Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wow, Hiroshima is doing great! ... Or is it?

I received the following email forward from a friend. Follow along with me and you can practically smell my skepticism:

SUBJECT: Fwd: THIS IS AN INTERESTING REALITY CHECK

(All caps - already a good sign.)

THIS IS AN INTERESTING REALITY CHECK ...

(Comic Sans, giant font … even better.)

What happened to the radiation that's supposed to last thousands of years?? ... What's The Death Rate? ...

(Are these questions meant to be rhetorical? Sarcastic? A few additional sentences would have helped indicate this was written by someone who can string thoughts together coherently.)

HIROSHIMA 1945

(Now imagine those 3 photos all much larger but completely mismatched sizes.)

We all know that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed in August 1945 after explosion of atomic bombs.

(Almost a grammatically correct sentence.)

However, we know little about the progress made by the people of that land during the past 64 years.

(Yeah, what have the Japanese been up to, anyway? Last I heard from them, some farmers had asked me to come help their tiny feudal village with a bandit problem. It's certainly not like they're the world's 3rd-largest economy or anything.)

HIROSHIMA - 64 YEARS LATER

(Imagine 9 similar photos there, all of the same glittery cotton-candy Tron Vegas wonderland city of the future. Incredibly beautiful photography.)


So, what to do with that? If true, it is awesome, and I could write a Secret Peace blog post about the good news. But, all signs pointed to hoax. So, I looked it up on Snopes.com. Nothing. Good sign (I can't recall Snopes ever failing me before), but I couldn't believe it, so I kept Googling increasingly specific sentences from the email, and sure enough, there was a site debunking it.

It's a hoax: the present-day photos are actually from the city of Yokohama (Japan's 2nd-largest city.)

It's always difficult to discern the motives of hoaxsters. Is the goal here just to make us feel better as Americans in case we have any lingering guilt over being the only country to ever use a nuclear weapon? I mean, it was 65 years ago; myself and most other readers certainly didn't have anything to do with it personally (although it did happen on my birthday.) The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki aren't the most controversial American historical events by far; people may be conflicted about Afghanistan now, or the Vietnam War, but WWII remains fairly non-divisive here.

At any rate, whatever the reasons, the fact remains that's it's a hoax, so there's no Secret Peace news here, right?


I thought so at first, but then I realized several positive ironies I want to point out.

First, why not use an example that's real? How about Tokyo? As Wikipedia puts it, "The bombing of Tokyo in 1944 and 1945, with 75,000 to 200,000 killed and half of the city destroyed, was almost as devastating as the atomic bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined." And now Tokyo is inarguably one of the world's largest and most impressive cities. (We know the answer to why they didn't use Tokyo: it's because most Americans aren't familiar with its bombing, and nuclear bombs are more dramatic and compelling.)

Second, Yokohama is still real. Those are still real photos in the email forward. Look at this one:

Nice, right? Hey, even after getting nuked, the "people of that land" (ugh) managed to build this awesome city. Why is that less of an achievement because it happens to be 400 miles east of Hiroshima?

Third, and most ironic of all, I looked up Hiroshima. I would love to find out firsthand what it's like - please chime in if anyone has been there in person - but from what I can tell from Wikipedia and elsewhere, it's a perfectly nice city.

More modest than Yokohama, but wow, what a beautiful place. In other words, the original post could have been 100 percent correct, but they had to overshoot their mark and go for the flashier photos. If I were a Hiroshimian, I'd be offended that they skipped over the hard work I did rebuilding my real city and showcased the gaudy theme park of my neighbor to the east.

1 comment:

Mister James said...

What's also interesting is the scientific and medical knowledge we learned from Hiroshima and Nagasaki... to the best of my knowledge, the radiation damage only caused problems in the generation exposed to it. In my reading, I haven't seen any examples of permanent DNA restructuring of the kind we see with inbreeding, and it doesn't seem to create disease in offspring. So the radiation poisoning, while certainly horrific and painful for those exposed, hasn't seemed to have any generational effects.
Also: http://apike.ca/images/japan/hiroshima/hiroshima-river.jpg this picture shows how they have preserved at least a few of the bombed out buildings from the nuclear blast... a reminder of the devastations of war.

Thanks for the article.