HBO’s ‘Chernobyl’ Drives Home The Deadly Perils Of Statism By Joshua Lawson for The Federalist
The opening lines of HBO’s “Chernobyl” miniseries set the tone for what’s at stake during its terrifying, unflinching look at the worst nuclear plant disaster in history:
‘What is the cost of lies? It’s not that we’ll mistake them for the truth. The real danger is that if we hear enough lies then we no longer recognize the truth at all.’
On April 26, 1986, two explosions rocked the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Pripyat, Soviet Ukraine. The devastating event released 400 times the amount of radioactive fallout than the bombing of Hiroshima and at one point threatened the lives of millions of Europeans as far away as Germany.
Creator Craig Mazin’s dramatization of the crisis features exceptional acting, writing, and direction. The show’s haunting atmosphere lingers far after the credits roll. It is an altogether wrenching account of the disaster and the countless lives affected. But beneath the show’s retelling of the explosion and its aftermath lies an investigation of the perils of unchecked government power.
The Soviet Union may have been already on its way to the dustbin of history by 1986, but the regime’s poisonous effects are on full display during the miniseries. “Chernobyl” offers a glimpse into the crippling effects of statism. When the truth is needed to save lives, it is stifled. When recklessly misguided authority figures need to be questioned, they are shielded by the fear they instill and the political positions they hold.
The Fight of the Truth Seekers
At its core, HBO’s “Chernobyl” is a tragic tale of heroic individuals fighting against a government designed by its nature to thwart any who oppose it. In their search for the cause of the catastrophe, scientists are tailed by the Soviet Union’s KGB secret police. Members of the very commission tasked with investigating the Chernobyl incident have their phones tapped. They’re brazenly threatened in public. They’re temporarily detained. The scientists and nuclear experts Mikhail Gorbachev’s Soviet regime needs to be free to uncover the truth are repeatedly stymied and silenced by their own government.
Young men who should be apprenticing are thrust into engineering positions they are unqualified to administer. Concerns over the stability and safety of vital nuclear equipment—most critically, Soviet-made RBMK reactors—are shrugged aside or buried in layer upon layer of bureaucratic red tape.