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From Chernobyl to Covid-19

Browsing social media recently I came across one blogger who claimed that Covid-19 will be America’s Chernobyl. That seems a bit like hyperbole. Chernobyl, as history records, became a central part of Gorbachev’s Glasnost campaign which eventually led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union (helped of course by the industrial level of corruption among the Soviet industry leaders who would become the first generation of Russian oligarchs).

I don’t see Covid-19 leading to the dissolution of the USA. True, they are losing their position as the only world superpower, and will in due course lose their position as the largest economy in the world. Covid-19 looks like it’s speeding up this transition. They will however stagger on as the second most powerful nation in the world after China takes the top spot, rather than fall apart like the USSR did.

So why do I mention Chernobyl alongside Covid-19 at all then? I do so because there are nevertheless striking similarities between the two, primarily but not exclusively in how the Western media and political elites have framed both events. Or to put it more bluntly, how they have lied about both. Not only have they lied about both, but they have accused their perceived enemies of doing exactly what they have done themselves.

That is the sickest thing about Western propaganda, the total lack of shame. They know that certain things are evil (they portray them as such when accusing others), but have no problem with doing those very same things themselves.

As a population, we in the West really need to get wise to this propaganda. For too many, propaganda is something that happens elsewhere – in socialist countries or brown skinned people countries. That it actually pervades every aspect of Western media (from the news to entertainment) is something most don’t realise.

Very recently HBO released a miniseries that they claimed “told the true story” of Chernobyl. In fact it just reinforced the story that Western propaganda settled on decades ago. While it was well made and seemingly considerate to the victims of the disaster, it nevertheless was another example of how Western propaganda operates.

Something that many people don’t know is that the production of the show coincided with a treasure trove of previously top secret official documents regarding the disaster being unclassified and made available to the public. These official documents shine a very different light on events before and after the disaster – so of course something had to be done to protect the Western narrative. Up stepped HBO, and therefore last year all the talk about Chernobyl was related to the TV show and not the declassified documents.

How does the truth (revealed within these previously secret documents) differ from the narrative spewed out by the Western propaganda machine? The fact that there was a nuclear meltdown is uncontroversial, so at least in that respect we’ve been told the truth. Where the Western narrative diverges from the facts is mostly in what happened next, although what happened prior to the disaster is also important so let’s start there.

As far back as 1978, eight years before the disaster, the KGB had been aware of problems at Chernobyl and were busy trying to get someone (anyone) to react. We know from the unclassified documents that senior people within Gorbachev’s Soviet Union (and probably Gorbachev himself) were aware of the warnings coming from their secret service. They did nothing, because the prevailing belief among those responsible for the nuclear plant was that a meltdown there was impossible.

This is the first of many similarities with Covid-19. The UK and the USA had plenty of prior warning that the virus was coming. Even before the virus was discovered in China the probability that such a pandemic would occur was high enough that a planned response should already have been prepared. Similar previous viruses like SARS and MERS also gave us a glimpse of how this virus might behave. Unfortunately, the prevailing belief of our leaders was that we were safe in the “developed” world, and that such a health crisis could only occur in poor countries and brown skinned people countries. Staggering levels of hubris.

Even worse (and similar to Chernobyl) was that the secret services in the West were well aware of our vulnerability, and were ringing the alarm bells, all to no avail. No one listened. As recently as October 2019 the Americans ran a high level simulation of such an outbreak. Did Trump pay attention? No, in fact he had already scrapped America’s pandemic response team. Once the outbreak in China became known Trump’s security services were desperately trying to bring the implications to his attention but, as this Washington Post article makes clear, they just couldn’t get him to do anything about it. Its a safe bet that in the UK a similar effort was being made to get the attention of the Tory government.

Ignored warnings and missed opportunities to prevent a disaster, due to hubris and arrogance, are a tragic first similarity between Chernobyl and Covid-19. How these events are lied about by our Western media is the next chilling similarity. By this I mean who they frame as the “bad guys” and “good guys”.

The KGB have been roundly vilified by all sections of the Western media for their role in the aftermath of Chernobyl. We are told they left the citizens of the region to suffer from radiation poisoning and even forced them to work on the clean up knowing it would kill them. While it is true that there was a delay in evacuating the nearby town (a big part of the delay is explained by the fact that apart from a handful of on-site engineers most of those in charge were convinced it was one of the tanks that had exploded and not the rector itself (because that they thought that was impossible), the hubris and arrogance again!) it ignores the fact that the KGB were the only ones who paid attention to the danger prior to the disaster and tried to do something about it.

In the aftermath of the disaster the Soviets appealed to the West for help. We had relevant experience in nuclear disaster clean up after all. The UK’s Windscale nuclear power reactor (1957), the USA’s Three Mile Island (1979) and France’s Saint-Lawrence Nuclear Power Plant (1980) had all suffered similar though less devastating incidents. This had given Western governments and scientists invaluable experience, and had helped us develop technology for dealing with such events. Technology and expertise that the Soviets simply didn’t have.

For these reasons the USSR asked us for scientific help. The West refused. The fact that the disaster threatened to dowse most of Eastern Europe in deadly radiation was of no concern to Thatcher (UK) or Reagan (USA). The prospect of scoring political points against the Soviet Union was more important to them than saving the lives of innocent civilians. The West accuses the Soviets of being prepared to let innocent civilians die, but in fact it was our own governments doing so. They could sit back, watch large swathes of Eastern Europe die of radiation poisoning and then blame it on the Soviet Union safe in the knowledge that their compliant Western media would never criticise them or even mention their refusal to help. To this day the media still ignores this aspect of the Chernobyl story.

Thankfully the KGB, despite their vilification in the “official” Western version of events and despite any other faults they had, were not prepared to sit back and allow innocent civilians to pay the price. With the West point blank refusing to help, the KGB resorted to that famous Cold War tactic: espionage.

We learned from the declassified papers (which corroborate a 2003 essay by former Russian PM Evgeny Primakov) that the KGB were able to obtain much of the information and technology that was required within a very short period of time. As it transpired, even though the Western political leaders at the time were among the most evil we’ve ever had, the scientific community was much more willing to help. This allowed the KGB to set up various channels for secretly obtaining technology and data from the West and sending it back to Moscow and Kiev. For example, using the information and technology obtained by the KGB’s espionage, the Soviets were able to create a special polymer fluid which covered contaminated soil around Chernobyl and trapped radioactive substances where they were.

Unsurprisingly, HBO’s “true story of Chernobyl” (and all Western media in general) omitted all of this, which makes it easy to convince the public that the “socialists” and the KGB are the “bad guys”.

Likewise, with Covid-19 we see a compliant Western media busy trying to cast China as the “bad guys”. True, some accusations of tardiness are being levelled at Boris and (particularly by the Democrat supporting outlets) Trump, but the idea that China did this and tried to cover it up is still the dominant narrative in all Western media.

It is all part of a wider anti-China agenda. Just think about it the next time you read or hear their coverage of China. It’s not just the stories that they tell (which are often fabrications), its also the language that they use. It’s propaganda as a kind of manipulation;

China doesn’t fire officials. They purge them.

Corrupt Chinese officials don’t get convicted for corruption. They lose power struggles.

China doesn’t give nations loans. They trap nations in debt.

Other countries don’t praise China. They pander to China.

China doesn’t revise counting methodologies. They under-report cases.

China doesn’t treat patients. They round them up.

China doesn’t requisition private hospitals during an emergency. They seize them.

Chinese citizens don’t display patriotism. They display nationalism.

This is the sort of manipulation our propaganda machine is engaged in, and it gets ramped up a level or two at times like this. On December 31 China informed the World Health Organization (WHO) of the spread of pneumonia-like symptoms with unknown etiology. On January 7 China informed the WHO that scientists had identified the source as a coronavirus and had sequenced the genome. They then shared this data with the scientific world. The Western propaganda machine will never allow this to be widely known, and instead outright lie and claim that China never shared the information with us. China must be portrayed as the “bad guys” no matter what.

That it is the West who has a history of refusing to share valuable information and materials with others (Chernobyl, or more recently America pirating plane loads of medical equipment meant for other countries) is more than just a sick irony in all of this. It is part of our imperialistic attitude towards the rest of the world. We take take take from them and then hoard what we have taken, refusing to share even in times of need. We know we are wrong, when we falsely accuse others of acting like this we can perfectly explain the wrongness of such behaviour, but we do it ourselves anyway. We know that our media will never talk about it when we do it.

By Beinn Irbhinn
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