March 2011


Among all the Westerners in Japan, none were so unusually alarmed by the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear reactor crisis than the French community in Tokyo. The first communique from the French Embassy reassured the people, telling them that the Japanese authorities have the situation in hand.

But then the media in France went into a frenzy, alarming the public about a meltdown and radioactive winds and more calamities. Frantic calls were made to relatives in Japan, and the French Embassy issued a second communique, stating that if it is unnecessary for you to be in Tokyo, they advise that you travel south of the archipelago or return to France.

Akin to a mass migration of lemmings, French people left the capital. Meanwhile, other Embassies, notably the English and the American, continued to reassure its nationals to go normally about their lives in Tokyo, and that they would be informed if there were other necessary steps to take.

We ask, who or what has set off the alarmist nature of Japan’s crisis, panicking the French people? Who would most benefit from this situation? Aside from the usual two-penny journalists who sensationalise the news in order to sell newspapers, I would put the blame on the Ecology or Green party and supporters thereof. They have the most to gain with fear-mongering in the news.

In their campaign to have nuclear energy eliminated from France, the Ecology Party and/or its supporters amplify the Fukushima crisis, without considering that this crisis was brought on by the unusual combination of earthquake and tsunami, two unforeseen natural calamities, and not by some human error or technological mishap, which would warrant an assessment.

One French journalist in Japan had posted on his Facebook wall that he had been directed to write this and that, and denies responsibility for the information. So based on this, can we say that the journalists write “news” to manipulate the opinions of the public to serve someone’s political agenda? He had also previously stated that “Westerners know more information than the Japanese,” a claim that is arrogant and unlikely to be true. It is his “feeders,” people with an agenda, supplying him with information and disinformation, true or baseless, with which public opinion will be manipulated with. If disinformation means “knowing more information than the Japanese,” he and similar journalists are mere ignorant pawns in the greater scheme of things, a boule de suif.

And so with exaggerated news alarming the electorate, Sarkozy wisely sent government planes to “evacuate” French nationals, further reinforcing the feeling of panic. But the majority of the French who were repatriated were not from the calamity-stricken area, but from a city 400km from the epicentre, infrastructure-wise unaffected by the earthquake nor the tsunami, and 250km far from Fukushima’s nuclear reactors, Tokyo.

While the ideals of the Ecology party may be commendable, their under-handed alarming of the public by sensationalising the news is contemptible. They may have captured the vote of the unsophisticated electorate, but with actions that are dishonourable.

Political agendas can serve both good and bad purposes, but there are also serious consequences wrought by the alarmist nature of the news of the events in Japan. For business enterprises that rely on good news and political-economical stability, the news-scares have literally scared off business in and with Japan. It is a collateral damage that is unfortunate but one where I would personally raise a fist to, at half-wit journalists and the media who do not intelligently assess information fed to them to print and disseminate to an unwary public.

So we read news that the radiation level in Tokyo following the nuclear plant explosions at Fukushima (explosion at nuclear reactor 1 occurred on Saturday, 12 March, the day after the earthquake-tsunami catastrophe; and a second explosion at nuclear reactor 3 occurred on 13 March, Sunday), has risen 20 times, but still at a safe level. The next questions that come to mind but are not expanded on by these journalists are: What is this level? What is the safe level? At what level is it not safe?

The exact units of measurement vary, but light radiation sickness begins at about 50–100 rad (0.5–1 gray (Gy), 0.5–1 Sv, 50–100 rem, 50,000–100,000 mrem). The SI unit of radiation dose equivalent is the sievert, 1/1000 of a rem (1 mrem = 0.01 mSv). — Wikipedia

At a facility in Shinjuku Ward, a maximum level of 0.809 microsievert was detected at around 10am, but the hourly level went down to 0.151 microsievert after 11am (16 March, Wednesday). These figures compare with 0.035 to 0.038 microsievert detected Monday (14 March). About .06 microsieverts is absorbed when one takes a chest X-ray. * According to the Japan Times, a journalist there states that one absorbs 50mSv in a chest X-ray. Who is he trying to fool?

So when journalists say that the radiation level in Tokyo has increased 20 times but is not detrimental to your health, the “not detrimental to your health” phrase doesn’t sound believable because the “20 times” sounds “detrimental” to your health. Except for the article in the Japan Times published Wednesday, all other articles on Tuesday using this phrase (that the “radiation levels has increased 20 times but is not detrimental to your health”), do not mention numbers and figures to substantiate their affirmation, only that stressful number “20 times.”

Little does the unsuspecting public know that 20 times of the fraction .04 mSv is .80 mSv. Based on the above maximum level, 80.9 mrem, computed as 0.01x mrem=.809 mSv, is significantly less than the 50,000 mrem, the level where radiation sickness occurs.

In conclusion, when journalists of dubious intelligence report that the radiation levels have risen 20 times without substantiating numbers or figures or calculations, they are SENSATIONALISING the news, causing a panic situation that affects business very badly and consequently, our financial future.

* Orders of magnitude (radiation)

Radioactivité au Japon et en France