I enjoyed most of the talks at TVIW, but two were social sciences talks, and somewhat puzzling as most social sciences are these days. Not because I don’t understand them, but because they make you scratch your head and go “what are they teaching kids in the indoctrination centers these days?”
One of them purported to prepare us for the reaction to new technology by studying the “trajectory of over-enthusiasm about nukes generating the resistance and irrational opposition to them.”
I sat in the audience growing increasingly more baffled. This man had studied the original sources, at least theoretically, and he had put up some cute posters using “nuclear” as we now use quantum, but he was talking around the elephant in the room.
You see, I had read original sources too, and while there was a period (long before the atomic bomb) when we were convinced (we as a civilization, I wasn’t even born) that radiation cured everything, there never was a period when people thought the atomic bomb was good for you.
Almost from the very beginning, the relief that it ended the war was coupled with “it can kill the world.” and in fact early on we got all the opposition, the demonstrations, the insistence on unilateral disarmament. Heck, Heinlein himself was convinced early on that having nuclear arsenals would eventually lead to mutual destruction. (Though he was never an idiot who asked for unilateral disarmament.)
Almost from the beginning anything “nuclear” was subjected to a process of demonization we have since come to see in “anything the left opposes.” Including but not limited to stopping illegal immigration or the importation of Muslim “refugees” or guns… or…
In fact, as this man pointed out, nuclear anything was so perfectly demonized that we don’t have the perfectly safe and effective nuclear power plants we could have. Of course we still have the bombs, because again not all of us are zany enough to believe in one-sided disarmament.
Afterwards I approached and pointed out to him that most of the overreaction was not because people had been crazy about nuclear everything,b ut because — and yes, we DO know this — the soviet union was deploying its not inconsiderable propaganda machine to oppose nukes and try to convince the US to unilaterally disarm.
He told me, yes, some documents (like all of them, never mind) pointed that way. But how could you convince people if you just told them that was the truth. Wouldn’t it be easier to get them to understand nuclear power was safe if you painted it as an over reaction.
Uh. No. On account of it’s not the truth. You don’t actually cure a lie by telling another lie. You don’t cure a misconception by creating another misconception and trying to activate a wholly imaginary mechanism.
You tell people “Yes, you were taken in. Almost everyone was taken in. BUT it was not the truth, it was enemy action. Look, France wasn’t subjected to that kind of propaganda and gets most of its energy from nuclear power. And it hasn’t imploded.”
You don’t tell them “yes, but your reaction is an over-reaction to to the enthusiasm people first felt.” Because frankly it doesn’t take much digging to realize there was never crazy enthusiasm for nuclear bombs/power.
This is akin to what I call “diagnosing mental problems people don’t have” which was a very popular entertainment in the seventies. Take me, for instance, I’m afraid of driving. I know perfectly well why: my eyes suck and are getting increasingly sucky with age. And my reflexes have always sucked. Also I was raised in a culture where only the exceptionally coordinated people were supposed to drive. If you tell me those, I can at least try to deal with them (no marked success so far.) But if — as people did with everything in the 70s — you tell me “you are afraid to drive, because you’re afraid of orgasms” I’m going to roll my eyes, laugh and ignore you.
But beyond its being really easy to debunk, there’s something worse with making up this theory, so people can more easily buy into nuclear power or nuclear powered rockets, or whatever: it’s a lie.
I don’t care if it’s a lie for useful purposes. I don’t care if it’s a lie for a good cause. It’s a lie. It’s as much of a lie as “if you don’t make war on the Soviet union they’ll be peaceful.”
Lies internalize the wrong idea of the world in your head, and make it impossible for you to react to the real world. Step by step, they diminish your chances of surviving…. anything.
This is why you shouldn’t lie. This is particularly why you shouldn’t lie to the young. If you invent wholly non-existent social mechanisms and psychological movements to explain something that you know happened for other reasons, you’re making it impossible for people to find the truth and function in reality.
Sure, it’s a tough pill to swallow to know that entire on the whole well-intentioned movements of people protesting nuclear war were not the humanitarians they thought they were, but mere USSR stooges.
It’s particularly tough if you or someone you loved was one of those people.
But it’s also the truth, and as such something people must know to inoculate against future agit-prop of that kind.
Sometimes the truth is unpalatable, and telling it will get people mad at you. And yet, you must still tell it, because without the truth you have nothing but a growing fog of lies that will kill you as surely as any bomb or any enemy.
There are enough wrong guesses and misguided theories whose authors don’t know they’re not telling the truth. Don’t add to them with intentional lies and misguided theories in the name of saving someone’s feelings.
Feelings be d*mned. The truth can save their lives. Or humanity.