Friday, August 17, 2012

How Does Propaganda Work?

I talk a lot about propaganda. I charge news reports as being propagandistic. On what basis do I make this charge?

Let me provide a subtle example of how propaganda works.

I am going to provide the title and opening paragraph from an Associated Press news report published in Asahi on the mutated butterflies found in Fukushima. The AP news report covers a journal article:

Hiyama, A., Nohara, C., Kinjo, S., Taira, W., Gima, S., Tanahara, A., and Otaki, J. (2012, August 9). The Biological impacts of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident on the Pal Grass Blue Butterfly. Scientific Report 

Majia here: I have the research article and have read it.

Now Let us turn to the AP news report about the butterfly and radiation findings. Read the first sentence in the article carefully:

ASAHI: UPDATE: Fukushima nuclear leaks sparked butterfly mutations. AP (2012, June 16)
[first sentence] Radiation that leaked from the Fukushima nuclear plant following last year's tsunami caused mutations in some butterflies--including dented eyes and stunted wings--though humans seem relatively unaffected, researchers say.

Majia here: Notice that the first sentence in the article states that the researchers said that "human seem relatively unaffected."

Here is the question: Do the researchers who wrote the scientific journal article on butterflies really say that human seem relatively unaffected?

NO! The scientific journal article says nothing at all about people.

The news report written by the AP includes a quote from one of the authors of the scientific journal article given in response to an email inquiry by the AP:

Our findings suggest that the contaminants are causing ecological damage. I do not know its implication to humans,'' Joji Otaki of the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa, a member of the team that conducted the research, told The Associated Press in an e-mail.

Majia here: The scientist is very clear: "I do not know its implications to humans" [sic]

So, the scientists of the journal article are NOT stating that humans seem relatively unaffected.

So, is any other authority reported in the AP article stating that humans seem relatively unaffected?

The AP article makes mention of another report that attempted to calculate radiation exposure levels. That report is quoted as stating:

No case of acute health problems has been reported so far; however, assessments of the long-term effect of radiation requires ongoing monitoring of exposure and the health conditions of the affected communities,'' the report said.

Majia here: Acute health problems from radiation typically kill people very quickly, within days or months.

Acute radiation syndrome is a terrible death spiral involving terrible sickness and suffering before the end, which tends to be quick.

Radiation exposure levels that kill you in 1-10 years from cardiac problems, circulatory issues, or cancer and leukemia need not produce acute radiation syndrome.

Radiation that kills you in 7 years is just as deadly as the levels producing acute radiation syndrome, except you have a respite before you die.


One more "expert" is cited in the AP news report. He was not involved in the butterfly study or the report on exposure levels. Here is what he was quoted as stating:

[Excerpted direct quote by Mousseau] "Scientists have long known that radiation can be hazardous to human and animal health. Studies of this sort at Fukushima and Chernobyl provide invaluable information concerning just how hazardous radioactive contaminants could be for human populations living in these areas in the future,'' Tim Mousseau of the University of South Carolina, told the AP by e-mail.

Majia here: So, Mousseau is NOT supporting the claim that human seem relatively unaffected.

Indeed, Mousseau is essentially shouting, in his under-stated academic way, that these findings could have implications for human health based on previous research on nuclear disasters.


The AP has FRAMED the entire article with an assertion backed by NO EVIDENCE in the entire article.

This is the second time I've come across this, particular INCREDIBLY BLATANT PROPAGANDA TECHNIQUE in US news media

Here is another example of this particular strategy found in this Reuters article.

No big Fukushima health impact seen: U.N. body chairman. (2012, Jan 31). Reuters.
•[excerpted] (Reuters) - "The health impact of last year's Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan appears relatively small thanks partly to prompt evacuations, the chairman of a U.N. scientific body investigating the effects of radiation said on Tuesday.... [Chairman] Weiss said Japanese experts attending the meeting had told him that they were not aware of any acute health effects, in contrast to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine. "What we have seen in Chernobyl - people were dying from huge, high exposures, some of the workers were dying very soon - nothing along these lines has been reported so far (in Japan)," he said. "Up to now there were no acute immediate effects observed.
MAJIA HERE: What Weiss has said is that up to now there have been no "acute immediate effects observed."
•What is an "acute immediate effect" from radiation? Wikipedia: Acute radiation syndrome (ARS) also known as radiation poisoning, radiation sickness or radiation toxicity, is a constellation of health effects which occur within several months of exposure to high amounts of ionizing radiation.[1][2] The term generally refers to acute problems rather than ones that develop after a prolonged period.[3][4][5] The onset and type of symptoms that develop depends on the dose of radiation exposure. Relatively smaller doses result in gastrointestinal effects such as nausea and vomiting and symptoms related to falling blood counts such as infection and bleeding. Relatively larger doses can result in neurological effects and rapid death
MAJIA HERE: Why would Chairman Weiss frame his response in relation to ARS, or acute radiation syndrome? 
Why would Reuters translate his remarks about a lack of evidence of ARS within the civilian population as meaning "no big health impact"?

Journalists who write for Reuters are not stupid. 
This is a DELIBERATE attempt to shape interpretations of the article and the dissemination of information over the internet.

Now I've provided two examples using the same strategy that illustrate how propaganda functions.

1 comment:

  1. Majia you didn't even bother to point out the other elements in the AP sentence:

    "Radiation that leaked from the Fukushima nuclear plant following last year's tsunami caused mutations in some butterflies--including dented eyes and stunted wings--though humans seem relatively unaffected, researchers say."

    The very first thing that hits me is that they frame everything in the past tense - as if it's over. It's "last year's" problem, nothing about today, even though we know the plant is still releasing radiation.

    Then they say "some butterflies" indicated a very few.

    Then they say "dented eyes" and "stunted wings" - not very descriptive of horrible mutations.

    Then finally they get to the human linkage you write about.

    The entire sentence is crafted as elements of propaganda, and we see this over and over again.

    I'm personally less interested in the sentences that are published, because we all have read them over and over again, but more how they came to be written.

    What exactly is the process by which this propaganda gets injected into the news stream? Does the editor him or herself edit every story to inject the party line? Or is the entire staff indoctrinated?

    How do they get indoctrinated? Does the publisher call up and say "listen, our owners are breathing down our neck and we're going to lose all our advertisers if we don't put this Fukushima thing to bed, so it's our job to write articles that make everyone feel good about the radiation problem." - is that how it gets done?

    Or does the nuke industry send coffee and donuts every day?

    Or - what I suspect is that the nuke industry has certain "experts" on staff for the news folks to talk to - "experts" who are the real propagandists, who are pumping out the disinformation.



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