I’ve stopped watching the 24 hour news channels. I’ve contemplated switching off Twitter. In the face of a developing drama like the one that is engulfing Japan, I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s very little information coming out of rolling news sources, and a whole lot of conjecture, speculation and plain old stirring the pot.
We have no way of knowing what’s going on at Fukushima. Really, we don’t. Until Japanese authorities give us updates, we’re in the dark. But because the 24 hour stations have to say something, and because the nuclear emergency on the north-eastern coast of this beleaguered nation seems to be the only news story worth telling, (regardless of the awful ongoing crisis through the rest of the country) we get guesswork. An endless stream of experts, rolled on to give worst-case scenarios based on the tiny scraps of information they’ve been able to glean. We get what ifs and deadlines. If I hear the phrase “The next [vague time period] is crucial”, I’m going to scream.
And of course, it’s an ideal time for both pro and anti nuclear lobbies to pitch up a tent and start proselytising. You get scare stories and I told you so’s banging up against safety records and unforeseeable circumstance. I think I know less about nuclear power now than I did when I started.
Facebook and Twitter have always been home for the sudden appearance of rumour and conjecture dressed up as fact. I’ll make myself clear right now. Anyone on my feed that starts talking about how this is payback or divine retribution gets an instant unfollow and a report. I’ve already had to refute the outrageous map doing the rounds that claims to be from the Australian Nuclear Authority, stating radiation levels that the Fukushima plant will never come close to coming across the Pacific in a plume of death. This is the sort of environment in which pranksters thrive, and I think we all should all know not to feed the trolls by now.
Look, I don’t want to make light of the horrible situation that’s going on at the moment. Part of the reason for closing off the news feeds is because the images coming out of Japan are so unbearable. But I think it’s best to at least take a step back away from the torrent. You’ll never be able to slake your thirst if you try to drink from a full-on hosepipe. Developing news is just that. I’m allowing myself a daily update from a trusted source, and that’s it.
The best that we can do is to donate, keep Japan in our thoughts and prayers, and not, however inadvertently, spread harmful rumours and outright lies.
The best place I’ve found for donations and contact information is Google’s centre: http://www.google.com/crisisresponse/japanquake2011.html
Let’s keep our fingers crossed, and don’t believe the hype. Stay strong, Japan. We’re with you.