March 20, 2011

The Horrifying Truth, Buried in the Rubble


When I was awakened by the radio early on the morning of March 11, the first thing I heard was a BBC report that a magnitude 8.9 earthquake and the ensuing tsunami had devastated northern Japan. The report went on to say that the tsunami was on its way toward Hawaii and the U.S. West Coast. Upon hearing all this at about 5:45 in the morning, the first thought that came to mind was, This was no plain old earthquake.

            That was my second thought, actually. My first thought was Well, those religious nuts who’ve been saying the world would end March twenty-first must be thrilled.

            But back to that second thought.

            When it was further reported a few hours later that the Fukushima Daichi nuclear power plant had been severely damaged in the quake and that heat and pressure were building in the reactor core, I knew my second thought was correct. This was no ordinary earthquake. The question then became one of waiting. Waiting to see how long it would be, and what it would take, before Japanese officials were forced to admit publicly that their nation was being ravaged by giant monsters.

I watched the news and scanned the photos on line, and can’t say I was terribly surprised to see that technicians with CNN, MSNBC, and the Kyodo News Service had been very careful to digitally erase all traces of Godzilla, King Ghidorah, and Mothra out of the footage released to the public. This is no small task, mind you—that Godzilla’s pretty darn big, and he has a long tail.

            Following the explosion at the Fukushima plant later that night, you’d think someone would start asking questions and somebody else, in a panic, would finally spill the beans. The pattern was simply far too familiar, and far too obvious.

            If you have even a passing familiarity with the twenty-six films that make up the Godzilla series, you will likely recall that his appearances were very often heralded by earthquakes and major oceanic disturbances. Boats are tossed around like toys (as they were in Santa Cruz) and Japanese people fill the streets and run around screaming (as they did in Fukushima). You might also recall that Godzilla’s reason for stomping ashore in Japan was not ostensibly to destroy cities like Tokyo and Osaka—they usually just found themselves underfoot while he was on his way to take care of some other bit of business. And at some point along the way (sometimes directly, sometimes tangentially) that other business involved the destruction of a power plant.

            (As I type this I keep checking back to the news to see if they’ve come clean yet. So far no dice.)

            Now, Godzilla’s reasons for decimating power plants differ depending on the film, but they can usually be broken down into three rough categories. In some cases the plants just happen to get in his way, but lucky for us viewers they explode in an entertaining, cinematic fashion. In others, he’s feeding off the energy (he has nuclear origins, after all). And finally, if he’s in a more philosophical mood, he may be destroying the plant to deliver a stern warning to the Japanese government and people that toying around with nuclear energy in whatever form—as a weapon or a power source—is a really bad idea. Perhaps that explains why so many of Japan’s nuclear reactors are built on fault lines. Subconsciously, see, they know it’s a bad idea, but even so, every once in awhile they need Godzilla to come along and remind them.

            There’s more at stake here than the destruction of one nuclear power plant (for whatever reason)—how then to explain the devastation across the rest of northern Japan?

Well, I think the answer is fairly simple. Godzilla usually doesn’t show up simply to unleash a wave of philosophical, finger-wagging destruction (at least after the first few films). In most cases he won’t show unless there’s another monster on the scene already to prompt him—Gigan, say, or Hedorah or Mechagodzilla or Destroyah. And those other monsters are often, though not always, under the control of a race of hostile aliens who believe for some reason that the best way to conquer the Earth and enslave mankind is to send a giant monster to destroy a major Japanese city. (“Ha ha ha! Nothing can stop him! Soon the planet will be ours!” they always say. I always found the logic there a little shaky, especially coming from a supposedly superior race. But that’s beside the point.)

Given the news blackout it’s hard to say which specific group of superhuman antagonists we’re talking about here, but considering the options my guess would be that we’re dealing with the Seatopians again. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Undersea civilization based in the south Pacific with a known gripe against nuclear power? Back in the mid-seventies when the nuclear test ban treaty was violated they sent their giant cockroach with the drill-bit hands, Megalon, to the surface to wreak some havoc. The usual earthquakes and tsunamis marked his arrival, but Godzilla stopped him before he made it to any major city (which is why newspaper accounts at the time were so sketchy). This time things were obviously different, and the people of Japan weren’t so lucky.

            Shortly after the explosion at the Fukushima plant, CNN was reporting that it blew up because “a pump failed.” Yet for some strange reason they felt it necessary to add that “it blew up because a pump failed, really, and for absolutely no other reason than that.”

            What does that tell you? Obviously someone at CNN knows something’s afoot (a really, really big foot), but apparently the pressure’s coming down from the big boys to keep a lid on the story.

            By 3:00 p.m. EST on Saturday the 12th, they were already reporting that cases of radiation poisoning were cropping up in the vicinity of the plant. That’s plausible, given conditions. But what happens when those cases of radiation poisoning start popping up unexpectedly hundreds of miles away in towns that were flattened, but nowhere near the plant? And how will they explain the footprints? (Remember, Godzilla spreads radiation poisoning wherever he goes.)

            Then there were more explosions, and a second reactor core was exposed. As many as nine other reactors (depending on where you got your news) were in danger. That battle between Godzilla and Megalon kept rolling on for days.

I guess I can almost understand the hesitation on the part of the government and the media to come out and say the reactor cores were exposed after “a 350-foot-tall mutant saurian with radioactive breath kicked them while wrestling a giant undersea cockroach.” But don’t they realize the truth is going to come out eventually? And when it does, boy will their faces be red! Because after all, if things continue the way they’re going it won’t be long before giant radioactive monsters will be the only things that can live in Japan.


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