As Japanese officials attempt to avert a nuclear catastrophe at the Fukushima plant, the scale of the growing media crisis continues to alarm experts.
Officials have been struggling to take the heat out of media reporting of the event, but a number of journalistic explosions have made their task particularly challenging.
The rampant newspaper and TV speculation surrounding the crisis now threatens to overheat and cause a massive leak of toxic material directed towards authorities. Government officials and bureaucrats have already been forced to put themselves in harm’s way in an attempt to douse the worst of the overheating speculation. However, experts are concerned that the layers of obfuscation, denial and bland assurances of safety that officials are relying upon to protect themselves against the fallout of public rage and panic, may be insufficient.
Officials fear that if the media heat continues to rise over the plant’s safety, they may be forced to admit that the problem is far worse than they are letting on. That would in turn involve potentially enormous damage to the credibility of the Japanese government, and a critical loss of face. Already the US has told its citizens to get at least 80kms away from the plant, even as Japanese authorities continue to say radiation levels outside the 20km radius are safe. New Zealand has followed the US’s lead.
Experts are also concerned that even if officials can get some of the overheating media reactors to cool, other media reactors will still be at risk of total meltdown. A policy of total honesty and candour is unlikely to prevent headlines in some newspapers from predicting a nuclear holocaust, because pictures of smoke rising from a nuclear plant are the stuff of editors’ dreams, especially during periods when celebrities are not doing anything interesting. And so officials have been left scrambling to devise a solution that will take the heat from all of the media organisations now threatening to explode.
There may be respite on the way, however. Officials are confident that another Charlie Sheen meltdown is imminent, and expect such an event to divert the attention of the press, in turn allowing authorities to encase the media speculation in an unbreakable shell of assurances and denials.