From the pages of history and the beginning of the atomic age comes a story of why journalism is so important. In The Woman Who Knew Too Much: Alice Stewart and the Secrets of Radiation by Gayle Greene we learn about the audacity of industry and government to cover-up the truth.
When Tokyo Radio announced that people who entered the cities after the explosion were dying of mysterious causes, American officials dismissed the allegations as propaganda intended to imply that the United States had used an inhumane weapon.
Well what is a nuclear weapon if not inhumane? How is a nuclear bomb different from anthrax or mustard gas?
General Leslie Groves, who had headed the Manhattan Project, ordered a team of Manhattan Project doctors and technicians in, with the mission of proving “there was no radioactivity from the bomb.” The first scientists and doctors allowed into the cities, in late 1945, were with the U.S. Armed Forces. Most journalists also entered the cities under U.S. military escort and similarly concluded that tales of radiation poisoning were groundless.”
Even the NY Times was on the bandwagon with a headline that said “No Radioactivity in Hiroshima Ruin.” This reminds me of the time when the Bush administration sent inspectors into Iraq to prove that there were weapons of mass destruction.
As for as Hiroshima goes it took an independent journalist unescorted by military personnel to get the truth. The reporter’s name was Wilfred Burchett who found people in hospitals whose hair fell out along with bluish spots appearing on their bodies. There was also bleeding from the ears, nose and mouth and they were dying at the rate of one hundred people a day. Burchett’s piece the Atomic Plague can be found here.
On the Wikipedia page for Burchett I found an interesting quesiton that is posed in a documentary of the journalist by filmaker David Bradbury and that is, “can a democracy tolerate opinions it considers subversive to its national interest? How far can freedom of the press be extended in wartime?”
With all that is covered here does the national interest really reflect what is best for the people? What is the national interest? Is it a point of view that is foisted upon people and whipped up by propagandists? The only way to ensure the opinions of the people are fully informed is to have unfettered democracy. We must allow differences of opinion no matter how much we may not agree with some of them. Lastly, we need a press that is independent and not consolidated.