Sunday, March 27, 2011

chernobyl vs fukushima

a piece on bloomberg wire has assayed to compare the information environment as it existed in the soviet union versus that in contemporary japan as regards to nuclear catastrophes in these places. in a nutshell, the piece asserts:
“Social media pushes the government to act more quickly,” said Laura Roeder, a social media marketing consultant based in Los Angeles. “Governments can’t hide information anymore. It can spread too quickly to too many people.”
it's an interesting premise, and the stonewalling and prevarications of the soviet state media are textbook examples of the media environment in closed societies.

in our contemporary media landscape, however, are we that much better served by the plethora of social media to augment state and corporate sources?

this is a shaky proposition, at best.

the soviet union controlled the media during its time, and these were the days before the internet. remember, also, that chernobyl ran amok in isolation -- not in tandem with natural disasters. today's japan, on the other hand, is an open society that is linked both internally and with the rest of the world by the internet. that makes it almost impossible to completely bury any story.

still, if there's one thing the corporate state has mastered, it's the control of how information is presented. in a word, today's media outlets and their corporate overseers are wizards of spin.

they control the flow of not only information, but misinformation -- narrative and counter-narrative. tuned into this corporate media cocoon, you have no idea what the real story is -- which gives the corporate state the breathing room to concoct a comforting storyline of authorities operating with grace under fire.

in one sense, this is somewhat justifiable -- if only to avert mass panic. on the other hand, if the authorities go on for three weeks, as they have in fukushima, without revealing the true magnitude of the problems there, this creates a false sense of security, which will lead to even chaos once the facts come out.

i'm afraid that, contrary to the premise of this story, the iphone is not going to save us. it's going to take society working together, and not social networks, to bring sanity to an unhinged world.

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