Presidential election campaign coverage often talks about the “bubble” that encloses candidates and their campaign teams. The bubble is essentially an echo chamber where you hear only those voice around you, and those voices agree with yours. This agreement has more to do with the psycho-dynamics of groupthink than objective reality, which leads to serious disconnects between what is agreed on and reality. Media reporters, especially those who are not embedded in the campaign, love to point up these disconnects—as if they themselves are immune from bubble-itis. They aren’t.
A week ago, the Globe and Mail, which aspires to be Canada’s national newspaper of choice for serious readers, published an editorial arguing that Canada’s federal government should not impede the development of a uranium mine in Newfoundland-Labrador just because the mine is owned by an Australian company. The original editorial as it was published on Thursday June 25 contained this curious claim:
In March, 2011, the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan killed almost 16,000 people… .
Actually, that claim is more than curious. It is utterly false. As I and others predicted from Day One of the Fukushima meltdowns (and let’s remember that Day One was March 11 2011, 3,515 days ago), nobody has died or even gone to the hospital from the physical effects of ionizing radiation. The meltdowns have been quite literally a casualty-free episode.
The Globe subsequently corrected that spectacular falsehood, with neither apology nor regret. My question is how and why the falsehood made it into the editorial in the first place. I mean, sixteen thousand people. That’s the population of an Ontario community the size of Bracebridge, or Napanee, or Petawawa, or Midland, or Port Hope. The fact of zero casualties out of Fukushima has been well known in nuclear circles (and only too well known in anti-nuclear circles) ever since the meltdowns occurred. You might imagine that it would be known also in newsrooms—they have only covered Fukushima, like ugly covers an ape, since Day One.
Were they trying to justify the who-knows-how-many column inches and binary digits (bits) they have devoted to this singularly under-delivering non-event, by simply inventing a casualty figure that would warrant all the handwringing hyperbole?
Big Fossil, and its many supporters in the “green” movement who pretend to oppose it, worry about nuclear energy not because nuclear poses some special danger to humans—it obviously does not—but because nuclear can eat Big Fossil for breakfast when it comes to providing the energy and power that societies need, with zero air pollution and a minuscule fraction of the physical footprint of fossil fuels.
Or did they just honestly slide over from reality into the comic-book world of hysteria and science fiction that they themselves have helped to create, and come to believe that a population equivalent in number to that of Port Hope Ontario really had perished because of radioactive fallout from Fukushima?
But I should be fair to the Globe. Like all media organizations, they are in a desperate race for eyeballs. To get those eyeballs, they will say pretty much anything.
Including “the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan killed almost 16,000 people.”
The problem is, every time they print or hint at such a falsehood, they put money into the pockets of the fossil fuel companies that are the biggest worriers about nuclear energy. Big Fossil worries about nuclear energy not because nuclear poses some special danger to humans—it obviously does not—but because nuclear can eat Big Fossil for breakfast when it comes to providing the energy and power that societies need, with zero air pollution and a minuscule fraction of the physical footprint of fossil fuels. So when Big Media helps to perpetuate silly comic-book pseudo-science alleging grave dangers associated with nuclear energy, Big Fossil gets richer.
And the richer Big Fossil gets (forgive my conspiracy-theorizing), the more money it has to advertise in Big Media.
And the falsehoods don’t just put money into undeserving pockets. They put more carbon into the air, because they ensure that more of the kilowatt-hours of the energy we humans use to negotiate our way through life on the surface of Planet Earth will come from the burning of fossil fuels.