Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

How a journalist was used to make the bombing of Hiroshima look OK

In 2004, the progressive journalists Amy and David Goodman called for the prize to be revoked, charging that Laurence had knowingly covered up the effects of radiation sickness on the Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors by “parroting the government line” that such reports were Japanese propaganda.

Laurence’s role within the Manhattan Project was a clear conflict of interest

We will probably never know the true extent to which William Laurence was co-opted, compromised, or corrupted by his military and governmental connections and involvements.

Atomic Bill’ and the Birth of the Bomb  A star New York Times reporter was hired by the Manhattan Project to be its chronicler and cheerleader. The ethical debate continues to this day. Undark,  08.09.2017 / BY 

T 5:51 A.M. on Monday, May 21, 1956, the famed New York Times science correspondent William Leonard “Atomic Bill” Laurence watched a new universe burst into existence……Called Cherokee, it was a hydrogen bomb that moments before had been dropped about four miles off target from a B-52 bomber flying 10 miles over the northern Pacific, near the island of Namu in the Bikini Atoll

“….Laurence was also, at least in his own era, one of the most important science writers in America, one whose influence, if not his lyrical and vivid prose style, persists to this day. The Princeton historian Michael D. Gordin, author of “Five Days in August” and “Red Cloud at Dawn,” notes Laurence’s seminal impact on popular perceptions of the Bomb: “[His] science-driven utopianism, stressing some of the potential positive outcomes of nuclear power and minimizing the threat to Americans … [was] strongly influential in those early years, and shaped some of the discourse even of those opposed to the positions he articulated.” Much of Laurence’s writing, Gordin goes on, “became just part of the way people talked about nuclear weapons for decades.”

For Laurence, science represented humanity’s salvation, whether through medical advances or the power of the atom. If he believed that science was “the religion of the future,” as Spencer Weart wrote in his book “Nuclear Fear,” then Laurence definitely saw himself as an evangelist…….

OR YEARS, Laurence had wavered, torn between his firsthand knowledge of the annihilating power of nuclear weapons and his hope that the civilian and military atom would bring about a fabled new age of wonder for humankind. The great dangers and the great promise were two separate paths, and it was up to us to choose the right one.

But now those two sides of the atom, the dark and the light, nuclear oblivion and nuclear plenty, finally reconciled themselves in Laurence’s mind. He knew he had been wrong. They weren’t separate. They were one and the same. In the face of the awesome power of hydrogen fusion, no distinctions were necessary, or even possible. Beyond the dark cloud of nuclear destruction lay the super-bright sun of nuclear promise. And he would be the one who, through his words, would help the world see that light……..

In recent years, rising concerns over journalistic ethics, embedded reporters, and conflicts of interest have led critics to view Laurence’s role in the Manhattan Project as a classic example of the latter. Here was a reporter for America’s newspaper of record, tapped to serve not the interests of objective journalism but those of the military. …..

Laurence won his second Pulitzer Prize in 1946 for his Manhattan Project reporting, specifically his eyewitness account of the Nagasaki bombing mission. In 2004, the progressive journalists Amy and David Goodman called for the prize to be revoked, charging that Laurence had knowingly covered up the effects of radiation sickness on the Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors by “parroting the government line” that such reports were Japanese propaganda. That same year, Beverly Ann Deepe Keever, a University of Hawaii journalism professor, took The Times itself to task, claiming in her book “News Zero: The New York Times and the Bomb” that beginning with Laurence and continuing throughout the Atomic Age, the paper had “omitted or obscured the defining — and harmful — effect” of radiation and radioactivity and had “aided the U.S. government at critical moments in implementing an information policy that covered up or minimized the scope and impacts of radiation and radioactivity.”

However, there’s an important perspective that such accusations overlook. Laurence’s role within the Manhattan Project was a clear conflict of interest by today’s standards……

While I was away with the atomic project for four months, I was off the Times payroll,” he explained in his Columbia oral history interview. “My salary came from the Army. … All the facts, all the news I got, I got from the Army and not from my connection with the Times.” ….

Despite Laurence’s claims, the question of just who was paying him while he was lost in “Atomland-on-Mars,” as he called it, remains unclear. His temporary boss, Gen. Leslie Groves — the military head of the Manhattan Project and the man who plucked Laurence away from the Times after personally selecting him for his atomic job — later wrote in his own memoir that “it seemed desirable for security reasons, as well as easier for the employer [i.e., The Times], to have Laurence continue on the payroll of the New York Times, but with his expenses to be covered by the MED” — the Manhattan Engineering District, i.e. Manhattan Project……..

His glowing paeans to the limitless future of atomic energy and the relative “safety” of the supposedly “clean” hydrogen weapons then under development — along with a thinly veiled disdain toward the growing grassroots campaign to ban atomic testing — only helped to enhance his image as a journalist who not only accepted but actively supported the Bomb as a part of 20th-century civilization. …

There’s no doubt that Groves and the military were consciously attempting to downplay the dangers of radiation….

We will probably never know the true extent to which William Laurence was co-opted, compromised, or corrupted by his military and governmental connections and involvements. It appears that in many ways, he was never really certain himself, and allowed himself to fall into a rabbit hole of murky motivations, ethical conflicts, and questionable alliances for the sake of what he viewed as his journalistic duty and dedication to the truth. What is clear, however, is that he allowed his awe, his sense of wonder, to overwhelm his consciousness, numbing his original visceral dread of atomic weapons and his detailed knowledge of their power. After struggling for decades with the insoluble conflict between the atom’s potential for both unparalleled good and unspeakable evil, he resolved the struggle in his own soul by surrendering to a comforting anodyne, a conviction that nuclear weapons were ultimately a “world-covering, protective umbrella” to shield humanity until the dawn of a golden era of peace.

Blinded by the fireball light of Cherokee that shone so brilliantly and then faded, Laurence anesthetized the dread he had felt and warned of long before any of his colleagues by simply fooling himself. Those of us who are his inheritors must guard against falling into the same trap.   https://undark.org/article/atomic-bill-laurence-manhattan-project/

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August 12, 2017 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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