Do as I say, not as I do
The prize for cojones of the week has to go to Japanese MP Yashuhiro Sonoda who drank a glass of water gathered from rain puddles outside the Fukushima power plant to “prove” to watching journalists that the area was now safe from contamination. Reports that he followed this by nailing six shots of scorpion venom and arm-wrestling Chuck Norris have yet to be confirmed.
Similarly in the immediate aftermath of Britain’s “Mad Cow” crisis in 1990, the then Agriculture Minister John Gummer infamously fed his four-year-old daughter a burger in front of the waiting press.
Yet Sonoda himself admits that merely drinking the water did not prove that the area was safe but that only proper presentation of the facts could quell public anxiety. Despite a notable lack of enthusiasm from the assembled press to follow Sonoda’s lead and sate their thirst with a gulp of Fukushima’s Finest – the measure of confidence the Japanese feel about their clean-up process is demonstrated by their decision to allow journalists onto the site from the 12th November – the first time the press will have been allowed to the area since the earthquake and subsequent tsunami wrecked the plant back in March.
What this shows is that while eye-catching stunts may capture the imagination (and the headlines) only absolute transparency and openness will help alleviate concerns when it comes to public health and safety issues. Sonoda made his point but the honesty of his communications with the media and public will be what cements his reputation and trust in the ability of the Japanese Government to deal with the aftermath of the most devasting natural disaster in living history.