Op-Ed: A Political Lesson From Italy’s Disastrous Quake

Posted Apr 8, 2009 by James Raider
Much news is being made that a researcher at the Italian National Physical Laboratory of Gran Sasso, Giampaolo Giuliani, predicted the events that have devastated the town of L’Aquila in central Italy.
Aftermath of the Italy earthquake
Aftermath of the Italy earthquake
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Government officials shut him down for “spreading alarm,” prior to the actual catastrophic earthquake. There is an important lesson here, and we should all take heed.

Italy is currently being hit with aftershocks of the earthquake that has left hundreds dead, and over 50,000 homeless. A 5.6 magnitude quake has followed and added to the devastation already inflicted on the town of L’Aquila by Monday’s 5.8 to 6.3 quake. In this vulnerable area of Italy where the vast majority of buildings are not up to modern seismic safety standards, Mr. Giuliani’s prediction of these events initially resulted in vans riding around town telling residents to evacuate their homes. This became a thorn for politicians and Mr. Giuliani was “shut down.” His claims that a quake was imminent were ridiculed as fear mongering.

Mr. Giuliani based his forecast on measurements of increased concentrations of radon gas surfacing around seismically active areas. This measurement has been used for over thirty years in California as one measure of activity in the Earth’s crust, but not as a predictor. His forecast was not specific as to the exact day, nor on the exact location of the quake’s epicenter, nevertheless, he was within reasonable bounds of accuracy on both time and place. Experts around the world claim that quakes are not predictable, so why care that a scientist who turned out to be correct, was put in his place and admonished by his own government?
The concern here relates to the inescapable parallel that surrounds the use of “fear.” It is evidently alright when the government uses fear mongering to affect change or to exact support from the population for usually misguided policies. Fear mongering is unquestionably in the purview of government, and the MSM seems to not be stirred by such devious malpractice. It is something altogether different when someone tries to do what he or she believes is right toward fellow human beings. Fear mongering is a powerful tool of the state, and post earthquake, Mr. Giuliani’s claims are being ridiculed even more than they were when he made them. It is entirely possible that in this region of Italy, Mr. Giuliani’s experience and years of studying its geology, its tectonic plates and their seismological collisions, could have provided him more credibility than his government was prepared to dispense his way. We now read in the MSM that every earthquake has quacks that predicted them, and that Mr. Giuliani has now joined their ranks. How dare he have been right?
Government too often assumes an inherent stupidity in its population and claims people will panic, or will take to the streets in anarchic stupor, if they are told anything resembling the truth. Government also expects its population will swallow any far-fetched theory or policy if an appropriate dose of fear is injected into the presentation to ensure a heightened sense of fear - as long as the government is in control of the fear mongering. Italy’s government should have allowed the population of the L’Aquila region some room to decide for themselves whether they wished to heed Mr. Giuliani’s warnings. He was not stirring for political demonstration, but for personal safety of fellow Italians.

While the surviving residents of L’Aquila search for loved ones through the rubble of their historic town, and wish they had not listened to their own government, Americans are beginning to feel pangs of suspicion about the earth chattering changes occurring at home. The tremors being felt across America’s financial and corporate sector, have been grossly animated by a White House and a Congress grasping the opportunity presented. The momentary uncertainty in the taxpaying population has provided a broad gateway through which will slide policies and bills that will fundamentally change the social and economic fabric of America. The public perception has successfully been inflamed with agitating potions from the fear medicine cabinet. Government retains tight hold on the only keys to that cabinet.
James Raider writes The Pacific Gate Post