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Chernobyl and Terrorism

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As an Environmental, Health and Safety Consultant one of the more impressive items on my curriculum vitae is my 1991 visit to Chernobyl.  Yet last week I visited a recycling facility where one of the lead employees had never heard of Chernobyl.  Yes it has been more than 30 years since one of the largest environmental disasters in history, but one would tend to think that an environmental professional would know about it.  For the uninitiated, it was the meltdown and fire of a nuclear power reactor in the Soviet Union.  This Wikipedia article is a reasonable background/technical piece.   Activity to maintain the site in a fashion that will not produce continued environmental damage is on-going and will be for the foreseeable future.

On a political and social level, there are those that contend that the accident was a major contributor to the downfall of the Soviet Union.  The financial cost was incredible.  But more, it must be remembered that the Soviet Union did not announce the accident at first.  Only when radiation from the accident was detected outside the USSR’s borders and international pressure grew immensely did they admit to a problem.  The theory goes that once they admitted the problem and therefore lost control of the information flow surrounding the accident, confidence in the Soviet government began to dwindle in the USSR populace.  When combined with other factors that lack of confidence lead to that government’s downfall some seven or eight years later.

Information is a mighty and powerful tool.  What we saw in Orlando over the weekend was, in my opinion, “information terrorism.”  There is much to learn about the assailant and how he came to commit such a heinous act, but it seems apparent that he was corrupted, at least in significant part by exposure to information.  Oh sure, he was probably an angry young man already on a course to violence, but when exposed to information about the violent and hateful variations of Islam, his tendencies bloomed and turned to action.  In this case terrorism was spread not by recruitment and training, but by information.

How do we battle the spread of such terrorism?  Controlling immigration will only accomplish so much.  Information is much more slippery than people.  Access to information is a bedrock principle of this nation.  As losing control of information destroyed confidence in the Soviet government, in America controlling information would erode confidence in government.  Moreover, information really cannot be controlled in the current era, technology just makes it too easy to move it around.

The information that contributed so mightily to the horror of Orlando has to be cutoff at the source.  That is no easy task, and while that task has a significant military component to it, the task is not entirely military in nature.   But with certainty both the military and non-military actions necessary to deal with information terrorism at its source requires foreign adventurism. – something the nation currently seems loathe to consider.

The rhetoric of our president and our candidates is all about here, but if we are really going to stop things like Orlando from happening we have to get very busy there.  When running for president there is a tendency to want to tell people what they want to hear.  But good leadership will appeal to what they want to hear while leading them forward towards what must be done.  Not since the downfall of the Soviet Union have we been in such dire need of precisely that kind of leadership.


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