The Settled Science Of Barack Obama Would Be Right At Home In Chernobyl
‘A man asks another man on a crowded Moscow bus, ‘Are you affiliated in any way with the Communist Party leadership, the Politburo, the KGB, or any arm of government?’ ‘No,’ the man replies. ‘Good. Now please get off my foot.’
The new HBO drama Chernobyl is a curious thing. Not for its content. The tragedy of how the nuclear reactor in the Ukrainian city blew up in April of 1986 is a harrowing documentation of institutional corruption and greed.
The European production— written by an American— features terrific actors (Jared Harris of Mad Men fame, Emily Watson from The Boxer, Stellan Skarsgård from Hunt For Red October), riveting special effects and the bleak Soviet-era gloom that encompasses everything. The prosthetic effects used to show radiation poisoning are grimly effective.
For those who can tough it out, there is a searing portrait of the casual indifference of the Soviet nomenklatura calculating how comrades must be sacrificed to the cause, the bottomless capacity for suffering from the Russian peoples and a caution about the perils of how quickly a nuclear accident can escalate.
What is curious, however, is the attitude of HBO and the critical approval of the series from the liberal press. How did they see Chernobyl? HBO is a reliable voice for progressive hobbyhorses about climate and race in their material. The idea that they’d make common cause with anti-socialists seems far-fetched
So, did they intend it as a cautionary tale against nuclear power versus renewables? A safe, retrospective swipe at the USSR, now almost 30 years gone? A tribute to the power of free speech? (If it’s a shot at nuclear power it fails. The only major nuclear mishap in the past 30 years at Fukushima, Japan, was based on putting the reactor too close to a fault line. Although the Iranians might change that.)
What can’t be denied is that Chernobyl presents a brutal indictment of the consensus science now operating in global warming/ climate change orthodoxy. As Chernobyl documents, approved science in the USSR was not based on skepticism and inquiry, but on having the science support the state’s authority.
Even as the Politburo sits in stunned silence over the magnitude of the disaster that might wipe out Europe, they’re plotting to protect the state from responsibility. Despite the many previous scientific disasters they’d hushed up, they still put the narrative ahead of the cure. Someone else must be blamed.
President Barack Obama’s repeated claims that “the science is settled” and “97 percent of scientists agree climate change is real” would have found a very comfortable spot in the Soviet scientific model.
How is what we see in Chernobyl any different from Obama/ Al Gore/ Justin Trudeau crying “deniers” and “criminals” to silence the unconvinced and to push through state-approved scientific policy on carbon taxes and CO2 “poisoning”? Like the Soviet scientists falling into line, the climate extremists crave each other’s approval.
The Bernie Sanders acolytes now gushing about socialism on the campaign trail (Bernie famously honeymooned in the 1968 Moscow of Brezhnev) never seem to recognize the connection between the all-consuming state— that cares from cradle to grave— and the total power to silence and eliminate its opponents as shown in Chernobyl. Like the current president Vladimir Putin, Bernie & Co. blame the failure of the USSR on outside agitation.
(The scenes of the liquidation ordered for dogs and cats in the radiation zone are heart breaking, as veterans of the Soviets Afghan war scour the countryside for victims.)
The reviews of Chernobyl likewise skirt these uncomfortable truths by using anodyne phrases about “state secrets” pitted against the people. The ultra-liberal L.A. Times calls it an “illuminating drama about government corruption, systemic incompetence and the unyielding will of the people to drag their country back from the brink of ruin as they have done time and time again after coups, wars, fallen regimes, invasions, famine and more.”
If there are parallels to Sanders’ rush to total government or climate-science catechism now being adopted holos-bolus by the Democratic party few bother to mention it.
Where Chernobyl succeeds, ironically, is in the glorification of the individual. In this case, Valery Legasov, a long-time operator in the Soviet nuclear industry. Legasov’s epiphany comes as he faces his mortality (he knows the radiation he absorbs investigating Chernobyl will kill him within five years).
He knows there is a flaw in the reactor the Soviets use. After supporting the coverups for decades, Legasov flips the switch at the show trial of the operators who provoked the disaster. While the state eagerly hopes to put the blame on the slipshod, callous behaviour of the engineers in the plant, Legasov has news for them.
He’s not playing the game anymore. The state has always known the reactors had a problem, he tells the court. The problems with their reactors are because they went “cheaply” on materials. And they’ve yet to fix the other reactors with the problem because it might embarrass the Politburo.
The KGB boss tells Legasov he’s a non-person. He hints at a bullet for his treachery. Legasov cheats them by hanging himself— but not before he records all he knows about what lay behind the greatest peacetime nuclear disaster ever. “Every lie we tell incurs a debt with the truth,” Legasov says. “Sooner or later that debt is paid. That is how the RBMK reactor core explodes. Lies.”.
Perhaps HBO agrees with Legasov about the courage of the individual to change society. But you’d be hard-pressed to find that theme elsewhere in their climate tropes of the recent past.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the publisher of his website Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). He’s also a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster, he is also a best-selling author whose new book Cap In Hand: How Salary Caps Are Killing Pro Sports And Why The Free Market Could Save Them is now available