Nuclear Iamges in Film



20From  Film and History  Journal 1988
Hollywood, Propaganda and the Bomb: Nuclear Images in
Post World War II Films
Garth S. Jowett
Garth S. Jowett is in the School of Communication at the University of Houston.
In the aftermath of the first atomic bomb explosions in 1945, American popular
culture quickly reflected the reality of this new scientific and cultural force. The
immediate reaction of elation over the apparent defeat of Japan was just as promptly
replaced by a note of seriousness about the nature of the forces, which had been
unleashed on the world. The dean of radio news commentators, H.V. Kaltenborn, in his
broadcast of August 6th noted that: "For all we know, we have created a Frankenstein!
We must assume that with the passage of only a little time, an improved form of the new
weapon we use today can be turned against us.'' (1) The St. Louis Post-Dispatch on
August 7th suggested that science may have "signed the mammalian world's death
warrant, and deeded an earth in ruins to the ants." (2) The ambivalence which was
evidenced in these attitudes was soon to be reflected in the way in which nuclear energy
was dealt with in various types of popular culture. Since 1945 the hopes and fears
surrounding the use and misuse of atomic energy have been an integral part of modern
existence, and it was only natural that these tensions would be manifested in forms of
cultural expression. (3)
While all forms of popular culture have been used, the tensions surrounding the
nuclear issue have been particularly exposed in American film providing the basis for
propagandizing both for and against the use of nuclear arms and energy. After the
announcement of the first atomic explosions, Hollywood writers moved swiftly to
incorporate this fact into their scripts. The first film to contain a direct reference to the
bomb was the "semi-documentary" The House on 92nd Street which was released on
September 26th, 1945. Produced for Twentieth-Century-Fox by Louis De Rochemont,
who was the innovator behind the March of Time series, and directed by Henry
Hathaway, this spy thriller about Nazi agents operating in New York City was revised
after completion. A forward to the film explained that the "process 97" which the Nazi
agents were trying to steal was actually a vital part of the atomic bomb formula. Of
course, the development of the atomic bomb had been top secret until its actual use on
Hiroshima and Nagasaki, so this was a clear demonstration of Hollywood's ability to
create screen drama out of the newspaper headlines. (4) Starting from this point,
Hollywood has used the existence of the bomb, and the relatively unknown nature of
atomic energy as a plot element for a large number of films, from the House on 92nd
Street to Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985). The majority of these films were not
deliberate, conscious attempts to propagandize the audience, but they did so nevertheless
by indirectly providing a basis for evaluating the role of nuclear technology. The public
were unsure of what the nuclear age would mean, and in this confused state they were
particularly susceptible to outside sources of information. The American motion picture
was a potent source of such information, helping to establish an ideological perspective
on atomic energy which influenced the opinions of hundreds of millions of people
throughout the world. The question of whether or not the depictions of issues dealing
with atomic warfare or energy were deliberate attempts to propagandize can only be
answered once we have established the nature of propaganda in general and filmic
propaganda specifically.

21
What is Propaganda?
Propaganda, in the most neutral sense means to disseminate or promote particular
ideas. Unfortunately usage has rendered the word "propaganda" pejorative. To identify a
message as propaganda is to suggest something negative and dishonest. Words
frequently used as synonyms for "propaganda" are "lies," "distortion," "deceit,"
"manipulation," "psychological warfare," and "brainwashing." Many of these synonyms
are suggestive of techniques of message production rather than purpose or process.
When usage emphasizes purpose, propaganda is associated with control and is
regarded as a deliberate attempt to alter or maintain a balance of power that is
advantageous to the propagandist. Deliberate attempt is linked with clear institutional
ideology and objectives. In fact, the purpose of propaganda is to send out an ideology to
an audience with a related objective. Whether it is a government agency attempting to
instill a massive wave of patriotism in a national audience to sustain a war effort, a
military leader attempting to frighten the enemy by exaggerating his strength, or a
corporation attempting to promote its image in order to maintain its legitimacy among its
clientele, there is a careful and predetermined plan of prefabricated symbol manipulation
to communicate to an audience in order to fulfill an objective. The objective that is
sought requires the audience to reinforce or modify attitudes and/or behavior.
In a recent book on propaganda, my co-author and I have defined propaganda as
the deliberate and systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and
direct behavior to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the
propagandist. (5) Propaganda is therefore an attempt at directive communication with an
objective that has been established a priori. The study of propaganda is a complex
endeavor, for one's perception of a form of communication determines what is
self-evident and what is controversial. One person's propaganda may be another person's
education. The elements of deliberateness and manipulation along with a systematic plan
to achieve a purpose that is advantageous to the propagandist, however, distinguish
propaganda from a free and open exchange of ideas. Although propaganda takes many
forms, it is almost always in some form of activated ideology. Sometimes propaganda is
agitative where attempts are made to arouse an audience; sometimes it is integrative
where attempts are made to render an audience passive, to be accepting and
nonchallenging. (6)
The Nature of Film Propaganda
The nature of film propaganda has not received very close attention in recent
years, and what research we have on this subject has been based to a large extent on the
use of this medium during wartime. Specifically, the detailed research project on motion
pictures, and other media which was conducted for the Information and Education
Division of the American War Department during World War II by Carl Hovland and his
associates represents the extensive effort to gauge its propaganda efficiency to date. The
study of the "Why We Fight" orientation films seemed to indicate that films did not have
the immediate influence desired, and that knowledge could be increased without
affecting a change in attitude. Where there was an effect on attitude, it was small, and
tended to vary over a period of weeks, suggesting a delayed reaction. (7)

22
However, these results were based upon a very specific example, in an atypical
setting for the viewing of motion pictures. First the men viewing the films had only a
brief contact with them, and there was an element of compulsion which may have
affected the reception of the films. Second, the films were deliberately attempting to
change attitudes which were of crucial importance to the viewers, and such attitudes are
particularly difficult to alter. Third, while the films themselves were extremely well
executed, they lacked the stimuli which evoke related personality responses. Finally, after
years of conditioning through viewing commercial motion pictures, the audience may
have resented these obvious, deliberate attempts to propagandize. It was through the
medium of commercial films, which did run the gamut of emotional stimuli, and which
provided several years of intentional and unintentional propaganda that the real power of
this medium should be judged. (8)
It is rather surprising that despite the enormous inherent appeal of the motion
picture, that this medium has never become the powerful propaganda vehicle that its
critics feared it would be. In fact, it might be precisely because of its popularity as one of
the world's great entertainment forms, rather than as a medium of conscious information
dissemination, that it has failed to fulfill its initial promise as both an educator and as a
channel for the propagandist. Of all the mass media, the motion picture has the greatest
potential for emotional appeal to its audience, offering a deeper level of identification
with the characters and action on the screen than found elsewhere in popular culture.
The motion picture can also make audiences laugh, cry, sing, shout out loud, create
sexual arousal, or fall asleep--in short, they have the ability to evoke an immediate
emotional response seldom found in the other mass media. Yet systematic attempts by
governments or other groups to use the motion picture as a channel for the delivery of
propagandistic messages have not, on the whole been very successful.
On the other hand, the motion picture has been extremely successful in influencing
its audience in such areas as courting behavior, clothing styles, furniture and architectural
design, speech mannerisms, and eating and drinking habits. (9) In these and other areas
the motion picture has proven itself to be an excellent shaper of subtle psychological
attitudes and can under the right circumstances be a potent source of social and cultural
information. In his famous study of Movies and Conduct social psychologist Herbert
Blumer, after examining hundreds of diaries kept by young moviegoers, concluded:
For many the pictures are authentic portrayals of life, from which they draw patterns of
behavior, stimulation to overt conduct, content for a vigorous life of imagination, and
ideas of reality. They are not merely a device for surcease; they are a form of
stimulation...motion pictures are a genuine educational institution...in the truer sense of
actually introducing him [the viewer] to and acquainting him with a type of life which has
immediate, practical and momentous significance. (10)
Very shortly after the motion picture industry established itself as a significant
cultural and social institution in the United States it was being asked to perform as a
leading propagandizing medium during World War I. The industry was only too eager to
comply with the suggestions of the Committee on Public Information to assist with the
war effort as a means of gaining much needed respectability for itself. A significant
number of war films were produced, which, by all accounts did help to fuel the fires of

23
patriotism. (11) However, once the war was over, the American film industry, now
dominating the international market, reverted to producing the type of entertainment
films which established its reputation. In this role as entertainer to the world, Hollywood
was, in fact, a major propagandizer for the American way of life.
During World War II motion pictures were an important medium for propaganda,
but seldom in the manner in which the official propagandists intended. In many cases
audiences were far more sophisticated than expected, and the result was a rejection of
obvious, blatant efforts to bring about changes in existing opinions. When film
propaganda was most successful it was usually based upon a skillful exploitation of
preexisting sentiment. American films were most successful when they stressed positive
themes, particularly as they depicted normal life on the homefront, or the inner strength
the ordinary fighting men--usually carefully balanced to show the various ethnic origins
of Americans such as Irish, Italians, Jews and so on. In fact, the most successful
American films during the war often did not concern themselves with the fighting at all.
Since the end of World War II, there has been little systematic use of commercial
motion pictures for propaganda purposes on a large scale. There are occasional
commercial films that do "propagandize" in the sense that they espouse a particular point
of view about a controversial subject (The China Syndrome-about the dangers of nuclear
power; Missing--dealing with American complicity in the overthrow of the Chilean
government of Salvador Allende), but these are not part of an organized campaign on
behalf of a recognized propaganda agency. This was not always so, for during the Cold
War period (roughly 1947-1965) the American film industry was actively solicited by the
U.S. government to make commercial films that pointed out the dangers of Communism.
(12)
When Hollywood attempted to make so-called message films in the period after
World War II, it quickly became obvious that most people do not go to the movies to
have their consciences disturbed. Subsequent research has clearly demonstrated that
movies, like other mass media, rarely bring about a major change of opinion; however,
we also know that consistent exposure to a specific point of view when the audience has
none of its own stands a good chance of making some impact. Thus the cumulative
effect of filmic propaganda is greater than any individual film. It is clear that no single
film can change an individual's attitudes deeply ingrained after years of socialization.
The motion picture is still a highly effective form of information dissemination, but
its use as a propaganda vehicle is severely restricted by several factors. First, audiences
worldwide have become used to large budget films with high quality production values,
and this works against the use of low budget productions. Second, the concept of the
fictional story complete with acknowledged stars as the basic attraction in commercial
films is so well established that it is very difficult to generate a mass audience for
anything else. Third, the distribution system for commercial films is tightly organized and
extremely difficult to break into for those outside of the mainstream filmmaking
community. Last, filmmaking technology has been superseded by new video technologies
that offer greater opportunities for dissemination of propaganda messages without the
need for a large audience base to justify cost. Thus the motion picture's effectiveness as a
propaganda medium is now totally limited to the values and ideologies that are an
integral part of the plot structure. Such content, although subtle, is in its own right an

24
extremely potent source of modern propaganda, and is certainly more powerful in the
long run than the deliberate and often clumsy attempts made in the past.
The Propaganda of Nuclear Images
There is little substantiation that Hollywood deliberately conspired to develop a
consistent image of nuclear warfare. An examination of the history of American films in
the period after 1945 indicates that the ambivalence felt by the news media was also
echoed on the screen. Such films as MGM's The Beginning of the End (1947), presented
in documentary fashion, detailed the history of the building of the atomic bomb, but was
full of distortions, particularly when it came to assigning responsibility for the decision to
use the weapon on Japan. President Truman is shown agonizing over the decision,
whereas he later boasted that he had done so without any qualms. Also, the film suggests
that the Japanese were nearing completion of their own atomic bomb, a fact which Louis
B. Mayer explained away to Albert Einstein by saying that "dramatic truth is just as
compelling a requirement...as veritable truth is on a scientist." The most insidious
distortion was the suggestion that the people of Hiroshima had been given explicit
advance warning. One fictitious member of the crew of the Enola Gay, the plane which
dropped the bomb, says in the film, "We've been dropping warning leaflets on them for
ten days now. That's ten days more warning than they gave us before Pearl Harbor.'' (13)
In 1947 it was necessary to present the facts to the American film audience in this way,
as the memories of the war were still fresh, and the full comprehension of the act of
dropping the bomb, and its awful consequences had not yet become part of the American
conscience. American popular culture was still groping with a way to present the atomic
age to its audience.
The Beginning of the End did have some portents of future nuclear films, in that some
scientists, such as Einstein and Fermi are presented as largerthan-life heroes, the one
scientist who expresses reservations, the fictitious Matt Cochran, is fatally injured by a
radiation leak as he readies the bomb for delivery. In the concluding scene, his pregnant
widow visits the Lincoln Memorial (so beloved by American Filmmakers, as we shall
also see in a scene in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), as a voice-over recites his
final letter to her. "That's what I get for building this thing," he says with an air of
prophetic doom, a warning to others who venture too near, a signal of potential menace
which was to be picked up in other films which followed.
By the early 1950s, in the aftermath of the Rosenberg trial, and the announcement
that the Russians now also had the atomic bomb, the notion of a nuclear conflict on
American soil became a terrifying reality. This was the age of bomb shelters, civil defense
educational activities of the "duck and cover" variety, and political rhetoric most
exemplified by the HUAC hearings into communism in the Hollywood film industry. The
vision of world-wide nuclear conflict was no longer confined to the editorial pages, but
became part of the accepted popular culture. It was at this stage that the American film
industry began to develop a point-of-view on the nuclear question, which was to become
the dominant ideology. Through a combination of deliberate propagandizing by
well-meaning, liberal scriptwriters and directors, and studios with a commercially
motivated desire to make films which touched on the tensions of the society, a large
number of films were made in the 1950s and 1960s which "set the agenda" for the
public's perception of nuclear issues. (14) I would like to examine two of these films, The

25
Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) and the British film, The Day the Earth Caught Fire
(1961) as examples at each end of the decade which deal with the issue of the threat of
nuclear disasters.
Robert Wise's The Day the Earth Stood Still is still considered to be one of the
better science fiction films to come out of Hollywood. Made in 1951, this film comes
close to what Peter Biskind has called "the edge of permissible dissent," with its clear
critique of the witch-hunt and the cold war. (15) The plot of the film is an interesting
variation of the "alien visitor comes to earth" theme, only this time, the alien Klaatu is
not a bug-eyed monster, but the slim, urbane Michael Rennie, speaking with a decidedly
upper-class British accent, and accompanied by an eight-foot high gleaming metal robot
called Gort. Arriving in Washington on a fine spring day in a classic, and beautifully
designed "flying saucer," Klaatu's mission is one of urgency, for the earth is in danger
from its own stupidity. He is an international ambassador from a neighboring planetary
system sent to warn us about the folly of the cold war arms race. While the mission is
essentially one of peace, Klaatu indicates that the robot has absolute power to destroy
the earth if necessary, and it is intended to serve as an intergalactic policeman which will
be used without hesitation "if you threaten to extend your violence." It is Klaatu's
intention upon arrival to meet with all of the leaders of nations of the world, but after
being wounded by a bullet from a nervous GI, which also symbolically destroys a device
intended for the United States president which would allow intergalactic communication,
he is gradually made aware that such rationality is not easily found on this earth. The
American Secretary of State warns him: "Our world is full of tensions and suspicions,
and in the present international situation, such a meeting is impossible. I am sure you
know about the evil forces on our planet which have caused trouble." Klaatu replies
somewhat testily, "I'm not concerned with your petty squabbles," but the Secretary of
State is right for he understands the nature of our world's geopolitics, while Klaatu
comes from an idealistic world, where "we don't have any wars." (To which comment
the young boy he befriends replies, "Gee that's a good idea!")
The president issues the invitations to the representatives of all the nations, but the
Soviets will only accept if the meeting is held in Moscow, while the British want the
meeting to be held in London, thus destroying any chance of such an international
gathering. An offer to meet with the American president, which at the time was Harry
Truman is dismissed by Klaatu, who refuses to allow himself to be used for partisan
political propaganda. "I will not speak to the representative of one nation and increase
your petty jealousies, he notes firmly. Failing to meet with the leaders he goes amongst
the people, assuming the name "Carpenter." The clear reference to Jesus Christ with a
similar message of peace is not lost on the viewer, and twice during the film he is
symbolically crucified and then resurrected. Biskind notes that the scriptwriter, Edmund
North, referring to the Christian themes, later commented, "It was my little joke. I never
discussed this angle with [producer Julian] Blaustein or [director Robert] Wise because I
didn't want it expressed. I hoped the Christ comparison would be subliminal.'' (16)
Certainly the rejection of Klaatu's offer mirrors the rejection of Christ's mission of peace
by his own society.
The theme of atomic power is central to the plot. When in his guise as Mr.
Carpenter he is asked by his young friend what he thinks makes the alien space ship go,

26
he knowledgeably says, "A highly developed form of atomic power." Bobby (Billy Gray)
replies: "I thought that was only for bombs." Klaatu quietly observes, "No. It's used for
lots of other things as well." There is no question that atomic power can be useful, it is
only the primitive application made of this power on earth which is of concern. As
Klaatu says, "I am impatient with stupidity!" In 1951 Eisenhower's atoms for peace
movement was still a long way off.
When Klaatu, accompanied by Bobby, goes to visit Professor Barnhardt (played by
Sam Jaffe, who bears a remarkable resemblance to Albert Einstein), he discovers a
blackboard full of scientific equations and quickly adds his own notations as a sort of
scientific calling-card, solving a problem which the professor had "been working on for
months." We can only imagine Barnhardt's surprise at this intellectual one-up-manship,
but he takes it good naturedly, asking Klaatu if the solution really works. Klaatu, smiling,
notes simply that "it has taken me across 60 million miles of space." He explains his
mission to the professor, pointing out that, "Your planet has discovered a 'rudimentary'
kind of atomic energy. Soon one of your nations will apply atomic energy to
spaceships--that will threaten the peace and security of other planets." He asks the
professor to convene a meeting of the world's scientists, which the professor agrees to
only after Klaatu has demonstrated his power by bringing everything in the world to a
halt (except for emergency services, planes in the sky and so forth). This demonstration
is necessary, for as Klaatu notes, it is "the only thing your people understand." The
resulting conference, Biskind notes, bears a passing resemblance to the Cultural and
Scientific Congress held at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York amid a storm of
protest from anti-Communists in 1949. (17)
It is the scientists who are intelligent enough to hear Klaatu's message, while the
military in the end shoot him down in the streets. He is taken back to his ship by the
robot Gort, and brought back to life, in time to address the assembled scientists. "The
universe grows smaller every day. Threats of aggression cannot be tolerated. There must
be security for all." The message is clear; mankind must learn to put aside the deadly
struggle between godless communism and war-mongering capitalism, because the
survival of the earth and even the galaxy is more important. Klaatu's final words are
ominous: "We have created a race of robots as policemen. They have absolute power
over us. At the first sign of violence, your earth will be reduced to a burnt-out cinder.
Your choice join us and live in peace or face obliteration." Without stopping to ask for
questions, he turns on his heels, and he and Gort return to the spaceship. The ship glows
and silently takes off into the heavens, leaving mankind to consider its alternatives.
The film was boldly uncommitted in the early 1950s, refusing to take sides, and
clearly lumped the United States and the Soviet Union (as well as Great Britain) together
in its indictment of world politics. How much it succeeded as a propaganda vehicle is, of
course, unclear. However, it was the constant barrage of films from Hollywood which
began to question the nature of atomic energy and the uses to which this source of
power was being put that must have had an effect on the audience. It was during this
period and throughout the fifties that we were menaced on our movie screens by a wide
variety of atomic threats. Of particular interest was the theme of nature revenging itself
on a world, which had allowed nuclear technology to go unchecked, and thus we had to
fight off giant spiders in Tarantula! (1955), a rampaging onslaught from The Deadly
Mantis (1957), and giant ants, the most menacing of all in a well made film, Them!

27
(1954). All of these creatures are the result of uncontrolled atomic testing and pose the
question of the ultimate effects of such violations of the natural order of things. In Them!
the scientist hero (played by Edmund Gwenn, best known for his role as Santa Claus in
Miracle on 34th Street (1946)) wonders what man has done, "We may be witnessing a
biblical prophecy come true... The beasts will reign over the earth."
So many of these films were made, including the series of Japanese monster
movies featuring the ever-popular Godzilla, Mothra and other creatures awakened from
their prehistoric slumber by atomic testing, that the public grew weary of the theme. As
propaganda vehicles these films lost their impact by the late 1950s, when the public
became desensitized to the notion of giant creatures taking over the earth. By then the
fact that four superpowers (the United States, the Soviet Union, Great Britain and
France) were testing atomic weapons of a frightening magnitude was an everyday reality,
which forced concerned individuals to reconsider what the ultimate consequences of
atomic power would be.
It was necessary to work through these fantasies in the fifties as a means of
relieving the tension of the bomb, so monsters and aliens became the subconscious
symbols of uncontrolled power. By the beginning of the sixties the examination of the
consequences of the bomb took on a much more serious and apocalyptic tone. Films like
evil Shute's On the Beach (1959), Fail Safe (1963), and perhaps the best of all Stanley
Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
(1964), all propagandized, through the use of fear appeals, the ultimate effects of an
insane nuclear policy on both sides of the ideological curtain.
This theme receives fine treatment in a otherwise forgotten British film, The Day
the Earth Caught Fire (1961). The film opens up with the reporter hero (played by
Edward Judd) walking through the scorching streets of London, on his way to write
what might be his last story. It is hot enough to melt the rubber platen on his typewriter,
so he dictates the story over the phone to a copy editor. The heat is the result of both the
United States and the Soviet Union setting off "the biggest bang yet" at identical times
on opposite sides of the earth, causing our planet to move eleven degrees off its present
axis, and more significantly out of its orbit and hurtling towards the sun. That was
"barely 90 days ago..." Now the reporter and the rest of the world are awaiting the
outcome of an attempt at a corrective measure by setting off four thermonuclear devices
in remote Siberia.
This film has a clear propaganda goal--to make the audience aware of the potential
consequences of nuclear testing. Also, the British filmmakers take the moral high ground
here, suggesting that any destruction of the earth would be as a result of the combined
efforts of the United States and the Soviet Union. The British government is depicted as
being merely a puppet of the Americans, and the Prime Minister, in an address to the
nation tries to deny that nuclear tests have created the world-wide shift in climate. But
the scientists and their approving government are clearly to blame. The ultimate fact, as
the cynical science reporter (played with relish by Leo McKern) notes, is that "They've
shifted the tilt of the earth. The stupid, crazy irresponsible bastards-they've finally done
it!"

28
This film is somewhat unusual in that it makes a great deal of use of stock shots of
floods, droughts, snowstorms, wave damage, but most surprisingly of "Ban The Bomb!"
rallies and marches. One particular scene shows actual footage of the riots in Trafalgar
Square caused by conflicting factions existing in Britain in the early 1960s. One
newspaper poster is shown proclaiming "HBombs-World Riots." The films blends these
elements skillfully, including dramatic scenes of London parks burning up in the heat,
and the lines of people in Hyde Park waiting to take showers or to receive their water
ration.
The film lays the blame over a wide front, and constant references are made to the
lack of concern for the ultimate consequences which governments, scientists, and the
general public have shown to these problems over the years. Toward the end, as the
Prime Minister announces that all governments have agreed to act in accord in a
last-ditch attempt to save the world, Leo McKern says sarcastically, "Bravo! It's only
taken them a half-million years!" Edward Judd had noted earlier that this catastrophe was
not unexpected for, "The Human race has been poisoning itself for years." This "daddy
of all mistakes" has been brought about because "Man has sown the wind and reaped a
whirlwind."
The ending of the film is deliberately ambiguous, as we are shown two sets of
headlines waiting to be printed: "World Saved" and "World Doomed." The fate of
mankind is in the balance the film states, and Judd, writing what may be his last article
pleads to "Let man resolve to live lovingly." A few minutes after the corrective
thermonuclear devices have been exploded, we hear the peal of bells from church towers
all over the world, but there is no clear statement that the world has indeed been saved,
and the bells might, in fact, be signaling the end of the world.
The Day the Earth Caught Fire was a low-budget film, seen by relatively fewer
people than either Fail-safe or Dr. Strangelove, but it is symbolic of the type of
propaganda which is best delivered through the guise of entertainment. In many ways its
message was more direct in its condemnation of uncontrolled nuclear testing, but
ultimately its impact can only be judged by the size of its audience and their reactions,
and unfortunately, these are never recorded, so we are left to speculate. In the end it was
the accumulated weight of such entertainment/propaganda films which made the
difference. It is safe to say that motion pictures have done much to create a somewhat
negative view and a cynicism toward nuclear power. Whether such fears are motivated
by the sight of giant insects taking over the world, or the earth hurtling toward the sun,
or the deserted streets of a large, now dead city, motion pictures have contributed
significantly to the shaping of the public agenda on the nuclear issue.
1 This part of the paper has benefited greatly from a reading of Paul Boyer, By Bomb's
Early Light (New York: Pantheon books, 1985). The quotation from Kaltenborn is
found on p. 5.
2 Ibid,
3 There has emerged an extensive literature on this issue surrounding the manner in
which popular culture reflects or shapes ideology. For an example of these ideas, see








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