It’s pouring in Los Angeles right now and if you kept an eye on the news last week you’d be excused for worrying that exposure to said rain might give you cancer. “Miniscule” amounts of radiation hit the West Coast this weekend as a result of the multiple nuclear reactor mishaps in Fukushima Prefecture triggered by the 9.0 earthquake in Japan. More accurately, as radioactive vapor from the busted nuclear energy plants collided with the jet stream, it travelled across the pacific as it dissipated amid other clouds. But there is always a “miniscule” amount of radioactive element in the air we breathe here in Southern California and pretty much every other major city. It’s not just FOXNews and CNN, it’s the local TV and radio news too. Anchors and reporters are consistently talking over the analysts they are interviewing so that “nothing to worry about” cannot be heard so much as the key fear-triggering phrases “nuclear,” “radioactive,” “headed this way” are repeated before and after every break. Will the fear-fomenting carry on for another week?
I originally filed the following post at LAist. Click here to see all my recent posts at LAist.com.
After spending much of the week threatening the West Coast with radioactive thunderstorms should anyone dare turn the dial, CNN decided to recreate the geography of Caifornia, placing San Francisco a hundred miles or so from the Mexican border and throwing Los Angeles to the sharks, at the tip of a peninsula in Northern California that appears to be all but detached from the rest of the continent.
OK. So it was early in the morning and someone decided it would be fun to flip SF and L.A. on the map. And to misspell San Onofre.
We’re convinced this is a direct side effect of redundant fear fomenting under the guise of expert analysis. Turn on any 24-hour news network, or even local AM radio, and you’ll hear lots of mumbling broken up by words like “radiation,” “nuclear disaster,” and “headed to California.” These catchphrases subliminally enslave listeners to the nearest breaking news device, be it a transistor radio or the plasma section at Best Buy.
Not one expert or official has mentioned any public threat to the United States as a result of potential increases in radiation levels due to the Fukushima nuclear reactor disasters in Japan. Fact: radiation from the reactors has reached California. Reality: radiation measurements in California remain at normal levels. Likely somewhere up in the jetstream.
So, no, we’re likely not prepared should a 7.0-or-greater magnitude earthquake strike near the San Onofre Nuclear plant, 70 miles south of Los Angeles, as I assume the CNN graphic above infers. But that’s no reason to paralyze us and speak over expert analysts with no impetus to push the fear factor without reason. U.S. journalists may not be prepared to cover nuclear disaster, writes Tim Goodman at Hollywood Reporter, and as Anderson Cooper continues capturing the most viewers on his nightly broadcasts from Japan, let’s hope he listens and learns.
Screenshot via Mediaite.