Japan Times Interviews 2 “Flyjin” / Ignorance, Fear, and Paranoia Abound
Patrick Budmar of the Japan Times has interviewed two American who fled from Japan after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident. Unlike others who left after March 11th, these two diehard “flyjin” refuse to come back. The Americans are “convinced they made the right call” and “worry for those left in Japan.”
The article does not do a very good job of explaining why these people should feel vindicated. All it seems to reveal is that the Americans in question left because they are scared and did not trust the Japanese.
Ivan Stout and Kate were residents of the Kanto region who turned to second and third-hand sources to get “reliable” information that influenced their decision to flee the country. Kate was so clueless that she “first learned about the situation at Fukushima No. 1 from an email sent by her worried mother.” Later e-mails from her worried father – who supposedly knew “experts” that insisted Tokyo was in danger – helped push her over the edge. Stout relied on internet news sites. Both of them were convinced that the Japanese media and Japanese government could not be trusted.
Kate justified her decision by making a big deal out of how she had “lived through” the 1979 Three Mile Island accident – no small feat, considering that the accident did not kill a single person or release a dangerous amount of radiation into an inhabited area. Because the American government and media had supposedly tricked her family into thinking it was safe to stay in their home (“within 80 kilometers” [50 miles] of the reactor), it was apparently a good idea to completely distrust the Japanese.
The statements that Stout makes regarding the current situation in Fukushima reveal that they are probably under the influence of anti-nuclear fearmongers like Arnie Gundersen, who are polluting the internet with scare stories about a new doomsday event from Reactor number 4:
“If reactor building 4 collapses, Kanto is finished,” Stout says. “The technology needed to stabilize reactor building 4 does not currently exist, and there is no conclusive evidence that the technology will be invented in time to save the Kanto area.”
“Tokyo is still in danger of being lost and the government should be acting accordingly, prioritizing the safety of its residents,” he says.
He thinks that larger areas of Japan should have been evacuated and believes that tsunami debris containing insignificantly small amounts of radiation should be considered dangerous:
“Had the Japanese government been forthcoming a year ago and provided support to evacuate western Japan, instead of trying to contaminate the rest of Japan by burning contaminated debris, I would still be in Japan today, even if it meant living indefinitely in a refugee tent,”
“I hope to live long enough to one day return to the credible, safe country I once knew.”
Kate also appears to have fallen for conspiracy theories. She thinks that the Japanese government is fabricating data:
“I suspect that the government wants to ensure that Fukushima does not exceed Chernobyl’s radioactive element output, and fudges the calculations to see that it does not.“
Living in a world of fantasy, they can only wonder why the majority of Japan’s residents did not follow their example and flee:
“The majority of any population cannot just leave a home no one is willing to buy and quit their job,” he explains. “Without the Japanese government officially acknowledging the severity of the situation and compensating accordingly, most people are stuck.”
Kate, on the other hand, sees it as a matter of people making their own choices.
“Though whenever I see pregnant friends and families with small children in Japan on Facebook, I feel very worried for their safety,” she says.
If you read this article and thought these people are ridiculous, don’t you dare insult them! According to Stout, people who insult those who fled are like North Korea:
He adds that if the world measured the “greatness of nations by their adeptness at baseless insults,” then North Korea would be “the best nation,” though he feels that the outside world “usually associates such rhetoric with desperation.“
And Kate thinks that her special experience surviving the horrors of Three Mile Island give her immunity to name-calling:
“I was pretty sure that people might reconsider calling me a flyjin if they knew about my prior proximity to Three Mile Island.”
Update [June 13]: It has come to my attention that Ivan Stout and his wife are part of a campaign to spread nuclear fear in the United States. Here is a quote from an Texan anti-nuclear group website:
“In order to protect ourselves and our four-year-old son from radiation exposure, we had to leave the home we loved and had spent our adult lives working towards in Japan, and now live in Texas. We only had two hours to decide what to take with us and had to leave most of our belongings behind. It broke our hearts to leave family and friends that we loved without saying goodbye, but our health was at risk,” said Chiaki Kasahara.
The nuclear industry and public officials minimized health risks, but the science is clear that exposure to radioactive contamination through the air, water or food leads to various illnesses that can take even decades to manifest.” said Chiaki’s husband, Ivan Stout. “We worry about Chiaki’s mother, who stayed in Japan, and the many friends we left behind, especially the young children who may be impacted by radiation exposure. However, we understand the huge financial burden of moving out of a home no one is willing to buy. No one should be forced to decide between financial ruin and the health of their family.”
The Japan Times reported that the Stouts lived in Ibaraki prefecture. It is ridiculous for Stout to claim that the Fukushima disaster made it impossible to sell a home in Ibaraki – homes are being sold and built in that area every day. Ibaraki is not a nuclear wasteland.
Stout also made a video for an anti-nuclear group. In it, he claims that his employer told him he was “still supposed to work” in Tokyo. He says he was worried that his decision to evacuate would cause him to lose his job. He eventually had to “quit” the job to avoid the “invisible cloud of radiation” that threatened his family. Strangely that doesn’t seem to match at all with the claim he made in the Japan Times interview: that “his employer called him and said it was time to vacate the area.” About 14 minutes into the video, he mentions that his mother-in-law is still living in Ibaraki (in the house that is “impossible” to sell because of the radiation?).
Stout’s decision seems to be one that was made in a state of panic. Because “the winds had shifted” from Fukushima, he decided – based on “limited information” – that his family needed to get out the door and flee within 90 minutes. Very sad.
Update 2 [June 13 - Afternoon]: Via e-mail, Stout told me that he has discovered this post and is not happy about it. He thinks it contains “mischaracterizations” of himself and the other interviewee, though he did not clarify what he meant by that. He refuses to issue a public response to this blog post because I will not give him my personal information.
According to Stout, “meaningful debate” requires that both parties know the names and personal information about those who disagree with them. Otherwise, we are not on “level ground.” If you do not blog or comment under your real full name, you have no credibility. Or, as Stout put it: “the mere fact that I make my comments under my own name lends my views more credibility than all the Anons and generic James’s on the Internet put together.” He has concluded that myself and the people who leave comments under pseudonyms are “too afraid” to stand up for what we believe in.
Update 3 [June 14]: Ivan Stout has followed my suggestion and made a blog post (cache) responding to us….well sort of. It does not really respond to the criticism that many people have leveled against Stout’s claims. Instead, he rants about how he won’t respond to “anonymous” critics and complains about real estate prices. Umm..okay? Anyway, he says that he is willing to debate, but only with people who use their real names.
Anyway, all I wanted to say to Ivan was that showing a real name adds no weight to an argument. If the facts are straight it doesn’t matter.
— Michael Gakuran (@gakuranman) June 14, 2012