Yesterday I started talking about the division between what most media outlets are reporting on the Japanese topic and what actually is happening, as described by the bloggers. Some Russian bloggers that live in Japan share their experiences through digital means, and turns out that mass media has a tendency towards over dramatization.
Well, apparently Russians are not the only one who don’t like to be fed ambiguous facts. If you’re a nerd, you’ve definitely heard about xkcd – a project by Randall Munroe, self-described as ” A webcomic of romance,sarcasm, math, and language”. He decided that ” a chart might help put different amounts of radiation into perspective” and has, well, drawn the chart in question with some help from his more nuclear-educated friend. I hope that will finally show people what they’re dealing with. For instance, one mammogram gives only slightly less radiation than a day at the elevated radiation sites near Fukushima and is a thousand times less than the lethal dose. Having said that, the situation at the nuclear power plant is still far from normal, and the world is keeping a close eye on that.
Yesterday I mentioned the photos depicting supposed provision shortage in Tokyo grocery stores that were later to be proven taken out of context by bloggers who actually visited the stores. Another rumor that’s out there is of course the danger of radiation poisoning in Japan, China, Australia, Russia and it seems everywhere people are looking for anything to make them panic. Media outlets reported people fleeing islands, buying out iodine supplies and the evil airline companies making blood money by jacking up prices on outgoing flights from Japan as it seems too many passengers want to get out of the country. It’s a classic story here in Russia: when a crisis happens, those providing transport make a quick buck on skyrocketing prices. It happened with taxi drivers and Moscow subway bombings, it supposedly happened with the Domodedovo bombing and taxi drivers. Well, in the latter case it were only rumors that were later debunked by bloggers who decided to check for themselves and found no shortage of transportation options and regular taxi fares. One of those who personally visited Domodedovo, a prominent Russian blogger slash photographer zyalt actually tried booking a flight from Tokyo to various cities. Well, he had no problem of booking a flight online with no surprises or ridiculous prices.
As far as actual radiation goes, the authorities do state that there is no immediate danger to the general population, only the latter either refuses to believe or prefers to eat up scare stories by the media. That even includes people thousands of miles away. The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization has issued a report last week according to which a radiation plume should have reached the west coast of the US. The New York Times actually made an animated map that allows users to look at the movement of the radiation plume. Oh course they state that the radiation trace is really, really small, but it’s still there!
In the same vein a joke report was published on one of the largest Russian humor websites, fishki.net. The report warns of the radiation cloud moving towards Moscow and describes instructions on behaving in these troubled times. Instructions include wine therapy, preferably starting in the morning on an empty stomach. One of the top Russian private online communities, called leprosorium, is also keeping an eye on the situation around the nuclear disaster-waiting-to-happen. The users there report of the new alcoholic drink being in the works. It’s a pre-mixed canned alcoholic cocktail with the taste of iodine to be distributed through schools and juvenile delinquents’ departments. Just to be clear, these are all jokes aimed at poking fun at the way media outlets are mostly fear-mongering.
But on a serious note, some Internet users have developed an interactive radiation map with user-submitted content. You can find it at radiation.crowdmap.com and you too can contribute it – just take radiation measurements and tweet them with the #jpradiation hashtag or simply use the websites engine. The reports are then shown on the world map and are color-coded according to the measured levels of radiation. You can click any report and read the details, or request a measurement at a specific location.
The bloggers that actually live in Japan are of course sharing their experiences of the aftermath of the disaster. At the moment they are mostly unanimous in their pleas not to spread panic and misinformation. For instance, here’s a quote from a blogger dzimitori: “Dear friends and relatives from Russia, Ukraine etc! Those currently in Japan are have to acknowledge that the amount of pressure from relatives and Russian-language mass media is moving to the forefront in causing damages, leaving behind the actual earthquake, minor radiation et cetera. Please stop the panic, we pay utmost attention to the situation as covered by several agents and media outlets, and, believe it or not, we have a lot more sources here. We are making rational decisions and we hope you understand. Thank you very much!”.
Some are less tolerable. An Interfax employee living in Tokyo Prohor Kolosov posted an article on the website Interfax.Ru. Here is a passage from his irritated complaint: “It’s impossible to look and read what’s being reported by some of the Russian Mass Media. And now the Germans and French have joined the game! The claims and reports sound as if Japan was obliterated from the face of the Earth, scorched earth and a 30km crated are now where Fukushima used to be and Tokyo is in shambles. Sometimes it seems that someone wants to believe that Japan is screwed.”
A Russian microblogger from Japan that has donned the Twitter name “@japanreports” is, indeed, reporting that “The weather is sunny, it’s a bit windy, background radiation is normal, there’s no panic, there’s enough food, it’s a typical workday. What else to say? Everything’s okay in Niigata!”
Members of the Russian community in Japan even collectively organized an online QA session where those interested could ask questions and get relevant answers straight from the horse’s mouth, so to say. You can find the latest session at http://primamedia.ru/chat/124/. The latest session is dealing with the panic that is being raised in the eastern part of Russian – to read it or ask your question just head on the same website or substitute “126” in the URL.
[Now, do you still not understand what happened to the power plant? Is all this tech-talk making your head hurt and you want a simple, preferably graphical explanation? Worry not! A Japanese animato Kazuhiko Hachiya has made a short cartoon just under 5 minutes to try to retell the Fukushima-1 events in a user-friendly manner. It’s called Nuclear Boy starring the power plant Fukushima-1 as the eponymous Nuclear Boy. There’s a problem! Nuclear Boy has stomachache! The earthquake has upset his stomach! Aaaaand that’s where it gets a little bit weird. His upset stomach causes some bowel problems it seems. You know what, I’m not going to describe the cartoon in details. Let’s just say it’s a bit unorthodox way of describing a possible nuclear meltdown, but if you have *the stomach* for weird Japanese cartoons, just search Nuclear Boy on YouTube and you’re set. English subtitles are provided for your viewing pleasure! ] – to be used tomorrow, no time today