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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Chernobyl Check: Is FOX News into Fahrenheit 9/11?,2933,191721,00.html

Your editorial on Chernobyl simply attempts to swing the scales of history in your favor. Marketed as an attempt to redress the balance, it pokes fun at the fiction just as it fools around with the fact. By recycling research on a faraway country you hardly know — in a one-sided fashion and through the prism of your domestic debate — you treat your audience to a distorted view.

So what’s the big deal?
With its biased “X-ray scan,” your editorial effectively puts a clean bill of health on a festering wound of a disaster, a disaster that has affected thousands of lives in ways unmatched by your exposure to it.

By showcasing a catalogue of overblown projections of Chernobyl’s global impact, produced by Western academia and activists, your op-ed sidetracks the issue of Chernobyl’s local legacy. Does it offer interviews with the victims and their families? Does it address the scope of day-to-day problems experienced by contaminated communities in Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia? Unfortunately, no. The article lacks a first-hand field-trip dimension.

Staying on guard against The Guardian and UN-lie-teralism
Instead the article provides an introduction to self-compromising freakonomics practiced by Ukrainian officials. Their ballpark estimates ring a nasty bell, don’t they? Bottom line: Perceived as a mouthpiece of Greenpeace, Ukraine immediately qualifies for “most-unfavored-nation” status in the eyes of Americans. One can only guess at the number of conservative Americans influenced by word of mouth. Except for the countless Ukrainian Americans among them. They may have a better grasp of things.

Capitalizing on The Guardian as an intellectually impeccable guide on Ukraine may lead you up another blind alley. This well-established stronghold of the anti-American media has repeatedly traced the Orange Revolution to CIA payrolls. If you accept their side of the story at face value, please tell Director Goss that I want my $10,000 paycheck now, interest included — lol.

Your op-ed proudly quotes a UN report that portrays Chernobyl as something to be taken down a peg in the hall of self-martyrdom. Of course, the prong of your argument is invested in an organization that boasts so much credibility on the Activist Street. However gladly embraced by the media, that intimate relationship does not guarantee instant gratification in terms of foolproof fact-finding.

Do you believe that a bunch of fly-by-night UN bureaucrats, with vast resources and vague responsibilities, made a good faith effort to read my country? These guys, who drive around in caravans of tinted-window SUVs, talk about a “dependency culture.” Dependency on what? Monthly disability benefits of 60 bucks? Well, on Ukraine’s cost-of-living calculator, that doesn’t even cover the bare necessities, let alone medical bills, of which there are many. Alas, UN personnel salaries run a hundred times over what they assume to be dependency-generating. If there were an award for “Best Bureaucracy with Reverse Clientitis,” the UN would get it.

The strategy behind the UN calculus
Casualty-cutting meets cost-cutting, as simple as that. The 50 adults/9 children death toll produces a mixed reaction among stakeholders. It strikes a high note with the haves on the East River, who only heard about Chernobyl on the news and would hate to be on the “rip-off” list. In contrast, it strikes a low note with the have-nots on the Prypyat River, who bore the brunt of Chernobyl and would hate to be on the “write-off” list. Since the plant’s shutdown in 2000, the international community has repeatedly softpedaled its pledge of financial support for the badly needed sarcophagus changeover.

Let there be no doubt: Keeping a tight lid on Chernobyl’s nuclear powder barrel concerns all humanity. That’s why keeping tabs on its status presents the worst of occasions for the UN to be open to political bias.

How do Ukrainians feel about it? Emotionally speaking, the UN report amounts to claiming that only a hundred people died in the September 11 attacks, and the rest were cured. Rationally speaking, it raises a lot of technical questions.

Background: In the wake of the accident, clean-up crews had been called up from all over the USSR. Questions: Did the UN report follow the life of every “volunteer” who had shoveled the hellishly radioactive debris off the reactor’s roof so the wind could not carry it all over the world? How many are still alive? Since the USSR no longer exists, is there a real-time cross-country database of all children and adults who have died of leukemia, thyroid cancer, and related illnesses since April 26, 1986? This may sound tactless, but does it include Raisa Gorbachev, who died of thyroid cancer in 2000? How many are struggling for their lives?

Lessons learned
Chernobyl is not a case study of Greenpeace gone bad. It’s a case study of Gulag gone bad. From the Kremlin’s point of view, building a four-reactor power plant within eighty miles of the third-largest city was a good idea. In a country where life was a cheap commodity, management’s disregard for safety was the hallmark of corporate culture.

Ironically, Gorby’s failure to go public right after the accident — to keep the folks off the streets in the midst of May Day celebrations — would accelerate the glasnost-perestroika movement to the point of no return. Along with the war in Afghanistan and the earthquake in Armenia, Chernobyl counts among those moments of truth of the 80s that consigned the mammoth of Soviet bureaucracy to the dustbin of history.

Despite the quest for renewables, urged by President Bush in his State of the Union address, humanity will hardly get by without nuclear energy in the near term.

That’s why safety and accountability matter so much. Nuclear energy has no failsafe future in a world that fails to confront the past. Suppose the Ukrainian government put the 30-kilometer area surrounding Chernobyl, with its majestic forests and wildlife, on eBay for $1. How many would send their kids and grandkids here on summer vacation? How many would come over here to play golf?

One cannot blow the mask off self-serving liberalism with the winds of self-serving conservatism, and vice versa.

At the end of the day, America’s irritation-infatuation with Greenpeace can hardly compare to Ukraine’s involvement with Chernobyl. While the liberals and conservatives of America keep pointing fingers at each other, we the people of Ukraine are left holding the bag.

Thank you, VOA, RFE/RL, BBC
You guys did a great job. You operated the kind of scaremongering machine that scared Big Brother into extinction.

While out of town on weekends, many Soviet folks tuned their radios to these channels, jammed as they were by the KGB. With their ears sharp and cutting through all the noise, these freedom-seeking folks flocked for a dose of freedom of information. That’s how they learned about Chernobyl and the health hazards it posed. They learned it from the US and British governments, run by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.

I do hope that Fox News has more than a dose of freedom of information to offer twenty years since then. And I do believe that America’s freedom gene has not mutated.

1 comment:

Lola said...

We all could use a dose of freedom of information - and a freedom from media bias that currently plagues these outlets. We can't give up on our quest for the truth - it's our duty to seek it out when and where it exists.