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March 23rd, 2011 WW Editorial Staff | Rogue of the Week
 

Rogue Of The Week: The Japanese Government

A public-information meltdown.

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The Rogue Desk doesn’t have a heart of stone. Our profound good wishes go out to the people of Japan as they mourn the deaths of at least 9,000 people in the earthquake and tsunami that triggered a nuclear crisis.

Unfortunately, the same best wishes can’t be extended to the beleaguered Japanese government.

We normally reserve our wrath for Rogues much closer to home. But for failing to talk straight at a time when West Coast residents and others are living in legitimate fear of radiation, we’re naming the government of Japan as this week’s Rogue.

As noted in a March 16 story in The New York Times, the obfuscation began the day after the March 11 quake, when explosions first rocked the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. But authorities reported only “a big sound and white smoke,” saying the matter was “under investigation.”

More detailed assessments were not soon forthcoming.

Instead, the government relied on the plant’s operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Co., to provide updates, which the government passed on in an evasive, mealy-mouthed fashion.

“We’ve been having to force information out of them,” the mayor of the Japanese town of Minamisoma told Reuters.

Hiro Ito, an economics professor at Portland State University, was on sabbatical in Tokyo when the earthquake hit. He says long-standing mistrust of the government fueled the panic in Japan. “Even if the government were 100 percent clear about the information, people wouldn’t trust the government anyway,” he says.

While the Japanese government played coy, frightened Oregonians were cowering on our shores waiting for a radioactive cloud to cross the Pacific. 

True, leaders in this country initially disseminated contradictory information as well. Oregon health officials gave the all-clear, while the U.S. surgeon general urged investing in iodine. The latest prognosis, from Energy Secretary Steven Chu, on March 20, was that the United States  faced no danger.

A little more candor from the Land of the Rising Sun would have allayed anxiety, rather than create uncertainty whether citizens could believe anyone at all. 

And just to show we’re not entirely hard-hearted, we’d like to suggest one way you can help the people of Japan—attend one of the From Oregon, With Love benefit concerts (co-sponsored by WW) at the Aladdin Theater at 2 and 7 pm on Sunday, March 27, featuring Pink Martini and others. For info, go to wweek.com. 

 
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