Houston and Nuclear Bombs

This ad has been posted throughout the city of Houston by Brian Klock; in many ways, it reminds me of early political ad campaigns in which politicians used fear of nuclear threat by the Soviets to win elections. With the heightened fear of terrorism, I suspect we will see more ads of this nature. Hillary R. Clinton ran an ad exposing Obama’s lack of experience earlier in the campaign by playing a red phone ringing in the middle of the night. Walter Mondale did the samething in a 1984 ad (see here). The point of course was to make the public question Obama’s qualifications for handling a major nuclear crisis. Houston has been seen as an easily accessible port city to smuggle a small nuclear bomb into; I do not remember the number, but I do recall hearing once that only 5% of shipping cargo is checked. Of course with our technology today, I am sure there are more efficient ways of doing this. Although Mark Elrod told me a few months ago that the Daisy Girl ad is thought to be lame by today’s standards, it is one I recall seeing while in high school (see video clip of ad here):

The advertisement begins with a little girl (Birgitte Olsen) standing in a meadow with chirping birds, picking the petals of a daisy while counting each petal slowly. (Because she does not know her numbers perfectly, she repeats some and says others in the wrong order, all of which adds to her childish appeal.) When she reaches “9”, an ominous-sounding male voice is then heard counting down a missile launch, and as the girl’s eyes turn toward something she sees in the sky, the camera zooms in until her pupil fills the screen, blacking it out. When the countdown reaches zero, the blackness is replaced by the flash and mushroom cloud from a nuclear explosion.As the firestorm rages, a voiceover from Johnson states, “These are the stakes! To make a world in which all of God’s children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die.” Another voiceover (sportscaster Chris Schenkel) then says, “Vote for President Johnson on November 3. The stakes are too high for you to stay home.”

As soon as the ad aired, Johnson’s campaign was widely criticized for using the prospect of nuclear war, as well as the implication that Goldwater would start one, to frighten voters. The ad was immediately pulled, but the point was made, appearing on the nightly news and on conversation programs in its entirety.

As I get closer in my courses to the Cold War, many of my fears re-emerge. During my early 3rd – 5th grade years, the Soviet Union was not a stable state. It seemed that the office of the premier was a revolving door. As a kid, I often constructed mental maps of the world with my hand tracing lines from Moscow to various United States cities. Each line represented a nuclear missile; I would even draw a mushroom cloud marking the destruction of a city. And, the 1983 movie The Day After did not help my fears. Warning: Watch this clip

Clips such as The Day After are being replaced by a secret nuclear bomb being smuggled into Baltimore then detonated during the Super Bowl. See clip from the Sum of All Fears.

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12 thoughts on “Houston and Nuclear Bombs

  1. I think what we fail to recognize when we see ads like this is that it’s the very power structures that are in place that have CREATED these conditions in the first place.

    I’m tired of being scared all the time.

  2. What an ad. This is interesting in that my concept of the cold war is so small since I was born in 1990. You just changed the way I will look at the Sum of All Fears. I am with Chili, we cannot be scared all of the time.

  3. I used to worry about this stuff when I was in the 6th grade as well. Not as much as I should. I hear terrorist feed off our apathy

  4. Eddie,

    I think you and I are roughly the same age so I share many of your 1980s Cold War memories. I must admit that my vision of war with the Soviet Union resembled the film Red Dawn (a horrible movie that I admit was my favorite) more so than nuclear holocaust. My best friend and I, as middle school students, thought we were quite prepared to withstand a Communist invasion with our plastic M-16s, nerf balls that doubled as hand grenades, and our passion for the cause.

    As for the ad(s), it’s just politics as usual.

  5. Just ask Sivils about the nuclear threat against Houston and why its much more of a prime target than anywhere else.

    If it happened in Houston, well I wouldn’t really know about now would I?

  6. You talked about this blog piece today in class and I thought I should comment on it. When you asked today in class for us to raise our hand if we were scared about nuclear bombs and no one raised their hand. I remember after 9/11 everytime a plane flew over my head I would hold my breath and duck thinking it was terroists coming to get me. And then the commercial airplane would continue flying and slowly I began to fear it less and less. People aren’t really afraid of bombs and war because we aren’t directly affected. Unless you have family memebers or friends fighting overseas that is. In Previous wars everybody would do everything in their power to help out with the war and it affected their lives greatly. ( I learned this from my Grandma) But most people in the US aren’t affected, so we continue our normal lives and pretend its not there. This is why we don’t fear nuclear bombs and other terrible things associated with war.

  7. Kat,

    The great lie is that we “Americans” are not impacted by modern war and technology. Make sure you look at the clips esp., the Sum of All Fears. We cannot live our lives in a state of fear, but we cannot assume we are safe, either. I must admit that I was shocked when students did not raise their hands.

  8. After 9/11 i did the same that kat did….If i heard a plane i would look out my window and the first thing i thought of is saftey precautions like “i need to find a safe place like a bath tub or a closet” After watching the movie clip in class from “The Day After” all my fears re emerged. Houston is, if i remember correctly, the top 5 place for a terrorist to attack because its easy to smuggle in a small nuclear bomb. I dont think we should live our lives in fear like i did for awhile after 9/11, but we need to be aware of the fact that anyday now a nuclear war could start, and even plan out what we should do in such a crisis.

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