There is something profane about bumping a human tragedy on such an enormous scale to the sub narrative. This indecency is compounded by leading with Godzilla scenarios and frenzy-inspiring what-ifs. The disproportionate coverage is obtuse in a profound way.
Hyperpolitical reporters feel lost without a black-hat to crusade against. Geological disturbances lend themselves neither to politicization nor anthropomorphization. So, reporters invent boogeymen to propel story arcs.
The Indian Ocean Boxing Day tsunami of 2004, some conspiracy theorists in the Muslim world suggested, unleashed so much destruction because U.S. officials withheld information that could have warned those in its path. After Hurricane Katrina, Al Gore and others suggested global warming as the culprit. In Japan, where an earthquake and ensuing tsunami damaged, among much else, nuclear power plants, nuclear power overshadows the earthquake and the tsunami as the villain among Western journalists. Part ideological slant, part yellow journalism, the overblown Fukushima Daiichi coverage represents the worst of journalism.
The Fukushima Daiichi plant has experienced radiation levels rise above normal (and then has experienced a drop down to the level of a common X-ray). One worker has been treated for radiation exposure. There have been fires and explosions. But nobody has died, save for in the crane accident, as the result of undeniable problems at the 40-year-old plant. This is a news story. This isn’t the news story.
The Times coverage tells us less about the tragedy in Japan than it does about the Times. We glean from the reporting that journalists working for the newspaper of record are skeptical about the proposed expansion of nuclear power in the U.S. Less apparent to readers is what is happening a half-a-world away. In Rahm Emanuel fashion, the paper has not let a good crisis go to waste.
Daniel J. Flynn is the author of A Conservative History of the American Left (Crown Forum, 2008), Intellectual Morons (Crown Forum, 2004), and Why the Left Hates America (Prima Forum, 2002). He has appeared on Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, Sky News, PBS, CSPAN, and other networks. He writes a Monday column for Human Events and blogs at www.flynnfiles.com.