Thank God America isn't like that
I've been busy with SB 5 lately, and this is more Glenn Greenwald's turf anyway, but I wanted to highlight this segment from last Thursday's Hardball because the obliviousness displayed in it is almost comical (all emphasis added):
MATTHEWS: David, what is the situation in terms of fact versus the reporting from the Japanese government?
DAVID SANGER, "NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I think yesterday, Chris, there was a fairly large gap in the collection of facts between the U.S. and Japan. That's been closed up a bit today because the U.S. has been able to send its first airborne sensors over the plant, with the permission of the Japanese government, and we're beginning to see some readings out of that. So people can begin to get some common numbers about what's actually emitting from the plant.
I think there's also a greater sense of reality among the Japanese officials now that what they've been doing, at least what they did today and what you saw with those dramatic helicopter drops of water over the plant, may have made for really great TV video, but it's not clear that they lowered the temperature of either of the spent fuel rods that they're trying to hit by one iota. It's not clear at all that that was working.
So I think now you're beginning to see the two sides come together. But there's still a huge cultural gulf. Michael and I both lived in Japan at about the same time, and you know, the Japanese, first, often don't want to talk very directly about bad news, particularly if they think it's going to cause a panic. But secondly, I think that they have been less than fully rigorous about thinking about the order in which they wanted to attack this problem. And today you sort of saw them just throwing everything at it.
MATTHEWS: Let me go to Michael Hirsh. I suppose the first indication was there was a difference in fact, was that Americans were saying 50 miles would be a good radius to get away from this nuclear plant, and the Japanese were saying 19 miles will do it if you keep your doors closed.
Now, obviously, we're all looking at the diagram here to show those differences of degree. And also, the Japanese government reduced by a multiple of three the degree in which people felt exposure was a problem. So they were making it a lot easier to justify sending the workers back in to face the reactors. That's what gave me the thinking there's a difference of fact we're getting here, Michael.
HIRSH: Well, unquestionably.
And, you know, look, all governments tend to dissemble a bit and play down disasters when they occur, but I think, you know, the record of the Japanese government has been particularly egregious on this front. There was a-a very serious accident in 1995 at the Monju fast breeder reactor, and it was later found that the semi-governmental utility that ran that had actually falsified the video of the event to play down the severity of it.
And this has been, you know, an ongoing issue. And it does play into these questions about cultural differences. You have in Japan, despite, you know, nominal democracy there, much more of a hierarchical approach, where the government plays a paternal role and decides what and what not to transmit to its citizens.
MATTHEWS: Well, that's a great question for you, David, being at "The Times" and reporting on all these stories over the years.
Is this a case where our republican form of government, I don't mean capital-R, our basic form of government, where people at the top have to make decisions that wouldn't pass by plebiscite on a regular basis-nuclear energy is probably a great thing, because it avoids all kinds of carbon problems, and it's better than dealing with some Third World countries or Middle East countries if you have to, but it does carry that huge stakes, where it probably won't go bad, but, if it does go bad, you can't even get insurance for it.
Is that kind of thing you just can't sell to the public, so governments generally go with nuclear because it's a better bet in terms of bang for the buck, et cetera, but that bang is very dangerous?
SANGER: Well, you see that in all countries, but you have particularly seen that in Japan, Chris, where, of course, the nuclear allergies are much greater than they are even here in the United States.
And it's fairly remarkable that, in the country that suffered, you know, the only major nuclear attack-
SANGER: -- the only nuclear attack done in war, that you have got 30 percent of the energy coming from nuclear power.
And that was out of necessity. And the government pushed it through, just as Michael suggested before, and has found itself frequently in the position of having to suppress bad news, particularly over that Monju breeder reactor that-that he made reference to.
So, the government is certainly in that position. It's made worse in Japan by the fact that you have a news media that, while much more independent than it used to be, still sort of organizes itself around government ministries and is far more dependent on the government for official news.
MATTHEWS: I see.
SANGER: And, so, it's a lot harder to come out with the kind of journalism that we see here in the United States that would challenge an existing governmental position.
The other element in all of this is that Tokyo Electric Power Company may not be fully leveling with that-with their own Japanese government officials. And one of the remarkable things about this is, it's very hard to know who's really in charge here, the government or Tokyo Electric Power.
It reminds you in some ways of those debates we had on your show, in fact, about whether or not the U.S. government or BP was running the show during the-during the oil catastrophe.
MATTHEWS: Yes. Yes, it sure looked like BP, as we know. Thank you.
I'm sure glad not to live in a country like that! One that doesn't want to talk very directly about bad news, where the government plays a paternal role and decides what and what not to transmit to its citizens, where bad news is suppressed and the news media is dependent on the government for official news. It's so wonderful to live in a country where the media will challenge an existing governmental position.
That was a pretty quick link search, incidentally. This is "fish in a barrel" territory. The examples are abundant, and the lack of self-awareness is absolutely staggering.
[UPDATE Only a "dipshit" would read "obliviousness" and "lack of self-awareness" and translate to "incompetence." And only a wanker who doesn't do their homework would think that when danps writes "busy with SB5" he means busy with "legislative work." Fish, barrel. As you were. --lambert]