Is US media sensationalizing the nuclear angle

drainer at drainer at
Mon Mar 21 22:28:04 EDT 2011

I think that your first post was completely right. 

In my opinion, what scholars should look at, in any case, is domestic (“western”) sensationalism; for example, my [limited] exposure to U.S. media indicates that the main concern is “will it happen here” as opposed to “is it happening there?” 

I am not sure that orientalist critique offers the best analysis at this time. 


-----Original Message-----
>From: Joseph Murphy <murphy7312 at>
>Sent: Mar 21, 2011 6:06 PM
>To: "KineJapan at" <KineJapan at>
>Subject: Re: Is US media sensationalizing the nuclear angle
>This is the best place I've seen to get information about the  
>technical aspects including radiation levels and a differentiation  
>between the situation at the various numbered reactors.  If you go  
>back and run through from the earliest reports, it is  interesting to  
>see things unfold in an uncertain environment:
>Casualty reports have ranged from 2 missing and presumed dead to 5.   
>International Business TImes has a good summary:
>I want to stress, part of my point is that nothing I have seen  
>indicates any acute danger outside the evacuation zone.  However, it's  
>not irrational, in a situation of uncertainty, to look at worst-case  
>scenarios, and what they mean.  Even the worst case poses no acute  
>danger in the Kanto area, it's too far away.  However, worst-case does  
>pose potential longterm concerns based on air and water-born  
>contaminants in the environment, that are cumulative in nature.  It's  
>legitimate to report on that.  My wife is in Tokyo right now, I  
>advised her not to worry short term.
>Joseph Murphy
>On Mar 21, 2011, at 11:09 AM, Roger Macy wrote:
>> Joseph,
>> But what of, in relation to  "The engineers at Fukushima Dai-ichi"  
>> that: "the fact that multiple personnel died" ?  I hadn't heard  
>> this.  And, in relation to "levels of radiation" ?   Is this a case  
>> of UK media under-reporting?  Surely, if we are discussing media, we  
>> need to indicate sources.
>> Roger
>> ----- Original Message -----
>> From: Mark Mays<mailto:tetsuwan at>
>> To: KineJapan at<mailto:KineJapan at 
>> >
>> Sent: Monday, March 21, 2011 5:04 AM
>> Subject: Re: Is US media sensationalizing the nuclear angle
>> I haven’t read any reports, whether it is claimed there is no danger  
>> outside the evacuation radius or not, that said the situation was  
>> under control. The US govt has been suspicious of the reports coming  
>> from JPN govt/TEPCO, which is why I think the NRC chair went public  
>> with his misgivings. After that, Kan or someone, allowed US  
>> assistance. However, the NRC now believes the TEPCO employees have  
>> made significant progress. That’s the reporting we’re seeing now.
>> Many minds in the crowdsource intelligentsia are focused on what’s  
>> happening with cooling the plants. It will be interesting to read  
>> what is said when they turn their attention to long term effects.
>> Guess I can’t speak for everyone on all listserves but I don’t think  
>> calling the US media out on bad or alarmist reporting equals an  
>> ostrich like attitude towards a story that isn’t over yet.
>> From: Joseph Murphy<mailto:murphy7312 at>
>> Sent: Sunday, March 20, 2011 11:40 PM
>> To: KineJapan at<mailto:KineJapan at 
>> >
>> Subject: Is US media sensationalizing the nuclear angle
>> Dear Colleagues,
>> One of the most interesting things about being in Japan during a  
>> global event, is seeing the difference between how it is reported in  
>> Japan, and how it is reported in Europe and America.  I've heard,  
>> from many of my colleagues in the Japan studies field, a similar  
>> take, that the US media is overplaying the nuclear angle. I'm no fan  
>> of the US media, but as an engineer, I am frankly appalled.  If  
>> article after article, and expert after expert are asserting that  
>> there is absolutely no danger  outside the immediate vicinity, they  
>> are wrong.  While the acute effects of a worst-case scenario  
>> involving catastrophic release of gamma radiation would be confined  
>> to a 20-30 km radius, the possible long-term effects are serious,  
>> and reach much further.  You've got 3 different primary contaminants  
>> (iodine, cesium, strontium), with 3 different half-lives, and 2  
>> different possible ways of diffusion (air and water).  In a serious  
>> meltdown, airborne contamination could certainly reach Tokyo within  
>> hours, depending on prevailing winds (do we really want to put our  
>> eggs in the offshore wind basket), contaminants fall on the ground  
>> where they are absorbed by plants, animals eat the plants, it's in  
>> the food supply, popping up potentially anywhere in the country, for  
>> years.  This is not a one in a million scenario, it was one in  
>> twenty at times last week for Fukushima Dai-ichi.
>> That's largely iodine contamination, which dissipates to safe levels  
>> in 6 months.  Cesium and Strontium, with much longer half-lives, are  
>> around for 100's of years at dangerous levels.  The cesium and  
>> strontium plume from Chernobyl is currently nearing the Kiev water  
>> table.  The lump of radioactive material from a meltdown sits there  
>> for centuries.  The surrounding 30 km area would be a no-persons'  
>> land.
>> The engineers at Fukushima Dai-ichi worked heroically, they have so  
>> much pride in their plants they will risk their lives, but the fact  
>> that multiple personnel died, and 50+ endured life-threatening  
>> levels of radiation, say clearly that this was not under control.   
>> The industry plans based on insurance actuarial tables for 100 year  
>> scenarios, that is the legal obligation to their shareholders.  Then  
>> a 1000 year scenario visits, as geological time is likely to do.
>> Anyway, unlike Hurricane Andrew, unlike Katrina, unlike the  
>> earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia, the relief effort in Japan was  
>> compounded over the first week by an escalating, potentially  
>> catastrophic nuclear crisis, that could itself affect all aspects of  
>> recovery, from infrastructure to food production.  The downplaying  
>> of this I've seen on Japan studies lists which 20 years ago would  
>> have been resolutely anti-nuclear is fascinating.  Possibly a  
>> tactical downplaying because of the way this could be used to ramp  
>> up fossil-fuel consumption, maybe a theoretical problem with seeing  
>> Japan's natural disasters as "particularly" technical.  But they  
>> don't seem to proceed from a serious analysis of the situation at  
>> the plant.
>> yours,
>> J. Murphy
>> On Mar 18, 2011, at 4:23 AM, Lindsay Nelson wrote:
>> As someone who has been in Tokyo since August (currently in Kyoto to  
>> have a bit of a break from the aftershocks), I can say a few things.
>> 1. The nuclear power plant story is being ridiculously  
>> sensationalized in the American media. Article after article and  
>> expert after expert have declared that there is absolutely no danger  
>> to anyone outside the immediate vicinity of the plant, and yet the  
>> major news outlets ignore these stories and continue to vamp up the  
>> fear. Worse, they do this at the expense of reporting on the real  
>> crisis, which is the 400,000 + people in the northeast who have  
>> limited food, water, and shelter and are already dying as a result.
>> 2. Many people have made the decision to leave--at least  
>> temporarily--for a variety of reasons. Aftershocks were constant for  
>> the first 24 hours after the quake, and they continue even now. I  
>> personally have not slept much at all for the past week--partially  
>> because of the stress of the aftershocks, and partially because I  
>> have been dealing with frantic, panicked family members who were  
>> horrified that I hadn't fled the city. I also worried about  
>> blackouts as my only heater is electric, it's getting very cold, and  
>> kerosene / space heaters are completely sold out. I've left for a  
>> few days to get some sleep and try to re-group, but I plan to  
>> return. The bottom line is that even if there is no danger from the  
>> power plant, there are plenty of other reasons why people might  
>> choose to leave. And given the changing nature of the power plant  
>> situation and the huge amount of conflicting information available,  
>> I can understand why some people would be concerned enough to leave.
>> 3. Regarding film archives and screenings--for the most part it's  
>> business as usual in Tokyo. The scheduled blackouts have been  
>> avoided so far because people are doing a great job of conserving  
>> energy. Some universities have postponed classes and some smaller  
>> companies have shut down to allow their employees to spend time with  
>> their families, but most places are up and running. Very few  
>> Japanese are leaving the city (the shinkansen were crowded today as  
>> I headed for Kyoto, but Monday is a national holiday, so that's not  
>> too surprising). If regular blackouts become a necessity this will  
>> of course impact daily life considerably, but for now other than  
>> slightly reduced train service, a gasoline shortage, and shortages  
>> of items like bread, milk, and rice (really just the result of over- 
>> buying, not an actual shortage), Tokyo seems pretty normal to me.
>> I provide informal updates about the situation on the ground and  
>> links to helpful articles at
>> --Lindsay Nelson
>> On Fri, Mar 18, 2011 at 12:03 AM, Quentin Turnour <Quentin.Turnour at 
>> <mailto:Quentin.Turnour at>> wrote:
>> William,
>> Perhaps to shift things just to the issue of film archives...Thanks  
>> for your great and thoughtful post, Odd also considering I've just  
>> spent the morning doing a run through of the NFC's 35mm print of the  
>> SHINGUN/MARCHING ON and also reading your great on-line article  
>> about this unusual early Showa silent.
>> Literarily a few minutes after your post came up, Kae Ishihara at  
>> the Film Preservation Society posted an email and link to English- 
>> speaking FPS members
>> In the last few days I've had some contact with her, Akira Tochigi  
>> at the NFC and a few others in the Japanese screen culture community  
>> (such as Fujioka Asako of the Yamagata Doco festival - a cultural  
>> event which of course takes place within a prefecture once removed  
>> but still very close to the tragedy of the tsunami). But Kae's email  
>> is a great summary of what's happening with the NFC and regional  
>> film archives, and even some Japanese film industry matters - Sony's  
>> HDCam tape plant was at Sendai, for example.
>> As I alluded to, ironically we've been doing a season here of 1920s  
>> Japanese silents from the NFC and Matsuda, and the reconstruction of  
>> the Kanto area post-1923 obviously looms as a sub-text in many of  
>> the films we were screening... Or as a text on some of the mid-1920s  
>> Ministry of Education Tokyo reconstruction films, such as the  
>> eccentric PUBLIC MANNERS TOKYO SIGHTSEEING (...which has led us to  
>> making the decision to postponed a screening of these films).
>> Our program included a visit by the benshi Mr. Kotoaka Ichiro, who  
>> bravely went ahead with a performance of his final session only  
>> minutes after getting the news of the earthquake and then had some  
>> difficulties getting back to Tokyo from Australia the following day.  
>> We are currently ben asked to hold the prints from this series for  
>> the NFC until advised; as the FPS's site indicate it seems not so  
>> much that their facilities have been damaged, but shipping services  
>> are still unreliable, power is a problem and staff simply have  
>> having trouble getting to work
>> Finally, and noting the debate that your email inadvertently sparked  
>> over foreign perceptions... Those who know some of the history of  
>> what happened in the wake of Great Kanto will remember that  
>> immediate international goodwill degenerated badly in mutual  
>> recrimination in the weeks and months following; especially in  
>> Japanese-US relations. Whilst some of this had to do with the coming  
>> of US legislation restricting Japanese immigration, the beginnings  
>> of militant nationalism, and a   trickle of international press  
>> accounts of bad Japanese official behaviour (especially of the anti- 
>> Korean pogroms), lets hope the same thing doesn't happen again.
>> Quentin Turnour, Programmer,
>> Access, Research and Development
>> National Film and Sound Archive, Australia
>> McCoy Circuit, Acton,
>> phone: +61 2 6248 2054  |  fax: + 61 2 6249 8159
>> The National Film and Sound Archive collects, preserves and provides  
>> access to Australia's historic and contemporary moving image and  
>> recorded sound culture.
>> ReelDrew at<mailto:ReelDrew at>
>> Sent by: owner-KineJapan at<mailto:owner-KineJapan at 
>> >
>> 18/03/2011 02:27 PM
>> Please respond to
>> KineJapan at<mailto:KineJapan at 
>> >
>> To
>> KineJapan at<mailto:KineJapan at 
>> >
>> cc
>> Subject
>>        the eerie silence on KineJapan is maddening!
>> I have been a member of KineJapan for the last ten years. I joined  
>> originally out of a need to obtain translations of the intertitles  
>> of Japanese silents on VHS in my collection. I am very grateful to  
>> those members on KineJapan who aided me and made it possible for me  
>> to, among other things, write an article on Hiroshi Shimizu that is  
>> published on Midnight Eye.
>> Since then, I have regularly received almost daily the messages that  
>> have been posted here. In all honesty, a large number--perhaps the  
>> majority, in fact--have been of limited interest to me inasmuch as  
>> they tend to deal with contemporary Japanese films. Consistent with  
>> my enthusiasm for films in other countries, including my own,  
>> produced in earlier decades, it is my interest in the Japanese  
>> cinema of the past, especially the films of the 1920s and 1930s,  
>> that has been of consuming interest to me. Nevertheless, from time  
>> to time issues involving those golden years do come up here.
>> However, whether or not the topic has been of particular interest to  
>> me, I have always valued the fact that KineJapan has always been  
>> there, an extremely valuable resource to be consulted when needed.  
>> Never before since I've been here did this group shut down.  
>> Certainly, it was very active right through the events of 9/11 as  
>> were other film discussion groups in which I participated.
>> Since the tragic events that began a week ago, though, this place  
>> has suddenly turned into a ghost town. Aside from a very limited  
>> amount of posts specifically on the topic of the tsunami, there has  
>> been absolutely nothing here. No one has even bothered to post how  
>> things are going on in Tokyo, while all sorts of wild, apocalyptic  
>> rumors circulate unchecked in the US that Tokyo is about to become  
>> irradiated, that it may be doomed. I believe a few welcome posts  
>> here from knowledgeable people in the Japanese capital might help to  
>> clarify the situation and perhaps alleviate some of these fears.
>> I have had a consuming obsession with early Japanese cinema for the  
>> last 36 years. In trying to interest people in the West in this  
>> topic and to recognize the value of Japanese films from those years,  
>> I have long had to confront an enormous amount of indifference and  
>> insensitivity to these achievements by too many in America and  
>> elsewhere in the outside world. It has taken so long to bring  
>> attention to these films here. Indeed, it was only this January that  
>> the premier venue for classic cinema in the United States, Turner  
>> Classic Movies, after being on the air for 17 years, finally  
>> presented three Japanese silents--Ozu's famous masterpieces, "Tokyo  
>> Chorus," "I Was Born, But. . .," and "Passing Fancy." So it is only  
>> very recently that this neglected period of Japanese film is just  
>> starting to receive some recognition here.
>> Given this obession of mine, I would very much like to know how the  
>> archives and other collections of Japanese cinema are coping with  
>> the current crisis in Tokyo. Are they able to function normally in  
>> their work of preservation considering the power blackouts etc.? If  
>> there really should be an evacuation of the capital, has there been  
>> discussion of removing films and other cultural treasures from Tokyo  
>> to Kyoto, a much safer city and which I personally feel should be  
>> restored to the position of Japan's capital?
>> As to whether now is the proper time to discuss the preservation of  
>> culture in view of the terrible loss of life and the continuing  
>> threat, I believe that, far from being at odds or incompatible, the  
>> preservation of human life and humanity's cultural heritage are  
>> inseparable. The heroic people of Egypt have shown all of us the way  
>> recently in this area. During a time of turmoil in which a corrupt,  
>> discredited dictatorship was attempting to hang on to power by  
>> employing ruthless methods against the protestors, demonstrators  
>> courageously appeared to form human chains around the Library in  
>> Alexandria and the Egyptian Museum in Cairo to protect these  
>> treasures of our history. I would hope that, should it ever become  
>> necessary, a similar sense of cultural responsibility will be  
>> demonstrated in other countries, including Japan. The heritage of  
>> Japan, including its film history, is the common property not just  
>> of one country but indeed, the legacy of all the people of the earth.
>> In all those non-Western countries that the West chose to lump  
>> together as "Oriental," for much of the 20th century the four most  
>> significant in terms of creating outstanding cinemas in the first  
>> half of the last century were Japan, China, India, and Egypt. This  
>> preeminence in the new art of film was emblematic of these nations'  
>> continuing cultural leadership in the modern world. In terms of  
>> documenting and preserving the national film heritage, however,  
>> Egypt under the Mubarak regime was scandalous. The Egyptian film  
>> archive was by far the worst run in the entire world, mismanaged by  
>> members of Mubarak's family. So neglected was the state of the  
>> archive that it was a common sight to see rats crawling out of cans  
>> of film in the vaults. The situation with the Egyptian archive was  
>> thus symptomatic of the larger ills afflicting the society under the  
>> corrupt regime that ruled Egypt for thirty years. Needless to say,  
>> with the present rebirth of Egypt through revolution there is a far  
>> greater hope that the glories of Egyptian cinema from its bright  
>> beginnings in the silent era to the achievements of later decades  
>> will be at last properly preserved.
>> While the infrastructure of Japan including its archives can hardly  
>> compare to its counterparts in Egypt in the Mubarak years, there has  
>> nevertheless been a steady decline in Japan in the two decades since  
>> the economic bubble burst in the early 1990s. Egypt is now trying to  
>> recover from a social disaster, Japan from a natural one  
>> exacerbated, it seems, by a variant of the same corruption and  
>> cronyism that long afflicted Egypt. I think Japan, like Egypt, will  
>> need to transform itself anew, but as with Egypt, that  
>> transformation must be solidly based on the preservation and  
>> dissemination of past achievements including a glorious legacy of  
>> early cinema. Consequently, in addition to my general concern at the  
>> eerie silence that has suddenly taken over KineJapan, as though all  
>> its members have been struck dumb, I would in particular like to  
>> know how the film archives and other institutions consecrated to  
>> cinema history in Japan are faring during the present crisis.
>> William M. Drew
>> <>---<>----<>-----<>------<>
>> Assoc. Professor and Assoc. Chair
>> Dept. of Languages, Literatures and Cultures
>> University of Florida
>> Gainesville, FL 32601-5565
>> >
>Assoc. Professor and Assoc. Chair
>Dept. of Languages, Literatures and Cultures
>University of Florida
>Gainesville, FL 32601-5565

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