A watchdog, yes, but still one with a mission

Internationally recognized symbol.

Image via Wikipedia

Greenpeace claim that the Japanese nuclear disaster should be upgraded to a category 7 nuclear accident are meet by skepticism from several corners. Of cause is the Japanese government against the upgrade as they have a clear interest in keeping the disaster as small as possible and not causing wide spread panic and loss in confidence in the public. The nuclear energy provider (Tokyo Electric Power) is not interested in upgrading the accident and by that damaging their reputation even further. But what about Greenpeace why should they interested in an upgrade? What would motivate a watchdog to yell wolf?

I will not go into a discussion about if the number should be 5, 6 or 7, on the level of disaster but it is interesting form a communicative point of view that Greenpeace have a clear interest in upgrading the disaster. Well at least in my mind…

Greenpeace claims that because they are not being paid by the nuclear industry, they are to be considered an independent and trustworthy source. But to what extend can this claim really be true?

First of all, Greenpeace live of people donating money to the organization because they believe that the organization is a true and trustworthy speaker for the rights for a clean environment. So by being perceived as a powerful speaker in case of the Fukushima plant they will fit in to this role very neatly gaining legitimacy with their donors. And by that reassuring that the money the donors have invested is going to a cause they think is right.

Second. Greenpeace need to be visible as it is competing with other Environmental NGOs on the ‘goodness’ market, and as a leading brand they will need to stand out and make sure that people know that they are present and alert. This ensures that there is continuity in the Greenpeace communication and claim as a legitimate NGO in this area.  

Third reason could be that Greenpeace have already issues with some of the Japanese around whaling and there general reputation in Japan is not very good to say the least. Basically they are being perceived as picking on the little and hard working fisherman that is only trying to provide for his family. So this is an opportunity for the organization to change this image and try to communicate that they are on the side of the ‘common’ people against the big corporations and governments lies. At the same time the communication fits very well in with the general discourse in Europe and the US that Greenpeace will communicate the truth about the environmental impact of big industries, especially nuclear ones.       

So basically there is a clear incentive for Greenpeace to escalating an already existing catastrophic incident and using this disaster fits very well with the image that Greenpeace tries to create of itself towards the general public. I do not know what the truth is or what it even matters that it’s is a category 5,6 or 7. But what I do know is that when Greenpeace claims that they can be trusted based on that they are not being paid off by the energy sector, it is not the whole truth about the organizations communication.


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