Monday, March 28, 2011

Bad Fears, Good Fears, and Radio Activities at NPR

I promise to keep this short, but I just had to post on NPR's interesting take on fear. Given that the energy industries have a history that...well...let's just say puts profits before people, and given that the worst nuclear accident on record killed at least tens of thousands (if not a million people)... a rational person might consider the public's fear of nuclear energy - especially in light of the ongoing disaster in Japan - as reasonable. On the other hand, given that the likelihood of being a victim of terrorism is extremely small - along with the ridiculously low number of estimated al-Qaida fighters - a rational person might consider the US obsession with fears of al-Qaida to be bizarre at best and, at worst, a sham used to shred Constitutional guarantees, expand the US Security state, and benefit war profiteers. Want to guess what NPR's take on these two fears is relative to the Japanese nuclear disaster and the uprisings in the Middle East?

On the nuclear radiation fears, NPR is generally dismissive:

(from the National Archives - view b&w version here)
  • On March 22nd ME, NPR highlighted psychiatrist, Dr. Robert DuPont who, as Steve Inskeep explained, "told our own Renee Montagne that the American response to the nuclear threats has been way out of proportion."
  • On March 26 Weekend Edition Saturday, Josh Hamilton opened his report with: "Well, I'll start with the good news, which is that there hasn't been any major release of radiation in actually quite a few days now. The bad news is that there are still a lot of problems at the plant." Later in the show, Scott Simon's main question was, "Do you contain the fear of radiation or does that spread all over the country?"
On the uprisings in the Middle East - fear is in the air:

  • On February 26 Weekend Edition Saturday, Temple-Raston blows the al-Qaida fear trumpet regarding the uprising in Libya.
  • On March 19 Weekend Edition Saturday, Temple-Raston is back to warn us that, "The general turbulence in the Middle East and North Africa has provided political vacuums al-Qaida can exploit."
  • On March 24 ME NPR warns about al-Qaida opportunities in Yemen. Discussing a defecting general gives us this interchange between Linda Wertheimer and her guest Robert Powell:
Wertheimer: "How seriously do we take the reports that he is a very conservative person, that he is an Islamist,...?
Powell: "Well, you can bet that the U.S. State Department's alarmed...He has a history that goes back to the 1980s. He used to recruit Islamist fighters to fight against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, the mujahideen, and most vividly to fight with Osama bin Laden. And more recently there has been accusations that he has been recruiting al-Qaida to fight against the Shia in the north of the country."


Anonymous said...

i see NPR distracts from nuclear danger from radiation by skipping over it and/or dismissing it. they will fill the time with all sorts of stories that are designed (imo) to stop any and all discussion of potential danger. all in the name of some "greater good" i expect.


Anonymous said...

Notwithstanding the dismissive stance of NPR and its moronic experts" (who would not know how to calculate a radiation dose if their life depended on it see this comment and this comment and this comment in the previous thread), the fear for the Japanese (especially those living near the nuclear plant) is VERY warranted.

The reactors have ALREADY released radiation (eg, I-131 and Cs-137) that is on par with that released PER DAY by Chernobyl (see
the new scientist article Fukushima radioactive fallout nears Chernobyl levels)

And unfortunately, the Fukishima crisis is probably far from "over".

Fear is quite appropriate if it makes you act in ways that will protect you and your family -- eg, drink bottled water instead of radiation tainted water and evacuate from the region around the stricken nuclear reactors (notwithstanding claims from NPR and its experts that there you don't need to worry)

Those at NPR obviously think they are doing the public a "service" by "calming the unfounded fears" of any Japanese people here in this country who may have relatives in Japan, but they are actually being HIGHLY irresponsible -- especially given the fact that they (and their experts) don't know what the hell they are talking about much (if not most) of the time (see above links)

Finally, when information is very limited and you don't know whether it is even accurate, it is WISE to apply the precautionary principle and assume the worst, especially if you are living near the affected reactors.

It is exceedingly UNWISE to assume as NPR does in this case that "there is no need for concern".

Anonymous said...

This past Saturday I amused myself by tuning in half way Scott Simon's show and he was "reporting" on the Libya situation and talking to -- naturally -- a supporter of the Libyan rebels. Scott gloated to the effect that the rebels were doing much better as a result of "a touch of US air power".
Hmmm... Talk about unconditional pandering to power. And what a wonderful phrase "a touch of US air power". If Scott would only pay attention to reality and learn from the Wikileaks revelations he might have less blind faith in the restraint of the dogs of war once they are let loose. He really must be the best paid Boy Scout in Christendom.

Patrick Lynch said...

I wonder if anyone has analysed how much time NPR spends nearly mocking those justifiably afraid of the increasing radiation and poisoning of their homes compared to the amount of time NPR spends fear mongering about the Middle East and the imminent cutting off of their funding?

It sometimes feel like that for every minute they downplay Japan, they spend two minutes trying to scare the crap out of you and then intersperse that with disgusting snippets of why NPR is supposed to be so important to our lives. The "Founding Mother" crap from Susan Stamberg was particularly wretched this morning.

After the funding is cut, it will be very interesting to see how the member stations re-invent themselves and hopefully for the better.

Anonymous said...

I suspect that for many of the member stations, it will be like throwing off chains or removing a huge weight from their shoulders.

As it stands now, they have to spend a good deal of time and effort fundraising JUST to pay for member dues and NPR programming, which leaves little if anything for local programs that used to be the lifeblood of REAL public radio.

Without that necessity, they will almost certainly turn to much less expensive -- and certainly better, by far -- alternatives for (actual) news.

Ron Schiller is half right: NPR (as in NPR's member stations) will be much better off without federal funding.

But, as I see it, cutting such funds will be the death knell of the NPR "mother" organization. There will be a cascading effect as more and more member stations see that they neither need or even want NPR programming.

Sure, NPR itself can survive without the 2 or 3 percent direct contribution from Congress.

but they can't survive without the financial support -- and listenership -- provided by their member stations.

Without that, they will shrivel up and die.

Good riddance.

Anonymous said...

I'm very interested in the "reinventing local stations for the better" idea. KCRW is a big SoCal station based in Santa Monica (LA). They get their shot at "local news" (all of California) for about 3 minutes at 10 minutes after the hour. This morning this consisted of two topics: a new sports stadium in LA and will the Sacramento Kings move to Orange County. This in the midst of the biggest fiscal crisis (heistis) ever to befall the state and at a crucial moment of decision in the statehouse. Not a mention of that. Such does not bode well for the local station.

Anonymous said...

Do the folks at NPR think we are all idiots?

Or is it just that they themselves are?

From "Radioactive Water Found In Tunnels At Japan Plant"

by NPR Staff and Wires

"Highly radioactive water has nearly filled a series of underground tunnels at Japan's damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, Japanese officials say. That's raised concerns that the contaminated water could start spilling into the sea, only a couple of hundred feet away.

Start spilling??! WTF??

In the very next paragraphs from that NPR piece:

Meanwhile, new readings show that ocean contamination has spread about a mile farther north of the coastal nuclear complex than before. Radioactive iodine-131 was discovered just offshore from the Unit 5 and Unit 6 reactors at a level 1,150 times higher than normal, Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman for the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, a government group that monitors worker safety, told reporters."

"Closer to the plant, radioactivity in seawater tested about 1,250 times higher than normal last week and climbed to 1,850 times normal over the weekend. Nishiyama said the increase was a concern but the area was not a source of seafood."

//end NPR quotes

2 + 2 = 4 anyone?

of course, NPR always has to include that "don't worry, be happy" disclaimer.

Anonymous said...

How's this for irony?

Quoting VOA to debunk Alfred E. "What me worry?" NPRman:

"Officials say evidence of highly radioactive plutonium has been detected in the soil in five locations around Japan's earthquake-disabled nuclear reactor."

"Officials said the water comes to about 1 meter from the top of the trench, which runs to within 55 meters of the Pacific Ocean. They [TEPCO officials] say there is no evidence that any has leaked into the sea, though high levels of radiation have been measured in seawater around the plant for the last three days."

VOA says trenches (ie, outside in the open, exposed)

NPR says tunnels (ie, inside)

VOA notes that "high levels of radiation have been measured in seawater around the plant for the last three days."

NPR doesn't even note the disconnect between the claim that "the contaminated water could start spilling into the sea, only a couple of hundred feet away" and the fact that "high levels of radiation have been measured in seawater around the plant for the last three days."

Apparently, even the folks at VOA know what the folks at NPR never learned: that 2 + 2 = 4 (with a couple exceptions: rabbits and nuclear chain reactions, which both exhibit exponential growth)

Boulder Dude said...

Alicia apologizes to crazy child stalker Michelle Malkin because her feelings got hurt.

Anonymous said...

the bloggers at Adoption Talk recently took issue with Scott Simon over his book on adoption, which some saw as amateurish and opportunistic. his reported response is posted at the link below and is illuminating.

I was taken by his appropriation of the MLK "content of their character" colorblind meme to defend himself:


Re: NPR's Malkin Apology

Don't forget kids, it's OK to denigrate a dead liberal who was a distinguished veteran and civil rights advocate shorty after his death:

But you can't say anything mean about a fring Right Wing agit-propogandist if something bad has happen to their cousin, Uncle, Aunt, door-man, . . .