By Maria Popova
What vintage bomb survival suits have to do with Dr. Stragelove and Richard Nixon.
The recent tragedy in Japan has triggered a tsunami of terror, founded and unfounded, about the potential risks of nuclear reactors.
While there are people better equipped than us to explain the precise implications of the situation, we thought we’d put things in perspective by examining the flipside of these dystopian fears: The exuberant optimism about nuclear power in mid-century America.
The Atomic Cafe (1982) offers clever satire of America’s atomic culture through a mashup of old newsreels and archival footage from military training films, government propaganda, presidential speeches and pop songs — remix culture long before it became a buzzword. From congressmen pushing for nuclear attacks on China to mind-boggling inventions like the “bomb survival suit,” the darkly humorous film revolves around the newly built atomic bomb and pokes fun at the false optimism of the 1950s, showing how nuclear warfare made its way into American homes and seeped into the collective conscience from the inside out.
Though the collector’s edition DVD is a winner, the film — which became a cult classic often referred to as the “nuclear Reefer Madness” and compared to Kubrick’s Dr. Stragelove — is also available for free online in its entirety:
Phi Beta Iota: Neither governments nor corporations want the public to be intelligent or even conscious. Epoch B offers the public an opportunity to end its reliance on Epoch A organizations that treat secrecy and lies as a mandate for privilege. Studying the history of how atomic energy and atomic weapons were misrepresented to the public–coincident with the lack of any serious study of how the Industrial Era has been creating not just climate change but catastrophic weather escalations, is one means to begin a future in which transparency, truth, and trust reduce costs and increase benefits for all humanity.