Seymour Hersh and the American Brain

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Dear New Yorker Magazine:

You’ve got your nerve, printing Seymour Hersh’s article, “The Iran Plans: Would President Bush Go to War to Stop Tehran from Getting the Bomb?”  I have just thrown my April 17 issue of your so-called publication across the room, breaking the little shepherdess in my Hummel collection — so you owe me for that, plus my subscription fee, you ignorant wisenheimers.

Back to my point.  In his article, Seymour Hersh quotes anonymous sources who say that the White House is considering another war, this time on Iran, using nuclear bunker-busters to ferret out caches of enriched uranium.  I am outraged.  Can’t you see that this is yet another cynical ploy on the part of an “experienced,” “courageous,” “journalist” to revive the peace movement?

Where are your journalistic ethics, New Yorker?  What happened to balanced, objective reporting that strives to get the “other side”?  Granted, war is hell.  Granted, the United States would be perpetrating one more in a long list of atrocities if we were to bomb one more country.  But “nuclear” weapons?  Please.  When one of Hersh’s anonymous sources natters on about “mushroom clouds, radiation, mass casualties, and contamination over years,” I want to scream: NUCLEAR WEAPONS DO NOT CAUSE THE EXTINCTION OF LIFE AS WE KNOW IT.  Ditto nuclear reactors.

It’s as simple as “HIV does not cause AIDS,” New Yorker.  There are cofactors.  Hundreds of thousands of deaths of innocent people could be the result of any number of things: food poisoning, old age, lack of a group health plan, mass suicide, the Apocalypse, or an invasion of rabid, homicidal voles from another planet, that run around chewing off people’s kneecaps.  But nuclear holocaust?  Ha, ha.

I grant you, back in the 1960s and 70s, when there was a large anti-nuclear movement afoot, it was fashionably “de rigueur” to decry the arms race, cancer and leukemia epidemics, genetic mutation, and a vast, irreversible “nuclear winter” laying waste to the earth.  We were duly alarmed when Physicians for Social Responsibility founder Helen Caldicott informed us that the US and other big-science countries had built thousands of atomic bombs powerful enough to kill the world’s inhabitants many times over; that each 1,000-megawatt nuclear power reactor contains as much radioactive fallout as 1,000 Hiroshima-sized bombs; and that some fallout will take up to 5,000,000 years to dissipate.*  We even thought it was cute when Sally Field appeared on TV talk shows as a mother for peace, warning people about strontium 90 in baby teeth.

But that was then.  Today, we can look back and see we’ve made great progress.  In 1961, for example, President Kennedy noted, “every inhabitant of this planet must contemplate the day when this planet may no longer be habitable.  Every man, woman, and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles. . . .”  Now, can you, in your wildest dreams, imagine President Bush saying such a thing?  No!  So, you see how far we have come.

Part of the reason for our current worry-free situation is the scientific discovery that the typical American brain can remain cognizant of mass destruction for only 2.06 seconds before it shuts down completely, then starts manufacturing endorphins produced by ready access to mass-marketed consumer goods with Brand Names you can trust.  This response is an evolutionary feature which allows the brain to holistically heal itself when it hears ill-conceived Peacenik words such as “doom,” “madness,” and “irreversible.”  It also gives rise to a vast movement, operating largely subconsciously, which I shall call “Nuclear Denialism.”  Nuclear Denialism is the only way Americans have found to protect ourselves from the devastation that left-leaning intellectuals say is inevitable, unless we “do” something.

Nuclear Denialism is working, New Yorker, no thanks to you.  God-fearing Americans have formed an airtight social contract, by which we tacitly understand that simply not thinking about the US dropping nuclear bombs — THUS encouraging other murderous nutbags TO do the same — ACTUALLY prevents it from happening!!!  Conversely, people like Helen Caldicott, E.P. Thompson, Jonathan Schell, and, yes, Seymour Hersh encourage you-know-what by yammering on about it!

In fact, Sy Hersh would probably be lying in a hospital bed with radiation burns all over his body, unable to lift a typewriter, if it weren’t for people for like me, who are totally incapable of imagining either Tehran or New York City, engulfed in radioactive contamination, firestorms with temperatures up to 1,500 degrees F., and wind speeds at 150 miles per hour.**

For once, New Yorker, do some real investigative reporting: IS there a nuclear blast going on as you read this?  DO you see irreparable organ and/or genetic damage happening to those around you?  No. That’s not because there haven’t been nuclear accidents.  That’s not because uranium hasn’t gone missing.  That’s because it is totally impossible for your American brain to imagine life not being here anymore.  It follows, ipso fatso: “I don’t think, therefore it can’t happen.”  That’s Descartes, you dumb clucks.

So I suggest you get Seymour Hersh off-message PDQ and turn him to more people-friendly causes such as welfare-reform or gay marriage — anything that presupposes life on earth will continue for at least another ten years.  The specter of Hersh, sitting at his Indian-Point-nuclear-powered computer, typing out screeds to prevent one more war is, like I said, an outrage.  And further endangers my Hummel collection.


*  Helen Caldicott, Nuclear Madness, 1978, new ed. 1994, WW Norton & Company, Inc., New York, NY, pp. 29, 30.

**  Marc Pilisuk, “Nuclear Madness,” Common Dreams.

Street Life of a Mad Activist Susie Day lives in New York City where she writes a humor column for feminist and gay publications. She has also written on U.S. political prisoners and labor issues and thinks her girlfriend, Laura Whitehorn, is hot stuff.