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What IS the media bias?

I got enough responses to my bit about preparing to resist radiation that it occurs to me to wonder, is the media really working so hard to inflame panic? Or are they trying to keep us from panicking so that we will all just go to the mall and buy movie tickets instead of concerning ourselves with radiation? I have no idea what the media is up to, because aside from this outward mental spew I participate in it very little. I do not watch TV. I do catch a few minutes of NPR from time to time, and last I heard was some expert saying that the situation at the plant there has surpassed the level of the Three Mile Island meltdown. That was enough for me to know that radiation has already been emitted. I'm not panicked....but I'm interested. These ARE interesting times. I'm fascinated, in fact, with the homogenaity of the responses I've gotten. So everybody thinks it is a hoax? What is informing you of this certainty? And what makes you so sure you are right? I'll have to wait for my other bit a media---a weekly called The Week---before I will have any more media hype to pass on.

Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
geordie
Mar. 16th, 2011 05:49 am (UTC)
I work with a guy who spent his years in the US Army as a nuclear, biological and chemical specialist. He was suggesting today that we really should have Iostat available, just in case. He's not worried but he's also not waiting to see how bad it gets before he starts shopping. Seems reasonable. We are a heck of a long way from Japan and the chances are that anything significant would fall in to the vastness of the Pacific. But still.

I don't see other comments, what do people think is a hoax? Do they not believe the reactors are cooking off or do they not believe it can affect people?
liveonearth
Mar. 16th, 2011 03:02 pm (UTC)
I posted it to several groups to get a response. The only group that responded reasonably was the natural med group. All the survivalist type groups responded with cynicism that I am a victim of media hype and there is no radiation to worry about. I worry about how they got that way. They were rude enough that I assume they are young.
geordie
Mar. 16th, 2011 04:13 pm (UTC)
I am usually very cautious about what I am being told, but in this case there appears to be a serious risk of six Chernobyl style reactor fires. If that happens the material could spread a very long way.
liveonearth
Mar. 16th, 2011 07:19 pm (UTC)
Yeah, the little bit I've taken in suggests to me that our level of planetary radiation pollution is about to be bumped up. Sort of like smog.
ford_prefect42
Mar. 17th, 2011 05:36 am (UTC)
Quick question: How often have you noticed those particular groups being *overly optimistic* in the past? What genuine concerns have you seen survivalists *shrug off*?
liveonearth
Mar. 17th, 2011 04:20 pm (UTC)
The survivalists tend to worry the most about the government and warfare effects, and ignore more vague environmental concerns---ie they are more militia-slanted and not overly concerned about water quality, air quality, etc. The public_health group was completely dismissive of my post and they seem to be taken with the conventional line from insurance and the pharmaco-medical industry. The so_very_doomed group actually came up with a decent exploration of the side effects of new iodine supplementation (ie bromine release and how to deal with it).

It's my impression that each group tends to accumulate more people who agree with a central set of assumptions, and that they are all different. I join groups whether I agree with their worldview or not, just out of curiosity about the subject matter they entertain. My rare posts are more often disparaged than respected.
neptunia67
Mar. 16th, 2011 02:32 pm (UTC)
Haha - people stay glued to the media but nobody believes it. It's like watching a car wreck - don't want to see the destruction but can't tear their eyes away.

Personally I think there's a big problem over there. I haven't seen any news footage (Paul did yesterday morning and said it was hyped up bigtime)... however I have NPR connected on my Facebook feed and have been reading tweets and getting updates from friends who have Japanese connections. I prefer to get my news firsthand as often as possible these days. Reading about actual experiences seems to give the most realistic perspective of what's happening, although not the perspective of the experts (scientists, engineers, etc.)
liveonearth
Mar. 16th, 2011 07:24 pm (UTC)
It has recently become crystal clear to me that many Americans don't trust or like science or scientists. I think it is because I started dating someone who honestly feels that way. And perhaps if I took in more of that hyped up media, I'd become more cynical about science myself. Instead, I read the abstracts and then dig into the studies that seem relevant to my interests...and I follow the work in certain areas, building my own picture of reality from the stream of data generated by raw science. I know I don't know for sure, but I can't help but to have ideas and theories about what is going on... and the media can't talk me out of what I know, unless they also take me back to the source.
liveonearth
Mar. 16th, 2011 07:20 pm (UTC)
The so_very_doomed group seems to be honestly interested in the question as well. I have enjoyed that group...some interesting posts, even if the slant is on the downside.
ford_prefect42
Mar. 17th, 2011 03:45 pm (UTC)
Background: I am an engineer, not a nuclear engineer, but I have studied nuclear topics in some detail including some specifics of reactor design. Also, I have been following this quite closely and have learned quite a lot during this incident.

I don't necessarily think that the media is *biased* on this issue, just profoudly poorly educated.

Japans problems are well past TMI. But there is still absolutely no cause for concern in the us and only minimal cause in Japan. Here's why.

Okay, saying "radiation has been released" is *meaningless*, it provides absolutely *no* information. Take for example the empty spent fuel ponds. spent fuel is a gamma emitter, but is chemically stable and doesn't melt down or fission. That means that when the pool goes empty, it becomes dangerous to approach, because the water shielding is gone, but presents virtually no danger to the environment because while it is irradiating the area, it *isn't* releasing radioactive *isotopes*.

The unpleasant part of the spet fuel pools is while the rods are *partially* underwater, during which time they *do* release some radioactive gasses, but those isotopes have very very short half-lives. so while it *can* be somewhat hazardous for a few miles downwind, it *never* poses a serious long-term threat or any threat at long distances.

Far far more dangerous would be breached and exposed cores. That's because the isotopes present only in the cores (strontium, caesium, like that) but that hasn't happened, nor will it, the core containment on any non-russian reactor is a remarkably robust structure, and while one of the ones in Japan is classed as "compromised", but there's a *huge* space between compromised and "breached". Additionally, there are other safety measures that have not come into play.


Additionally, the rare occasions on which the media reports have provided any solid facts (isotope measurements, actual radiation measures, like that) support my lack of concern. The highest readings reported to date at the plant gate are of the "if you stand here for a few weeks, it's the equivalent of a CT scan" levels.

There reeeeeaaaallly really is no cause for concern in the US.
liveonearth
Mar. 17th, 2011 04:13 pm (UTC)
Awesome, thanks for your educated response!! Can never have enough engineers around. =-]
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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