off scot free.  Some seem to make stuff up, others seem to repeat rumours floating around in the electronic ether, while others interview obvious idiots or crazies and take what they say as gospel truth.  Some, I think, pick information up from another news source, and never bother to check it for accuracy.

This last paragraph is particularly damning and I think right on target. But I am of the opinion that, even more disasterous for everyone is not so much the actual reporting, but the fact that so many people actually believe this stuff! What planet are these people living on?

When will people ever learn? I hear that in the old Soviet Union that the Russian people didn't believe anything that Pravda said because they knew it was propaganda... You'd have thought that western society would have produced more discerning intelligent people... But I guess not.

This guy then goes on to explain what the Wall of Shame is all about: Atrocious, bad, malicious and/or fear mongering reporting going on in the western media and how he wants to put them all on record. He writes:

This Wall of Shame is being assembled by various people, many of whom are on the ground in Japan as residents, not temporarily assigned journalists, who are sick of the sensationalist, overly speculative, and just plain bad reporting that has gone on since the Tohoku quake in Japan on March 11. We feel that contacting each and every publication and reporter every time a bad report shows up independently is not effective, and it is our sincere hope that this will encourage journalists to aspire to a higher (some would say minimal) level of responsibility in their reports. If you would like to add a report of your own, feel free. What can you do if you've read some of the articles listed here and you want to do something? We're compiling a list of press organizations to which you can complain HERE.

I highly recommend that you go to the Wall of Shame and view this artwork in progress. Here are just a few of my favorites (many others are not listed yet):  

Germany's BILD Zeitung gets an award for total nonsense:

Headline titling "Atomic Horror" mit 4 (!) exclamation marks. The picture on the front shows a person with gas mask/some suit against radioactive pollution. In the background a devastated landscape is shown. On first sight it looks like a nuclear desert, however it is a picture from the destruction caused by the Tsunami. 
On the next pages they ask: "And what´s up with the Sushi 
in the restaurants? Can we still eat it"?  (emphasis mine)

Even the alternative media get in on the act of ridiculous reporting with Kurt Nimmo's nonsense in

Comparing Fukushima to Chernobyl;

Fear-Mongering Headline "Japanese Nuclear Meltdown Would Be Hundreds of Times Worse Than Chernobyl" with no supporting evidence;

Grotesque factual errors: "The 480-megawatt Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is a hundred times more powerful than the ill-fated reactor at the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine." In fact Chernobyl reactors were 1000 MWe while Reactor 1 at Fukushima Daiichi is 480 MWe, less than half Chernobyl's power.

We're doomed!

Oh, no! Not Scientific American!? Yes. Scientific American too needs to sell ad space. They allow writer Steve Mirsky off his leash to fan the flames of panic:

"Radioactive waste dump for years to come." and "This is going to be like Chernobyl." Scientific American joins the ranks of popular journalism. Added offense severity points for retaining the word 'scientific' in their name. (emphasis mine)

If you are intelligent and sick and tired of the mass media sensationalism (but I repeat myself) you can see much much more at the Wall of Shame

Thanks so much to the Wall of Shame, Ray Hearn


Anonymous said...

"Unfortunately the radioactive media-fallout has achieved all its aims. With 18 days since this great national tragedy, the media are the beneficiaries - as well as those corporate-scavengers waiting on the sidelines for "business opportunities" that the ensuing panic created. Hmmm. " - Michael Distacio

Anonymous said...

Yeah... What a load of bollocks!

Marc Sheffner said...

even more disasterous for everyone is not so much the actual reporting, but the fact that so many people actually believe this stuff! What planet are these people living on?
Apart from stupidity, I wonder if, in the West at least, the tradition (or is it myth?) of "the duties of the fourth estate" have anything to do with folks' lingering desire to believe the press?
Read again the words of London Times' Leo Lewis. Do they sound pompous and self-serving to you?
“It is a very fine balance. But if the price paid for having a vigilant media is occasional bursts of sensationalism, I’d probably take that over a more acquiescent press whose worst failure is the dereliction of its fourth estate duties,” he said.

Yes "occasional bursts". That's all we get, isn't it? Excuse me while I laugh...

I don't think the same idea of "fourth estate duties" applies to Japan. For one thing, nobody challenges anyone directly on tv or news interview. Because of that, perhaps the Soviet attitude, in a watered-down version, is prevalent in Japan? I.e., they take everything with a pinch of salt because they know the anchormen are not going to be directly pointing out weaknesses in arguments or reasoning. Guessing here, really.

Marc Abela said...

I assume many will quickly agree with me that it's probably very risky and at best quite ill-mannered for me or anyone to even dare considering the idea of comparing the "very real" and tragic incidents which took place earlier this month in Japan with what happened 75 years ago, but somewhat if feels as if the parallel is just too (disturbingly) tempting:
Talk soon,

Marc Abela said...

PS: I bet they actually omit numbers (not a single mention of any single "unit", no sievert, no becquerel, nothing in any amount precise in this one article - and it's not the exception) when they write their "report"... invisible and unit-less dangers surely make for greater revenues for the publishing companies...