<![CDATA[Project for Nuclear Awareness - Tricia Whiting]]>Sat, 19 Mar 2016 05:50:01 -0700EditMySite<![CDATA[Public Perception of Nuclear Weapons]]>Thu, 20 Nov 2014 19:22:19 GMT/-tricia-whiting/public-perception-of-nuclear-weaponsPicturethese were commons signs throughout the US during the 50s and 60s
“Oh my,” thought the little piglet, “what will become of us all?” -Patty the Atomic Pig (1951)

The public, post 1945, were very aware of the irrefutable damage nuclear weapons could cause, and a culture of fear surrounded the weapons.  This culture of fear came in the form of personal stories; when will the world end? Stories are central to an understanding of the impact the advent nuclear weapons had on society. When President Harry Truman introduced the bomb to the American public, he told a story about atomic energy--that it was the “basic power of the universe,” the source of the sun’s energy, and that this fundamental key to the limitless power hidden in the natural world was specifically given to his country by “God.” As mentioned previously, these “stories” are central to understanding of the impact of nuclear weapons and the affect they had on society.  “From the very start of the atomic age, nuclear narratives spilled over into the fantastic: atomic power might lead to an age of limitless energy and abundance, making physical labor unnecessary; it might make war obsolete; it might fill the natural world with unnatural genetic mutants; it might lead to horrifying destruction and the end of the world, and the flash of a bomb might be the last thing you and most other people on the earth would ever see.”   

The public was in great fear of nuclear weapons and the ultimate destruction they could cause. Underground bomb shelters were being built with the intention of keeping communists and nuclear weapons at bay. The construction of bomb shelters became a daily activity for most Americans during the late fifties and early sixties.  A fallout shelter is a civil defense measure intended to reduce casualties in a nuclear war.  Basically, they are designed to allow those inside it to avoid exposure to harmful fallout from a nuclear blast and its likely aftermath of radiation until radioactivity has dropped to a safer level.  Nuclear weapons, especially after the war were seen in a paradoxical light; they are used for our “protection”, but also are able to cause disaster with a single button.  There of course have been various public awareness advertisements and broadcasts throughout the ages, intended to inform the public about what to do in case of a nuclear attack.  A notable one from 1951 is called “Duck and Cover” or “Bert the Turtle Civil Defense Film.”  This 9 minute film was periodically shown in schools as the cornerstone of the government’s “duck and cover” public awareness campaign.  “According to the United States Library of Congress (which declared the film “historically significant” and inducted it for preservation into the National Film Registry in 2004.) it ‘was seen by millions of schoolchildren in the 1950s.”  Another infamous example of Atomic Bomb awareness to the American public was the Lyndon Johnson political campaign ad in 1964. Albeit only being aired once, it was considered a very important factor in Johnson's landslide victory over Barry Goldwater.  It can be viewed directly below.  As you can see, the ad itself drew attention and remains to be one of the most controversial political advertisements ever made.  The American public tried to understand what it really meant to enter the nuclear age, and the reality was clear with these advertisements and the building of bomb shelters.  

<![CDATA[Popular Music and catchy tunes during the Nuclear Age]]>Fri, 31 Oct 2014 17:33:18 GMT/-tricia-whiting/popular-music-and-catchy-tunes-during-the-nuclear-agePictureOh no! He's getting smaller and smaller!

Movies and musical influences on popular culture have always remained strong throughout the nuclear age. Nuclear radiation developed in to a cultural icon on which several major Hollywood films are based.  The Incredible Shrinking Man! is a perfect example of how much nuclear weapons infiltrated the American public’s minds.  The film was released in 1957 as public concern over radioactive fallout from nuclear weapons tests increased.  In The Incredible Shrinking Man!  a radioactive cloud device from a nuclear weapons test is the twist in the plot that affects an ordinary man as he becomes contaminated with “atomic dust” one day while boating with friends.  He gradually begins to shrink at a rapid rate until he is so small he is able to fit through the screen and ends the movie with the infamous line “I guess it’s all relative,” as he looks up to the night sky and stars, realizing how small and insignificant man really is on this planet, when nuclear weapons come into play.  In relation to more modern times, there have been dozens of films released such as the James Bond spy thriller, Goldeneye in 1995.  With this particular Bond movie, he is trying to prevent an arms syndicate from using the Goldeneye satellite weapon against London in order to cause  a global financial meltdown.  Yet another film portraying nuclear weapons, "The Sum of all Fears",   

This film depicts how Hollywood became infiltrated with the fear of atomic weaponry throughout the nuclear age. Radiation embodies some of the most paradoxical iconography of the early Cold War and continues well into the 1970s. Of course, we must not forget the British-American black comedy, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb directed, produced and written by Stanley Kubrick. Kubrick began writing the script with little idea of a plot, but he focused  mainly on the “what if” scenario of a nuclear thriller based on the ideas of the “balance of terror” between the major nuclear powers of the Soviet Union and the United States.  This film truly satirizes the nuclear scare and incorporates a slew of famous actors and actresses of the time including Peter Sellers, (The Pink Panther, Lolita) and George C. Scott (Patton, A Christmas Carol.)   These hilarious actors formed a combination of nuclear nonsense and dry wit culminating the epoch of the nuclear scare.  

Since the debut of nuclear weapons, there have been numerous songs pertaining to the topic of nuclear weapons that have permeated throughout the ages.  During the rebellious decade of the 1960s, numerous songs were written and recorded to include the nonproliferation movement.  Singers and songwriters work, especially during the nuclear age reflect the times.  An example of this is a small clip from Bob Dylan’s famous song, “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall”, which debuted shortly before the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1963. Another famous bomb ballad is “99 Luftballons”, premiering in 1983 by the German group Nena, which is about an accidental nuclear war that began due to balloons with enemy missiles and bombers.

<![CDATA[Sensational Journalism during the Nuclear Age]]>Thu, 16 Oct 2014 21:48:40 GMT/-tricia-whiting/sensational-journalism-during-the-nuclear-age
 A plethora of newspapers and media sources have framed the issue of nuclear weapons in different lights. The most sensationalist dialogue about nuclear warfare came in the presence of op-ed articles that have and are still continuing to be printed about nuclear weapons.   “When President Harry Truman introduced the atomic bomb to the world in 1945, he described it as a “God-given harnessing of "the basic power of the universe"  Six days later, a New York Times editorial framed the dilemma of the new Atomic Age for its readers: “Here the long pilgrimage of man on Earth turns towards darkness or towards light.” This powerful quote holds a million interpretations to its readers; man has come a long way and developed a very powerful weapon and it can be harnessed for good or evil. Sounds almost like a science fiction flick, does it not?  Nuclear journalism became incredibly prevalent throughout the ages and articles were being published all over the world focusing on the fear of the unknown and our conception of the future.  What will this nuclear future bring us, we all wondered?   On February 19th, 1951, an issue of Newsweek carried a strange image depicting an atomic explosion seventy-five miles away at the Nevada Test Site, but it shone as if it were from the future.  

This was “taken by the light of an atomic flash.” These photos of atomic flashes began to appear gradually throughout weekly and daily newspapers and magazines. Journalism aimed to inform the public, but also to present a big, scary story to the American populous.  Within days of the news from Hiroshima, even before World War II had formally ended, social commentators spoke of entering the “Atomic Age” and speculated with dread and wonder about the future.  Political cartoonists filled the newspapers with depictions of the bomb confronting the world with unimagined new dangers.  By the end of August 1945, Pocket Books had already published a paperback entitled The Atomic Age Opens. Writing just hours after the announcement of the detonation of the Hiroshima bomb, Norman Cousins, a 33 year old editor of the Saturday Review of Literature, declared that “Modern Man is obsolete.” Cousins worried, “Man stumbles fitfully into a new era of atomic energy for which he is as ill equipped to accept its potential blessings as he is to control its present dangers.” He warned that society was at a crossroads where a choice would be made between global destruction and social transformation, and he saw the battle for the life or death of society in the atomic age being fought on the battleground of the human self.  

Most famously in recent times, former Secretary of State George P. Shultz, former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry, former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger and former Senator Sam Nunn wrote A World Free of Nuclear Weapons, an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, wherein the former Cold War nuclear warfare experts opined for the total abolition of  nuclear weapons and declared “that reliance on nuclear weapons for this purpose is becoming increasingly hazardous and decreasingly effective.” This 2007 op-ed is part of the powerful, bipartisan Nuclear Security Project, which includes a series of op-eds aimed toward the overall goal of creating a world free of nuclear weapons. 

<![CDATA[Media and Nuclear Weapons]]>Thu, 09 Oct 2014 20:23:00 GMT/-tricia-whiting/media-and-nuclear-weaponsPicture

This is the first image that pops up on Google Image search for “nuclear weapons.” What can this tell us about the portrayal of the atomic and the concept of “doomsday?”  The majority of the these images are rather terrifying and visually explosive, (pun intended) with intent to scare. Pictures tell us a thousand words, and images of nuclear weapons throughout the times show us how terrifying the nuclear age was.  Images of nuclear weapons evoke strong feelings of fear and uncertainty, which has led to the molding of a distinct popular culture  around these weapons and reactionary political repression.  

Since their worldwide debut in 1945, nuclear weapons have infiltrated popular culture via album covers, nuclear ballads, and classic Hollywood films. Since this introduction, the primary nuclear narrative functions as a signifier of social and cultural transformation.    The lyrically talented Bob Dylan famously composed the song, A Hard Rains Gonna Falla song influenced by the Cuban Missile Crisis which eventually morphed into a protest song throughout the 1960s and beyond.  In addition to Dylan, films surrounding nuclear weapons have become extremely popular, including the infamous Dr. Strangelove.”  This film is a dark and deceiving parody based on the nuclear scare of the sixties.  This film, among others, showcases the terror of nuclear weapons within popular culture.   

From the end of WWII until the early 1990s, our world faced a period of heightened international tension and competition, called the Cold War. The United States and the Soviets of the former USSR were competitively developing dangerous nuclear weapons and flexing their newfound nuclear muscles extending throughout the world. In 

1945, when the first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a new world order had formed.  We were now aware of how dangerous life could become by just pushing a single button. This “push-button war” became a very real and scary threat to humankind. The Cold War was a period of history profoundly shaped by a physical object--the bomb--that very few people had actually ever laid eyes on.  What gave the American public and beyond nightmares of nuclear explosions or guided them to quickly build fall-out shelters, or to throw money at the arms race were stories about the bomb. These stories were told in articles by experts who predicted doomsday by the advent of nuclear weapons. These stories have surpassed generations and infiltrated within the daily lives of most Americans living in the 1950s and sixties.  

During the atmospheric testing era, from 1945 to 1963, the United States detonated 317 nuclear weapons in the atmosphere, including 207 in Nevada, with a peak of more than 80 between Nevada and the Pacific testing site in 1962.  As the frequency of nuclear weapon testing increased, so too did public awareness of radiation and fallout.  Nuclear weapon advertisements, along with scattered news reports, reminded Americans that the world they lived in was increasingly radioactive.  American celebrated the end of the defeat of the Japanese and the Axis Powers but post Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the constant frightful awareness of nuclear weapons was evident. If you took a walk down your familiar streets in anytown, USA after the two bombs were dropped, fear was every where. 

With the successful Soviet nuclear bomb test and the initiation of the Korean war, the already heightened state of fear was coupled with fears of nuclear fallout that would come from the other side of the world, in the Soviet Union.  News outlets tended to exploit these fears of the American public with the arrival of McCarthyism, which is political repression based on fears of communism that lead to the widespread practice of baselessly accusing citizens of disloyalty, subversion or treason initiated by the anti-communist agenda of U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin.    

By the early 1950s, McCarthyism swept the nation. Everyone was afraid of each other and accusations of Communism abound. Seemingly innocent neighbors could be thrown in prison for the mere suspicion that they might be a communist.  This widespread witch hunt gradually become known as the Second Red Scare and lasted well in the early 1960s.   Americans feared that the Russians were harboring nuclear weapons with intent to destroy America and above all, they were destined to turn the entire world to communism and that American citizens were becoming loyal to this Soviet agenda.