Saturday, March 12, 2011

Japan's Nuclear Crisis Reveals Difference in Communication Styles

Shortly after the earthquake & tsunami in Japan, statements by Japanese nuclear officials prompted both TPM's Josh Marshall and Matt Yglesias to express hope that the plants in question were out of danger. But if you go back and read the statements, Japanese officials weren't saying there would never be any danger; they were specifically saying "no release of radiation had been detected" so far.

I wonder if there's a cultural difference there - while we're used to hearing nightmarish warnings from U.S. officials, Japanese officials have simply related the current facts without inference, speculation or prediction.

Why the difference? Some U.S. officials say nothing short of the worst-case scenario will get Americans to heed any threat. And even then, they may ignore emergency instructions - among the Galveston, TX residents who heard the dire warning they faced "certain death" if they didn't evacuate ahead of Hurricane Ike, 50% stayed put anyway.

So when Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary says "there is no immediate danger" after this morning's blast at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, who can be sure what to expect next?

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