June 4, 2014

I’ve seen every Godzilla movie ever made. I was an adolescent when the first one hit America, and I immediately fell in love with monster movies…a passion I have held to this day. Needless to say, when the latest Godzilla movie hit the big screen a few weeks ago, I was there.

The movie opens at a Japanese nuclear plant which had cooling towers. I found this more than a bit odd because none of Japan’s actual nukes have them. I told myself it was only a movie and settled in for the duration. A few minutes into the flick, the nuke seems to be struck by a massive earthquake, causing the entire facility and its towers to collapse. Over the next 15 years (movie time) a wide radius around the devastated nuke is turned into a virtual no-go zone by the government due to allegedly high radiation levels. The parallel to Fukushima seemed obvious.

As it turned out, the government used public fear of radiation as a smokescreen to deflect the world’s attention away from what was really happening. A massive, radiation-eating primordial monster (called MUTO) was hatching beneath the station. There was no actual earthquake and there was no radiation released because the MUTO “egg” was absorbing it all. Rather than spoil things for those who have yet to see this epic monster movie, I’ll not get any deeper into the plot. But I will say that, once again, Godzilla saves the world.

I was wrong in my initial feeling that the movie intentionally appealed to the public perception of what happened at Fukushima in March, 2011. However, there was another more-subtle (and real) parallel with Japan’s reaction and response to the Fukushima accident. The nuke accident in Japan was successfully used by the government to deflect the world’s attention away from the real disaster – the earthquake and tsunami of 3/11/11. The earthquake destroyed or damaged more than a million buildings in Japan, and thousands lost their lives in the process. The tsunami forced the evacuation of nearly 500,000 people along the Tohoku region’s Pacific coastline, caused some 20,000 deaths (including the presumed dead), and made 250,000 of the evacuees permanently homeless.

The massive scale of this natural calamity was overwhelming and the political regime in Tokyo was literally helpless and hopeless concerning what to do. Nothing of this magnitude had struck Japan in it’s recorded history. Further, the government’s flawed policies over a period of more than six years had the nation’s economy literally circling the drain. Not only did Tokyo not know what to do, but there was precious little money to do anything even if they did. For politicians, this sort of experience is a career death-knell, and the Naoto Kan regime would inevitably collapse. Regardless, Kan and his party (Liberal Democratic Party) would not go down without a fight. They needed something to turn the Press’ focus away from their ineffectiveness, and they needed it fast!

Less than eight hours after the tragedy struck, the nuclear accident became a fixation of the Kan regime. The PM interfered in what was happening at F. Daiichi, and made a point to let the Press know that he was in charge. His infamous helicopter flight to F. Daiichi the morning of March 12 now seems little more than a ploy to get some positive Press, which the quake/tsunami would never have given him. When the first hydrogen explosion at Fukushima Daiichi occurred later that day, the government was provided with a convenient smokescreen. As the cloud of the explosion’s debris blew toward the northeast, the world’s news media pounced on it like hungry predators. The horrific aftermath of the quake/tsunami immediately became a secondary topic. In less than a week, the Fukushima accident was all we heard about.

Could a more perfect smokescreen have been anticipated? The weeks and months following 3/11/11 were rife with news reports about the Fukushima aftermath, and the Kan regime used it to the fullest while a quarter of a million tsunami refugees languished in utter inattention.

Thus, the parallel between the new Godzilla movie and Fukushima emerges. In both cases, a nuclear plant accident is used as a cover-up for the real problem-at-hand.

(Aside – By the way…I positively enjoyed the movie and highly recommend it to all Godzilla/monster-movie buffs. It is great fun.)