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“Horse?” asked the Cart, “I don’t need no stinkin’ horse.”

I was just listening to a story on Marketplace about the Department of Homeland Security’s recently-announced guidelines for clean-up of a non-nuclear radiological attack (sorry, I hate the term “dirty bomb”).

The story itself was pretty good, the main topic of discussion being whether the levels of residual environmental radiation set by the guidelines are safe and acceptable. However, one incidental detail of the story stood out for me. While discussing the willingness (or lack thereof) of people to return to an area that had suffered a radiological attack, the reporter stated that “movies such as Night of the Living Dead and Godzilla have left people very fearful of radiation.” This statement was immediately preceded and followed by audio clips from Night, specifically, “They’re coming to get you Barbara,” and the newscast speculating that radiation from a crashed satellite might be responsible for the murders being committed by the newly-risen dead.

While I may be making a mountain out of a mole hill here, what I found amusing is that both of these movies were actually themselves products of people’s fears of radioactivity and nuclear weapons. Godzilla in particular has come to be seen as a direct manifestation of Japan’s fear of radiation and nuclear attack. While the American monster-movie genre was turning out films that were thinly-veiled allegories of Communist invasion and subversion of our society, the Japanese created a monster produced by nuclear testing, and used the story to paint a dire picture of the future should such testing and warfare continue.

My point (such as it is) in bringing all of this up is that we have arrived at a strange place indeed if such warnings are now being blamed for instilling unreasonable fear in people of nuclear/radiological attack. They were, rather, a manifestation of the very fear that is now being blamed on them.

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